One of the best places in town for gourmet food and local products is North Little Rock's Argenta Market, a quaint and friendly shop that sells groceries and quality prepared food. Lots of my favorites are found at Argenta Market, from Loblolly ice cream to Tommyknocker sodas — and there's always something good to eat happening back in the cafe area.
Fans of the market are invited to check out the Open House that's being held Saturday, December 14, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Local vendors will be out sampling their products, and there will be a raffle for prizes. Head down there under the jump for the full press release.
I'll say this for Arkansas Times publisher Alan Leveritt: when the boss decides to throw a party, he doesn't play around. The event was the latest Arkansas Times Farm-to-Table dinner, with the farm in question being Leveritt's own, from where the lambs we feasted on came, brought to the table with loving care by Butcher and Public's Travis McConnell.
The setting was the grounds of the Historic Arkansas Museum, a quiet island of history and foliage that made for an excellent setting for the dinner. The weather was just the sort of October night that makes Arkansas the greatest place to be in the autumn, and we were treated to the music of Stephen Koch of Arkansongs as we mingled, made new friends, and attacked the iced down beer and champagne.
Of course farming ain't always pretty — and neither is butchery, as the almost medieval setup Travis used to slow roasts the lambs attests. In person, the delicious smell of lamb brushed with chilies, herb, and olive oil was so fantastic that all I could think of was how hungry I was getting; posting a picture of the roasting setup to Facebook without the added delightful aromas may have creeped more than a couple of people out. I make no apologies.
We started off with appetizers of Lamb Tartare and Pickled Deviled Eggs, two things I'd never had before. The eggs had been soaked in vinegar after being boiled and peeled, which gave them a tart kick that I enjoyed. The tartare was quite good, although I admit that it took a little doing for me to take the first bite of the raw meat minced with oil and herbs — but I was immediately glad I did, and helped myself to another (and then to another).
When we all finally settled into our seats, we were treated to a fantastic stew of pumpkin and shiitake mushrooms, something that the table agreed was a highlight of the meal. A mixed green salad gave a fresh addition to the plate, and our table found themselves complimenting the chef once again when the Arkansas dirty rice came out with nice texture and a good flavor from the lambs' liver. The lamb itself was tender and paired nicely with Travis' signature chimichurri. Dessert came courtesy of Loblolly Creamery, and by that time the wine and music had gone to all our heads and we danced and laughed until late in the evening.
Join me down there beneath the jump for some more pictures from the event, and if you feel like you missed out on a great party (and you did), you have a chance to make up for it at the Arkansas Times Craft Beer Festival on November 1st — that's sure to be a fun one, too. Ticket information here.
Outstanding in the Field, the California-based food tour that brings diners, chefs, and farmers together in one meal made its third stop in as many years in Arkansas, choosing the Delta Sol Farm in Proctor as this year's location. The early October weather was bright, sunny, and perhaps a little warmer than we'd hoped, but that didn't stop nearly 80 of us from touring farmer Brandon Pugh's four-acre spread to see his certified organic farm's greenhouses, fields, and heirloom breeds of pigs and sheep.
Outstanding in the Field describes itself as a "restaurant without walls," moving from state to state to bring people into a farm setting to eat great food and talk about the vital connections between the land, the farmer, the chef, and the diner. In fact, given the buzz in recent years about "farm to table" cooking, it might be said that Jim Denevan, Leah Scafe, and the rest of the Outstanding in the Field crew are turning that concept on its head by bringing the table out to the farm. And while each event normally features one guest chef cooking a meal for the long table, this year's Arkansas event went completely against the norm and featured a grand total of six chefs: Kelly English of Restaurant Iris, Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman of Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen and Hog and Hominy, and Jonathan Magallenes of Las Tortugas (all from Memphis) as well as Matthew Bell of South on Main and Alexis Jones of Natchez representing Little Rock.
Think it's odd that so many chefs — many of whom are in direct competition for business in their respective cities — would get together to cooperate on a single meal? Many of those in the predominantly Memphis-based crowd did, too. As the night went on, though, it became clear that not only did these different chefs respect one another's skills, they also seemed to be pretty good friends. This fostered a sense of camaraderie that spilled over to all of us getting ready to eat dinner — although the free-flowing Diamond Bear Pale Ale and La Marca Prosecco that greeted us upon arrival certainly didn't hurt. As we walked around the farm and then finally settled down at the table for dinner, it became clear that Little Rock and Memphis are in a very similar and very exciting place with their prospective culinary scenes, something that Daniel Walker touched on after his recent weekend in the city. The general consensus was that both cities are at the beginning of a renaissance in good cooking, and if you'll join me down there below the jump, I'll show you just what I mean.
Attention those with asbestos tongues, cast iron stomachs and fireproof beeholes: The Root Cafe will host the second annual Little Rock Hot Pepper Eating Contest on Sunday, Oct. 13 from 4 to 6 p.m. A dozen gluttons for punishment will square off to chew and swallow a number of hot peppers grown by Doug Smith (no, not that Doug Smith) at Dunbar Gardens, including such soul-destroyers as the Trinidad Scorpion, the Bhut Jolokia (A.K.A. — the Ghost Pepper), and the world record holder for hotness, the Carolina Reaper. What? No Guatemalan Insanity Pepper?
The event is free and open to the public. Would-be contestants can register at the Root Cafe for a $10 registration fee. If you actually don't chicken out and show up for the contest, the sawbuck will be returned to you. Cash and other prizes for the winners. Johnny Cash says: watch out for that fiery ring the next day.
For more info, contact the Root Cafe at (501)414-0423 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Food events are fun, but food events centered around bacon? Well, that's a pig of different color! Enter the Bacon Bowl, a salted, cured pork belly extravaganza sponsored by Petit Jean Meats that will be held October 26, 2013 at the Northwest Arkansas Mall in Fayetteville. Teams from Arkansas (and elsewhere) will compete to see who has the best bacon entrees and desserts, with proceeds going to benefit Youth Bridge, a non-profit that helps at-risk teens in the Northwest part of our state.
Think you have what it takes to assert your porcine supremacy? There are still spots available for teams to compete — but festival director John McClure tells us that those places are filling up fast. If any of you are interested in competing, click here for rules and entry forms.
In addition to the competition, the Bowl will have Randy Lann and the Dallas Cowboys Grill Team on hand as well as Adam Poch from season 13 of Big Brother. Egg tosses and bacon-eating competitions will round out the fun, and you will all be happy to know that the Fayetteville hospital is right down the road from the mall, just in case your ticker needs a jump.
The Root cafe, which reached its two-year milestone June 14, will celebrate the anniversary with a potluck from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday (July 20) at the cafe at 1500 S. Main St.
The locavore's delight will provide smoked barbecued pork shoulder from Falling Sky Farm and barbecued tofu for free and beer from the Core Brewing in Springdale (that's the label with the dachsund on it!) for cheap. Four different beers will be available.
Join the party with bread, a side dish or a dessert. Root founder Jack Sundell's brother, Joe Sundell, will play music in the courtyard. (Hear Joe here.)
In the end, it wasn't even close. Despite being up against butchers, cheese shops, and delis from across the nation (as well as some attempted vote-manipulation), local pork purveyors Hillcrest Artisan Meats have won the popular vote in the La Quercia Ham Independence Contest. You all may have had La Quercia's products as part of H.A.M.'s popular Brick-Pressed Prosciutto sandwich, and I can state from personal experience that it makes a good wrap for asparagus, pairs well with melon, and also makes for some fine eating while driving down the road when you can't resist ripping into the package just recently purchased and intended for later.
So what was at stake beyond bragging rights and telling the world that we've got the best charcuterie shop in these United States? Well, the grand prize is a leg of Acorn Berkshire Prosciutto, a type of cured meat raised and processed with love and care by some of the best producers in the business. The folks at Hillcrest Meats have promised some sharing of this delectable pork at some future date, so I won't say that there weren't ulterior motives for many of the votes that propelled them to porcine victory — but in the end, it's a testament to the popularity of this local, family-owned business that gave them a win by an almost 4-1 margin over second place.
So happy Independence Day from all of us here at Eat Arkansas; we hope that you and yours have a safe and pleasant day in the sun. The River Market is bustling with activity in anticipation of tonight's fireworks, and while the H.A.M. gang are taking the day off today, they'll be around in the days to come — so take some time out of your day, grab a sandwich or a couple of pork chops and congratulate them on a hard-fought victory for carnivorous supremacy. Brandon Brown has single-handedly elevated Little Rock's cuisine, and with this victory, we've shown the country that we know pig even beyond our beloved Razorbacks.
Hillcrest Artisan Meats is located at 2807 Kavanaugh as well as in the dead center of our hearts. They've got La Quercia prosciutto in the case most days, so if you want to see what all the fuss is about, have them cut you a slice or 20 — you won't regret it.
Good weekend for foodies. Tonight, from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. (or, I suspect, until supplies last) at White Water Tavern, as part of his farewell tour, Jonathan Wilkins is serving up boozy milkshakes in collaboration with Loblolly along with fried chicken and fried chicken and waffle tacos. The latter are outrageously good — taco shells made from Loblolly waffle cones, stuffed with spicy fried chicken strips, candied pecans and some sweet-heat syrup — and this is the last opportunity you'll have to get them for the near to mid future.
On Saturday, Southern Gourmasian and Little Rock Urban Farming are collaborating on The Southern Sundown Getdown, a tasty looking event at LRUF's G Street Farm. Using LRUF produce, Southern Gourmasian will serve the following menu:
Shrimp "Mocktail" - asian pesto, preserved lemon aioli
Potato Frico, Kent Walker Garlic Montasio, Beet & Carrot Slaw
Steamed Mussels with Thai aromatics
Southern Fried Okra - Sriracha Aioli
Tomato Salad, Thai Basil, Local Lettuces
Homemade Wasabi Black Eyed Peas
Quick Ceviche, Watermelon Pickles & Cilantro
All that for $35 or $40 at the door. Tickets, more info, here. The money benefits a new nonprofit, The Southern Center for Agroecology.
Finally, Times account executive Thanh Rasico, who does a little food blogging of her own at redkitchenrecipes.com, is hosting a cooking class with Donnie Ferneau Wednesday, July 10 at The Ridge at Chenal Valley. For $50, you get a three course meal, featured cocktail and a cooking demonstration by Ferneau. For details, call Thanh at 350-7112 or email email@example.com.
If you attended the Arkansas Times Whole Hog Roast, you will remember that Brian Kearns came away with first place. Now the Times and the executive chef at the Country Club of Little Rock are teaming up for the Farm-to-Table family-style (but elegant) dinner — including some of that top-rated hog — to be held at the Scott Plantation Settlement on Saturday, June 29.
The evening will get off to a bubbly start at 5:30 p.m. with champagne and canapes before the four-course dinner on the grounds of the 19th century restoration. Dine on Kent Walker's feta, ratatouille, heritage hog, heirloom tomato jam, and Barnhill Orchards peaches with Loblolly Creamery ice cream, all paired with wines. Arkansas country/folk talent Bonnie Montgomery will sing; dinner will be served from 6:30-8:30 p.m. If it rains (and when hasn't it this year?) the event will be held July 13.
For tickets, go to our eventbrite page.
Calling all oenophiles, grape nuts and wine lovers. You’ll want to mark Friday, June 7, down in your calendar. That’s when the Arkansas Times Celebrate the Grape is happening in downtown North Little Rock, in the Argenta Farmer’s Market space, at Sixth and Main streets. There’ll be more than 200 wines representing all the major categories and varieties, from buttery chardonnays from Napa to rustic Malbecs from Argentina. Think of it like a liquid buffet — a chance to sample a good slice of what’s on the market for the price of one nice bottle of wine.
Even better, the ticket includes delicious food from Argenta Market, Cafe Bossa Nova, Crush Wine Bar, The Italian Kitchen at Lulav and Reno's Argenta Cafe, and music from Rodney Block & The Real Music Lovers and The Rex Bell Trio featuring Kasie Lunsford.
The event runs from 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance, or $30 at the door. Buy them here.
Arkansas Times Celebrate the Grape is sponsored by Mercedes of Little Rock, Riverside Subaru, EGP PLLC Accounting Firm and benefits the Argenta Arts District.
Beer and cheese... Is there a combination more pleasing to the palate, more ambrosial than a fine craft beer and a piece of, say, aged gouda or maybe manchego? How about if you added a delicious slice of sausage to the mix? Now we're talking.
Three of mankind's greatest culinary achievements will be combined in just such a manner at A Pint, A Wedge, which takes place from 1-3 p.m., May 18 at Bernice Garden. The event is part of Craft Beer Week, and features beer from Arkansas Craft Distributors, cheese from Boulevard Bread Co. and sausage from Hillcrest Artisan Meats.
There will be live music from Judson and Josh Spillyards, Norman Williamson and Ryan Hitt. Tickets are $25 and you can purchase them at Boulevard's Heights location.
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