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.
Last week, we were fortunate enough to attend the Governor’s Culinary Challenge at the Capital Hotel. The event placed ten highly acclaimed Arkansas chefs head-to-head in a friendly competition and tasting event in which each chef dished out one or two small plates for the hungry, rabid masses constantly bombarding their table in search of their next morsel of food. The night was brimming with elegance, class, and style—a real see-and-be-seen event for all in attendance. We did out best to look respectable and dignified and joined the crowd for this delectable $100-per-head dinner party. It was a grand affair, to be sure, and we sampled each and every bit of food available (and admittedly, we sampled a couple of them twice). A few chefs really brought their proverbial A-game to the event, doling out some truly spectacular bites, but it was clear that a few of these culinary heavy-weights should rethink their strategy for next year. Here’s our breakdown of who made the grade (and what grade they made) and who fell a bit flat:
Joel Antunes (Ashley’s and the Capital Hotel): The latest addition to the Capital Hotel’s culinary team, Chef Antunes’ dish was probably one of the most anticipated of the night. Chef Antunes was friendly, gracious, and warm…his thick French accent warmed out hearts just a little. He prepared a “coconut soup” served with a small crab dumpling and fava bean. We had issues with the consistency of the broth, however, and found it to be somewhere between a foam and an actual soup—runny and a tad too watery. The flavors were excellent, however, cool and fragrant coconut complemented by soft, succulent crab. With a few tweaks, this dish would have probably bowled us over, but as it was, we left just a tad disappointed. Chef Antunes’ dessert course was a play on the classic “Kit-Kat” candy bar, with a thin layer of crumbled, crispy wafer lining the bottom of a glass, topped with a chocolate mousse. Again, textural issues were at play, and we found the mousse too grainy for our liking. A valiant effort, with some noteworthy flavors. Grade: B-
Lee Richardson (formerly of Ashley’s and the Capital Hotel): Chef Richardson left a long string of admirers when he stepped down from his position at Ashley’s. It was comforting to witness the acclaimed chef back in action and we, like most of you, are highly anticipating his future moves. But he was not able to provide us with any clues as to what his upcoming plans might be, despite our insistent pressing—we’ll just have to watch and wait. Chef Richardson prepared a dish that sounded spectacular on paper, but was a bit lost in translation. The man even brought his very impressive water oven to prepared sous vide egg (a method that provides carefully regulated, even cooking)—we were intrigued. The crux of the dish, however, was a fried catfish croquette with a sweet and sour sauce—the chef dubbed, “pepper jelly.” The catfish was well done, not overly fishy, tender, with a crunchy exterior. But the sauce was a little off-putting and did not seem to complement the fish as well as we’d hoped. It was reminiscent of dunking a Gorton’s fish stick in that jarred “Thai sweet chili sauce,” and we were left wishing for a little more from Richardson’s table. Grade: C+
Brian Deloney (Maddie’s Place): We’ve had mixed feelings about the dishes put out and Chef Deloney’s Riverdale restaurant, Maddie’s, but we were unanimously in favor of his dish offered this night. Continuing his Cajun/Creole tendencies, Maloney prepared a “shrimp and alligator cheesecake,” which may sound somewhat odd at first, but tasted fantastic. The small cylindrical molds of savory cheesecake were composed of a rich, dense, cream cheese-heavy “cheesecake,” chock full of sweet, briny shrimp bits and chunks of mild, tender alligator. Served cold, it really took us both by surprise, but this is one surprise we’d be happy to be a part of again. Grade: A-
Gilbert Alaquinez (The Governor’s Mansion): Chef Alaquinez was one of the chefs we were least familiar with prior to the event—perhaps we even expected him to be overshadowed by a few of culinary headliners also in attendance that night. But with Gov. Beebe and his wife Ginger at tableside to back this team up, the chef definitely put his best foot forward this night. We were both won over by the cold carrot soup with a touch of sour cream. The soup was surprisingly spicy, heavy with cumin and chili powder, but not to the point of being overwhelming. The sweet carrot undertones made a fabulous base for some of the more vivid flavors prominent in the soup. A pulled pork “banh mi” was also served, but we found this to be a rather pedestrian pork sandwich, without much pizzazz—definitely not as Vietnamese in nature as we had hoped. The dessert course was delightful, though. Chef offered a “Napolean” trio of French macarons: chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. These were well executed—crisp, airy outer cookie with a creamy, rich filling within. They were a bit chewier in texture than we’ve had elsewhere, but we were pleased with this difference rather than perturbed by it. Grade: A-
Jason Knapp (UCA, formerly of the Governor’s Mansion): Another chef we were mostly unfamiliar with prior to our tasting this night, but who left a rather favorable impression on us after we were served his food. Chef Knapp prepared a cream of poblano soup paired with a garbanzo bean fritter stuffed with creamy goat cheese. The description alone had us drooling, and we were pleased that the flavors translated successfully on the plate. The fritter was served warm, crispy and nutty. The cool, melted goat cheese pairing perfectly with the hot, mashed bean fritter. But it was the soup that really stole the show—spicy, vibrant, and refreshing, the creamy soup was one of the night’s great highlights. An addition of puffed quinoa and paprika really pushed the dish over the top. We applaud you, Chef Knapp. Grade: A
Peter Brave (Brave New Restaurant): Despite not being all that new anymore, Chef Brave's Brave New Restaurant remains a favorite among Little Rock Diners — chef and restaurant alike regularly feature among top picks in the various "readers choice" awards year after year. Chef Brave's contribution to the evening was a potato and walleye canape that ranks among the most surprising dishes of the evening: a small piece of potato, cooked so that it almost tasted like bread, tomato jam, and a piece of poached walleye that was so mild and tender that it would have been hard to tell it was fish if there hadn't been a sign saying so. The result was a little mouthful that tasted like a mini pizza with cheese and all, despite the lack of any dairy. We aren't sure what strange wizardry is afoot with this dish, but we do know it was a good thing. Grade: A
Donnie Ferneau (formerly of Ferneau): Chef Ferneau was in full effect at his table, preparing portion after blazing portion of his signature Banana's Foster. The venue didn't lend itself to the usual pairing of ice cream, but a small piece of shortbread made an acceptable substitute for the luscious, caramelized bananas. Less successful was the pork tenderloin with shallot mustard glaze served up as the main dish. The mustard glaze was perfection, adding a nice piquant kick to a pork loin that was a touch dry and had little other flavor going for it. The potato accompaniment was equally disappointing and bland. Cooking in such large portions is tough, however, and that glaze remains one of our favorite flavors of the night, even if the protein was lackluster. Grade: B-
Capi Peck (Trio’s): Our consensus favorite of the night was the Trio's table — they hit homeruns on both of their dishes. Their main course was a rich and buttery tuna tataki served on a crisp wonton wrapper and topped with fresh avocado. The richness of the tuna and avocado together made for a decadent flavor and mouthfeel, and the crisp wrapper below added just the right amount of crunchy contrast. The dessert they made was almost cheating — strawberry shortcake with cream and shortbread at just the right time of year for sweet, ripe Arkansas strawberries. From tuna to berries, everything on this table was at the peak of freshness, and every element of flavor hit just the right note. Grade: A+
Mark Abernathy (Red Door/Loca Luna): Mark Abernathy hasn't been able to catch a break on Eat Arkansas lately...and he won't catch one here. The Loca Luna owner's catfish chile relleno ranks among one of the worst things we've ever put in our mouths. Soggy, slimy, and so fishy that we wondered just what those catfish had been eating, this was one of the few plates we were unable to finish. It's not usually smart to pair fish with cheese in the first place, but this fish was of such poor quality that we maintain that it wasn't smart to pair it with anything at all. A true disappointment. Grade: F
Stephen Burrow (Restaurant Forty-Two): The Clinton Library restaurant table appeared at first glance to be serving something right up our alley: pork terrine. Normally, terrine is one of our favorite things in this world, and Little Rock is no stranger to well-made versions of this charcuterie classic. Unfortunately, an overuse of sweet spices really ruined this one for us. The texture of the loaf was excellent, and we can't compliment the presentation of the plate enough, but an overabundance of allspice, nutmeg, and other sweet spices just made the whole affair inedible. Sweet spices are important to flavoring a terrine, it's true, but just like with salt, it's easy to overdo them. Still, points for presentation, and for being brave enough to serve such a rustic dish at a fancy party. Grade: D
To be fair to all participants, the format for this dinner was not an easy one. Creating a great dish, scaling it down to a small plate, then multiplying that plate by hundreds of people makes it difficult to maintain quality. In addition, these chefs weren't pulling food from their own kitchens, but rather using pre-prepared food with only minimal on-site cooking. This might explain why cold dishes like Trio's tataki were so successful, while hot dishes like the catfish relleno were not. We hope that this is an event that will catch on in the state, as it was an excellent night to meet some of the brightest minds in Arkansas food.
If anybody out there has figured out a way to predict the weather in Arkansas, please leave me a message down there in the comments so we can discuss lottery numbers. Cold, drizzly, and feeling more like November than May, the day might not have been what we had in mind for the first Arkansas Times Heritage Hog Roast in terms of weather, but it was was everything a pork lover like myself could have hoped for in terms of food. Teams from the Argenta Market, Cafe Bossa Nova, the Capital Hotel, the Country Club of Little Rock, Lulav Italian Kitchen, the Root Cafe, Local Lime, Maddie's Place, Reno's Argenta Cafe, Ristorante Capeo, and St. Jude's Children's Hospital all braved unseasonably cold temperatures that reached as low as 34 degrees to cook their hogs to perfection. In addition to the competitors, around 500 folks made their way to North Little Rock in the rain to sample a whole passel of slow-roasted Falling Sky Farms hogs.
Our celebrity judges picked the Country Club of Little Rock for first place, Local Lime for second, and Reno's Argenta Cafe for third. I can't really disagree (much) with their selections, and the fact that the voting between first and third places was separated by less than two points shows how good the food was overall. I've got a few "honorary" awards that I'd like to present on behalf of Eat Arkansas, however, that are are a little more specific. These are all highly subjective and reflect no other opinion from my own.
*Best overall pork: With all the different presentations available, it was hard to pin down just who came through with the best single bite of pure pork that I ate. There wasn't a bad bite of food to be had at the event, but my pick for best pure pork flavor goes to Cafe Bossa Nova with a succulent, well-seasoned bite of meat that was everything I ask for from a piece of roasted pork. A close second was Maddie's, who paired their hog with a sauce that walked a perfect line between vinegary and sweet.
*Best overall bite: This is for the best prepared pork dish. Several booths served their hog with various accoutrement, but the stand-out entry was the banh mi crostini from the Root Cafe, who used their mastery of pickled vegetables and kimchi to wonderful effect. A close second was Local Lime, who presented their finished pig in a taco that had folks clamoring for more. Lulav also had a strong entry with a pork bruschetta that was surprising in its inventiveness and fresh flavor.
*Best side dish: There was more than pork available, and none of the entrants slacked on those sides. Of particular note was the tomato and mozzarella salad from the Country Club of Little Rock, the mac and cheese from Reno's, and my personal favorite, the blue cheese cole slaw from Maddie's Place. I'm a reasonably experienced cook and diner, but this cole slaw took me right out of what I expected in the best way possible. Fresh cabbage slaw with a tangy dressing mixed with small chunks of sharp blue cheese — if any of you had asked me if that was a good idea before today, I would have said no. Now, my answer is an adamant "yes."
I've attended a lot of these events, and I can't think of very many that managed to be as consistently good as this one. There are many more pictures from the event on Brian Chilson's Facebook page, so take a look at those if you missed out on the fun today. And if you think you can do better than these folks today, well, there's always next year.
My Saturday morning ritual of taking my two-year-old by the Argenta Farmer's Market for some fresh eggs made for a nice excuse to check out the progress of the Arkansas Times Heritage Hog Roast teams. At 7 this morning, the scene had the flavor of an early morning deer camp — booze, coffee, camper chairs and nary a woman in sight. Oh and the mouthwatering smell of fire-roasted pork and smoke. About half the teams seem to be using the covered grill in an above ground pit set-up that was provided. Above and below are the variations I saw before my kid had enough.
Travis McConnell, who's heading up the Capital Hotel's team (above), said he was running ahead of schedule and was soon to tamp down the fire. He put the pig on the spit after 11 and didn't sleep.
I asked earlier for folks to speculate on who'll win tomorrow's Arkansas Times Heritage Hog Roast. One thing is certain, Local Lime's team, The Porkshank Redemption, is winning in the prepping category. Or at least they're winning at plugging their prepping on social media. They just showed off their slick team T-shirt, design courtesy, I'm sure, by their design and style guru Amber Brewer. And check out, below, pics of their step-by-step plan for their hog from their Facebook page. They had a trial run last week.
The Arkansas Times Heritage Hog Roast is coming up on Saturday at 6th and Main streets in North Little Rock. Gates open at noon and music starts thereafter. Pork and sides will be served beginning at 3 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 the day of the event. Kids, 10 and under, get in free. Do you have your tickets yet?
Argenta Market, Cafe Bossa Nova, the Capital Hotel, the Country Club of Little Rock, the Italian Kitchen at Lulav, Local Lime, Maddie’s Place, Reno’s Argenta Cafe, Ristorante Capeo, The Root Cafe and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital are fielding teams. They'll each cook a 125-140 lbs. heritage hog from Falling Sky Farm or Freckle Face Farm. The winner receives the trophy above, made my North Little Rock artist Kandy Jones, and $1,000.
Who's your pick to win?
Here are our celebrity judges. The pork will be judged on appearance, taste and texture.
1) Max Brantley
2) Rep. Eddie Armstrong
3) Alice 107.7's Adam "Pool Boy" Dunaway
4) KARK's Jessica Dean
5) Chef Donnie Ferneau
This Saturday, May 4th, the Raindrop Turkish House presents the 3rd Annual Turkish Food Fest. The event will take place at the Raindrop Turkish House located at 1501 Market St., Little Rock. The event will be from 11 am—4 pm, admission is free as is parking, and will happen rain or shine.
In its 3rd year, the Turkish Food Fest promises to be better than ever. Guests can expect wonderful samples of some of the most classic Turkish dishes, prepared by hands that have been doing these things for years. Expect things such as beef gyros, baklava, sish kebab, stuffed grape leaves, meat ravioli, kisir (a bulgar wheat dish—not so unlike couscous—commonly spiced with lemon, onion, garlic), stuffed kofte (batter dipped, fried meatballs), dolma (peppers stuffed with rice and other spices) and börek (fried phyllo pastries commonly filled with cheese, potato, or ground beef). There will also be free cooking lessons offered to anyone interested in recreating some of these delightful dishes at home.
Worried your kids won’t find something they’ll like, moaning the whole time that they just want pizza? Don’t worry, they’ll have popcorn, cotton candy, and shaved ice drinks. Additionally, kids can enjoy carnival games and rides, so they’ll be plenty entertained.
I’ve always been incredibly impressed by the quality of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean establishments in Little Rock. It’s definitely one area in which our city shines the brightest. The Turkish Food Fest will surely continue this tradition. Honestly, with so many wonderful things happening this Saturday, you have no excuse for not eating well.
If you’ve been reading Eat Arkansas for, say, more than 2 days, you probably already know we have a particular fondness for Mexican food. This specific cuisine, perhaps more than any other, hits that perfect sweet spot between flavor, affordability, availability, and convenience. Luckily, central Arkansas is quite well represented in terms of authentic Mexican cooking…and even in the not-so-authentic, more Americanized genre. I’ve had some of my most memorable dining experiences in Arkansas in the markets and taquerias lining Geyer Springs, Baseline, or South University. It’s probably safe to say that I’ve got many more wonderful experiences still to come.
This coming Saturday, May 4th, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the Clinton Foundation are bringing us a celebration worth busting out your maracas for. The 15th Annual Cinco de Mayo Fiesta will be held from noon to 8 p.m. at the Clinton Presidential Center Park. The event is free to the public!
The event promises live music and Mariachis (I’m always a sucker for that awesome fat bass guitar), and folkloric ballet. There will be zumba and salsa dancing as well if you’d like to kick up your heels a bit. Kids will be happy to find face painting, youth soccer, children’s games and piñatas…and if your 2 year-old is anything like mine, any excuse to hit things with a big stick is something to be taken advantage of.
And there’s Mexican food trucks! Let us not forget this most important bit of information of all. Authentic Mexican and Central American dishes, carried by some of the finest in Little Rock, will be on site dishing out tacos, tortas, burritos, sopes, enchiladas, and quesadillas. Mexican beer will also be flowing like rivers to help quench your inevitable thirst.
Proceeds from the event will go to awarding scholarships to Latino students. For more information and complete entertainment line-up, check out this link. Go and enjoy yourself, strap on your sombrero and get a little loco.
Doing triple duty as chef, book promoter, and teacher, Chef Maneet Chauhan brought her whirlwind tour to Central Arkansas on Thursday, April 25th. A veteran of fine dining establishments such as Vermilion in Chicago, Chef Chauhan is best known these days for her stints as a past contestant on Iron Chef and current judge of the Food Network show Chopped. Chauhan was in the area as part of her tour to promote Flavors of my World, a cookbook of fusion cuisine that filters dishes from around the globe through her roots in India. In addition to selling a few books, the chef also spent some time at Jacksonville High School to conduct a cooking competition among the students there and capped her trip with a special meal at Vesuvio Bistro in Little Rock.
Despite her busy schedule, I was able to snag a few minutes with Chef Chauhan before the dinner at Vesuvio, and I found her to be very warm and accommodating. It can be easy for someone on a tour of so many cities to lose track and just go through the motions, but Chauhan seemed genuinely pleased to be in Little Rock, especially when it came to that cooking competition. More than just a chance for local students to show off in front of someone from the Food Network, this competition had even bigger stakes: sponsored by ProStart, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation's program to promote careers in the culinary industry to high school students, the contest was a chance for our local students to move on to the national stage with a future competition held in Chicago. Chef Chauhan's commitment to educational opportunities was clearly her top priority — after, of course, her 20-month old daughter whom she said she was missing terribly while being on the road.
It’s probably safe to say that the height of popularity for televised cooking competitions has long since passed. There were occasional moments of TV greatness, however, occasionally imbedded within the rage-driven, furrowed brow fits of Gordon Ramsay, the pompous showmanship of the chili-pepper slinging Bobby Flay, or the occasional sharp-tongued, straight shooting antics of Tom Colicchio. But over the years, while the cooking remains (at times) top-notch, the formula has become a little tiresome. However, getting a slice of a culinary competition firsthand, with local celebrity chefs is an entirely different matter—and Arkansans have an opportunity to be a part of one such event at the upcoming Governor’s Culinary Challenge.
So, who’s going to be a part of this challenge? I’ll tell you who. The freaking dream team of central Arkansas chefs, that’s who.
More specifically—Joel Antunes, newcomer and recently appointed exec-chef at Ashley’s at the Capital Hotel; he’ll be dragging along his Beard Awards and Michelin stars, just to flash around in everyone’s faces—a little intimidation goes a long way. Peter Brave, a man who needs no introduction in the Central Arkansas dining scene, perennial recipient of “best chef” awards year after year, and captain at his renowned Brave New Restaurant. Lee Richardson, the New Orleans native who recently stepped down from his post at the Capital Hotel, where he brought national attention to Little Rock for his magnificent work at Ashley’s — also rumored to be toting a secret stash of raw milk as a secret weapon. Brian Deloney, a Little Rock native with a taste for Cajun and Creole, was schooled by the hallowed hand of Mr. Emeril Lagasse himself; now headmaster at his Riverdale restaurant, Maddie’s Place. Donnie Ferneau, a man still fresh into his free agenthood, brought home numerous accolades to his once eponymous Hillcrest haunt, Ferneau’s — he won’t be making “grown-up mac-and-cheese,” I assure you. Other competitors include Capi Peck, of Trio’s restaurant; Mark Abernathy, of Red Door and Loca Luna; Restaurant 42's chef Stephen Burrow, who hears "Hail to the Chef" every time he enters a room, and more.
The event benefits the Thea Foundation in North Little Rock, a non-profit arts organization that advocates and supports the arts in the lives of Arkansas’s youth through scholarships and other art-centered programs, encouraging high school seniors interested in pursuing the arts through higher education. You can learn more about the Thea Foundation at this link.
What’s all this going to cost you? Well, you’ll have to pay a handsome price to get in on the action. General admission tickets are $100 per person; they can be purchased here. But if you like food, you enjoy watching chefs at work, and you’ve got a Ben Franklin burning a hole through your pocket, this is just the right event for you.
(The Capital Hotel is located at 111 W. Markham St, Little Rock. For more information, visit the Governor’s Culinary Competition website here.)
This Friday, April 26th, will see the arrival of the annual Food & Foam Fest to Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock. The event is billed as “a craft beer festival offering samples of over 250 different kinds of beer, wine, and cuisine from local restaurateurs.” That should keep anyone busy for at least a few hours. Patrons will also have the opportunity to vote for their favorite draft as distributors and brewers compete for the award “People’s Choice Best Brew.” The event will be held from 6-9 p.m. and guests must be 21 or older to attend.
Participating restaurants and brewers include Boscos Restaurant and Brewing Co., Apple Spice Junction, the new Stone’s Throw Brewery, Vino’s Pizza and Brewery, Blue Coast Burrito, The Little Rock Flying Saucer, Kent Walker Cheese, Mexico Chiquito, W.T. Bubba’s, Dugan’s Pub and more.
A variety of tickets are available for purchase. VIP tickets ($65) will include early (5:30 p.m.) admittance to the festival, an official t-shirt and other festival swag, and a special tasting event featuring around a dozen brews including Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, Schlafly 21st Anniversary Single Malt Scotch Ale, and New Belgium La Folie. Regular admission will run you $40 for the food and beer sampling, and there’s even an option for the designated driver, who gets a break at $20 a ticket. Tickets for the event can be purchased online here and will be waiting at will call (tickets are $45 at the gate).
The annual Food & Foam Fest will benefit the Arkansas Arthritis Foundation in helping to raise funds for children afflicted with juvenile arthritis. The foundation helps fund research, promotes health education, and provides government advocacy for this disabling disease, which affects an estimated 2,700 children in Arkansas.
For more information about the 2013 Food & Foam Fest, check out their website or call Angela at 501-664-4591
The long history of the Jewish people, when coupled with the dietary restrictions of their faith, has made for some very unique food influenced by the many different areas of the world in which they've lived. The Arkansas Festival pays homage to these varied influences, offering cabbage rolls and chopped liver from the Eastern European tradition along with falafel, hummus, and kabobs from the Middle Eastern and Israeli culinary traditions. That Israeli influence is even more poignant this year, as the festival will also serve as a celebration of Israel's 65th anniversary as a modern state.
My favorite thing at the Jewish Festival (apart from that chopped liver) is the mammoth table of baked goods which takes up most of one side of the River Market Pavilion. Rugelach, honey cakes, challah — you name it, and there's a delicious version of it on that table. Last year, my wife and I bought a babka to take home for later and wound up eating the entire thing in the car before we even left downtown — and this was after having our fill of matzoh ball soup, latkes, and the ever-necessary kosher hot dogs. What makes the quality of these foods even more special is that they are prepared by volunteers to be sold, so it's as if everybody breaks out their grandma's best recipe to share with the world each year.
As you walk around, stuffing your face with blintzes, be sure to catch performances by the musical groups B-Flats, the Klezmer Band, the Schechinotes. Their mix of traditional and contemporary Jewish music is a fitting soundtrack to the booths that teach about the history of this storied faith, the people who have followed it for so long — and the food that has made it one of the most unique culinary traditions in the world. There isn't a chance to get this kind of delicious ethnic cuisine in Little Rock very often, so take advantage of the hard work of the people who come together each year to share their culture with all of us.
The 2013 Jewish Food and Cultural Festival will be held April 28 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. in the River Market Pavilions. Early birds can get there at 8:30 a.m. for a breakfast of lox and bagels, and admission is free.
The sound of Cajun music echoed through the River Market as we made our way to the pavilions outside Ottenheimer Hall. As we drew closer, the air became thick with the delicious smell of seafood, peppers, okra, and sausage — and we knew that the 2013 Jumbo Gumbo Festival was in full effect. The annual gumbo cook-off, in addition to being an incredible amount of fun, serves to benefit the Allen School, an organization that has helped children with developmental disabilities get some extra help in preparation for their reaching school age. Staff and volunteers alike made sure that everyone had a good time — and more than enough to eat!
The judging was broken down into two groups: the professional judges who awarded the monetary prizes and the "foodie" judges who got to award the "Silver Spork" award to their personal favorite booths. I was lucky enough to be a "Silver Spork" judge along with Kevin Shalin, Thanh Rasico, and Michael Jiuliano, and it was a real honor to be involved with such a fantastic event. I'll have some more pictures below the jump, but first, here are the professional winners:
*First Place: Gumbreaux's
*Second Place: Meaux Good Gumbo
*Third Place: Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler (Who also won my Silver Spork)
*People's Choice: Wantsumeaux Gumbeaux (Who also won for Team Spirit)
*Silver Spork Winners: Taste of Home, Drake's Gumbo, Apartment Hunters, Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler
One of my favorite places in the metro area, Argenta Market, is celebrating their third anniversary on Saturday, April 13. The North Little Rock store has long been one of my go-to spots for fresh local produce, organic meat (from steaks to lamb fries), and house-made food like that shrimp and grits dish pictured above that will knock your socks off.
In celebration of the start of their fourth year, the market has teamed up with Ratchford Exotic Meat Farm, ice lolly specialists Le Pops, ice cream geniuses Loblolly Creamery, The Resident Chef, and Southern Girl Soapery. These folks will have food samples, demonstrations, and raffle prizes available, and each shopper will receive a free reusable grocery bag. If that weren't enough, the festivities will coincide with the opening of the Argenta Farmers Market right across the street.
Argenta Market is located on Main Street in the Argenta Arts District of North Little Rock, and the event will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. This is a good chance to get your hands on some of the season's first local produce, meet some vendors, and maybe score some free foodie swag.
Some might argue that Parmigiano Reggiano, an aged cheese originally hailing from northern Italy, is at the apex of the cheese pyramid. The production of Parmigiano Reggiano is an Italian tradition that stems back some 700 years and is a real source of pride to the Italian people. It may be commonplace, found in markets and grocery store chains around the world, but high-quality, artisanal Parmigiano is nothing to scoff at. It has always been a personal favorite of mine. Its characteristic flavor profile, with sweet, salty, and nutty tones, has always been a thing of pure and simple bliss. On those occasions in which I am shopping for various cheeses in efforts to create a spectacular cheese board at home, I’ll often make an effort to sample a few less familiar cheeses, but I rarely leave the market without a block of Parmigiano to round out the plate.
On Saturday, March 9th at 4 p.m. the cheeseheads at Whole Foods Market on Rodney Parham Rd. in Little Rock will be cracking open their wheel of 24-month aged Parmigiano Reggiano. They’re calling the event, “The Countdown to Parmageddon.” They claim to be making attempts at breaking a Guinness World Record for “most parmesan cheese wheels cracked simultaneously” (a highly coveted record to hold, obviously) by holding the event around the country with over 400 wheels being opened simultaneously. They’re touting the use of five different types of “official knives” to preserve the internal texture of the cheese. They’ll be offering samples, holding recipe demonstrations, and teaching about cheese pairing. It’s an event that’s not to be missed.
(Whole Foods Market Little Rock is located at 10700 N. Rodney Parham Rd, Little Rock. 501-312-2326)
I'd normally agree, but these were better than any of the chip variety I've had.
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Great place, really enjoyed the Monday night outing. The owners are nice and the Cuban…
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