Love them or hate them, the marketing genius behind the Taco Bell Doritos Locos tacos can't be denied. In a fast food landscape littered with outrageous food products (The Baconator! The Double Down!), the Bell's creation of a taco shell dusted with Doritos flavoring stood out as the best of all the guilty pleasures.
What you may or may not have known is that credit for the original idea goes to Todd Mills of Little Rock. Way back in 2009, Mills had his eureka moment while eating a taco and watching a Doritos commercial. Despite initial resistance from Frito-Lay, Mills was eventually successful due in large part to a popular Facebook group he formed called the "Taco Shells Made From Doritos Movement."
Mills unfortunately lost his battle with brain cancer on Thanksgiving this year, passing away at 41. Taco Bell released a statement that said, in part, "“We are honored to have had his support through the Doritos for Taco Shells Movement on Facebook, and we admire his strength and optimism during his recent battle. Our thoughts and sympathies are with Todd’s family during this time.”
We like to snark on fast food here at Eat Arkansas, but today our sympathies are with the wife, two daughters, and other family that Mills left behind. David Koon first reported on Mills back in 2012, and is reporting over on the Arkansas Blog today about the blowback against the paltry donation Taco Bell made for Mills' treatment (only $1,000) after making over a billion dollars from his idea.
UPDATE: It appears that Taco Bell, instead of taking this opportunity to give the Mills family a little more monetary support in these trying times, is instead reaching out to those of us who have written about Todd — asking us to let all of you know that Todd didn't "invent" anything, and basically calling us a bunch of liars for saying so.
PR hack Jenna Rathke of Taylor Strategy e-mailed me this updated statement (parts in bold were done by me):
We know this is a tragic time for Todd’s family. He was a huge Taco Bell fan. He was passionate about the Doritos Locos Taco, and although he did not invent it, he founded a Facebook page to drum up support. In light of his passion, we invited him to be one of the first to try it. He became a true friend of the brand, so when we learned of his ill health, we made a $1,000 donation towards his medical expenses. We will miss Todd very much and our hearts are with his family and friends in this difficult time.
There are good ways to handle these sorts of situations, and there are bad ways. Sending out emails like this ranks on up there with some of the worst. Taco Bueno tacos are better, anyway.
We know, of course, that everybody's favorite food blog is Eat Arkansas — and we certainly can't blame any of you for that opinion. But in a world where food is the last socially acceptable form of abject hedonism, it should come as no surprise that there are quite a few other blogs out there doing their part to promote local food in the form of restaurant reviews, festival write-ups, and recipes. I like to come in every few weeks and list a few of the ones I'm reading, and I hope you'll check these out.
*Foodie Cuisine: Todd Barron's Foodie Cuisine blog is a well-designed look at restaurants all around Arkansas (and beyond). Todd's blog has consistently beaten out my own personal blog over on Urbanspoon for top dog in Little Rock, and it's a well deserved #1.
*Vanishing Veggie: All of our readers who are vegan or vegetarian should check out this blog from Dana Vickerson. I've seen Dana's comments pop up on the Food Feedback Friday segments from time to time, and she always links some interesting things. If you've been looking for a way to eat out around Central Arkansas without all that meat, this is a good resource to see what's good around town.
*Arkansas Pie: Of course Kat Robinson needs no introduction to Eat Arkansas readers, but you may not have seen the website companion to her book all about everybody's favorite dessert, pie. Kat also has a new book out, Classic Eateries of the Ozarks and Arkansas River Valley, which you can order here.
*Arkansas Beer Blog: As the name indicates, this is a blog all about beer in Arkansas. This blog is a vital resource for finding out what new beers are making it into the state from all around the country, and the beer reviews are thoughtful, interesting, and occasionally quite funny.
*What Amber Loves: From an e-mail I received after a Twitter call for recipes comes this tasty looking fritter batter recipe from Amber Henson. Don't stop there with this blog, though, because it has a wealth of posts about gardening, decorating, and plenty of good recipes.
*Arkansas Local Food Network: I've long been a fan of Sam Hedges and the Arkansas Local Food Network. The ALFN blog is a great resource for getting personal snapshots of our local growers, and really puts a personal touch on the fine folks you see selling fruits and vegetables at the local farmers markets. There aren't many people working harder to get the word out about local produce, so check this one out.
*Eggs and Herbs: Last, but definitely not least, is Eggs and Herbs, one of my favorite blogs around. This is a well-written and informative blog that makes it easy to get down the rabbit hole with its archives. Well worth a bookmark for constant reading!
Of course, as always, this is only the smallest scratch at the surface of what's out there. Let me know your favorites down there in the comments, and let's get to know each other.
Seems like every day there's another food blog popping up here in Arkansas, and we think that's a great thing. From folks that cook to folks that just like to eat to people who grow our local produce — we've got a such a wide variety of blogs out there that it can be hard to keep up with all of them. Giving a shout-out to Arkansas food blogs is a tradition on Eat Arkansas that started back when Kat Robinson wrote for the blog — she actually included my personal blog in one of those round-ups not long after I got started in this food writing business. So without further delay, here is a by-no-means-complete list of Arkansas food blogs for you all to peruse — and please link any I've missed down there in the comments so that we can all get to know one another a little better.
*One World Plate: Hailing from Northwest Arkansas, One World Plate is one of the best sources for Indian, South American, and just about any other type of international cuisine you can imagine. The recipes are easy to follow, explained very well, and the blog excels at providing step-by-step photographs so that there's never any question what things should look like when you're making them. From curries to chimichurri, this blog has it all, beautifully illustrated.
*Bacon Selfies: Tumblr is a haven for niche blogging, and one of the best of these single-subject blogs is Megan Boyd's Tumblr Bacon Selfies. Want to see pictures of people from all over the world posing with bacon? It's actually quite enjoyable and hilarious. I first met Megan over some Mexican food at Eliella, and she's the sort of person who knows how to have fun with her blog. You can also follow the Bacon Selfies Twitter feed for up-to-the-minute bacon action.
*Katie Connally Confections: I love everybody at our area farmers markets, but Karen Connally, owner of Katie Connally Confections has got to be one of my all-time favorites. Karen runs a blog talking about her often alcohol-spiked baked goods, and I urge all of you to introduce yourselves to her next time you're at the market — you'll be meeting one of the warmest people in town.
*Arkansas Mirepoix: If you want some great stories, you can't go wrong with Shelle and Jason Stormoe and their Arkansas Mirepoix blog. I've had long talks with Jason about everything from Mylo Coffee pastries to blood sausage and lutefisk. The blog itself is a nice journey through Little Rock (and elsewhere), written by two of the nicest and most interesting people you can imagine.
*Delta Moxie: OK, so Delta Moxie isn't a pure food blog, but it's a well-designed website that gives a nice slice of life from what the author calls "LA" (meaning Lower Arkansas). How low? Well, Delta Moxie hails from Lake Village, which is just about as far southeast as you can get in this state before you have to start wading in the Mississippi River. My family's from Southeast Arkansas, so I've got a soft spot for this blog — and it's so well-written that you all will enjoy it, too.
*Lorrabeth: Paige and Brooke don't write only about food, but when they do, it's worth reading. The blog comes from Fayetteville, a town I spent several wild college years growing to know and love. Reading this blog lets me keep up with some old stomping grounds, and the photography is fantastic.
*Mom at the Meat Counter: I have learned so much about agriculture, farming, food safety, and the business of meat production from Dr. Janeal Yancey's blog Mom at the Meat Counter. Dr. Yancey explains things in the meat industry from a scientific point of view that lays to rest many of the food scares that get reported in the media. In addition to being a scientist, Dr. Yancey is (as her blog's name suggests) a parent, which means she pays special attention to the sorts of food that our children eat.
Like I said before, this is by no means an exhaustive list. I'm sure that many of you have your own favorite blogs that you want to promote, whether it's your personal website or one that you read — please share with us in the comments. Happy reading!
"Nose to Tail" is the title of an influential cookbook by English chef Fergus Henderson that has managed to bring the art of butchery back to the culinary forefront with one singular philosophy: use every part of the animal. For chef Travis McConnell, using every part of the animal is a matter of "respect for taking an animal's life," and he has adopted it as the guiding principle behind Butcher & Public, the restaurant and butcher shop he hopes to open by next spring. Many of you are familiar with Travis from his stints running the Capital Bar and Grill, where he helped develop what is still one of the tastiest menus in town, or perhaps from the pig roast he hosted last spring. My own introduction to Travis's food, particularly his Butcher and Public concept, was at the Bernice Garden Farmer's Market, where I ate what still remains one of my life's greatest sausage sandwiches. All along, everybody has been asking when the Butcher and Public storefront would open — and now we all have a chance to help make that happen.
I caught up with Travis this past weekend outside Stone's Throw Brewing where he and his wife Karla were heating up a couple of large cast-iron Dutch ovens to brown up links of homemade sausage. Between checking the fires and whipping up a spectacular fresh chimichurri, Travis let us in on some exciting news: Butcher and Public was jumping on the crowd-funding train with a Kickstarter project in order to raise a portion of the startup money he needs. He tells me he's got a spot in mind (although he isn't ready to reveal where it is), and the Kickstarter money will go to help buy the equipment needed for top-of-the-line meat processing and sausage-making.
McConnell is a journeyman of sorts — he's worked everywhere from Memphis to Portland with a stop off in Vermont for culinary school. Through his time in different kitchens, he fell in love with charcuterie and meat preparation, deciding to create his own restaurant concept around cured meats. Anyone who has tasted his cooking at the local markets knows how good his food is; a storefront will allow him to expand into a full service restaurant and butcher, serving fresh cuts along with prepared food — with a promise of possible Arkansas-branded prosciutto and other cured products in our future.
If you'd like more information on donating (including some pretty great prizes available) click here to visit Travis's Kickstarter page.
It was a typical day for me: running like mad from my day job in Southwest up to Hillcrest for a sandwich at the Little Rock temple of carnivorous delights better known as Hillcrest Artisan Meats. On this particular day, as my sandwich was being prepared, Brandon Brown handed me a small cup with a chunk of soft, white cheese at the bottom and said, "You've got to try this." The cheese was a soft goat's milk feta, and that first bite was mild, creamy, yet with an assertive taste that was quite compelling. One bite was all it took — out came my wallet to buy some of this fantastic fromage for myself.
The cheese is a newcomer to Little Rock from Northwest Arkansas-based dairy White River Creamery, a 12-acre labor of love run by Scott and Tessa McCormick in Elkins. The McCormicks have been selling their cheese all over the Northwest corner of the state since May of this year, and lucky for us, they're expanding their cheese empire into Central Arkansas. The McCormicks raise their own Nigerian Dwarf goats to produce milk for some of their cheeses, as well as sourcing local cow's milk for other varieties.
For now, the cheeses coming from White River are of the young, soft variety: ricotta, feta, neufchâtel, fromage blanc (including a chocolate version), and chèvres of both the sweet and savory variety. This will change in the near future, however, as Scott is currently working on an aging room that will allow an expansion of varieties offered by White River. For now, though, you can find their small-batch cheeses at Hillcrest Artisan Meats — although they've proven quite popular and sell out quickly.
For more about White River Creamery, check out this profile from @Urban magazine to get an idea about the lay of the land around the creamery. The picture painted is one that we've become wonderfully used to in Arkansas: people with pride in what they do producing excellent products with the best quality ingredients. It's a refrain that's becoming a motto for Arkansas food, and one that White River Creamery embraces with gusto.
White River Creamery is located at 11701 S Hwy 16 in Elkins. If you'd like to visit their facility, call ahead at 479-310-0355 and they'll be happy to set up a time for you.
In Central Arkansas, cheese lovers have a few options when hoping to explore the thrilling world of artisanal cheese. But perhaps no one is doing more to promote the name of cheese than the venerable Boulevard Bread, and one woman, in particular, is more well-versed in the caseus vernacular than any person on staff. Blair Graves is a woman who’s dedicated herself to the study of cheese, pouring countless hours and logging many miles in efforts to become an authority on the subject. As the leading force behind Boulevard’s extensive cheese case and importing efforts, I’ve had the privilege to get to know Graves a little better, and I’ve been able to pick her brain a bit on this, her favorite subject of discussion. And I’ve quickly realized that I have a lot more to learn about cheese.
Digging back to the bright, youthful age of 11, Graves recalls the exact moment that she fell in love with cheese. On a road trip to North Carolina, she and her family were visiting the home of American writer/poet, Carl Sandburg. Sandburg’s wife happened to raise dairy goats. Graves relates: “I remember petting the goats and my mother bought some of their cheese. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world that I was eating cheese from the goats that I'd just petted and loved the cheese. This was the beginning of my food geekdom.”
She recalls the coming to Little Rock of what was once Scott McGehee’s original neighborhood darling, Boulevard Bread. Upon hearing what sort of place McGehee had in store for Little Rock, Graves could barely contain her excitement. “I was actually Boulevard's first customer. I went in thinking that it was open (it wasn't) to buy some pancetta. Scott ended up just giving it to me because there was not yet a cash register. I was employed there about three weeks later.” After starting at Boulevard, Graves immersed herself in the cheese faction of the business, reading voraciously about its many facets and eating as much as she pleased, always in search of new, enlightening experiences.
Graves’ love of cheese took her around the world in hopes of broadening her knowledge, allowing her palate to mature—all of which helped shape her into one of the most knowledgeable cheesemongers I’ve come across in recent years. She worked in an Italian specialty stores in San Francisco, visiting dairies, cheese shops, and attending cheese classes, even holding weekly cheese and wine tastings. Her path paved in cheese brought her back to France, of course, as well as Corsica, Italy, Spain, and Greece— cherished times in which Graves was “wine and cheese degusting all over.” She encountered some exquisite cheeses, some of which most in America have never seen, heard, or tasted of. She grew a particular fondness for the “gorgeous, gooey, smelly, unpasteurized” French types that would likely leave some Americans running to the window for a whiff of fresh air long before a morsel ever reached their mouths.
The big food news of the past week was the kick-off of spring with a good old-fashioned SoMa Food Truck Second Thursday. The weather was fantastic, the food even more so, and the crowds were out in force — at least one truck, Santa Lucia Pizza, had already run out of food by the time I arrived at 6:30, and several other vendors ran short of food by the end of the night, and these guys don't run out of food easily. I'll have some more pictures after the jump, but I'd like to thank Chef Jeffrey Palsa of The Food Truck for organizing the event, Liz Sanders and the Bernice Garden for hosting it, and Sugar Shack Sweets, Southern Gourmasian, and Clyde and Kiddo's Barbecue for bringing their A-games. Lastly, the SoMa event saw the return of Little Rock favorite Green Cuisine, and they showed that they haven't lost a step when it comes to making some of the best food in town. Thanks also to Sally and Rachel at Loblolly, who despite losing co-conspirator Dan Moore to depths of The Food Truck managed to serve up some tasty treats themselves.
Here, now, the news:
*No Kid Hungry: Blogger and chef Christie Ison is back for a third year with her Arkansas Food Blogger Bake Sale to benefit Share Our Strength's "No Kid Hungry" program on May 4. Some of Central Arkansas' best professional and amateur bakers donate goods to this event, so it's a great place to satisfy your sweet tooth in the name of a good cause. We'll have more on it as the date gets closer.
*Jumbo Gumbo: In other "get stuffed for a good cause" news, the annual Jumbo Gumbo Cook-off will be held April 5, 2013. The cook-off is held to benefit the Allen School, which has made it their mission to help children with developmental disabilities since 1958. I'll be a judge at this year's event, along with several other awesome Arkansas foodies.
*More food trucks: Main Street's "Food Truck Fridays" will resume April 5. Featuring a rotating cast of all your food truck favorites, this event proved successful last year — and I know the truck owners are excited to bring their food back downtown.
*Local food: If you've eaten the burger at White Water Tavern, you've probably tasted Youngblood Grassfed Farms beef. Their Facebook page is a constant stream of food news from an Arkansas farm, so check them out.
*Here we go again: Finally, your favorite Eat Arkansas miscreants, Daniel Walker and myself will be appearing alongside fellow blogger Kevin Shalin on The Alice Stewart Show
this next Friday (March 29) from 7 - 7:30 a.m. Stewart's show airs on 96.5 The Voice, and I guarantee that the three of us will easily be the sanest thing aired there all day.
SoMa pictures below!
Well, okay, it's not quite watermelon season just yet, but the spring growing season is upon us for sure. Berries, veggies, and other tasty things to eat are going to be bursting out all over — I can almost taste the first homegrown tomato of the year now. Here's what's happening in the world of Arkansas food:
*Returning market: The Bernice Garden has announced April 14th as the opening date for this season's farmers market. This Sunday market was a lot of fun last year, from the Laughing Stock Farms figs I couldn't get enough of to the locally grown and sourced herbs, cheeses, meats, and other goodies from a whole host of vendors.
*The REAL March Madness: If you all haven't noticed, us Little Rockers take hamburgers pretty seriously, so much so that there's actually something called the "Little Rock Burger Caucus." Gentleman and scholar Joel DiPippa is keeping us up-to-date on their current "Best Burger" bracket, so if you like seared ground beef as much as we do, go check out the scoring on the Southern Ash Blog.
*More time for hunting eggs: Not in the mood to cook Easter dinner? Let the geniuses at Boulevard Bread do it for you. Menus available at the Heights location.
*Not so bad after all: University of Arkansas meat scientist (and concerned mom) Dr. Janeal Yancey shared a post on Twitter last week detailing the truth about "Lean Finely-Textured Beef" a.k.a. "pink slime." Dr. Yancey is not only an expert on meat, she's also very knowledgeable about food safety and can speak about this stuff from first-hand experience. Worth a read.
*Second Thursdays: SoMa Second Thursday is this week, so if you're in the mood to go food trucking, that's the night to do it. At the Bernice Garden from 5-8.
*Into the lion's den: Eat Arkansas reader and food blogger Kevin Shalin appeared this morning on 96.5 The Voice with Alice Stewart, who is trying to work some local food talk into her morning show. And although my own personal politics and Ms. Stewart's don't exactly jive, I'll be calling in tomorrow to chat with her myself about how my wife and I got into this whole food writing business. So if you want to flip over to talk radio for a minute, I'll be on around 6:18 tomorrow.
That's all the food news I've got — be sure to catch us up in the comments with all the things you've learned this week.
From Donnie Ferneau's Facebook page via the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (pay wall), an announcement that the chef is leaving the restaurant that once bore his name. Ferneau claims that the decision to leave was mutual with "no hard feelings on either side."
Little Rock businessman Frank Fletcher bought the restaurant in November 2011 and soon changed the name from Ferneau to Rocket 21. No news yet on what Chef Ferneau's plans are, but his Facebook announcement stated that he has been "working on a venture, looking for investors." More information as it becomes available.
I was batting around food suggestions with a couple of fellow food bloggers who make their residence here in Little Rock but both hail from parts unknown (i.e. Texas). I brought up grabbing some pimento cheese, to which one of these fine writers replied, "Oh, you Arkies and your pimento cheese." Needless to say, I was taken aback, and immediately expressed my skepticism that the delightful cheese and pepper spread wasn't universally as loved as it seems to be here. After all, pimento cheese is a signature item at the Master's Tournament at Augusta Golf Club as well as being a staple food for finger sandwiches, quick lunches, and spreading on crackers for hors d'oeuvres. It's a simple, delicious food, and as one of those Arkies who is in love with stuff, I thought I'd discuss it today.
My own experience with pimento cheese began with Mrs. Weaver's, the cheap store-bought spread that's still the main type of pimento cheese found in supermarkets. It's by no means great, but every time I have a healthy dollop smeared across a piece of light bread for a fold-over sandwich, I'm transported in an instant to summers spent with my grandmother — she always seemed to have some on hand. Later, we upgraded to the Kraft-brand spread, which while creamier (and maybe even a little tastier) just doesn't have the nostalgic pull on me like Mrs. Weaver's. As an adult, I learned to make the stuff myself, and the recipe has become the source of a good-natured and ongoing debate I have with my mother-in-law: she adds a touch of sugar (and sometimes walnuts) to her spread, whereas I use no sugar and the saltier Japanese-style Kewpie Mayonnaise for a more savory spread.
We've got people making fantastic pimento cheese here in Little Rock, with my favorite being the sriracha-spiked version from Hillcrest Artisan Meats. H.A.M. takes a creamy, spicy spread, layers it with thin-sliced salami, and then presses the whole thing into a crunchy, buttery mass of cured-meat and cheese goodness. There are a lot of good sandwiches out there, but that one might be my favorite in the entire metro area. Fans of Ashley's are generally very positive about the pimento cheese served there, although with a new chef coming in to make changes, nobody's sure the dish will stick around. As a word of friendly advice to the new guy: keep the pimento cheese as a gesture of goodwill. I promise you'll thank me for it. The Root periodically serves pimento-cheese, and it must be good because they've always run out every time I've tried to eat it — maybe one of you can tell me how the stuff is down there in the comments. Lastly, Big Orange puts a generous pile of it on a burger with green tomato relish that is a gooey, messy delight.
So how about it, Arkies? When it comes to cheese and pimentos, how do you like it? Who makes the best? And for those of you joining us from outside of God's country (i.e. Texas), have you managed to sample some of the good stuff in your time here? Let us know.
Fall is a busy time for food lovers in Arkansas, and this fall seems especially festive as we all shake off the hot dry summer just finished. If you're looking for something to do with yourselves in the upcoming weeks, we've got a few ideas for you that are sure to tickle your fancy and please your palate.
*Warm up with Chili: Local radio personalities Corey Deitz and Jay Hamilton of 100.3 The Edge will be hosting the 7th Annual Guns N' Hoses Chili Cook-off on November 3 at the Clear Channel Metroplex. Proceeds from the cook-off will go to the September Fund, which provides scholarships to the children of police officers, firefighters, and EMTs. While I won't be able to attend this year's festivities (due to getting married), I've been to the last two cook-offs and it's always a good time — colorful people, tasty chili, and a chance to stuff your face for a good cause.
*Main Event: Regular readers may have noticed: we're pretty big fans of food trucks here at Eat Arkansas. If you all love them as much as we do, this Saturday's Main Street Food Truck Festival is your chance to check out the epicenter of the Little Rock food truck scene. The even will run from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on October 6, and will feature over 30 food trucks, nearly 40 Little Rock ETSY vendors, live music, and most important (at least to me) three beer gardens. For more information, call 501-375-0121.
*Take a Hayride: The Arkansas Local Food Network, Tales of the South, The Bernice Garden, and and several SoMA businesses are holding a Local Food Tour in the form of a hayride that will visit South Main's community gardens and local food-related businesses. The tour runs is Sunday, October 14 from 12:30 p.m. - 5 p.m. with dinner to follow. Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for kids 12 and under.
*Year-round Market: According to their Facebook page, the Hillcrest Farmers Market will become the very first year-round market in Little Rock, with plans to move indoors at their Pulaski Heights Baptist Church location when the weather gets cold. The winter market will start October 6 at 8 a.m. and continue all the way through until spring.
*Fair Affair: Lastly, the Arkansas State Fair will be held October 12-21, so if you're the type of person who likes chowing down on deep-fried delicacies and then going on gravity-defying rides, this is your chance.
October is one of the finest months to be in this great state of Arkansas, and there's always exciting things going on. Be sure to grab your pumpkins for carving and pie, and find yourselves a pile of leaves to jump in, because the month isn't going to last forever, and the cold weather will be here soon enough.
When I first got into this whole business of writing about food, I never realized how diverse and wonderful the Arkansas food blogging scene actually was. For those of you who maybe only check out Eat Arkansas and the dining reviews in the Times and other print publications, I'd like to give you the opportunity to take a look at some of our different food blogs and promote some of the writers who have both inspired me and become my friends over the past few years. Some of these blogs probably need no introduction to many of you, but we haven't done a post promoting our local bloggers in awhile and I felt like giving some shout-outs tonight.
*Fancy Pants Foodie is a blog that started as tales and recipes about a student at Pulaski Tech's culinary school and has developed into a blog that brings together people for charities such as Share Our Strength as well as chronicling owner Christie Ison's updates on local food events, contests — and of course, pics of her hobnobbing with elite cooks. It's a great resource for both recipes and information.
*Red Kitchen Recipes is home to some of the most creative recipes and best food photography in the state. You may have seen owner Thanh Rasico from her appearance on Today's THV, and I've always admired her ability to take simple grocery store ingredients and turn them into some pretty amazing dishes from any number of culinary traditions.
*The Mighty Rib is owned and operated by a newcomer to Arkansas, Kevin Shalin, who came to our fine state from Texas by way of Boston. I had a chance to talk with Kevin, his lovely wife Sara, and their two kids at HarvestFest last week, and his enthusiasm about Little Rock's dining scene coupled with a well-traveled palate and quick wit make his blog a nice new addition to our food blogging landscape — and his extensive archives cover a wide variety of topics.
*Terri's Table is an excellent source for recipes, cooking techniques, and good photography. Although I've only ever talked to owner Terri Powers on the various social media platforms, I feel like I've known her forever. Her recipes range from the fancy and difficult to the simple and sure, but they all look delicious and are explained quite well.
*Deb Eats is one of our bloggers who focuses on restaurant reviews, and if you noticed that my recent review of Benton's Baja Grill was labeled "By Request," that's because it was Deb who recommended the place to me and asked me to review it — and I'm extremely happy that she did. Her reviews span the entire state, so check her out before you travel to see if she's got any recommendations before you go — I can personally vouch for her excellent taste.
*Proactive Bridesmaid is not purely a food blog, but since owner Stephanie Hamling thinks we only talk about her over here on Eat Arkansas in reference to tomatoes, I have to bring her up for another reason: she's one of Little Rock's most talented soap makers, and has just started Southern Girl Soapery. She also blogs about everything from eggs to, yes, tomatoes, so check her out for an all-around good resource on food and artisan soaps.
There are, of course, plenty of other great food blogs out there; these are just some of my favorites. Please feel free to list and provide links to any that I missed down there in the comments. We're crazy about food in the great state of Arkansas, and there are a lot of great people out there telling us all about it.
The building that houses Boba Teas, Smoothies & Coffees is a small, blink-and-you'll-miss-it building that in a previous life was an apathetic and rather disappointing Smoothie King franchise — but the word "smoothie" on the sign is the only similarity the current occupants share with their predecessors. Stepping up to the menu at Boba Teas is an almost overwhelming experience, with over 75 different drinks available from tea and coffee to fruit juice blends and, yes, smoothies. It's a menu that has something to please almost every taste, whether it be for a Starbucks-style coffee-flavored frappe or a more healthy juice blend like the carrot, cucumber, watermelon, and apple blend I ordered on my most recent visit. All the drinks are available with or without the tapioca pearls that give "boba" or "bubble" tea its name, so if the idea of sucking up the chewy tapioca pearls doesn't appeal to you, the friendly folks at Boba Teas will accommodate you.
The real hidden treasure of this menu lies at the very bottom of the extensive drinks list, and isn't a drink at all — it's a sandwich listed as French Sandwich (Vietnamese Sandwich), and it's one of the best examples of a bánh mì I've found in the city, hitting the mark on nearly every aspect of what this sandwich style should be. What makes a good bánh mì? Well, first you need excellent bread, and the crunchy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside French bread that used in this version is exactly what's needed to hold the plentiful pile of flavorful ingredients. Secondly, good pickled vegetables are a must, and it's here that the Boba Teas sandwich really comes into its own: crunchy, still-fresh vegetables that start with a perfect amount of briny tang that's soon followed up by a stout kick of sharp cilantro and a peppery heat that made me thankful I had also ordered a tall glass of cold Thai Milk Tea to sooth the excellent burn. The meat on the sandwich is the only weak spot, but that's not as much of a detriment as one might think, as the sliced pork and ham here are still quite tasty. It's not the most flavorful meat I've had on this style sandwich, but since it's the bread and vegetables that usually get the short shrift on a bánh mì, the fact that those elements are of such high quality here elevates the meat aspect of the sandwich as well — and for around four dollars, the sizable sandwich makes for a very good, cheap lunch.
I'm always excited when I find new places that use fresh, quality ingredients to make their products, and this is definitely one of those place. South University has developed a very respectable line-up of Asian restaurants and grocery stores, and this Vietnamese-run tea, coffee, sandwich, and smoothie shop is just another great example of the diverse offering available in the neighborhood. Boba Teas, Smoothies & Coffees is located at 3600 S. University, and they're open for lunch and dinner daily. There's limited patio seating available, so take advantage of the Arkansas fall and make trying one of these sandwiches a priority.
The second issue of Arkansauce: The Journal of Arkansas Foodways is now available for download, in PDF form. The annual journal is a production of the Special Collections Department of the University of Arkansas Libraries.
Nathania Sawyer, of the Butler Center, guest edits and rounds up a compelling group of contributions. There are pieces on old-line hamburger chains, spudnuts, poke salad and a really handy map of Arkansas Food Festivals. I haven't had a chance to read it all yet, but here are a couple of highlights after a quick scan.
From Judge Morris Arnold's survey of colonial fare in Arkansas:
Gru or sagamite seems to have been an- other favorite of Indians and hunters alike. This was a boiled corn mush seasoned with bears’ oil or buffalo tallow, often cooked with turkey or duck. Gru, Father du Poisson re- veals, was frequently used as a bread substitute: “A spoonful of gru and a mouthful of meat go together.” Most people would not have had ham and beef, of course, as Vallière did, but meat of other kinds was usually plentiful, since the woods and prairies were alive with deer, bears, and buf- falo. Buffalo ribs (“plats cotes”) were a favorite colonial Arkansas dish, especially those of a fat buffalo cow, a delicacy that gave Vache Grasse (fat cow) Prairie in northwest Arkansas its name. And the skies were thick, in season, with pheasants and ducks.
From an interview by Tim Nutt with Miss Fluffy Rice 1975 (Nutt's aunt):
TN: Before entering the state competition, you were crowned Poinsett County Miss Fluffy Rice. What was involved in the local contest?
BS: There was a local contest held at Weiner High School and then the county competition in Harrisburg. There were three contestants. We cooked our rice dish, and I had to give a speech about what role rice had played in my life.
TN: Describe your winning dish. How did you choose it?
BS: The recipe for the rice salad dish came from Nadine Bartholomew, a dear friend of my family. It included rice, eggs, pickles, onions, celery, pimento, and a special dressing mixture. I believe I tweaked it a little in terms of the dressing. The judges apparently liked it.
Then I started flipping through Eat and Explore Arkansas. And I realized that someone’s done their homework. It doesn’t contain every famed Arkansas recipe (nothing for devilled eggs, duck or anything involving muscadines). But there are recipes there for Possum Pie, for Chocolate Gravy, for PurpleHull Pea fritters, a couple of recipes for Tamale Pie, Coke Cake, Green Tomato Pie, Zucchini Bread… wow, there’s a lot of great recipes from all over the state in here.
And then there are the recipes you may have searched for over the years — right here where you can find them The publishers have graciously allowed me to share three of those recipes… for the famed Cotham’s Green Tomatoes, the Chocolate Wine Balls recipe from the Eureka Springs Chocolate Lovers Festival — and the Cliff House Inn’s Company’s Coming Pie recipe. Enjoy them — on the jump. And pick up your copy and learn more about the cookbook at this website.
A Confederacy of Dunces, anyone?
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