Maybe you’ve been in this situation before. You walk into Hillcrest Artisan Meats. You peruse the meat case, mentally savoring every cut of beef, every scrap of cured pork, every house-made sausage. You ponder upon the possibilities, the dishes that could come to pass with a little preparation and elbow grease in your home kitchen. But then you realize you’re just too darn tired and lazy today to prepare an elaborate dinner. You want to give HAM’s products the proper amount of attention; they deserve to be treated with respect and love. You wonder, “Maybe I can just rent out owner, Brandon Brown, for the night…maybe he’ll come over and cook this fine slab of beef for me and my family.” As much as his wife, Tara Protiva-Brown, would likely love to get him out of the house, I doubt that’s going to happen. But don’t despair, there are new dinner options coming from everyone’s favorite butchery.
Last Friday, HAM debuted their new “take-out dinners.” Coincidentally, I happened to be shopping at HAM when they informed me of the new take home options. I was on my way home, I was hungry. Bring some home HAM and score brownie points with the wife for “taking care of dinner?” No brainer.
HAM will start offering these “take out” dinners on Fridays for the time being (until they become unbelievably popular and patrons begin to demand their appearance daily. They sold out on the first day, so it’s reasonable to assume this will eventually happen). They will be offered from 4:30 to 6:00 pm and will all be prepared to order by Brandon and the boys. They come in an aluminum container, so they can be reheated at home if need be. Prices will generally range between $10-13.
I was fortunate enough to sample their first stab at take out dinner. Not expectantly, it was wonderful. This involved a base of their beloved organic French green lentils. Perfectly prepared, the lentils are always tender, but just slightly toothsome, seasoned perfectly and adorned with carrot and onion. To this was added chunks of unctuous, soft smoked pork belly and slices of braised pork shoulder. But the centerpiece of the dish is their incomparable house-made Toulouse sausage seasoned with white wine and garlic. It’s cooked with precision— a taut, snappy casing with soft, crumbly insides. You will not find better sausages in this state. The dish is finished with a crown of creamed leeks—rich, slightly crunchy, utterly delightful.
If Little Rock food history has taught us anything it’s that anything slightly popular at HAM does not last long. I expect these dinners will be no different. Best get down there this Friday, claw and scratch your way to the front of the line, and sample them for yourself.
Strippaggio, a store dedicated solely to ultra-high-quality olive oils and vinegars, is now open in the Promenade at Chenal. The store is named for the process by which professional olive oil tasters swish olive oil in order to rate them.
Our only question is: can a store that occupies such a tight luxury niche really survive? After all, even the 1 percenters aren't deep-frying stuff in extra virgin olive oil squeezed out by the feet of extra Italian virgins. Still, stranger things have happened.
You can read Leslie Newell Peacock's longer chat with Strippaggio owner Ron McDaniel at this link.
Jimmy’s Serious Sandwiches will now offer drive-through service after its dining room closes from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. (Dining room hours are 11 a.m.-4 p.m. those same days.) Additionally, the midtown restaurant just unveiled JimmysToGo.com, a site where customers can pay in advance, pull into the Jimmy’s parking lot, call 671-1200 and have the food delivered to their car. (The restaurant isn’t utilizing its new drive-through option during regular hours for fear of congestion.)
While I'm not usually one to gush over gas station grub, I've got to say that I've been damn impressed with the new Kum & Go store at 5216 JFK Blvd. in North Little Rock.
I stopped in over the weekend and went back today for a cheap lunch with a friend, and have been really blown away by their selection of very cheap junk food, sodas and coffee. In addition to a 12-foot line of hot dog rollers featuring a dizzying array of cylindrical foods (including jumbo "bun buster" hot dogs, polish sausages, cheddar brats, pepper jack dogs, vertical cheeseburger and buffalo chicken, and four different varieties of crispy flour taquito wraps... all two for $2.22, mix and match, with a separate free condiment bar with stuff like kraut, chopped onions and jalapenos), the new Kum & Go features a cappuccino machine plus four varieties of plain ol' coffee plus hot chocolate, a chilled creamer dispenser with three different flavored creamers (plus a whipped cream dispenser off to one side), four different varieties of slushie, a pizza bar, a selection of pretty good looking pastries and cookies, a DIY milk shake machine and a soda fountain with both Pepsi and Coca-Cola products to which you can add vanilla, cherry and lemon flavoring at the touch of a button. That's on top of all the other stuff you can get at a regular ol' convenience store like beer, sodas, chips, gas and road maps.
Best of all, it's so cheap you'll have enough left over to splurge on a lottery ticket. For lunch today, my companion and I got three giant — and pretty dang delicious — dogs ("bun buster" for her, cheddar brats with kraut and mustard for me), two jumbo bags of chips, two bladder-buster sodas and a cookie to share, and our grand total came in under $9 bucks for the whole shebang. Only downside: one of the buns turned out to be a bit stale, but for less than $10, we can overlook it.
Maybe even best: they're open 24/7, which makes the Kum and Go prime pickin's for late-Saturday-night drunk food.
Tired of the tiny parking lot at the Hillcrest Kroger and with a few hours to kill while shopping for groceries, I decided to drive out to the revamped mega-Kroger at 16105 Chenal Parkway recently, just to see if bigger really is better. While I was able to resist the urge to partake of the furniture, candles, toys and fancy cheeses they have for sale, one thing that did impress me is their fairly amazing collection of international foods from around the world.
For example, they've got an Indian section as long as the cereal aisle at the Hillcrest Kroger, full of boxed instadishes, sauces, curries and big bags of India-grown rice. Ditto on separate sections for German, Italian, Middle Eastern, English and Asian foods, featuring drinks, spreads, dips and condiments I've never seen anywhere else. Example: tins of Spotted Dick (seen above, with the author) from the English section. Spotted Dick, it turns out, is a flavorful, fruit-filled sponge cake served with custard, not the CDC-level venereal disease I first imagined upon seeing the label. You learn something new every day.
In short, it's worth the trip out to Chenal Parkway just to pick up some of the cheap boxed stuff and condiments from various sections (I scored some boxed cous-cous, orange chicken sauce, and a jar of hot German mustard in a tiny faux stein). Might be great, might be awful, but you're never going to know until you try.
Curry in a Hurry, at 1800 Pike Avenue in North Little Rock, had its grand opening on November 11. The restaurant is a tiny, home-style Indian affair, owned by the same family that operates the adjoining convenience store. Sahil Hameerani runs the restaurant, and his father does the cooking.
"My concept was for people to take it and go, but then I thought I would offer some on site dining," said Hameerani. "It's a rough neighborhood, so I put up curtains for privacy." There are two private dining areas which seat about six people each, although Hameerani can get creative if the need arises. "Once we had a huge family in here. We made the whole place into a table and put a sign out that said reserved except for take away."
Alll food is cooked fresh on-site, and Hameerani is currently working on a combo menu. A single meal ranges from $10 to 15.
"Chicken 65 is a popular appetizer," said Hameerani. "People always ask, is this 65 pieces of chicken? I laugh and say no." Chicken 65 is slow marinated, deep fried, whole chicken. He also recommends "anything masala. It's thicker and spicier than curry."
The Hameerani family hails from Hyderbaad in south India, although Sahil's path took him from university in Canada and down through New York City before he landed in Little Rock four years ago. He operated gas stations before starting his own businesses. The Hameeranis also own Unique Threading Salon in Pleasant Ridge Center, which opened in July.
Good news for downtown dwellers: The new Boulevard on South Main is now offering its take-home dinners. They're available for pick-up starting at 3:30 p.m. Take-away diners are encouraged to call 375-5100 to reserve their meals.
Find out the daily special, which will differ from the one at the Heights, via Facebook.
It comes from the chef's roots along the Cache River. A "cache" pronounced "cash" can…
Yes! White River is awesome and you should all go get some of their cheese!
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