It says something about the popularity of long-gone Little Rock restaurant Jacques and Suzanne that in the Arkansas Times archives, there is only one, much-clipped copy of the July 1983 issue, stamped across the cover with LAST COPY: DO NOT REMOVE!
In that issue, the Times printed recipes from some of the state's great restaurants, including a few by Jacques and Suzanne's executive chef Paul Bash.
Opened in June 1975 at the top of the First National Building (later the First Commercial building, much later the Regions Bank building) downtown, the restaurant was purpose-built to be the finest restaurant in Little Rock, complete with formally attired waiters, two cut-glass chandeliers commissioned and built in Italy and a hand-picked, mostly European staff in the kitchen.
"It was coat and tie, and that was when coat and tie really meant coat and tie," Bash said in a recent interview. "The whole concept of the restaurant was to provide a fine dining experience … All the appointments were there. All the razzmatazz was there, and the food lived up to its billing."
Part of that razzmatazz included Little Rock diners' first exposure to delicacies like escargot, caviar, and French soufflés - all this at a time when, Bash laughs, he had to have Brie cheese flown into the city on special order.
With a "very classical, very continental menu" and absolute insistence on perfection, the restaurant eventually garnered a four-star rating in the prestigious Mobil Guide. It was an elegance that couldn't last, however. The development of West Little Rock subdivisions like Pleasant Valley and the reluctance of diners to come back downtown for dinner led to the closure of Jacques and Suzanne on Jan. 30, 1986, with a black-tie farewell party so well attended that Bash and company had to serve two seatings of devotees.
It's gone, but far from forgotten. Wine distributors will tell you that Jacques and Suzanne virtually created the market for fine vintages in Central Arkansas, and restaurants founded or owned by ex-employees form the bedrock of the city's dining scene - Andre's, Ciao Bacci, Cafe St. Moritz, Ciao's Italian, Graffiti's, The Purple Cow and Restaurant 1620, just to name a few. Even better, Little Rock gastrophiles who knew her well will still enthrall you with stories of the service, decor and food that sound like something out of "The Great Gatsby."
"It's had a lot of history," Bash said. "I don't say this in a bragging way, but we really kept up the standards the whole time. We were very fussy about the food. We always said, the quality of the food has to be there first."
Here, for your culinary delight, is one of Bash's recipes from his years as executive chef.
Escargots Jacques & Suzanne
14 oz. unsalted butter
1/2 oz. garlic, finely chopped
1/2 oz. shallots, finely chopped
1 1/2 oz. parsley, finely chopped
1/2 piece anchovy filet, finely chopped
1 piece filbert, chopped
2 1/2 tsp. salt
pinch pepper, white
pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 lemon's juice
1 tsp. Pernod (liquor)
2 tsp. dry white wine
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1/2 cup whipping cream.
Prepare all ingredients for escargot butter. Place garlic, shallots, parsley, anchovy fillet and filbert in blender and blend thoroughly. Place butter and dry seasonings in mixing bowl and beat until butter is well incorporated with air. Add puree mixture from blender, lemon juice, Pernod and white wine and continue beating. Place snail butter in covered container and refrigerate for several days. For service, butter should be at room temperature. Heat 24 snails in dry white wine. Place snails in escargot dishes. Reduce 3/4 cup of whipping cream by half. Remove from heat and when it is tepid, using a French whip, incorporate piece by piece 1 1/2 cups of the soft butter. Fold in the 1/2 cup of whipped cream. Pour the prepared butter cream mixture over the snails and glaze them quickly under the broiler until golden. Serve with crusty French bread.
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