Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
An old-fashioned neighborhood storefront at the corner of Tyler and Woodlawn, just beyond the Fair Park Early Childhood Center, houses the heart of Palette Gourmet to Go and Catering. Here chef owners Jacqueline Compton and Jeremy Pittman, who have built a good reputation with their wide range of catered foods over the past seven years, from nibbles to cakes, offer takeout meals (frozen and fresh) and desserts.
We have it on good authority that Palette's catered meals are exceptional. We found exceptional items at the storefront as well, especially its nice cold side dishes, perfect for this hell of a summer we just went through.
For example: Couscous tossed with feta and chopped up roasted red bell peppers, squash and zucchini. This was a terrific side dish with great texture as well as flavor — chilled roasted vegetables relieved a roasted diner.
And the broccoli salad, a cool combo of broccoli florets, pecans, dried red cherries and caramelized red onion in a tangy dressing. We make something like this salad at home, but Palette's was good enough that we weren't sorry we were getting it takeout — no asking "why did I order this when I can do it better myself?" We can't.
The snowpeas in roasted sesame seeds — a great partnership — were fresh and crunchy and a good choice on a dehydrating sizzler of a day. The fruit salad was a mix of fresh sweet pineapples and grapes chopped in portions that matched, so as not to overpower, the luscious blueberries; all fruit salads should be as sweet.
You can get two of those sides with a $12 dinner; of the three entrees we've tried so far the most successful was a stir-fried pork and cabbage dish, which we also ate cold.
Less intriguing were a couple of seafood entrees — we sampled the tilapia and grilled shrimp. Here's our problem with seafood entrees: How can you reheat them without turning them into rubber? It was suggested that we put them in the microwave at 80 percent for just a bit. Our microwave doesn't have such a feature: It's got just one setting, and it's not a happy setting for fish. We popped the fish in for just a second and did not end up with rubber, but ... we prefer seafood right off the grill or out of an oven. We will say that the purple cabbage coleslaw accompaniment was delicious.
We actually got the fish for that very reason — to see if it was possible that we could take it home and make it work as well as the side dishes do. That perverse decision meant we did not try the rather delicious-looking (if on the small side) stuffed beef tenderloin.
Palette's frozen entrees let us down, though that may be the way of all frozen casseroles. The enchiladas were amazingly similar to Tex-Mex entrees we've gotten all over town, thanks to identical spices; nothing to write home about here. The spaghetti was better. The person we shared our dinner with found both too salty, but then he's a health freak.
Now here's a warning: Don't wait until late in the day (as we did) to go — you'll miss out on some of the selections if you do.
Now, for all you cupcake lovers out there: Palette makes the best in town. They may not be as hugely (we'd say too generously) iced as some you'll find in the cupcake shops, but they are far better — moist, delectable, and beautiful to boot. Our first cupcake sample had delicate petals on top, prettiest thing we ever saw, and the second a chocolate-vanilla swirl. They're not always in the dessert case — but you'll probably make more than one trip here.
As well as cakes both sophisticated and kid-pleasing Palette also makes incredible iced sugar cookies, in the shapes of giraffes, lambs, horses, penguins, pumpkins, you name it. We see the influence here of "the boss," the 1-year-old who runs the chefs.
Palette Gourmet to Go and Catering
600 N. Tyler
Bottom line: Go early in the day for a wider selection. Don't forget the cupcakes. The catering menu is online as well as the takeout.
10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
Credit cards accepted.
Sorry, but I don't see how a return visit is going to make those soft…