Brace yourself. The ice is coming.
Light your candles. Start up your generators. Grab every loaf of bread on your grocer’s shelves. It's the ice-pocalypse and you need to be prepared.
But add one more thing to your list—hot chocolate. No, I'm not talking about some pitiful just-add-water scoop-swirl-and-serve garbage you'd get out of a tin can. I'm talking genuine drinking chocolate, made with love and affection, served up steaming hot by the lovely folks at Loblolly Creamery.
This seasonal drink is not to be missed this time of year. You're going to get cold, that's a fact. And nothing warms the body and spirit like a warm drink teeming with chocolate.
When it comes to food and drink, people love to blurt out the words, "the best I've ever had" with just about anything they enjoy. This casual use of the expression, generally speaking, causes it to lose its meaning over time. Usually, it's not actually "the best," but it sure gets people's attention when it’s labeled so.
That being said—Loblolly's hot chocolate is THE BEST I've ever had.
Why? Many reasons. First, they've nailed in on consistency. You don't want a drink that's too thin and watery, often flavorless and bland. You also don't want something so thick it's difficult to choke down. Loblolly's drink is smooth, silky and creamy, with the perfect thickness. It gently slithers down the throat slowly and gracefully. The flavor is unparalleled. Rich, sweet high-quality chocolate with just a touch of cinnamon to finish with a faintly spicy note. It’s bliss in a cup.
Do not pass up their housemade marshmallows. They are every bit as important and impressive as the hot chocolate. Unlike store-bought marshmallows, which often tend to be chewy, spongy, and stale, Loblolly's are soft, smooth and creamy. It's a texture unlike anything else I've seen in a marshmallow. They melt slowly in their hot chocolate bath—cherish them while they last. They offer various flavors, but I prefer the fragrant flavor of maple as my 'mallow of choice.
Stockpiling for the impending doom about to hit central Arkansas. They sell the stuff in a DIY to-go kit (marshmallows included), so you can make your own hot chocolate from home.
Whatever it takes to get some—snowmobile, dog sled, snowshoes—try this hot chocolate. Your holiday season will be infinitely brighter because of it.
Find Loblolly at the Green Corner Store: 1423 Main St, Little Rock.
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.
The recent cover story that Dan and I did for our Thanksgiving issue was an incredible amount of fun — we got to talk with some of the best and brightest stars in our culinary sky about what they like to cook. Getting the low-down on cooking from a chef is a window into the thought process and technique that these men and women use every day to produce the good things we eat.
Unfortunately, I ran out of room before I could include several recipes, including one from Jack Sundell of the Root Cafe. Known for everything from breakfast to burgers to great vegetarian cuisine, the Root has become one of Little Rock's most popular restaurants in its two years of existence. The Root exemplifies the locavore movement that has grown up in Central Arkansas over the past few years, and few places are doing it as well as Jack and the Root crew.
Which brings me to Jack's recipe for fried green tomatoes, a dish that is not only classic Southern cooking, but also one that emphasizes local produce. Join me down there under the jump for a look at the Root's culinary philosophy and one of the tastiest recipes I've read lately.
My wife and I got into the car last week, and when she noticed the bottle sitting in my cup holder, she got an odd look on her face. "Were you drinking beer in the car?" she asked, slightly scandalized. Sure enough, the brown glass container sitting empty could certainly be mistaken as a beer bottle at first glance, and with a label across the front that reading "Tommyknocker," anybody could be forgiven the mistake — after all, Tommyknocker is one of my favorite breweries in these United States.
But before you all get on the line to the state police and MADD, let me explain. I wasn't drinking Tommyknocker beer and driving — I was drinking a Tommyknocker Strawberry Creme soda, one of four excellent flavors of soft drink that the brewery is now selling in Arkansas. I picked one up with my lunch at Hillcrest Artisan Meats the other day, and I was an immediate fan of the sweet, creamy soda — so much so that I'm not sure which I like better from the Idaho Springs brewery, the soda or the beer.
In addition to that strawberry, the soda is also available in orange creme, almond creme, and root beer — all fantastic. And while being made with organic ingredients doesn't make all that sugary soda into a health drink, the high quality of what goes into each bottle results in something that quenches thirst with burst after burst of delicious flavor.
If you haven't had a chance to wrap your lips around one of these sodas, I've just given you a nice excuse to stop into H.A.M. for lunch. Alternatively, you can head up to Argenta Market in North Little Rock to grab a four pack of whichever flavor strikes your fancy. Just be sure not to peel the label off if you want to drink these tasty sodas while driving.
On paper, Hot Dog Mike looks like the purveyor of some of the finest food in Arkansas. He’s got more Twitter and Facebook followers than nearly any other restaurant or food truck in Arkansas. He convinced fans to donate thousands of dollars to his efforts to erect a brick-and-mortar station in which to sell his hot dogs. He’s been the recipient of numerous accolades and awards from publications all over central Arkansas.
Reading this, a newcomer to the Hot Dog Mike story, someone who had not yet sampled his food, would surely look forward to the day he or she could sample Mike’s product with a great deal of anticipation. This would assuredly be some sort of hot dog epiphany, an eye-opening, game-changing event in the arena of tube meats. We’re talking the French Laundry of frankfurters here.
At least these were my thoughts as I set out to sample Hot Dog Mike for the first time.
The EVERYTHINGdog…mustard only. PLAINJANEdog…just pick whatever sauces you want and I’ll throw it on a dog. KRAUTdog…yup, kraut. Oh, and mustard. CLASSICdog…relish, mustard, onion.
Sure, things got a bit more inventive with some of the more premium hot dogs, but was this really the same Hot Dog Mike menu I’d heard so many mythical tales about in seasons past? Was this the menu putting street food on the map in Little Rock? Was this the hot dog revolution everyone was talking about? Surely, I had missed something.
Still, I was excited by the prospects of Hot Dog Mike’s new home base. And not yet having actually eaten one of his hot dogs, I allowed hope to buoy me through the door to purchase my first ever Hot Dog Mike hot dog.
I had determined to sample (what I had deemed) the most intriguing and original creations Mike was offering that day. This included the WOOPIGHOTdog with “bacon!,” slaw, onion, bbq sauce, and sriracha. Secondly, the CAPITALdog with cream cheese slathered on the bun, relish, and sport peppers. A bag of Lay’s potato chips and a bottle of soda rounded out my meal, putting me back just around $11.
And here’s the thing. The hot dogs are fine. They’re not awful, they’re not even bad. They’re fine. The same way a hot dog at the ball park is fine. The same way your half-wit uncle’s 4th of July cookout hot dogs are fine. Your Cub Scout campfire hot dogs are fine. So it is with Hot Dog Mike.
The greatest food day of the year has come and gone. Wipe away your tears, friends. It will be back next year. Right now it’s time to focus on buying as much as you can, as fast as you can, no matter the cost.
Seriously though, what did you eat yesterday? Please tell me there was pie…it would be a crime if you did not eat pie yesterday.
Maybe even more importantly, how are you utilizing your leftovers? I’m sure some of you have some good uses for that turkey.
With all your family in town this weekend, please, eat local. Your local restaurants are working extra hard this time of year to feed this city, and they deserve your support.
And so, once again, we ask for your cherished feedback…what you’re eating, where it’s happening, what you like, and what you despise. We want to hear it all. Go time.
It’s probably natural to ask yourself, after all is said and done, “ Is all this push towards ‘eat local' really worth it?” It’s often a little more expensive, it’s likely a little less convenient. It’s simple rounding up all the items on your shopping list at one big discount mega-mart—it’s open 24 hours a day, you can pick up more windshield wiper fluid at the same time, and you can probably even get away with shopping in your pajamas. Is it worth hunting down your local farmers to acquire your weekly needs? Am I just doing it because it makes me “feel good” inside?
I imagine that’s a question everyone must answer individually. But allow me to offer my two cents—when it comes to turkeys, buying local, from our own Freckle Face Farm is a very worthwhile investment.
This Thanksgiving, I was quite fortunate indeed to be treated to a 16-lb bird from Freckle Face. We were privileged to join Kevin Shalin (of The Mighty Rib) at his home this year and he decided we needed one of these birds on our table.
So, Monday evening before Thanksgiving, we met up with Mitchell Latture from Freckle Face in front of Pulaski Heights Baptist Church to pick up our freshly delivered bird (and when I say “we picked up,” I mean I sat in the comfortable, warm car while Kevin waited in line in the freezing rain for 15 minutes to obtain his purchase). This was to be the first “fresh” turkey I’d ever prepared or eaten. Most Americans, like me, probably grab their birds frozen from the grocery store, which of course, requires hours of thawing before they can be cooked. But not this time. Nothing frozen, freshly slaughtered, clean and beautiful—even dead, the thing just looked happier.
I took the turkey home and soaked it in a 24-hour brine seasoned with sea salt, juniper berries, apple, star anise, rosemary, lemon peel, garlic, rosemary, and thyme. Things were certainly starting off on the right foot.
After pulling from the brine, we were immensely fortunate to be gifted with the time and talents of our friend Steve Shuler—a man with skills in the kitchen that far exceed my own. He allowed me into his home on Thursday morning to prepare our bird in his deep fryer. This fryer was like nothing else I’d ever seen. The Waring Digital Rotisserie Turkey Fryer accepts surprisingly large birds considering its relatively compact nature, and it operates safely on your kitchen counter (you can see the thing in action below, after the jump). The clean, care-free device slowly turns your turkey in a vat of hot oil—rotisserie style—cooking the bird in a mere one hour. After the frying process was complete, Steve finished the bird with a bit of shaved sea salt, which melts nicely into the meat.
The results were magnificent, and I am not exaggerating when I say this was the best turkey I’ve ever eaten. The skin of the bird comes out delightfully crisp and a deep golden brown—achieving something you’ll never get from a conventional oven roast. The meat was juicy and tender and has a faint caramel-nutty flavor imparted by the peanut oil during the frying. The turkey was plump and healthy, allowing long, sizable slices to be served on everyone’s Thanksgiving plates.
The combination of a fantastic product, the perfect preparation, and great friends to share it with made this turkey one I will always remember. Is it worth going local? I certainly think so. And when it comes to exemplary meats, you will not find finer specimens than those at Freckle Face Farm. Visit them at various farmer’s markets around town, and pick up one out their products next time you want something special at your family feast.
One of the best places in town for gourmet food and local products is North Little Rock's Argenta Market, a quaint and friendly shop that sells groceries and quality prepared food. Lots of my favorites are found at Argenta Market, from Loblolly ice cream to Tommyknocker sodas — and there's always something good to eat happening back in the cafe area.
Fans of the market are invited to check out the Open House that's being held Saturday, December 14, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Local vendors will be out sampling their products, and there will be a raffle for prizes. Head down there under the jump for the full press release.
Recently I was joined by fellow foodies and local writers, Kevin Shalin and Greg Henderson, for a peek into the work going on at this culinary school and we were able to get a nice tour of the shiny new facilities in which students are able to train.
The new facilities (located along I-30 at the border of Little Rock and Bryant) were completed only recently, in the summer of 2013. Truly, this is one impressive institute of learning. Top-notch equipment, spacious classrooms with top-of-the-line audio/visual equipment for demonstrations, large kitchens with new appliances and tools to train on—nearly anything an aspiring cook can hope for.
Graduates attain an “Associate’s of Applied Science in Culinary Arts” through a one-year program that takes learners through a full array of necessary skills and techniques needed to succeed in the restaurant world. Students study the basics of stocks, sauces, and soups, garde manger, French regional cuisine, candies and chocolates, and meats and seafood. Courses also cover basics in menu design, dining room operations, sanitary techniques, and hospitality in order to give learners a comprehensive look at how to manage a restaurant or any other food production service. Those looking for additional training in wine and spirits or baking and pastry can opt to take additional courses and acquire additional certification beyond the one-year program. More information on enrollment here.
As part of one of the upper level courses, students are asked to cook, manage, and serve in a fully functional restaurant at the school. For the time being, this dinner program is offered by invitation only. We were treated to some nice dishes during our meal including a veal scaloppini with sweet potato gnocchi and a pear tart with caramel and cayenne pepper sauce.
It’s reassuring that Arkansas is investing in its own culinary future with a facility such as Pulaski Tech. I’m confident that these programs will help boost the confidence and capabilities of those involved and I’m eager to see the cooks produced through these courses of study.
Special thanks to Tim Jones—Associate Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing at Pulaski Tech—for inviting us to visit and for his hospitality throughout the night.
***More pictures after the jump***
It’s that time again. Our weekly feature in which you get the chance to mouth off on whatever you’ve been eating lately. A little segment we like to call Food Feedback Friday.
Did you check out Michael’s print review of The Blind Pig in West Little Rock? He’s claiming they’ve got some of the finest hot dogs in town. Which reminds me…when is Green Cart Deli going to get down here again? Been too long.
I’ve got the review in this week’s Times—the newest WLR Mediterranean joint, Anatolia. I’ve had a couple fairly uninspiring experiences…but if you’ve had something you’ve enjoyed there, I’d love to hear about it. Don’t want to write them off completely yet.
Hugh Mann had some very high praise for South on Main after his first visit. He describes the ribeye as “perfectly medium rare, and was as succulent as any we've had.” The catfish also gets high marks; he calls it “perfectly cooked, nice and flaky and just lightly seasoned.” I can’t disagree. SoM is probably serving up the finest catfish in Little Rock.
Kevin reports on some fine duck he sampled at Ciao Baci…I was there, it was good.
Your turn. Go forth and feedback.
Forgive me, foodies, for I have sinned.
Given the high profile life I lead, it probably comes as no surprise that many of my meals are made up of the finest organic products, produced by talented artisans and chefs to be consumed on-site at one of our many picturesque farms. Other times, I content myself with lighter fare — local mixed-green salads massaged into being to a soundtrack of Iron and Wine and served with just a hint of patchouli. And of course I wash it all down with some of the finest wine and beer that our fine state has to offer. It's a good life.
What I don't do, what I never do, is eat fast food. Even my butler's maid is too good for the stuff. After all, switching from my regular diet of foie gras hamburgers to something as gauche as a Whopper would be like painting a goatee on the Mona Lisa.
Of course, that's all the biggest bunch of baloney this side of Oscar Mayer. I do try to limit my intake of take-out food, but there are times when a lunch hour turns into the dreaded "lunch 15 minutes" and fast food manages to pump enough fat, salt, carbs, and mutilated protein into my body so that work may continue. And honestly, not all fast food is terrible. Wendy's has some decent salads, and I've got a soft spot for the dreaded Chicken McNugget. And with the coming of McDonald's "Mighty Wings," one thing becomes clear: Mickey D's needs to stick to chicken of the pressed and boneless variety.
What's a chicken wing from McDonald's like? You can do them yourself at home. Make a large batch of the flour paste popular in kid's craft classes. Add to this dough about a cup and a half of season salt. Coat chicken wings with the glop to the thickness of about 3/4 of an inch. Fry for the length of time it takes to sync up Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon with The Wizard of Oz. When the chick on "Great Gig in the Sky" starts wailing, pull the wings. For best results, top the wings with your favorite sauce, then dump them directly into the nearest trash can. Let them sit for an hour, then eat. You'll be close.
If there's one thing I can say about the Mighty Wings, it's that they at least have a real chicken wing somewhere buried under the harsh, salty crust, unlike, say, the McRib. I'm still unclear why McDonald's thought this was a good product, though, because wings aren't convenient to eat in the car, they're so over-battered that they don't fit into the sauce tubs for easy dipping — and oh yeah, they taste like MSG-enhanced evil. There are fun guilty pleasures out there, but it's clear after the first bite that the Mighty Wing will never be one.
McDonald's is located...well, everywhere.
Typically the words “all you can eat” should have you turning tail and finding somewhere else to spend your money. But that’s not always the case, as I recently discovered this week at The Oyster Bar.
In earlier days—before electric appliances were commonplace in most American households—Monday was known as “wash day.” In many southern homes, especially those found in New Orleans, wash day also meant a steaming pot of red beans and rice for supper. Traditionally, women of the house would place a pot of beans on the stove, leaving it to simmer all day, allowing them time to tend to the laundry.
Today, we tend to pile our dirty laundry into a big metal machine just about any day of the week, giving us ample time to prepare a pot of beans just about any day we’d like. But at The Oyster Bar—a Little Rock landmark since 1975—you’ll find the wash day tradition is alive and well. And almost as if you’re visiting an old friend who’s prepared a heaping pot to share, you can eat as much as you’d like—an endless bowl—all for only $5.95. It may well be the best bargain bowl in town.
There are some real Oyster Bar fanatics in Arkansas—I even know a couple that got married at the place. That’s real love. This was my first time at the OB—I felt I had lived in Little Rock long enough that it would be a crime not to try it.
It’s spacious inside, family-friendly, and a lot cleaner than I expected based on its worn exterior. Hunger gnawed at my belly as soon as I entered, I was prepared to feast.
The above-mentioned “all-you-can-eat” red beans and rice was surprisingly good. It comes with a substantial bit of andouille sausage blended into the mix, which makes it an even better value in my opinion. The broth is thin, but just slightly spicy. The rice was nicely done, fluffy and not overwhelming the beans. The most bowls consumed at our table was a measly three—but I imagine many more have been gulped down by more serious challengers. Perhaps one of the most delightful parts of the meal was the complimentary buttered and grilled French bread that accompanies the stew. It was soft, flavorful, and perfect for sopping up any residual juices left upon finishing any given bowl. Of course, as a friend reminded me, if you’re shooting for the coveted title of “red beans and rice champion eater,” you don’t fill up on bread.
The Oyster Bar is located at 3003 W. Markham, Little Rock. The red beans and rice "all you can eat special" is only available on Mondays. For a full list of their daily specials, see this link.
Several foods seem to only make an appearance around our home during the holiday season—candy canes, egg nog, cranberry sauce, gingerbread. It’s unfortunate really, but perhaps it allows these items to remain a special treat each year. Peanut brittle is another of these seasonally appearing foods. It’s very rare that I find myself purchasing peanut brittle at any time of the year, really. It’s an older, more traditional candy—some might even call it “old fashioned.” But we still seem to find it making appearances fairly regularly during the holidays, mostly due to it being gifted at some point during the season. I’m perfectly fine with this—I’ve always liked the stuff enough to enjoy it from time to time.
So I determined that I would find this “Juanita’s” while in town. Luckily, everyone in Arkadelphia seems to know where this place is—I had to ask for directions twice to find it. But eventually, we rolled up to the large, factory-like candy store and perused the small gift shop which featured all Jaunita’s has to offer.
Ms. Juanita’s picture still hangs proudly on the candy shop’s wall. She began making brittle in 1974—producing the candy in a small building behind her home and traveling around the state to sell it out of her car. Juanita passed away in 2001, but her sons keep her business alive today.
Walking in, you’ll notice only a few options—peanut, pecan, and cashew brittle. These can be purchased by the bucket (1-1/2 or 3 lb) or in smaller 8 oz plastic bags. Samples of each nut variety sit in front of their own display.
One particularly nice aspect of their brittle is its exceedingly thin nature. It’s quite crispy and crackles when bitten into. It’s buttery and sweet, sticky enough to cling to your teeth just a little before sliding down your throat. Of the three varieties, I enjoyed the pecan most. These nuts impart a rich, roasted, almost smoky flavor to the candy. But the peanut and cashew were no slouches either.
If you don’t feel like driving down to Arkadelphia to purchase these brittles yourself, you can phone in or mail in an order (details here) and have it shipped to where ever you’d like. No matter how you make this happen, if you’re a believer in brittle, I can’t recommend this candy enough.
Juanita's Candy Kitchen is located at 47 Stephenwood Drive, Arkadelphia, AR (directions here)
A few years back, I asked a buddy of mine who lives in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana to bring me up some local beer. This was back when the Razorbacks actually played football, and my friend would travel north to see the Battle of the Boot at War Memorial — and for the record, we won every time he came. On his last trip up, the beer he brought up was from a brewery I had never heard of: Bayou Teche Brewing, a small brewery out of Arnaudville, LA that made me an immediate fan with the first taste of their LA 31 Biere Pale.
Those of you who attended the Arkansas Times Craft Beer Festival this year (and there were a ton of you there) may have seen the Bayou Teche booth, and I hope that you all got to taste what they were pouring. I had the privilege of chatting with the friendly folks at the brewery in the lead up to the festival, and I found them to be some of the nicest folks imaginable — and extremely passionate about good beer.
The Bayou Teche Brewing goal is to make beer that can stand up to the fine cuisine that South Louisiana is known for, and I think they're succeeding with their flavorful brews. And just last week, I ran into Hillcrest Liquor to grab six-pack to go with dinner and my wife pointed out some fresh sixers of the Acadie, Bayou Teche's biere de garde — one of our favorite brews from the festival. I snapped one up, and enjoyed it with some gumbo.
It's always fun to see new beer hit Arkansas, and I haven't been this excited for a new brewery since Tommyknocker arrived earlier this year. In addition to the Acadie and LA 31, keep your eyes out for the Miel Sauvage, a deceptively strong (and delicious) honey beer, and the Cocodrie, an IPA that has just the sort of bite you might expect from a brew named after an alligator. I love our local brewers, but this is definitely a brewery that makes me branch out to the swamps to drink like the Cajuns.
sounds like a soon to be failed business to me.
We went once..and ended up going across the street to the Irish pub to get…
GreenCart Deli, also a food cart in Conway, uses delicious ingredients, high quality dogs and…
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