BUZZ WORD … each month a word is posted over on The Mighty Rib Facebook page, followed with a request for reader suggestions centered-around the term. One of the suggestions is randomly picked, dish is eaten, and a review is written.
This month’s BUZZ WORD was “cheese.”
The cheese grits at Maddie’s Place, suggested by Dc, was chosen, and I couldn’t be more pleased. I had recently stole a few bites of Maddie’s shrimp and grits and was more than delighted with the outcome.
Dc recommended I order a bowl of gumbo, but instead of the inclusion of the standard rice, ask for a scoop of cheese grits. Cheese grits … in gumbo?!? Never heard of it, but this is Buzz Word, and if you suggest it, I do it.
And here’s how the conversation went down with our server.
Me: “I would like the gumbo, but instead of rice, I’d like some cheese grits.”
Server: (pause…stares at me) “That can be done.”
Well, I honestly couldn’t be more delighted with the suggestion. Heck, I may never order gumbo any other way. The slightly spicy gumbo base had that classic burgundy/brownish hue, along with a deep richness imparted by the flavorful sausage. The creamy grits, once mixed into the gumbo, added a subtle coolness and thicker consistency to the dish. The chopped scallions on top were like icing on the cake.
Kudos, Dc … and thank you to everyone for all your suggestions!
One of the biggest shortcomings of the Little Rock food scene is that many of the chefs/restaurants tend to play it safe with menu items. Forgoing creativity in favor of familiarity, they often lose the opportunity to introduce diners to new and innovative dishes. That’s a soapbox issue I’ll save for another day, but it did get me to thinking about why I enjoyed my recent seven-course, Around the World Dinner at Forty Two (inside the Clinton Presidential Center) so much.
It was creative … and it took some chances.
Chef Burrow and his team prepared a themed menu for the evening, all part of an event the restaurant holds each month centered-around the cuisine of a chosen country. This month was Korea.
While Forty Two obviously does not specialize in Korean food, I certainly applaud them for branching out and attempting a style of food unfamiliar to both their chefs and many local diners.
Was every course a homerun? No. Some missed the mark, like the stone grilled mussels and Korean barbecue short ribs, but others were absolutely fantastic, like the bulgogi, a marinated Akaushi beef with scallions, sticky rice and soy-brewed shiitakes, as well as the Korean fried chicken, and a dessert course of street-vendor pancakes.
The insane amount of food, coupled with a low price tag and an admirable amount of risk-taking, earned Forty Two a certain amount of leniency for any minor missteps. I’ve never eaten that much well-cooked food for such a low cost, making the entire evening feel almost like an act of kindness from the restaurant. I’ll shut up now before Forty Two raises the price for September, but just know that if you’re in the mood for a fun evening filled with innovative cooking, these Around the World Thursdays provide a wonderful option.
It’s also worth noting that chef Stephen Burrow exuded a calm command over his kitchen, a trait we were fortunate enough to witness while dining at the chef’s table. He and his team rifled through course after course with a controlled, systematic precision that was both unexpected and quite impressive. And the best part? They all seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves.
As were we.
More Info: Around the World Thursdays are held on the third Thursday of each month and cost $27.95 per person. Seating is limited and reservations are required. For more info, visit their website or call 501.537.0042
While I typically keep my opinions about a new restaurant to myself for the first month of its existence, that’s not always a hard-and-fast rule, as in the case with One Eleven. You know One Eleven … it’s the new version of the old Ashley’s, formerly Little Rock’s most iconic restaurant located in the heart of the Capital Hotel.
I decided to check out the restaurant during one of last week’s lunchtime services. Here’s how things went…
Décor: The setting is now modern, but not overdone with flashy lighting, bright colors, and bold wall art, qualities you tend to see in many of the newer upscale restaurants. The décor is simple, yet elegant, with plenty of natural lighting from the expansive windows. Upon entering the restaurant, you’ll be blown away by the open bar, a feature that is sure to draw in customers. In short, a ton of time, money and effort went into this new look. It shows, and it works.
Service: No surprise here, the service at One Eleven is strong. An attentive wait staff was quick to deal with any and all issues throughout the entire meal. Our drinks were refilled with precision and the food came out in a timely manner–the latter will prove to be a critical element in appealing to prospective diners in search of a quick business lunch.
Food: Excellent. My halibut ($24), which was topped with a mild lemon basil sauce, was light, well-executed and absolutely beautiful. Tiny pillows of soft gnocchi rested on the firm, yet delicate fish, as did a variety of vegetables, including some delicious zephyr squash. One tablemate ordered the $16 Express Lunch (a daily chef’s choice selection of a starter, cheese, bread, soup, main course and dessert), which centered-around an entrée of hearty and rich Colorado lamb. The other opted for the the insanely tender and juicy roast chicken breast ($16), which proved to be the highlight of the meal.
Prices and Portions: Given the small portion size of the fish and a sparse amount of gnocchi, I’d say my halibut dish was definitely overpriced. I understand this isn’t an inexpensive fish, but the plate needs to be $5 cheaper or substantially larger if it wants to end up on more tables. The Express Lunch, with its solid value and adequate portions, allows patrons to really get a true taste of the restaurant’s menu, while the roast chicken breast is priced fairly.
Conclusion: One Eleven is off to a great start. High marks throughout our lunch have definitely motivated me to make a return lunchtime visit, as well as check out things during dinner.
Last Saturday morning, four dudes (myself included) jumped into a car and headed down to Dallas for a weekend filled with food gluttony. Make no mistake, we all ate a lot, but one member, Daniel F-ing Walker, truly separated himself from the group with his massive appetite. Here’s how his day went:
Dale’s Donuts (in Benton)
(1) buttermilk donut, (1) apple fritter and (12) donut holes
Commentary: Within 20 minutes of the start to our mini-vacation, the group was already in awe of Daniel’s greatness (insanity?). As you can see, he took down a face-sized fritter, along with a pile of holes.
(3) fried chicken legs, (1) bowl of mac and cheese, (1) cup of fried Brussels sprouts, (2) Dr. Peppers and random bites of cornbread and chili
Commentary: Pretty par for the course with Walker. He had gone 3+ hours without eating, so I knew he’d tear it up, without going too far. The problem? Within 30 minutes, we’d be at a pizza joint.
(1/2) of a 13-inch Neo-style pizza
Commentary: Dan didn’t overdo it at Cane Rosso. Granted, the thin pizza crust wasn’t loaded down with cheese. But the other toppings, like sausage, bacon, and mushrooms, were quite substantial. And half a pizza is still half a pizza … especially when you’ve consumed five donuts for breakfast.
Top Pot Doughnuts
(4) donuts and (1) apple fritter
Commentary: Complete insanity has set in. No, you’re not seeing things…we headed straight to the doughnut shop after Cane Rosso, where Dan took down even more donuts. “I have to have something sweet after a big meal.”
(1) cherry vanilla soda and numerous samples of food
Commentary: During my 20-minute chair massage at Whole Foods (damn proud of it), Daniel took time to reflect on his day’s eating habits. While doing so, he crushed a soda and various food samples.
(1) dumpling, (3) pieces of sushi, (1/2) cup of soba noodles, (2) shrimp, mushrooms and (4) pieces of veggie tempura
Commentary: Pretty respectable dinner … maybe for someone who has eaten a VERY light breakfast and lunch. But, as you can see, that was not the case with Mr. Walker. At this point in the evening, he was starting to hate life. But not enough to miss out on…
(2-3) cups of tortilla chips, (1/2) cup of salsa, (1/2) cup of queso, (3) Dr. Peppers
Commentary: Just a little snack, right? Wrong … that’s a lot of food for 10 p.m.
Fuel City Tacos
(3) street tacos, a few bites of a beef burrito, and (2) king-sized candy bars
Commentary: Hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little late night snack, is there?