Archive for category Misc.

Top 10 Sides Dishes in Little Rock

Chi’s Wrinkled Green Beans

Oh, that often overshadowed side dish—always taking a back seat to the main entrée. But make no mistake, a great side dish can be memorable in its own right. In Little Rock, we certainly have our fair share of fantastic options. Here are my Top 10 Side Dishes (in no particular order):

Lentil Salad from Hillcrest Artisan Meats
At H.A.M., you have the choice of chips or the lentil salad with your sandwich. I always go with the lentils. In fact, if you ever see me not going with them, permission is granted to drop-kick me in the nuts. Subtle amounts of ingredients like red onion, parsley and olive oil make this dish a perfect companion to any of their sandwiches.

Brussels Sprouts from Table 28
Table 28 is able to take their Brussels sprouts right to the edge of deep fried disaster without falling over the cliff. The end product yields a ton of crispy, charred leaves that eat almost like popcorn.

Braised Red Cabbage from The Pantry
Sweet and slightly tangy, The Pantry’s braised red cabbage is the perfect accompaniment to several dishes at the restaurant. Order a side bowl and watch it disappear within minutes.

The Fold's Mango Carrot Slaw

The Fold’s Mango Carrot Slaw

Mango Carrot Slaw from The Fold
This seasonal dish has such fresh flavors, along with bright and vibrant colors. Beautiful strings of mango and carrot sit in a bowl with oranges and springs of cilantro. What’s not to love?

Wedge Fries from The Faded Rose
Technically, this is an appetizer…but dammit, this is my list and The Faded Rose’s wedge fries are just too good not to mention. Super thick and fried to perfection, these fries are best dipped in ranch dressing…then ketchup.

Table 28's Mashed Potatoes

Table 28′s Mashed Potatoes

Mashed Potatoes from Table 28
Yes, Table 28 is the only restaurant with two representatives on this list…and for good reason. The mashed potatoes laced with Boursin cheese and buttermilk, then piped into a bowl, are borderline magical. I unashamedly almost polished off an entire bowl by myself the other night.

Wrinkled Green Beans from Chi’s
Chi’s (on Markham) is my favorite overall Chinese restaurant in Little Rock and these green beans always find their way onto our table, right next to a plate of beef chow fun and Hunan beef.

Sweet Potatoes from Brewsters 2
All of the sides at Brewsters are wonderful, but I especially enjoy the thick-cut chucks of buttery sweet potatoes. Add some fried catfish and the purple hull peas to the mix and just call it a day.

Grilled Veggies from Milford Track
I will never know how Kay from Milford Track gets an assortment of mixed veggies to taste so fabulous, but she does…and you’d be wise to order them with some of her fresh, handmade pasta.

Franke's Eggplant Casserole

Franke’s Eggplant Casserole

Eggplant Casserole from Franke’s
Did you really think I’d leave this iconic Little Rock dish off my list? Hells no. Eggplant, bread crumbs, tomatoes and an assortment of other ingredients meld into a vat of goodness that’s both hideous to the eye and sheer ecstasy to the taste buds.

These were my absolute favorite sides dishes in Little Rock…but I also heard from you! Here are some reader suggestions:

Truffle Fries from Big Orange (multiple votes), Andouille goat cheese grits from Trio’s, Onion Rings from Cotham’s, Creamed Greens from South on Main, Roasted Red Potatoes from The Pantry, Gnocchi from Natchez, Greens from Gus’s, Sweet Potato Fries from Big Orange, Brussels Sprouts from E’s Bistro, Eggplant Fries from The Root Café (multiple votes),  Drunken Beans and Rice from Local Lime, Bleu Cheese Slaw from Maddie’s Place, Greens from Sims, Broccoli Salad from Palette Catering and Cheese Grits and Tuscan Beans from Red Door.

Did we miss any? If so, please let us know in the comment box below!

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Taking a Look Back at the Year in Food

Shrimp and Grits at The Southern Gourmasion

Shrimp and Grits at The Southern Gourmasion

Before we dive too deep into 2014, I wanted to take a look back at some of my favorite, most memorable meals of 2013. It was a wonderful year, especially right here in Little Rock, where the food scene continues to reach new heights. So, without further ado…here we go!

The year started off with an amazing pig roast, attended by 20+ foodies and hosted by Tomas and his fine crew over at The Pantry. Per usual, the service and food at The Pantry were top-notch. It was particularly enjoyable to watch people try parts of the pig they otherwise would frown upon.

While some food memories resided in the warm confines of a restaurant setting, others were found on sidewalks and parking lots. Farmers markets and food truck meet-ups were prevalent this year. We braved the chilly weather one Saturday morning to devour those deliciously flavorful shrimp and grits from The Southern Gourmasion; there was also the night several friends huddled around the fire, roasted marshmallows and ate waffles from the Waffle Wagon.

We consumed fantastic pizza on Vino’s rustic outside deck, with beautiful downtown Little Rock right on top of us. Heck, we drove to Scott, AR and downed a 1-lb, beef burger at 100-year-old Cotham’s. I nearly ended up falling into a legitimate food coma from that meal, not like the fictitious one at Red Lobster, which was a memorable meal in its own right.

We crawled the streets of Boston’s Chinatown in search of the most perfect soup dumplings. We found them.

Vino's Pizza

Vino’s Pizza

An insane Memphis road trip found a group of four very stupid dudes hit 18 eateries in 30 hours. We ate donuts from Gibson’s, the tender dry rub ribs from the Bar-B-Q Shop, and the A|M Breakfast from Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen….just to name a few.

During a trip to Dallas,  we waited 1.5 hours in line at Pecan Lodge for the best brisket in the world.

A plate of fried grasshoppers was even eaten at a 4-star restaurant in Houston.

We tailgated…oh, we tailgated! Thanks to the Gees (and Erin’s Jell-O shots), we were able to eat, drink and be very merry at War Memorial.

Backyard bbq-ers shined in 2013…none more than Steve Shuler and his amazingly good pork shoulder and baby-back ribs. Thanks, Steve and Jen for having us out to your former house in Benton.

Some of the most favorite memories where the spontaneous ones … like the Tweet-Up at Baja Grill, where ten friends crushed Pig Sooie burritos and blackened shrimp tacos until our bellies just about burst. And when a handful of us met at Hillcrest Artisan Meats, we sat in that small space as you enter the back of the shop and devoured artisan sandwiches.

Simple meals, like when the new crew over at Leo’s treated my kids like royalty, were the special ones.

We drank whiskey for four courses at Big Orange Midtown and listened to the Marcus Roberts Trio while sipping on a David Burnette Old Fashioned at South on Main.

South on Main brought it...both the food and drinks!

South on Main brought it…both the food and drinks!

Yes, 2013 was a pretty damn cool year. The fantastic food experiences listed above all had one thing in common: they were shared with wonderful friends and family, and hence…the “we” throughout the post.

Cheers to that!

And here are a few food memories you shared:

“The most memorable meal for me is always our annual pig roast. To have so many of your family & friends together in one place enjoying each other’s company is a true blessing for me.” -Kelly G.

“Our most memorable meal was at Ristorante Capeo. An all-around wonderful dining experience. We had some of the freshest and delicious buffalo mozzarella over juicy Roma tomatoes you will ever eat. The braised pork shoulder roast over soft creamy polenta was mind blowing great. The restaurant is elegant, romantic but not intimidating to anyone. The staff make you feel at home and really know how to prepare and execute a homemade Italian dining experience.” -John K.

“Two of our more memorable food outings were the 5-course ice cream extravaganza at Loblolly and the great night at Vesuvio.” -Jason S.

“Most memorable? How does any meal compare to the Red Lobster? I can’t imagine anything more memorable than that.” –Greg H.

“Broiled salmon with chanterelle cream sauce, homemade.” –Tim J.

“Most memorable meal for me was a turkey sub with all of the veggies and sweet onion sauce on wheat from Subway….I know, but I hadn’t eaten in 36 hours because I was in labor and I wasn’t allowed to eat lunch meat the whole pregnancy, which is usually a staple for me.” –Editor’s note: By mistake, I chopped off they person’s name when during copy/paste and can’t locate original message. Someone, please come forward and lay claim to this awesome quote!

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Top Restaurant Pet Peeves (Server Edition)

Are you a verbal tipper?

Are you a verbal tipper?

A few weeks back, I wrote a piece for Bourbon and Boots entitled Top 10 Restaurant Pet Peeves; the list was written from a diner’s perspective (that being me). While many folks agreed with my choices, a few thought I should never again enter a restaurant. But the best part … I had several people in the restaurant industry tell me I should make a list from their perspective.

In fact, one person stepped up and wrote the list! This individual has spent more than two decades in the business. And for the sake of this write-up, they will be known as Anonymous. Thank you so much for writing this piece. Hope you enjoy!

Baby, It’s Cold Inside
Sorry, we don’t issue Snuggies at the door. You seriously should have brought a sweater. If you want to warm up, head back to the blisteringly hot kitchen and prepare your own food. We’re trying to keep the ice cubes from melting, people.

Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be Bag Ladies
Leave the aisles open, folks. That’s where your server needs to put their feet when serving your food and drink, unless you prefer it on you, rather than in you.

The Hit and Miss
Don’t flirt with your server while your wife is taking the kids to the restroom. We just throw away the business card you leave with the check, so just don’t bother.

The Verbal Tip
“You are just the best lil’ server. We love you. We want to sit in your section every time.” Then they leave you a whopping 10% tip. No thanks, this is an actual job, not a hobby.

Time Crunch
This is when a family of four comes into a full-service restaurant on a time constraint during peak times. This is so ludicrous it doesn’t even require an explanation.

No Crybabies Allowed
Somebody stick a muffin in his mouth! Take the kid outside. There’s any number of things you could do in this situation. Ignoring your little one may be one of your talents, but we may not all have such refined skills.

Junior on Parade
The unattended child running around the restaurant is liable to cause a collision, I admire your laissez faire parenting, but Junior just got hot soup spilled on his head.

El Cheapo
This one eats their entire meal, only to complain when the check is presented that they didn’t care for their food. They usually belong to a certain breed of customers, who is notorious for modifying their order (so ridiculously) that I’m not surprised it doesn’t taste very well. You could have offered up that information when I asked, “How is everything?” These folks are usually just looking for a free meal. This one leaves a really bad taste in a server’s mouth because these people never tip.

OK, restaurant people…did we leave one out? Let us know in the comment box.

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Big Orange Midtown’s High West Distillery Whisky Dinner

NY Sour

NY Sour

We are constantly on the prowl for cool events!

Big Orange Midtown kicked off its “Supper and Spirits” dinner series this past Monday night. The four-course whiskey dinner, a collaborative effort with High West Distillery, was held in the mezzanine section of the restaurant. I was joined by the lovable dynamic duo of Kelly and Erika Gee (along with 20 other guests) for what proved to be an amazing night of food and drink.

Big Orange’s all-star team, headlined by chef Scott McGehee, along with bartenders/mixologists Lee Edwards, Ben Bell, and Dylan Yelenich, brought their A-game for the event.

Our first course was a plate of ricotta gnocchi (with osso bucco, local carrots, and white truffle butter), paired with a NY Sour (silver rye, lemon juice, and a cabernet float). Both the drink and dish were spot-on for a first course. The pasta was light, fluffy, and tender to the bite—uncommon attributes for gnocchi in our neck of the woods. The sweet, charred carrots and fork-tender osso bucco melded together in a pool of butter sauce. The NY Sour, with its perfectly squared ice cubes and mesmerizing cab float, was just as beautiful as it was tasty.

The second course of house-made lamb sausage (with harissa and saffron broth) was every bit as delicious as the previous gnocchi dish. I enjoyed dipping each bite of the subtly gamey lamb into the harissa (spicy chili sauce) and broth. Once again, the paired drink, a smooth Little Italy (with High West American Prairie Reserve, Cardamaro, and Luxardo Amaro Abano), was just what the doctor ordered. This was the kind of drink you could sip for hours and be perfectly content with life.

House-Made Lamb Sausage

House-Made Lamb Sausage

Next up … the Cowgirl Creamery ‘Mt. Tam’ cheeseburger (with roasted red wine shallots and arugula). I opted for a turkey patty, my standard choice when dining at Big Orange. In retrospect, I should have gone with the beef. The award winning, yet quite strong Mt. Tam cheese overwhelmed both the turkey and the shallots. Scraping off half the firm but creamy cheese was only a slight inconvenience and definitely balanced the overall taste of the burger. No complaints on the Sundance Kid drink (with double rye, rhubarb honey, and grapefruit juice). I know Lee Edwards is a fan of infused honey, so I was pleased to see the ingredient work its way into one of the night’s cocktails.

Cowgirl Creamery 'Mt. Tam' Cheeseburger

Cowgirl Creamery ‘Mt. Tam’ Cheeseburger

The dessert course—a just-fried yeast doughnut, house-made coffee ice cream and candied pecans—proved to be my least favorite of the evening. I enjoyed the small doughnut with its fried cut-out hole resting on top, but found it to be a tad cold. A warmer version would have played quite nicely with the delicious coffee ice cream and crushed pecans. That said, the well-composed dessert was probably a casualty of delayed serving. The drink pairing, a Railroad Spike (Big Orange’s version of a Rusty Nail) was just not my cup of tea, so to speak. I’m not a fan of the medicinal taste of Drambuie, but major props on the monster-sized ice ball resting in the glass.

Just-Fried Yeast Doughnut with Coffee Ice Cream

Just-Fried Yeast Doughnut with Coffee Ice Cream

Slight criticisms aside, this was a fantastic showing for Big Orange Midtown. I was particularly excited (and subsequently impressed) about getting to experience chef Scott McGehee’s culinary creations. He did not disappoint.

In the end, the atmosphere was fun, the food was beyond what I expected, and the price ($50, excluding tax and gratuity) was very reasonable. Word on the street is that Big Orange, along with WLR cousin Local Lime, plan to do a couple of these dinners (each) throughout the year. I highly suggest you attend the next one.

Chances are … you’ll see me.

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