Archive for category Misc.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All pork … all weekend long!
What a past weekend! It all started Saturday night at the Gee Household in North Little Rock. Kelly and Erika hosted an appreciation dinner for the folks who contributed to the kickstarter project “Make Kelly Gee’s BBQ Competition Dreams a Reality.” As you might imagine, the place was filled with all the usual foodies: Steve, Daniel, Joel, Greg, Jason, Shelle, Thanh, Amanda, Jen, Mark, Kelli, Zara, John, Jerry, Kristi, and several others.
Kelly’s new best friend (a.k.a. The Beastmaster) was on full display for all partygoers to admire its greatness. In the end, The Beastmaster produced some of the very best barbecue you’ll find in the state of Arkansas. Kelly, always the modest one, will tell you it was all smoker and little technique. But that’s BS. The dude continues to hone his craft, getting better and better with each cookout.
Highlights of the evening included the signature bite-off-the-bone tender ribs, as well as the juicy pulled pork and chicken. Erika’s insanely addictive creamy potato salad, baked beans, and bleu cheese cole slaw proved to be the perfect side dishes for the ‘cue. This is the fourth or fifth time I’ve had Kelly’s barbecue … and it just keeps getting better and better. I was particularly impressed this time around with the added spiciness of the ribs. Whether it’s for 150 people or a “mere” 50, Kelly and Erika just flat out know how to throw a great party. Chilling on their deck, with a beer and a full belly of barbecue, is about as good as it gets.
On Sunday, the family and I were invited to drive out to Vilonia for a pig roast party at Rattle’s Garden. I’ve gotten to be friends with Tara (1/2 of the dynamic duo at RG) from my visits to the Hillcrest Farmers Market. But little did I know … this wasn’t just any pig roast … this was a chef Travis McConnell of Butcher & Public pig roast. Let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like driving up to a farm and seeing two pigs hanging on spits, with a master roaster manning the show.
McConnell’s specially-designed equipment allows for the pig to roast in about four hours. Fortunately, I was there for the final hour and can tell you it’s a mesmerizing process to behold. Watching McConnell in action—turning the spits, shifting embers, and re-placing foiled sweet potatoes—is a true, must-see culinary experience. Once everything was done, Travis sliced and diced the pig into rustic serving cuts.
What followed can only be described as a pure animalistic feeding frenzy. I ended up with some succulent shoulder and a few long-bone ribs. The roast also included delicious greens, green beans, and roasted sweet potatoes. Everything was spectacular and uniquely different from the Saturday cookout.
Many thanks to Robert and Tara for having us out, to Mitchell (from Freckle Face Farm) for providing the pigs, and to Travis for his masterful preparation of the animal. It was an honor to be in attendance.
What a weekend!
New cookbook takes a look at The South!
I recently received a copy of Southern Living’s No Taste Like Home, A Celebration of Regional Southern Cooking and Hometown Flavor (authored by Kelly Alexander).
The 320-page book is comprised of various recipes from celebrities, “locals,” chefs, and authors from six regions of The South: The Heart of Dixie, Cajun Country, Big, Bold Texas, The Piedmont & the Mountains, The Bluegrass, Bourbon & Barbecue Trail, and The Coastal South.
Recipes range from the more advanced, like Donna D’Errico’s Country Captain (page 4) to Mo’Nique’s simple F.A.T. Green Beans (page 270).
I chose a recipe that fell right down the middle in level of difficulty: Memphis local Carol Saucier’s Corn Chowder (page 239). Truthfully, this 4-step, 9-ingredient recipe was certainly very easy to pull off. I made a few modifications to the original recipe (based on what I did and didn’t have around the house), substituting Petit Jean sausage for the bacon, adding some fresh corn, and ditching the nutmeg.
The end product turned out to be a hit with the family. I particularly enjoyed how the chowder’s base wasn’t as thick as I had anticipated. I definitely recommend opting for the inclusion of some fresh corn. It will add a nice sweetness and texture to the chowder, as well as serve as an excellent garnish.
The book itself is fun, informative, and a nice reference source to any aspiring cook. Unfortunately, there was no mention of Arkansas…a fact that comes as a bit of a disappointment to this Little Rock food blogger.
Aside from that, No Taste Like Home does an excellent job of capturing the flavor of The South… from Bobby Dean’s Crispy Oven-Fried Chicken (page 292), to Eva Longeria’s Mint Lemonade (page 140), to Chef John Tesar’s Salt-Crusted Red Drum, and more! These recipes, along with Alexander’s brief look into each sub-region’s history and culture, make this book highly enjoyable.
Note: Book was complimentary, but opinions are my own.
Each Sunday evening, there’s a Question of the Week posted on The Mighty Rib’s FB page. This week’s was: “Growing up, was there a particular breakfast item you usually ate before school?”
Answers started rolling in.
After a few minutes, I decided to chime in: “I was sometimes encouraged to eat Grape Nuts. The.worst.”
That was a big mistake. Out came the Grape Nuts supporters.
From Erin R.: “I LOVE grape nuts. Always have them in house.”
From Erika G.: “I like Grape Nuts too, Erin. Don’t listen to his Velveeta-loving opinions.”
From Sarah C.: “Erin rocks because Grape Nuts are the BEST! Especially with SUPER cold milk. Mmmmmmmm.”
From Lisa C.: “PS Grape-Nuts are amazing.”
And even this from Lindsey W.: “Try the Grape Nuts flakes. They aren’t too bad.”
Right then and there, I knew exactly what I had to do … a self-imposed Grape Nuts Challenge. Bring it!
I headed to my nearest Kroger and purchased a box of Original Grape Nuts and Grape Nuts Flakes. Mind you, I hadn’t eaten a Grape Nuts of any kind in 25 years (give or take a few years) and up until this week, had no idea they even still existed. When I was a kid, I remember my Grandma Ronnie always had a box, as did my mother from time to time. Every now and then I’d grab a handful of the gravel-like cereal, pop it in my mouth, and immediately spit out.
With all that being said … first up: the flakes! Surprisingly, they were tasty. The simple, petite flakes possessed a subtle sweetness—characteristics which are very appealing to a mid-30-year-old. And looking at the box, they may even be a tad healthier in certain areas over the Original. The cereal was very solid, but certainly tasted like many others I’ve had in the past. Grade: B+
I had a date with the gravel the following morning … but with a little added assistance. A reader (I think it was Erika G.) suggested I add some raisins and a little brown sugar to the Grape Nuts. Freaking genius! The chewy raisins and the sweet brown sugar proved to be the perfect combination with the cereal.
I’ve now eaten the Original Grape Nuts three straight mornings. They fill me up … and dare I say it … I actually crave them. No joke, I now truly love Grape Nuts. Grade: A+
I’m officially old.