Archive for category Q to the A

Q to the A: Talking Food with Kelley Bass

Vino's Pizza

Vino’s Pizza

1. Where were you born and how long have you lived in Little Rock? I was born at St. Vincent Infirmary, moved to Bryant when I was 8, returned to Little Rock after college graduation in 1981 and other than living in Springfield, Mo., from 1992 to mid-1995, I’ve been in Little Rock ever since.

2. What cuisine would you rate as your most favorite? I’d have to say Mexican, or at least Tex-Mex. I adore high-quality guacamole, cheese dip and tamales. And you can take the other basic Mex ingredients and combine them in almost any way and I’ll like the result. I used to frequent a greasy-spoon place called Pancho’s La Casita that was in a pink building on Broadway just east of Interstate 30, where every dish looked the same. We called it “brown with cheese.” Great low-rent stuff.

3. What city (that you’ve never been to) would you enjoy visiting solely for the food? Nice, France. Best country to eat in the world (sorry, Italy) with painfully fresh seafood to boot.

4. Where’s the best place you’ve eaten in the past year, and what did you order? Brave New Restaurant. Heirloom tomato platter as an appetizer and pan-seared walleye with a blueberry beurre blanc for the main course.

5. Where is your go-to Little Rock pizza place? Vino’s. Been eating pizza there for decades, but my last pie was the best I’ve ever had — sausage and mushroom with extra cheese. Damn, it was fine. (Love Iriana’s, too, and Gusano’s — the traditional, not Chicago style — is underrated by most.)

6. What Little Rock chef would you have cook in your home…and what would you have he/she prepare? Paul Novicky, who has been off the scene for years. I’d let him design the multi-course menu, but I’d ask that it include a soup and a fish dish with a sauce. Soups and sauces often reveal a chef’s level of expertise, in my opinion. And he was the culinary brains behind the much-missed Spaule in the Heights, for years LR’s top fine-dining spot.

7. You have to put together a 3-course meal (app, entree, and dessert) from three different Little Rock restaurants. What would be your choices to create this perfect meal? Doe’s tamales, the evening fish special from Brave New and banana pudding from the Capital Bar and Grill. Schizophrenic theme for the meal, but each course is excellent in its own inimitable way. If you’ve never had the CB&G’s banana pudding, do it. Now.

8. Where’s the last place you ate for lunch and what did you order? Business lunch at Bosco’s — blackened fish sandwich (served just as a filet with no bread or lettuce/tomato) with remoulade and fries. Got extra remoulade and used that for both the fish and the fries.

9. What Little Rock restaurant have you never eaten at that might surprise people? Romano’s Macaroni Grill. I tried to go a couple of times when it first opened but there were really long waits. I just never got back. I rarely do national chains, and I rarely eat in West Little Rock (other than The Pantry), so I guess I’ll never go, and I’m sure that won’t bother me too much.

10. What Arkansas celebrity, dead or alive, would you enjoy having a drink with? Johnny Cash — no doubt about it. Would love to hear his stories and generally bask in his considerable brilliance. (Billy Bob Thornton would be No. 2 for same reasons.)

Kelley has been reviewing restaurants (for publications like the Arkansas Gazette and Arkansas Times) for more than 25 years.

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Q to the A: Catching Up With Thanh Rasico of Red Kitchen Recipes

The Squid at Table 28. Perfect appetizer!

The Squid at Table 28. Perfect appetizer!

Ever wonder what other foodies are thinking? Me too! Special thanks to Thanh Rasico for her participation!

1. Where were you born and how long have you lived in Little Rock? I was born in Qui Nhon, a South Central coastal city in Vietnam. I narrowly escaped during the fall of Saigon as a baby, then our family was sponsored by a Catholic family in Nashville, AR and I have been in Little Rock since August 1992.

2. How would you describe the Little Rock dining scene? I think it’s very community – oriented, personal, global, and eclectic. We’ve all gotten really close in the last few years it seems. Fancy Pants Foodie Christie Ison mentioned in a post after a recent Arkansas Women Bloggers conference about how my friend Chef Donnie Ferneau was a great friend to the food community. It’s true. So many chefs and restaurant owners are our friends. They know that there are those of us who respect what they do so much, we blog, Tweet, and Facebook about their delicious & beautiful offerings when we receive them. I was fortunate enough to experience food in Forty – Two at the Clinton Library in the kitchen, watching the executive chef and sous chefs prepare then plate food with such care and precision, I felt how personal it was. They want their food to be enjoyed. Such people pleasers. We have so many wonderful choices from around the globe from Indian, Italian, Vietnamese, Chinese, French, Southern, BBQ, and Greek in my opinion. I love the eclectic choices that you can find all over Little Rock from Argenta to South on Main to Southwest Little Rock. Each time I walk into Chi’s in West Little Rock, the same guy greets me with such warmth, it’s like I’m entering his home. He knows what kind of wine I like, too. That’s the kind of personal touch I love in the dining scene of Little Rock.

3. What city (that you’ve never been to) would you enjoy visiting solely for the food? Just one? No? Okay, I think Boston, Sonoma Valley, Napa Valley, and Parma, Italy!

4. Where’s the best place you’ve eaten in the past year, and what did you order? Table 28 has been the best restaurant I’ve eaten in the past year because their style of food truly matches my taste. It reminds me a lot of Ferneau, which was my favorite for years, and I spent 4 birthday celebrations there with great friends. For my bday this past October, I was at Table 28. We had Tabasco butter quail bird lollipops, wagyu carpaccio, bone marrow, sea bass, lamb, boursin filet, asparagus, brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, and the tongue and cheek. We all shared. SO Good!

5. What are a few of your guilty pleasure food items? The McRib from McDonalds – a once a year thing. I have to have it though. Gus’s Fried Chicken, although I’m on a break there since they totally botched up my last to – go order. The Peking duck at Chi’s – crispy skin and all.

6. What are your three favorite dishes to cook? Duck breast, lamb chops, and shirataki noodles with calamari.

Will Thanh give Gus's another shot?

Will Thanh give Gus’s another shot?

7. You have to put together a 3-course meal (app, entree, and dessert) from three different Little Rock restaurants. What would be your choices to create this perfect meal? Is this meal free? Then my current dream 3 – course meal would be: An appetizer from Table 28: their tender, delicious squid that melts in your mouth. Then the wagyu ribeye from Arthur’s – so much flavor! Medium rare. And Vesuvio’s Chocolate Tort a la mode with Raspberry Sauce.

8. Where’s the last place you ate for lunch and what did you order? The Afterthought Bistro: Truffle Parmesan Fries for an appetizer split with 5 office friends, a cup of Clam Chowder, and Salad add Ahi Tuna……soooo good!!!!

9. What Little Rock restaurant have you never eaten at that might surprise people?
I don’t think there is one. I hate that I never ate at Sir Loins Inn. I always wanted to, but hated that I didn’t get to. Jacque & Suzanne’s was another legendary place that closed before I went. Among other notable eateries…I haven’t had Mylo’s or The Waffle Wagon, but I know I need to!

10. What is your absolute favorite small town restaurant in Arkansas? Eureka Springs – Local Flavor, DeVitos, Ermilios, and Rogue’s Manor

Please check out Thanh’s blog … Red Kitchen Recipes!

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Q to the A: All About LV

Spicy Chicken and Dumplings from The Southern Gourmasian

Spicy Chicken and Dumplings from The Southern Gourmasian

Ever wonder what other foodies are thinking? Me too! Special thanks to Louis Vasquez for participating this time around.

1. Where do you currently reside? Dallas, TX

2. How many years did you live in Little Rock? 19 years

3. What’s been the most pleasant surprise with the Dallas food scene? Brunch. I wasn’t really accustomed to it in Little Rock, but there are fantastic places all around Dallas that do brunch. There is usually some great fusion going on too, or a particular restaurant’s take on a classical dish to make it unique that I love. Btw…the chicken and waffles at Jonathan’s Oak Cliff is a must try.

4. Where’s the best place you’ve eaten in the past year, and what did you order? Lucia, which I got to enjoy with you and Daniel! My dinner went as follows: I started with the Salumi Mista (speck fennel and orange salami, lengua ventricina, wild boar fiocco, and chicken liver and n’duga crostini). For my Primi, I had the Anson Mills Otto file polenta with a pork ragu, black trumpets and an egg. For my Secondi, I did what may be my best bite of the year…the Berkshire pork belly and tenderloin with Swiss chard and charred onions. Just an all around fantastic meal that was accompanied by the Cocchi wine house inspired cocktails as well. I also thought the service was fantastic. I believe we met 5-6 different severs and an ending meal satisfaction check by the owner.

5. What is your favorite airport eatery?  Tough question…I ‘m usually running late or trying to eat healthy when traveling for work, but one of my favorite spots is the Great Dane Pub in the Madison, WI airport. They do a great burger, house made pretzels with dipping sauces, and fried cheese curds, and of course…great freshly brewed beer.

6. There’s a rumor you make awesome pizza…self-taught? That’s a good rumor to hear about! I, like many others, love pizza…and even more so prefer the Neopolitan-style. When I had it for the first time about eight years ago, I knew I had to figure out how to make it. Eight years later (and many trial and errors), I have finally gotten my dough turning out like a Neo-pizza. In my opinion, it’s as close as you can get without having a firestone oven. I certainly believe in he phrase: “All pizza is good, some is just better than others!” A Naples trip is in order soon to taste the real deal!

7. You have to put together a 3-course meal (app, entree, and dessert) from three different Little Rock restaurants. What would be your choices to create this perfect meal? Wow, if I still lived there this would be even more difficult. I’m going to take this in a direction of what I crave unique to Little Rock now that I live in Dallas. I would start with the spicy chicken and dumplings from The Southern Gourmasion. I have yet to find something as unique as this dish anywhere. For my entree, I’d go with the Big Orange chicken sandwich (I’m a burger guy and that is how I much I love this sandwich because we all know how good their burgers are). I would end with a grand marnier soufflé from Arthur’s. By the way, it was really hard not to mention the gyros calzone or gyros plate from Layla’s, so that is my “if I was still hungry option.”

And that's how you do it, folks!

And that’s how you do it, folks!

8. If you could jump in a plane this very second…where would you go and what would you eat? Santa Barbara, CA (for sure)…and my first stop (as always) is my family’s restaurant The Rose Cafe. It is where my love for cooking began as I tried to reproduce all my favorite dishes. I would start with their chips and salsa, then move to the tender chile verde omelette and a side of their very unique pancakes. I would stack them up against any. Last, but not least, a to-go order of their breakfast potatoes and enough combination burritos to get me through the rest of my morning there.

9. Could you tell us about the business you ran in college? Sure! So, as I was studying business and had a growing passion for food, I decided to combine the two. The ever famous Dickson Street is packed Thursday-Saturday with college students drinking and partying. I decided to start a business around serving up those late night munchies with a food cart. I used my Nana’s inspired recipes and flew in my favorite tortillas (they are life changing) from Tucson, AZ. We also did several events, from corporate sponsored catering to music festivals. Although, nothing was more rewarding (and I believe a main reason as to why people love the business they run) than the opportunity to directly affect peoples lives. Our experience with Fayettegrille was when Joplin was suddenly hit with tornadoes. There was little doubt we needed to go help being so close. My dad stopped and loaded up at Sam’s and we spent a day there giving away free food that we cooked up at a local church. No payment we ever received was more rewarding than the hugs we got that day.

10. Which dead famous person would you love having dinner with? This might be the easiest question for me. It would be Steve Jobs. I am a business junky and am really out to learn as much as I can each and every day. A philosophy I follow is to learn the most from those who did it “best” not good or decent but the “best” before you so you can adapt your personal craft to their teachings. Steve Jobs is the epitome for the business mind and strategy that I enjoy, so getting the chance to pick his brain over dinner would be my choice, not to mention he made some decent change in his time and I think we could run a nice tab at the French Laundry!

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Q to the A: Chatting with Chef Dempsey

jelly madness from the Argenta Farmers Market

jelly madness from the Argenta Farmers Market

Ever wonder what other foodies are thinking? Me too. Special thanks to Chef Ken Dempsey from E’s Bistro for his answers!

1. How many years have you lived in Little Rock? Born and raised here. I’ve lived a couple of other places but Little Rock always called me back. Woo Pig!!

2. What’s the best dessert you’ve eaten in a Little Rock restaurant? I really don’t order dessert very often. I experiment with sweets in my kitchen constantly, but if there is one place I go to satiate a sweet tooth it’s Scoop Dog in NLR. I love the chocolate brownie concrete with caramel. Absolutely the best cold treat I’ve ever had!

3. Are you high maintenance when it comes to ordering at a restaurant? Not at all. There are very few foods I don’t like or won’t try. I really like to taste the meal the way the chef envisioned it. I do send stuff back if it’s way off. It embarrasses my wife, but I would much rather someone send one of my dishes back and get it the way they wanted it rather than them leave unhappy and possibly not return. It’s the only way I know where I stand as a chef.

4. What are a few of your guilty food pleasure items? This is the scariest question but I’ll put it out there… pure junk. Totino’s frozen pizza, jalapeno Pringles, Little Debbie (all of them), frozen burritos, Cheetos… you name it. I am not ashamed!!! The best is when all of the above is in one meal!

5. What is your most memorable Little Rock dining experience? November 15, 2011 at Copper Grill. We had confetti dip, I had a steak and my wife had a horseradish encrusted grouper. It was a great meal because I proposed to my wife by a giant fake snowman in the River Market later that night. Perfect!

6. What is your favorite dish to cook at home? My favorite is to smoke meats so I would have to say 5 ½ hour rib day. Baby backs, caramelized onion and smoked gouda mac & cheese, and cowboy bbq baked beans.

Didn't have a picture of Ken's ribs, but these will do!

Didn’t have a picture of Ken’s ribs, but these will do!

7. You have to put together a 3-course meal (app, entree, and dessert) from three different Little Rock restaurants. What would be your choices to create this perfect meal? Easy… Bang Bang Shrimp from Bonefish for the appetizer, osso bucco from Ristorante Capeo for the entrée, chocolate brownie concrete with caramel from Scoop Dog for the dessert.

8. If you could jump in a plane this very second…where would you go and what would you eat? I would take a jet to Italy and eat my way across the whole country… my wife said she was going to New Orleans so I guess I would be going by myself!

9. What is your favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant in North Little Rock? My favorite hole-in-the-wall had a fire not long ago. Frostop was my favorite Monday-off spot to eat a burger. Fresh root beer in a frosty mug and a one pound Big Daddy Burger (took 20 minutes to cook but worth it). The last time I talked to the owner he was planning to re-open in another location maybe next year. As long as Frostop is still a possibility, that’s gotta be my favorite.

10. When is the last time you’ve been to a farmers market and what did you get? I am at work a lot during these but this summer I got the chance to go to Argenta Farmers Market a few times to get veggies for the restaurant. I got a lot of tomatoes, squash, zucchini, and sweet potatoes. I also go to BJ’s where they sell local produce.

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