Last Thursday night, Tim Jones, Pulaski Tech’s Associate Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing, showed Daniel Walker (Eat Arkansas), Greg Henderson (Rock City Eats) and yours truly around the new Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute (located at 13000 I-30).
Our evening began with a wonderful, 4-course complimentary dinner. The meal was all part of the Food Production IV class, in which students plan, cook and plate meals for invited guests. Highlights included a main course of deliciously tender veal scallopini, as well as a wonderful pear tarte for dessert.
The meal itself was excellent, but the real highlight of the evening was the post-dinner tour we received of the brand spanking new facility. “World-class” is one adjective which comes to mind. I certainly didn’t expect a building of this magnitude to be located in the outskirts of Little Rock.
The college itself houses around 500 students. Individuals have the opportunity to complete Associate degrees in areas of Culinary Arts, Wine and Spirits, Hospitality Management and Baking and Pastry Arts.
I continued to be in awe of the facilities as the group winded our way through formal food preparation rooms, cooking demonstration areas, chilling facilities and cake-making stations. In particular, I was impressed with the Pulaski Tech’s massive space for its community education culinary courses; these courses give the general public an opportunity to participate in a plethora of cooking classes.
Sessions typically range from 2-3 hours and cost anywhere from $45-$100. Here’s a “taste” of the classes offered: Yeast Breads and Pizza, Holiday Dinner Table-New Ideas and Classics Made Fresh, Appetizers, Pasta Perfection and The Secret of French Sauces.
Upon leaving, I couldn’t help but ponder the endless possibilities and potentially game-changing developments a facility like this could have on our local food scene and the Central Arkansas community.
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.
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!
It’s time for another Mighty Good Recipe!
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you know how much I enjoy heading to the Hillcrest Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. In fact, it’s one of my favorite social events of the week. I typically run into a handful of friends while milling around the various tables, drinking coffee, and soaking up the gloriousness that is Hillcrest.
I always end up buying way too much, but that’s a good thing. The vendors are wonderful folks and many of their products are of the highest quality.
And while some people head to these markets with focus and purpose, my brain is a clean slate (no jokes, please), and I typically buy what inspires me at that moment. Many of the ingredients for this recipe below were purchased at last Saturday’s market.
-1 loaf of rustic bread (from Mylo Coffee Co.)
-roasted red peppers (from North Pulaski Farms)
-1 package of Italian sausage (from Freckle Face Farm)
-1 cup of Amy B’s garlic sauce
-1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
-2 tablespoons butter
Cook the Italian sausage in a pan (medium heat) for 10 minutes. Once the casings are brown, add a half cup of water to the pan, cover, and let cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Plug in a sandwich press (if you have one), or place 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet (set on medium heat). Cut the bread into fairly thick slices. Cut sausage links (length-wise) and place on one slice of bread. Top with sliced red peppers, a spoonful of garlic sauce and some cheese. Place the second slice of bread over the top. Add butter to the outside of both slices. Place inside sandwich press until brown and crispy. If you’re using a pan, it should take about 5 minutes per side.
Note: Amy B’s garlic sauce can be purchased in the Little Rock area by contacting Amy directly on her Twitter account. This is my favorite sauce, but if it’s unavailable to you, then any tomato sauce will do.
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.