Archive for category Around Town

Recent Eats: Big Orange West, Guillermo’s, Ciao Baci, & More

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Thoughts from some of my recent eating experiences…

I’ve been critical in the past of Big Orange West, but last night’s meal was definitely a step in the right direction. My Mushroom Melt burger with a turkey patty hit the spot, and although the patty itself seemed smaller than I remember, it was perfectly cooked and paired well with the Havarti, mushrooms, and onions. The fries, both traditional and sweet potato, were spot-on and proved once again why they are a must-order on any visit. I can’t speak highly enough of our server, Nathanial, who was friendly, attentive, and truly did a great job. This was an all-around good experience.

Guillermo’s Coffee House recently changed ownership, and, happily, is back to serving some of the best coffee in town. I’m actually sitting inside the shop as I write this post, marking the fifth time I’ve visited the establishment in the past two weeks.

Ciao Baci keeps doing its thing, which is cooking up elite food in a comfortable setting. We sat on the porch, enjoyed a cool breeze, a couple glasses of Screen Door Cellars Rosé, and some great food. Once again, I ordered the pub-style cheeseburger, a fat-pattied concoction with all the traditional fixings. It’s currently my favorite burger in town. My wife’s Smoked Cauliflower Carbonara was true to its name, a hearty bowl of smoky angel hair pasta, that, at $10, was an excellent value. Don’t get me wrong, the dish was delicious, but was quite heavy, and could have used a thicker pasta like a traditional spaghetti.

My first trip to Blue Cake Company, a bakery that took me far too long to check out, was an absolute success. I tried to reserve a birthday cake, but my dumb ass was far too tardy in placing an order for a cake I needed in 5 days. Anyways, I ended up getting four cupcakes, one of which, the Margarita, I actually got to try. Long story short, I’ll now be a regular at Blue Cake.

Go to Juice Bar/Paninis & Company and order the Acai Bowl.

Last week’s lunch at Mosaique Bistro in Conway was pretty much a total train wreck. I arrived at 11:25 a.m. to a locked restaurant (they open at 11 a.m.), which wasn’t a big deal, as someone came and immediately let me in. It also wasn’t a big deal when I requested artificial sweetener for my iced tea, was then brought over six packets, and told this was all the restaurant currently had on hand. No … these were just red flags for the food that was about to hit the table. Outside of a delicious side salad with house dressing, the rest of the meal was forgettable. My Grouper Poboy was boring, lowlighted by a small piece of fish on a hoagie roll that was dominated by two massive slices of tomato. The sandwich wasn’t terrible, but there’s no way I’d order it again, as was also the case with my tablemate’s dreadfully bland, spongy Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Mosaique has a great atmosphere and a prime location right across the street from UCA, so here’s hoping they can raise the bar on the food.

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Quick Hits: Thoughts on My Recent Dining Out

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Fried Chicken at Table 28

I missed this regular post entry last week, so here’s a recap of about 2 weeks of my food experiences…

Checked out District Fare, the old HAM space and latest venture of Tomas Bohm. You can tell Bohm has sunk a ton of dollars into a re-model, and it all looks fantastic. The number of seats have doubled and everything is clean and sleek. I split one each of a pastrami and roasted cauliflower sandwich with a friend, and while neither blew me away, the food and service were quite commendable for a soft opening. The pastrami, although tender, seemed a bit overcooked. But the star of the lunch was the house-made mustard, which I think you can actually purchase. All and all, it was a successful first experience at District Fare and I have no doubt this place will quickly be a hit.

The Thai Chopped Salad with steak at Big Orange Midtown is a must-order. You’ve probably seen me write about it many times on the blog, so my glowing endorsement comes as no surprise.

Dinner at Table 28 was pretty damn fantastic. My perfectly cooked, medium rare duck with the signature Brussels sprouts and bacon was a hit, as was the fried chicken and shrimp scampi, but the best dish of the evening was the goat tostadas with mole and black beans. My daughter ordered it, and, at first, I thought she was crazy to do so. With all the other great options on the menu, why would someone order goat tostadas? She obviously knew more than I did, as that mixture of tender, shredded goat and mole was amazing. Hope this dish stays on the menu. One more thing … our server, Jeffrey, provided stellar service. He was attentive, knowledgeable of the menu, and just a flat-out class act.

Get the Roasted Chicken with Fried Potatoes at YaYa’s. Seriously, that dish is crazy good. Yeah, yeah, I know … it’s roasted chicken, but it’s swimming in garlic, has a little heat from the peppers, and is just a massive plate of tasty food for $19. Kudos to YaYa’s on great service on a Saturday night. It’s a massive restaurant, and the place was packed, but they still managed to get the food out in a timely manner.

Have you ever tried the fried catfish at Burge’s? If you’re anything like me, you’ve concentrated on the smoked turkey salad and forgotten about everything else on the menu. Well, my fried catfish sandwich was really good, with the only downfall being a heavy amount of tartar sauce that did its best to overwhelm the fish. No worries, I just scraped it off. The fish itself was small, thin, and crispy with a nice cornmeal batter.

I love Mt. Fuji but the Fried Tofu Udon Bowl is a pass. It’s kind of boring and the tofu is just too sweet.

Speaking of sweet, my Soy Sauce Fried Chicken at the new Kimchi (old Van Lang space) was wildly addictive, but way too sweet. That said, I ate most of the $15 plate of food with relative ease, and while the bulgogi and ribs were average at best, the chicken and good service is what will inspire a return visit. There’s certainly enough to like about this spot to go back and try out some other dishes. That said, $15 for a plate of fried chicken thighs swimming in sauce is just too expensive.

I know Terri-Lynn’s has been around forever, but it’s a spot that rarely gets much attention. They make solid, reasonably-priced food that’s served up within minutes. Simply put, it’s a quality lunch spot. Get the deviled eggs, a pair of egg halves that are as traditional as it gets. My “Sharon” sandwich with smoked turkey and a pile of creamy cole slaw, however, was a miss. The slaw just overwhelmed everything else on the sandwich. No biggie, I’ll just try another sandwich next time.

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A Complete Mother’s Day Wish List at Eggshells

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Special Feature, By Zara Abbasi

Mother’s Day is right around the corner but gift giving can be hard! Do you send flowers again? Or how about candy? Does she like perfume or makeup?? Or a massage? Or to cook?? So many things to consider. But the fact is, the “mom” you’re shopping for is a multifaceted person with several different likes and you may have to focus on just one.

Being a mom, you honestly just want a happy and safe family and a little time to relax w/o obligations, right? That’s the gist of it but how does that translate to gifts? Well if you’re shopping for someone like me (who loves to cook) then you go to Eggshells Kitchen Co. and look at these items that make cooking fun and life a little easier.

I created a wishlist registry at Eggshells in case you need gift giving ideas for the moms in your life. I tried to look at items that were interesting, necessary or something that I would just like in my own Kitchen. Take a look! Happy shopping!

1. First things first, if she cooks for you all the time, COOK FOR HER! These Farmhouse waffles are perfect for a Mother’s Day breakfast. Get the kids to help out and make it a family affair. Get one of the many selections of waffle irons and actually put that thing to use! Add the personal cuisinart coffee French press as an extra flair. Then you can make it a tradition to use that every year for her birthday and Mother’s Day. She’ll smile everytime she sees it.

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2. Next, fix up her kitchen for her. That means new marble countertops, new cabinets, new appliances, lighting….you know, the normal stuff. I’m only halfway kidding here! Obviously if you can surprise her like that, by all means do so. But, realistically I mean, get her some new stuff to spruce up the kitchen. Does she need matching dish towels and an apron? Probably. Mix and match with some of the amazing selections at Eggshells. And, throw in a copy of a good cookbook for her to flip through.

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3. Moving on to organization. Moms like order. Moms like zero hassles. Moms like having matching Tupperware without ever having to say curse words. If your mom is swimming under mismatched Tupperware or has 30 lids and 4 containers, get her a brand new set! No it’s not the fanciest gift, but if it’s something she needs, go an extra step and clear out the old stuff and replenish with the new set as a surprise. Couple this with a gift card for a massage and you’re gold.

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4. If you really want to win mom’s heart, give her some amazing new cookware or a knife set. Chances are she’s still cooking with a set that’s years old and has seen better days. The Scanpan, Le Creuset dutch oven and Wushtoff knife set are classic staples in a well equipped kitchen. All three items are versatile and will quickly become “go-to” pieces. From omelets to sauteed fish in the scanpan to a full pot roast or a loaf of bread in the dutch oven, these two pans can handle a bevy of things. As for knives, we all need sharp knives because a dull knife in the kitchen is your worst enemy. Not only are they frustrating when trying to cut things, they’re downright dangerous and can cause cuts and injuries from slipping.

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5. Does the mom you are shopping for like to bake? If so, she should definitely have a Kitchenaid mixer. Yes, people have baked successfully for years without one, but trust me, it makes life easier and baking more fun. The mixers come in a ton of different colors to match her decor but they go further than just looking pretty. These machines are beasts and can whip up meringue or help roll out sheets of pasta and a slew of things in between. It is one of my kitchen essentials (I have 3!) Speaking of baking, she may also like something pretty like a new cake plate to display her cakes or something completely unique such as the portion cutters! These things are so cute! Just take the number of slices you want from your cake or pie, place it in the center and it’ll leave marks of where to cut! Super useful if you want equal slices.

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6. Last but not least, you can make an amazing gift basket for her. Eggshells has tons of little items that are totally unique and helpful. Further, after you select your gifts, they will arrange it for you in a gift basket and shrink wrap the whole thing for a professional look! Here are a few items that I found helpful, unique or a favorite of mine. The Bonta Toscana garlic sauce is a staple in my fridge. We love it on pasta as well as eggs and as a base for other dishes. It’s made locally by my friend Amy Benton Bradley Hole and it is a gem of a product. I also love the Maine Woods hand soap. I love wonderful smelling things and this soap can be found at my house almost always because of the clean but neutral scent. Summer is upon us, so the Corkcicle is a wonderful idea for taking a drink to the pool this summer or just for running around town. Things like the silicone sponge, bowl scraper and to-go cup seem like an afterthought on their own, but when combined together in a gift basket, their uniqueness really shines. Speaking of ‘shining’ have you seen this cute little glitter flask?! Hey, mom could party too, you know. Lastly, get a gift card! Throw it all together or hand all these things over to one of the professionals and they will get it all wrapped up for you!

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Hopefully, this list is a great way to get your creativity going for the things mom may want this year! More than anything, just remember that mom will love that you thought of her and her needs.

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This Saturday, Dine Out to Make a Difference

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On this Saturday, May 6th, The Women’s Foundation of Arkansas will partner with local restaurants for Dine Out to Make a Difference. It’s an all day event, where a percentage of each participating restaurant’s sales will be donated to the WFA. These funds will help support programs like Girls of Promise and Women of Promise, along with grants and research to improve the lives of women and girls in Arkansas through economics, workforce, education, health, politics, and leadership.

“This is the second year of our dine out event. Last year’s success helped us connect with our community and tell the story of our mission which is to change the status of girls and women in Arkansas by economically empowering them. The support we received from our local community restaurants and their patrons was tremendous and we are so happy to be partnering with them again,” said Anna Beth Gorman, WFA’s executive director.

From the WFA: The Women’s Foundation of Arkansas believes that when women are educated and economically secure, their children are better educated, better nourished, and in better health; moreover, these benefits reverberate beyond their families to include entire communities. The WFA is the only not-for-profit, statewide organization with the sole focus of developing the professional, economic, and philanthropic potential of Arkansas women and girls by ensuring they have the necessary resources, tools, and knowledge to reach their full potential.

List of Participating Restaurants

At The Corner
Dempsey Bakery
Cajun’s Wharf
Copper Grill
Capers Restaurant
Flyway Brewing
Kiyen’s
Moe’s Southwest Grill
South on Main
Trio’s Restaurant
ZIN Urban Wine & Beer Bar

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