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Unique Randomness: News, Views, and Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken at CBG

Fried Chicken at CBG

 

My random thoughts and ramblings about food…

Good Food in NLR plans to close on January 30th as Chef Donnie Ferneau will be taking over the kitchen at The Club 1836. This new club has been a source of conversation throughout Little Rock over the past few weeks, and it will be interesting to see how everything plays out once the new spot opens in the old Packet House. As for soon-to-be-former Good Food space … any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions on what you think would work? Seems to have a load of potential.

Sweet Love Bakery has officially closed, but on a more positive note, Daniel Walker did turn me on to one of Little Rock’s newest bakers. Please go read about Honey Pies.

My second visit to Flyway Brewing was just as good, if not better, than the first. I’ve pretty much tried all of their beers (maybe 10) and can tell you that they are churning out some of the best brew in town. In fact, with brewers like Flyway, Moody Brews, Lost Forty, Blue Canoe, and Stone’s Throw, our local beer scene has definitely made me a fan of craft beer in a short period of time. It’s really quite remarkable how far we come as a beer town in just a few years.

Let’s get the slightly bad news out of the way first. The Faded Rose will be closed on Sunday, February 7th for “deep cleaning and routine maintenance,” but the good news is that February 9th (Fat Tuesday) marks the start of crawfish season at TFR.

For the quality and price, is there a better meat counter than Edwards Food Giant on Cantrell? I say no. My most recent purchase was several links of the chicken sausage. I’ve got my eye on you, bone-in ribeyes. It will happen, soon.

I’ve literally driven past Diane’s Gourmet Luxuries hundreds of times without ever stopping to check the place out … until last week. It was a nice spot filled with various artisan food items, wares, and prepared meals. I end up grabbing a chicken salad wrap for lunch, which was fairly forgettable, but my package of oatmeal raisin cookies for dessert was delightful.

Just in case the super efficient Chick-fil-a drive-thru didn’t do it for you, Chef Shuttle recently partnered with the insanely popular fast food chain to have the tasty treats delivered right to your face. Talk about a big account for Chef Shuttle. On the other end of the spectrum, CS recently teamed up with Grass Roots Farmers Cooperative.

It’s Wednesday, go eat some fried chicken at Capital Bar and Grill … the Wednesday Special.

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It’s Time to Check Out Honey Pies

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When Daniel Walker touts pie, you take notice. He’d been telling me about Little Rock’s newest pie-maker, Honey Pies, a few weeks back, and how I needed to put it on my radar of things to try out. Is there a better endorsement in this town?

To be honest, I typically don’t seek out desserts like Walker does. Don’t get me wrong, I love sweet treats, but Walker would give up a kidney if it meant a lifetime of free donuts.

So when he brought over a Gingerbread Apple Pie from Honey Pies on New Years Eve, I knew it would be legit.

It was.

Don’t believe me?  Just take a look at owner Sharon Woodson’s picture.

As you can see, Sharon takes great pride in presentation, but this is not at the expense of taste. She also uses top quality ingredients in this 9-inch, deep-dish pie, including organic apples, organic sugar, Saigon cinnamon, and organic heavy cream. For the crust, she uses organic unbleached flour, organic dark brown sugar, hormone-free butter, molasses, organic milk, Saigon cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, cloves, and salt. Says Woodson, “High quality ingredients are absolutely essential when creating a nuanced flavor profile. Skimping on quality compromises flavor and that’s just a deal breaker for me. When I’m feeding my family, I want to know where our groceries come from, as it’s very important to me to use all natural ingredients. That’s easier when produce is organic and locally sourced. Taking care of my family is my highest priority and Honey Pies let’s me extend that care into our community.”

For me, it’s the crust that separates Sharon’s pies from the competition, as was the case with her seasonal pear pie. I love pears, but rarely, if ever, have I eaten a pear pie. Sharon’s is loaded with the fruit and highlighted by a top layer of lightly sugared crust. Nothing about this pie is over-the-top, rather, the beauty is in its simplicity, relying on superior ingredients to elevate the taste.

So, just why did Woodson get into the baking business?

“As a small girl, I always followed my grandmother around the kitchen helping everywhere I could. Baking keeps me grounded and helps me feel closer to my family and friends. Honey Pies is a natural extension of my need to grow my baking dreams and help my family bond over a pie like my grandmother would have baked,” says Woodson.

Here’s hoping her baking dreams keep on growing.

Need to Know …
Most pies cost $24 (sweet and savory options available, including honey pecan, apple, chocolate fudge brownie, coconut cream, maple oatmeal, pear, gingerbread apple, cowboy quiche)
-Design your own pie ($24)
-Take and bake chicken pot pie ($32)
-Delivery is available
-Special Promotion on January 23rd, National Pie Day … free delivery
-Gluten-free option
-The website is second to none … with a detailed description of each pie.
-Sharon even maintains a blog on the site.

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My 50 Favorite Dishes of 2015

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It was another great year of covering food, and per usual, my eating experiences were filled with many highs and lows. This post is dedicated to my favorite dishes in Little Rock for 2015. This isn’t a “Best Of” post. These aren’t necessarily the best dishes in the city, just my favorite plates of food I ate over the course of the past 12 months. And this isn’t a rambling, kiss ass-fest. Just a nice list of dishes with some brief descriptions. If you get a chance, please try them all out in 2016.

Tofu Pad Thai at kBird – It’s a staple in Thai cuisine and kBird does it righter than rain. You’ll be tempted to get the chicken, but the tofu is where it’s at.

Burrata at Raduno – Who in their right mind wouldn’t eat the hell out of a ball of mozzarella? The burrata is the perfect way to start a meal at Raduno.

Breakfast Taco at South on Main – These are best breakfast tacos I’ve found in LR. Bell and his crew serve them during brunch service, and they come with a fried egg, chorizo, and diced red onions.

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Vermicelli Bowl at Mike’s Café – It’s your typical Vietnamese vermicelli bowl, but there’s something about the texture of the noodles that separate this one from the competition.

Fries at Boulevard Bistro – These wildly addictive fries (or frites) are a must-order on any visit to Boulevard.

Beet Salad at The Fold – They’ve changed this dish up a bit, but it’s still fantastic and if you love pickled beets, you should definitely get an order or two for the table.

Bread Pudding at Maddie’s – As with most dishes at Maddie’s, you will literally get fatter just reading it off the menu. This is classic, stick-to-your-bones bread pudding.

Yazoo at Layla’s – This double crusted, cheese stuffed pizza is one of the most underrated dishes in all of Little Rock. It never gets mentioned with some of the best pies in town, but it should.

Leeks at One Eleven – Ten dishes from One Eleven could have ended up on this list, but I particularly enjoyed the side plate of warm, tender leeks with pecans. And as always, plating, right behind taste, is a top priority to the kitchen.

Green Papaya Salad at kBird – If you’ve never had green papaya salad, or for that matter, Thai food, then broaden your horizons a bit in 2016 and head down to kBird. Start with this sweet and tangy salad.

Brick-Pressed Prosciutto at H.A.M. – This is the best sandwich in Little Rock, and honestly, it’s the brick pressing everything together that makes it so damn good.

Fried Shrimp at Doe’s Eat Place – Little Rock, keep your Delta-style tamales and give me an extra order of these jumbo fried shrimp. I almost like them more than the 3-lb., medium rare Porterhouse. Almost.

Farmers Market Splendor at Trio’s – This seasonal dish is a collection of local veggies all on one plate. The fried okra is not to be missed and neither is the corn salad or sliced tomatoes.

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Shrimp and Grits at Ciao Baci – Damn, I really had a lot of good shrimp and grits in 2015, and Ciao Baci’s version on it’s tasting menu was also spot on. Using top-notch shrimp makes all the difference for this very picky Gulf coast guy.

Ramen at The Southern Gourmasian – Early in 2015, I was in Charleston (a titan in the southern food scene), and had a bowl of ramen at one of the city’s top spots. A week later, I tried the ramen at The Southern Gourmasian, which ended up being a lot better.

Watermelon Sorbet at Ciao Baci – Oh, hello again, Ciao Baci. We fortunately stumbled upon this dessert, as the staff at CB happily substituted the watermelon sorbet for the usual dessert course on the tasting menu.

Pork Shoulder at Table 28 – Without question, this was the best barbeque I ate in 2015 inside the Little Rock city limits. I think it’s a seasonal menu, so check things out before you head to Table 28 in search of this smoky, super tender and surprisingly lean pork shoulder.

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Italian Sausage & Peppadew Pizza at Deluca’s – I’m including Deluca’s (even though it’s in Hot Springs) on this list. Why? Because it’s my damn list and this is the best pizza anywhere. The sweet and spicy combination of the Italian sausage and pappadews is irresistible.

Scallops at One Eleven – I rarely order scallops in Little Rock, but One Eleven has an excellent supplier, so if your hankering for some sweetness of the sea, this is it.

Mashed Potatoes at South on Main – One bite, yes, one bite of my buddy’s mashed potatoes (on the chicken fried steak plate) lands this on my list. With so many restaurants doing piss poor mashed potatoes these days, I no longer take great ones for granted.

Buffet at Al Seraj – No, technically a buffet isn’t a dish, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to recognize this hidden gem of a spot in WLR. Go try out the $10 lunch buffet and tell me that isn’t some of the freshest, best tasting Mediterranean food around.

Fried Chicken at CBG – The supper crunchy crust and moist meat is what separates this fried chicken from the rest in this town.

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Pancakes at The Root – Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of ordering pancakes, but The Root’s pancakes are just too hard to resist.

Green Gumbo at CBG – Finicky gumbo eaters may frown upon this greens-based version, but you’ll find nothing but love for it from me.

Bouillabaisse at Boulevard Bistro – Check to make sure it’s on the menu, as I think they rotate the bouillabaisse in and out. This dish is a paradise for seafood lovers, and really is the only time I’ll recommend ordering mussels in this city (pictured at the top).

Pork Loin at Maddie’s – Listen, we all know and love Maddie’s Place by now. It’s no secret they churn out some of the best food in town. And while it’s tough to pass on the BBQ shrimp and/or shrimp and grits … please, please, please give this pork loin with house-made Worcestershire sauce and butter-soaked Brussels a shot.

Chicken Milanesa Torta at Super 7 Grocery – My goodness, this is such an underrated sandwich. Super 7 is located on John Barrow Road and is a perfect quick lunch spot, especially if you have an affinity for tortas. A pounded- then fried- chicken breast is never a bad thing.

Fried Spring Rolls at Fantastic China – I am always on the prowl for a good egg/spring roll and about the only one worth a damn in LR is at Fantastic China.

Jagerschnitzel at The Pantry – I’d adopt this dish and make it part of my fam if I could. Earlier this year, I described it as a big food hug, and I’ll stand by that. Thin pork is breaded, fried, placed over a bed of spaetzle, and topped with the most delicious gravy and mushrooms.

Smoked Bologna Sandwich at Sim’s BBQ – This sandwich will not be on next year’s list because my wife won’t allow me to eat it more than once every three years. This widow-maker consists of a slab of smoked bologna topped with slaw and soupy bbq sauce.

Posole at Trio’s – Honestly, this was one of the true surprises of the year. Never did I think I’d find honest-to-goodness authentic posole at Trio’s. Folks, this stuff is the real deal … especially those insanely tender piles of shredded pork.

Green Shrimp Curry at kBird – Sweet, a little sour, and a tad spicy … the green shrimp curry really has it all to ignite your taste buds.

Blackened Ribeye at The Faded Rose – The ribeye at The Faded Rose is just a great cut of meat prepared to perfection and all at a very reasonable price.

Shrimp Soup at Rosalinda’s – This eatery in NLR gets very little attention from folks south of the river. If you go, get this mammoth bowl of shrimp soup. The creamy tomato broth and intense shrimp flavor make it a winner.

Pickle Fried Chicken Taco at Heights Taco & Tamale Co. – The unique combination of flavors in this compact taco lands it in my top 50.

Ceviche at Local Lime – The ceviche at Local Lime got a total redesign. Talk about going from a zero to a hero. Sit at the bar with an order of it and a frozen margarita and you’ve got yourself a damn good Friday night.

Deviled Eggs at The Pantry – As long as I eat the deviled eggs each year, expect them to end up on this list. They’re so creamy and delicious and cute and just awesome. The Parm crisp topper takes it to another level.

Duck Neck Poutine at South on Main – Man, they had this on Special one night and it was so freaking good. No cheese curds like traditional poutine, but the perfect fries, bits of duck neck meat, and thick gravy made up for that.

Shrimp Po’Boy at Table 28 – We have no shortage of great shrimp po’boys in this town and Table 28’s is the best, due in large part to the enormous shrimp Chef Rains throws on it.

Rosalinda Plato at Rosalinda’s – The thin beef steak, sliced avocado, and a mixture of rice and beans is just too good not include on this list.

Mama Chi’s Spicy Fish at Chi’s – I’ve written about this dish countless times, and unlike some other dishes at Chi’s, it never disappoints. Beware…it can be quite spicy, which I view as a good thing.

Chicken Tenders at Franke’s – Some things never change, like the awesomeness of Franke’s fried chicken tenders. Dipped in honey mustard, it doesn’t get much better than these babies.

Pork Dumplings at Three Fold – With limited options on a purposefully small menu, quality through consistency is the name of the game over at Three Fold. No item better represents this than the steamed pork dumplings.

Thin Fish at The Faded Rose – If I had the metabolism of a 15-year-old and the cholesterol level of a marathon runner, I’d eat this fried catfish once a week.

Baked Pimento Cheese at Boulevard – Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of pimento cheese, but have learned to love it over the past 4 years. That said, there’s no denying the greatness of the baked version at Boulevard.

Wedge Fries at The Faded Rose – Best fries in the city. I love them, much like a mama cheetah loves her young cats. That made no sense, but you get my drift.

Monkey Bread at Mylo Coffee Co. – Every now and then I break down and order a pastry at Mylo Coffee Co. In 2015, it didn’t get better than that mini monkey bread.

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Chicken Enchiladas w/ Verde Sauce at El Palenque – El Palenque is the best Mexican food in Little Rock and the chicken enchiladas sit at the very top of the menu’s awesomeness. My wife could eat this dish 5 times a week.

Chicken Burger at David’s – The beef burgers tend to fall on the greasier side of late, so I usually opt for this slightly healthier ground chicken burger.

Queens Deluxe Pizza at NYPD – This pizza gets almost no love, and that’s a shame, because with it’s plentiful toppings and thin, chewy crust, NYPD really is some of the best pizza in town.

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Are You Searching for the Perfect Foodie Gift?

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Last week, I posed this question on Facebook: “If someone gave you $100 for the holidays and asked you to buy a food-related gift for yourself, what would you get?” These suggestions inspired me to create this post, combining reader response with some of my own tried and true purchased products through the years … forming a list of artisan products which are perfect to for that foodie in your life and can be shipped right to your door.

Brazos Bottom Pecan Pie in a Wooden Box
The Brazos Bottom Pecan Pie from Houston’s iconic Goode Co., pictured above, is absolute dessert heaven. The $40 was at one time a pretty steep price to pay for a pie, but nowadays, seems to be the going rate. And although I’m not a huge fan of ordering baked goods online, this pie is a definite winner. It comes in a decorate wooden box … which is a nice touch, especially if you’re getting this for someone special.

Bonnie’s Jams
There are a million artisan jams, jellies, and preserve-makers out there. Believe me, I’ve tasted about half of them, and to this day, I’ve had none better than Bonnie’s Jams, a company I came across during my time in Boston. Most products on the site come in $10, 8.75 oz. jars. I highly recommend the Black & Blue (blackberry and blueberry jam), Apricot Orange, or Raspberry Lime Rickey.

The Peninsula Grill Ultimate Coconut Cake
This cake, haling from Charleston, South Carolina, was recommended by Janice on Facebook. The damn thing is $130, weighs 12 pounds, and even has it’s own freaking trademark. Anyone else intrigued? Here’s one minor setback … it will cost you between $60-$150 to ship the cake, making a it a true foodie luxury purchase. I’ll be rounding up 20 of my best friends to see who wants to go in on this bad boy.

Browne Trading Co.
This place was recommended by Ben Brainard, he of Yellow Rocket Concepts fame. Ben obviously knows his food, and I’m a whore for anything Portland, Maine related, so when he dropped this nugget on me, I quickly did a little research. Browne Trading Co. is a “Purveyor of Fresh Fish, Caviars, and Smoked Seafood.” I’m sold. Spend a few minutes rifling through the website. I did and was particularly intrigued by the smoked salmon sampler box ($95).

Russ & Daughter’s Smoked Salmon
Did someone say smoked salmon? It’s only my absolute favorite food on the entire planet, and I’ve had none better than what Russ & Daughter produces. If you’re in the vicinity of the NYC shop, then go. If not, you can order a slab of heaven online. It’s not cheap, but well worth a splurge every now and then. My favorite is the Gaspe Nova Smoked Salmon ($40 per pound). I can also vouch for R&D’s shipping process, as I’ve partaken in it before.

Kona Coffee from Greenwell Farms
Call it sentimental love from my one day 10 years ago touring many of the coffee plantations along the coast on The Big Island in Hawaii, but I adore 100% Kona coffee. It’s so distinctive, and my favorite Kona coffee is at Greenwell Farms. It will run you about $37 a pound, but this will make the coffee lover in your life very happen. As an added bonus, Greenwell is offering free shipping on orders of $100+ (U.S. orders). All of the coffee is excellent, but I particular enjoy the Full City Roast.

Dried Peaches at Frog Hollow Farm
About two months ago, I stumbled about a booth at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market in San Francisco filled with an assortment of bagged, dried fruits. I purchased some of the dried peaches and cracked them open when I returned to Little Rock. Twenty hours later, the entire bag was gone. Frog Hollow doesn’t stop at dried fruits … they’ll even ship fresh fruit right to your doorstep. I can’t speak to that, but I can tell you these dried peaches are insanely addictive.

Truffles from Moonstruck Chocolate
Did you think we’d forget chocolate? Kim recommends the truffles from Moonstruck Chocolate in Portland, Oregon, and after perusing the website, it’s hard to argue with her. Besides truffles, Moonstruck offers a variety of bars, barks, and even hot cocoas.

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