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April Offers a Ton of Events in Little Rock

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At the Bernice Garden Farmer’s Market

 

April is an insanely popular month for food and drink events here in Little Rock. And for good reason … everyone wants to take advantage of this fabulous weather. Here’s a rundown of (almost) everything that’s going on, inside and out.

Jazz in the Park is this Wednesday, April 6th from 6-8 p.m. at the River Market. This free jazz concert series will be held in the History Pavilion (at the base of the Junction Bridge) in Riverfront Park on Wednesday nights in April and September. Limited seating is available and lawn chairs are welcome for this family (and leashed pet) friendly event. No coolers, but beer, wine, soft drinks and water are available for sale. This week’s performer is Acoustix with Rod P.

The Good Earth Garden Food Truck Meet-Up is this Thursday, April 7th from 5-8 p.m. at 15601 Cantrell Road.

The West Little Rock Food Truck Festival will be on Saturday, April 9th from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at 6400 Divide Parkway. Click here for event updates.

Flyway Brewing is having its Blues, BBQ, & Beer Fundraiser this Saturday, April 9th from 2-10 p.m. The brewery is partnering with Championship Pitmaster Tony Graham and Head Chef of the Clinton Foundation Gilbert Alaquinez to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Pulled pork and smoked chicken bbq plates will be sold for $10 each. All food proceeds and a portion of beer proceeds will be donated to assist Arkansas families with travel and treatment expenses.

The 2016 Jewish Food and Cultural Festival is on Sunday, April 10th from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium. The festival will include “traditional Jewish foods such as old fashioned corned beef sandwiches, lox, bagels and cream cheese, kosher hot dogs, rugelach and many more wonderful Jewish delicacies.” Admission is free.

The Bernice Garden Farmer’s starts back up this Sunday, April 10th from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.. This is a fabulous farmer’s market, so please consider making it down there on Sunday.

Big Orange Midtown offers you the opportunity to have dinner with Tom Schlafly, founder of Schlafly Brewing in St. Louis, on Thursday, April 14th at 6:30 p.m. It’s a 4-course, 5-beer, off-menu dinner. Tickets cost $65. Yellow Rocket does a great job with these types of dinners, and I’m sure this one will be no expection.

CARTI’s Ragin’ Cajun Bash is also on Thursday, April 14th from 6-9 p.m. at War Memorial. Tickets are $45 in advance, $55 at the door. Click here for tickets or call (501) 296-3406.

Wildwood’s 18th Annual Wine & Food Festival is on April 15th from 6:30-9 p.m. inside the Cabe Festival Theatre Center. More than 100 specially selected wines and beers are paired with chef’s edibles. For tickets, click here.

The Root Café is throwing its 2nd Annual Pie Bake-Off & Recipe Swap on Saturday, April 16th at 4:30 p.m. “Bake your best traditional pie for our panel of judges. Bring copies of your recipe to swap with other pie bakers. Judges will award 5 Blue Ribbons and one Best-in-Show award.” This is super fun, laid back event with tons of great pie.

Also on April 16th, Kent Walker Artisan Cheese is looking for “Any Excuse to Party.” Click here for all of the details.

Pulaski Tech’s signature fundraising event has a new name and format. “Diamond Chef Arkansas: Recut” is comprised of a preliminary and final competition, all held on the same day (April 21st from 6-9 p.m.) at the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute. In previous years, the two stages were held months apart. Event-goers can now also expect heavy hors d’oeuvres throughout the evening instead of a sit-down dinner. Tickets are $125 per person. For more information, click here.

The Dogtown Farmers’ Market gets going on Saturday, April 23rd from 7-10 a.m. at 420 Main Street in Argenta. Chef Matt Bell of South on Main will have a cooking demo and there will be live music by The Salty Dogs. That’s a good combo.

April 23rd is also the date for the International Food Festival at the Islamic Center of Little Rock (3224 Anna Street) from 12-6 p.m.

The Turkish Food Festival will take place Saturday, April 30th from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. at The Little Rock Raindrop Turkish House (1501 Market Street). The festival will feature delicious food, culture exhibits, folk dances, music, whirling dervish, children’s area, crafts and more. For tickets, click here.

“90th at Night!” Wild Wines is on April 30th from 7-10 p.m. at the Little Rock Zoo (which turns 90 this year). This is one of the state’s largest food and wine events with food from 50 restaurants and more than 200 high-quality wines to sample donated by O’Looney’s Wine & Liquor. General Admission are $75 in advance and $90 at the door. The Reserve Room Experience is $150 in advance and $200 at the door. Must be 21 or older to attend. Please bring ID. For tickets, click here.

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The Absolutely Definitive 30 Best Seafood Dishes in Little Rock

Shrimp a la Plancha at El Palenque

Shrimp a la Plancha at El Palenque

 

Even though Arkansas is a landlocked state, good seafood can be had here in Little Rock. You just need to know where to find it. Here is a nice rundown of my top seafood dishes in the area that I’ve eaten over the past 3+ years.

Shrimp a la Plancha at El Palenque
Here’s a little secret you may or may not know… Chef David Martinez is one of the best cooks in the city. Judging by the always packed restaurant, you do know. Order the Shrimp a la Plancha, a beautiful plate of grilled shrimp and onions with refried beans, rice, and avocado.

Thin Fish at The Faded Rose
If you are a lover of fried catfish, I just don’t think you will find any better than what The Faded Rose is cranking out with this super thin, fried-to-perfection version.

Black Cod Sarafina at The Terrace

Black Cod Samfaina at The Terrace

Black Cod Samfaina at The Terrace
A beautiful piece of pan-seared cod is accompanied by a deliciously salty ragu of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and onions.

Tasman Glazed Salmon at Trio's

Tasman Glazed Salmon at Trio’s

Specials at Trio’s
It’s really difficult to narrow it down to one dish, so I’ll just recommend that you keep an eye on Trio’s rotating fish specials. I recently had the glazed salmon, which was amazing, as was my cioppini, a bowl of mixed seafood of scallops, mussels, grouper, and shrimp.

Catfish at South on Main

Catfish at South on Main

Catfish at South on Main
The first thing I ever at South on Main, this seared catfish is still a staple on every seasonal menu. Chef Bell is a master at pairing it with other ingredients, making this fairly light dish a must-order.

Salmon at The Pantry Crest
When you look down at your plate of salmon with a side of asparagus, couscous, and spinach, you think “What the hell is so special about this dish?” And then you take a bite of the most perfectly cooked, simply seasoned salmon in town … and it all makes sense.

Crawfish Etouffee at The Faded Rose

Crawfish Etouffee at The Faded Rose

Crawfish Etouffee at The Faded Rose
A hearty portion of mildly spicy, slightly thickened, blond roux with a plentiful supply of small crawfish tails is topped with a pile of seasoned rice.

Bouillabaisse at Boulevard Bistro

Bouillabaisse at Boulevard Bistro

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 seafood lover’s paradise.

Walleye at Brave New Restaurant
It’s been a few years for me, but I do remember the walleye being quite delicious and a signature Little Rock dish. To not include it on this list would be a travesty. Well, that’s a little dramatic, but you know what I mean.

Fried Shrimp at Doe's

Fried Shrimp at Doe’s

Fried Shrimp at Doe’s
Doe’s does some pretty mean fried shrimp. The soft, lightly fried crust is what I enjoy most about these jumbo-sized bad boys.

Red Fish at Maddie's Place

Red Fish at Maddie’s Place

Redfish at Maddie’s Place
I love red fish. Maddie’s seared red fish with garlic grits, green beans and crawfish etouffee sauce is as beautiful as it is tasty.

Ensalada del Sol at Heights Taco & Tamale

Ensalada del Sol at Heights Taco & Tamale

Ensalada del Sol at Heights Taco & Tamale
This beautifully presented salad includes skewers of medium-sized, well-seasoned shrimp resting atop a bed of crisp, chopped romaine lettuce. Perfectly ripe slices of avocado and mango sit on the edges.

Shrimp Soup at Rosalinda's

Shrimp Soup at Rosalinda’s

Shrimp Soup at Rosalinda’s
Admittedly, the actual shrimp in this dish are average at best, but they impart such a wonderful flavor to the broth, making it a must-order on any visit to Rosalinda.

Shrimp and Grits at Ciao Baci

Shrimp and Grits at Ciao Baci

Shrimp and Grits at Ciao Baci
Ciao Baci’s version of shrimp and grits isn’t on the regular menu, so keep an eye out of it. Chef Owen uses top-notch shrimp, which make all of the difference.

Scallops at One Eleven

Scallops at One Eleven

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

Green Shrimp Curry at kBird

Green Shrimp Curry at kBird

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.

Shrimp Diablo at El Palenque

Shrimp Diablo at El Palenque

Shrimp Diablo at El Palenque
This dish is probably the spiciness plate I’ve ordered while living in Little Rock. That said, I’m a little bit of a wimp, but if you like hot, order the Shrimp Diablo.

Shrimp and Grits at The Faded Rose

Shrimp and Grits at The Faded Rose

Shrimp and Grits at The Faded Rose
Much like the delicious crawfish etouffee, TFR’s shrimp and grits features a delicious blond roux and plump, perfectly cooked shrimp.

Sushi at Kemuri

Sushi at Kemuri

Sushi at Kemuri
Any of Kemuri’s numerous sushi rolls are a hit. Like its sister restaurant, Oceans, if you’re in the mood for the best sushi in town, expect to find it at either of these two spots.

Tilapia Assada at Bossa Nova

Tilapia Assada at Bossa Nova

Tilapia Assada at Bossa Nova
I know most folks are down on tilapia right now, but Bossa Nova’s version, a pan-seared piece of fish with basil pesto, is pretty damn good.

Fried Catfish at Flying Fish
It’s Little Rock … you know I had to mention fried catfish a few times on this list. Like most everything at Flying Fish, the catfish is consistently good.

Crispy Squid Filet (or Calamari Snitzel) at Table 28
Tender, meaty strips of squid filet are beer-battered, fried, and then served with cocktail sauce. This is not your run-of-the-mill calamari.

Shrimp Tacos at Baja Grill

Shrimp Tacos at Baja Grill

Shrimp Tacos at Baja Grill
The shrimp tacos aren’t necessarily my first choice when dining at Baja Grill (Pig Sooey is), but that’s not to say they aren’t great. They are … mainly because the shrimp are a tad blackened and a little spicy.

Citrus Tuna Ceviche at Local Lime
This redesigned ceviche at Local Lime includes chunks of Ahi tuna, avocado, along with cucumber, lime, cilantro, and a ginger citrus jalapeno vinaigrette.

Boiled Crawfish at The Faded Rose

Boiled Crawfish at The Faded Rose

Boiled Crawfish at The Faded Rose
Hey, it’s crawfish season (until about mid-late May). On Wednesday nights starting at 4 p.m. (and until they run out), you can grab yourself a platter of the mud bugs. Just make sure to order a beer, as they tend to be spicy, but in a good way.

Buffalo Ribs at Lassis Inn

Buffalo Ribs at Lassis Inn

Buffalo Ribs at Lassis Inn
Eating Buffalo ribs at Lassis Inn is something every Little Rocker should do at least once in their life. This bottom-dweller fish is definitely an acquired taste, but if you enjoy yourself a meaty, hearty fish rib, these are for you.

Grilled Oysters at South on Main
Oysters, check. Butter, check. Parmesan cheese, check. What’s not to love?

Stock Pot at The Pantry
This dish is changing constantly, but no worries, it’s only a matter of if it will be “really good” or “great.” Delicate white fish, broth, and root veggies often provide the foundation of one of my all-time fav Pantry dishes. Keep an eye out as I don’t see this dish currently on the menu at either restaurant.

Mama Chi's Spicy Fish at Chi's

Mama Chi’s Spicy Fish at Chi’s

Mama Chi’s Spicy Fish at Chi’s
Delicate pieces of white fish rest in a thick and spicy sauce, making Mama Chi’s Spicy Fish a must-order each time I’m at this Chi’s location.

Shrimp Po’boy at Table 28
This po’boy doesn’t get near the attention as some of the other around town, but it’s just as good. Chef Rains loads it with fried shrimp, kale slaw, and pickled peppers.

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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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