Archive for category Q to the A

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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Q to the A: We’ll Always Have Bossa Nova

A little love for B-More!

A little love for B-More!

Ever wonder what other foodies are thinking? Me too. Special thanks to Ashli Ahrens for her answers!

1. How many years have you lived in Little Rock? I’ve lived in Arkansas most of my life but in the Little Rock area for about six in all.

2. Where’s the best place to eat in North Little Rock? I’ll be honest, I don’t stray too far away from the downtown area for dining out, so I can’t help but zero in on Argenta (downtown North Little Rock) for my choice here. The Starving Artist Café is my favorite NLR spot for lunch or dinner. I love the food, I love the art. Their house-made soups are the bomb. Plus the Tales from the South series recorded there is something Arkansans should really be proud of.

3. What is your favorite place to go for a great cocktail? I sincerely appreciate the creativity, style and savvy that house-made cocktails involve, and I love reading the descriptions in the menus. But I’m a white-wine gal, so I love a place with a great wine selection. For that I love Zin (Urban Wine and Beer Bar) in the River Market district and Crush in Argenta. If I were going to take friends out for great cocktail options, my top pick is Capital Bar and Grill. But honestly, South on Main and Big Orange Midtown are doing really great things too.

4. What are a few of your guilty food pleasure items? Uh oh. This could be a long list. Probably at the top is Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies. I could honestly eat a sleeve of them a day if I could justify ordering enough to last me a whole year. Also on the list a package of Oreo’s as long as I have plenty of milk. Also semi-chocolate chips straight from the bag which I keep in the freezer. I can also chow down on the spaghetti carbonara from the former Lulav (now Cellar 220). I’ll stop at four just to keep from embarrassing myself. Oh wait, Little Debbie’s peanut butter crunch bars straight from the freezer. Okay, that’s it.

5. What word would you use to describe the Little Rock dining scene? Wow. One word. I suppose that word would be “exceptional.” I read this a while back and I honestly believe it’s true; the greater Little Rock area has more restaurants per capita than most cities our size. As long as you’re not looking for the latest in Ethiopian cuisine or something really far afield, we’ve got high-quality and interesting dining choices here in Little Rock. And I don’t mean chains.

6. What Arkansas celebrity (past or present) would you want to have dinner with? Hands down Bill Clinton and honestly Hillary, too. (I know she’s not FROM Arkansas but we claimed her for quite a while.) Bill Clinton put Arkansas on the national and global map, and he continues to positively impact our state. My husband and his family know Bill well. I’d just like to have them all around the table and chat the night away.

Ashli was the first person to tell me about this Bossa Nova dish.

Ashli was the first person to tell me about the Salpicao from Bossa Nova.

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? Appetizer: Bang Bang shrimp from Bonefish (note: the only chain restaurant I’ve mentioned). Sweet, spicy and fabulous. That’s why all of Little Rock shows up on the night they offer $2 off. Entrée: Salpicao from Café Bossa Nova. Dessert: banana pudding from Capital Bar and Grill (they make their own vanilla wafers for heaven’s sake!)

8. If you could jump in a plane this very second…where would you go and what would you eat? This year I visited Baltimore, Maryland, for the first time. My husband had been there last year and brought back the incredible lump crab cakes from Faidley’s there. My main mission, aside from attending a work conference, was to bring home another batch of those KILLER crab cakes. So, I would hop a plane anytime and go to Baltimore for more of those insanely perfect crab cakes. No remoulade or tartar sauce needed. No sides either.

9. What restaurant do you typically go to for a celebratory occasion? Ashley’s at the Capital, Brave New Restaurant (always get the fish of the day) or The Pantry. I can’t choose.

10. What is one Little Rock restaurant you’ve never eaten at that may surprise people? I’ve never been to Pizza D’Action in Stift’s Station. It’s true, oddly enough, given my affection for that part of town. Runners-up for this question would be Lassis Inn, Chuy’s and Mellow Mushroom (though I’ve been to one in Tennessee and loved it).

Addendum:
I owe my appreciation for fine food and plain ol’ GOOD food to my mother. From the beginning she encouraged me to try new foods, taught me to cook and showed me the magic of entertaining at home. I remember her asking me where I wanted to go out to eat for a milestone birthday (maybe it was my 16th). Without batting an eye I answered La Petite Roche. That was the restaurant in the then Excelsior Hotel. It sounded swanky, French and I wanted to go. I’m pretty sure my parents took me there, and later to Ashley’s upon request. I haven’t looked back.

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Q to the A: Dinner With Johnny Cash and Maya Angelou

H.A.M's Burger

H.A.M’s Burger

Ever wonder what other foodies are thinking? Me too. Special thanks to Beth Bryant-Claxton, PhD for her answers!

1. How many years have you lived in Little Rock? I have lived here since 2008, but came to visit my mom (and eat!) several times a year since 1990.

2. Where is your favorite place to eat in Hillcrest? I think what the folks at Hillcrest Artisan Meat (HAM) are doing is brilliant. My favorite sandwich (on my rare “bread” days) is the Georgie. Just a “ham and butter” sammie, but made with the most impeccable ingredients that you need nothing more. Their Friday HAM burgers are grass-fed, iron-skilleted perfection, and their house-made bacon gruyere sausage is hands down my favorite link in the world.

3. Which restaurant in town has the best service? Oddly, I can’t answer this. I tend to engage my server wherever I go, and have found many places with friendly, responsive staff. Honestly, I get so into my food and my companion that I only truly notice if service is poor, or my server is rude or appears not to like people in general. That’s always surprising to me!

4. What are a few of your guilty food pleasure items? Well if it’s “guilty” because it’s off my food plan (I control my diabetes without meds by eating mostly grain- and sugar-free), then it would be fresh baked bread with real butter, or a bite of an eclair, creme brûlée or similar decadence. Otherwise, I believe that just about any food can be made more delicious by the addition of bacon, avocado, an over medium egg, and/or Hollandaise sauce.

5. What is Little Rock’s signature restaurant dish? I love and seek variety, and so this kind of question is very tough for me to wrap my head around. The Little Rock food scene is diverse enough to support many signature dishes! I think that some of the restaurants that are doing updated southern classics are likely to fall in that category. Like the fried chicken with pepper jelly at South on Main, and the offerings at the Capital Bar and Grill. I am also rooting for the emerging local, whole food movement that is being showcased by places like The Root.

6. What Arkansas celebrity (past or present) would you want to have dinner with? Johnny Cash. Or Maya Angelou. Maybe both together!

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? I would have to begin with a house-made Bloody Mary with extra olives at the Town Pump…yes, you heard me! My appetizer would be the amazing short rib bao and slaw from the Southern Gourmasian food truck. The porcini-rubbed branzino at Lulav (not there anymore, sad face!) for my entree. And a slab of tres leches (three milk) cake with Brazilian coffee at Cafe Bossa Nova to round things out.

Rosalinda's...a NLR Favorite

Rosalinda’s…a NLR Favorite

8. If you could jump in a plane this very second…where would you go and what would you eat? I would go to Cape Cod and eat whole lobster until I fell over. Or hit the food carts in downtown Manhattan. I am apparently incapable of giving just one answer for anything!

9. What is your favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant? Until just recently, it was the White Water Tavern. My favorite wait staff (esp. Lizzie and her dimples!) The food that Jonathan Wilkins was putting out over there was some of the best I have ever had. Standouts were duck-fat fries, Arkansas burgoo, and a cilantro slaw I wanted to buy by the bucket. And of course, the iconic “Double Wide” with thick sliced smoked bologna, local cheddar cheese, fried egg, and sriracha mayo. Current favorites that have a low profile and great food are Rosalinda’s on JFK and Layla’s on Rodney Parham.

10. What is one Little Rock restaurant you’ve never eaten at that may surprise people? Ah come on, you know I can’t just give one! But given the fact that I mostly eat meat and veggies these days (cavegirl grawrr!), my friends might be surprised that I haven’t eaten at Sonny Williams’, The Butcher Shop, or the Little Rock Doe’s Eat Place.

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