Posts Tagged The Southern Gourmasian

20 Suggestions for Valentine’s Day in Little Rock

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We’re less than 14 days from Valentine’s Day, which is the perfect time to start looking at menus and making reservations. I’ve scoured the internet to find local menus, specials, and places that are taking reservations. I’m sure there are many more specials, but these are the ones I could find thus far. Also, this is not to say these are the only restaurants you should consider going to on V-Day. If prix fixe menus aren’t your thing, many restaurants are open for business and offering their standard menu. In short, if going out on Valentine’s Day is your thing, check out the info below and click on the links for more details. Finally, if you’re a restaurant who is offering a special that I failed to include below, please message me and I’ll be glad to update the post.

Menus…

The Southern Gourmasian
South on Main: available 2/10, 2/11, 2/14
One Eleven: V-Day hotel package also available
Table 28: V-Day hotel package also available
Cache: available 2/10, 2/11, 2/13, 2/14)
Capeo: 3-course wine dinner, available 2/13 (click the link and scroll down for info)
Vesuvio Bistro
Heritage Grille, Steak and Fin
Del Frisco’s Grille
Canvas at the Arkansas Arts Center

Taking Reservations…

The Pantry and The Pantry Crest
Arthur’s Steakhouse
Kemuri

Other Specials…

Flyway Brewing: The Flyway Bouquet
Rocktown Distillery: Whiskey and Chocolate Pairing, available 2/12
Izard Chocolate: So Hoppy Together, available 2/12
Cocoa Belle Chocolates: Pop Up Shop on 2/10
Cocoa Rouge: Per 1/30 FB update, has delivered fresh chocolate to Eggshells and Colonial Wine and Sprits
2017 Chocolate Fantasy Ball
Blue Cake Company

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The Kitchen|Fields Table Tour Highlights Importance of Soybean in Arkansas

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I’m not sure how much you know about the world of soybeans, but it’s a big deal, especially in this neck of the woods. Governor Hutchinson recently issued a proclamation declaring this past November as Arkansas Soybean Month, a move that acknowledges our state as one of the premier soybean producers.

Here are some of the numbers to back it up:

  • In the 2015 growing season, Arkansas producers harvested 3.1 million acres of soybeans, valued at more than $1.5 billion.
  • Soybeans are grown in 41 counties of Arkansas and rank as the state’s largest row crop, accounting for more acres than rice, corn, sorghum and wheat combined.
  • Arkansas ranks 2nd in the nation for boiler production and 10th in the nation for soybean production.
  • Poultry consumes about half of all the soybean meal produced because of the high protein content, which in turn provides essential nutrients to the animal and increases their performance.
  • Arkansas ranks 3rd in the nation for turkey production raising 28 million turkeys last year. Turkeys are the 4th largest consumer of soybean meal in the U.S., consuming more than 2 million tons of soybean meal in 2014.
  • Arkansas ranks 4th in the nation for soybean usage. That includes our pork industry, where nearly 2 million swine consume soybean meal every day thanks to its high protein content.
  • Arkansas ranks in the top 12 in the nation for calf production with a cattle inventory totaling 1.6 million head. In 2014, beef cattle consumed about 1.4 million tons of soybean meal in the U.S.

Also in November, the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board’s educational food program, the Kitchen|Fields Table Tour, partnered with restaurants across the state to serve a dish dedicated to Arkansas soybean producers. Some of the participating restaurants included: Trio’s, At the Corner, Kemuri, The Southern Gourmasian, and Taylor’s Steakhouse. The Kitchen|Fields Table Tour encourages people not only to eat more primary soy foods, but also to consume soy-fed protein like pork, beef, turkey and chicken.

Part of this celebration of all things soybean came in the form of a recent three-course dinner at Brave New Restaurant here in Little Rock. I, along with other food writers and soybean farmers, was in attendance for an evening that proved to be every bit educational as it was tasty. Chef Peter Brave put his creative spin on soybean-based dishes throughout the evening, while various speakers gave brief talks about the “miracle bean.” Dishes included a salad with both pickled and fried soybeans, a beef tenderloin with sauteed soybeans, and an insanely delicious soybean honey Frangelico ice cream with soybean brittle for dessert. I may or may not have eaten my wife’s dessert as well.

In January, part two of the Kitchen|Fields Table Tour will launch … when the organization will be pairing up with some of Arkansas’ most well-known chefs to continue teaching Arkansans about the importance of this $2 billion soybean industry.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in more information, you can visit TheMiracleBean.com. It’s a pretty cool website where you can check out items like: soybean recipes, the actual composition of soybeans, and a comprehensive guide to various uses of soybeans (which go far beyond consumption).

*Stats and image via Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board

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Dinner at The Southern Gourmasian, Lunch at The Pantry, and Other Ramblings

Sauerkraut Panini at The Pantry West

Sauerkraut Panini at The Pantry West

 

Random thoughts and ramblings on local food and drink…

Going to The Southern Gourmasian for dinner isn’t something I do very often, and that’s a shame, because I’ve said for years now that Chef Justin Patterson is one of our very best chefs in town. This is a long, rambling way of saying our meal on Friday night was fantastic. My daughter and I split orders of ramen, Balinese Chicken Steamed Buns, and Shrimp Fried Rice. Fans of good ramen know the popular dish is hard to come by in this town. TSG’s version, although a smaller portion than many others you’ll find around the country, is priced right ($9) and quite tasty. The broth is rich and flavorful, and while the noodles are the centerpiece of any bowl, the star in the dish was the tender pork shoulder chunks scattered throughout the broth. The shrimp fried rice, with it’s meticulously-cut veggies and plump, perfectly cooked shrimp, proved to be an ideal compliment to the soup. Great service and delicious food at a reasonable cost will have me back at The Southern Gourmasian sooner than later.

If folks sometimes forget The Southern Gourmasian does a dinner service, they may also forget that The Pantry West does a mean lunch service. The Pantry doesn’t get much credit for serving one of the better lunches in town, highlighted by a stellar offering of sandwiches, including my Sauerkraut Panini with Smoked Turkey from Friday’s patio lunch. Comprised of grilled whole grain bread, tangy kraut, fontina cheese, Russian dressing, and shaved turkey, this sandwich is small and simple, but perfect for lunch. For an additional $1.50, I substituted an order of pommes frites for house chips, bringing the total cost to $11.95 … still any excellent value.

Trio’s rotates part of its menu every few weeks, something, as far as I can tell, no other restaurant does in Little Rock. The Blackened Tuna with Soba Noodles, created by Chef Shanna Merriweather, is currently on the menu and is a must-order. Ahi tuna is pan seared for what must be no more than 30 seconds per side and is seasoned to a subtle, spicy perfection. The finished product is this soft, rare piece of tuna that is just wonderful with the accompanying noodles and mixed veggies (Napa cabbage, snow peas, and bok choy). It’s all tied together with a nice ginger-mustard beurre blanc, proving once again that butter is always a great addition to any dish. My only knock on this plate? The portion of noodles and veggies was a little light.

Healthy eating and Maddie’s Place don’t typically go hand-in-hand, but it may surprise you to learn that the Riverdale restaurant does a fantastic salad of house-smoked salmon, candied walnuts, red onion, tomatoes, Romaine, and lemon herb vinaigrette.  The full order costs $9.75, and given the heavy hand of salmon, this salad is an excellent value.

Quick Hits: Honey Pies is taking a stab at kolaches, and admittedly, I am very picky when it comes to these little breaded pockets of joy. Simply put, HP’s version needs some slight re-tooling. The sausage was pretty dense, making it somewhat hard to bite through and the dough needed a little sweetness to it. The Acai Bowl at Juice Bar in Midtown is not cheap (upwards of $12 after tip) but I’m hooked. I just hope that darn thing is relatively healthy. I popped into the Pop Pop Shoppe (like what I did there?), our newest and I guess only specialty popcorn store in Little Rock for a quick gift. I didn’t try any of the popcorn, but the store was bright and beautiful and the service was fast and friendly. I hope they make it, but given the store’s large size … seems like there needs to be more product being displayed. The place struck me as being little empty.

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The Southern Gourmasian Shines, As Does Capeo and Ciao Baci

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Thoughts on my eating escapades around Little Rock…

Beef or no beef … the Thai Chicken Burger at The Southern Gourmasian is one of the best burgers in Little Rock. Yes, I feel that strongly about this one and only hope it lands on the restaurant’s regular menu. The thick patty of super juicy ground chicken is topped with a creamy edamame hummus—a condiment that truly makes this burger a memorable one. Add some pickled onions and crisp lettuce and you’ve got yourself a damn near perfect burger.

Capeo is one of those underrated restaurants you tend to forget is one of our top dining destinations. The place is cozy, somewhat elegant, but not over-the-top fancy. In short, it’s a great restaurant to go for dinner, and in a town void of top-tier Italian food eateries, Capeo is a place you can always go for a good-to-great meal. My very traditional Veal Parm from a recent dinner was saucy, cheesy, and just an overall hit … as was my tablemates’ Tagliatelle Bolognese and Spaghetti Carbonara. Wine lovers will also have plenty of amazing options to choose from.

I’m not sure why, but I am always a little shocked by what a great business Mugs Café does at just about any hour of operation. They seem to have such a loyal clientele, the hallmark of success for any small business. Props to ownership for its continued quality and consistency. Btw…my cold brew coffee was spot on.

I’ve been pretty vocal over the past several months about Ciao Baci and why I now consider Chef Owen a top 5 chef in town. Past inconsistencies have given way to a restaurant where you can not only expect sophisticated yet unpretentious food, but also service that is second to none. I’ve touted it before, but the 5-course, $45 chef’s tasting menu is really the way to go. I’d go into detail about my last experience, but looking over the restaurant’s website, I see Chef Owen already has a new seasonal menu. The bottom line is this … go to Ciao Baci.

If you follow me, by now you know I love El Palenque. Simply put, it’s my favorite Mexican restaurant in town and dishes like the loaded nachos, chicken enchiladas, shrimp burrito, and shrimp ala plancha only solidify my case. All that said, I was a little disappointed with my Chicken Milanesa from the other day. The pounded thinly, then fried chicken breast was a little ho-hum and bland. It wasn’t bad, mind you, but definitely not a dish I’d recommend over some of the far superior options mentioned above.

We took a roadtrip to Bentonville this weekend. Per usual, we dined at The Hive (inside 21c Hotel) and Crepes Paulette. While both places were outstanding, The Hive shined even brighter than usual by churning out an insanely delicious wood fire grilled Berkshire Hog Chop and a dish of Alaskan Halibut. Kudos to Chef McClure and his crew. I also had a chance to pop into the new Pressroom location for a quick brunch. The space was absolutely gorgeous–clean, modern, and expansive, yet warm and inviting—and my Austin City Limits dish of eggs and beans resting between two tortillas and topped with salsa, avocado, and cilantro, was certainly good enough to inspire a return visit.

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