Posts Tagged Trio’s

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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Vive la Vie’s Dinner Series Kicks Off at Capitol View Studio

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Some of you may know that I co-host a weekly radio show with Alexia Elichiry on KABF 88.3 called Vive la Vie. Each Friday morning Alexia and I gab about all things food and drink … usually with a chef, farmer, rancher, barista, baker or mixologist. The show is a ton of fun, with a nice balance of humor and seriousness that makes the 30 minutes feel like five. In truth, I’m Alexia’s sidekick, someone who chimes in, interjects, and occasionally adds a few coherent thoughts to the program.  She literally runs the show … all with an ease, calmness, and sense of professionalism that never ceases to amaze me.

And Alexia always has great ideas.

Last night, we made one of these ideas a reality. The Vive la Vie Show went off-location to Capitol View Studio for a special, hour-long recorded session with some of the biggest names in Little Rock’s culinary scene: Capi Peck of Trio’s, Matt Bell of South on Main, Ben Brainard of Local Lime and Heights Taco & Tamale, and Jeffrey Owen of Ciao Baci.

We ate, we drank, we asked the most random questions, and we shared our thoughts about everything from Bell’s curry to Brainard’s mentor … all around a potluck-filled dinner table. As a food writer and someone who covers these folks on a routine basis, it proved to be an amazingly unique opportunity to share my true thoughts and feelings. Let’s face it, for as much as I love our local food scene and try to extol its virtues, I still constructively criticize food, service, and, well, just about anything. And at it’s core, what made the night so special for me was that ability to just sit around and be open and honest with each other.

It was a hell of a lot of fun, and at times, quite emotional. But it was absolutely one my most cherished food memories, and it looks like something we might be doing every few months.

Pretty soon, you’ll have the opportunity to listen to the footage. I hope you do.

Special thanks to Mark Colbert for setting up all the audio equipment for the evening, and also to Bryan Frazier, who opened his studio to us and played such a critical role in planning and executing things. And not to forget…thank you to Jordan Crain for that fantastic egg nog.

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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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Thoughts on Trio’s, The Root Cafe, and Izard Chocolate

From The Root Cafe's Dinner in October

From The Root Cafe’s Dinner in October

 

Random thoughts and ramblings on local food and drink…

The annual TMR dinner at Trio’s“An Evening in Oaxaca”–was held last Thursday night in the Pavilion Room adjacent to the restaurant. Co-owner Capi Peck, Chef Shanna Merriweather, and crew put together a delicious 5-course meal for 50 guests, highlighting many of the ingredients and cooking techniques Peck picked up on her recent visit to Oaxaca, Mexico. The evening started with an open bar, which included a variety of tasty, mezcal-inspired cocktails created by Merrick Fagan, along with wine selections from Alexia Elichiry of De Nux Distributors. A table sat near the bar area, filled with guacamole, molotes (imagine an empanada), elote (street corn), and chapulines (grasshoppers) for entering guests to start the meal. Truth be told, I think many folks, including myself, loaded up on these starters, and by the time the actual 1st course hit the table, stomach space was at a premium. Here’s a quick run-down of the rest of the menu: (1st Course) shrimp cocktail with cactus, (2nd Course) squash blossom quesadillas, (3rd Course) Grilled beef tenderloin in four-chile sauce with chicharrones and chile de arbol, corn tortillas with Oaxacan red mole, chayote with roasted poblanos, quesillo, and chepiles, and black beans, and (4th Course) flan, pastel de tres leches, and copita de mezcal. From start to finish, the food was truly fantastic, and while I had to wave the white flag by the middle of the third course, I can tell you every dish was planned and executed to near perfection. Peck knows her way around a dynamite shrimp cocktail and this one with its bits of cactus was no exception. I also loved the perfectly cooked, medium rare tenderloin topped with the chile sauce, but felt like the bits of chicharones were a little tough and added a texture that wasn’t needed on the plate. This was all part of a main entree course that included the star of the evening, an intensely flavored red mole. Peck, herself, made the rounds to each table, topping dishes with the extra sauce while gabbing with guests, something no one in this town does better. Kudos to Peck and her entire staff for once again pulling off an amazing evening.

I attended The Root Cafe’s “Dinner in October” the following night. If you’re thinking, “Wait, The Root is open for dinner?’ The answer is no, not quite yet, but they will be probably sometime in early 2017. For now, diners can get a taste of things to come, as ownership puts together these monthly communal dinners in The Root’s charming, one-of-a-kind setting. Chef Jonathan Arrington and Pastry Chef Sara Slimp created a masterful, 5-course dinner that had a touch of sophistication, while still holding on to The Root’s unpretentious qualities. Highlights of the evening included a gorgeous plate of  red and black lentils (pictured above) with turnips, carrots, and apples, along with the main entree, a plate of pork belly, pinto beans, pickled boy choy, and cornbread pudding. While the dessert course of honey molasses layer cake was also a winner, the cake itself was a tad dry, but fortunately, had this amazing ginger infused, orange cream frosting that was also elevated by a spicy red chile sauce. Long story short … the food, company, and service were all fantastic. Keep an eye out on The Root’s Facebook page for details on the next ticketed dinner, which is typically held on the second Friday night of each month. I would not hesitate to sign up. The Root also does an open seating dinner on the 4th Friday of each month.

Have you ever been inside the Izard Chocolate storefront located just across the street from Hillcrest Kroger? You should. It’s a cool place and owner Nathaniel Izard is making a variety of excellent dark chocolate. Come to find out, he’s also starting to roast some of his own small-batch coffee. I’ve yet to try it, but if the coffee is anything like the chocolate, it should be a nice addition to the mix.

Speaking of coffee, did you know Honey Pies makes one of the better cups in town? I’m partial to their pour-over, which uses Leiva’s Coffee. And this from the store…”For every cup of coffee you buy, we donate a meal to a hungry child in Central Arkansas.”  Just a heads up, Honey Pies new-ish hours are Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m -7 p.m.

Quick hits: I sat at South on Main’s bar and downed an Old Fashioned while listening to the tunes of Shawn Camp last Wednesday night. Just an overall great evening. Taziki’s is quietly one of the best take-out options in town. The chicken pasta salad on the weekend is a must-order. Juice Bar in Midtown (near Big Orange Midtown) serves this wildly addictive acai bowl. It’s filled with 15+ healthy ingredients and perfect for breakfast. The Pantry does it again …  my go-to salmon wrap for lunch never disappoints. Shout out to our server, Bonnie, who once again proved why the restaurant has some of the very best food and service in town.

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