Restaurants often have a private dinner for friends, media, or food writers prior to opening or reopening. It's like a dress rehearsal for them. The back of the house staff practices preparing new offerings for the front of the house to present to guests, the bartenders ready themselves to have plenty of drinks on hand, and management welcomes everyone upon arrival as if they were joining them for family dinner. It's not this perfect at every "soft opening" or "preview dinner, " but with this team at this place, high standards prevail.
I was fortunate enough to be included at last night's private dinner reopening at One Eleven at the Capital Hotel here in Little Rock. My first and last impression were equally superior, I have to admit. Above you see the Eggplant Baba Ganoush with Lavash Crackers. I can usually take one bite of a cracker and be done with it, but I ate all of this and looked for more. Considering Justin Timberlake, they've brought sexy back to crackers with this one.
|Photo Collage by Brooke Carter Wallace|
I love good style and good taste. I love what they've done to the place, and I highly recommend everyone finding out for themselves about One Eleven. I'm sure I'll be a regular there. Do say hi if you see me there sometime! And now, more of the food offerings from last night.
I love colorful, bright food like beets. I'll be back to order the beetroot salad with burrata cheese just as soon as I work off some of the weight that I've gained from this week filled with hotel and restaurant openings and Leo birthday celebrations.
Like the great Japanese restaurants that begin each meal with a hot, hot towel, I would begin my Last Meal with Chef Joel's asparagus soup masterpiece. If shooting hot soup out of a shot glass is wrong, well....
Arshia K. asked me which of the tastings was my favorite. It was like being confronted with the question of which of my daughters I love more. I decided on the Maine Oysters Rockefeller.
House smoked salmon that I know my daughter Gianna will fall in love with. She has quite the discriminating palate and should be a future Iron Chef judge. I can also see her hosting a show with Mo Rocca - their personalities and humor are so similar. Plus I'd love to meet him!
My husband's favorite was the Risotto with Peas and Black Truffle. I don't think he normally likes peas. But they did this dish so well, there was no denying a single bite.
I can normally abstain from desserts, but I ate almost all of this Popcorn Panna Cotta with Caramel Ice Cream. Between this and the Chestnut Sundae with Pecans & Rice Crispy Treats, I may reserve all my dessert calories for One Eleven alone.
A special thanks to Chef Joel Antunes for allowing us to tour the newly remodeled kitchen while he and his staff diligently attended to every morsel to assure quality and precision. I observed them, wondering who would be the next great, considering that The Capital Hotel kitchen has been the incubator for growing talent in rising star chefs such as McClure, Bell, Jones, McConnell, and more. I know that for myself in my own career, my greatest successes were when my teachers helped me to be my best. Over the years, there had been some teachers that wanted to do nothing more than prove that they were superior. Yeah, that did nothing for me! I wonder if that exists in some restaurants, but in this kitchen I loved seeing the convivial teamwork in this pristine kitchen! If only Larry West could convert my office space into something as inspiring and productive as this!!
I told my primary care physician Dr. Felton today, who happens to be a big foodie, that they looked like a team around an operating table. With every bit of my respect, thank you to everyone at One Eleven at the Capital Hotel for some of the best tastings in Arkansas. It was really nice seeing the new surroundings that will undoubtedly assure your success. I'll see you again soon and often!