Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Oceans at Arthurs in Little Rock

Arkansas is full of talented chefs, whether they are the rising stars of the industry, or if they're the seasoned vets or somewhere in between.  Among them, I recently noted that one of Little Rock's best Chef Brian Kearns had joined Oceans at Arthur's as well as sister restaurant Arthur's Prime Steakhouse.  It gave me a reason to visit.  

So I pulled up a seat at Oceans and tried the char-grilled oysters NOLA style.  I could taste the char-grilled aftertaste in my mouth, and I savored it.  This style of oysters came with 3 of my favorite ingredients:  butter, garlic, and cheese.  There's no denying how satisfied I was with this first dish.
Then I received a table greet from the owner Jerry Barakat.  We talked about his 2 daughters and my two daughters.  Jerry and I go back a long way.  Next thing I knew, we received an amazing sushi dish from Chef Alex.  I don't often order sushi, to be honest, but I loved this special concoction that he put together for us.  I ate every bit of it and forgot to save any for anyone else.  It was actually unlike me.
Ahhhh.....the smoked salmon.  I believe I ate 3 of these, intending to save 2 for my daughter Gianna.  This is my 10 year old's favorite thing.  I wanted to eat all of them very badly.  The crostini was perfectly thinly toasted, with just a little of the creamy spread, then the pastrami flavored smoked salmon.  Full of flavor, perfect textures and I could have eaten it all night long.
My 8 year old simple Sasha just wanted a little edamame.  When it arrived, I reveled in the garlicky aroma.  Never had edamame like this before!
Then the new menu items arrived:  scallops with polenta fries and remoulade.  The scallop rested on a small bed of spinach, perfectly wilted and flavored.  The polenta fries were crispy on the outside, delicious dipped in the remoulade.  The flavor of the spinach and the remoulade rounded out every bite.
And the scallops were just perfectly seared and caramelized.
The restaurant is called Oceans, and it provides delicious fish like this crispy pike on citrus risotto with asparagus and tomato relish.  Sooooo wonderful!!!!
Another possibility for you to try soon at Oceans at Arthur's is the roasted barramundi with quinoa tabouli and crispy shallot.  Delicious!
Our desserts consisted of chocolate creme brulee, chocolate turtle cheesecake, and creme bruleee.  My daughters LOVED!!

Oceans at Arthurs is amazing, and everyone should try it for themselves.  Next door, sister restaurant Arthur's Prime Steakhouse has a menu full of great offerings such as premium Kobe steaks, duck breast, Wagyu beef carpaccio, lobster, and lamb.  It's a good thing you can order off either menu on both sides.  I have many more items to try on both sides!

I actually had dinner at both restaurants 2 nights back to back, and I noticed how attentive the service was on both sides.  I will continue to return for the quality of the food, the great atmosphere, the experienced staff, and the variety of interesting menu items.  Arthur's has your fine dining tablecloth setting while Oceans is slightly more casual with fun, upbeat music lightly playing in the background.  My favorite dining companions, young daughters Gianna & Sasha were even treated like valued guests, so it looks like we're now members of the regular crowd.   

Monday, April 14, 2014

Table 28 Little Rock

I have another restaurant love letter to write.  Currently, I have 2 lightbulbs out in my kitchen.  I told my electrically - inclined husband that if he wanted me to perform in the kitchen, then he should find time to change out the light bulbs.  You can imagine his reply to that!  He works several weeks in Alaska and several weeks off when home.  So the simple task of changing a lightbulb or two while on "vacation" does not appeal to him.  He does more important things while earning his pay like power & heat oil pipelines and keep the red and green wires from getting crossed........I think!  Who knows??  What I do know is I won't be doing much cooking this week.  Looks like we're eating out!
If you plan to eat out in Little Rock, I highly recommend Table 28.  The Tongue & Cheek dish was one of the first that I tried at Table 28.  It's beautifully composed and definitely delicious.  You can't get a dish like this anywhere else in town.  The flavor is incredibly rewarding.  
That's my friend Scott Rains, Executive Chef at Table 28.  He's marinating the Tomahawk Ribeye that they serve at the restaurant.  I love all of his creations.  We've all been working together from the beginning to ensure that Table 28 is well branded.  It just makes sense to market your strengths among a community of flourishing food providers.  Utilizing local resources is also important to this group, and advertising that helps people know because it matters.  More people in the community seem to be looking for the restaurants who are involved in supporting local farms and Arkansas products.
Scott creates beautiful compositions, and I've been fortunate to enjoy so many of them.
Here you can see Scott's bone marrow, quail bird lollipops, oxtail, and the tongue & cheek.
He's also been SO nice on occasion to send out dessert for my girls!!  I don't usually write about restaurants because I have several friends who do it so well.  Table 28 has had great write ups already.  I just had so many pictures of great food taking up space on my computer, and I wanted to share them.  It's a great restaurant!  And a great place for Date Night.  If you want a second date, take her to Table 28.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Tusk & Trotter American Brasserie

I have to say this is one of the best food pictures I have ever taken.  The presentation was so thoughtful, and I highly appreciated it as if it was done just to impress me.  Of course it wasn't.  It's Tusk & Trotter's incredible stroke of genius and sensational style.  I live for beautifully styled food.  And I enjoyed their spicy housemade pork rinds so much, I wish they would send some to me right now!
So this was how I started my work day in the Northwest Arkansas region.  Just a little sampling of bacon bloody mary and pastrami bloody mary.  This is the kind of place where a lone traveler like myself can sit comfortably at the bar and enjoy some great food and restaurant talk with the bartenders Andy & Al and end up friends with them on Instagram & Twitter.  Food and drink are a commonality that can quickly turn people from strangers into friends in an instant.  I have friends on social media that I have never even met!
I was a very, very bad glutton on the entire trip.  I had a LOT of food.   I am currently limiting my food portions because I chose to totally splurge while I was up in the area.  This was the crispy pig ear salad. which I chose to pair with the citrus vinaigrette.  I love unusual textures - I never hesitate to try new things.  I'm so glad I tried this pig ear salad, loved it!  I need more restaurants to give me new things to try and enjoy.  
I was gathering that this place could do no wrong, so I had to have the baby - back ribs for my entree.  I personally love ribs, but so many restaurants don't make them as good as say, my big brother at home in his smoker.  These were the best ribs I've ever had, and my big brother even commented on my Facebook post of them that they looked really good.  And he's the type to never comment or interact on Facebook.  These ribs must have really caught his eye!  I wish I had some right now, with that perfect  housemade barbecue sauce..   
If you visit the Northwest Arkansas or Bentonville area, go to Tusk & Trotter.
I stayed at Aloft.  It was quite cozy and I also hit it off with the bartender in the lounge.  "We're all only 80 percent Paleo."  Hilarious!  Cool guy from Philadelphia...
The room was pretty cozy and I loved the layout of the bathroom.  I have it mentally memorized for the next house that I hope to build soon.  And I hope to see Bentonville again soon too.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Kent Walker Artisan Cheese

Sometimes you have to take one for the team.  Sometimes I have to take one for The Times.  I have loved buying Kent Walker Artisan Cheese from places like Hillcrest Artisan Meats and Stratton's Market in Little Rocket.  But.......true confession time!  I am not a big fan of two kinds of cheese:  goat cheese and bleu cheese. Today, I took a tour of the Kent Walker cheese manufacturing facility and enjoyed my educational lesson on making cheese.
I thought the Kent Walker Ophelia cheese looked the most tempting to try.  Here it is unaged and aged.  At least that is what I think I remember hearing.  Sometimes I have a hard time remembering things!  I just know these looked so cute to me.

So Kent grabbed a small wheel of his Blue Jonquil cheese to let us try.  I was a little nervous.  I have taken a bite out of bleu cheese to try in restaurants before only to discover that I was not a fan.  I should have known though.  This artisan cheese maker can make no bad cheese!  It was delicious and I loved it!  Soon you can all sample the many delicious cheeses of Kent Walker at his tasting room in Little Rock at 6th and Main downtown with wine and local craft beer.  Please remember to shop local Arkansas products and support the economic development of the Natural State!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Tagliatelle with Bonta Toscana Sauce

After a 4 week hitch in Alaska, my husband arrived home today for 2 weeks before he would have to go back.  I wanted to be prepared to cook him a nice dinner, so I stopped by Hillcrest Artisan Meats to pick up some tagliatelle pasta and some Bonta Toscana sauce.  My husband frequently complained of jar sauces tasting too sweet, so I found myself reading labels in grocery stores to find that they often contained a high amount of sugar.  I started making my own tomato sauce from scratch based on Gwyneth Paltro's recipe, but I was curious to see about the Bonta Toscana sauce that just hit the shelf of H.A.M.
You can buy the excellent garlic sauce at Hillcrest Artisan Meats in Little Rock.  The sauce's reputation precedes itself because Amy's been making it for friends for quite some time and now she makes it in a commercial kitchen in downtown Little Rock.  I have heard about it from many others around town, and Brandon himself of H.A.M assured me that I would love it.  Indeed I did!  SO glad I bought this sauce!  I couldn't stop eating it off the spoon all by itself as I was simmering it.  My husband also loved it.  Thank you Amy!
You can also find some great durum semolina tagliatelle at H.A.M.  It cooks to al dente in 4 minutes.  If you choose to cook it longer, the glycemic index increases.

  • Pasta
  • Bonta Toscana Sauce
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage in bulk
  • Asiago cheese 
  • Chives
  1. Roll small meatballs out of the Italian sausage.  Place onto a parchment lined pan.  Cook 15 - 20 minutes at 400 degrees.
  2. Simmer the sauce in a large saucepan.
  3. Cook the pasta per package instructions until al dente then drain.
  4. Combine the pasta with sauce, top with meatballs, and garnish with asiago & chives.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Hive at 21c Bentonville, AR

The Hive is the best restaurant in Arkansas.  So I was told by my friend David who happens to be an Associate Editor of the Arkansas Times, where I work.  David wrote all about The Hive in one of our biggest issues of the year, known around the office and by our publisher as the annual restaurant issue, where we release the results of our Readers Choice of the best in food in our distribution area as well as Around the State.  So, The Hive garnered 12 awards Around the State - more than any other single restaurant in Arkansas.  I was intrigued.

I also had read an article about The Hive on Bourbon & Boots written by Kevin Shalin of The Mighty Rib who you can always follow on Facebook & Twitter for great food news & fun if you enjoy participating in guessing games and laughing in general.  His opinion in food is highly respectable.

Then I saw a beautiful Berkshire Pork Chop on the cover of Arkansas Life.  I made my way back up to the Northwest Arkansas area after a 6 year hiatus.  I'd frequented the area regularly as a pharmaceutical sales rep on an every other week rotation.  But I had not traveled there for business in quite some time.  Because we had a new statewide publication to tell everyone about, I had the pleasure of eating around the area while I spent time with business owners as I discussed local food and farming. 

It was just last Tuesday night when I made it into The Hive.  I was exhausted after a long day of work, and I really wanted to go back to my hotel room and unwind after my 4:30 appointment at Tusk & Trotter with owner and chef Rob Nelson.  But Chef Rob told me I needed to check out The Hive.

I was delighted with the outcome:  every person I encountered made me happy to be there.  There was a hostess at the door to greet me with a smile.  She showed me to the bar where I was instantly acknowledged by the bartender.  He was busy, but he immediately made his way over when he could.  

When dinner service began, I was shown to a table.  My server was impeccably sweet and attentive.  I even received a table greet from the Executive Chef Matthew McClure, and I was able to congratulate him on making it to the semifinals of the James Beard Foundation for Best Chef in the South.  What an incredible accomplishment!  I also had a manager stop by my table at the beginning of my meal as well as the end of my meal to make sure everything was going well & I was happy.  
I really enjoyed the asparagus salad with quark, fennel, and country ham.  I had never had quark before, and it was really good.  It was a soft, delicate cheese that I wanted more of.  I love getting introduced to new things that taste so good.  The salad was perfectly dressed, a perfect representation of spring on a plate. 
Next, housemade ricotta cavatelli arrived to my table.  It had been a long day of eating, tasting, and drinking my way from Fayetteville back to Bentonville.  But this was by far better than anything else I'd had all day.  
Then I had the Gulf shrimp with rice grits, pureed collards, fennel, andouille, and red cabbage.  First of all, it was a work of art.  It perfectly complemented the surroundings of its host the 21c Museum Hotel which is full of works of art.  The entree was delicious and it was all I had room left for - no surprise if you know me....I'm not a big dessert person.

Something about all these great people in this restaurant, the charming atmosphere, and this astonishing food really wooed me.  It was as if someone told everyone to be really nice to everyone who enters The Hive, keep the place looking great always, and keep food standards high.  I think more eateries in Arkansas could do the same.      

My last thought as I left The Hive.....  

I agree.  

It is the best restaurant in Arkansas.  

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Good Food By Ferneau

Over a week ago, on a Monday, I got a call from my friend Chef Donnie Ferneau who was super excited about launching his new business Good Food By Ferneau.  I've known Chef Ferneau for many years now- I'd gotten to know him through his famous table visits while dining in his establishment Ferneau frequently, during 4 or 5 of my birthday celebrations, acknowledging it as my favorite restaurant in Little Rock for many years.  After Donnie left Rocket 21, we hosted a series of cooking demonstrations modeled after the cooking classes he held at Kitchenco. before it closed.  I had always enjoyed attending the classes, and when I found a new perfect kitchen where he could do them again, we partnered in bringing fun to the Little Rock foodie community again with our own classes.

He's a nationally and locally acclaimed chef, instrumental in projects including the No Kid Hungry cause, appearing at celebrity events with people like Eva Longoria, and many other important things that I can't currently name.  There was something involving Johnny Depp...  He has also taken time to visit my daughter's public elementary school to address the importance of eating good food to feed your mind and to tell the students how he would be in Washington addressing Congress for better school meals for them.  He also joined my kids and brother in law on a day to create over 300 sack lunches to hand out to the homeless at Friendly Chapel on a hot summer day.  He's a good friend.  His girlfriend Meaghan is also a wonderful person and an integral part of this new business!   
You can pick up some lean protein dishes from Good Food - they come with complex carbs that are good for your metabolism.  This is a tasty, lean chicken dish that I enjoyed the first week.  Check out the web site and Facebook page for current specials!  The prices are quite reasonable and you can feel good about yourself the rest of the day!  Or until your next meal. Whatever you choose it to be.
Salads are another available perfect lunch option!  And these are packed just right with the dressing aside and roasted chicken available to add.  Available Mon. - Fri. 11 am - 2 pm $8 per salad and $3 more for the chicken.  
This past Monday night, just a week after Good Food By Ferneau started, Donnie & Meaghan hosted their first Pop Up Dinner in their location right behind the old Ferneau location.  I believe they had 35 people attend, and we were able to taste 4 courses of their gluten free, sugar free dishes for just $25 BYOB.  I was mostly impressed with the squash spaghetti because I've never made it on my own, and it was something new that I've never had that I discovered I loved!  There will be more Pop UP Dinners, so follow on Facebook to keep up with the news: