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Opening a hotel restaurant in Arkansas:


cdabney
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Arkansas?

The Natural State. Home of Walmart, the Microplane and Bill Clinton. Often referred to as The Bastard Southern State, Arkansas is a very overlooked mecca of untapped culinary wealth. Almost anything can be be grown in Arkansas.

This wealth of local products was one of the resons I moved to Little Rock. I had just left Blackberry Farm in TN to be closer to my aging parents and Little Rock seemed to be my best bet. I had known of the Capital Hotel but was not too excited about it until I heard about the renovations and the new Ex Chef Lee Richardson. Lee had left his post at Restaurant August in New Orleans after Katrina and moved to Arkansas, not only for the quality of life Little Rock offers but also to be a part of this amazing re-opening.

A few months after I was hired a few more sous chef came on board: Travis McConnell from the Four Seasons Jackson Hole, Matt McClure from Harvest in Cambridge and Brian Deloney from Delmonico Steakhouse in Vegas. We're off to a good start.

Over the next few weeks we will be documenting this opening and introducing everyone to Arkanasas.

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The Moltini

http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/11863867..._4966_18557.jpg

The Mezzanine

Enjoy!

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Arkansas has always been on my radar screen, my family owns a farm south of El Dorado that I've often thought about putting to crop use(Its a tree farm). And wouldn't you know it, but I grew up in Maryville and actually had interviewed w/ John for a chef d'cuisine position a short while back.

I'm curious about the restaurant scene there in LR. Up and comming? Where do the cooks go for a bite? The hotel looks great by the way.

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I am so excited about you starting this. My husband and I lived in Little Rock from 2000-2006. After college, I worked for a publishing company located on the corner of Second and Scott and my first working breakfast meeting was held at the Capital. I am sure the Stephens family is doing a first class job on the hotel (at least with that kind of money they should).

I love living in Shreveport, but I think Little Rock has a much more exciting restuarant scene. Some of our favoirtes were SO, Faded Rose, Flying Fish, Sekisui and Whole Hog. (an eclectic group)

I can't wait to see your kichen come together. My husband still goes up there for business and I would love to dine in your resturant when it opens.

Preach not to others what they should eat, but eat as becomes you and be silent. Epicetus

Amanda Newton

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I had a Sunday Brunch once at the old Capital probably 5 years ago. I had been in LR to visit my brother who was helping build a power plant on the south side. Now I only pass through on my way to New Orleans. I guess I will have to plan a trip for when you all get the hotel and the new restaurant open. LR is doable for me and I sometimes relish a weekend excursion for food. Just ask the guys up in KCMO. I will keep my eye on this thread for announcements.

I agree that Arkansas is an amazing place, I love Fayetteville and Eureka Springs and Hot Springs is on my list. I sort of like Heber Springs, parts of it are disconcerting though, The Red Apple Inn is a great place to get away. And the bakery in Leslie, I don't remember the name, killer bread. Another place Idon't remember the name of is in Lake Village. Oh, and one of my favorite music festivals happens in Helena in Oct.

Good on for you guys and keep us informed.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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And I'm just up the road in Springfield, MO. I love rattling around through the Ozark mountains in northern Arkansas. Beautiful country.

I'll stop by to say hey, too, when y'all get goin' good.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Big day today.

Most of the morning was dedicated to buying all the figs at the Farmers Market and three cases of peaches.All that needs to be canned ASAP. Canning party tonight at Travis's house..I'll bring the jars and some wine!

After the farmers market I ran up to Beebe to an organic dairy farm.

Wish they could sell us some milk, but they don't process any.

Pics will be posted soon!

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Hello fellow gullets,..

I'm Travis McConnell, part of the CDabney Arkansas Hotel opening.

I've just come on board and I gotta say the moonpies and the molteni were the selling points of this place. Tonights where the marmalade is coming into play, as CDabney posted before. Peaches, Figs, and some wine for our gullets.

I've come from traveling around and cooking, and whats going on here with this hotel and Chef Lee is going to be awesome. The southern philosophy, slow food, local mentality is where its at. So with that said there will be plenty more pics and daily accounts of this project. From getting our first side of beef in, to going to the market to buy all the figs on a table.

TMcConnell

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Arkansas has always been on my radar screen, my family owns a farm south of El Dorado that I've often thought about putting to crop use(Its a tree farm). And wouldn't you know it, but I grew up in Maryville and actually had interviewed w/ John for a chef d'cuisine position a short while back.

I'm curious about the restaurant scene there in LR. Up and comming? Where do the cooks go for a bite? The hotel looks great by the way.

I left "The Farm" a few months before Fleer. Great guy!

As for Little Rock..a few places are cropping up around town..Ferneau is on the Top of my list.

Hillcrest is up and coming in the restaurant scene. Quite a few good places to eat there.

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Well, this is all good news to me. I'll be retiring in about 18-24 months from the Bay Area to Mountain Home, AR. One of my big fears has been the food scene. I'm originally from New Orleans, then to the SF Bay area, so I'v never wanted for great food. Does anyone know how far it is from Little Rock to Mountain Home?

Just a simple southern lady lost out west...

"Leave Mother in the fridge in a covered jar between bakes. No need to feed her." Jackal10

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Well, this is all good news to me.  I'll be retiring in about 18-24 months from the Bay Area to Mountain Home, AR.  One of my big fears has been the food scene.  I'm originally from New Orleans, then to the SF Bay area, so I'v never wanted for great food.  Does anyone know how far it is from Little Rock to Mountain Home?

Yeah you've definitly been in some great food meccas. We can only hope someday that Little Rock will be on the culinary map. As to your question Mt. Home is about 2 1/2 hours from here. In the fall a nice drive I'm sure.

Once your up and running you gotta come check us out!

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Well, this is all good news to me.  I'll be retiring in about 18-24 months from the Bay Area to Mountain Home, AR.  One of my big fears has been the food scene.  I'm originally from New Orleans, then to the SF Bay area, so I'v never wanted for great food.  Does anyone know how far it is from Little Rock to Mountain Home?

Lordy. New Orleans to the SF Bay area to Mountain Home, AR. There must be a story there.

:laugh:

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Hi,

I grew up in Arkansas, left in '88 and spent a little time back in 2004. Culinarily it is between 15-20 yrs behind the west coast, IMHO. The restaurant business anywhere is not for the faint of heart. My grandparents opened the FIRST mexican restaurant in Hot Springs in 1969 and had to educate the public back then as to what Tex-Mex was. The restaurant is still open and owned by my family (37 yrs in the restaurant business is an AMAZING run I think---plus some of the original employees are even still there...Stop into Taco Pronto In Hot Springs if you get a chance). One plus...you will have some of the worlds best produce to work with. I have some land there and would love to do herbs/heirloom produce eventually.

I guess my point is to educate people gently, most Arkansans are not idiots, are very friendly and receptive and like most of the human race, hate being talked down to. I wish you all the best.

That being said, I toyed with the idea of opening up a catering biz there and people are really interested in expanding their horizons food wise.

To the poster moving to Mountain Home...it is a ways from LR. Not much happening up there. You can (literally) hear the grass grow. Fabulous garage sales there though and don't miss the Farmers Market in the summer at city hall/town square. Amazing produce. :biggrin:

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Well, this is all good news to me.  I'll be retiring in about 18-24 months from the Bay Area to Mountain Home, AR.  One of my big fears has been the food scene.  I'm originally from New Orleans, then to the SF Bay area, so I'v never wanted for great food.  Does anyone know how far it is from Little Rock to Mountain Home?

Here is a place you might go ask about what to expect in that part of Arkansas. I know there is some seriouls BBQ in those parts.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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Late night canning.

The peach butter is awsome!

Here are a few more pics of the kitchen.

First is the blast chiller. I had heard of these before but like sasquatch, no one has seen one. Take a look.gallery_52871_4966_15719.jpggallery_52871_4966_102189.jpgThis is the Molteni in place.

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Late night canning.

The peach butter is awsome!

So, cdabney, when we show up, do we get a kitchen tour?

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Well, this is all good news to me.  I'll be retiring in about 18-24 months from the Bay Area to Mountain Home, AR.  One of my big fears has been the food scene.  I'm originally from New Orleans, then to the SF Bay area, so I'v never wanted for great food.  Does anyone know how far it is from Little Rock to Mountain Home?

Lordy. New Orleans to the SF Bay area to Mountain Home, AR. There must be a story there.

:laugh:

:laugh: Lets just say I definitely dance to the beat of a different (maybe crazy) drummer. :biggrin: Stories....? Son, I could tell you a few! :raz:

Just a simple southern lady lost out west...

"Leave Mother in the fridge in a covered jar between bakes. No need to feed her." Jackal10

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cajungirl, I just moved to Calico Rock, a hop south of Mountain Home. It's about 3 hours drive to Little Rock from MH. As for dining, MH is the closest "town" to me, and I have been very dissapointed in the choices and quality of the food. I come from Wash. State, and spent last summer in NOLA, (awsome food ops there, btw). You will most likely be going to Little Rock or Branson mo. to do your shopping and dining. It is a stunning drive tho, and wonderful place to live.

cbdabney, I am truly looking forward to my next trip to LR, and visiting your place, sounds like it will be fantastic!

Brenda

I whistfully mentioned how I missed sushi. Truly horrified, she told me "you city folk eat the strangest things!", and offered me a freshly fried chitterling!

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hot, muggy, humid,... frieken' hot downtown Little Rock in August.

We did an executive lunch today for the execs who are the financial backbone of one Arkansas Hotel. We're doing these lunches every Thurs. and they are a good way to play around with the potential dishes of Ashley's ( the upper scale restaurant of the Hotel). This was my third one and CDabney has been doing these for six months and is the one who knows their eating carictatures.

Its our only real time to cook a dining experience. Its basically catering for eight once a week. We're trying to show them that using local, Arkansas products can be guality and refined,..kickass southern food. Also using an Old School Southern mentality and reconcepting these staple dishes into something new and exciting. So actually by the time it gets to them they may not realize that their grandmother was doing the same thing, just different methods and presentation. These are exectuive, non-foodie, suits, with the funds to back our kitchen projects, they needed to be lovin' it.

So on todays menu we started with cheese-straws and wedged Arkansas Heirloom tomatoes. A nice and simple start to the meal. The entrees was seared, airline chicken breast with a warm potato and bitter green salad. The final dish,..dessert was a cornmeal pound cake with peach caramel and lemon creme fraiche.

Keep in mind all of this is made from scratch from our little office kitchen, where other (non culinarians) come in for morning coffee or something out of our little fridges. Then we ice chest it all up and walk a few blocks over the corporate building and serve it up,(no cooking allowed here because they don't like the smell of food??)

ALright one day in the life of a hotel opening,...

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

Yes, give us an update. And maybe a menu if you can. Little Rock is great for a weekend getaway for me.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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Golly. A thread about Arkansas. I'd be interested to learn about the sort of bread baking going on in Little Rock. Anything besides chain bread places? We keep toying with the idea of relocating back to Arkansas some day, and I'm wondering whether there's a place for artisan bread bakers there.

I grew up in Mountain Home (originally, family was from Chicago and I moved back later to go to school and then stayed for 25 years). Mtn. Home has changed considerably since I left for Chicago, but not enough to include anything that might be considered a truly fine restaurant. My father had what used to be one of the better restaurants in the town many many years ago. People actually lined up out the door on the weekends, and it was a fairly roomy place. The restaurants are decidedly average there. You'll have to travel a long distance for truly good dining.

Devlin

The Village Bakery

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