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The Eat Blog

News and notes on food, fine dining, restaurants and eating in Arkansas. A daily digest of favorite flavors leavened with your comments. E-mail tips and feedback to InArkansas.com Associate Editor Lauren James here.
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July Brings New Cooking Classes to Kitchen Co.

Learn how to make the best use of summer produce at a cooking class at Kitchen Co.

Too hot to cook? Get inspired by attending a cooking class at Kitchen Co.'s in-store kitchen. There's a maximum of 12 participants per class.

If you are unable to attend your class, you may send someone in your place or with 48-hour cancellation notice you may transfer your registration to another class.

Here's the schedule:

  • 6-8 p.m. July 20: Chicken Parmesan taught by Brandon Douglas, $39.95
  • 6-8 p.m. July 21: Seafood taught by Karol Zoeller, $39.95
  • 6-8 p.m. July 22: Taco Heaven taught by Jason Knapp, $39.95
  • 10 a.m.-noon July 24: Kids cooking class taught by Mary Ann Page, $29.95

To see photos from previous cooking classes click here. 

Red Blends Tasting at Crush Wine Bar

Crush Wine Bar, 318 Main St., North Little Rock, will be tasting red blends from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Monday (July 12). Cost is $10 (cash or check only, please).

Red blends, says Joseph St. Ana of Crush Wine Bar, are one of those rare items in the wide world of wine that aren't complicated -- they're simply a blend of different grapes. Here are a few of the different grapes used to make a bottle of Red Blend:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Zinfandel
  • Syrah
  • Cinsault
  • Sangiovese
  • Carignane

Mixing the flavor characteristics of two, three or more different grapes makes for a completely new drinking experience for anyone who has never tried a red blend wine before, St. Ana says.

For more information click here.

Vino's Plans A.M. Watch Party for Tour de France

Lance Armstrong and his RadioShack cycling team are competing in the 2010 Tour de France.

Vino's is celebrating the annual Tour de France bicycling race with a breakfast viewing party on Saturday (July 10). Doors open at 7:45 a.m., and the race starts at 8 a.m.

Enjoy breakfast pizzas (eggs, ham, cheddar cheese, red onion, bell peppers) and rosemary potatoes, coffee and mimosas while watching the race on all of Vino's TVs including the 80-inch projection screen. 

For more information click here.

Tapas and Wine Tasting at Diversion Tuesday

Enjoy three new tapas dishes as well as three wines at Diversion.

Try something a little different from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday (July 6) at Diversion, 2611 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock. Along with a wine tasting of Roaring Meg Pinot Noir, Novella Synergy and Gemtree Shiraz for $10, you can add a tapas plate with a sampling of three new items  -- Duck Breast Prosciutto, Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin and Beef Carpaccio -- that compliment the wines for another $10. 

 Call (501) 414-0409 for more information.

 

Which Restaurants Offer Gluten-Free Menus?

People with gluten intolerances, including those with celiac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis and gluten sensitivities, know that preparing gluten-free food is more than just leaving out flour, wheat, barley, oat or rye ingredients or derivatives.

Click here to see Gluten Free in Central Arkansas' list of restaurants offering gluten-free choices. There's also a list of stores that offer gluten-free shopping.

To learn more about Gluten Intolerance Group click here. 

Herbs And Supplements May Help You Focus

Challenging yourself may help maintain mental function. 

It's hard to concentrate on these steamy summer days. Delicious Living Magazine suggests the following herbs and supplements to improve focus and mental clarity:

B complex -- Recent research shows that supplementing with B vitamins can decrease the risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia

Bacopa monnieri -- may help prevent memory loss and alleviate stress

Magnesium -- helps support healthy nerve and enzyme fucntion for improved focus

Ginkgo biloba -- its antioxidants help prevent cognitive damage

To read the entire story click here. 

For more information on natural ways to maintain mental function click here. 

Edgeware Mandoline Slicer: A Must For Serious Chefs

Edgeware Mandoline Slicer

Even the most dedicated cooks will admit that slicing and prepping ingredients are the least exciting aspects of preparing a dish. Smith's Edgeware, based in Hot Springs, makes food prep a pleasure instead of a chore with a high-performance mandoline slicer.

The Edgeware Mandoline Slicer ($179.99) features sturdy cast aluminum frame construction and includes a precision adjustment mechanism that allows users to cut foods in thicknesses from paper-thin to 9.5mm with the simple turn of a knob.

Five interchangeable surgical-grade specialty blades offer cuts from waffle to julienne and streamline virtually all slicing tasks, including a V blade made from German steel that neatly slices the most delicate of foods. A six-pronged Safety Grip Food Holder ensures safe slicing while allowing greater freedom and agility with 360-degree angle control. Cleanup is easy with dishwasher-safe construction.

Here's what Matt Fuller, chef and owner of Central Park Fusion Cuisine in Hot Springs, has to say about the product: 'We are finding the Edgeware Mandoline Slicer to have stellar performance. Collectively the chefs at Central Park Fusion have used close to a dozen different commercial quality mandolins over the years. The new Edgeware Mandolin surpasses anything we’ve used in the past. Insanely sharp, easy to use, and easy to clean. We are now spoiled! If you know anyone that in the market for a used Bron Mandolin they can mine for free. I don’t think anyone in the kitchen will touch it now that we have the Edgeware Mandolin. Thanks for making such a quality product.'

To purchase online click here. For more information call (800) 221-4156. Edgeware will be available at Williams Sonoma in August.

Smith’s also designs and manufacture of the broadest line of knife and scissors sharpeners currently available including manual and electrical sharpeners ranging from simple to sophisticated. The sharpeners incorporates a wide variety of abrasive materials including diamond, carbide, ceramic, bonded synthetic abrasives and natural Arkansas stones.

Watermelon: Back to the Rind

Watermelon is summer's most perfect fruit.

No matter how you slice it (or season it), watermelon is summer's most perfect fruit. It's hydrating during the hottest season of the year and it's full of needed vitamins and minerals. Plus, it's just plain delicious! 

Some of our fondest memories are of sitting outside on a balmy summer evening devouring ice-cold slices of homegrown watermelon. The mouthwatering scent of fresh watermelon still evokes those memories, whether we're eating it around the table, at our desk, or at an outdoor festival. Watermelon is more than just a succulent summer fruit though; it’s chock full of nutrients and vitamins. And since it's grown all over Arkansas, local melons abound. We strolled down to the Little Rock Farmers' Market to check out the local melon scene.

Here's what we found.

• Rumor has it that Cave City produces the sweetest watermelons in the state. See for yourself! Visit Mike Whitney, also at the Little Rock Farmers’ Market, and try out one of his Cave City watermelons.

• Watermelons are 92% water.

• In 1990, Bill Carson of Arrington, Tenn., grew the largest watermelon at 262 pounds that is still on the record books.

It's Good For You

• Low in fat and calories: Watermelon is naturally low in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol. Two cups of diced watermelon contains 80 calories and 0g of fat and saturated fat.

• Lycopene: According to the National Watermelon Promotion Board, watermelons are the “Lycopene Leader” in fresh produce, having higher concentrations of lycopene than any other fresh fruit or vegetable. Lycopene is an antioxidant that has been shown to help guard against cancer-causing free radicals.

• Heart health: According to a 2007 study by the United States Department of Agriculture, watermelon consumption increases free arginine and citruline, which can help maintain the arteries and blood flow.

• Vitamin A: Found in watermelon, this vitamin is important for optimal eye health.

• Vitamin C: Helps support immune system defenses against infections and viruses, as well as free radical damage.

• Potassium: A two-cup serving of watermelon has 10 percent of the daily reference value for potassium, a mineral necessary for water balance in the cells.

Receipe Without Rind

Watermelon, toasted jalapeno and shrimp pico de gallo
(courtesy of the National Watermelon Promotion Board, Watermelon.org)

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced seeded jalapeno
3 tablespoons minced fresh shallot
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Juice from 3 fresh limes
2 cups minced watermelon
2 cups chopped, cooked and cooled,
 peeled and deveined shrimp
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup diced roasted red pepper
Ground black pepper to taste

Instructions:
Heat the oil in a heavy non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Sauté the jalapeno, shallots, and garlic until golden and toasted around the edges.  Remove from heat and add soy sauce and cumin. Cool.  Scrape the cooled ingredients into a bowl and toss with lime juice, watermelon, shrimp, parsley and roasted pepper. Season with pepper to taste. Serve with chips and margaritas, fish tacos or atop grilled salmon. Serves 6 to 8.

Melon Camps
Watermelon festivals in the city, or just a short drive away

31st annual Cave City Watermelon Festival
This festival, in the city that claims to have the “sweetest watermelons,” offers free entry.
Thursday, August 12-Saturday, August 14
City Park, 1033 N. Main, Cave City
Charles Landers, (870) 283-5959, CaveCityArkansas.info

Hope Watermelon Festival
Thursday, August 12-Saturday, August 14
Fair Park, Hope
Mark Keith, (870) 777-3640; HopeMelonFest.com, HopeMelonFest@yahoo.com

Whole Foods Watermelon Fest
A free event, featuring ice-cold watermelon slices and more.
11 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday, July 3
Whole Foods Market,
10700 N. Rodney Parham  
312-2326, WholeFoodsMarket.com

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About The Author
What’s new in shopping, the arts, music, travel, fun parties and delicious food in Arkansas? Let Lauren James of InArkansas.com be your guide. An avid shopper, traveler and lover of everything-arts-related, she will show you the best of what Arkansas has to offer. Make InArkansas.com your go-to spot every day to learn the latest in entertainment, dining, attractions, activities and more.
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