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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 Associate Editor Lauren James here.
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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,

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

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,

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

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  

Craws for a Cause

The annual crawfish boil, Craws for a Cause, benefited Baptist Health’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and was held at Dickey Stephens Park.

The annual crawfish boil, Craws for a Cause, benefited Baptist Health’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and was held at Dickey Stephens Park.

Wine Tasting: The Art of the Glass

Georg Riedel

Would we like to sip wine? Absolutely. Would we like to meet Georg Riedel? Certainly. Would we like to learn more about wine glasses? Well, sure. But what we got in exchange for our R.S.V.P. was much more than imagined.

We arrived early and sneeked a peek at the room setup. Each place was set with four different glasses atop a paper placemat marked with numbers and letters. We took a seat at the front of the room to get the best photographs of our presenter, who arrived and made his way to the front of the room amidst applause.

Riedel began by pointing out that drinking is one of the most natural actions. “If you are not smart enough to drink, you will not survive.” With that, he instructed us to nose, swirl and sip the Riesling from the Riesling Grand Cru glass. It was sweet and delicious and smelled of fruits. Riedel then told us to pour it out into a plastic cup and take a whiff. Surprise registered throughout the room in audible “wows.” The nose, which had formerly been bright and strong, was completely dead. I smelled nothing. And then when I sipped it, the flavors were off.

Riedel explained that glasses are made a certain way to complement specific wines. The Riesling Grand Cru glass, for instance, is tall and tapered slightly toward the top. Among other reasons, the glass is made this way to make the drinker tilt his head back farther, forcing the wine to hit the palate in a certain spot. When Riesling hits the palate any other way, the flavor, the nose and even the mouth feel is different.

The same goes for the Chardonnay we drank later in the Montrachet glass. This glass has a very round, bell-like bowl, allowing the wine to enter the mouth in a broader stream. We were taken with how buttery and smooth the wine felt and tasted in this glass.

Pinot Noir was next, and it was served in a Pinot Noir glass with the exact same bowl as the Montrachet, but taller and with a curved lip. It tasted perfectly delightful in the glass in which it was meant to be served, but bitter in the Montrachet glass.

We finished with a Cabernet Sauvignon in the Cabernet Sauvignon glass. Full-bodied and rich in berry flavors in the Cab glass, the tannins were discordant in the Pinot Noir glass and downright foul in the Montrachet glass.

Experiment complete, we noshed on hors d’oeuvres created by Capital Hotel Chef Lee Richardson, while Riedel outlined his top four ways to increase wine pleasure.

• Select good company with which to drink.

• Serve wine at the proper temperature; white not too cold, reds slightly chilled.

* Decant wines. The flavors of most wines improve when decanted.

• Pick varietal specific glasses. You need five total glasses to cover it all: two whites and three reds.

To get the full experience like us, you can purchase Riedel glasses at the following locations: Kitchen Co. in Pleasant Ridge Town Center, 11525 Cantrell Road, Ste. 910, 663-3338,; Eggshells, 5705 Kavanaugh Blvd., 664-6900,; or Fifth Season, 10020 North Rodney Parham, (877) 440-0543.

Farmers Market Recipes Encourage Healthy Eating

Certified Arkansas Farmers Markets will open April 17 in downtown North Little Rock and Searcy.

These suggestions from chef Michel Nischan, author of Sustainably Delicious, are tasty ways to get us to eat better.

Nischan, owner of  Dressing Room in Westport, Conn., and the creator of Wholesome Wave, a program to help underserved communities gain access to local food, has a simple philosophy: Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables from small farmers and you'll do OK. 

Central Arkansas markets include River Market Farmers Market, 400 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock, open 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays, Certified Arkansas Farmers Market, 521 Main St., North Little Rock, open 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays, Searcy Farmers Market, Spring Park, Searcy, open 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays, and Jacksonville Farmers Market, 9 Municipal Drive, Jacksonville, open 6 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays. 

Here are some of his recipes that appear in the July 2010 issue of Food & Wine:

Fresh Shell Bean and Tomato Stew (six servings)

  • Three cups fresh cranberry beans (from three pounds in the shell)
  • 1 quart water
  • 2 garlic cloves halved
  • 2 thyme springs plus 1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • Pince of baking soda
  • 1 pound tomatoes, diced (a good use for perfectly delicious but less beautiful tomatoes often sold for less at farmers markets)
  • 1 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Salt

In a saucepan, combine the beans, water, garlic, thyme sprigs and baking soda and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until the beans are tender, around 30 minutes.

Drain the beans, reserving 1 1/2 cups of cooking liquid in the saucepan. Discard the garlic and thyme sprigs. Add the beans and tomatoes. Simmer over moderate heat until the tomatoes are hot, about two minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter. Add the thyme leaves and season with salt, then serve.

Instant Tomato Sauce: Chop overripe tomatoes and cook with a small pat of butter and fresh herbs until soft. Toss with pasta.

Peach and Fennel Slaw: Mix thinly sliced fennel with vinegar and salt. Add sliced peaches, flat-leaf parsley, tarragon and fresh lemon zest and toss again.

Raw Corn Salad: Cut fresh corn kernels off the cob and toss with cilantro leaves, shaved white onion and fresh lime juice.

Tomato-Avocado Spread: Coaresly chop varied heirloom tomatoes and smash in a bowl with a ripe avocado and sliced scallions. Season with salt and spread on crusty bread.

There's More on the Menu at Maddie's Place

Maddie's Place chef/owner Brian Deloney is celebrating his funky, friendly restaurant's 18-month anniversary by adding a bunch of appealing items to the formerly short, sweet menu. 

New appetizers: House Smoked Salmon Dip with grilled pita bread chips, $6

Spicy Boiled Shrimp with homemade cocktail sauce, $7

Lump Crab Cakes with chile lime butter sauce and cilantro crema, $9

New po-boys: Ham and Cheese, Spicy Chicken, Pulled Pork, each $7

New entrees: Spicy Shrimp Boil with andouille, corn and potatoes, $16

Mississippi Catfish with slow-cooked greens, blackeyed peas and Creole tomato glaze, $15

Fish Tacos with cilantro lime slaw, chipotle aioli and fresh tomato relish, $10

Panned Pork lion with cornbread pudding, smothered green beans and homemade Worchestershire, $15

To see the full menu click here. 

Maddie's is open from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. For more information call (501) 660-4040.

ACAC's Membership Picnic, Dance Party Today

Arkansas Community Arts Cooperative will hold a membership appreciation picnic from 4-7 p.m. today at Allsopp Park softball field at the corner of Cantrell Road and Cedar Hill Road in Little Rock.

Enjoy a kickball game, hot dogs and drinks. Admission is free.

Not a member? This is a good opportunity to become a supporter of community art and find out more of what the Arkansas Community Arts Co-op is about. Volunteer membership is free if you lend your time to the organization. Contributor membership is $20 a year and Sustainer membership is a bank draft of at least 5$ a month. Learn more by clicking here

After the picnic, the ACAC presents Dance 'til You Disintegrate, a dance party fund-raiser for ACAC's Fashion Exhibition coming in July. DJs Cameron Holifield and Michael Inscoe will supply the music, and there will be a dance contest with prizes. It'll be held from 8 p.m.-1 a.m. at The Union, 3421 Old Cantrell Road. Admission is $3 for members, $5 for others. You must be  18 or over to attend. 

For more information call (501) 244-2979.

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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 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 your go-to spot every day to learn the latest in entertainment, dining, attractions, activities and more.
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