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The Soiree Blog

At the parties, in the trenches, behind the lines. An inside look at shops, food and fun from the editors of Little Rock Soirée.
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Potbelly Sandwich Shop Coming to Little Rock

If you’ve ever had a sandwich from Potbelly, you may have already combusted upon reading the headline.

Owner Ryan Hamra confirms Potbelly Sandwich Shop is coming to midtown this fall! Opening at Park Avenue, 314 South University, St. 160, the sandwich chain offers a variety of sandwiches that are all served hot. Aside from delicious sandwiches, the menu will also feature soup, shakes, malts and smoothies.  

With locations in more than 20 states, this will be the first Potbelly in Arkansas. 

Click here to take a look at the full menu. 

We can't wait!

Taste of Tuesday: Spring Treats

Blueberries, which are abundant in Arkansas now, are easy to freeze for use later in the year.

This spring weather has us feeling inspired to find new, fresh ingredients and recipes! 

Here are some refreshing spring time treats we thought you might find enjoyable. Both recipes — for lemon-blueberry yogurt cake with lemon cream and chai-spiced banana cream pie — come to us from the Kitchn Blog

Lemon-Blueberry Yogurt Cake with Lemon Cream

The ingredients:

-For the cake

•1 cup all-purpose flour

•1/2 teaspoon baking powder

•1/2 teaspoon baking soda

•1/4 teaspoon salt

•2/3 cup granulated sugar

•Zest of one lemon (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)

•1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened

•1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

•1 large egg

•1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (whole or 2%)

•1/4 cup milk

•1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (no need to thaw)

•1 1/2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

-For the lemon cream

•1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

•2 tablespoons store-bought lemon curd

The process:

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in the middle. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Flour the sides.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Place the granulated sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl. Using your fingers, rub the zest into the sugar until it is the texture of damp sand and smells like lemon candy. Add the butter and beat in a stand mixer or with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and the egg. Add the yogurt and beat well.

At low speed, beat in half the flour mixture until just combined. Then beat in the milk and remaining flour mixture.

Spread batter evenly in the pan. Scatter berries over top and sprinkle evenly with turbinado sugar.

Bake until cake is golden-brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a rack and cool for 10-15 more minutes. Remove parchment and invert onto a plate.

Meanwhile, using an electric mixer or immersion blender with a whisk attachment, beat cream and lemon curd on high speed until creamy, smooth and thick. It should be about the consistency of regular yogurt. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Serve cake warm or at room temperature, dolloped with lemon cream.

Chai-Spiced Banana Cream Pie

The ingredients:

•1 9-inch Butter Pie Crust (1/3 of this recipe)
•5 large egg yolks, divided
•2 1/2 cups whole milk
•3/4 cup granulated sugar
•4 tablespoons cornstarch
•1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
•12 cardamom pods, crushed
•8 whole cloves
•2 cinnamon sticks
•1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
•Pinch allspice
•Few grinds black pepper, optional
•2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
•1 teaspoon vanilla extract
•4 medium-sized ripe bananas, peeled and cut on the bias into 1/4-inch-thick slices
•3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
•2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
•Pinch ground cinnamon, to top
•Pinch nutmeg, to top

The process:

Prepare pie shell: Roll pie dough into a 12-inch circle about ¼-inch thick and fit it into a 9-inch pie plate. Leave 1-inch of overhang (if there's a great deal of overhang, trim), then fold edges of the dough under and crimp.

Pre-bake the crust: Preheat the oven to 400°F, and using a fork, lightly prick the bottom of the crust. Take a sheet of aluminum foil and layer it on top of the pie crust, gently nudging it down so it's snug on the bottom and the sides. Fill the foil-covered crust with dried beans or pie weights to hold it in place. Bake for 25 minutes or until edges of the crust turn light golden. Remove from the oven, and remove pie weights/beans and foil. Brush the crust with 1 egg yolk to create a moisture seal (prevents sogginess). Decrease the oven temperature to 350°F, and place pie shell back in the oven to fully bake, an additional 12-15 minutes more or until completely dried out and golden brown.

Make the filling: In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 4 egg yolks and set aside (use a larger bowl than you think you need as you'll add the milk to the bowl later). In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the milk, sugar, cornstarch, salt, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and black pepper. Bring to a simmer (don't let it come to a full boil). Cook, whisking constantly, for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Strain the milk mixture through a sieve over a bowl, and discard the solids.

Prepare an ice bath by filling your largest bowl or pan with ice water.

Slowly whisk 1/3 of the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Whisk in the remaining milk. Pour back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat until the custard thickens and small bubbles begin appearing in the center, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in the butter and vanilla extract. Transfer the custard to a medium bowl and set it in ice bath until completely chilled, 35 to 40 minutes. After it's cooled, give the custard a quick whisk to break up any skin that may have formed on top.

Put together the pie: Arrange the sliced bananas inside the pre-baked crust (I like to work in concentric circles)--it's okay if they overlap. Spoon custard over the bananas and smooth it into an even layer.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine heavy cream and confectioners' sugar and beat on high until it thickens into soft peaks, 2-3 minutes. Spread the whipped cream on top of the pie evenly. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until completely set. Garnish with sprinkled cinnamon and nutmeg if you'd like. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers for 2-3 days.

For more sweet treat recipes, click here.

KABF's 'Movies in the Garden' Slated for May 9

Image by Michael Pirnique

The Bernice Garden in SoMa

Save the date!

On Friday, May 9, grab your lawn chair and some popcorn for a movie screening at Bernice Garden in SoMa.

Station KABF 88.3 is presenting a special "Movies in the Garden" event with a free showing of "Weird Science" at sundown and live vinyl DJ sets by Bryan Frazier, Nathan Howdeshell, Chris Terry, Seth Baldy and Mike Poe.

Enjoy a wine tasting, a brewski and some grub from one of several food trucks that will be lined up outside the garden. 

VIP couch seats will be available with a donation or you can bring a lawn chair for the screening. The event will get started at 5 p.m. Call (501) 433-0088 for more details.

Smooth Moves: Q&A with Dancer Shondra Leigh of 'Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour'

Image by Cirque du Soleil

#asset

All of you MJ fans are in a for a little treat this week -- "Michael Jackson: The Immortal World" by Cirque du Soleil will get underway at Verizon Arena tonight.

The tour, which is one of the top 10 grossing music tours of all time, will perform all of the hits of the late Michael Jackson with enough incredible acrobatics, special effects and dancing to spare Tuesday and Wednesday (April 22-23).

Here is what experienced dancer Shondra Leigh- one of eight female dancers-- had to say about her dance experience, favorite Michael Jackson songs and all of the cool things you can expect to see at the show:

Q: What piqued your interest in dance, gymnastic and performance arts?

A: I’ve been dancing since I was a kid. My dad says I danced before I walked, so it was definitely my choice. My parents put me in dance class when I was a baby and they were always the kind of parents who were like if you don’t like something, you say it and we won’t make you do it-- we were never forced to do anything. I was the kid who always asked, 'Do I have dance class today?' There just wasn’t enough dance classes. I was born for this. It’s what I’m meant to do.

Q: What will people be able to expect from "Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour" show?

A: It is so many things. The one thing about life is that you can’t expect anything but what you can expect is a good time. You’re going to expect a great performance and 49 artists on stage who really are passionate about what they do. It’s rock concert-based so you can expect 11 live musicians, in addition to acrobatics and dancing-- very much a rock concert meets cirque du soleil. There will elaborate props, elaborate costumes, special effects and of course, Michael Jackson.

Q: I heard that you were trained in Anti-Gravity Yoga. Can you explain what that is exactly and if it's something that is in the show?

A: It’s a yoga form that use a hammock. You’re anti-gravity, so you’re like three feet above the ground and it’s a combination of yoga and light acrobatics. It's gymnastics, dance and yoga all wrapped into one. In this particular show, I do aerial stunts but don’t use a hammock-- I use a hoop during the "Human Nature" number. It’s not the same apparatus, but there are things that cross over.

Q: What is your favorite song in the set?

A: My favorite scene is “Hotel" but actually my favorite song in the production is “Human Nature," which I do perform but my favorite song to perform versus my favorite song that I hear every night are two totally different things.

Q: Who is the show geared for?

A: It’s something that is geared for his biggest fans and even for the people who weren’t huge fans because it’s really elaborate and there is so much to see. It’s got so many 'wow' factors and many special moments. It’s a journey of different paths of his life but we tap on everything-- you hit everything from the Jackson 5 to his newer stuff before he had passed. You'll see the classic choreography from his epic music videos like "Thriller" and "Smooth Criminal," so you’re going to get all of that as well as tidbits of other parts of his life that people probably don’t know about it.

Tickets range from $52.50-$152.50. Tickets are available at the Verizon Arena Box Office, all Ticketmaster outlets, charge by phone at (800) 745-3000 or online here

Check out a preview of the show below!

Hit the Trail: 3 Bike Rides to Take This Week

With the temps warming up, take advantage of it by taking the trails on two wheels. Several trails wind their way through central Arkansas to suit riders of all levels.

Here is a look at a few you can cruise on this week (and weekend!):

  1. Arkansas River Trail (17 miles): If you live in and around Little Rock, chances are, you've heard of this prominent trail that runs alongside the Arkansas River in Little Rock and North Little Rock. This paved trail is accessible from both sides of the river and pretty much anywhere along the route. If you want gorgeous views of the river and bluffs, the North Little Rock side is a great side to start on, just be prepared for a few hills-- the Little Rock side is pretty flat for the most part. It's a great trail to take the family! 
  2. Scott-England/Harper's Loop (35-50 miles): Located just outside of Little Rock, this loop offers a smooth flat ride past beautiful scenery such as cotton fields and pecan groves. The long version of this ride follows Harper's Loop, a signed cycling route from the Arkansas River Trail in North Little Rock to Hwy. 165. The shorter route starts at the Plantation Agricultural Museum State Park in Scott and continues to England where you make a right onto Hwy. 161, which loops back to Scott. Because some of the trail is on frequently traveled thoroughfares, it is good idea to go in a group.
  3. Lake Maumelle/Wye Mountain Loop (37 miles): Beautiful lake views and big climbs await you on the 37-mile Lake Maumelle Loop, one of the best bicycle tours in Arkansas for early morning riders. Expect heavy traffic along Hwy. 10, so early morning rides are recommended. Start at the picnic area Pinnacle Mountain State Park on Hwy. 300. If you're looking to challenge yourself, this is a great trail!

And if you're feeling really adventurous, here are some other more challenging bike tours around the state that you might reserve for the weekend:

For the beginner riders just starting the biking thing, here is a look four things to know and bicycle etiquette! And if you're planning on sticking around Little Rock and North Little Rock, here are 10 tips every rider should know.

Get more info about all of these trails, plus a look at more trails around the state here!

It's Earth Day! 5 Ways to Love the Planet

Boulevard Bread Co. is one of many eateries around Little Rock offering local grub for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Earth Day is a time to make your life and the planet a better place. Here are five things you can do this week to honor the planet, form new habits and improve our fair state and the world.

1. Recycle at your home and workplace. You've heard it before but recycling can make a difference for the planet and the good thing is, many cities are making it easier for residents to recycle their trash. Make sure you're doing it right (meaning, make sure you're not contaminating your stockpile of recycleables!) with our handy guide. Also, Easter Seals is having a Community Shred Day from 8 a.m.-12 p.m. Saturday (April 26) where individuals, schools, churches, and businesses can drop off their paper and secure documents at the Center for Training and Wellness, 14901 Cantrell Road, Little Rock, and they will shred/recycle for free. As a thank you, coffee will be provided by Starbucks while volunteers unload your vehicle!

2. Get involved in energy policy by letting your state and federal representatives know your stance on important legislation, like the federal Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act. See what towns across the state are making strides toward energy conservation in our "Making the Grade" feature.

3. Eat and buy local, which benefits the planet and the community at the same time. Drop by some of the area's locally flavored eateries, shops and more. Have trouble making it to your nearest farmers market? Check out the Little Rock Urban Farm's CSA program where you can conveniently buy local produce around the corner.

4. Try biking, walking or taking public transit instead of driving this week, and for making driving greener, check out what Brad Audrain is doing with his eco-friendly company Green Cab Co. in Fayetteville and how Jeremy Lewno is transforming biking in the capital city here.

5. Plant a tree. Besides their aesthetic value, trees mitigate urban heat island effects, shade our homes and businesses, purify our air and provide habitat for birds and other wildlife. Plus, National Arbor Day is Friday (April 25)! Check out the Arbor Day Foundation's list of trees appropriate for our area.

Flip through the new issue of Arkansas Green Guide for even more green tips, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date with green news and developments in Arkansas.

Arkansas Literary Festival Starts Thursday

Arkansas Literary Festival is coming April 8-11 to the River Market. 

Get ready, readers, the Arkansas Literary Festival is this week.

The first events of the festival, set for Thursday through Sunday, begins at noon Thursday with two presentations, including one on Arkansas native Johnny Cash. For a full schedule of events, click here.

The festival's presenters have had work featured in publications such as The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Bon Appétit, Glamour, Slate and The Washington Post. For a full list of who is coming to this year's festival, click here.

For more information on the festival, check out or story here, or visit ArkansasLiteraryFestival.org. You can also contact Brad Mooy at BMooy@CALS.org or 918-3098. For information on volunteering, contact Angela Delaney at ADelaney@CALS.org or 918-3095. 

Etsy Little Rock Festival This Weekend

Find jewelry and other hand-crafted items at Indie Arts and Music Festival.

Etsy Little Rock, an online handmade and vintage marketplace, is hosting its fourth annual Indie Arts and Music Festival from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

While shopping from several Etsy artists, enjoy music from Booyah! Dad, Isaac Alexander, Ming Donkey and others. Various local food trucks, including Black Hound Bar-B-Q, kbird, Kona-Ice, Loblolly Creamery, Roxie's Hot Dogs and Southern Gourmasian, will be on hand. 

Glitterville Tattoos will also be on site offering $5 one-color tattoos. Each additional color adds $1. For more information on vendors, food, music and attractions, check out the festival's Facebook page or website.

The event is free and will be held at Kavanaugh Boulevard between Walnut and Palm streets.

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Sandwich lovers, this one's for you. Potbelly Sandwich Shop is opening in Little Rock this fall.

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