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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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Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Hosts 2 Free Concerts This Week

Get your classical music fix this week-- for free!

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra is hosting two free concerts for the public at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences today (April 16) and the Capital Hotel Thursday (April 17). Here is the rundown:

  • UAMS hospital lobby gallery, 4301 W. Markham St., Little Rock: Starting at 4:30 p.m. today (April 16), flutists Barry McVinney and Diane McVinney will be joined by Dr. Martin Hauer-Jensen and Cindy Fuller for a program of flute sonatas, duos, trios and more. Click here for more information about setlist and for directions to the concert.
  • Capital Hotel, 111 W. Markham St., Little Rock: At 5 p.m. Thursday (April 17), the ASO's Rockefeller Quartet will present a free concert in the Capital Hotel lobby with short pieces and commentary from the musicians. Listen to Mozart's "String Quartet No. 19 in C Major," along with music from ASO Composer of the Year, Christopher Theofanidis. Get more information here.

For the families, mark your calendars for the Young Person's Guide to Orchestra, composed by Benjamin Britten at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 27 at the Roosevelt Thompson Auditorim at Central High School, 1500 S. Park St., Little Rock. This family performance will celebrate the birthday of Caroline Pugh. This concert is free and open to the public. Call (501) 666-1761 for more information and click here to make your reservation!

An Update on Lee Richardson, Packet House Grill

Image by Lee Hogan

A for sale sign is shown outside Packet House Grill on Monday, April 14, on Cantrell Road.

Three weeks ago, we were excited to report an ownership change, involving popular chef Lee Richardson, at the Packet House Grill. This week, a for-sale sign popped up in the lawn of the Cantrell Road restaurant.

For the latest on the Richardson-Packet House story, check out this update at our sister publication, Arkansas Business.

Taste of Tuesday: Farmers Salad from South on Main

Image by South on Main

If you've been to South on Main recently, you've noticed (and more than likely enjoyed) the restaurant's new spring lunch and dinner menus.

The menus are filled with new, tasty items! For a full rundown, click here for our story. The folks at South on Main were kind enough to share with us the recipe of one of the new salads on the lunch menu.

The Farmers Salad features fried green tomato, crab salad, celery and tomato jam. It's available now at the restaurant at $6 for a half salad and $10 for a full. If you want to try your hand at making it at home, check out the details below.

Farmers Salad

-For the remoulade:

1 egg

1 anchovy

1 teaspoon capers

1 garlic clove

1 tablespoon Dijon

1/3 cup cider vinegar

2 cups canola oil

2 tablespoons chopped parlsey

2 tablespoons chopped tarragon

2 tablespoons chopped chives

-For the salad

1 pound jumbo lump crab

4 whole green tomatoes

6 celery sticks shaved with a peeler and placed in ice water

The process:

Start by making your remoulade.  In the bowl of a food processor add the egg, anchovy, capers and garlic. Pulse these ingredients together until combined. Next, add your vinegar and blend until frothy. While the machine is running, slowly begin to drizzle the oil into the mixture, stopping three times to scrape down the sides of the bowl. When all the oil is added, scrape the finished remoulade into a bowl and stir in the herbs and, if needed, season with salt and black pepper. Set aside in the fridge and begin on the fried green tomatoes.

First, using a small pairing knife, core the green tomatoes. Next, slice ¼” slices from the tomatoes and lay them flat on some paper towels. Season both sides of the tomatoes with salt and pepper. Take three pie pans and fill one with flour, one with buttermilk, and one with a mixture of cornmeal and flour. Starting with the flour, coat each tomato in the flour, next, dip them into the buttermilk, then, coat them in the flour/cornmeal mix. As each one is coated set them on a parchment paper lined sheet pan.  

Begin to fry the tomatoes by taking a large cast iron skillet and placing it over medium heat. Add about a half cup of canola oil to the pan. When the oil is hot and appears to shimmer, carefully add the tomatoes. Go slow and fry four to five at a time. When they begin to brown, flip them with a spatula and cook on the other side until golden brown. After they are cooked place them onto fresh paper towels to drain while you assemble the salad.

In a large bowl combine the crab with some of the remoulade until it is creamy to your liking. Divide the fried green tomatoes between four plates. Top with a generous amount of the crab salad. Drain the celery from the ice water and pat dry. Finish with a pinch of the celery and drizzle around the salad with more remoulade.

South on Main is located at 1304 S. Main St. The restaurant and performance venue is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch Monday through Friday and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, check out their website or Facebook page.

Photos: New Boutique Opens Doors at Promenade

Gallery by The Promenade at Chenal

First look! The city’s newest clothing boutique, Altar’d State officially opens its doors at The Promenade at Chenal.

#asset

The new 5,600 square foot store located next to Nike offers a distinctive shopping experience for women inspired by the latest fashion finds, the most anticipated accessories, and that next great gift.

#asset

Altar’d State shoppers also have an opptortunity to give back. Through what is known as Mission Mondays, the company donates 10% of net proceeds to various local charities every Monday. Altar’d State also gives back through an in-house clothing line in which a portion of every purchase goes to feed, clothe, educate, and shelter children in need. The company also seeks vendor partners that share their philosophy of giving. For example, TOMS shoes, FashionABLE scarves, Krochet Kids, and 31 Bits jewelry are available at most locations and each offer something back to those in need.

Mark Your Calendars! The Greek Food Festival is Back

The Greek Food Festival at Little Rock's Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church will serve up good food and lots of dancing May 17-19.

The Greek Food Festival is back!  Somehow the smell just wafted into the office and our mouths are already watering.

This year, the annual celebration will take place May 16–18 at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in west Little Rock. Sample a medley of delicious Greek and Mediterranean dishes, including baklava, gyros, calamari, pastitso, sourota and much more.

You can even order the scrumptious grub to go. Check out the menu here.

In addition to food, we love to shop for special delicacies, collectibles, jewelry and other authentic gifts at the Old World Market. For more info, visit www.GreekFoodFest.com.

Round Two: Win Tickets to See Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson Show at Verizon

Image by Cirque du Soleil

Round two! Today (April 15), we are giving away more tickets to see the brand new Cirque du Soleil show that’s all about Michael Jackson.

"Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour," coming to Verizon Arena on April 22, is an electrifying production presented in a rock concert format that combines the excitement and innovation of Michael Jackson's music and choreography with Cirque du Soleil unparalleled creativity. 

The underpinnings of the show are Michael Jackson's powerful, inspirational music and lyrics--the driving force behind the show--brought to life with power and intensity. Through unforgettable performances, the show underscores Michael's global messages of love, peace and unity. A live band including some of the same artists who previously worked side-by-side with Michael, further enhance the excitement and authenticity of the show.

Aimed at lifelong fans as well as those experiencing Michael's creative genius for the first time, the show captures the essence of the King of Pop, celebrating a legacy that continues to transcend generations. 

For a chance to win tickets today (April 15), visit our Facebook page here. And be sure to check out a special Q&A with Shondra Leigh, one of eight female dancers in the show, Thursday (April 17)!

Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m. For additional information, click here.  

Aloft Hotel Coming to Downtown Little Rock

Image by Michael Pirnique

The 12-story Boyle Building anchors the north end of Main Street Lofts.

Remember all that Main Street corridor news we shared with you recently? Well, we have more. 

Chi Hotel Group of Little Rock announced today (April 14) plans for an $18 million Aloft Hotel at the Boyle Building in downtown Little Rock. 

Plans for the hotel include a 3,500-SF upscale restaurant, 4,000-SF of meeting space, a ground floor coffee shop and a rooftop pool. Yes, a rooftop pool! The hotel, itself, will have 140 rooms.

The renovations are set to begin in about five months, and be completed in the first quarter of 2016. For more info on the plans, check out our sister publication's story at Arkansas Business.

The Boyle Building, a 12-story structure at the corner of Main Street and Capitol Avenue, was built in 1909, and is yet another improvement in a long line of Main Street projects.

Jacob Chi, the hotel group's managing partner, said he expects Aloft to be an epicenter for social activity on Main Street.

"We expect this to be a fantastic place for social events," he said. "We have every confidence that this will be an exceptional property."

Five Ways to Celebrate National Pecan Day

Image by BarefootAndBaking.BlogSpot.com

Today is a day to celebrate one of America's favorite nuts. It's National Pecan Day.

Pecans have been a staple in the South, including Arkansas for years. The pecan has become a key ingredient in various dishes, many desserts, and we thought it fitting to give this nut the attention it deserves on this, its day of honor.

Here are just some of the things you can do with pecans to make a delicious snack:

Spiced Pecans

Spiced pecans is a great option for nut lovers, and for this one, you don't even have to leave Little Rock. The folks over at Capital Bar and Grill were kind enough to share the recipe to their delicious spiced pecans (If you didn't see the recipe to their pimento cheese, which they shared a few weeks ago, click here). It needs no further introduction.

Here's what you'll need to make them:

•Fresh pecan halves

•1 pint corn syrup

•Deep fryer heated to 350 degrees

•1 teaspoons finely-ground kosher salt

•1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

And here's the process:

In a heavy gauge saucepan, boil the pecans in the simple syrup for approximately 10 minutes. Drain the pecans thoroughly, then deep fry them for approximately 30 to 40 seconds. Remove from the fryer, drain well and toss in a bowl with the combined salt and cayenne pepper.  Spread the pecans out on a baking tray and allow the pecans to cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.

Pecan Pie

You cannot have a salute to the pecan without including its signature dish: the pecan pie. At birthday parties, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners or any other family gathering in the South, this has been a recurring dessert.

For this particular recipe, you'll need the following:

•1 cup sugar

•1 1/2 cups corn syrup (can be 1/2 dark and 1/2 light)

•4 eggs

•1/4 cup butter

•1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

•1 1/2 cup pecans, coarsely broken

•1 unbaked deep dish pie shell

And here's how you make it:

In a saucepan, boil sugar and corn syrup together for 2 to 3 minutes, set aside to cool slightly. In a large bowl, beat eggs lightly and slowly pour the syrup mixture into the eggs, stirring constantly. Stir in butter, vanilla and pecans. Then, pour into crust. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 45 to 60 minutes or until set.

Sweet Pecan Sticky Buns

You saw it right. Sweet pecan. Sticky. Buns. Just imagine all the gooey goodness of a honey bun or cinnamon roll, paired with pecans. Sorry, we're going to go whip some of these up while you take a look at the recipe.

Here's what you'll need to make these delectable treats:

-For the filling:

•1/4 cup brown sugar (not packed)

•1 tablespoon light whipped butter or light buttery spread 

•1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

•1/8 teaspoon salt

-For the buns:

•1 package refrigerated Pillsbury Crescent Recipe Creations Seamless Dough Sheet

-For the topping:

•3 tablespoons fat-free or light caramel dip

•2 tablespoons light whipped butter or light buttery spread

•2 tablespoons sugar-free pancake syrup

•1 tablespoon brown sugar (not packed)

•3 tablespoons chopped pecans

And here's how you make it:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, spray eight cups of a 12-cup muffin pan with non-stick spray and set aside. 

To make filling, combine brown sugar with butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 10 seconds, or until butter has mostly melted. Mix in cinnamon and salt, and set aside. 

Lay dough on a dry surface with the short sides on the left and right, and the long sides on the top and bottom. Roll or stretch out dough into a large rectangle of even thickness. Evenly spread filling onto dough, leaving a one-inch border around all edges. 

Tightly roll up dough from the bottom, forming a log. Pinch the long seam to seal. Gently turn so the seam side is down. Cut log widthwise into eight equally sized buns. Place a bun in each of the eight sprayed muffin caps, spiral side up. Set aside.

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine all topping ingredients except pecans. Microwave for 30 to 45 seconds, until butter has mostly melted. Add pecans and mix well. Evenly distribute topping among buns, about one tablespoon each.

Bake in the oven until golden brown, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool slightly. Gently remove buns from pan while still warm.

Pecan Pie Brownies

Seriously. What else could you possibly want in life? Pecan pie and brownies, that's a good start. We hope you can make it through the entire recipe without running out of work and to the grocery store.

Here are the ingredients:

•1 (2 lb.) frozen pecan pie, thawed

•1/2 cup butter

•2 semi-sweet cups chocolate chips

•1 cup brown sugar

•2 eggs

•2 teaspoons vanilla

•1 cup milk

•1 1/2 cups flour

•1 teaspoon baking powder

•1/2 teaspoon salt

The process:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Cut your thawed pie into about one-inch cubes. In a medium saucepan, combine chocolate chips and butter, and heat over medium-low until melted, stirring consistently, then, set aside. In your stand mixer, combine sugar, eggs, vanilla and milk, mixing until incorporated. Slowly add in the chocolate mixture and half the pecan pie cubes, continuing to stir until well mixed. The batter will be lumpy due to the pecan pie bits. Add in the flour, baking powder and salt, stirring until just incorporated. Add in the remaining pecan pie cubes, stirring until evenly mixed in. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until center is just set and a toothpick inserted two inches from the edge comes out clean. Transfer pan to wire rack and allow to cool.

Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

Chocolate chips and pecans come together to make one grand cookie. What could be better? Don't forget the glass of milk to go with this one.

Here's what you'll need to make it:

•1 cup butter (2 sticks)

•3/4 cup sugar

•3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

•1 teaspoon vanilla

•2 eggs

•2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

•1 teaspoon salt

•1 teaspoon baking soda

•2 cups chocolate chips

•1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

And the directions:

Cream butter and sugars together until combined. Then, add eggs and vanilla, and mix well. Combine flour, salt and baking soda in a separate bowl and gradually stir into the butter-sugar mixture. Once combined, stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Spoon the dough onto an un-greased cookie sheet (or one line with parchment paper) in one-tablespoon amounts. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are golden brown.

If these five ideas are not enough for some of you pecan lovers, check out this blog with 40 different ideas.

Happy National Pecan Day, everyone!

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