Monday, December 15, 2014

Could The Monkey Burger Be The Best Burger In Pulaski County?

There’s nothing quite like an amazing, hand-patted cheeseburger. Arkansas, particularly Little Rock, is blessed with plenty of them. But I may have just started on one of the best I’ve ever found.

Milton Fine gave me a recommendation a while back that I have just now been able to indulge – a little place in College Station that offers home cooking, sandwiches, pie and a nice, hefty selection of burgers. The place on the outside is heralded as It’s All About Mak’N’It, but it’s called by its regulars (and its menu as well) the name of its signature dish: Monkey Burger.

The joint sits off the side of Frazier Pike in a strip mall, with little more than the sign on the front. It’s easy to miss, very easy. But you’ll probably see some cars there and stop.

I went in this Monday afternoon full of curiosity. There were half a dozen patrons already dining and a kindly woman behind the counter – an ancient general store-type counter filled with candies and gums, topped with clear boxes of Laffy Laffy and Jolly Ranchers and jars of whole dill pickles. I told her I’d come for a burger.

“The best dang burger you ever done had,” she started to brag. “The best ground beef. We got a hamburger, a cheeseburger, a Monkey Burger-”

“What’s on a Monkey Burger?”

She cackled. “Two patties larger than you ever eat, with lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion!”

“Yeah, why not? I can take home the rest.”

“You get it in a combo, it’ll come in a box to take home.”

I agreed and sat down. At that moment I turned and saw the hostess come around the counter with a couple of plates with ridiculously large two-patty burgers and fries on them. They looked massive.

“You gon have ta cut it in four pieces, Dwight,” one of the guys at the table laughed. There were three men at the table, and another two at the next one. They all seemed to know each other well and were joshing each other over the humongous hamburgers. They were each taller and more hearty than I.

Monkey Burger looks like it should be small, but it’s not. It actually takes up two storefront slots in the plaza, one with peach-colored walls with four mismatched tables that had probably come from an assortment of diners and fast food restaurants. The other was a pale grayish blue with new linoleum floors and quite a few tables more.

The door opened and another guy walked in, apparently well known to this crowd. He crowed “put my burger on their bill!” as he saw the cluster of eaters around the table full of burgers and fries. There was laughing, and a man at the next table over stood up and called to the cook “hey, hotshot!” and suggested he give the newcomer a free burger.

More folks were coming in by this time. Over the TV in the corner playing a western on TV Land, I heard the voice of the hostess ring out to the guy who’d wanted his burger on someone else’s bill. “I don’t have no gravy, don’t ask me. You have to done ask me 100 questions about one ham sandwich, what comes on, what comes with it, now go on.”

Another patron walked in and over to the cooler, which was full of cans and bottles – both generic beverages and named brand sodas. I noticed there was a cooler of lemonade on the end of the counter, and a big container of tea.

“It took me three hours to eat the one thing,” I heard rise from the table of diners. Not a one of them was close to finishing, but I got the impression they weren’t in any hurry.

From behind the register rang out, “we don't have anything that's not good. We know how to make it.”

“Y’all be good,” one of the guys from the other table said as he walked out the door.

“Ain't no way you gonna bite it,” the conversation continued at that table. I looked over towards the counter and noticed the whiteboard that advertised a cold cut sandwich (turkey or ham), chips and a piece of cake for $3. What? I realized then I hadn’t even looked at a menu when I came in. For all I knew, I might have just ordered a $12 burger.

A couple and their young son came in. The gentleman waiting for his order turned around, gently grabbed the boy’s arm and looked him over. “What year are you in school?” he asked before looking up and greeting the couple.

His mother caught my eye as I looked back towards the whiteboard and whistled. On the right side, it said Holiday Turkey, you buy, we fry, $20. We buy and fry, $35-45. Pan of dressing $12. Sweet potato pie $10.

“Those prices are incredible,” I mentioned to her. She widened her eyes a little and nodded with a smile.

Time was passing. It’d been 20 minutes or more since I’d walked in the door, but I was in no hurry. I did hear one of the eaters at the bigger table call out to another man walking through the door that there was going to be a wait and he should have called ahead. I eyeballed the big burger over on the other table within eyeshot, which was slowly being consumed with a knife and fork by its owner. The man who’d just come through the door pointed at the dish and asked “you ain’t finished it yet?”

“You see I ain’t”

“What’d you get?”


And that’s when I realized the big burger he was eating, wasn’t even the biggest burter there. I grew concerned that I might have to unhinge my jaw to properly sample what was to come. By this point I could smell the burger on the griddle, hear the fries in the fryer. I was salivating and being quiet and listening and trying not to answer the desire to gnaw off a limb.

The guys at the table across from mine were laughing and joking without a care in the world. In those 20 minutes since my order, since they got their burgers, none of them had gotten halfway through.

A line was forming. I heard a credit card being processed. I noticed the chocolate-covered Sara Lee individually wrapped cakes on the counter.

“Both of them with cake,” the hostess was telling the next patron, patting the white sack. “An here come more folks!” she cheerfully called out. I noticed another white paper bag marked TURKEY sitting atop one of the dill pickle jars.

She looked at me and smiled. “Everybody come in the same time, ain't no joke,” she said. I just nodded. As I said, I was in no hurry.

She repeated the latest order to the next customer, “the Jumbo, no pickles, extra cheese.”

The two men up next, a gentleman my height and a taller man, placed their order. “I want the Monkey Burger,” said the taller man, and the shorter one put his hand on the first guy’s arm and looked up at him.

“I warned you.”

The taller man looked down and grinned. “TWO Monkey Burgers!” he gleefully corrected.

I looked at the remaining text on the whiteboard, which I couldn’t see earlier, and saw that tea and lemonade were 50 cents each and pecan pie was two dollars. I heard the second guy change his order to a regular cheeseburger.

“I thought your mama don't raise no quitter!” came from the loud table. None of the three men there had made any sort of motion to get about doing whatever they might have needed to be doing. They were just enjoying a friendly afternoon.

“Bacon cheeseburger, extra pie, no onions, extra cheese,” the hostess called back to the dude waiting for his take-out order.

And at the same time I heard the cook holler “Monkey Burger!”

The hostess finished up with that customer and turned back briefly to the kitchen before taking one more order. Customers coming in greeted those in the loose line. “How ya doin, darling? All right!” called one rather jovial guy as he came in. I was beginning to believe I’d see the entire population of College Station before it was all done.

“Ma’am! I got your burger!” the waitress called, and this time she was hollering for me. I went up and paid for it and a cup of tea and she asked me if I had taken a look at it yet. I carefully open the box bursting at the seams.


She got a red Solo cup full of ice and waved her hand over towards the tea dispenser (there’s only sweet tea and lemonade and what’s in the cooler), then handed me a plastic knife and fork and a wad of napkins.

I picked up my camera and overheard someone say “man, she got the Monkey Burger.” I took several pictures with the camera one with the phone and then I got my hands around it. When I lifted the burger to my lips, I got the full attention of all three guys at the next table over, who were astonished when I managed to get into the entire burger all at once.

After a moment of silence that seemed to fall over the entire restaurant, they started to whoop. “Woo !” and “Dang!” were uttered, and I’m sure I likely blushed at these guys who were very entertained that I actually managed to get a bite out of that burger.

Because the Monkey Burger is just something insane. Two big patties and cheese with lettuce, tomato, onions and pickle… and not just a big burger, but an amazingly well-seasoned burger that was ridiculous. It had notes of onion powder and maybe some garlic and definitely ground black pepper and who knew what all else. In a smaller portion it would have been beautiful. In this size, it was overwhelming.

I took another bite, and was rewarded with appreciative laughter. I got the impression that the crowd thought I was all right.

I didn’t eat all that much… well, I mean, I did, but there was a LOT of burger left. What was left after I got home was more than a pound. Why did I measure?

Well, first off, I have to say that this burger’s one of the best I’ve had in several years. I’ve been, for the most part, off the burger circuit since mid-2012 and it’s been some time. But the fantastic even-handed spices in the humongous hand-patted patties make this an epic sandwich all area burger lovers need to get over and try.

But I measured the burger because when I asked the hostess how much meat was on it, she laughed. “We don’t measure it. We have no idea, we just make them!”

So, how much did this repast put me back? A total of $8.70 – which included fries and tea and a tip. The burger itself was $5.65 with cheese on it.

I didn't even make it a third of the way into the burger. It was incredible, it was good, but I can already feel my cut stretching out for me and decided to air on the better side of valor. I knew I wasn't going to be able to finish it, which is why I had asked for it in a to go box, but I had certainly far under estimated the sheer size of it, and I’ll likely be dining on this burger for the next three or four meals.

That won't bother me, though.  The hostess confirmed the great quality and flavor of the meat, and asked me if I'd seen the commercials for Bush's Baked Beans.  When I nodded, she said "It's the same thing, but I don't let the dog in the kitchen! No one's going to get that recipe!"

That lovely lady at the counter also told me that there was a couple that had a young girl who had brought her in and she wanted that Monkey Burger. They had gone ahead and let her have it with a box to take it home it because they did not think she would eat much of it. But it only took her about 30 minutes to disassemble it with a knife and fork and consume the whole dang thing.

You're not going to just find Monkey Burger out of the blue. You have to know it's there. Not a lot of food lovers get over to College Station, and that's a shame, but I have a feeling that more will make the journey the six miles from downtown to get this burger a shot. I am very interested to see what you think.

Monkey Burger
4424 Frazier Pike
Little Rock, AR 72206
(501) 490-2222

Monkey Burger (It's All About Mak'n'It) on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 12, 2014

Like Peanut Brittle? You'll Find It In Arkansas.

Peanut brittle, that great common candy familiar to just about any Arkansas traveler, is a truly wonderful thing. Flavorful, sweet and the thinner the better, you can find it all over Arkansas.

Places like Andy's Candies near Berryville offered all sorts of
great take-home candies, including brittle.
Fifty and sixty years ago, when Arkansas’s still-nascent highway system was dotted with stands offering everything from fudge to honey to pecans, peanut brittle was everywhere. It was explained to me when I was a child, the difference between folks in Arkansas and Texas.
That just doesn't look right.
Texans ate peanut patties, which were peanuts tied together with the rather pedestrian and often pink concoction of soft sugar. In Arkansas, we had peanut brittle, and it was magnificent. Though I consumed my share of both sweets as a child, I have managed to retain a rather strong
affection for brittles of all sorts.

The old Arkadelphia stalwart, Juanita’s Candy Kitchen, still offers a thin, crystalline consistency with just enough nuts in to alleviate the pure-sugar percentage. Juanita’s also offers cashew and pecan versions -- the pecan comes out almost clear. The candymaker goes through 350 pounds of sugar a day while making enough brittle for the big tubs. You wouldn’t know it, but this year marks 40 years since Juanita Gaither first started making the brittle to sell.

Both are great, just not together.
In the River Valley, you’ll find Subiaco Abbey, and in the abbey you’ll find monks who make, amongst other things, a traditional peanut brittle. Abbey Brittle is a special gift to give, and it’s a very candy-like, thicker brittle than Juanita’s.

When you have a peanut brittle hankering and you’re around Heber Springs, drop into Ozark Country Market and pick up Arkansas Traveller Gourmet Food’s peanut brittle. Another thin confection, this one’s cloudier than Juanita’s but also very sharp and satisfying.

Then there’s the butter-cream peanut brittle at Martin Greer’s Candies. It’s softer, and it has a particularly vanilla essence to it – and it’s still made from an original 1897 recipe.

R and G’s Candies makes several types of brittle, including a chocolate version and one that’s coconut pecan. The Star City candymaker is a family operation – and the brittle once raised money for a new church.

It's also available in Van Buren at Kopper Kettle Candies.

You’ll also find peanut brittle being made in smaller batches different places, like the Cedar Ridge Country Store between Berryville and Green Forestm Stonebrook Fudge Factory up in Mountain View  and Keller’s Candies in Gravette. The United Pentacostal Church folks make up a bunch to sell at each year’s War Eagle Craft Fair, and you’ll find homemade versions at the Banks Buck Festival.

And then there’s the brittle at Big John’s Shake Shack in Marion. This isn't brittle for ordering, it’s made for eating right there at the time. Check out this piece from Southern Living that shows the making of this brittle.

(Morgan Murphy says he's traveled 10,000 miles for food stories. I usually do 30,000 miles a year for food research)

Have a favorite brittle memory?  Please share. And if you want to make your own, here's a peanut brittle recipe from KAIT in Jonesboro.

And here's another one from The Gifted Gabber.

Monday, December 8, 2014

64 Great Arkansas Food Gift Ideas.

Looking for great giftable foods in Arkansas? The Natural State has everything you can imagine for the holiday table or for the hard-to-please food lover in your life.

Here's a handy list of places in Arkansas that offer items to be shipped by mail to your friends, family and those you wish to impress.  Many of these items are also available for local pick-up, if you are so inclined or wish to make your own Arkansas holiday collection.  May these suggestions help you in your seasonal quest for the best gifts and dishes to share.

NOTE: This list only contains items that can be shipped.  There are many other locally produced items, and I highly encourage you to seek them out as well.

ALLY’S JELLY.  Straight out of Hope, homemade fig preserves, pear preserves, muscadine and Ally-peno (Jalapeno) jellies.  
ONLINE: Facebook and message or comment for sales.
PHONE:  (870) 826-3445

ARKANSAS BEEKEEPERS.  Want honey?  You'll find honey from several different Arkansas beekeepers, including Culp's Pride, K-Bee and Peace Bee Farms.  The website also shares places where you can pick up honey without ordering it online.
ONLINE: Arkansas Beekeepers Association Website
SHOP:  Green Corner Store

ARKANSAS FOODBANK NETWORK.  Give a gift that gives a whole lot.  Check out the Arkansas Foodbank Network’s many programs.  Every dollar you send can provide four meals.  You can also bankroll a food box.  
ONLINE: Arkansas Foodbank Network
PHONE: (501) 565-8121

ARKANSAS RICE DEPOT.  How about a gift that sends an Arkansas product to your loved ones while helping feed hungry families?  Check out the Simple Pleasures Gift Shop, which features dozens of different rice mixes and gifts for purchase.  Mixes include Presidential Parmesan, created from a recipe donated by President Bill Clinton; Arkansas Dirty Rice and Hillbilly Chili are personal favorites.
ONLINE: Simple Pleasures Gift Shop
SHOP IN PERSON at the Arkansas Rice Depot, 3801 West 65th Street in Little Rock
Read more about the Arkansas Rice Depot

ARKANSAW HOG SAUCE. Ray and Kathy Sisco's award-winning "Popa" sauce is now available online.  Give it a shot.
ONLINE: Arkansaw Hog Sauce

BEAR KINGDOM VINEYARD.  Muscadine, Scuppernong, Arkansas wines, cherry, pineapple, mango, & berry jellies & jams.  The Cherub’s Rapture is a must-try.  
PHONE (501) 888-1015  
SHOP:  13106 Arch Street (call first)
PICKUP:  Old Mill Bread Company, Arkansas Rice Depot, Shoppes on Woodlawn in the Heights.
BURGE’S:  The Lewisville/Little Rock restaurant is known for smoked turkeys delivered to your door. They also sell hams, ducks, and chickens .  If you’re in Little Rock  pick it up in the Heights.  
PHONE:  (501) 921-4292.  
STORE:  Burge’s in the Heights, 5620 R Street.
Read more about Burge's Smoked Turkeys

CAVENDER’S.  Found worldwide on tables in restaurants and in kitchens... made in Harrison. Peppery without being spicy, it brings a familiar and robust flavor to beef. ONLINE:  Cavender's Greek Seasoning
PHONE:  (870) 741-9566
PICKUP:  Almost any Arkansas grocery store.
Read more about Cavender's Greek Seasoning

COTHAM’S.  The famed Scott restaurant and mercantile sells its hamburger seasoning and fish fry mix online.  Check it out.
ONLINE: Cotham's online store
PHONE:  (501) 370-9177.  
PICKUP:  River Market Grocery, eggshell kitchen company.
Read more about Cotham's Mercantile

COURSEY'S.  Even now, there's still no website for Coursey's Smoked Meats in St. Joe -- but they will send you a smoked ham by mail.
Read about Coursey's here.

CROSS EYED PIG BBQ.  Six hours of hot smoke plus great meat selection equals a really good ham or turkey for your holiday dinner with no preparation necessary.  Ask about sidecars, and put your order in early.  
PHONE:  (501) 265-0000.  
STORE:  1701 Rebsamen Park Road in Little Rock.

DARLING'S FINER THINGS. This Delta clothier and style shop doesn't make food, but it does provide wearables for those who love food. 
ONLINE: Darling's Finer Things

DIAMOND BEAR.  The local brewery still produces great brews, including Paradise Porter, Presidential IPA, Pale Ale, Southern Blonde, Irish Red and Honey Weiss.  Can't mail the beer, but there's a lot of merchandise that can be shipped at the online store.
PHONE:  (501) 708-2739.  
STORE:  600 N. Broadway, North Little Rock.

DIANE’S GOURMET LUXURIES.  A grand selection of gourmet products, both from Arkansas and around the world, along with take-and-make meals and just-like-homemade desserts.  
ONLINE:  Diane's Gourmet Luxuries  
PHONE:  (501) 224-2639.  
STORE:  11121 North Rodney Parham (in the Market Street Shopping Center).

EGGSHELL KITCHEN COMPANY.  Want something Arkansas to send for the holidays?  Eggshell Kitchen Company is a one-stop shop.  Cookware, books, Arkansas products and more, all available online or in the store.
ONLINE:  Eggshell Kitchen Company  
PHONE:  (501) 664-6900.  
STORE:  5501 Kavanaugh in the Heights

FISCHER.  The family-run honey supplier has roots back to the 1930s.  Though it's a lot bigger than its original plant, the Fischer facility is still located in North Little Rock.
ONLINE:  Fischer Honey  
PHONE:  (501) 758-1123.  
STORE:  2001 North Poplar in North Little Rock.  
PICKUP:  Most Arkansas grocery stores.

FRESH BEANS. By-the-order roasted coffee beans from Eureka Springs.  Many local restaurants carry blends from Fresh Beans, and you can get it yourself. 
ONLINE: Fresh Beans

GIFTS OF ARKANSAS.  Exactly what it says on the tin -- sending baskets and packages of Arkansas products to anyone you wish.  Carrying everything from Ally's Jelly to Wiederkehr oils and vinegars. 

ONLINE:  Gifts of Arkansas

GOURMET EUREKA.  The cute little shop on Center Street in Eureka Springs offers all sorts of great items both in store and online.
ONLINE:  Gourmet Eureka
PHONE:  (888) 838-0838
STORE:  7 Center Street in Eureka Springs

GROWER'S GIFT SPAGHETTI SAUCE.  This locally produced spaghetti sauce made with Bradley County pink tomatoes from a Scott McGehee recipe has been jarred by the University of Arkansas's food science folks benefits the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance.  Get your jars or gift basket by calling (501) 399-9999.  More information here.
 Read more about the program here

HAWK AND HORSE.  If you're in Fort Smith and you like coffee, you're in luck.  The folks at Hawk and Horse will not only roast your beans when they're ordered -- they'll deliver them to your door.  Outside the area, they do ship.
ONLINE: Hawk and Horse

HONEYSUCKLE LANE DAIRY.  Arkansas's only raw milk cheese producer is offering two gift boxes this year in coordination with RoZark Hills Roasterie -- and just ordering cheese is also welcome. Contact through Facebook or call for orders.
ONLINE: Honeysuckle Lane Dairy
PHONE: (501) 730-5075

HOUSE OF WEBSTER.  If you can’t find what you’re looking for in a jar, chances are you haven’t checked out this Northwest Arkansas favorite. Offering everything from jams and jellies to condiments and barbecue sauces, along with bacon and mixes, House of Webster's variety should satisfy your pantry needs. 
ONLINE:  House of Webster
PHONE:  (800) 369-4641.  
PICKUP:  War Eagle Mill, Pickles Gap Store, Ozark Country Market

J&M FOODS.  Best known for cheese straws, J&M also offers those amazing little addictive sugar-coated tea cookies in flavors such as lemon, raspberry and Key lime -- and larger, fatter chocolate chip cookie varieties.  They ship from right here in Little Rock.
PHONE: (800) 264-2278
SHOP:  Eggshell Kitchen Company, Savory Pantry

JUANITA’S CANDY KITCHEN.  Peanut, pecan or cashew, this Arkadelphia candy maker still packages up buckets of brittle every year.  A popular gift for out-of-towners.

ONLINE: Juanita's Candy Kitchen
PHONE:  (870) 246-8542  
PICKUP:  Diane’s Gourmet
SHOP:  47 Stephenwood Drive in Arkadelphia.

KENT WALKER CHEESE. Artisan cheese made right here in Little Rock in many varieties (Ophelia's my favorite) -- now available by mail order!
ONLINE: Kent Walker Cheese
ONLINE ORDERING: Kent Walker Cheese on Direct Eats

KOPPER KETTLE CANDIES. The longtime Van Buren mainstay also has a showroom in Fort Smith.  Best known for Ozarkies (vanilla cream centers covered in nuts and both milk and dark chocolate), Kopper Kettle makes everything from truffles to candy canes, and they do ship.  Right now the website appears to be down, but you can contact through the Facebook page.
ONLINE: Kopper Kettle Candies on Facebook
PHONE: (479) 474-6077

LAMBRECHT GOURMET.  If you haven't tried these marvelous chocolate-covered toffees, you are missing out.  David and Nancy Smith's award-winning artisan toffees are mouth-watering and addictive.  And they ship just about anywhere.
ONLINE.  Lambrecht Gourmet
PHONE:  (501) 362-7514

LIZ & LINDA’S.  Original (green from bell peppers), golden pecan and hot (red from red bell peppers and jalapenos) pepper jellies that are a traffic signal's worth of great jams for your condiment selections.  Really, really good -- and they're made in Harrison.
ONLINE: Liz and Linda's Pepper Jelly
PHONE: (636) 432-1440

MARKET AT CAPERS. This gourmet-to-go location alongside Caper's on Highway 10 in west Little Rock also offers gourmet oils, pestos, pastas and sauces.
ONLINE: Market at Capers

MARTIN GREER’S CANDIES.  The little candy shop between Rogers and Eureka Springs on Highway 62 makes amazing caramels and decent pecan pralines for shipping -- and only ships in the cool months.  The recipes date back to the 19th century, and are free from preservatives. Chocolate barks, chocolate-covered nuts and more.
ONLINE:  Martin Greer's Candies
PHONE:  (479) 656-1440 

MARYCLARE MACARONS.  These amazing little bite-sized meringue cookies were originally conjured for a wedding -- and now you can get them any time you wish from Hot Springs.  
ONLINE:  MaryClare Macarons
PHONE: (501) 620-0516
SHOP: Savory Pantry, Hillcrest Artisan Meats, Terry's Finer Food, Boulevard Bread Co.
Read more about MaryClare Macarons

MASON CREEK FARM. Fine organic-raised pigs from Yorkshire and Tamworth stock that root for hickory nuts, acorns, roots and shoots on a Fayetteville area farm.  Order brats, cheeks, chops and more online.
ONLINE:  Mason Creek Farm
PHONE:  (479) 422-6000

McCLARD’S.  The slightly thin and graciously spicy sauce is available for purchase by the bottle at the famed Hot Springs barbecue shop's online store.
ONLINE:  McClard's  
PHONE:  (866) 622-5273.  
STORE:  505 Albert Pike in Hot Springs.
PICKUP:  Savory Pantry, Clinton Library Store.

MONK SAUCE.  Father Richard Walz brought back Habanero pepper seeds from his tenure in Belize, and planted them at the monastery at Subiaco.  In 2003, Monk Sauce hit the market.  This incredibly hot sauce is for the heat lover in your life.  Pick up some Abby Brittle while you're at it.
ONLINE:  Country Monks
PHONE:  (479) 934-1001

MOTLEY'S FUDGE KITCHEN.  You may know Motley Farms for Christmas trees, but there's also a great number of fudges to choose from as well.

ONLINE: Motley's Fudge Kitchen

MOUNTAIN VALLEY WATER.  The regular and sparkling varieties have been around for generations; new flavors such as lime and blueberry-pomegranate are just as good.
ONLINE: Mountain Valley Spring
PHONE:  (501) 442-8221.  PICKUP:  Mountain Valley Spring Water Visitors Center, Gifts of Arkansas.

MY BROTHER'S SALSA.  Send a gift of chips and dip from this Rogers area salsa maker.  Salsas come in such flavors as Black Bean and Corn, Cranberry Orange, Tomatillo and Fire Roasted.

ONLINE:  My Brother's Salsa

NEIGHBOR'S MILL BAKERY.  Harrison's best-known bakery is a great place for a bite to eat, but did you know they also ship their cakes and breads?  You can also get a bread-of-the-month order placed to keep your gift on giving throughout the year.
ONLINE:  Neighbor's Mill
PHONE:  (870) 741-6455

OZARK COUNTRY MARKET, This neat little shop on the south side of Heber Springs offers every manner of jam and jelly, pantry staple, freeze-dried vegetable, fudge, pickles and cheese you can imagine in one little country store.  They also offer many of those items online and will send along gift baskets, too.
ONLINE: Ozark Country Market
PHONE: (501) 206-0127
SHOP:  999 Heber Springs Road South, Heber Springs, AR 72543

PANCAKE SHOP.  The 70+ year old Hot Springs mainstay also offers its famed ham, sausage, apple butter and coffee for sale.
ONLINE: The Pancake Shop

PATTICAKES.  Known for making the breads and cakes for Stoby's, Patticakes also does gourmet-to-go and fudge.  The fudge is mailable -- and laudable.

ONLINE:  PattiCakes Bakery

PETIT JEAN MEATS.  The Arkansas standard, you can find bacon and hot dogs most anywhere.  Order and send a gift box of ham, bacon, or sausage just about anywhere. 
ONLINE:  Petit Jean Meats
PHONE:  (800) 264-2475
PICKUP:  Kroger's

POST FAMILIE VINEYARDS.  While you can’t ship wine online, you can pick up great juices and jellies from the family website.  Head to the store in Altus for more, including wine and wine gifts. 
ONLINE:  Post Familie
PHONE:  (800) 275-8423.  
STORE:  1700 St. Mary’s Road in Altus. 
PICKUP:  Wines and juices available at Arkansas grocery stores

RAILWAY WINERY.  The new Eureka Springs winery is back in business in a new location.  Many wines available.
ONLINE: Railway Winery

RATCHFORD FARMS.  Elk and buffalo, mailed to you frozen in roasts, steaks, sausages or ground meat.  Also, heritage beef.
ONLINE:  Ratchford Farms
PHONE:  (870) 448-5179
PICKUP:  Jerky available all over the state.

RICELAND FOODS.  Rice, rice mixes, rice bran oil, rice gift sets -- go check out the brand new Riceland store online for all sorts of great products to share Arkansas with everyone else.

ONLINE: Riceland Foods

ROBBI’S SALSA.  This salsa out of North Little Rock has that right balance of spices, tomatoes, and peppers without a whole lot of heat.  
ONLINE:  At Eggshells Kitchen Company and Robbi's Salsa on Facebook.
PHONE:  (501) 758-9616
PICKUP:  Eggshell Kitchen Company, Clinton Library Store. 

ROCKTOWN DISTILLERY.  Arkansas's premier distilling facility -- go take a tour and experience some Arkansas Lightning.

ONLINE: Rocktown Distillery

ROZARK HILLS.  A family roaster that also roasts to order and can be picked up at several places around Little Rock.  The Southern Supper blend is great with desserts.
ONLINE:  Rozark Hills
PHONE:  (501) 556-5808.  

SAVORY PANTRY.  The gourmet shop that started by selling Pancake Shop products now features all sorts of items from around Arkansas and around the world.  Best place to pick up products by Arkansas Pantry, Richard’s Honey, Fresca & Bella pasta sauce and more.  Stop by and check out all the daily samples of dips, preserves, and assembled recipes.  
ONLINE:  Savory Pantry
PHONE:  (877) 426-4887
STORE:  214 Central Avenue in Hot Springs.

STONEBROOK FUDGE FACTORY.  Fudge, taffy and dozens of other sweets, all from the heart of Mountain View. The fudges are magnificent.
ONLINE:  Stonebrook Fudge Factory
RECOMMENDATION:  Divinity Pecan fudge

STUBBY'S BBQ SAUCE.  The famed Central Avenue barbecue shop open since 1952 in Hot Springs offers its sauce for shipping just about anywhere.
ONLINE:  Stubby's BBQ Sauce
PHONE:  (800) 36-SAUCE
SHOP:  3024 Central Avenue in Hot Springs

SUZANNE’S FRUIT FARM.  Peach butter, Doubleberry spread, blackberry syrup -- there are a lot of great fruits found in jars from these folks, who grow their own in Hampton.  Order an Arkansas-made basket in the shape of a Razorback or the state itself, packed with jars and bottles of great fruit delights.
ONLINE: Suzanne's Fruit Farm
PHONE:  (870) 798-4975
STORE:  Four miles northeast of Hampton on Highway 274

SWALTY KERNEL.  Kettlecorn, anyone?  This Fayetteville corn popper has hit upon what might be the best ratio of sweet to salty you can find in this fluffy treat. 

ONLINE:  Swalty Kernel

SWEET'S FUDGE KITCHEN.  Turtles, nut clusters, truffles and fudge all come from this Spring Street store in Eureka Springs.  Open since 1969, Sweet's now has an online presence where you can order your favorites.

ONLINE:  Sweet's Fudge Kitchen
PHONE:  (479) 253-5810

TOWNSEND SPICE AND SUPPLY.  Want to make your own sausage?  Need a certain spice for your rub?  This is the place to get it.  Operating in Melbourne, this spot carries everything from cures to casings, and it's all available online.
ONLINE.  Townsend Spice and Supply
PHONE: (870) 368-3688

TREATSIE.  The new Little Rock sweets-to-you company collects sweet things from all over the place (including Lambrecht Gourmet toffee) and sends out the same.  Monthly subscriptions are available.
ONLINE: Treatsie

TWO DUMB DAMES.  Fresh cream fudges are headliners at this popular shop on South Main Street in Eureka Springs, along with homemade S’mores, turtles, and English Toffee. 
ONLINE: Two Dumb Dames Fudge Factory
PHONE:  (800) 237-7268
STORE:  33 South Main in Eureka Springs

WAR EAGLE MILL.  All organic grains ground onsite and available to you at reasonable prices.  Really good deals on packages and baskets for those on your gift list.  
ONLINE:  War Eagle Mill
PHONE:  (479) 789-5343.  
STORE:   On Arkansas 303 north from Highway 412 between Springdale and Huntsville.  
PICKUP:  River Market Grocery, Eggshell Kitchen Company.
RECOMMENDED:  Harold Ensley Fish Fry Mix
WESTROCK COFFEE ROASTERS. This North Little Rock-based company works directly with its growers in Rwanda and Tanzania to bring beans here to roast.  Varieties are available in different grocery stores, but there's also a robust online store with gift sets and more.
ONLINE: Westrock Coffee Roasters

WICKED MIX.  Salty, spicy, sometimes even chocolate-y, this Little Rock-produced snack mix is an easy win to stuff anyone's stocking.
ONLINE: Wicked Mix or at Eggshell Kitchen Company

WOODY’S.  The Waldenburg-originated spice adds truly Arkansas flavors to ribs, roasts and pork butts; the makers will also tell you to put it on meatloaf, chicken, and anything else that can be thrown on a grill.  
ONLINE: Woody's
PHONE:  (870) 579-2251
PICKUP:  Terry’s Finer Foods, Gifts of Arkansas

WOOHOO MIX.  Sesame sticks, roasted nuts, pretzel sticks, a great sweet and salty mix with or without chocolate.  This one's a real winner.
ONLINE:  A List of places that sell WooHoo Mix 

Sixty-four items not enough? Here are some more!

Airship Coffee

Cocoa Rouge in Bryant

DEBBIE'S GOURMET ENGLISH TOFFEE.  Pure cane sugar toffee enrobed in chocolate, in Fayetteville.
ONLINE: Head to Facebook.
PHONE: (479) 713-0827

Fresh Harvest in Eureka Springs

Izard Chocolate

R & G CANDIES.  Down in Star City, R and G's candies is making marvelous confections and brittle -- including coconut pecan brittle.
ONLINE:  R & G's Candies
PHONE: (870) 370-5440
PICKUP:  315 W. Joslyn Avenue in Star City

Richard's Apiaries does honey, too, right out of Benton.  
ONLINE:  Richard's Apiaries
PICK UP: Stratton's Market, Green Corner Store

Want to pick up your stuff instead of doing mail order?  Check out these additional businesses:
Brown Sugar Bakeshop
Stone Mill Bread and Flour Co.

And, a humble plug... I have books about food in Arkansas that might also make a great gift.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Down In The Dogpatch - A Tour.

There has been much commotion lately about Dogpatch USA.  The former amusement park -- at the time, one of the largest in the world -- closed in the mid-90s.  There have been rumors circulating in the twenty years in-between then and now about the future of the park.  Finally, there's a solid plan in place.

Earlier this year, Bud Pelsor purchased 45 acres of the park, including the tram station, skating rink and several other buildings up on top of the hill at Marble Falls as well as all of what was in the valley below.  Pelsor, who's become well known for the creation of the Buddy Bowl (a truly neat innovation in water bowls that keeps your pet from spilling, even if it gets tumped over or rolled), has grand plans ahead for the land.  Rather than tear down what's there, Pelsor has imagined a Village at Dogpatch that will one day be home to an artisan craft village, where skilled craftsmen and women will practice, teach and display their works and live on the premises.  A five year, ten year and 25 year plan have already been created.

Photographer Grav Weldon and I were given a tour ahead of the big tours this weekend of the park.  Some 2000 people are expected to walk the grounds of Dogpatch USA Saturday and Sunday.  Here's some of what you'll find inside.

This footbridge across a dam in the middle of the property stands near the old grist mill. While the
wooden railings have mostly given way, the concrete pathway is still secure. Just past the right side
of this photo, you can see submerged pedal boats once for rent at a nearby dock.
The view through the back window of the former ice cream shop.
This decorative cabin on a tiny island in the main lake probably doesn't look much different from
when the park was originally open.
The old grist mill.  Cedars, oaks and cypress provide a lovely backdrop for this old facility.  The
stonework is still intact and the grist mill within is almost untouched, but the old water wheel
has seen better days.
The original slide, the Wild Water Rampage, still stands, as does the old pavilion where you lined
up for your turn to climb the stairs.  The old grist mill is in the background.
This old swinging pedestrian bridge stands behind the old grist mill.  I wouldn't get on it as a
kid.  I sure wouldn't get on it now!
The old rail trestle at the south end of the park was built on big steel girders, and the rails are mostly
intact, but the wood has weathered to the point of being very soft.  During cleanup efforts, the
sluice at the end of the creek that ambles through the park has been opened, allowing a heartier
yet narrower stream of water to pour through.
A better view of the open sluice.  Grav soaked his pants halfway up the calves crawling around
to get this shot.
After the sale of the park in 1990 to new operators, the tram system uphill was abandoned and
visitors were allowed to drive into the park near the downtown area.  This was the bridge that took
people back across the park to the exit.  It's no longer safe for cars or for foot traffic, either.
The porta-potty has been placed for tours.
The beautiful little church in the wildwood still holds a lot of its charm.
Of all the attractions at Dogpatch USA, the famed Kissing Rocks have probably fared the best.
The lichen has given the figures a lovely "hairdo."
Below the sluice.
This is another fall right below Marble Falls, where the sluice is open.
Shots from the downtown square.  The old Riverbend Music show building is in pretty good shape,
though the glass is gone.  The beehive entrance to the old building which once housed both a honey
shop and the fudge shop is remarkably intact.  Much of this area was inaccessible due to thick brambles
and weeds that have just recently been removed.
One of the structures that stands at the top of the hill in Marble Falls.
One of the two remaining trams we saw on site -- this one is held in place at the top of the
rail by a chokehold of weeds.
This motor once ran the belts that hauled the trams up and down the hill.
The bark of the unplaned wood that made up the surface for the train depot's exposed areas has
kept well over the years.
This moss was growing in cypress mulch all over the park.  Any idea what it is?
The old Razorback, a photo op location still stands, though the hog looks a little lean.

This building near one of the lower entrances may be used by a blacksmith in the future.

The old trout farm will eventually be restocked, once the moss and algae have been cleared.

The cliff face above the old trout farm looks almost identical to how it appeared two decades ago.

This footbridge near the administration building appears to be in good shape.

The kudzu and weeds that had grown in these planters in the middle of the old
administration building complex had been taller than the average person before
being cleared out.

This side of the old administration building, which also housed the trout restaurant, is in good
shape, thanks to a good roof and cedar interior.

This old covered bridge building may be rejuvenated as an ice cream shop.

A view from across the lake of the downtown area.

This building, which I believe once housed the photography studio, may be converted to a home
for an artisan for the Village at Dogpatch.

Those unplaned roof supports have stood the test of time in this building.

Sadly, not every building still stands.  This one near the gazebo collapsed in recent years.

Inside the old fudge shop, ceiling tiles have fallen.

The beehive entrance for the honey and fudge shop isn't that much different from its appearance
two decades ago.

Nature masks the mess inside some buildings, such as the old ice cream confectionary.

The old mercantile is in good shape, thanks to a roof that was added in the past decade.  One of
the previous owners had many of the buildings re-roofed in an effort to preserve the facility.

Now cleared of debris, the old train depot just needs some trains before it's ready to go.

A view of the square from the depot.

At one point, this is where the statue of General Jubilation T. Cornpone once stood.  The statue
was last sighted in Branson.

The front porch of the ice cream shop.

One remaining carton from the ice cream shop remains.

A view from the old grist mill.

The mill's machinery is still in place.

An old phone book from 1993 remains inside the grist mill.

The submerged remains of paddle boats have washed up against the dam.

The tower for the waterslide stands beside the lake.

This was a shed for one of the trash-eaters, which had heads on vaccum devices to suck trash in.

Many of the old "domiciles" for Dogpatch characters remain.

The Kissing Rocks still stand peacefully near the old rail trestle.