Kat Robinson takes a look back at Arkansas's oldest festival and the history of peaches in The Natural State... plus a preview of what's happening this weekend at the Johnson County Peach Festival.
Can you imagine Arkansas summers without peaches? The fuzzy fruit with its almost syrup-sweet flavor is scrumptious to the pit… but it wasn’t always available in The Natural State. Peaches weren’t cultivated until after the Civil War, as farmers looked to diversify crops to avoid the treacheries of a single crop economy. Orchards popped up all over central and western Arkansas and along Crowley’s Ridge.
There’s also a peach eating contest… and you’d be surprised how fast a child can eat a peach.
Seriously, they can gobble that flesh off the pit quick!
Make plans now to head up there July 24th through 26th… and if you need more information, call (479) 754-9152 or check out the event’s Facebook page.
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Monday, July 14, 2014
My former places to enjoy a good cuppa and write a bit have evaporated these past two and a half years. Sufficient Grounds, which became The House, is now The Pantry and no longer a coffee shop -- and Gellattes has just evaporated. Guillermo's, where I wrote most of my work in 2011, had been steady but with Hans Oliver no longer running the show I suspected things have changed.
If I were the sort not to try new things, I would have been quite disappointed and maybe have made my way back home, since most the other local places where I might consume coffee would be closed on a Sunday. But I was undaunted -- and moreso, I was looking for a place to write.
The first really big new idea came in the coffee itself. I'm a black coffee drinker. I might drop in a cube or two of natural sugar if it's available, but if I am seriously working I want it black and strong. And yes, there are espressos and cappuccinos and mochas available -- but what entranced me was the idea of pour-over coffee. I mean, what does that mean?
cup in my hand before I wrote my first word of the day -- but it does make for a very individualized experience.
The barista working offered me choices -- a house blend, a medium roast and the option to have either made stronger. He also grinned when I asked for my black coffee. Other places people have smirked when I ordered -- thinking I might load it up on the other end with add-ins. I don't think that was the case here.
Speaking of cases -- there was a case below the coffee area full of bottles of Loblolly strawberry lemonade. Now, what rock have I been under that I haven't known about such a thing? Don't answer that -- it's for another post.
I watched my coffee being made -- filter being placed in a ceramic filter cup, a tablespoon of fresh grounds dropped in, a young woman slowly pouring water over the grounds and watching the water flow through to the cup below. It was very modern and fresh and clean and bright, almost like a commercial. This was certainly not my usual coffee experience.
And... people watching. Yes, there were a lot of people coming through. Families with small children. Older folks with books, younger folks with computers, couples digging their way through newspapers.
And I felt like some weird pretender. Indeed, when I looked away from my wide laptop I noticed there were just as many eyes on me in my old tie dye blouse with my hair swept back as there were people for me to quietly ponder. These folks seem so urban, so hip... I'm just not in that class, am I?
Don't get me wrong... it's a very nice, very clean coffeehouse with good products. But it may be too much -- I mean, it's perfect for someone wanting to meet another someone for quiet conversation or to go through the paper, but it's about as far away as gumbo soil and highway miles as I could get.
That's not a problem. If I were writing a novella about life in a coffeeshop, it has potential. Those rustic-bread paninis also have potential. LOTS of potential. In fact, enough that I almost considered getting one. But by that point my back was achy and my resolve to write about barbecue joints and hot summer afternoons had faded, and I had to go get it back. So I fled.
Well, sorta. I planned to flee. And then I wrote this piece instead. And then I stayed -- despite the gradually frustrating patio chair and all the eyes. I stayed, because though it might not be what I'm used to in a coffeeshop, it did offer fabulous coffee and a really remarkable chocolate croissant.
See, a lot of my personal choices for a coffeeshop are about comfort -- physical comfort. When I can find a good pairing of coffee, available electricity, a place where I can sit where I won't be bothered and a nice selection of edibles, I've hit the jackpot. Mylo is a little short on those electrical outlets and comfy chairs... but it does have a comfortable vibe -- which I witnesses as individuals kept coming through the door, sitting and talking with each other.
Even this end-of-day oatmeal raisin cookie... which was delivered to me... close to closing time. Yeah.
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
But Farrell's wasn't our only sweet treat delight back in those heady days of the 1980s. I'll elaborate in a moment.
|See, even Bill Clinton liked Farrell's.|
Down on the first floor at the north entrance, there was an awning that spread out into the hall. If you passed under that awning, you could step down into a land of pure fun, where both waiters and waitresses wore striped shirts, vests and hats and an ice cream extravaganza was waiting for you.
Farrell's Ice Cream Parlours started in Portland, OR in 1963. At its zenith it operated restaurants in 32 states across the United States. The location at McCain Mall in North Little Rock was one of the more successful stores. But after a purchase by the Marriott group in the 1970s, it became an individual franchise; it and two other stores owned by the same person (in Little Rock and Oklahoma City) closed in 1984.
Swensen's didn't have all the bells and whistles of Farrell's, but it did have the Earthquake, which reminded me so much of this scene from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.
to TCBY -- but that didn't stop the growth. By 1986 there were over 400 stores. By 1987 there were over 800 stores. The company grew so big and so fast, it was a marvelous investment.
It left its mark on Little Rock -- literally -- for a while, the tallest building in the state was the TCBY Tower (which was later the Metropolitan Tower and is now the Simmons Bank Tower).
I can remember the original This Can't Be Yogurt theme song, but I'm not going to sing it for you. I did, however, find a clip of the commercial where they announced another name change, to TCBY Treats.
So, here's the thing. You may not be aware of this, but Farrell's is still around. After just about every location closed down, there were two -- one in San Diego and one in Eugene, Oregon. In the late 1990s, Parlour Enterprises got the rights to develop new stores from The Kirin Group (which had bought the rights to develop more stores from Marriott), and new locations came about. Today you can enjoy lots of different ice cream confections at seven locations in California and one in Hawaii. Food Network even declared the super sundaes at Farrell's one of its top five decadent desserts.
But that doesn't answer the original idea for this post. Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour was part of the draw for my generation, a reason to choose McCain Mall over other shopping sites. Having that nostalgic Music Man-style eatery with its big ice cream creations return would be one step in creating a nostalgic destination for Gen Xers... pair it up with a showing of Flashdance, the original Star Wars trilogy or Xanadu and a before-the-show visit to Mr. Dunderbak's, and you're just a fashion mistake away from a time warp.
So should Farrell's return? Or should Purple Cow consider a McCain Mall location? Is there a different ice cream magnate you'd rather see there?
For more reading;
Farrell's Memory Page
Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour Restaurants
Swensen's Ice Cream
Purple Cow Restaurants