A Few Bites in Bentonville

June 11, 2016

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Bentonville Arkansas (yes, the home of the Waltons of Walmart), is a big surprise.  This is a fantasy of small town America as imagined by the very rich.  The people are lovely, the streets are clean, the trees are green, the schools excellent.  There’s a farmers market in the town square on Saturday, and one of the most beautiful museums in the world, Crystal Bridges, which is not only free but open until 9 at night.

And there is food.  Really good food.  I spent a single day there, eating as much as I could. But I need to go back; if you love art and food, this is a very good town.

I began with dinner at The Hive in the very hip 21 C hotel, whose lobby smells so enticingly of wood smoke you are drawn, irresistibly, into the restaurant.  One of the dishes that emerges from the wood-burning oven are these spectacular clams with citrus, chili and breadcrumbs – a rural interpretation of the usually urban clams casino.  Loved them.

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I loved quail with strawberries too….

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But what completely won my heart was hominy with mascarpone and parsley.  It’s an homage to the polenta with mascarpone that Judy Rodgers made famous at Zuni Cafe – a dish so rich and wonderful it reminds you that you’re glad to be alive.

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Lunch was at Crepes Paulette, a little cart in the center of town that is achingly popular. The line stretched on for 45 minutes.  Le Jardin was worth the wait: the buckwheat crepe was filled with melted cheese, spinach, mushrooms and tomatoes.  Even on a 100 degree day, I ate every bite.

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Dinner at Eleven at Crystal Bridges was another impressive meal. It started off with the most wonderful ceviche with avocado, fresh greens and more of those fragile, fragrant local strawberries…..

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went on to whisper thin slices of beef carpaccio…..

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and a sprightly pea soup with bee balm and smoked herring.

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The main course, this lovely composition of risotto, quail stuffed with sausage, ramps, and peas….

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was followed by an equally artful dessert.

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Because this wasn’t nearly enough food to fill a day, we ended up at The Pressroom late at night for drinks and snacks. Fanny Bay oysters, flown in from Seattle, were briny, clean, pretty as orchids and gorgeous in the mouth.  As for these spicy shishito peppers with their little crumbles of crisped garlic – they were just pure fun..FullSizeRender (56)

The evening ended with those fried pig tails at the top. Crisp and succulent, the sweetness of the peaches framed the natural richness of the pork.

I can’t think of a more perfect little morsel to munch while drinking cocktails on a sultry southern night.

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6 Comments

  • Brian Burke says:

    Did you talk to any locals while you were here? The third sentence of your article was true well before Crystal Bridges opened, and well before our culinary scene was what it now is. You could not possibly understand the depth of the phrase “a fantasy of small town America imagined by the very rich” without interviewing locals.

    #SimCity

  • Martin says:

    All the restaurants you visited are excellent, especially The Press Room. Because of the Waltons, Bentonville gets all the attention but you need to come back and visit Heirloom in downtown Rogers. Everyone in northwest Arkansas knows this is the best fine dining experience here. The chef has experience in French cooking and raw food, combining all the flavors of both for an amazing dining experience. You owe it to yourself to come back and try it although they are booked months in advance.

  • Laurie M says:

    Wonderful words! So pleased that you were able to visit – and you should definitely come again. Try the taquerias in Springdale, Greenhouse Grille in Fayetteville and yes, Heirloom in Rogers. Finish the evening with cocktails at Foxhole and Maxine’s. 🙂

  • Angelique says:

    Tusk & Trotter in Bentonville as well as Heirloom in Rogers both deserve a visit when you make the trip again. Thanks for shining a spotlight on our little gems!

  • KarrLa Spencer says:

    This is a very exciting and growing culinary community. If you get a chance to come back check out the area’s first dedicated Gluten Free Bakery, Wild Grains. You would never know their pastries were Gluten Free and they have several vegan options as well!

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