I tend to eat a lot of food. You’ve probably already figured that out by now. A good deal of that food is shared with you on this blog, but there’s also a significant amount that never gets mentioned. But some of it should—some solitary dishes I’m eating that deserve credit but maybe not a 1500 word essay. And so, I’m starting a new feature. “Cheers and Jeers” will be a periodic smattering of dishes and other random food musings that are on my mind. I hope you enjoy it, and I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on anything mentioned, as well. Here we go…
First off, cheers to Big Orange for their recently run St. Patrick’s Day special, the Lucky Charms milkshake. On the surface it’s just some kids cereal blended with some ice cream, but in truth, it’s really a bit more than that. Big Orange pastry chef, Autumn Hall, creates her own “cereal milk” (channeling her inner David Chang) to blend with high-quality vanilla ice cream and of course, Lucky Charms cereal. It’s surprisingly wonderful—the flavor of the cereal oats was particularly tasty and a refreshing, unique flavor for a milkshake. But jeers to Purple Cow and their “famous” purple milkshake. I was much less impressed with the quality of their celebrated Yarnell’s ice cream. It was icy and slightly runny—an interesting color, but not much more than that.
Cheers to Layla’s for banging out some wonderful baba ganoush. The Mediterranean/Greek world is not something we visit regularly, but it’s nice to know that when the craving hits, Layla’s offers a cheap but high-quality menu. The baba ganoush, IMHO, is even more enjoyable than their acclaimed hummus. Roasted eggplant, olive oil, and a touch of paprika—lovely appetizer. But jeers to the popular YaYa’s Bistro in the Promenade. It’s a clean, comfortable restaurant, but my pizza and apps tasted of ingredients that had spent a bit too much time in the freezer.
Cheers to Ciao Baci as they transition into a new spring menu. I stopped by recently with a certain, Mighty Rib and really enjoyed a salmon gravalax tartare. Chopped bits of raw fish, herbs, and a creamy dill sauce, all scooped into a crispy potato chip. Kudos, Chef Owen. Jeers to Damgoode Pies, however, as I just can’t seem to get on board with their pizza. It’s slightly difficult to say why, but after each of my visits to the place, I’m always left thinking it’s nothing more than an average pie with a slightly-too-high price tag. Their pink sauce is rather enjoyable, however, but the rest of the pie falls flat.
Cheers to Oreos for helping fulfill all my wildest dreams and “Mega Stuffing” their cookies. In the “cookie vs. cream” debate, I remain firmly planted on the cream side. It’s cheap, sugar-laced vegetable shortening, but I am quite fond of the stuff—the more the better. But jeers to M&M’s and their “Mega” bag of oversized candies. There was nothing particularly special about these, just bigger chunks of low-quality chocolate. And while I normally enjoy these candies, the “Mega” bag actually loses some of the M&M’s charm—no longer tiny, bite-sized morsels.
Cheers to Zara Abbasi Wilkerson for creating a wonderful birthday cake for my 3 year-old son. The kid is obsessed with the solar system and she baked up a beautiful and delicious cookies-and-cream cake decorated with fondant stars and planets. Even the fondant was good enough to eat, and everyone at our little party was impressed.
And a final cheers to warmer weather and the upcoming strawberry season. Arkansas farms produce some pretty sensational strawberries and I look forward to taking my family berry picking in the very near future, an activity I reported on here a while back.