It’s darn near impossible for this sweet-loving sugar junkie to end a meal without indulging on dessert. A good meal is simply not a good meal if it does not conclude with me sliding massive amounts of sugar down my throat. And so, I’ll be bringing you this new feature periodically, Rock City Sweets…my relentless journey through the world of desserts within our fair city. Let us begin…
A recent meal at Table 28, the fine dining restaurant nestled away in The Burgundy Hotel (formerly the Best Western Governor’s Suites) in West Little Rock, was met with mixed results. But all at our table was in agreement that the desserts being sent out of the kitchen are better than ever before. The “sticky toffee pudding” with blackberries, hazelnuts, and cream, has always been a sensational way to end a meal here, but recently, I skipped the pudding in favor of a recent menu addition, their riff on a classic “s’more.” This version starts with a thick, chewy housemade graham cracker bar topped with a light chocolate mousse. Then comes a small block of housemade marshmallow that gets toasted on all sides, drizzled in dark chocolate and paired with a scoop of creamy chocolate ice cream. The results are spectacular…a real testament to the talents of Chef Scott Rains, a man who is every bit as competent with the sweet in addition to the savory side of the menu.
If you haven’t made plans to scope out the new One Eleven at the Capital, I’d strongly encourage you to do so. Sure…it’s not going to be the cheapest meal you’ll consume this year, but from what I’ve eaten, your money will be well spent. Especially if said meal ends in their exemplary chocolate soufflé. I’ve had this decadent dessert four times now, and I’ve been overwhelmingly pleased with every bite. Joel Antunes is clearly another chef as adept with desserts as he is with the rest of the dinner menu. This chocolate soufflé is essentially perfect…and a finer version I’ve not eaten my entire life. It’s incredibly light and airy, with a hot, molten pudding-like chocolate center. Dollop a bit of their not-too-sweet vanilla Chantilly cream across the top for a cool contrast of the hot soufflé. Just do your best not to lick the inside of your ramekin…this is fine dining, after all.
E’s Bistro, a small neighborhood restaurant tucked away into a strip mall off JFK in North Little Rock, still doesn’t get the credit it deserves. And when it comes to desserts, you won’t find many better than the dishes owner and pastry chef, Elizabeth McMullen, produces daily. You’ll see incredible cakes coming out of her oven (try the mandarin orange cake when it’s available), but her pies are something worth recognizing as well. We recently sampled her delightful coconut cream pie…this thing needs to be in the discussion for best pie in Arkansas. It’s composed of cool vanilla custard topped with gobs of whipped cream and bits of crispy tossed coconut, all atop a flaky, buttery, tender crust. A simple design, but executed with excellence.
Lastly, I’d be amiss if I neglected to mention the handiwork of the talented Matt Lowman at South on Main. There was a brief period in which Lowman decided to take his signature doughnut creations off the menu, thinking customers might prefer a few lighter options during the summer months. But at the strong urging of his many doughnut-loving supporters, he was almost forced to bring them back…likely dodging a string of riots and protests from doughnut-junkies all over the city. I’m a big fan of his pecan fritters (which I consider to be some of his best doughnuts yet), but we recently got a taste of his version of Mexican churros…the results (as you’d expect) were wonderful. Get on over and support Matt’s doughnuts…no one ever wants to see them leave again.