Thursday, October 30, 2008

Feasting on Arkansas

I've been in the NW corner of Arkansas for the better part of this week, and I'm pretty darn sure that if I don't go home soon, I will be buying an extra seat to accommodate the results of all the fabulous dining.

Seriously, I ate a steak that was as big as my head...or damn near close to it...and, I felt exactly like some python on an episode of Wild Kingdom that decided to eat a wildebeest or an elephant or some other something twice his size.

Wooooooooooooo Pig Sooie! Who would have thought so much good stuff could be found in one tiny corner of a state? When I mentioned to friends and family that I was headed for Arkansas this week, they all kind of went "meh," and didn't seem to think that Arkansas was all that and a bag of chips. (Absolutely no offense to Arkansasans...after all, we live in Alabama, and we're very thankful for the great states of Mississippi and Louisiana...hahahahaha!)

Granted, our arrival in Arkansas was sort of auspicious and seemed like an omen...we flew into XNA in Bentonville...affectionately known by the locals as "the airport Wal-Mart built." This place is at the intersection of B, F, and E. When we left the airport, Jane the GPS sent us down a dirt road to a bridge that was washed out...and tried to send us down another dirt road to probably a ravine on the next try. And this was just outside the exit to the airport! I'm sort of nervous about how we are getting to the airport in the morning...the entrance is quite possibly like Brigadoon, and only appears when a member of the Walton family needs to fly. If that happens, and I get stuck...I'm headed back to where we were and continuing my culinary Sherman's March on Arkansas...I know, sometimes, I just pull them out the first hat I come to!

The customer I went to visit is in Fort Smith, a neat little town near Fayetteville...actually, "little" seems to be a misnomer, since Fort Smith seems to be the 2nd largest city in Arkansas, but it really didn't feel like it was that big. People are extremely nice and friendly, and they sure know how to eat. And, you gotta love a place that has a former bordello as its visitor's center!

This week, I've wandered around the culinary globe--Mexican, Ecuadoran, Vietnamese, and Cowboy (that steak was worthy of it's own culinary division!). The customer's team sent us a list of restaurants that we might want to consider while we were in town, with strict instructions NOT to go to certain ones, because they wanted to go with us.

The first of those was Rolando's Nuevo Latino Restaurante (Warning, this link has music that I couldn't figure out how to turn off!). I highly recommend the Plato de Adventura, which is sort of culinary tour of Ecuador, with a little Cuban thrown should get the pork quesadilla as your quesadilla choice. Trust me on this.

For dinner one evening, we ventured to Doe's Eat Place, which is a limited franchise based out of Greenville, Mississippi. Doe's has some mighty fine steaks...they hand cut them every day and your options are 1.5 lbs and 2 lbs. The only other offerings on the menu were some fried shrimp and some tamales. (Some Doe's offer pasta and other seafood, but I damn skippy didn't see anything resembling chicken on this menu.)

So, I decided to tuck in and give the ol' T-bone a whirl...1.5 lbs of some of the best aged beef that I have ever put in my mouth. This place, housed in a old historic brewery, put most of the meat I've ever eaten to shame. It was pretty much all I could to do to hang on to my dignity and not pick up the bone and gnaw it, poodle style. (Don't worry, the little fur demons NEVER get table scraps or bones.) And, you know that if I hadn't been traveling with a co-worker, I would have taken that bone home in a go-box and laid in my Hampton Inn bed to happily chew on it while I watched True Blood on HBO. Kind of food for the mood, don't you think?

For lunch today, we went to Pho Hoang to eat Vietnamese. Fort Smith has a large Vietnamese and Laotian population, as a result of the fall of Saigon. Several church groups took in refugees and helped them create new lives here in the US, and we are all the better for it...or at least the Fort Smith folks are! There are many Vietnamese eateries, and if they are all half as good as the one we went to today...well, let's just say that I am trying to figure out how to come back and observe the site training...I need this as part of my ongoing education with the new company, don't you think? Of course, I'll have to fast for weeks in advance...heck, I should start now, since Thanksgiving will be here in a couple of weeks.

Maybe I need a little pinup on my fridge for some 'bout this fella?


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