Hit the road for a new kind of localvore: Ashley’s, CBG [classic article]

food
Tamar Alexia Fleishman, Esq.

We’re so lucky in the Baltimore area, having BWI Airport right in our midst. It means we can fly a number of airlines such as Southwest — where BWI serves as a hub — but not the airline of which we dare not breathe its name lest it gets hold of my luggage again. We can get out there, try new kinds of localvore dining and farm to fork from other farms. People living in Baltimore can get exposed to the flavors of the world so easily! I myself hit the air recently and was able to check out the fine dining under two very different occasions at the Capital Hotel in Little Rock. I was able to see behind the curtain, as it were, learning about the restaurants on premise with a kitchen tour.

I had a delectible breakfast at Ashley’s. This is a breakfast well worth waking up for and trust me, I don’t do it often. Everything is made in house, including the freshly squeezed dark orange juice (So healthy! So full of anti-oxidants!). I just had to try some of their house-cured bacon and definitely, the pancakes with freshly whipped cream and Arkansas Black apples. I’ve written about Arkansas Black apples HERE, when I purchased them in our sister state of Virginia. They’re very difficult to locate, though, even in Arkansas. I fell in love with these hard — don’t say “crisp” — apples a while back. Ashley’s candies them so that they have a dessert-like quality, but still retain that heirloom hard texture.

The breakfast atmosphere at Ashley’s is elegant and peaceful. I’d describe the dress as dressy-casual.

I learned that the Capital Hotel has invested in a $500,000 French oven to get the perfect sear on foods. They also devote their walk-in to the freshest local produce.

If you’d like a private meal, you can make arrangements to dine in the wine cellar.

So, later that day. . . well, much later that night, I kinda utilized the city’s seen-and-be-seen chic gastropub bar, Capital Bar and Grill, as the after-party of the year. How’s that? Well, I was hangin’ out with rock star Andy Tanas (formerly of Black Oak Arkansas and also, Krokus) after his gig elsewhere in town. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones to discover the after-party elegance of this place; there were wedding party folks and other superb people watching opportunities galore. Or, maybe they were watching us! At Capital Bar and Grill, you never can tell.

I started out with a gorgeous little cocktail, the Southern Comfortable. It was served in a frosted silver julep cup, bien sur, with Square One Botanical, Yellow Chartreuse, Berentzen Pear, lemon juice and pecan soda. The pecan soda is made from the nectar in which they cook their spiced pecans. The drink is garnished with an edible flower. So cute! The cocktail was clearly of a mixologist status.

The drink was followed by mini rice bread muffins. Think corn bread, but rice. Arkansas is the largest grower of rice in the world.

Then, it was time for some “bar snacks”. The bar snacks here are gourmet and decadent . . . but hey, I was hanging out with a rock star. While Capital Bar and Grill has all kinds of Southern treats on the menu like pimento cheese, I focused like a laser on their house cured and smoked meats. The meats are cured in an invention the chef created originally to dry ducks from hunting season. I tried the Blackstrap leg of lamb, country pate’, smoked fois gras and dry-cured duck breast. All were luxurious in texture, not salty, and bursting with meat flavor. Natural smoking is a whole ‘nother ball game from some of those fake seasoned meats you may have had in your past. The true richness is retained, along with melt-in-your-mouth texture. The charcuterie plate was presented with house-made jam and mustard, house-made pickles, as well as freshly baked bread.

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