We have been spending part of the year in Northwest Arkansas with brother Bobby for almost a decade and we have enjoyed each and every stay. However, Northwest Arkansas is a challenge for Morgan. Although there are many things he likes about the area including my family, our friends here, the hiking, and the fact that we are within a day’s drive of New Orleans, there are very few restaurants that he thinks are worth visiting and even fewer markets. That doesn’t mean that one cannot find key ingredients for great meals, they’re just difficult to locate in this area where the Walmart culture dominates. You have to know where to look. We’re going to share the fruits of our hard-earned labors and tell our eager readers about the few stores and the farmer’s markets that have what all good cooks will be looking for.
Adam’s Acres on Clear Creek
Telephone: (479) 466-7312
Hours of operation: Various, see their website
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Rostra rating: 4
Adam’s Acres has been the dream child of my nephew Ryan for many years. All the while he was working for the University of Arkansas, he was dreaming of the day when he could set up a farm and raise all things with feathers and hoofs. He began small in his backyard with chickens and expanded into a neighboring vacant lot to grow his holdings to include goats (apparently she goats are legal within the city limit). Soon, there was no holding him and his family back until now they produce oragnic pasture-raised chicken eggs, duck eggs, meat chickens, turkeys, pork, and rainbow trout. They also sell mushrooms, black Arkansas apples, and other seasonal produce.
Adam’s Acres supplies many of the higher-end local restaurants and they are a presence at many of the local farmer’s markets. Morgan has cooked several meals with their fine products including:
One of our favorite meals from Adam’s Acres started with duck. In the past, Morgan has cooked Ryan’s whole ducks by boning and stuffing them with an eggplant dressing. However, for this meal he used the duck breasts.
Season both sides of the breast with salt and ground black pepper. Next, put a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil into the bottom of a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Once it’s hot, gently drop each breast in the skillet with the skin side down, searing each until golden brown. Be certain to use a large enough skillet and don’t crowd the breasts while you’re cooking them. Otherwise you’ll lower the temperature of the pan and the results will be disappointing. Once the fat side has been seared, turn each over and continue to cook on medium heat until the internal temperature of the breast is 125F for medium rare or 140F for medium. An instant read thermometer is perfect to check this. Get the splatter screen ready and be prepared for some smoke during this whole process.
Once the duck breasts are ready, take them off the heat and let them rest for 10 minutes. This step is important because if you cut into them right away, all of the juices will run out making the breast dry.
Any duck pairs well with a sweet cornbread dressing. The dressing pictured here is made with crumbled cornbread, french bread broken into pieces, plumped dried cherries (reconstitute dried cherries in a small amount of hot water for 20 minutes or so), diced aromatic vegetables including celery and onion with some herbs including sage, salt, pepper and just a little bit of cayenne to make it interesting. If you don’t have dried cherries, you can use raisins instead. Put all this in an oiled casserole dish and moistened with the duck stock that you made from an earlier duck carcass. If you don’t have duck stock around the kitchen, you can substitute chicken stock. Cook this in an oven at 425F until the top is brown.
This duck goes especially well with any roasted vegetables. One of our favorites are these small yellow potatoes cut in half and generously covered with Bad Byron’s Butt Rub
(see Richard’s Meats below for local source) and olive oil. Place the potatoes on a pan with a parchment sheet and roast in an oven at 425F until golden brown. You can do this with brussels sprouts, cauliflower, or broccoli as well. Don’t forget to spread the vegetables out into a single layer on the baking sheet. Otherwise you’ll have steamed vegetables rather than roasted.
Another of our favorite side dishes is grilled radicchio. Cut the radicchio heads into quarters, season with salt and ground black pepper, splash on a liberal dose of olive oil, then grill until cooked through and slightly blackened. The result is slightly wilted radicchio with a tart taste that’s perfect by itself or included chopped up in a salad.
Now that the duck breast has had time to rest, place it on a cutting board and slice into small rounds. You can see from this photograph that it’s crispy on the outside and juicy pink on the inside. Perfect.
Here is the end result fit to eat. But don’t forget to take some of the small amount of juice that was remaining after slicing the duck and pour it over on top.
Adam’s Acres also sells pork sausages. We recently bought some in the form of bratwurst.
A great way to cook bratwurst, especially in the winter when the weather doesn’t permit grilling, is to place them in a skillet on the stovetop, pour inexpensive (although not cheap) red wine into the pan until it comes half-way up the sides of the sausages, and bring to a low boil over a medium heat. Once again, get out the splatter screen because otherwise you’ll have a mess.
Turn the sausages over when half the wine has evaporated. Once most of the wine is evaporated, the sausages will be dark purple in color with a small amount of intense sauce remaining in the pan. When Morgan cooked these particular sausages, the casings came off and he just stripped them away. On other sausages with different casings, however, you can simply leave the casing on.
Here is some roasted broccoli to go along with the bratwurst. Again, these have been covered with Bad Byron’s Butt Rub as described above and roasted in a 425F oven.
The end result. Bratwurst with a salad comprised of lettuce, roasted broccoli, and other wonderful roasted vegetables left over from recent meals. This sausage eats well with a little spicy mustard.
Richard’s Country Meat Market
Telephone: (479) 443-0000
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat: 9AM-6PM
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Rostra rating: 3.5
We have enjoyed Richard’s Meat Market ever since we started staying in Fayetteville over 10 years ago. Honestly, from the outside it looks like a little corner grocery store.
Walk in, though, and you’ll know that they’ve spent a lifetime figuring out how to cram everything in the world into a very, very small space.
Right when you enter, you’re faced with a wall of difficult to find spices, canned goods, relishes in jars, olives, a big selection of hot sauces, as well as veal, beef, chicken, and seafood stock. There are also DOP San Marzano tomatoes in cans that make excellent pasta sauces. Turn left and you’ll be at the deli meat counter.
Further on that same side is fresh fish, oysters, and our favorite… sausages of all kinds.
Turn right at that corner and you get to the meat counter proper where you can either choose from what’s available from the chicken, beef, lamb, and pork selections or ask one of the helpful gentlemen behind the counter to cut something special.
Keep moving ahead and you’ll find a rack of root offerings including fingerling potatoes and cipollini onions that we seldom see outside of Italy.
Across the isle from the meat are even more spices including our all time favorite… Bad Byron’s Butt Rub. It’s so good that we’ve started exporting it to Montana as well as Italy (see Easter in Western Sicily – Easter Sunday).
Around the next corner are more spices on the left and a wall of freezers where you can get the more exotic meats such as turtle and alligator. It doesn’t end there, however. All along the back wall are vegetables and other fresh produce. Not each and every vegetable is in perfect condition. For example, the eggplant might be perfect or a little old. But just check it out carefully and you’ll get some prime product. Next, to your right and close to the cash register is a whole case of prepared foods ready for the oven or microwave. Finally, bread that they make on the premises and pies are also available at the cash register. They even have a refrigerated case dedicated to premium pet offerings.
As you can tell, we’re big fans of Richard’s Meat Market. Here is one of the many meals that we’ve made from Richard’s.
Crawfish Etouffee Stuffed Chicken
At Richard’s Meats you can get chicken and steaks, of course, but they also have speciality dishes that are ready for you to take home and cook.
For example, this crawfish etoufee stuffed chicken. The chicken has already been boned and stuffed with typical étouffée ingredients such as rice, chopped green peppers, and bits of crawfish. This is all held together with a mesh bag.
Morgan took exception to the mesh bag around Richard’s chicken. He says that most butchers use these, but they’re made out a synthetic material and he prefers to cook his meats with old fashion butcher twine. So you’ll see here that he has rewrapped Richard’s chicken. This is optional. Put the chicken into a cast iron skillet and cook for an hour or so in a preheated 425F oven.
About thirty minutes into the cooking, you can surround the chicken with potatoes. These are fingerling potatoes from Richard’s Meat Market, cut in half and seasoned with Cajun Blend seasoning mix from The Spice and Tea Exchange in Bentonville (see below), another local shop we like a lot. You’ll notice that he’s placed these in a single layer at the bottom of the skillet. Again if you pile them up, you’ll have steamed potatoes rather than roasted ones. If you need more potatoes, cook them separately on a baking sheet pan covered with kitchen parchment and then put them all together in the skillet close to the end to get them coated with the chicken drippings while the bird itself rests.
When the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160F, remove it from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes.
Cutting into Richard’s crawfish étouffée stuffed chicken reveals the stuffing surrounded by perfectly cooked chicken with a crispy skin.
The Spice and Tea Exchange
Hours of operation: Monday – Thursday, 10:00am – 6:00pm Friday & Saturday, 10:00am – 8:00 pm Closed Sunday
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Rostra rating: 4
While we were out visiting Adam’s Acre at the Bella Vista farmer’s market on Saturday one Saturday, we stopped in at one of Bobby’s favorite shops in Bentonville, The Spice and Tea Exchange. We were greeted by Bill Oakley and enjoyed browsing around all the gourmet seasonings and spices, cooking herbs, gourmet teas, sugars, sea salts and signature products – blends and rubs made from TSTE’ secret recipes. If you’re in the area, stop by and check out these very interesting store.
Telephone: (479) 986-8886
Hours of operation: Mon - Sat: 9:00 am - 9:00 pm Sun: 10:00 am - 8:00 pm
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Rostra rating: 4
We had heard about Fresh Market at Pinnacle Hills for years, but never made the pilgrimage out there from Fayetteville. After all, how good could it be? Although it’s not a Whole Foods, compared with the other supermarkets in the area, Fresh Market was a real surprise.
It has everything that one would expect from a store focused on organic and fresh product including meats, eggs, cheese, fresh baked bread, coffees, teas, etc.
In addition they have an extensive prepared foods section including a olive and picked vegetable bar.
Their candy section is fun.
And they have flowers and gifts of all sorts.
The setup is nice and friendly with folks throughout the store to answer questions and help out. Here’s one of the meals that we recently made after a visit to Fresh Market.
Polenta with Lamb Shoulder and Sausage Ragu
During the winter, our thoughts turn to braises in general and braises that can be combined with polenta in particular. Here is one that’s made with shitake mushrooms from Adam’s Acre as well as lamb shoulder and hot italian sausage from Fresh Market. This is layered with polenta and béchamel in a skillet, covered with cheese, and finished off in the oven.
This recipe begins with one of Morgan’s classic red sauces. He sears the lamb shoulder and sausages on the stove top and combines them in a dutch oven with tomatoes, aromatics, and herbs to braise for 3 hours in a 325F oven.
When the lamb shoulder is meltingly tender, remove the bones and add the meat back into the sauce.
Next, remove the sausages, cut them into pieces, then return them to the sauce. Leave the ragu on the stovetop covered. It’s time to make the polenta.
On the top of the stove, heat some chicken stock in a dutch oven and stir in the polenta. Over medium heat, whisk this until the polenta starts to boil and thicken. After it begins to slowly bubble, stir constantly for about half hour until the polenta begins to pull away from the sides and bottom of the pan. Finish the polenta off heat by whisking in mascarpone cheese.
Once the polenta is ready, you can make the béchamel that you’re going to include with every layer. This photo shows the béchamel (butter, flour, milk, and fresh ground nutmeg) being made on the stove top.
In a cast iron skillet or duch oven, put in a layer of ragu, a layer of béchamel, and a layer of polenta. Repeat this process until you get to the top of the skillet. Cover the top of the final layer with a mixture of grated fontina and parmesan cheese.
Cook in the oven at 425F until golden brown on top and firm to the touch
The result is a super rich ragu melded with the super creamy polenta. Serve it up with a Caesar salad and you have a fine meal from Fresh Market.
Fayetteville Farmer’s Market
Hours of operation: When its open, Tues & Thurs: 7AM-1PM, Sat: 7AM-2PM
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Rostra rating: 3.5
The final mention of Fayetteville markets has to be the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market. In operation every summer on Fayetteville’s Historical Square since 1973, this market offers locally produced vegetables, fruits, flowers, plants, meats, baked goods, honey, eggs, jams, crafts, and fine art from the four-county area. If you have an opportunity to go, don’t miss it and take your dog along. They’re welcomed.