This post and accompanying social media was sponsored by Visit Bentonville.
“I could never order something different off of a menu, just because the item I wanted isn’t very pretty.”
This statement from Michelle of Simply Live Love sums up the one and only struggle I had on my trip last week to Bentonville, Arkansas. The lovely folks at Visit Bentonville hosted close to twenty bloggers for their Food and Travel Summit the first week of November. In a matter of 2.5 days, we managed to go to eight restaurants, hear two panels of speakers, and stop by three lovely cultural centers.
Being a first-time visitor, I’m glad that they put us on a fast track to getting to know the cute little town and get first-hand experience with several local chefs. My main struggle, however, as a food blogger there were several dishes that sounded great to my taste buds at the time but I knew they weren’t the dishes “best for the ‘GRAM”. Want to know what I did? When in doubt, trust your gut. Several places I opted for my spontaneous cravings versus the prettiest item on the menu.
Here’s a run-down of some of the places we visited.
Fred’s Hickory Inn
View this post on Instagram
Elysa here. I’m traveling this week. @visitbentonville is hosting us and 20 or so bloggers from all of the US in NW Arkansas. We have a full day of eating, drinking, and touring Thursday and Friday. Tonight we stopped in to @fredshickoryinn for a social happy hour. Anyone who knows me, knows I was set as soon as I saw that #cheeseboard. You may have noticed the sausage on the chessboard. They make their sausage in house. They are known for their smoked meat. Comments question: have you been to #Bentonville? Anything we must see? #tasteandtravelbentonville
Fred’s is the oldest fine dining restaurant in Benton County. We sat in the party room and ate buffet style for this stop. Starting off my food nerd adventure with a giant cheeseboard, wine, and meatballs was a pretty easy way for me to feel right at home. Fred’s Hickory Inn is known for their high-quality meats that are “smoked the old fashion way”. I loved the look of their outdoor patio.
— Dallas Food Nerd (@DallasFoodNerd) November 8, 2018
“Are you allowed to pick favorites at only your second stop on a food tour.” I wondered to myself as I saw how lovely all the plates were being put in front of me. The Pressroom is located right in the heart of Bentonville Square. The large windows made for the perfect light, to take food photos, to get to know new friends. 😉
I ordered the Baked Egg & Chorizo, a side of fruit, and Chai. Although almost everyone else at the table ordered the Avocado Toast I was thrilled with my choice. The only dish that gave me a little FOMO was their ever-changing daily Quiche, ordered by CVB’s President Kaylene.
In the event, you’re imagining that I ate a super savory Chorizo dish and managed to hop straight to lunch you would be mistaken. We had a day full of exploring, learning, and a bit of wandering in the cold in between activities. Related: this Texas girl was not prepared for the cold rain on day 1.
Truth be told, I’m always hesitant to go to Latin or Tex-Mex places when I travel. As a native Texan, I almost always prefer my classic favs from home. As luck would have it four of us at the lunch table came in from Texas (Southlake and Austin). Not sure if that was intentional.
I decided to order one part comfort and one part a new twist on my usual. When I saw that their enchiladas had Goat Cheese inside, that’s where my first instance of food prettiness versus flavor had to be weighed. I love me some enchiladas. But I must say that dish is in the top 10 least photogenic food. They try! I went for it anyway. And I’m glad I did. Turns out, my Tortilla Soup made up for it in photogenicness.
Tusk & Trotter
We’ve been in the food scene long enough that I’m always impressed when I meet a Chef who is also the restaurant owner. Executive Chef Rob Nelson has been recognized not only for his food but also his efforts in supporting Food recovery programs. Chef Rob made a trip to Texas in the Spring as part of Walmart’s “Fight Hunger, Spark Change” campaign. Watch the video here.
Tusk & Trotter is most well known for their Charcuterie Board, well really the Bacon ON the charcuterie board. In fact, they were nominated for Southern Living Magazine’s “Best Restaurant in the South” in 2017 and 2018. They use local ingredients as much as possible and change their menu seasonally. Which meant, when we got our food late in the evening they are sold out of one of the usual meats for the board, so we ended up with extra Bacon.
We spent the morning getting a behind the scenes tour of their local culinary school – Brightwater. If you know someone who is considering Culinary Education I’d highly suggest looking into Brightwater “Center for the Study of Food.”
Brightwater breaks the mold by focusing on the larger food system, culinary skills, wellness, and strengthening local food networks to change the paradigm of culinary education. Assembling a core group of chef instructors and culinary masters, the program teaches and inspires students, industry professionals, and the general public in an innovative educational setting.
The state-of-the-art facility is 27,500 square feet within a larger building that also has food-related businesses. The students at Brightwater have the opportunity not only to learn about food but also the business side of the culinary industry. Related: check out this Bolivian Raspberry Chocolate Tart I had at Markham and Fitz Chocolate right down the hall from the classrooms in Brightwater.
— GenPink (@genpink) November 9, 2018
Eleven at Crystal Bridges
The restaurant at Crystal Bridges was given its name because of the opening date 11/11/11.
Crystal Bridges takes its name from a nearby natural spring and the bridge construction incorporated in the building, designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie.
There were close to 30 of us sitting in the large open room flooded by light, and a spectacular view of nature. The “Great Hall”, as they call it, is also where Crystal Bridges hosts their monthly WOW Events (Wednesday Over Water). The next WOW is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (21st).
These mystery dinners sell out every month, and have been going on for over 85 months! The menu and discussion points for each event is paired with the current temporary exhibit. The November 2018 WOW theme is “Art for a New Understanding: Native Voices, 1950s to Now”. I had the pleasure of touring the exhibit with the Chef Melody Lane, as well as the event host Case Dighero. I have a little insight into what may or may not be served at the event. I’ll be sure to share as soon as we get post-event photos of the final dishes!
Oven & Tap
Last, and certainly not least, I had a relaxing visit to Oven and Tap before heading off to the airport. We started with an appetizer that several people had been raving about – Pimento Cheese and Forchetta bread. This photo speaks for itself.
View this post on Instagram
I made it back home from Bentonville. For my last meal I picked @ovenandtap at the recommendation of several of y’all. The pimento with forchetta bread alone might be worth the flight on a tiny airplane. Adding in this Shrimp & Grits was the final deciding factor that we will, in fact, be back to #visitbentonville and you should too. Swipe to see the Roasted Acorn Squash, life-changing cheese, and the description for how they prepared the S&G. I ate and drank at 9 Bentonville places total. I’ll sort my photos and share the details with you guys over the next few days. PS: Sorry about bringing the cold Arkansas weather back with me. *hosted #tasteandtravelbentonville
If you’re like me and you’ve never been to Arkansas, you might like to know that the flight is under an hour. I must say, filling my belly and then taking a leisurely stroll through the most chill airport EVER was an excellent way to end my trip.
For my final meal in Bentonville, I went with Oven & Tap’s Shrimp and Grits and my dining partner opted for the Roasted Acorn Squash which looked equally tasty. The good news and the bad news about Oven & Tap, their menu is constantly changing. I do know when Rory and I go back to Bentonville, we must experience Oven & Tap’s pizza options!
Bentonville Food & Drink Highlights:
- Fav drink: Habenero Margarita at Tusk & Troller
- Fav appetizer: Meatballs at Fred’s Hickory Inn
- Worth the flight: Shrimp & Grits from Oven Tap
- Wishlist place I did not get to visit (yet): The Preacher’s Son
- Definitely going back: The Press Room
Watch the behind the scenes of my Bentonville experience in our Instagram Highlights here.