Around the Rock: Mixed Bag at Ciao Baci, Good Food is Good, and The Pantry Crest Feels Right at Home

My weekly food views…
Ciao Baci continues to both excite and underwhelm—all in the same meal. My broiled Atlantic salmon with grilled Romaine, beet hash and fried onion rings was a wonderfully executed, albeit, overpriced entrée. Huge portion of perfectly cooked fish aside, $26 for this dish was just too expensive. That said, the plate, with all of its sweet and savory flavors, was an absolute homerun. Notably, pairing onion rings with the fish was a bold, yet highly successful move on chef Owens’ part. My tablemate was relatively satisfied with his fried chicken slider (my favorite item at Ciao Baci), but less so with his side of baked French fries, of which, about 40% were overcooked. Other smaller issues with our dinner included weak iced tea and coffee, along with an abysmally bland apple bread pudding–lowlighted by a dryness that was thankfully rescued by the accompanying pecan ice cream.
My veggie bowl (with brown rice, roasted red pepper sauce, carrots, zucchini and a fried egg) at Good Food by Ferneau made for a satisfying lunch. It ran me $10, but was hearty and kept me full until dinnertime. In a restaurant scene filled with one heavy dish after another, it’s refreshing to see several healthy options on a menu. This was my inaugural visit to the new restaurant in NLR’s Argenta District, but definitely not my last.
Congrats on the new opening of The Pantry Crest. The gorgeous restaurant has the charm of its sister to the west, but with classic touches that are uniquely its own. The menu hasn’t changed and neither have the prices. Smart move … as consistency, quality and affordability are the hallmarks of The Pantry. My stock pot, sans the tomato-based broth, was a welcome sight and proved to be just as good many of my previous visits.
And the news…
The 7th Annual B Street Rib Off, benefitting the American Cancer Society of Central Arkansas, is set for November 1st at Argenta Plaza.
Executive chef Andreas Kisler and The Peabody Hotel will host the Best of the Mid-South Friends of Beard Benefit Dinner on Saturday, November 8th in Memphis. Little Rock’s very own chef Matthew Bell of South on Main will be there representing Arkansas as part of the 6-course dinner. The cost of the dinner with wine pairings is $175 per person for James Beard Foundation members and $200 for non-members, plus tax and gratuity. For more information or to make a reservation, please call The Peabody at 901-529-4183. Proceeds will benefit The James Beard Foundation and Methodist Foundation, Hospital Transplant Fund.
Join Sync Magazine on Wednesday, October 29th for Boo & Brew at Arkansas Repertory Theatre for a thrilling production of Wait Until Dark! A ticket includes a beer-and-pizza reception from 6-7 p.m., with the show following at 7 p.m.
Central Arkansas Signature Chefs Auction will be held Tuesday, October 28th (6 p.m.) at the Wally Allen Ballroom inside the Statehouse Convention Center. Proceeds raised by Signature Chefs Auction directly benefit the local chapter of March of Dimes enabling the funding of local research grants, community services, education and advocacy to help improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality everywhere. Sally Mengel of Loblolly Creamery will be providing a trio of mini ice cream sammies for the event! For ticket information, please click here.
Youth Home’s newest annual event, The Next Course, will be held in the Great Hall of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library on October 30th. A wine reception begins at 6 p.m. and the first course will be served at 7 p.m. Individual tickets are $125, sponsorship starts at $1500. All of the proceeds from this evening will be used to purchase, repair, and update kitchen equipment for the residential and day treatment campus located on Colonel Glenn Road. The kitchen prepares over 114,000 meals per year.
The Arkansas Gladney Family Association will host Raise A Glass for Gladney on Thursday, November 6th at the Arkansas Arts Center (6-9 p.m.), a wine tasting and live auction benefitting the Gladney Fund. You can also expect cupcakes provided by Kelly Marks of Sweet Love. Tickets are $75 each.
South on Main’s owner/chef Matt Bell teams up with four other chefs, including Felicia Suzanne of Felicia Suzanne’s in Memphis, Travis McConnell of Butcher & Public, Jeff Owens of Ciao Baci and Kelli Marks of Sweet Love to host a multi-course dinner, benefitting No Kid Hungry on November 10th at South on Main. Reception starts at 6 p.m. and features cocktails from David Burnette of South on Main and Lee Edwards of Yellow Rocket Concepts. Funds raised will support No Kid Hungry’s efforts in Arkansas. Tickets are $150 each, with a variety of packages, as well as sponsorships opportunities available.

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