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The Root Café cooks dinner inspired by Arkansas fruits and berries

Historic Arkansas Museum - Monday, July 01, 2019

For the second dinner in our 2019 History is Served: Arkansas Foodways Dinner Series, Jonathan Arrington and Jack Sundell of The Root Café presented a meal that was inspired by Arkansas’s rich heritage in fruit production and featured a different Arkansas fruit for each course. We caught up with Jon and Jack to ask them about how they prepared for the evening.

How did you prepare for a dinner like this and did you find it challenging?

Jack: I love to see Chef Jon's process on a meal like this — he starts with the main flavors he wants to get onto the plate, and then starts thinking about how to make that happen with a variety of textures, techniques, colors and even temperatures. It's an artistic approach to food and flavor, building layers and testing new ideas. Very fun to witness!

What did you serve?

Jon:

We served cucumber kimchi on toast with goat cheese from white river creamery and some fresh dill from our garden. Next was strawberries with yogurt, olive oil cake and sorrel ice cream. Then we served blueberry consommé with fermented blue berries and creme fraiche. Next came pork belly with smoked grits and a few preparations on blackberries. We ended with strawberry shortcake

What was interesting for you tonight?

Jon: As far as the food is concerned, I was very happy with the blueberry course.

Jack: I love to see people from the community come together and share a meal at a communal table like they did at this dinner.Lots of folks leave having made new friends. It's the epitome of the Root's mission, "Building Community through Local Food."

How did you translate the historic foodways into today’s cooking?

Jack: The fruit dinner was obviously guided by what fruits were available at this particular time of year. Arkansas is lucky to have a very abundant fruit culture, and at this particular time (early June) the stars aligned for us to have strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries all overlap. At the Root we're actually able to keep local fruit on the menu year round thanks to the long storability of Arkansas Black apples. Starting with strawberries in the spring, we go through blueberries, blackberries, peaches, melons, figs, early pears and apples, and finally Arkansas Black apples in October or early November, and we buy enough of those that we can store them and keep using them all the way back to strawberry season in April.

Where did you get the fruit for tonight’s dinner?

Jon: We sourced all the strawberries from Barnhill Orchards. The blueberries came from Barnhill Orchards and from Linnwood at the West Markham Garden Club. The blackberries all came from Barnhill Orchards. The cucumbers are from WaterVeg.