Road trip goodies

April 26, 2016

Arkansas' best dessert. Definitely worth a road trip.

Arkansas’ best dessert. Definitely worth a road trip.

What do you do to keep a trip from Little Rock whose primary reason, a business meeting, gets cancelled, from being an overall waste of time?

You spend the night with a good friend, who doesn’t mind that you’re drugged out on sinus meds and can’t stay awake (may be a Good Thing the meeting was cancelled!), and you take advantage of the trip to score big in the Road Food category.

Tonight's road-trip dinner -- asparagus, proscuitto, shrimp scampi. Strawberries not shown.

Tonight’s road-trip dinner — asparagus, proscuitto, shrimp scampi. Strawberries not shown.

Still enjoying the bountiful asparagus I’ve been dining on since the weekend, I had planned to take some with me to Kate’s house for our dinner. Just for good measure, I stopped by and picked up proscuitto in which to wrap it to roast. Then, on the way down, I celebrated spring by stopping off at the Bulldog Cafe in Bald Knob to have strawberry shortcake.

I have waxed eloquent on this blog about strawberry shortcake before. Stand by. I’m fixin’ to do it again.

This stuff is simply the best dessert in Arkansas, and worth every damn one of the 900-bajillion calories in it, I guarantee you.

Take a styrofoam bowl. Fill the bottom with about a half-cup of vanilla soft-serve ice cream. Ladle about three-quarters of a cup of strawberries, sliced thin and macerated with some sugar so they are aswim in juices, over the top. Stick four sizeable wafers of shortcake around the edges of the bowl. Squirt a healthy helping of whipped topping in a can over the top, and add a sprinkle of nuts. Boom. Done. Perfection.

I eat at least four or five a season. Note: After strawberry season, they move to peach shortcake, and that ain’t no slouch, either.

After I’d slurped that down, I moseyed over (after I figured out where it was) to Pap’s Place, a combo flea market/produce market, where those Bald Knob berries are on sale for $4 a quart, or $30 an 8-quart flat. Picked up a (very generous, piled-high) quart, and made a mental note to stop by and pick up a couple more on the way back home the next day if they were good.

I can report this year’s berries are, unlike last year’s, wonderful. Very sweet and juicy. Last year’s were too tart to be pleasant; people said it was because the spring was so wet.

Shrimps. They even give you a bag of ice to help get 'em home.

Shrimps. They even give you a bag of ice to help get ’em home.

Today, on the way back through, I stopped by again; figured I’d grab the berries first, then go over and pick up shrimps at the Cajun market where they bring ’em in fresh from the coast three times a week. Pulled up out front of Pap’s, went in. Headed toward the produce side of the house.

“Kin ah hep ya?” the gal behind the counter asked. “Going over here to get some strawberries,” I replied.

“Honey, unless you had some put back, you’re outta luck. We sold out early today. Somebody came in and bought eight flats.”

That’s some significant strawberry jam making, right there.

I muttered imprecations toward the jam-maker, thanked the lady, and headed for stop number 2. Where I pulled up, got out, headed for the door, and saw the “Closed” sign.

At this point the imprecations were pretty significant, not to mention likely anatomically impossible, and I was beyond muttering.

But wait! The little closed sign has one of those clock faces with the moveable hands, which were set on 8 o’clock. And it looked like the lights were on. Let’s just see if this place is unlocked.

Arkansas strawberries...breakfast and dessert for the rest of the week!

Arkansas strawberries…breakfast and dessert for the rest of the week!

It was. I quickly called back all the imprecations. Went in, picked up three pounds of shrimp and a bottle of “Who Dat’s Crude,” a “reserve” black hot sauce I can’t wait to try, considered and decided against the bagged crawfish tails at 16.95 a good-sized plastic bag, and wished before I’d gotten five miles up the road I’d gone ahead and gotten them. Got back in the car and called my buddy, who runs the Chamber of Commerce in Newport, the next decent sized town up the road, and got directions to the strawberry stand there.

Picked up three pound boxes of berries. Just as good as the ones from Bald Knob, and a bit bigger,  uniformly. About the same price; these were $3 a box, but the boxes were not quite a quart. Got home and fixed a fine, fine dinner of shrimp scampi, asparagus wrapped in the proscuitto we didn’t eat the night before, with strawberries for dessert.

The shrimp scampi is a recipe I found in the newspaper this morning. (Obviously, that was a Sign From God I needed to stop and get shrimp. I do not ignore Signs From God.) Very simple prep. Just pan-saute the shrimps in olive oil, set aside, saute garlic in melted butter in the pan, add lemon juice and white wine, reduce, mount the sauce with another three tbsp of butter, and toss the shrimp back in. Other than not reducing the sauce enough, it was stunning.

Definitely redeemed the road trip. I’m already thinking about a quick run back to get berries to make strawberry jam. You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em want to go with me?



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