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Winthrop Rockefeller Institute to offer Titanic-themed culinary event

PETIT JEAN MOUNTAIN, Ark. (Feb. 16, 2016) — Building on the success of 2015’s Chef’s Tasting Dinner series, the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute is offering “Taste of the Titanic.”

About the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute

In 2005, the University of Arkansas System established the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute with a grant from the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust. By integrating the resources and expertise of the University of Arkansas System with the legacy and ideas of Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller, this educational institute and conference center creates an atmosphere where collaboration and change can thrive.

Program areas include Agriculture, Arts and Humanities, Civic Engagement, Economic Development, and Health. To learn more, call 501-727-5435, visit the website at www.rockefellerinstitute.org, or stay connected through Twitter and Facebook.

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Chef’s Tasting Dinners added to Institute's culinary lineup

PETIT JEAN MOUNTAIN, Ark. (Aug. 6, 2014) — The Winthrop Rockefeller Institute is offering a new, unique culinary experience: Chef’s Tasting Dinners.

The pilot Chef’s Tasting Dinner, held in July, featured a 21-course tasting dinner that toured the culinary regions of Italy. Based on the positive response received after the initial dinner, the institute is offering two more Chef’s Tasting Dinners this year. The first, Taste the Caribbean, will be held Friday, Aug. 15. The second, Taste the Victorian Holidays, will be held Friday, Nov. 21.

“This is really a special experience,” said Chef Robert Hall, culinary director at the institute. “Each meal is like being transported to a different time or place through food.”

The Chef’s Tasting Dinners are designed to be a couple’s culinary experience. Included in the $235-per-person cost are overnight accommodations (one room with a king- or dual queen-size beds) and a continental breakfast the following morning.

“The idea came about based on the popularity of our Table for Two classes,” Hall said. “The Chef’s Tasting Dinners don’t offer an instruction component, but the focus on providing a memorable dining experience for two is the same.”

The Aug. 15 Chef’s Tasting Dinner will bring to life the flavors of the Bahamas, Belize, Jamaica and Puerto Rico, to name a few. Participants will enjoy dishes like chimi burgers from the Dominican Republic, jerk chicken from Jamaica, pasteles (plantain and pork tamales) from Puerto Rico and poulet creole from Haiti.

“The distinctive flavors of the Caribbean are alive with local spices, fresh fruit and vegetables, chicken, and the most succulent fresh fish on the planet,” Hall said.

The Nov. 21 Chef’s Tasting Dinner is inspired by late-19th century England as seen through the eyes of Charles Dickens. Expect roasted fowl and delectable puddings to feature prominently in the festive fare.

For more information and to register for a Chef’s Tasting Dinner, go to www.rockefellerinstitute.org/educational-programs/culinary.

About the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute

In 2005, the University of Arkansas System established the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute with a grant from the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust. By integrating the resources and expertise of the University of Arkansas System with the legacy and ideas of Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller, this educational institute and conference center creates an atmosphere where collaboration and change can thrive.

The Winthrop Rockefeller Institute offers a variety of workshops, seminars, public lectures, conferences and special events. To learn more, call 501-727-5435, visit the website at www.rockefellerinstitute.org, or stay connected through Twitter and Facebook.

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Taste of the Titanic: the last meal, champagne and more

Combine the idea of a last meal with the most famous maritime disaster in history and you’ve got the makings of a fascinating dinner. During the pre-dawn hours of April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic sank in the icy waters of the North Atlantic. It was day four of her maiden voyage. First-class dinner service had only just ended when the ship struck an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. Satiated passengers—many of the world’s wealthiest—were likely still lingering over brandies and cigars in the smoking room.

More than 100 years later, the story of the Titanic still holds drama and allure. She was glorious and billed as unsinkable, yet the ship that carried 2,200 passengers and crew, 130,000 pounds of meat and fish, and 1,750 pounds of ice cream was equipped with only 20 lifeboats, many of which were lowered half empty. What irony.

I hope none of the passengers skipped dessert.

On April 15, 2016, the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute’s Executive Chef Robert Hall, a native Arkansan whose impressive resume includes stints at The Excelsior Hotel (Little Rock, Arkansas) and Sundance Resort (Provo, Utah), will replicate the final first-class meal served aboard the Titanic as part of his Chef’s Tasting Dinner series.               

“I’ve extensively researched cooking methods and recipes of the Edwardian era and believe I can closely replicate what was actually served to the first-class passengers,” Hall said.

The original 10-course meal is well-documented as a few copies of the Titanic menu were salvaged from the ship’s wreckage. And those desserts? They included Waldorf pudding, peaches in chartreuse jelly, chocolate and vanilla éclairs, and French ice cream.

Hall will stretch his Taste of the Titanic menu to 15 courses, and while Chef’s Tasting Dinners typically include specific wine pairings, the Titanic dinner will feature champagne pairings instead. According to Hall’s research, the ship’s cargo manifest suggests more champagne and liquor was on board than wine.

Taste of the Titanic will be a unique experience including more than scrumptious food and champagne. Upon check-in, each attendee will receive a replica 1912 first-class boarding pass along with a brief biography of the first-class passenger they will “become” for the evening. Prior to dinner, guests will have the opportunity to stroll through a special “museum” featuring several White Star Line, Titanic and period artifacts, including dishware, clothing and a scale model of the ship. 

In keeping with original Titanic tradition, a bugle call will signal the start of dinner (around 5:30 p.m.) and participants will be ushered into the dining room. Dinner will last approximately three-and-one-half hours and will include a discussion of meal service aboard the Titanic. Afterward, guests may retire to a different area for after-dinner coffee, brandy, period cocktails and poker (using replicas of period-specific playing cards and fake money). The evening will end around midnight, although guests may return to their rooms earlier.

Dinner is priced at $235 per person, which includes the meal, drink pairings, overnight accommodations and a continental breakfast the following morning. Participants must sign up in pairs. In keeping with first-class ambiance, Taste of the Titanic is a formal event—coat and tie preferred; black-tie optional.

For information on other culinary events happening at the Institute, see the listings for upcoming Classes & Events.

Read more from Talya Boerner at Grace, Grits, & Gardening.

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Explore the food of Italy from Petit Jean Mountain

Quick! What’s your favorite Italian food? Did you say lasagna? Or how about spaghetti and meat sauce with a hefty slice of garlic bread? Oh, those yummy carbs. I love those dishes, too, but there’s so much more to authentic Italian food than what normally comes to mind. Or so I hear.

I’ve never been to Italy. Unless, of course, I count the six long hours I spent during my junior year of college stranded at the Dairy Queen in Italy, Texas. As unforgettable as my day was (long story before cell phone days), I don’t think I can compare that Italy in North Texas to the home of the Roman Empire, the country that introduced us to Prada and Pavarotti, the place that brought us olive oil and capers and silky soft gelato, be still my heart.

Thanks to the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, I’ll soon have my chance to at least explore the food of Italy. Certified Executive Chef Robert Hall will be providing a culinary tour of Italy via his next Chef’s Tasting Dinner scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 26.

Don’t expect plain ole pepperoni pizza.

Did you know there are 20 regions of Italy, each with distinct flavors and dishes? Chef Hall will bring these regions to Petit Jean Mountain as he provides 20 small plates, most expertly paired with wine for sipping.

The Tour of Italy Chef’s Tasting Dinner will be held in the Institute’s culinary classroom, with many dishes prepared demonstration-style. Throughout the meal, Chef Hall will introduce each course, explaining the particular small plate and how it represents a particular region of Italy. So yes, with a fabulous meal, you will experience a bit of Italian history.

Chef's Tasting Dinners fill up quickly, so make your reservations online today or call toll-free 866-972-7778 for additional information. Tickets, sold only in pairs, are priced at $235 per person. The price includes overnight accommodations (one room with a king- or two queen-size beds) and continental breakfast the following morning.

Arrivederci, and see you there!

For information on culinary events available at the Institute, see the listing for upcoming Classes & Events. Read more from Talya Boerner at Grace, Grits, & Gardening.              

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Chef's Tasting Dinners: more than a gastronomic experience

Food is a powerful thing. In the same way one rich, creamy spoonful of chicken and dumplings carries me straight back to my grandmother’s kitchen table, it can also transport me to places I’ve never been. Capturing the essence of time and place through food, that’s the idea behind the Chef's Tasting Dinners offered as part of the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute culinary program series.

Intrigued? You should be. Executive Chef Robert Hall’s tasting dinners are masterful. Guests will enjoy 15-20 tasting courses, each crafted to highlight an exotic location, a unique time or a distinctive theme. And most courses will be expertly paired with wine.

Wait, what?

Yes, 15-20 tasting courses spread over four hours. Think flavorful, sophisticated bites enhanced with the perfect small sip.

Think amazing.

During the age of aristocrats, multicourse meals were commonplace, a way to prove social status and make use of massive 24-piece silver place settings. Chef Hall follows the traditional French course flow in his tasting dinners (even when the menu isn’t French). In other words, there’s a rhyme and reason for the flow of food. Appetizer followed by soup followed by eggs followed by pasta followed by… see what I mean?  It’ll be like dining at Downton Abbey, only you’ll be high atop peaceful Petit Jean Mountain wearing more comfortable clothes.              

A native Arkansan and graduate of the University of Central Arkansas, Hall got his food start as a prep cook in Conway at A Place To Eat (now closed).

“I needed a job,” he said. “Cooking got in my blood, and I fell in love with it.”

After such a modest start, Chef Hall has built an impressive resume that includes periods at The Excelsior Hotel (Little Rock, Ark.), Sundance Resort (Provo, Utah) and working as an executive chef for the 2008 Summer Olympic games in Beijing. He also owned his own restaurant and catering company. But even with such a remarkable bio, Chef Hall is not a fancy pants. Guests of his kitchen quickly realize he’s a regular, down-to-earth sort of guy who’s passionate about food and eager to share cooking tips and technique.

Chef’s Tasting Dinners are held in the Institute’s culinary classroom, with many dishes prepared live, demonstration-style. As each course is plated and served, Chef Hall will provide a brief history lesson explaining the flavors and components of the dish and how it embodies the evening’s theme. Infotainment, he calls it. Information plus entertainment. You will learn something. Chef Hall is a natural teacher.

Tickets, priced at $235 per person and sold only in pairs, include overnight accommodations (one room with a king- or two queen-size beds) and continental breakfast the following morning. Whether you seek a romantic getaway or a fun girls’ weekend, Chef Hall’s tasting dinners provide much more than a gastronomic experience.

Tasting dinners scheduled through the end of the year include Food in Film (June 13), Tasting Tour of Italy (September 26), and Christmas Around the World (December 18). In addition to the Chef’s Tasting Dinners, the Institute offers other culinary programs such as Culinary Basic Training and Made from Scratch classes. Check the calendar of events to register today, or call toll free 866-972-7778.

Bon appétit!

Arkansas Women Bloggers member Talya Tate Boerner is a Delta girl who grew up making mud pies on her family’s cotton farm in Northeast Arkansas. After thirty years in Texas, she has returned to the state she loves, settling in Northwest Arkansas. Talya draws inspiration from nature and appreciates the history behind food, family, places and objects. She blogs at Grace, Grits and Gardening and has been published in Arkansas Review, Front Porch and several on-line publications. Talya believes most any dish can be improved with a side of collard greens.

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