Tasty Fun: Eureka Springs Food & Wine Weekend

Eureka Springs Food & Wine Weekend was started in 1993, with most restaurants participating in this food lover’s event. November was a quiet month and the weekend was chosen because it was two weeks before Thanksgiving, and yet visitors could do some Christmas shopping while the weather was still very pleasant. All categories of restaurants are involved, offering everyone something to taste, such as a six course meal with wine pairings to a flight of wines.

My mom and I attended the recent Eureka Springs Food & Wine Weekend on Nov. 7-11. We could only make it for Sunday night, but managed to have a wonderful and delectable time in our less than 24 hours. (You can read more about that by clicking here.)

We were excited about our Wine Dinner at The Garden Bistro, so we arrived about 15 minutes early. The bistro is located in downtown Eureka, between the Eureka Springs Railway and the Grand Central Hotel in a charming turn-of-the-century home that has been converted into a restaurant. It’s known for its fresh food, and by that I mean its mission, which is “From the Garden, to Our Kitchen, To Your Plate.”

Garden Mary

We started the evening with a special Bistro Cocktail – the Garden Mary. Now, I don’t usually care for Bloody Marys all that much, but this was no ordinary Mary. It was made with pureed veggies and was as beautiful as it was delicious with a toothpick of skewered colorful vegetable slices resting on top. It was even a bit chunky though we were still able to sip it through a straw. Our server, Irena Sivyer, playfully described it as “a salad with vodka dressing.”

Our taste buds were in heaven and we had yet to start the wine pairing dinner menu. We were having a six course meal with wine pairings at a cost of only $80 per couple. It was $60 for just the six courses and no wine. That’s a great price for all the food and fun that comes with it.

Lana Campbell is the owner and chef at The Garden Bistro. She came out to greet us and checked back with us at each course.

Bok Choy Roll

The appetizer was a Bok Choy Roll filled with Ahi Yellow Fin Tuna, sesame oil roasted peppers, onion, garlic and jasmine rice. It was presented on a creamy wasabi cilantro sauce that I thought would have a kick, but was surprisingly sweet. This warm roll paired nicely with Chateau St. Michelle Dry Riesling, a crisp, dry, refreshing Riesling with a hint of white peach and mandarin orange.

It was funny to me that this was the first wine on the list because I have become quite fond of this wine over the last 15 years. My husband and I just celebrated our 15th anniversary. His parents have been buying this wine for me for every family gathering for years because they once asked me my favorite wine and I said Chateau St. Michelle Chardonnay. I didn’t have the heart to tell them until the last year or so that they had gotten it wrong.

Pumpkin Bisque

Our next course was soup, a Pumpkin Bisque topped with a curry, honey crème fraiche. It did not have a strong pumpkin taste, nothing like pumpkin pie, which is the taste that springs to mind when I hear that word. It was a soft, subtle creamy goodness that still held its own against the sharper Kenwood Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, which has fruit forward aromas of boysenberry and strawberry jam with spicy notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. This was the most perfect combination of the night to me. I truly would have licked the bowl of bisque clean.

The salad was arugula and baby greens, dates, candied walnuts, red onion and apples topped with a caramelized onion, red wine, crushed peppercorn vinaigrette. The peppercorn of the vinaigrette kicked a lot of heat into this salad but was offset by a mellow Upper Cut Sauvignon Blanc. This California white wine had vivid aromas of lemon grass and key lime with a zesty citrus finish. It seemed almost bubbly.

The first entrée course was a scallop that was pan seared, then poached in fresh herb buerre blanc sauce and set atop a candied sweet potato slice. It was finished with a black truffle oil, honey crème fraiche. The textures of scallop and sweet potato played well together. It was served with what was my favorite wine of the evening, Matua Valley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. I’m a big Sauvignon Blanc fan and this one was a vibrant acidic wine bursting with fresh gooseberry and zesty citrus aromas. It dares you to be distracted by anything but its superb taste and I was happy to oblige it with all my attention.

Filet Mignon

The second entrée course (and you know you are eating excellently when you have first and second entrees) was a choice cut 4-5 oz. filet mignon on a savory, earthy vegetable coulis with marsala sauce. It was paired with local root crops – beets, turnips and Yukon gold potatoes – as well as Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is an impressive concentration of dark fruits, black cherry, currant and fig aromas. Ripe, oaky tannins are balanced by fruity complexity. The full flavor of the wine was a faultless fit with the perfectly cooked filet. Its warm red center melted in the mouth. I have to admit I was halfway through this course before I remembered to try the wine because I was so enraptured by the food. As for the root crops, I’m always in awe and jealous of people that can take something as simple as a potato slice and make it taste so extraordinary. They were sliced and browned. I wish I knew what seasoning she used to make them simply delicious, even the turnip. I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten a turnip before. Chef Campbell said that “when you get local turnips they have a different flavor.” Perhaps I should add them to my garden next year. The flavors of the vegetable coulis set the dish apart from other simple steak dishes. I was more than satiated by this point, but continued to finish as much of it as I could.

Penthouse Pecan Smore Tower

Dessert was shared, thank goodness. We couldn’t finish it even with two of us eating it – a Penthouse Pecan Smore Tower. It was a rich moist pecan brownie with a chocolate pecan icing on graham cracker dustings, drizzled with a marshmallow liqueur sauce, then topped with pecan pieces and chocolate shavings. I feel overcome by its richness again just in typing those words. I’m a chocolate lover, so this was absolutely divine to me. It went well with the bistro’s specialty coffee – Patron XO Café liqueur, a rich cocoa coffee flavored delight paired with locally ground coffee and cream.

Lana Campbell isn’t a classically trained chef. She said she learned to cook from growing up on the farm. “I learned how to cook using things that we grew.” I admire her ability to make the seasonal harvest taste so good and thank her for sharing it with us in her restaurant and by participating in the Food and Wine event.

Put the Eureka Springs Food & Wine Weekend on your “must go to” list for next November. There are wine pairing dinners like this and wine flights offered at restaurants all over town. Your taste buds will thank you. And try The Garden Bistro the next time you’re in Eureka Springs. An added bonus, it has plenty of free parking.


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Posted in Fall, Food and Drink, Travel Arkansas
3 comments on “Tasty Fun: Eureka Springs Food & Wine Weekend
  1. Greg Shook says:

    I sure do miss everything up there. We could walk around Eureka Springs snacking on funnel cake and nibbling/sipping on awesome food and drink. ……………..
    Just Missin It…..

  2. Diane says:

    Just returned from Eureka Springs Food and Wine Festival Nov 2012. My fiance’ and I spent three glorious days there , our first vacation away together. We explored downtown on our first day , the highlight of which we both agree was our lunch at the New Dehli Cafe where we dined on a delicious buffet of authentic foods from India as well as American food. We enjoyed a large and lovely Margarita on the Veranda while listening to some great live music. New Dehli is a MUST DO for anyone seeking great food, great drinks , great music and a relaxed atmosphere. Oh bonus, we both smoke so it was quite nice to sit and enjoy our Margaritas / Music while also being able to enjoy our after lunch cigarette. The second most memorable part of the day had to be our trip to Keels Creek Winery where for a very reasonable price of 8.00 each we enjoyed a wine tasting, gained some knowledge about wine pairings, purchased a lovely bottle of Franc/Zin to go with our dinner for that night as well as a divine Port to save til the special occasion of Valentines . Bonus: our wine glasses were a momento that we were able to bring home with us , included in the price. Very friendly , very knowledgable people conducting the winetasting. They made us feel right at home even with our obvious lack of knowledge regarding the subject of wines. We missed our trolley back to the R.V. park but caught a ride with a lovely couple who were also purchasing wine to take home to their city of Rodgers. We were back to the comfort of the park in no time thanks to those nice people and their grandson. Day Two: Was wet , rainy, cold, miserable and the free wifi at the R.V. park was out so we couldnt scour the web for attractions , and to top it off the Railway Dinner we so longed to partake of was closed til April folks. But , no worries, my honey of a man dc’d the RV and we drove ourselves around nice and cozy. We took in the downtown again, the historic district . Loved taking pics of all the old historical buildings and homes. We stopped and partook of the very spiritual and amazing Crown of Thorns Chapel , which is quite lovely with the misting rain falling upon it. So lovely , I was moved to tears in fact. If you are at all spiritual in nature the Thorn Crown Chapel is a must do. For dinner we had a nice steak with fresh salad buffet and hardy beef stew at the Rowdy Beaver. Waitresses all really lovely, helpful friendly people there. On day three: My fiance’ and I did a bit of shopping in the antique stores and purchased two wonderful selections of olive oils/ balsamic vinegar at the Fresh Harvest TAsting Room. Huge selection to sample and choose from if your into olive oils and vinegars as we are. REasonably priced. (I purchased two medium sized bottles for 35.00 plus tax) Very friendly and enjoyable and knowledgable sales persons there as well.
    Our Eureka Springs experience was affordable, relaxed, exciting , filled with laughter and great food and great drink. Not too hard on the budget we all seem to be on these days and was worth every penny spent. We shall return as soon as possible. …… Oh yeah, we even managed to watch Under The Tuscan Sun while finishing off our bottle of Franc/Zin ….after all what would a Food and Wine Festival be without a bit of Tuscany? ……Happy Travels, Good Eats, Great Drink , Friendly faces……..TO ALL……. Diane and Ron

  3. Diane says:

    P.S. Forgot to more than mention the fact that the Beef Stew on the Salad Bar at Rowdy Beaver was thick, heavy laden with beef and dark rich beef broth, large bites of potatoes and vegies. This Stew was some of the best eats we had in Eureka Springs. Stick to your bones and make you smile with each bite while saying mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. After tasting it , we both looked at each other and said “wow, we could have done without the steak we ordered and simply feasted on the Stew and Salad. Just thought I’d give a big thumbs up to the Rowdy Beaver . We’ll be back for seconds soon………Diane and Ron

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  1. […] considering how much you get for the price. Since that is a story in and of itself, you can click here to read about and see pictures from the dinner. Let me just say that it was everything we had hoped for and the […]

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