Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Arkansas offers art of nature, food and well, art!

             I visited Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., just before its opening. I didn’t get a peek inside the Moshe Safdie-designed buildings over a nature spring but I did explore the 3.5-mile hiking trails surrounding the magnificent buildings, the sculpture garden and the Skyspace which changes color throughout the day with different degrees of sunlight.
             Recently, I had the chance to revisit Crystal Bridges and this time I witnessed the numerous galleries of American art collected by Alice Walton, daughter of Sam Walton, the father of Wal-Mart. There are more than 1,000 works of art housed here with about 450 on the floor at any time. Artwork includes Asher B. Durand’s “Kindred Spirits,” “Rosie the Riveter” by Norman Rockwell (shown here) and Andy Warhol’s “Dolly Parton.”
            Equally important as the art within is the structure with its curved beams and gallery walls, windows that allow nature inside, seating areas with massive art book libraries and an interactive children’s room. The architecture, winding nature trails, intricate interior design is as much something to see and cherish as the wide collection of American art. 
      Crystal Bridges is opening “American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell” March 9 through May 27, a fitting tribute to a popular American artist who may have been overlooked through the years because of his commercial appeal. On April 10 the museum will offer the special event “Norman Rockwell and Edible Culture” from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Museum’s Great Hall. Culinary Director Case Dighero will offer sample selections of food and drinks from the museum’s restaurant, Eleven, focusing on the Rockwell exhibition and Rockwell’s perspective of edible culture in the United States. Food images throughout the Rockwell exhibition will be discussed, reflected upon and tasted.
Tickets are $30. 
             For more information on the amazing museum — truly a coup for Southern art enthusiasts — visit http://crystalbridges.org/.
           Kat Robinson is a food and travel writer in addition to promoting Arkansas through its department of tourism. We met at a recent travel convention in Little Rock and I learned she had just authored a cookbook-travel guidebook titled “Arkansas Pie: A Delicious Slice of the Natural State” (The History Press). Being a pie enthusiast, I just had to get my hands on one. 
Basin Park Huckleberry Pie
         What a fabulous idea for a book! Robinson takes readers on a culinary tour of the state, visiting diners, restaurants and bakeries to spotlight their trademark pies, everything from The Cliff House Inn’s Company Comin’ Pie to the fried pies of the Delta and the Ozarks. (I had a huckleberry fried pie at the Basin Park Hotel in Eureka Springs topped with huckleberry ice cream and it was so so good!) This book includes icebox pies, pecan pies like your mama’s, caramel apple pie, Toll House pie — you name it. 
             Now don’t you want to grab this book and eat your way up to Crystal Bridges? If you do, be sure and stop in Burge’s in Lewisville and sample their roasted turkey sandwich. Robinson recommended it to me for my drive from Little Rock to Lafayette and it was outstanding.
            Here’s a Robinson recipe for Arkansas Possum Pie, named so because it “plays possum,” or represents itself as something else. Robinson calls it a “pecan cream pie hybrid.”

Burge’s in Lewisville
Possum Pie
1 1/2 sticks butter
 2 cups flour
1 cups crushed pecans, separated
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
12 ounces Cool Whip divided
1 box milk chocolate instant pudding
1 box chocolate fudge instant pudding
3 cups milk
            Directions: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut butter into flour to make crumbly pastry dough. Add a cup crushed pecans. Press into two 8- or 9-inch pie pans or 13- by 9-inch casserole. Bake 15 minutes or until flour starts to brown. Remove and cool. Cream together cream cheese and confectioner’s sugar. Add six ounces of Cool Whip and beat until fluffy. Spread over bottom of both pies. Blend together both pudding mixes with milk. Pour in on top of the cream cheese mixture and allow to set. Spread remaining Cool Whip over the top of both pies and sprinkle with pecans. Makes two pies.

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