Brew Bus Connects Brewery

February 11th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

b7c55d998090286c2c8ce5c9f5713d7aThe “Brew Bus” is a new transportation service in Little Rock that seeks to connect the growing craft brewery scene in the city. It is the idea of Little Rock transplant Donavan Dossett, who moved to Arkansas from Denver in December and saw the need for a transportation system that he says are plentiful in Colorado.

He bought a bus with 191,000 miles on it a month ago, giving it a new engine and stereo, turning it into a 15-person party van to transport people between breweries.

“The microbreweries are not just little mom and pop things,” Dossett said. “These are organizations and industries that are up and coming.”

The bus will begin running on Saturday February 14, running in 30 minute loops so people can come and go to each brewery as they please. It will start at Diamond Bear Brewery in north Little Rock and then travel to Vino’s, Stone’s Throw, Blue Canoe, Lost Forty, Rock Town Distillery, and Flying Saucer before returning to Diamond Bear.

“We supply the transportation and have fun,” he added.

Tickets for the bus cost $20 a piece and runs between 4 and 8 p.m.

For more information on the van and how to schedule rides visit Dossett’s website here.

Valentine’s Day and a Play

February 6th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

So yValentine's Day showing of Camelotou’ve booked your romantic Valentine’s Day Weekend room at the Empress and you are wondering…what now? One amazing option is the Celebrity Attraction‘s version of Camelot playing all weekend at the Maumelle Performing Arts Center.

Experience CAMELOT’S “one brief shining moment” as Lerner and Loewe envisioned it in one of theatre’s most legendary musicals. Recount the time-honored legend of King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, and the Knights of the Round Table in an enchanting fable of chivalry, majesty, and brotherhood in this four-time Tony Award® winning show. Intimate and fresh, never has this story of passion, pageantry and betrayal been more captivating. The celebrated score includes the classics “If Ever I Would Leave You,” “The Simple Joys of Maidenhood,” and the title song, “Camelot.”

Enjoy the show about medieval chivalry and then return to the Empress for Victorian Romance with modern conveniences—the best of all time three time periods for Valentine’s Day!  If you haven’t booked your room yet, there are still a few left for single nights over the weekend.  Call us now at 501-374-7966 or check out our accommodations page.

Downton Abbey Weddings at Bridal Show

January 27th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

bridal showThere’s the romantic high of the proposal, the shiny new accessory for the left hand, the thrill of sharing the news with friends and families…but after that first, all-important question there are about 500,000 others that follow in short order.Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Bridal Show offers help and some fun to engaged couples.  It was a don’t want event with more than 200 vendor booths ready to help brides plan their wedding. In addition there were contests, DIY workshops, giveaways, fashion shows, entertainment and live music.  A man cave kept the lucky newly engaged  men out of trouble while their future brides checked out venues, bakeries, photographers, caterers, florists and more.

The Empress made an impressive appearance at the Bridal Show on January 18, showing brides what a Downton Abbey wedding looks like in Little Rock.  The highlight of the booth was the Victorian-Lace wedding gown that graces our 2nd floor hallway, but brides also fell in love with the elaborate rugs, the lace tablecloths, the crystal candelabra and the stunning pictures.  We met so many beautiful brides and we hope to see many of them at The Empress planning their dream wedding day Downton Abbey style!

New Years Eve, Downton Abbey Style

January 6th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

winedinnertableNew Years Eve, Downton Abbey style,  proved an elegant and vintage end to 2014. Guests at the Wine Dinner Dance were met in the entry parlor by an appropriately aproned maid with flutes of wine.    Gifts of handmade Victorian paper and ribbon medallions announced them as honored guests.  Hosts, Bob and Sharon, owners of the Empress, escorted the elegantly clad guests to the formal dining room to feast on a four-course gourmet meal featuring: Pumpkin and Fig Autumn Soup with a Pumpkin-Nutmeg Creme Fraiche, Victorian Rosewater Sorbet, Beef Wellington Duxelles accompanied by Gruyere Sausage Stuffed Onions, Blueberry Goat Cheese Salad with toasted Almand Croutons; Pear-Parsnip Velvete’ with Cognac, and a dessert finale of Apple Butter Pie and fresh creme.  Each course was paired with a unique wine chosen by the house sommelier to compliment the distinct flavor of each course. winedinnerbobsharon

During dinner, lively conversation sprang up among guests representing Britian, Israel, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and various cities around Arkansas.  After dinner, up came the rugs in the main parlor for dancing and live musical entertainment began, provided by Jeff Long and Mary Kai CLark, well known local entertainers.  Flames danced in the fireplaces, candles and oil lamps throughout the parlors of the mansion, as well guests.  At the witching hour of midnight, guests toasted the New Year in with a glass of champagne to the strains of Auld Ang Syne.

It was a memorable evening and we are glad to be able, once again, to host so many wonderful guests for this New Year’s Eve Wine Dinner Dance, “Downton Abbey style”!  We hope you’ll join us next year.  Sign up for our newsletter to catch all the wonderful events throughout the year.

 

THV 11 Features Empress New Year’s Eve

December 30th, 2014 by Sharon Welch-Blair

635554414839710337-beefwellingtonThe Empress’ own Sharon Welch-Blair appeared on THV 11 on Monday, December 29 to discuss our New Year’s Eve Wine Dinner Dance.  From THV:

http://www.thv11.com/story/news/local/little-rock/2014/12/29/join-the-empress-for-a-downton-abbey-wine-dinner-dance/20994663/

Join the most exclusive and sought after New Year’s Eve Party in Little Rock at The Empress of Little Rock.

It’s New Year’s Eve, 1888. You’ve received your handmade medallion with your name and escorted to the Ladies Parlor to sample the first wine course while bantering with the other guests to the lilting notes of the 1870 Steinway Grand piano.

Dance and be entertained by live musicians as we roll back the rugs and dance in the parlors just like the “olden days”. Toast in the New Year with champagne at midnight to the strains of “Auld Lang Syne” with your loved one.

Festivities begin at 8:00 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2014. This event is black tie. Period attire is welcome but certainly not required,

Reserve your tickets now: http://on.kthv.com/1wXkmvt

BEEF WELLINGTON

For the duxelles

1 oz. (2 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened
1 Tbs. vegetable or sunflower oil
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
1-1/2 cups finely chopped portobello mushrooms (from 4 large caps; remove the stems and gills before chopping, preferably in a food processor)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

For the Madeira sauce

6 cups beef stock, homemade or store-bought
1 cup Madeira
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 oz. (2 Tbs.) cold unsalted butter, diced

For the crêpes

2-1/4 oz. (1/2 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
1 oz. (2 Tbs.) unsalted butter

For assembly

3 lb. center-cut beef tenderloin, trimmed, side muscle removed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. vegetable or sunflower oil
2/3 cup chicken liver pâté, homemade or store-bought
1 lb. puff pastry, homemade or store-bought, thawed overnight in the refrigerator if frozen
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. unsalted butter, softened

Make the duxelles

Heat the butter and oil in a 10-inch skillet over low heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms, stir well, and raise the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have cooked down to a thick, almost black mixture, about 15 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Stir in the parsley; then transfer to a small bowl and cool completely. (The duxelles can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 2 months.)

Begin the Madeira sauce

Bring 6 cups of the stock to a boil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat and boil until reduced to 2 cups, 20 to 25 minutes. Add the Madeira and continue boiling until the liquid is again reduced to 2 cups, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (The sauce can be prepared to this point up to 1 day ahead. Finish the sauce just before serving the Wellington.)

Make the crêpes

In a large bowl, whisk the flour and salt. Make a well in the center, break in the eggs, and add 1/4 cup of the milk. Gently whisk the eggs and milk, gradually incorporating the flour. Slowly whisk in the remaining milk to make a smooth batter. (The batter can be covered and set aside for up to an hour at this point.)

Melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Swirl the pan to coat with the butter; pour the excess butter out into a small bowl. Whisk 1 Tbs. of the melted butter into the batter. Reserve the rest for greasing the pan between crêpes. Increase the heat to medium high and pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the skillet. Swirl so the batter thinly and evenly coats the base of the pan.

Cook until the crêpe is spotted with brown on the underside, about 1 minute, then flip and cook the other side until lightly browned, 30 seconds to 1 minute more. Repeat with the remaining batter, greasing the pan off the heat as necessary. Transfer the crêpes to a plate, separating them with sheets of parchment, and cool. You’ll need 4 crêpes.

Assemble and bake the Wellington

Remove the beef from the refrigerator about an hour ahead so it has time to lose its chill. Pat the beef dry and season all over with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over high heat until very hot. Sear the beef until it is evenly browned all over (don’t worry about the ends), 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the beef to a baking sheet and cool.

In a medium bowl, mash the pâté and the duxelles with a fork until they form a soft paste.

Lay 4 crêpes on a clean work surface, overlapping them just enough to give you a 13×13-inch roughly square surface. Dot the pâté mixture over the crêpes, then use an offset spatula to spread it evenly across the crêpes’ surface.

Place the tenderloin in the center of the crêpes and carefully wrap them around the filet, pressing and molding them into place. Trim off any excess crêpe at the ends.

If using store-bought puff pastry that’s packaged as 2 sheets, fuse the sheets together by slightly overlapping them and lightly rolling over the seam until adhered.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to a 13×16-inch rectangle (for store-bought puff, roll in the direction of the seam).

Transfer the wrapped beef to the center of the pastry and tuck any crêpes that have come loose back into place. Bring the pastry up around the beef, smoothing out any air pockets. Brush some of the beaten egg along the bottom edge of the seam and then press gently to seal; trim off any excess. Seal the pastry similarly at the ends.

Lightly grease a large baking sheet with the butter. Lift the Wellington onto the sheet, seam side down. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes and up to 3 hours. (If refrigerating longer than 1 hour, let the Wellington sit at room temperature for 1 hour before baking.)

At least 20 minutes before baking, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 475°F.

Brush the Wellington with the remaining beaten egg. Using a sharp knife, score the surface of the pastry with diagonal lines, being careful not to cut all the way through the pastry. Put the Wellington in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 425°F. Roast for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 400°F and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the Wellington registers 135°F for medium rare, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a carving board and let the Wellington rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, finish the sauce: Heat the sauce in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. When it begins to simmer, reduce the heat to low and whisk in the butter a few pieces at a time. Do not allow it to boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Thickly slice the Wellington and serve it with the sauce.

—-

Make Ahead Tips

There are several components to a Beef Wellington, but you don’t have to make them all in one day. Here’s how to spread out the work:

2 days (or up to 2 months) ahead: Make and chill (or freeze) the beef stock, duxelles, and puff pastry.

1 day ahead: Begin the Madeira sauce. Make the crêpes. Defrost the beef stock, duxelles, and puff pastry, if necessary.

Up to 5 hours ahead: Let the beef sit out at room temperature for 1 hour before searing.

Up to 4 hours ahead: Sear the beef; assemble and chill the Wellington.

Up to 1-1/2 hours ahead: Let the Wellington sit out at room temperature before baking.

Up to 1 hour ahead: Bake the Wellington and let it rest before carving.

Before serving: Finish the Madeira sauce.

The Empress Featured in Christmas Decorating Blog

December 24th, 2014 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Kristi Dement of Bed and Breakfast Blogging traveled the country (digitally) to pick out the most beautifully decorated Christmas gems…and guess who made the list…The Empress!!!!!

In the words of Kristi:

Bob Blair and his wife Sharon Welch-Blair are owners of The Empress of Little Rock, in Arkansas. They have been open for nearly twenty years and they love their guests! “Anyone who loves people, enjoys welcoming them into your home, looks forward to a day of tasks and events of all kinds (everyday a new day), and works with a great crew should become an innkeeper.” Their enthusiasm for entertaining is evident when you look at their multi-award winning AAA four diamond rated bed and breakfast!  Every guest room at the historic inn has its own themed tree to create magic throughout the entire mansion. Bob and Sharon display their mementos and antiques in each room so you feel like you are not only experiencing the past, but are cherished guests of The Royal Family.

What picture absolutely won her over?  This lovely picture of our dining room!  Bob, Sharon and the whole Empress crew work so hard making the Empress really shine this time of year, and it is wonderful to get such recognition.  We hope to see you before we take down our decorations, but you better hurry…only 2 more weeks left of this beauty!

 

Christmas dining at The Empress captures the esssence of the season

Decking the tables,mantles with fruit, candles and scarlet ribbons at The Empress

Winter Birds at Witt Stephens

December 22nd, 2014 by Sharon Welch-Blair

winter birds

Birds still thrive in Arkansas Winter

Looking for a fun activity to do while in Little Rock?  Interested in nature (namely the bird kind)?  Then the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center at 602 President Clinton Ave. has a wonderful afternoon for you on December 23!  Winter Bird Feeding is an activity planned with the warm-hearted in mind during this cold season.  Birds search for seeds, berries and other foods all winter long. Invite birds to eat in your own backyard by making a pine-cone bird feeder and learn how to start a “Wings Over Arkansas” checklist of birds you’ve seen.

This is a free event and is fun for the whole family, so make sure that your trip to the Rivermarket includes a stop by the nature center!

Need a place to stay during your Little Rock bird-watching getaway?  The Empress has rooms available, and plenty of birds to watch on the 200 ft. of veranda and the Secret Garden!  Visit us at www.theempress.com or call 501-374-7966 to book a room today!!!

 

Holiday High Teas

December 17th, 2014 by Sharon Welch-Blair

hd-christmas2High Tea at The Empress of Little Rock is always a treat, but during the holiday season it is something truly special. Christmas music wafts through the parlors and dining room, along with the scent of fresh evergreens. Victorian decorations adorn each room of the mansion, creating an authentic 1880s Christmas experience for our guests.
High tea evolved from the custom of ladies of the Victorian era taking a mid-afternoon respite to an elegant and formalized excuse to showcase one’s finery while entertaining friends. High tea was traditionally more of an evening meal; today’s high tea experience showcases dainty tea sandwiches, specialty teas, elegant finger sweets, and scones with clotted cream and lemon curd. Today it’s an opportunity to don one’s gloves and pull out grandmother’s china, crystal or silver, and have a time set aside to focus on ourselves and our friends. Victorian High Tea accompanied by your host’s warm hospitality is a hallmark at The Empress.
We would love to have your family, friends or group join us for a holiday high tea that will they will talk about for years to come. Call the Empress to schedule your tea, and enjoy a complimentary tour of the home in all of its holiday finery!

The Holiday Fun Continues in Little Rock

December 11th, 2014 by Sharon Welch-Blair

big jingle jubileeThe holiday fun continues this weekend, Dec. 12-14! Ballet Arkansas presents its annual production of “The Nutcracker” and Burns Park lights up the night with a free Holiday Lights Festival. Plus, Garth Brooks visits North Little Rock to play three highly-anticipated concerts at Verizon Arena. All these events and more are included in our top 8 picks for families this weekend!

1. Garth Brooks World Tour with Trisha Yearwood at Verizon Arena: Don’t miss the electrifying return of country legend, Garth Brooks. The star makes his first Arkansas appearance on The World Tour and his first time in North Little Rock in more than 23 years. And, believe it or not, tickets are still available! $73.25. Performances are 7 p.m. Dec. 11-13. For info: (800) 745-3000, VerizonArena.com.

2. Ballet Arkansas Presents “The Nutcracker” at Maumelle Performing Arts Center: Ring in the holidays with Tchaikovsky’s magical score performed live by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and a classic performance by Ballet Arkansas. With enchanting costumes and original choreography, the tradition of “The Nutcracker” will create unforgettable memories for children of every generation. $20-$52. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12 & 13; 2 p.m. Dec. 13 & 14. For info: (501) 666-1761, BalletArkansas.org.

3. Holly Trolley Day in Downtown Little Rock & North Little Rock: Ride the trolley free all day and take a picture with Santa from 2-5 p.m. at the trolley barn in North Little Rock. 2-5 p.m. Dec. 13. For info: CAT.org. FREE!

4. Dashin’ Thru the Lights at Burns Park Softball Complex: Run, walk, or stroll through the Hometown Holiday Lights in Burns Park. The display is about one mile each way, and you can complete the course as many times as you like during the event. Wheelchairs and strollers are welcome at any time during the event. Leashed pets welcome after 5:15 p.m. A shuttle will be available to return participants to the parking lot. Registration begins at 4:30 p.m. $5, $10 per family. 5-6 p.m. Dec. 13. For info: (501) 791-8543, NLRPR.org.

5. Holiday Lights Festival at Burns Park Softball Complex: Immediately following the Dashin’ Thru the Lights run, families can enjoy a bright festival at the Hometown Holiday Lights. Enjoy games and activities for the whole family and don’t miss photo opportunities with Santa and Dasher. 6-8 p.m. Dec. 13. For info: (501) 791-8543, NLRPR.org. FREE!

6. Living Gift Market at Heifer Ranch in Perryville: Stroll through the show barn, decorate cookies, find unique gifts in our international gift shop and support the work of Heifer International. Warm up with hot drinks and light snacks and enjoy a roaring bonfire. Snap a pic at a photo booth with an animal, too! 5-8 p.m Dec. 13 & 3-6 p.m. Dec. 14. For info: (501) 889-5124, Heifer.org. FREE!

7. Holiday Hayride at Pinnacle Mountain State Park: Jostle, bounce and laugh your way across the fields and through the woods on a guided hayride. Then enjoy a warm campfire, stories, hot chocolate and marshmallows. Advance payment required. $12, children ages 6-12 $5. 3-5 p.m. Dec. 13 & 27. For info: (501) 868-5806, ArkansasStateParks.com/PinnacleMountain.

8. Arkansas Chamber Singers Holiday Concert: Christmas at the Old State House Museum: The annual Christmas at the Old State House concert features traditional music of the season, music of new composers and music popular during the American Civil War. The combination of the acoustical magic of the hall and the glorious voices of the Arkansas Chamber Singers promises to pack the house for all three thrilling performances! Performances are 7 p.m. Dec. 12 & 13; 3 p.m. Dec. 14. For info: (501) 377-1121, AR-ChamberSingers.org. FREE!

It’s not too late to book your suite for this weekend!  Call the Empress of Little Rock at 501-374-7966 or visit us at www.theempress.com!

 

Christmas Celebrity Karaoke

December 9th, 2014 by Sharon Welch-Blair

KaraokePromo14Every year during the holiday season, sports radio station 103.7 The Buzz gathers a group of local celebrities to celebrate the season and raise money for a good cause.  The 2014 Christmas Celebrity Karaoke is presented by Roadrunner Convenience Stores, and benefits Youth Home.  The 10th Anniversary of this local favorite will be held at Verizon Arena on Thursday, December 18th at 7pm.

See all of your favorite Buzz personalities joined with local celebrities from KATV, KTHV,  KARK, and FOX 16 PLUS some special guest celebrity surprises!  Tickets are on sale now, find them here.

Afterwards, make sure to join your favorite 103.7 The Buzz personalities following this years’ Christmas Celebrity Karaoke at the official after party at Cajun’s Wharf! No cover charge if you show your Christmas Karaoke ticket stub at the door!

Didn’t get to attend Christmas Karaoke? You can still take part in all the Christmas Celebrity Karaoke fun at the after party at Cajuns! It’s gonna be a great night of great food and great music including drink specials all night on Thursday December 18th with the Christmas Celebrity Karaoke after-party with 103. 7 The Buzz at Cajuns!

Make sure to book your room at The Empress for your fun celebrity-filled weekend.  Call us at 501-374-7966.  Check out our packages page here to find more fun activities for you Holiday getaway!

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