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Arkansas Flower and Garden Show in Little Rock this weekend

February 26th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

2013_arkansas_flower_and_garden_show_58_36The Arkansas Flower and Garden Show is the largest three day celebration of gardening in the state.  The goal of the Show is to cultivate interest in the Natural State through what is grown for beauty and sustenance. Visitors come to learn about gardening and shop for their homes and gardens February 26-28, 2016

What will you learn at the Show?

  • great design for home landscapes
  • latest new plants
  • best cultivars for our climate
  • cutting edge floral design
  • garden to table ideas
  • fun stuff for children

What can you shop for at the Show?

The Arkansas Flower and Garden Show brings to one place, experts in the fields of plant cultivation, propagation, and plant disease prevention and treatment.  This year’s show includes leading nurserymen, designers, naturalists and artisans.  There are over 140 vendor booths at the show selling everything from plants, tools, furniture, and bird houses to organic cosmetics, housewares, and jewelry.

Where does money generated by the show go?

The Arkansas Flower and Garden Show is organized by a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with proceeds from the show funding scholarships for students majoring in horticulture or related fields at Arkansas universities and community colleges.  Proceeds from the Show also fund the Greening of Arkansas grant program which provides grants to Arkansas communities for public spaces to enhance the beauty of our Natural State.

What’s in it for you?

Awesome weekend full of great speakers, wonderful designs, fabulous plants, and the best place to shop for plants or anything for the home and garden.

Spring Break in Little Rock

February 17th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

springbreakLittle Rock Spring Break is coming quickly teachers, parents, vacationers and everyone else who likes to get away in March!  The Empress would love to be Spring Break headquarters for your couple, family or group.  With rooms ranging from affordable to super luxurious, we have an option for everyone.  Need some examples of our amazing rooms?  Check out all of our options here!

 

So what is going on in Little Rock next month?  How about some of these great things:

  • Purse-onas exhibit at ESSE Purse Museum
  • Historic Neighborhoods Bicycle Tour with Bobby’s Bike Hike
  • An Iliad at Arkansas Repertory Theatre
  • Little Rock Marathon
  • Luke Bryan’s Kill the Lights Tour
  • Bella Rustina Vintage Market
  • and much, much more!

Need a little more motivation for a stay?  Add a romantic package, like our breakfast in bed or a gourmet picnic.  Plan a hike to the top of Pinnacle Mountain and enjoy the view from the top.  Or stay in the South Main neighborhood, home of the Empress and enjoy lunch at The Root Cafe, home to locally sourced foods in a fun and funky atmosphere and dinner at South on Main, one of Little Rock’s favorite restaurants with upscale southern favorites…the possibilities are endless and so much fun!

 

Best Romantic Restaurants in Little Rock

February 10th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Have you booked your romantic valentine’s reservation at The Empress for Valentine’s Day yet?  We aren’t full yet (but you better book quick, we only have a couple of rooms available!) If you have already booked your room and all of your romantic add-ons (click here to see more)  then you might need some romantic restaurant recommendations.  Here are some of our favorites:

  1. Brave New Restaurant is an old standby, but they still impress.  They serve contemporary American cuisine by the Arkansas River.  The seafood is always top notch.  Brave New Restaurant has a romantic atmosphere and some of the best views in the city.  Located at 2300 Cottondale Lane. Brave New Restaurants accepts reservations.
  2. One Eleven has a great atmosphere, nice seafood selections and steak.  The Capital Hotel has long been a destination for romance, and One Eleven is no exception.  The upscale atmosphere and top notch service make this a great place for a special evening.  Located at 111 W. Markham St.  One Eleven at the Capital accepts reservations.
  3. The Pantry has some of the best food in the city and a nice, casually romantic atmosphere.   The menu is a mixture of European flavors and never fails to please.  These would be a great place to take a foodie date.  Located at 11401 Rodney Parham Road.
  4. Bonefish Grill has been around for a while, and remains a favorite.  The seafood is a good bet, but they also have chicken, pork and beef.   The atmosphere is casual upscale, but it’s nice for a date. Located from 11525 Cantrell Rd.  Bonefish Grill accepts reservations.
  5. Sonny Williams Steak Room is the perfect place for a carnivore date.  Many consider Sonny Williams’ steaks the best steaks in central Arkansas.  They also have chicken, pork and a salad bar. The atmosphere is white tablecloth, upscale casual.  Located at 500 President Clinton Avenue. Sonny Williams Steak Room accepts reservations.
  6. Vesuvio Bistro offers authentic Italian cuisine.  They are one of Little Rock’s more upscale Italian Restaurants, and make for a special evening out. They have a nice wine list. Located at 1315 Breckenridge Drive. Vesuvio Bistro accepts reservations.
  7. YaYa’s Euro Bistro has a classy atmosphere, top notch food and great service.  They have a European inspired menu with pizza, pasta, seafood and more.  Located at 17711 Chenal Parkway, in the Promenade.  YaYa’s Euro Bistro accepts reservations.
  8.  Bruno’s has a romantic atmosphere with checkered tablecloths and authentic Italian food. Their pasta dishes are always a hit.  They now offer free valet parking. They can be crowded on Valentine’s, but it’s worth the wait.  Located at 310 Main Street, Suite 101.
  9. South on Main has a modern vibe, with live music on some nights. The menu consists of upscale Southern cuisine like dumplings and cornbread dressing.  It’s a great place for an evening out, and is located only blocks from The Empress! Located at 1304 South Main Street.

Grand High Tea at the Empress

January 15th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Grand High Tea at The Empress

Grand High Tea at The Empress

In a time and city that seems to always be in a hurry, it is sometimes nice to slow down and enjoy life’s luxuries.  The Grand High Tea at The Empress of Little Rock is the perfect place to do just that.

Grand High Tea at the “Downtown Abbey” –Sundays at 3:00 p.m. by reservation only
Capture the essence of the traditional high tea with all the pomp and circumstance of your Grandmothers’ day. Everything is handmade in our kitchen and includes our specialty hot tea, three specialty desserts; three gourmet finger sandwiches, Empress scones, clotted cream and fresh fruit!  Served in the formal dining room with candlelight and Victorian music.  Discover the traditions of  100 years ago that have been lost in our hurry scurry world.  Wear your hat and gloves, the occasion warrants it!! After tea, enjoy a detailed historical tour of The Empress and all of her owners from the late 1800′s to present time.

  • $40.00 per person / $45.00 per person on holidays/  all tea reservation will have 18% gratuity included.

Group Grand High Tea-

  • $40.00 per person / $45.00 per person on holidays
  • Weekdays- 10 person minimum (50 person maximum)
  • Weekends- 12 person minimum (50 person maximum)
  • Holiday Prices Vary

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, 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. In this day of instant everything, the Empress is offering a special Little Rock, Arkansas high tea experience in an elegant Victorian atmosphere designed to calm the mind and foster relationships. Victorian High Tea accompanied by your host’s warm hospitality is a hallmark at The Empress. Call us to help you plan a delightful event for yourself or your local ladies’ group and enjoy one of our delightful tea and tour events at The Empress.

School Tours Haunted Legends

January 12th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) — On Thursday, kids at the Hot Springs Intermediate School got a lesson in state history they will not soon forget.

It was about the haunted legends that lurk throughout Arkansas, and it got us here at THV11 thinking– what are some spooky stories here in Little Rock?

Many will tout the Allen House in Monticello or the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs as the scariest. And while they might be, it doesn’t take away from the ghouls that creep around one bed and breakfast here in Little Rock.

“You know it’s home to me,” said Sharon Welch-Blair, who owns the Empress of Little Rock Bed and Breakfast in Little Rock. “It was built with a lot of love and a lot of revenge.”

Welch-Blair has owned the old Victorian-style home on the corner of 22nd and Louisiana since 1993.
It used to be a nursing home before the Blair’s took it over and turned it into what it is today; a 4-diamond bed and breakfast that is ranked one of the top 10 in the nation.

But the reputation doesn’t come lightly.

“[Shortly after we opened one guest] said that she heard some footsteps coming up the stairs and that the handle on the door started twisting back and forth and the door swung open and there was nobody there.”

Several guests, as well as Sharon’s husband Bob claim to have seen ghosts.

“Bob said he saw an older man in a dapper suit stare at him from the staircase while we were building [the home],” she explained. “He said he looked at him as if to say ‘Do well by this house.’”

From spirits wandering the halls, to others standing in doorways guests say multiple spirits have wandered these halls. But one of the most notable cases comes in what they call the card room.

It was the old owner’s secret space and came when a carpenter was working.

“He stepped out to get more stain and when he came back, and the door has no lock, it was locked and he couldn’t get in,” Welch-Blair said.

So you be the judge– real or fake?

“You know I can cohabit with a few ghosts. If they’re good with it I’m good with it,” she joked.

Just know there’s no way to disprove what some have said they saw.

The home is currently on the market for sale.

Empress Featured on Exploring Arkansas

January 7th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Chuck’s Blog — “Exploring Arkansas” Jan. 2016

 

Posted on 31 Dec 2015

From 4-wheeling atop Mt. Magazine, to attending the South’s largest craft fair, to touring a historicVictorian mansion, to taking a drive along the “Take Your Breath Away” scenic route — it’s all coming up during a brand new episode of “Exploring Arkansas” on Monday, Jan. 4, at 6:30 p.m.

 

At an elevation of 2,753 feet, Mt. Magazine in west Arkansas is the state’s highest peak. An excellent way to explore this mountain is by going on an ATV excursion, which enables you to cover quite a bit of ground in a much shorter amount of time than, say, hiking or on horseback.

 

The largest craft fair in the South happens to take place every October at the picturesque setting of War Eagle Mill near Rogers.

More than 100,000 folks from all over the country converge on this historic mill to do their early Christmas shopping with some 250 ar

The Empress at dusk

The glow of The Empress at dusk.

tisans. The emphasis is on quality handmade items you’re not likely to find anywhere else.

When it was completed in 1888, the Hornibrook Mansion in Little Rock was the finest example of ornate Victorian architecture in the state, and it still is.  When new owners moved in during the early 1990s, it became The Empress of Little Rock – a bed and breakfast inn that the public can now enjoy.

How many scenic drives have you been on that will just, “take your breath away?” Well, the Take Your Breath Away scenic drive in the western portion of the state is actually made up of four highways with a total distance of about 90 miles.

 

Throughout remote sections of the drive, there are even bear crossing signs!

So come along with us for all the adventure Jan. 4 at 6:30 p.m.!

TUNE IN:

Monday, Jan. 4, 2016

AETN.org > Engage > Blog > Chuck’s Blog — “Exploring Arkansas” Jan. 2016

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The Empress at dusk

The glow of The Empress at dusk.

New Year’s Eve Menu 2016

December 29th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

The Delicious Menu for our 2016 New Year’s Eve Wine Dinner Dance!

New Year's Eve Wine Dinner Dance

Seated at the New Year’s Eve Wine Dinner Dance

 

Thia year’s New Year’s Eve Downton Abbey Wine Dinner Dance with repeat a gourmet menu and pared wines with complementary wines selected by our House Sommelier.  Join us for a wonderful unique experience from the 1880’s as a treasured guest of the “Hornibrook Family”.  Our bow-tied butler will greet you with a special memento  hand made by the housee staff.  You’ll b

e served by “tailed” waiters and Victorian Apron maids and the night will waft with conversation, dancing, and champaign at the witching hour!

The Soup

Victoric and Albet’s Leek and Brie Cream Soup

North Coast Chardonnay, Clos duBois 2012

The Sorbet—Palette Cleanser

Queen Anne Rosewater Sorbet    

                                                          The Main Course

Spiced Tenderloin with mustard cream sauce

Tart a ’la Oignou avec la courgle

Salade de fromage

with raspberries,

Goat Cheese, Caramelized Almond Croutons

Garlic Vinaigrette Dressing

Yeast Rolls

Mirassou Pinot Noir 2011

The Finale

Eggnog Creme’ en croute with Blackberries

                          Oregon Pinot Gris, Vin Glacé, King Estate, 2007   

COME ENJOY THE “DOWNTON ABBEY” EXPERIENCE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five myths about bed and breakfasts

December 29th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Everett Potter, Special for USA TODAY4:02 a.m. CST December 29, 2015

In a world where Airbnb and VRBO have become go-to choices for accommodations, the cozy bed and breakfast seems to have been all but forgotten. Yet many of these small, welcoming family-run places have changed with the times. You might still get a homemade muffin for breakfast and a cat sleeping by the fireplace, but here are five myths that need to be dispelled about B&Bs.

1. Bed and breakfasts tend to be fancy and expensive.

At first glance, the rates might seem high. But advocates point out that there is built-in value with a B&B stay, especially when comparing it to a night in a big city hotel where everything is priced a la carte.

“B&Bs are actually more value-oriented than a hotel stay any time, in cities and in rural areas,” says Marti Mayne, a long-time B&B consultant who now works with The BB Team, a broker and consulting service for innkeepers.  “When you add the cost of a breakfast at a major urban hotel, the cost of Wi-Fi access, afternoon refreshments and then the cost of the water in the mini-bar, these extras totally add up. Many B&Bs offer up free DVDs and some rooms come equipped with DVD players and flat-screen TVs, with evening refreshments like wine and cheese or port available in the library.”

“What you can’t put a price on,” adds Mayne, “is the value of the personalized hospitality.  Innkeepers are happy to share their inside knowledge, offering up those perfect gems of places for photo ops, picnics, and a day of touring or tasting.” Plus innkeepers will help carry your luggage, “no tips needed.”

2. Bed and breakfasts aren’t a good option in big cities.

Tell that to Kurtz Thometz, who runs Jumel Terrace BnB in Harlem Heights in New York City. In his brownstone, Thometz offers a 900-square-foot, two-bedroom book-lined garden apartment that offers accommodation, Wi-Fi and daily breakfast for up to six guests. This is Sugar Hill, the uptown neighborhood of Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Lena Horne, and the house overlooks the historic Morris-Jumel Mansion. The midweek rate of $375 a night for four guests is a fraction of what similar-sized accommodations and breakfast would cost four travelers in Midtown Manhattan. For an extra charge, Thometz offers neighborhood tours in his vintage black 1976 Checker Marathon taxi.  Heading to San Francisco, Boston or Chicago? Sites such as BedandBreakfast.comBNBFinder and BNBOnline offer hundreds of big-city options, as does TripAdvisor.

The value factor of a B&B is probably most evident in a city setting.

Penny Whisler, innkeeper of Three Tree Point Bed & Breakfast in Seattle, points out that “the Seattle summer hotel room average for 2015 was $427 and there is not one B&B room that was close to that.  Our highest room rate last summer was $295 and this includes breakfast, parking — which is $50 per day at some Seattle hotels — WiFi,  and no lodging taxes. You get not just a room but a home with your own living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and patio with amazing views of the Puget Sound and Mount Rainier.”

While not exactly exuding a typical corporate welcome — which is probably a good thing — the fact is that many B&B’s now cater to business travelers in larger cities and smaller towns where there are corporate headquarters nearby.

Penny Whisler of Three Tree Point in Seattle often gets business travelers, including one woman who has returned again and again.

“This is her 17th stay with us,” Whisler says. “She likes having a stocked kitchen, living room, Wi-Fi, quiet and safe neighborhood, and a home away from home.  We also offer a frequent-visit special.”

Indeed, it’s the pricing that can be an added incentive. Mayne says that “Many inns and B&Bs offer business and corporate rates.  Simply ask.  Additionally, if you need to have the breakfast portion charged separately because of a per diem for food and another for lodging, that’s not a problem.  Simply mention it to your innkeeper and they’re happy to create an invoice with breakfast deducted and listed separately from the lodging portion of the bill.”

She adds that “some innkeepers welcome breakfast meetings and provide a complimentary breakfast for a colleague or charge a nominal amount.  They’ll also provide a private place to meet if space allows.”

Some take it even further. Depending on their size and location, some  B&Bs can be ideal locations for small retreats and workshops and can host small business meetings. They will also provide meeting space and break-out rooms if available.  Increasingly, B&Bs are also equipped with AV equipment like LCD projectors, teleconferencing and more. A good example is the Walnut Street Inn, a boutique bed and breakfast in Springfield, Mo., which actively courts business guests with great Wi-Fi, corporate rates during the week, and the ability to accommodate up to 24 guests in their parlors for meetings.

4. There’s no privacy in a bed and breakfast.

Some B&Bs in older homes certainly have noise issues, but Mayne points out that B&Bs were designed with romance in mind, and privacy is important to ensure a romantic setting.

“Newer B&Bs are increasingly built from the ground up to be a B&B and privacy is addressed with extra insulation between rooms and also between floors, like theLookout Point Inn in Hot Springs, Ark.,” she says.

Mayne says that in vintage B&Bs, many innkeepers have added extra insulation in rooms and added private tables to the dining rooms, in case couples would prefer to enjoy breakfast together rather than “family-style” at the table.  More than 50% of B&Bs now offer private tables, and many offer only private tables for dining, likeRabbit Hill Inn in Lower Waterford, Vt.

Shared bathrooms used to be a hallmark of the bed and breakfast experience, when old residences had a single bathroom to serve an entire floor of bedrooms.  But that’s no longer common.

“This is the largest myth of all,” says Mayne.  “Surverys of inns and B&Bs show that 99% of inns and B&Bs offer all-private baths.  And for many inns, the bathroom is the new bedroom and filled with amenities like whirlpool tubs, steam or multi-jet showers, fireplaces in the bathroom and more.  Knowing how important privacy is, innkeepers are experts in fitting in private baths to guest rooms.”

Decadent New Year’s Eve Soup

December 24th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Our New Year’s Eve party planning is in full swing!  Want a sneak peek?  Here is the recipe for our decadent New Year’s Eve soup:

 

 

 

Leek and Brie Cream Soup

2 cups chopped leeks (white and tender green portions)

3/4 cups chopped celery

1 tablespoon chopped shallots

1/4 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon clarified butter

1/2 cup vermouth

2 cups peeled, cubed new potatoes

1 teaspoon dried thyme

White pepper to taste

6 cups chicken stock

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup cubed brie (rind removed)

1/2 cup lightly packed, stemmed spinach

Sour cream and milk for garnish

Cinnamon basil for garnish

1. In large saucepan, saute leeks, celery, shallots, and garlic in clarified butter until soft.

2. Add vermouth.  Boil gently until reduced by half

3. Add new potatoes, thyme, white pepper to taste, chicken stock and heavy cream.  Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  Add Brie 1 cube at a time, whisking until blended after each addition.

4. Boil gently for 15 minutes until potatoes are tender.

5. Pour 1/3 of the soup into blender container.  Add 1/3 of the spinach.  Puree until smooth.  Repeat with the remaining soup and spinach in 2 batches.

6. Ladle into serving bowls.  Garnish with swirls of sour cream thinned to a drizzling consistency with a little milk.

7. Trim plates with sprigs of cinnamon basil.

Yields 6 to 8 servings.

New Year’s Eve in Little Rock

December 22nd, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

New Year’s Eve in Little Rock means our “Downton Abbey” Wine Dinner Dance hosted by Sharon Welch-Blair and Bob Blair. Book your reservations now for this annual New Year’s Eve  “Victorian Affair”.  Known asone of the top New Years Eve events in Central Arkansas area, The Empress of Little Rock will host an evening of food, wine, dancing, entertainment, excitement and the beginning of the New Year in a Downton Abbey experience .  Our own wine sommelier has hand chosen the “fruit of the vine” for each elegant course.  Our chef, the “Victorian”  Martha Stewart has watched over the preparation of each of the four courses so it is served at the height of perfection.

New Year's Eve Downton Abbey Style

Downton Abbey at The Empress

Step back to New Year’s Eve,  December 31st, 1889, the Hornibrook family’s first new year in their magnificent mansion.  The butler ushers in the specially invited guests arriving in their flowing gowns and tails. The elegant food is all prepared. The Victorian mementos are elaborate and arranged, waiting for you, their invited guest.  Music from the 1870’s square Steinway wafts throughout the house. The laughter, magic and anticipation are mounting with each minute that draws closer to midnight.  Draw your loved one closer, the witching hour approaches.  It’s time for a champagne toast to “Auld Lang Syne” and a kiss to last the years…..
Join us December 31st for a magnificent wine dinner dance beginning at 8:00 p.m. followed by dancing in the parlors just like “the olden days”of Downton Abbey.  Receive custom made Victorian mementos.  Dine to the strains of the 1870’s Steinway piano and live musicians. Make a Champagne toast at midnight. 
  • Black Tie Event
  • Seating limited to Maximum of 40 guests
  • *$200.00 per couple with a night stay (minimum 2 nights for 2015 due to Friday holiday please), plus the price of your chosen room.
  • *$250.00 per couple without stay. *Limited Seating.
  • Book three nights during this extended New Year’s Eve holiday, and receive your fourth night FREE.
  • Call for great price for extra 5th night.

MAKE YOUR RESERVATIONS EARLY FOR THIS EXCLUSIVE EVENT.       501-374-7966 for details!

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