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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.!


Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 > 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   








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.


Ride the Streetcar

December 8th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair


Ever see those big yellow trolleys cruising the downtown area and wonder, “What are those?”  Three replica vintage streetcars operate on the 3.4-mile route linking some of the most vibrant destinations in the River Cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock.

The streetcars operate on an overhead power supply and travel across the Main Street Bridge over the Arkansas River to connect the two cities. Passengers not only have great views of the river and the Little Rock skyline, but are quick to spot the U.S.S. Razorback , a World War II submarine now owned by the City of North Little Rock and anchored on the river’s north shore. METRO Streetcar operators provide information on historic sites, restaurants, museums and current community events from your vantage point on the heated and cooled streetcar.

Among the points of interest along the streetcar route are the 220,000-square-foot Statehouse Convention Center, the River Market, numerous loft apartments, hotels, two city halls, the historic Argenta neighborhood, the 18,000-seat Verizon Arena, the state-of-the-art Dickey Stephens Park, the Historic Arkansas Museum, Arkansas Museum of Discovery, the main branch of the Central Arkansas Library System, two chambers of commerce, courthouses, the Robinson Auditorium concert hall, First Security Amphitheater, dozens of office buildings, fascinating shops and art galleries.

Holiday Tea…Bring on the Brie!

December 4th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Our Holiday Tea is almost upon us!!!

Join The Empress of Little Rock on Sunday, December 6th at 3:00 p.m for the first annual Holiday Christmas Grand High Tea and Tour of the Hornibrook Mansion. Start  your holiday season in the elegant “Quapaw Quarter” with a tour of the beautiful and elegant “Hornibrook Mansion” now known as The Empress of Little Rock Bed and Breakfast, in the Quapaw Quarter section of Downtown Little Rock.  There will be magical Victorian decorations depicting the 1890’s era of the Hornibrook Mansion, known regionally as “The Grande Dame of the Ozarks” for it’s  elaborate detailed Gothic Queen Anne Architecture.  After an elegant repast of American Grand High Tea, including many refined traditions  lost to us in our modern “technological” world, a detailed history  of the family that took such pleasure in building this amazing architectural triumph and a tour and discussion of 1890’s Christmas traditions will follow.  This is a time to enjoy customs and family values that made us who we are today.  Bring your Granddaughters, yours Mothers, your Grandmothers to experience the joy of an 1880’s Christmas to begin your holiday season.

To celebrate the success of the event, we would like to share on of our favorite tea sandwich recipes with you.  Bob and Sharon have been having tea around the world for years, and though they have had some amazing sandwiches, they still think nothing compares to this Empress original:


Using desired biscuit or cookie cutters, cut shapes from slices of

bread (whole grain, Italian or sourdough)*

Spread one side of each cutout with butter

Spread the unbuttered side of the break cutouts with fig preserves.

Top preserves with a favorite cheese – Brie, white cheddar,

crumbled blue or goat cheese

Top with remaining bread slices, buttered side up

Grill with a panini press or in a skillet, turning once, until cheese

melts and bread is toasted to a golden brown.

Garish with a dollop of preserves and a sprinkle of minced green


The Stockings Were Hung by the Chimney with Care

December 3rd, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hope that Saint Nicholas soon would be there!  They are hung, they are hung, the stockings are hung.  The Empress is getting dressed in her Christmas best and we are so excited to see the tinsel, the garlands, the trees, the presents, and yes…the stockings! taking their place around the parlors.

Each room in the Empress is graced with its own tree and the mantles are all clad in greenery and hung with stockings.  Lights are blinking and Christmas music is playing.  It is indeed “the most wonderful time of the year”.

Schedule your getaway, your tour or your grand high tea now, while the house looks its absolute finest!


Reflections of Christmas

Christmas images at The Empress of Little Rock

Santa Brings the best gift of all to The Empress

All the Stockings were hung by the Chimneys of the Empress with care

Even the stockings take on Victorian Flair at The Empress of Little Rock

Christmas dining at The Empress captures the esssence of the season

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

Arkansas Civil Rights History

November 30th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Did you know that Arkansas is known nationwide for it’s importance in the history of civil rights?  You can now visit Little Rock and enjoy an

Arkansas Civil Rights History Tour


  • Central High School Desegregation Crisis 1957
  • Mosaic Templars of America – International Fraternal Organization
  • Vibrant Historic African American Business, Entertainment and Residential Neighborhoods
  • Historic Black Colleges, Public Schools and Churches
  • Native Americans, Jews, Japanese Americans, Latinos

Discover the vibrant and diverse communities in Little Rock and their quest for civil rights, from the early 1800s to the present. Visit 35 sites which help tell the story of African American life and the interaction with whites and other ethnic groups. View historic images of buildings and the people who lived, worked and entertained in these neighborhoods.

The tour takes you from Historic West Ninth Street through residential neighborhoods to Central High School and other schools, churches, cemeteries, parks, museums.

The tour begins at Broadway and West Ninth Street, but you may start at any location on the tour. Look for the numbered decals on the sidewalk that correspond with the sites on the app.

Download the free audio files to your computer to use in your MP3 player or burn to CD.
Direction for downloading:
Click link below
Choose desired folder
Select the desired .mp3 files and click downloadArkansas Civil Rights History Tour Audio Files

The project is funded in part by the Arkansas Humanities Council and Department of Arkansas Heritage.

The Little Mermaid at The Rep

November 25th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair


Not far from the Empress of Little Rock in downtown Little Rock is the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.  This world class theater features top-notch performances of some of the world’s greatest plays.  This month welcomes another amazing production of a family favorite.

From the creators of Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Little Shop of Horrors, this enchanting musical features an infectious score that includes the popular songs “Part of Your World,” “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl.”Adapted from the beloved fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson into one of Disney’s most popular animated films of all time, The Little Mermaid is now a lavish theatrical spectacle you won’t want to miss. Plunge into the colorful depths of an undersea wonderland as The Rep’s stage is transformed into an aquatic playground underscored by a funky Calypso beat.“A heart warming musical for the entire family,” said Bob Hupp. “From Hans Christian Anderson to Disney to The Rep, generations have fallen in love with the young mermaid who dreams of love and life on land. This musical has it all: a great story, lush designs and all the songs you sang with your kids. You’ll certainly want to make The Little Mermaid part of your world this holiday season.”

Fall in love with The Little Mermaid’s bubbly sense of wonder, romance and rollicking fun all over again.

Evening performances on Wednesday-Sunday are at 7 p.m. Matinees performances are at 2 p.m.
December 04, 2015 – January 03, 2016