Check Availability

Posts Tagged ‘The Empress of Little Rock’

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:

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:


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.

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 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,

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,

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: 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,

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, 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, 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,

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, 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!


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!

Holiday Pop Up Shop

December 5th, 2014 by Sharon Welch-Blair

pop up store2Looking for beautiful art and local gifts? Don’t miss SoMa’s fun Holiday Pop Up Shop at Studio Main with Erin Lorenzen, The Green Corner Store, and many local artists and products! Open weekends from now until Christmas, the shop includes local artisans Robinson Lane Jewelery, Julie Holt Pottery, Eco Social Events, David Monteith, Vincent Griffin, Michael Church, Kent Walker, Loblolly Creamery, Honeysuckle Cheese, Geek Eats, Bo/Knit/A, Southern Girl Soapery, Southern Salt, Kat Wilson and more!  The following facebook pages can provide more information on these fun holiday sales: and pop up

This Holiday Pop Up Shop would be a perfect addition to the Empress of Little Rock’s shopping package .  Bring your purchases back to The Empress for our “elves” to wrap while you cuddle up in front of a roaring fire!  Don’t forget that the Christmas decorations are now up and the Empress staff is ready to make your holiday stay merry and bright!pop up store 3

New Year’s Eve…Empress Style

December 2nd, 2014 by Sharon Welch-Blair

barber full table editedHave you decided what you are doing for New Year’s Eve yet?  If not, do we have a great event for you!

New Year’s Eve “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 as one 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.

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. 

Downton Abbey Dinner

Victorian “Girls at Work”

  • Black Tie Event
  • Seating limited to Maximum of 40 guests
  • *$200.00 per couple with a night stay, 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.



*18%Gratuity added to all Wine Dinner Dance Reservations.

New Year's Eve Downton Abbey Style

Downton Abbey at The Empress

10th Ever Nog-off includes The Empress!

November 26th, 2014 by Sharon Welch-Blair

The Empress of Little Rock is excited to be a participant in December’s 2nd Friday Art Night with the 10th Ever Nog-off, a friendly competition for the best eggnog in town!  Join us at the Historic Arkansas Museum on December 12 from 5 – 8 pm and enjoy Live music, the opening of two new exhibits, and (of course) lots and lots of eggnog!
The Noggers (to date): Cache Restaurant, Capital Hotel Bar and Grill, Copper Grill, Loblolly Creamery, The Empress, Bridget Fennell Farris; John Selig,  and Stone’s Throw Brewery.  There will also be celebrity tasters present.

We can’t wait for this culinary celebration of a favorite holiday drink, and friendly competition for the best eggnog in town. Three awards will be given with the prize being bragging rights: The People’s Choice (by popular vote), The Taster’s Choice (awarded by celebrity tasters) and new last year, The Not Your Great, Great, Great Grandfather’s Eggnog award for the best unconventional entry. This award alludes to past winner, Nicholas Peay’s Eggnog, a traditional eggnog which actually is Museum Director Bill Worthen’s great, great, great grandfather’s eggnog recipe.

Book your room at the Empress and get a head start on the festivities by tasting some of our eggnog in front of a roaring fire in the Holiday bedecked parlor!  Call now for the best choice of rooms, or check us out online at

Holiday Celebrations across Little Rock!

November 24th, 2014 by Sharon Welch-Blair

HolidaysInThePark2014Logo_tstFirst Security Amphitheater in Downtown Little Rock is really going all out with this year’s holiday celebration and will be transformed into a winter wonderland of lights this holiday season. Visitors are invited to enjoy a ten minute light show that has been specially  choreographed to music.  This amazing exhibit will be on display throughout the holiday season. What else will be offered in the downtown area?  There will be a meet & greet with Santa Claus, and an official lighting ceremony on November 29th. All ages are welcome to the River Market Pavilions to enjoy holiday cookies, beverages, crafts, games and much more!

Also in Little Rock for the Holidays is…The Velveteen Rabbit at The Arkansas Arts Center’s Children’s Theatre, The 7th Annual Holiday Celebration of Lights at The Promenade at Chenal, Hayride and Campfire at Pinnacle Mountain State Park, and more!

And don’t forget one of our favorite Little Rock holiday traditions, the Big Jingle Jubilee Holiday Parade! The Annual Big Jingle Jubilee Holiday Parade, sponsored by the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau (LRCVB), will return to Little Rock Saturday, December 6, 2014. Serving as this year’s Grand Marshal is Miss Arkansas 2014, Ashton Campbell.big jingle jubilee

Beginning at Second and Broadway, the Holiday parade will start at 3:00 p.m. and travel south on Broadway, turn west onto Capitol Avenue and end at the State Capitol. The lighhd-christmas2ting and fireworks display will follow at dark or approximately 6 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public.

Campbell will join Santa, Mrs. Claus, Rudy the Reindeer and many of their friends for this year’s highly anticipated holiday parade. Bring your camera and kids to watch decorated floats, marching bands, dancing troops and more make their way through the streets of downtown Little Rock.

Make sure to book your weekend at The Empress of Little Rock and attend one or all of these fun events!  Call us at 501-374-7966 to reserve your room today!