3 for Thursday: July 20, 2017

Wow, it’s hot outside. And my guess is that it will only get hotter. I’m still very glad it’s summer. Enjoy the rest of summer, but hold it lightly because you may need to start letting go soon. In our world, school starts in less than 3 weeks. I actually found myself shopping for school backpacks at Sam’s Club yesterday.

3 things for this week are:

A getaway:
Bentonville, Arkansas

My wife and I needed some time away, but we didn’t have a ton of time or a ton of cash to work with for travel. We have been through northwest Arkansas for family events for about 15 years at this point, but we never linger very long on those trips. We decided to take our four days away in the Bentonville, Arkansas area, and we were amazed at how much fun we had. The entire area — starting with Beaver Lake and Eureka Springs up north, and then shifting southward to Bella Vista, Bentonville, Rogers, Fayetteville, and Springdale — is full of Ozarks life and energy.

The downtown area of Bentonville has great food, shops, and attractions, not least of which is the Crystal Bridges Museum and its amazing grounds. We ate, we chilled, we shopped, we relaxed together as a couple, and northwest Arkansas did not disappoint.

I learned the term “High South,” which is a term that describes a localized food style from the Ozarks regions of Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.  “High South” cuisine is best characterized as rustic cuisine utilizing fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts and grains harvested locally, as well as livestock raised using sustainable practices and flavored using traditional herbs and spices found in the area. There are great restaurants and brunches everywhere, many of them featuring these High South flavors and showing off their pride in their Ozarks history and culture.

A few suggestions for food and stops in northwest Arkansas:

A product:
Poo-P
ourri Before You Go Spray
I have a friend who, for years, has sworn by his Poo-Pourri Before You Go Spray. He keeps it handy at home and also carries a travel version. I’ve mocked him for paying so much attention to a smell-well bathroom product. But now I’m sold. With Poo-Pourri Before You Go Spray, you spray the toilet water 3 times before you take a seat to take care of your business. (I accidentally just sprayed it into the air the first time I used it, not realizing how it works, and it’s really strong smelling when sprayed into the air.)

Through the magic of chemistry, Poo-Pourri works to contain any smells that might come about while also using its clean scents to mask any negative scents that might try to escape. This is something different than just a deodorizer; it seems to chemically block the smells by creating a scent barrier in the water. Poo-Pourri comes in all kinds of different scented varieties. I tried it this weekend for the first time, and I was surprised at how well this product works. You can buy it at Bed Bath and Beyond, and you might also look for it at Wal-MartTarget, Ulta, on Amazon or at the Poo-Pourri website.

A dessert:
Baklava

I am a huge fan of baklava. Baklava is a sweet Middle Eastern pastry dessert that has many different varieties. At its essence, baklava is buttery layers of phyllo pastry dough with a filling that is based around nuts like almonds, walnuts and pistachios, and a sweet, sometimes tangy syrup that has a consistency like honey. I am not finding any baklava to my liking in my town, so I’m resolving to start making my own when I get a craving.

The challenge is that baklava is more of a broad category or foundational theme on which many variations have been developed. You have to try all kinds to find what you like. From my understanding, every country and region of the Middle East makes baklava differently, so finding your preferred version takes some trial and error.

I’ve discovered that you can buy refrigerated puff pastry at Wal-Mart and other grocery stores, and I’m experimenting with the puff pastry instead of going all in with phyllo. I prefer pistachio-based baklava, but I’m experimenting between salted/roasted, unsalted/roasted, or unsalted/raw pistachios. I might also throw in some almonds to create additional flavor. Then comes the question of how simple or complex to make the syrup, which can be a simple sugar syrup or can get much more exciting with lemon peel, orange peel, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg or rose water added in.

To help you in your baklava discovery, I’d encourage you to try it at local Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurants. Each version will be different and will give you a sense of what baklava can be. I also know a bakery in Michigan through which you can mail-order fresh baklava, and it’s so delicious, but their website is acting funny so I’m not going to link right now.

Beyond that, here are a few recipes and articles I have found online that might be helpful in your baklava discovery: