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Trio’s, the popular Little Rock restaurant for the past three decades (36 years, to be exact), is home to two of the most iconic dishes in town. And both are steeped in local ingredients. During berry season, the restaurant goes through literally hundreds of pounds of strawberries for its shortcake, a dessert that ends up on just about every table during lunch and dinner services.
Then there’s the Farmer’s Market Splendor, a collection of side dishes that form one giant plate of happiness. It’s a celebration of local farmers, and the party takes place each night during dinner throughout the summer months.
“The Farmer’s Market Splendor has been on the menu for at least 20 years,” says Trio’s co-owner Capi Peck.
It appears on the menu in June when local produce first starts coming in and peaks in July when hot weather crops like okra, sweet corn and watermelon arrive.
Certain side items rotate on and off the plate, but folks can expect mainstays like summer squash gratin with Gruyere, heirloom and burrata Caprese, purple hull peas, Granny Verna’s tomato relish, Mexican street corn, fried okra, and cornbread.
“You will always find heirloom tomatoes with either fresh mozzarella or burrata and pesto vinaigrette with a balsamic glaze. Another staple is purple hull peas with Granny Verna’s tomato relish. They will either be loose peas or our purple hull pea cakes. We always have some form of squash, including zucchini, Zephyr, Patty Pan, and Yellow Crookneck. We will either make a squash gratin or it will be grilled squash,” says Peck.
A square of cornbread, perfect for sopping up juices, is also a mainstay.
“Rounding out the plate will be rotating summer crops such as fried okra, Esau’s sweet corn, either on the cob or off-the-cob prepared Mexican street-style, as well as chilled beets, wilted cucumbers, watermelon, and fresh green beans.”
As mentioned, the Farmer’s Market Splendor is hyper-local and Peck has utilized various farmers and grocers throughout the years.
“We currently buy all of our local produce through The Bramble Market. They are a hub for numerous farmers in the area. Our heirloom tomatoes come from Alan Leveritt’s India Blue Farm, which is located between Cabot and Vilonia.”
And make no mistake, to pull off The Farmer’s Market Splendor each night is no small feat. There are a ton of moving parts that need to come together behind the scenes for Peck and her kitchen staff, which is led by executive chef Shanna Merriweather.
“The difficult thing about producing and executing the Farmer’s Market Splendor is coordinating the various components, which include chilled salads, fried items, oven-baked foods, and stovetop veggies. It really involves every single station of the kitchen except for our dessert corral. Also, it is immensely popular, so we really have to keep our hands moving,” says Peck.
Well, Peck and crew better keep those hands moving. I do not see the popularity of the Farmer’s Market Splendor waning anytime soon.
This tradition is here to stay.
8201 Cantrell Rd (Little Rock)
Hours: Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-2 p.m. & 5 p.m.-9 p.m.; Closed Sunday
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