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Eating Well in Northern Arkansas (and a Heck of a Cool Art Museum!)

I celebrated my 32nd birthday a couple weeks back and in the tradition of me doing as much chilling as possible on my b-day, my husband and I took off for a short three-hour trip down south to northern Arkansas for a little R&R. The trip began a little something like this (notice anything I’m obsessed with there?):
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All good car trips need coffee and good tunes. I drove down; my husband mix-mastered the tunes. There was definitely some Gwen played. On the way, I ate one of these Good Greens bars that we’ll be reviewing soon (gluten-free, woot!).
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Three hours later, we were checked into our room at Embassy Suites and headed to our main reason for the road trip: Crystal Bridges Art Museum. Have you guys heard of this place? It’s gorgeous! Tucked away into the Arkansas woods, you park and enter from above the site of the museum.
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Looking at it from above, it’s pretty breath-taking. Kind of like you stumbled upon a bunch of really pretty alien spaceships kicking it in the woods. I dug it. And my architect husband really enjoyed looking at all the little details and the materials used and all that stuff.
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We were both hungry, so before exploring the museum too much, we settled in for lunch. I had heard the museum’s restaurant was good, and the setting? Well, you can’t beat this.
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You’re surrounded by huge views of the museum and Mother Nature. We had a beautiful day, too, and it felt good to sit there in the sun. Food was good, too. I got a gluten-free chicken salad—and a glass of chardonnay. Hey, it was 4 p.m. And my birthday. (Not that I wouldn’t do that on a random Friday afternoon, but whatever…)
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Once properly fueled, we took our time going through the galleries. The place is relatively small as far as the collection goes, but what they have is good, and it’s kind of nice to have a digestible amount of art to see in just a few hours instead of larger museums where seeing everything almost feels like an endurance event.
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One of my favorite items? This one. The piece on the wall is made of spools of thread. When you see it on the wall you have no idea what it is, but when you see it through the glass ball…it’s pretty amazingly cool.
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We also spent a little time—Fit Bottomed style—walking around on the trails out and around the museum. Seriously, the building is breathtaking. As good as the art.
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After spending a few hours at the museum, we went back to the room, got gussied up and hit up Embassy Suite’s Manager Reception for a drink. There was a gymnastics convention in town, so we were also treated to the athletic talents of lots of 6-year-olds doing handstands and flips. Bonus birthday entertainment that I don’t have a photo of, but I do have a pic of Ryan looking dapper at the hotel bar.
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Next, we headed out for dinner. I’d read good reviews online for Petit Bistro, which is right there in Bentonville. As cute as it looked online, I was hoping it lived up to the hype (one reviewer said it was like Sonoma County, which got me pumped, but you just never know…ya know?). And it did. Big time. First, it’s in a quaint little house.
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With just a dozen or so tables inside, it’s quiet, romantic, nice without being pretentious and just damn good. We started with a bottle of French wine and the Blackened Sea Scallops.
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From there, it was swordfish for me with rice, sautéed spinach and a Cajun cream reduction. And more wine. Holy crap it was good. Cooked perfectly! Oh, and I totally took a few bites before remembering to take a photo…
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And dessert? Well, we had to go there. And go there we did. We split the Bread Pudding au Chocolate—chocolate ganache, wild berry coulis and fresh berries—and it was to die for. So rich and thick and chocolaty and wonderful. We ordered it with coffee. Who’s not surprised?
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After that, we went back to the hotel totally stuffed and happy. It was SUCH a lovely, relaxing and luxurious time! And the next morning, we fueled up at the hotel’s breakfast. I know I’m going over the “What I Ate for a Day” theme here, but it’s too good not to share. Freshly made egg-white omelet with veggies and topped with salsa, honeydew, bacon and potatoes, plus coffee—just the breakfast to get our bellies full and headed back home.
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It was such a fabulous quick trip! Tell me, do you like to plan getaways for your birthday? Like to try restaurants you’ve never been to? What food-fantatic roadtrips have you been on? —Jenn

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