A Weekend Away In Bentonville Arkansas With 21C Museum Hotel-The Francophile Edition
They don't say Paris is a good idea for no reason but when you can’t get to Paris for the weekend..you can find little glimpses of it wherever you might be! And today I am sharing some wonderful places that remind me of France in Bentonville Arkansas. I will be sharing my experience at the 21C for bit so if you are in a hurry and just needing some “Frenchie” recommendations…scroll down! And stay tuned for more Francophile Guides that I will be putting together on my travels.
It was my 3rd visit to Bentonville this year but somehow I never manage to get bored. There's always so much to see, so much to do and new places to discover that honestly, I don't think I will ever be bored. Bentonville is a wonderfully charming, relaxing and interesting city which I’d strongly recommend you visit! And make sure to book your stay at 21C Museum Hotel.
This trip was in collaboration with 21C Museum Hotel Bentonville who invited me to stay over the weekend for their #21CBentonvilleRoadTrip campaign…..and full disclosure over I’ll also mention this: I would wholeheartedly stay here again should I find myself coming back to Bentonville. It is so well designed if you love modern amenities and art and an ideal central location are just some of the hotel’s most attractive attributes. I do adore a small, boutique hotel that embodies the destination in which I’m visiting, and offers something extra in their own unique way. Bonus points if a place is able to make me feel like I’m experiencing the pulse of a neighborhood and community but also transports me abroad! And 21C Museum Hotel does just that! The location is pretty perfect for exploring downtown Bentonville! I could see the lovely downtown square from my window and you’re just moments away from the city’s most popular attractions and restaurants! The epitome of a small, luxury, boutique hotel: 104 well designed rooms with friendly staff that are happy to go above and beyond, refined put together interiors and some very good food (The Hive is just extraordinary..more on that in a bit) . For those interested in art and design and food…this is your hotel. And you will see that right when you get there! Upon arrival, you'll be greeted by two dramatic pieces-Orange Tree, a large-scale sculpture, and Making Change, Fleetwood Cadillac limousine covered in thousands of coins. I love these two pieces so much and wish they could tell me the stories of the daily people they encounter. I have so many photographs of them from every Bentonville trip! Maybe I should create their very own Instagram accounts or do a coffee table book or something interesting. With more than 12,000 square feet of exhibition space seamlessly integrated into all areas of the property, there are opportunities to discover art around EVERY SINGLE corner. The galleries are free and open to the public 365 days a year and exhibitions do rotate, so make plans to visit often because it will be like an entirely brand new experience. The hotel does have a gym too if that’s your thing! It’s certainly not mine..LOL!
I stayed in one of the hotel's luxury king rooms complete with its own little adorable breakfast nook! The room is so spacious and there was more than enough living space that should you stay with someone, you won't ever feel on top of each other. I also so appreciated the high ceilings and large windows. The room really has a residential feeling vs a hotel room feeling. All rooms come with the standard amenities - my fave being the plush bathrobes, thick and snuggly - just how bathrobes ought to be and The Malin + Goetz amenities. I love that brand so much!!! The bed is super cozy too. The bedding is incredibly luxurious making it hard to wake up. Wifi is free just as it should be for hotel guests and there is a 42’ HDTV flat screen telly! Ya’ll know I am addicted to my shows. Annnndddd the amazing hotel staff brings you chocolates and ice when they are doing the turn down service in the evening. Both of these things are my total love language! I love ice in my water which I know is so very American of me but I just can’t quit ice or milk chocolate! Some things will just never change!
And hey if you are lucky a penguin might just be awaiting you!
We all deserve good restaurants in our lives; in fact, we need them in our life. And The Hive is hands down one of the best restaurants I have ever been to! It keeps showing up in my Bentonville posts for a good reason! The Hive proudly showcases the unique culinary identity of Arkansas. Under the direction of executive chef and Arkansas native Matthew McClure, the restaurant pays tribute to the High South while articulating McClure’s approach to refined country cuisine. And I have to say... it's brilliant. They treated our blogger press group to an incredible incredible unforgettable dinner on the night we arrived after our art tour. (I will tell you about the tour in a bit) Truly one of the most delicious meals I've had in a long time. The restaurant itself is smart but not stiff, and popular with the local crowd! When we arrived, the room was packed full of patrons and I would not expect anything less! Chef McClure even made an appearance on my Instagram stories and I may have been having a bit of a #fangirl moment!
Our five courses were beautiful and the drink pairings made everything all that better. We started with a Farmer’s Salad that had little gems, cornbread croutons, and green goddess. The drink paired with this was The Origami Crane-a beautiful mix of vodka, green tea, citron honey, and lemon. And it was as delicious as it looks and sounds! I promise. The second course was Grilled Quail. This dish has black pepper, rhubarb mop, cucumber and secret spice! I am not a huge quail lover but was happy to have tried it again. The bird was paired with a nice cold Colony Lager which was refreshing and light! The branding was on-point too! Then out came my fave dish of the night—the pan seared scallops with blistered asparagus and fingerling potatoes. The cocktail paired with this was the Kentucky Daisy which was also my fave cocktail of the whole meal! You cant’t go wrong with bourbon, grapefruit, ginger, lime and orange blossom water! The last course before desert was a pasture raised chicken dish with creamy harissa, roasted carrots and green garlic. The cocktail paired with this was The Black Dahlia—bourbon, smoky scotch, bonal, orange bitters, blackberry, and wine reduction. And all I can say is WOW! We completed the meal with a divine slice of pecan pie and ice cream along with a desert cocktail that tasted like Christmas!
A truly sublime meal and one that I would certainly recommend for any that really wants some fantastic food.
The Current Art Exhibit :
Spending personal one-on-one time with 21C’s manager was so great! We got a private your of the current exhibit The Future Is Female. Investigating identity, consumer culture, ecology, history, mythology, and power, the art featured in The Future is Female illuminated both the consequences and the persistence of the struggle for equality. Featured artists included: Zoe Buckman, Zanele Muholi, Saya Woolfalk, Alison Saar, Margarita Cabrera, and more. It is incredibly powerful and thought provoking.
Be sure to visit the museum shop too! So much great stuff. I always come home with a new special art book or postcards, etc. This trip I purchased a Kehinde Wiley coffee table book.
A magical stay in such a magical place.
If I could stay at The 21C Museum Hotel every weekend, then I probably would. It's a fantastic hotel with everything you could need and more, including easy access to the amazing Crystal Bridges Museum of Art. There is a beautiful quick mile long trail through the most gorgeous lush landscapes that connect the hotel to the museum. The trails and grounds of Crystal Bridges are a must-see part of the museum experience so I really prefer this route. I love so many things about Crystal Bridges which you can read about here in this post. But in today’s post I want to tell you all about three new things I really recommend seeing on your trip to the museum.
The first is the new outdoor sculpture exhibit located in The North Forest called Color Field that just opened on June 1st- September 30th. Artists featured in the exhibition include Claire Helen Ashley, Sarah Braman, Jeffie Brewer, Assaf Evron, Sam Falls, Spencer Finch, TYPOE, Odili Donald Odita, Amanda Ross-Ho, and Jessica Stockholder. Color Field encourages us to rethink our perception of color and our connection to the artworks around us. Interacting with the artworks is encouraged!! Exhibition tickets for both Color Field and Nature’s Nation are $16 and $12 for just Color Field from September 11-30. Members and youth 18 and under get in free. For ticket and more information, visit the Color Field exhibition page.
The second fabulous thing you need to put in your calendar right now is the 2019 Forest Concert Series. Every Saturday, from June 1 to July 27 at 7 pm, the Coca Cola Stage hosts bands and artists from all over the country, creating a sound wave of blues, indie, folk, and more. Tickets are $12, $10 for members and free for youth 18 and under. ViewForest Concert Series lineup and listen to the Forest Concert Series Purchase your ticket Spotify playlist. The stage is in The North Forest too with all the Color Field sculptures surrounding so you can sorta kill two birds with one stone so to speak! The concert I attended was fantastic! There is even wine and food for sale. Bring a lawn chair and some bug spray though. Those are two things I am STILL regretting not having. Oh and the pups! The event is dog friendly as well as 21C..so I am definitely seeing a “ Dog Friendly Guide To Bentonville” in my near future-maybe this fall!
And last but not least the Chihuly favorites are also back and they are here to stay! Crystal Bridges recently acquired five artworks seen in the popular 2017 exhibition Chihuly: In the Gallery + In the Forest. All five artworks, created by Dale Chihuly, are currently on display this summer. Two of my favorites are the Dale Chihuly’s “Golden Sun”, which was developed for Crystal Bridges to complement the backdrop of the Ozark forest and the Dale Chihuly, Fiori Boat. Oh gosh I cannot forget about the Niijima Floats too!! These colorful floats are on display in the museum’s Upper Pond, near the Great Hall and they are just so beautiful. I am so fascinated with his work.
So as you can see Bentonville’s art scene is truly incredible!!!
Annnnd Bentonville also has several things to do to make you feel like you’re in France!! So without further ado my fellow Francophiles…….
Francophile guide to bentonville
1. Buy your Cheese at Sweet freedom cheese.
Arkansas' only cut-to-order cheese shop, offering a curated selection of artisanal cheese, cured meats, wine, and gourmet accompaniments . It was so lovely spending time with founder Jessica Keahey sampling so many beautiful French cheeses. I learned so much too! I ended up bringing back several cheeses home too and hosted a little wine and cheese happy hour with my French teacher the other night. I will show you guys how to create the perfect little French féte cheese tray soon!
2. Eat a crepe at Crêpes Paulette
Just one bite of one of their delicious crêpes and you will travel back directly to your childhood’s kitchen and remember the good old days, when your mother used to call “A table, vite, le crêpe va retomber”! And really I kid..my mom didn’t know French but this is how I envision my life! LOL! Crêpes Paulette first popped up as a food truck on the Bentonville Square in 2010, founded by Bentonville native Paula Jo Chitty Henry and her French husband Frédéric Henry. With expanding culinary tastes in mind, they seek to offer a delicious, innovative, fast-casual spin on many cuisines, all cleverly and artfully wrapped in their traditional, authentic French crêpes and galettes. From the classic Nutella banana sweet crêpe to the wildly popular gluten free Thai savory crepe, each handheld creation is made fresh to order with quality ingredients, proprietary recipes and attention to detail. They also have a restaurant too but I find the truck to be my first love and so so charming! I met the most fantastic Francophile too! She has such an amazing story and I am so grateful to have shared a table with her. I have her address and I look forward to sending her some French treasures.
3. Go hunting for French products at The Bentonville Farmers MArket
Have Simplicity Lavender Farm transport you to Provence. They grow six types of lavender at the farm: Grosso, Phenomenal, Super, Buena Vista, Ellegance and Twickel. With over 1600 plants, they grow lavender for essential oils, aromatherapy, and culinary purposes. Their farm is located on the beautiful Ozark Plateau and is surrounded by hundreds of acres of pristine farm land. You can even bring a picnic basket with you to the farm and treat yourself to a family meal on the farm overlooking a beautiful sunset or enjoying the calming breezes of fresh air. There is so many wonderful apothecary products to chose from…just take a peak. I ended up buying a lavender syrup and cannot wait to make lavender tea and lavender cocktails this summer!
And of course you cannot pass up a french macaron. Was so happy to have stumbled on The Magical Macaron. They were divine!! My favorite was the pineapple flavor.
4. Buy your croissants at Onyx.
Let yourself be tempted: take a few croissants (I strongly recommend their chocolate croissant!) They do great macarons too! The Red Velvet is a hard OUI!
5.Admire French artists at Crystal Bridges:
Childe Hassam’s Paris at Twilight lives here in Bentonville. Paris at Twilight, by Childe Hassam, is a painting that truly captures the spirit of that moment between day and night, when the stars are out but the memory of sunlight still hangs in the air. This particular painting was created during Hassam’s time in Paris, a short period of three years during which he began his distinguished career as a uniquely American Impressionist painter. Although Hassam had established himself in Boston with his watercolors and illustrations, he felt that to become a true painter, he must study in Paris. After all, the previous 20 years of American art had been dominated by French influence. American artists had to compete with French artists for patronage and fame, and many abandoned their own subject matter in favor of subjects that were more typically French.When Hassam and his wife Maude sailed to Europe in 1886 to settle in the Boulevard de Clichy in Montmartre, they were in good company. Other artists in his neighborhood included famous Impressionists such as Georges Seurat, Paul Signac, and Mary Cassatt. Aside from these established painters, there were also many young American men in Paris who hoped to pursue a career in the arts. But Hassam was older and more established, and he was not interested in their youthful fraternity and bohemian wanderings. He mainly kept to himself in order to immerse himself in the French community and make the most of his sojourn in Paris. Nevertheless, just like many other Americans, Hassam enrolled in the Académie Julian to study the French style.Hassam embraced the Impressionist style of painting, but he distinguished himself by adding his own personal style that he had developed in Boston. Unlike French painters of urban environments, Hassam did not focus on the anonymity of city life, but its elegance. He often painted fashionable Parisians throughout their daily life. He was what French poet Baudelaire called a “passionate spectator,” interested in new boulevards and fashionable residents, as well as the old streets of Montmartre and his working-class neighbors. Twilight in Paris, with its subdued palette, was typical of Hassam, whose paintings during this time were often set in gray and rainy settings. By the end of his three years in Paris, Hassam was ready to return home. Although formal study frustrated Hassam–he later remarked that his education in Boston had been preliminary, and that his French studies had been superfluous–he still benefited from the exhibitions, museums, and the multitude of various styles and subjects that the art world in Paris offered. Though brief, his time in France helped make Childe Hassam the painter that we know today, a pioneer of American Impressionism.
6. Eat beignets for brunch at Pressroom:
Beignets are commonly known in New Orleans as a breakfast served with powdered sugar on top. They are traditionally prepared right before consumption to be eaten fresh and hot. Variations of fried dough can be found across cuisines internationally; however, the origin of the term beignet is specifically French. And these were do delish! The jam was such a nice touch!
7. Eat Pommes Frites at Tusk & TrotteR:
They do their Pommes Frites with an Herbs De Provence glaze and I cannot get enough! I dream about these! And interesting fact about the owner and executive chef Rob Nelson. Rob has always had a love for food. After attending the University of Arkansas, Rob spent several years working for local fine dining restaurants. In 2007, Rob moved to Boulder, Colorado to attend the Culinary School of the Rockies (now Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts). Following Boulder, Rob studied in Avignon, France, located in the Provence region, attending Le Marmiton Cooking School and Universite du Vin in Sousse la Rousse, France, where he studied under the Disciples d’Escoffier. While in Avignon, Rob worked at La Mirande, a Michelin 1-star restaurant.
8. Enjoy A Proper Al Fresco Happy Hour On The Patio At Oven & Tap:
I always am delighted to see French wine on the menu! This Sauvignon Blanc was divine! And well pizza…I just cannot quit it!!! This particular pie has various cheeses and spices and honey and it’s heaven on a plate.
9. Enjoy a Chocolate Lavender Cocktail and a Lemon Creme Brûlée at Markham & Fitz:
Just look at this menu!!! I don’t even know what to say…it’s all so good. They do a really great chocolate croissant too. I alway enjoy their Ooh La Lavender chocolate bar to go also.
10. Sip Frenchie Cocktails at Undercroft
Sip a VIEUX CARRÉ in the swankiest little speakeasy. The Vieux Carré was first stirred to life at New Orleans’ legendary Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone in the 1930s. Like so many classic cocktails from that city, the recipe represents the crosscurrents of America at the time: brandy and liqueur from France, Italian vermouth, rye whiskey from just up the Mississippi and Caribbean bitters. The Vieux Carré is at once boozy, sweet, bitter and smooth—in other words, New Orleans or in my mind France. Undercrofts Vieux Carré has Cognac, rye, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, Angostura and Peychaud bitters and it’s so delish! You can also sip a classic FRENCH SEVENTY-FIVE and you can never go wrong with gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and sparkling wine in a proper champagne glass.
This was such a fun weekend surrounded by art, beautiful things that reminded me of France, and new friends! There is a French restaurant in Bentonville off Walton named Petit Bistro but I didn’t make it there this time but wanted to tell you about it.
I cannot wait to see your pics from Bentonville. It truly is the perfect place to spend a long weekend this summer. Book your reservations at 21C Museum Hotel. You will not regret it!
Special thanks to 21C Museum Hotel Bentonville for sponsoring my trip! And thank you to my wonderful readers who support the sponsors that keep Go French Yourself creating !!