#ThinkRice with Team Feedfeed

and USA Rice



#ThinkRice with Team Feedfeed

 and USA Rice

Article by: Rachel Gurjar

This summer, #TeamFeedfeed organized and curated a trip to Little Rock, Arkansas to learn all about the rice industry and its production. We invited four food bloggers and Feedfeed community members, Ashley Marti, Erin Alvarez, Kristina Choand Alexandra Aldeborgh. We joined our partner, USA Rice, to visit Ralston Family Farms and learn about U.S.-grown rice.

We kicked off the trip with a welcome dinner at Table 28, located at The Burgundy Hotel, where Executive Chef Scott Rains prepared dishes using different varieties of rice in each course. We started with an amuse-bouche of Rice Crackers with Ham, Pimento Cheese, Pickles and House-Made Cornbread with Sorghum Butter for the table. 

The first course featured Purple Rice cakes with Seared Bacon and Collard Green Kimchi + House-Made Sriracha. The balance of flavors and textures made me want to eat a second helping, but I HAD to save room for the deliciousness yet to come! The second course was Crispy Catfish with Zucchini, Sweet Peppers, Peanuts, and Wye Mountain Mushrooms in a Green Curry Broth featuring Ralston Family Farms Golden Rice. This was a real crowd favorite and we truly could not get enough! To finish the meal, we enjoyed Mochi Donuts with Golden Rice Mousse and Bourbon Soaked Plums. Everyone could not stop raving about what a thoughtful and well-executed menu it was. We were so excited about the farm tour happening the next day! 

After a light breakfast, we boarded a bus for a scenic drive to Ralston Family Farms. The tour started with Tim Ralston showing us the beautiful rice fields and talking about all the different varieties of rice such a purple, red, golden, jasmine and basmati in brown and white, grown on their farm. They are proud, tenth generation farmers and focus greatly on sustainable farming practices. Tim shed light on how and why U.S.-grown rice is the highest in quality compared to imported rice and because the quality is so high, you do not need to wash U.S.-grown rice before cooking. He was also very proud to share that Arkansas is the #1 rice-growing state in America. It was very cool to see the large metal grain storage bins that hold huge quantities of rice directly after harvest.

After exploring the fields, we were treated to a rice tasting from chef Ken Dempsey, featuring Ralston Family Farms’ golden rice, purple rice, red rice, and Nature’s Blend rice in a variety of dishes. We couldn’t pick a favorite from the group-- each dish was so unique and delicious! 

Next, we went into the mill, where the rice is milled and checked thoroughly for quality control. Then it is packed into foodservice containers for restaurants, or into individual boxes, dated, labeled and shipped off to stores for consumers to purchase. This facility was extremely clean and you could see that the highest standards are followed in every sense. We were so mesmerized by their patented packaging machines that we could have stayed there for hours, but lunch was calling our name!

We took a short break to enjoy lunch in the most beautiful kitchen on the farm where the table was decorated with the most spectacular flower arrangements by Carla Spence from Meadow on the Mountain. Executive Chef of South On Main Matthew Bell and his sous chef Matt Verch prepared a special menu featuring some family-style dishes. We started with a Ralston Family Farms Jasmine Rice Salad with Arugula Pesto and Shaved Vegetables. Our main course was Bog featuring Ralston Family Farms Basmati Rice with chicken and a homemade duck Andouille sausage. Bog is a Southern specialty similar to a pilaf, gumbo or jambalaya often made with smoked sausage. None of us had eaten this before and I have to say this was one of the most amazing things I ever tasted! Dessert was Ralston Family Farms Brown Rice Shortbread Cookies and Horchata. A simple and delicious end to lunch.
Next, Chef Mike Reid conducted a hands-on sushi making workshop using Ralston Family Farms purple rice. Guests learned sushi making tips and then got the chance to do individual sushi rolls. We then styled and photographed them!

To finish the tour, everyone got a thrilling ride on the giant combines that harvest all of the rice. These machines are truly a wonder!! This tour was extremely informational and eye-opening. Not only did we get to see where and how rice is grown, but experience first-hand the level of care that goes into producing high-quality grains.

Check out the video below for another recap of everything we learned, saw, ate, and experienced throughout this incredible trip!