Thanks to a new story in Oklahoma’s official tourism publication, a bunch of folks are learning what a growing number of people in the northeastern part of the state already knew — Living Kitchen Farm & Dairy not only is one of the best places to eat in the Sooner State, but all of Route 66.
Living Kitchen, a farm-to-kitchen restaurant near Depew, has gained notice in recent years because of rhapsodic reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp and a rare five-star rating from the Tulsa World’s longtime restaurant critic.
Here’s what the aforementioned Oklahoma Today magazine stated about Living Kitchen:
On their first visit to Living Kitchen Farm & Dairy, many drivers miss the turn. But once they get sorted and head down that gravel road off the old Route 66, they’re well on their way to a true farm-to-table experience. Nearly every weekend from late spring through year’s end, this 400-acre working farm near Depew hosts a multi-course dinner on the back porch of a log cabin.
Now that they’ve slowed down to farm time, guests head down a winding road through the woods, past the pond, and to the cabin where they’ll take in the night’s themed dinner. Each is carefully orchestrated, drawing inspiration from fresh ingredients grown and raised there and on surrounding farms. Long before each season begins, chef Lisa Becklund and her team of culinary artists start working on the menus for more than a dozen dinner themes, which have included Floral Sonnet, Heirloom Garlic and Tomato, and Autumn Tapestry.
This recent post below on Living Kitchen’s Facebook page reveals how proprietors Lisa Becklund and Linda Ford and their staff created a cornbread-and-buttermilk dish.
Living Kitchen had asked readers for opinions and family stories about cornbread and buttermilk. An excerpt below provides a glimpse of the thought and care put into those meals:
We knew this dish would be personal for a lot of our guests, so we decided not to try to replicate, we felt that would surely not be successful nor respectful, so we built on the foundation. We focused on the history and the experiences you shared to create our version.
First, the buttermilk. This came from the cultured butter we make. It was thin because it was the whey, but it was also sour from the culture. In the bowl it’s ice cold.
Second, the cornbread … okay, so this was a combination of yellow and blue corn grits milled by Barton Spring Mills in Austin.
Cat sweetened it slightly but not much; the cornmeal already had a fabulous flavor. She added a little jalapeno we had frozen from last summer. The cornbread was moist and crispy. It was a meal on its own. (There was not a crumb left.)
Finally, the butter; we added cold butter to the steaming hot cornbread right before it left the kitchen. I should add the buttermilk was ice cold. Ok, I did, but that seems to be a very common thread … Back to the butter. Cat whipped our homemade cultured butter with Roark acre honey and … and … chopped fermented garlic. It was seriously sublime. All together this is what it looked like.
By the photo, you can see how simple the presentation is; in my opinion, this truly represents a dish that should live on for many many more generations.
Our grandparents knew what they were doing, folks.
Here’s a good video produced by Discover Oklahoma a few years ago about the operation:
One caveat for Route 66 travelers: Reservations for Living Kitchen’s dinners must be made well in advance, as they sell out quickly. It also will cost more than $100 a person, but I’ve read of no one who thinks it’s a bad value for what typically is a nine-course meal.
It’s taking reservations for its August and September dinners. You also can email Living Kitchen and ask to be on the wait list for a sold-out date if a cancellation occurs.
Living Kitchen will take its next batch of reservations at 7 a.m. Central on Sept. 7 for dinners scheduled from October through Dec. 22.
Frequently asked questions about Living Kitchen are here.
The best course of action for including Living Kitchen during a Route 66 trip seems to be securing reservations for it, then scheduling the Route 66 itinerary around it. Between Chicago and Los Angeles, the only restaurants comparable for such a meal on Route 66 that come to mind are the Turquoise Room at La Posada in Winslow, Arizona, and Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
I got to meet Bucklund a few times years ago when we placed a beehive near her farm. We gave her a taste of honey fresh from the hive, and she literally jumped with delight. That’s an indication of someone who takes her food seriously and enthusiastically.
(Images courtesy of the Facebook page of Living Kitchen Farm & Dairy)