Sep 27, 2010

Slow Food Oklahoma-style



One of the things I love about living in Oklahoma is the abundant access to locally grown food. From statewide groups like the Oklahoma Food Cooperative to local farmers' markets, you don't have to look very far to find fresh eats.

This weekend marks an annual celebration of said bounty with Slow Food OKC's 6th Annual Fall Picnic which is scheduled for 4-7 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 3rd at the Harn Homestead.

This picnic is the ultimate family-style celebration of Oklahoma's food traditions. It is also a great place to enjoy friends, family and fellow Slow Fooders while meeting others who care about eating well and supporting local agriculture.

Be forewarned, this isn't your average picnic fare. The menu is all about taking a gourmet twist on the season's best ingredients. Some of the participating local food producers include Big Truck Tacos, La Baguette, Sage, Stella, Chef Ian Wagner and Kam's Kookery. Prairie Thunder Baking Company Breads will be on hand, as well as desserts by Platt College's pastry chef Katie Reddick. 105degrees will also be providing special raw food/vegan meals for any vegan slow fooders.

Even the drinks come from Oklahoma neighbors including locally produced Choc Beer, Coop Ale and great wine. Cafe Evoke will also be on hand serving Elemental Coffee.

As for entertainment, there will be live music by Buck Goucher and children can enjoy sack races, pony rides, a petting zoo and face painting. Plates loaded with locally grown gourmet food and fun for the whole family...What more could you ask for?

Here are a few details in terms of tickets and logistics: Pre-event tickets are $25 per person without alcoholic beverages and $30 if you'd like to drink beer and wine. I've linked to the respective PayPal accounts so you can to take advantage of the pre-event discount or bring $30/$35 per person to purchase tickets at the door.

The event will happen rain or shine, so mark your calendars for this amazing feast! I promise it will nourish you with more than a delectable meal.

The photo was taken by Shannon Cornman at the 2009 Slow Food OKC Annual Picnic which you can read all about here.

Sep 15, 2010

Marland Mansion

Marland Mansion

I'm not sure how, but since living in Oklahoma City I've come to know a lot of transplanted folks from Ponca City. These people, while all interesting individuals in their own right, seem to share a certain unmistakable attitude known as the Ponca Swagger.

It's easy to understand how a city as one-of-a-kind as Ponca could have such an unmistakable impression on its inhabitants. Located in the north central part of Oklahoma, Ponca City is an oasis of history and culture in what is primarily a pretty rural part of the state.

There's a lot to Ponca's story that I won't get into here, but the important thing to know is that oil has been at the forefront of Ponca City's development throughout the last 100 years. Ponca was the home to many oil entrepreneurs during the early 20th Century, and the evidence of the extravagance and wealth that once dominated the city can be seen everywhere from their amazing downtown theater to the public library which houses an impressive collection of Asian art ranging from the Ming to Meiji periods.


The Mansion as seen from the bottom of the hill

Perhaps the greatest monument to Ponca's (and quite possibly America's) early involvement in the oil business can be found at Ponca City's Marland Mansion.

Built between 1925 and 1928 for the cost 5.5 Million Dollars (that's 5.5 million in the twenties folks!), this "Palace on the Prairie" stands as one of the largest homes in the American southwest to this day.

It's size is impressive, but nothing can truly prepare you for the opulence an grand splendor that saturates every single detail of the house itself. Everything from gold mosaic ceilings, ornate hand carved wooden molding, elevators, priceless art, ruby eyed statues, and that's just scratching the surface.

Gold ceilings aside, the most captivating part of the mansion is the story of E.W. Marland and his family which seem to echo throughout all 50 rooms of this massive estate. Once again, I can't do the story much justice, but I do urge you to check out this great summary. The story has it all, love, death, massive successes, crushing failures, and some pretty unforgettable family drama.



This is the first thing you see once you walk in

The dining room

One of the things that make the Marland Mansion so interesting is the insanely opulent detail contained in each room. Every minor conceivable aspect of the mansion from floor to ceiling is a screaming testament to the inconceivable wealth Marland possessed at the time. I have never felt as poor as I did standing in that mansion.

The Kitchen, including the ancient dish washer

The Grand Ball Room

The Grand Ball Room

The Grand Ball Room



Tepid?

The eclectic taste of the Marlands becomes apparent while walking through the mansion. Each room seems to embody a different theme; every room that is, except the bathrooms.

Green tile seemed to be something Marland's could stand behind, and I'm pretty sure I agree with their decision. There are 12 bathrooms throughout the mansion, but Marland's personal bathroom is easily the most impressive. I say this primarily because of the archaic Mr. Burns styled personal sauna that dominates the room, but the two sinks and unprecedented square footage certainly help.

Old timey sauna

Marland's office

The party room gets a party ceiling

The downstairs section of the mansion was dedicated to partying, and its hard to party like a rich person in the twenties without massive amounts of bootlegged alcohol. This is why (along with the kidnapping fears facing the super rich in the twenties and thirties) the Marlands had a massive underground tunnel built beneath the house. Easy escape in and out of the house could be planed, and alcohol could be brought in without suspicion.

The scary tunnel is my favorite part of the whole mansion

Lacey and I had actually planned on making a full day of Ponca, as there's a whole lot to see and do (and most importantly, eat!), but unfortunately, I ended up getting sick on the car ride down (fever and traveling do not mix folks!). We had to cut our trip short and bailed out on a lot of worthwhile stuff to do in Ponca, as well the surrounding areas.

Marland Mansion is certainly worth the trip on its own, but there's a whole lot more to do! Rest assured we'll be back sometime soon to show you all the other cool historical treasures to be found in Ponca City.

-Austin

Sep 13, 2010

Fun at the Fair

Whenever I mention the state fair to someone there is an immediate reaction of either love or hate -- no in between. I'm not sure why people feel so strongly about fairs, but I like to think of the them as a time capsule and social experiment all rolled into one. Where else can you find vintage tractors and award winning animals alongside winery booths and inappropriately dressed adults?

I love everything from the corn dogs and funnel cakes to the rodeos, and of course, the world's best people watching! The Great State Fair of Oklahoma comes to Oklahoma City this Thursday and I can't wait to go. In addition to the state fair, many county fairs are also going on this month. While these events are much smaller, they are often just as entertaining and usually free.

Despite living in Cleveland County for more than 10 years, I've never been to the Cleveland County fair until this weekend. There were carnival rides, a petting zoo, lots of vendor booths, the state's oldest farmers' market, and a line up of livestock showings from local FFA students -- all for free.

Of course, Grayson was drawn to the long row of tractors on display. He's currently obsessed with all kinds of construction and farming equipment so this was a big hit.


The city boy is ready to do some farmin'

The Cleveland County Fair may be over, but there are several others across the state scheduled for later this month. Also, if you are a fan of the State Fair, come visit Austin and I as we hand out free brochures and trip planning info at the Tourism booth in the Oklahoma Expo Hall. We'd love to meet you in person.

And not to get too promotional on you, but any Foursquare users can check in at our booth and complete an entry for a chance to win an iPod Touch. And if you haven't already done so, join our friend network at http://foursquare.com/travelok -- yes, Oklahoma is only the third state in the nation to launch it's own officially branded Foursquare page. Kinda cool.

Sep 6, 2010

Memories in the Making


Many people love traveling because of the thrill of exploring new places, but I've recently discovered another joy of traveling -- experiencing some of my favorite spots through the eyes of my child.

There is something deeply satisfying about returning to places that are sentimental and hold lasting memories, only to make new, equally-wonderful memories as an adult. Take for instance my family's summer tradition of boating on Lake Tenkiller.

It all began over 40 years ago when my father was invited by a friend to spend several weeks at a lake house at Tenkiller. During those two weeks my dad no doubt caused a little teenage trouble, but also fell in love with the clear waters and tree-lined bluffs of the area. Lake Tenkiller made quite an impression on him, as did the boating lifestyle and water recreation in general.

Fast forward several years and he himself was a proud ski boat owner, introducing his wife and two young daughters to his passion for relaxing lakeside with an ice cold ham and tomato sandwich. My dad always says, "Food just tastes better on the water," and I grew up spending practically every summer weekend -- and meal -- on the lake.

Fast forward a few more years and several boats later, although my dad moved to Mississippi over a decade ago, he could never bring himself to relocate his boat from Tenkiller. Luckily for us that means we continue to enjoy weekends on the water even today, while introducing the next generation to our family tradition.

Some things have changed since my childhood, like the Smokehouse Restaurant in Cookson going from a hole-in-the-wall with two booths and a couple of bar stools to a building that seats over 100, but some things have stayed the same -- like their amazing barbecue and homemade apple dumplings.


Homemade pie....yes, please!

In a recent trip, I enjoyed watching Grayson and my nephew's excitement as they fed the fish (and a surprise turtle) off a marina pier. Of course, Gray chose to throw some of the fries and eat some himself, but he still had fun. Here's a rough video of the hungry fish:
video

Gray's other highlights for the weekend included "driving" the boat even when it was still up on the trailer, and falling asleep early in a log cabin because he's was worn out from swimming and exploring all day. He now points out every boat we pass on the highway, including one boat store which is on our daily commute. Something tells me he's going to rival my father in terms of boat obsession.

Sep 2, 2010

Thanks Oklavision!



We were on Oklavision today! You can check it out under the "program guide" section of their website. The good folks at Oklavision work hard everyday to bring you the infinite details of Oklahoma Tourism, make sure to check it out!

Thanks to Brent, Katie, Joe, Kristina, and everyone else at Oklavision for having us!

-Austin