Jun 27, 2011

The Green Buff Roams to Roman Nose: Day 1, Part 2

(If you missed the first part of the Green Buff's road trip through western Oklahoma, check it out here.)

The entrance to Roman Nose, with the park's namesake (Chief Roman Nose) in profile.
After Jessica and I left the Turtle Rock girls at Billings, it was a quick jaunt to Roman Nose State Park in Watonga. The lodge received a complete renovation in 2010, with the current style paying homage to the modern era in which the lodge was originally constructed. The natural materials of stone and wood bring warmth to each of the rooms, and the furnishings are made of sustainable sources that are made in the U.S.A. or in Oklahoma when possible.

Giant king-size bed? Yes, please.
Since it was my first visit to Roman Nose State Park, Jessica and I took a hiking trail to get a better view of what the park offers. The lake is the perfect size for swimming and boating, with paddle boats for those who want to move at a slower pace. If you want to camp outdoors, a giant teepee is available for a nightly fee. Tent and RV camping sites are also available.

Jessica brushed up on her Roman Nose wildlife knowledge, thanks to the trail-side signs.
(Side note: I’d never seen a teepee before this trip, and on our first day I saw two in different locations. They were almost identical. Now I just HAVE to camp in one.)

How could you not want to camp in one of these?
 Rather than roughing it, our rooms were comfortably furnished with a king size bed, a flat screen television and a spa-like shower. However, the outdoor patio may have been my favorite element of the lodge. The breathtaking view of the park makes it a perfect spot to enjoy dinner from the lodge’s Okie-inspired menu (which means that chicken fried steak is available, and they do it well). And Jessica and I were excited that the restaurant offers Oklahoma-brewed COOP beer to top off the meal. There is nothing better than enjoying a great brew and a great view at Roman Nose. Trust me on this one.

My favorite part of the lodge: the relaxing balcony overlooking the rest of the park. Lovely!

So with a belly full of good food and a mind tired in the way that you get tired on road trips, I hit the hay, ready for the next day’s adventure, which included peacocks, bison and prairie dogs. Stay tuned for Jessica’s take on the second day! 

Jun 22, 2011

The Great Green Buff Road Trip: Day 1, Part 1

I am a native Oklahoman, but I definitely haven’t experienced everything this state has to offer. So when Green Girl Jessica suggested we take a road trip to explore the western part of the state, I was excited to dive into all the eco-travel opportunities found in Red Carpet Country and Kiamichi Country.

We climbed into our fabulous minivan (the only way to travel, right?) and headed north from Oklahoma City to our first destination, the Turtle Rock Farm Retreat in Billings. The drive only took about two hours, and on the way we stopped to stretch our legs in Guthrie. Since it is only a 30 minute drive from downtown OKC, Guthrie is a perfect getaway for a girls’ dinner or a family brunch. With its blocks of pristinely preserved buildings, it captures the essence of the early days of Oklahoma.

Guthrie once held the title of Oklahoma’s capitol, but it now holds the distinction of being the largest urban historic preservation district in the United States. The Western era is alive and well, with carriage rides, staged gunfights and plenty of food worthy of a cowboy-sized appetite. Jessica and I walked around the area while scouting the perfect restaurant. When we saw the crowds in Katie’s Diner, we knew we had found the place to lunch with the locals.

We walked back to the car after lunch (we definitely needed the exercise after eating dessert), and made tracks for Billings. If you get anything out of this post, make it this piece of advice: your GPS doesn’t know everything. We got slightly lost, but after traipsing down a few dirt roads and enjoying the Oklahoma scenery along the way, we finally arrived at the Turtle Rock Farm Retreat in Billings.

This farmhouse, where Ann and Pat grew up, is over a century old and now houses guests of the farm.

Turtle Rock is the ultimate oasis for those who want to explore the spiritual side of sustainability. Owners Ann McFerron and Pat Hoerth offer workshops and seminars centered on the reasons to go green. While Jessica and I didn’t experience any classes, we did take time to pet all the farm animals and to step inside the farm’s teepee. We also enjoyed the peacefulness of the straw bale hermitage, a small cabin constructed from materials found on the farm. No matter where you stay on the farm, the hospitality of the McFerron and Hoerth will make your trip memorable.

What farm visit would be complete without petting the animals? These sweet goats loved the attention.

The straw bale hermitage kept its cool through 18 inches of straw insulation.

Jun 9, 2011

Homemade, Local and Did We Mention Downright Sinful?

When was the last time you ate at a restaurant that made their own butter? Or tasso? Or andouille sausage? My guess is most of us would answer, “Never.”

Well now you have the opportunity to change all that. Step into Lunabread, a sweetly cozy six-table eatery specializing in Cajun and Metro cuisine on 15th Street in Tulsa’s Cherry Street District. Everything on their menu is made-from-scratch with as many local ingredients as possible.

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Lunabread’s eclectic atmosphere offers plenty of spots for relaxing with a good book and some of their doubleshot French Press Coffee, cream sodas or organic free-trade tea.

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Never underestimate the value of a comfortable chair beside a window in a room filled with light, art and a delicious fusion of aromas emanating from the kitchen. If the chair is colorful – even better.

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Mandatory for all great eateries – a nook with plenty of room for interesting things. Lunabread passes the category with flying colors.

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This is April, our very friendly and helpful waitress. She made sure we had everything we needed and patiently educated us about tasso, a spicy, peppery Cajun ham made right there at Lunabread. We didn’t taste it this go round but have added it as a must for our next Lunabread visit. Can’t wait!

And now for the main attraction … food!

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My friend Ron Ferrell, sculptor and prolific gardener from Jones, Okla., ordered the cornbeef and hash with crawfish. The beef was house cured and slowly stewed with organic potatoes, crawfish and topped with eggs over easy. Mouth watering yet?

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I ordered the crab cakes Benedict – poached eggs on top of ‘Nola style (a.k.a. New Orleans) crab cakes and sauce cherone. After chowing down on this, other eggs Benedict seem like pale blobs of pabulum.

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Ron digs in. Like me, he excels at eating and is a connoisseur of local Okie goodness. Ron is also an expert biscuit maker and had great appreciation for Lunabread’s homemade biscuits which were light and baked just right – slightly crunchy on the outside, flaky on the inside.

Paired with Lunabread’s homemade butter – well holy cow doesn’t even begin to describe it. Let’s just say any time you are within 200 miles of Tulsa, make nabbing homemade biscuits and butter at Lunabread a priority.

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Meet Chris Foster, Lunabread’s owner, baker and dessert maker. We loved Chris’ hat and serious passion for local food. He was born in New Orleans and together with his business partner, Paul Wilson, who lived and trained in New Orleans, they head up creating the good eats at Lunabread. That commitment to New Orleans jazzes the taste and style of much of the menu and kicked the dishes we feasted on into Cajun heaven. Delectably sinful!

Part of Lunabread’s secret is those local ingredients. There’s just no replicating the taste of fresh – and once your palette acquires that knowledge, you never want to go back. Just a few of Lunabread’s sources: The yogurt in Lunabread’s dishes is produced by Wagon Creek Creamery near Helena; wheat comes from John’s Farm & Cattle Tracks near Fairview; beef from Natural Farms in Tulsa. Chris buys his pigs whole from Pork & Greens near Broken Arrow and uses every part of the pig – that’s where the homemade tasso and andouille sausage come from.

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Ron and Chris discuss the finer points of biscuit making. My mouth was too full to add much to the conversation and I’m a biscuit-making novice anyway.

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The board shown here highlights some of what’s on the menu, which is small and changes often according to what is available from season to season. The day we visited some of the other luscious goodies we had a hankering to try but didn’t (we didn’t want to be gluttons) were housemade andouille sausage, white gravy and pork fat biscuits, and Southern eggs benedict – organic stone grits topped with a poached egg, sausage and gravy. If your mouth is not watering now, you likely no longer have a pulse. We were also sorely tempted by the desserts – white chocolate bread pudding with hard sauce, organic raspberry tart with peppercorn gelato, Belgian chocolate torte royale. See what I mean – more sin!

I glimpsed the biscuits and gravy from across the room on another customer’s plate and now I can’t get that vision out of my mind. With such a serious obsession, another Lunabread experience is at the top of my must-do list. This kind of “sinning” can’t happen too soon.

Lunabread on Urbanspoon

Jun 3, 2011

A Day at the Nest: Visiting Birdie

The brilliance and beauty behind Birdie is Katie Huskerson. Birdie and Katie are almost one in the same. When you walk into Birdie it is light and lovely, just like Katie. Katie’s kindness and creativity is in every part of her store. Pieces from flea markets that I would call garbage have been given a second life, restored and placed with care to showcase her beautiful bouquets of flowers and thoughtfully selected house wares. Katie is a florist and her approach is elegant yet fresh. Her commitment to sustainably grown and locally grown flowers means her arrangements feature wildflowers, Oklahoma flowers and color schemes that go beyond traditional arrangements.

Katie’s creativity as a florist spills over to Fin and Feather the clothing side of the store where she carries items for men and women. All items have been chosen with the same care she shows with the floral side of Birdie. The clothing items are either organic, hand-made, fair trade, recycled, natural or some combination of those five. For me, the phrase “green clothes” conjures up images of faux hippies at Bonnaroo or the Jesus rope sandals I had my freshman year of college. Really earthy, not necessarily really fashionable. But the jewelry, clothes and handbags Katie picks are modern and practical yet unique and stylish. She knows the stories behind the brands and has picked them with intention.

The word “boutique” gets thrown around about as much as the word “green” so to call Birdie a green boutique would be easy but somewhat of a disservice. Rather Birdie is a true local store meaning they know their suppliers, pick their products with care and build relationships with their consumers and their community. Stopping by Campus Corner in Norman and meeting Katie yourself is a must and I guarantee you will find something truly green and special.

You will also want to mark your calendar for August 27th for the Dustbowl Arts Market. Katie is one of the co-founders of this biannual event that sells art and handmade wares that will debunk your traditional notion of “craft show.” It is easy to buy local when the selection is this good.