The Living Kitchen Farm & Dairy in Bristow is the first stop for Shauna Lawyer Struby's look at locavore destinations.
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Nestled in the scrubby oak forests of cross-timber country near Bristow, on an icy winter day I chatted with Lisa “Bibi” Becklund over a mug of goat’s milk hot chocolate so rich and creamy it wowed my taste buds with a multitude of flavors. Becklund rustles up culinary nirvana in mouthwatering, gourmet farm-to-table dinners at her Living Kitchen Farm & Dairy.
This destination dining experience represents a growing collection of farms, ranches, dining and shopping destinations in Oklahoma offering locally grown or produced fare to those with a craving for local food. There’s even a word to describe such culinary adventure seekers - locavore. A few ladies out in California came up with this snappy word to describe those choosing to eat locally grown or produced food. Perhaps indicative of the pervasive trend for dining on local foods, the word went on to become the 2007 Oxford Word of the Year.
Central to this pleasurable trend is the convergence of land, food, taste and experience. As I savor Oklahoma’s rich offering of complex local flavors, I discover local foods offer more than just fare produced from a particular farm or region; they plunge a traveler into a holistic experience rooted in making an authentic connection with the people and culture of a destination.
Becklund was born and raised in Seattle, Washington and at one time owned and operated La Medusa, a highly successful restaurant based in her hometown. Committed to serving fresh, local foods at her restaurant, Becklund shopped at the local farmers markets of Seattle and found herself increasingly intrigued with the farming life.
“It was then I realized that although I was a chef, I knew so little about food – how it’s raised and where it comes from. I established relationships with farmers, and the better I knew them and the more I understood their work, the more I wanted to be like them, to live like them,” says Becklund.
After spending a week in Oklahoma visiting a friend, Becklund fell in love with what she calls “the authenticity of the Oklahoma people,” and in 2004 sold her restaurant and moved to the state, purchasing the land for what would become The Living Kitchen Farm & Dairy. Now, on weekends from April through October, Becklund’s cozy home and farm serve as a peaceful setting for leisurely farm-to-table dinners.
Her dinners last an entire evening, and Becklund says one of her goals is to help people decompress with a multidimensional dinner experience, which includes a tour of the farm and a goat-milking demonstration, along with several courses of expertly prepared fresh food featuring whatever is in season at the time. Along with her robust vegetable garden, Becklund raises goats, chickens, sheep and llamas, and supports a healthy population of farm dogs and cats. All are part of the fun and the tour.
Dinner menus are comprised of elegant dishes, such as eggplant and garlic bisque with lavender goat cheese crouton, spice- and herb-rubbed lamb tenderloin and rustic lavender chocolate truffle. Becklund estimates about 97 percent of the food for the dinners comes from produce and animals grown or raised on her farm, or sourced from other farmers and ranchers in the area. By the end of the evening, Becklund says people are hooked on this feast for the senses.
“People describe the dinners as an almost spiritual experience. There’s a harmony here, and what I finally realized is people don’t want an illusion. They want the truth – reality with animals, gardens and the experience of a farm, of knowing where their food comes from.”
Becklund’s small dining area only seats about 25 people. Last year every dinner sold out, so if you want a seat at the table for this gustatory adventure, Becklund recommends making a reservation.