I’m often surprised by the number of people I meet who have not heard of nor experienced a farm-to-table evening at The Living Kitchen Farm and Dairy in Depew. As someone who has been a fan for over a decade, I sometimes forget that the farm isn’t on everyone’s radar.
What began 15 years ago to help raise capital for a growing farm operation is now one of Oklahoma’s most unique and highly sought-after dining experiences.
Chef Lisa Becklund moved to Oklahoma from Seattle to try her hand at growing the food she cooks. Along with her spouse Linda Ford, she now showcases the beautiful produce, meat and dairy from their own and other local farms.
Each weekend from April through December, Becklund and Ford welcome guests to the Oakley Cabin and create a communal, multi-course dining experience one might not expect to find in our state. Familiar faces and new friends could share a meal and relax away from the city lights for a few hours.
“We want the farm table dinners to be an oasis for people,” says Becklund. “We want them to come here and relax, to get a break from all that’s going on in the world.”
When the pandemic first began, the sense of community that made the farm dinners unique became a liability, as social distancing called for an end to filling one long table up with guests.
“Initially, we closed the restaurant and laid off our staff until we could reimagine how to host dinners under new restrictions needed for the health and safety of our guests and team members,” says Ford. Upon that reopening, they cut the number of seats in half and spaced the tables apart on the screened-in porch. While this satisfied the new social-distancing requirement, they noticed that the sense of camaraderie wasn’t the same.
As with any learning experience, the changing social requirements have led to an evolution of sorts. Since their initial reopening, Becklund and Ford tried to reimagine their space, as well as the format of the dinners to help create more engagement with the food and other members of a dining party. Rather than a strictly plated multi-course format, some courses are served family-style within each party (which are still seated at separate tables for distance).
Traditionally, the two dessert courses were served at the dining table. Now the second dessert is enjoyed in the front yard around fire pits, allowing guests to interact more while maintaining their safety.
A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from the farm asking my thoughts on current and future potential safety measures. By polling a large handful of frequent guests, they hoped to understand what would make us most comfortable in choosing to make reservations.
In the end, the newest safety measures encouraged by the guests include requiring masks in the cabin when not seated at your table and showing proof of vaccination.
“If we take seriously the necessary precautions and work to get guests’ buy-in on the precautions ahead of time, our dinners offer an opportunity for them to put the pandemic behind them for a few hours and enjoy the company of family and friends, old and new,” says Ford.
The couple knew that not everyone would agree with the decision, but first and foremost, ensuring the safety of their Living Kitchen family and guests is the priority. Fortunately, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, with dinners filling up as quickly as before. Some guests who had been reluctant to visit this season due to pandemic-related concerns have now made reservations, knowing that the extra measures are in place.
If you have never experienced one of these beautiful evenings just a short drive from both Tulsa and Oklahoma City, I highly recommend it. You can also visit their restaurant FarmBar in Tulsa.
October reservations are available online. November reservations open Sat, Oct. 2 at 9 a.m. December reservations open Sat., Nov. 6 at 9 a.m. For more information, visit livingkitchenfarmanddairy.com. For reservations, visit exploretock.com/livingkitchen.