Though it has been in business for more than 20 years, Whispering Pines Bed and Breakfast has remained somewhat of a hidden gem, unknown by many. The property’s new owners intend to change that.
Located on 20 acres just off Highway 9 in Norman, Whispering Pines features three guest rooms in the main building and four separate cottages. A fine dining restaurant with a spacious patio can accommodate an intimate party of two or much larger gatherings. A charming gazebo set among four acres of vineyards offers a picturesque spot perfect for weddings.
When the previous owners decided they were ready to retire last year, they put the word out that they were interested in selling the property. Dawn Vo and her husband, Dzuy Pham, visited nearby friends who mentioned the opportunity. They insisted that they weren’t interested … but curiosity got the best of them.
As Vo and Pham strolled the property on that September day, “something kind of whispered in our ears,” says Vo. She recalls that on their way home to Tulsa, where the couple owns two boba tea shops, “we didn’t say a word – we just knew what we wanted.”
After that visit, they returned to Whispering Pines a few more times, and after each, they became more certain that their career paths were about to change.
A former ICU nurse, Vo now spends her time “giving the property the TLC it has needed,” which means trimming trees, clearing debris left from a recent ice storm and doing some renovations.
After the change in ownership announcement, some longtime guests had concerns that Whispering Pines would lose its original charm. Fears quickly calmed when Vo assured guests that they would preserve the warm and welcoming atmosphere. While the rooms remain the same, the restaurant received a complete makeover before reopening in December (after several months on hiatus due to COVID-19).
While the restaurant design may be new, chef Santaro Kchoa has been at the inn for more than 20 years. He and his sous chef Chinda Kchoa, who also happens to be his wife, offer various protein options, and for vegetarians, the chef customizes entrees based on what is seasonally available.
On a recent visit, my husband and I enjoyed several dishes that were as beautiful as they were delicious. The ragout of escargot is combined with shiitake mushrooms and served alongside puff pastry. The poached pear salad tops mixed greens with slices of pears poached in wine, blue cheese, walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette.
Entrees abound. The seared duck breast is served with crème de cassis (blackcurrant) sauce, and the 14-ounce ribeye is accompanied by a rich demi-glace. Both dishes arrived cooked precisely as ordered, and both were excellent. Though we didn’t exactly save room for dessert, we tried the crème brûlée and the chocolate mousse cake anyway … and both were well worth the splurge.
Whispering Pines’ new property manager, Amelia Acosta, who joined the team in November, describes the management team as a family.
“Though we are all different ethnicities, we’re already all a family here,” she says.
Acosta, along with Vo, coordinates the booking of special events. For those looking for the perfect place to hold weddings, rehearsal dinners or even family reunions, the staff can handle it all. An on-site wedding planner is available and can help arrange everything from photography and flowers to catering and cake service.
Vo, who moved with her family to Oklahoma as a teenager, says that while she never anticipated this type of career change, she knows this is where she and Pham are meant to be raising their three children.
“All of these different things that I get to do every day – it doesn’t even really seem like work,” she says. “It’s like a dream, like being on vacation every single day.”