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Beyond the Green Barn

The Reserve gives new meaning to garden party

Grogg’s Green Barn is a true farm-to-table experience

Valerie Grant

Grogg’s Green Barn has been a gardener’s paradise since it opened in 2011. It only purveys fully organic items—no pesticides found here—and the focus is on native plants and sustainability. Out of this focus grew the idea for a garden-to-table dining experience called “The Reserve.” With only items grown in the adjoining garden, Executive Chef Matthew Owen uses the bounty of seasonal harvests and incorporates other local ingredients to create inspired meals. 

The farm-to-table concept is not new, nor was this the first of its kind I attended. But I found an unexpected soupçon of whimsy hiding around each corner and dish.

The Reserve is a specially designated space within Grogg’s Green Barn, located at 10105 E. 61st St. The special event space is incorporated seamlessly within the retail space of the garden center. Small vases of wildflowers dot the thick, wooden tables on one side. On the other side is an open counter where Chef Owen and his staff are preparing the evening’s offering. Emily Akin, operations manager for Grogg’s, invites guests for a tour of the garden and a preview of the meal to come.

Executive Chef Matthew Owen arranging pickle platesI become one in a constellation of ebullient women orbiting through the secret gardens of Grogg’s. A young rabbit, poised among the plots of raised-bed gardens, welcomes our assemblage to this fairy-tale scene. I am standing in a sacred space, where an ancient pear tree hovers like royalty over each garden plot, even as Highway 169 roars in the background.

I watch as the bunny scampers among the garden it knows so well, as if giving us a personal tour of its favorite hors d’oeuvres. Akin pulls a tiny carrot from the ground and the ladies giggle as if this was the first carrot they’d ever seen. 

The sun begins to dip behind the trees, the last of its rays lightly kissing each green leaf, and a sense of joie de vivre takes over as we figuratively hop from plant to plant. Akin extracts a nubby, neon-green fava bean from its pod and places it in my hand. I sink my teeth into the slick skin of the bean and it gives way to a tender sweetness—a perfect nibble in form and flavor. 

As we make our way past the hum of the beehives and burgeoning berry patches, I find myself searching for the rabbit in my periphery. I declare the bunny our divine totem, a harbinger of the evening to come. As I follow its path, each character, flavor, and experience take on a more fanciful hue.

We return to the dining room, where curtains billow in the gentle breeze. A charming gentleman to my left introduces himself, and then talks to me in riddles. 

The first course arrives in a curious, small cup. Inside the demitasse is a potion of chilled roasted sweet onion broth with green sprigs of dill, thyme, and mountain mint floating among petals of chamomile and puffed wheat berries. A sip of this broth studded with the toasty wheat berries brings caramel notes out to play, while the refreshing snap of mountain mint elevates the concoction. 

Cavatelli pasta with house-made ricotta cheese, fava beans, and salt-cured duck yolkEach course becomes more sensational than the next. The cavatelli pasta, with house-made ricotta cheese blended into the dough, looks like chunky, segmented caterpillars. The familiar fava beans are nestled on top, dusted with a sunshine-yellow salt-cured duck yolk. 

The pickle plate is Chef Owen’s sweet spot, featuring his politely pungent kimchi and a miniature miso-pickled hakurei turnip, which has elements of apple and umami. The honey-pickled garlic is the surprise delight, though, with the heat of fresh garlic mellowed by the honey’s floral notes. 

The pork loin sourced from Prairie Creek Farms was brined in whey left over from making the ricotta, which imparts tender salinity. The sorghum vinaigrette sends my olfactory into overdrive, the way the understated pop of acidity blends with the sorghum’s earthy sweetness. Next to the slice of pork loin is a delicate cloud of shaved cabbage, which reminds me of chartreuse cotton candy but contains an undercurrent of verdant minerality. 

The meal ends with discs of stoneground cornmeal pound cake, punctuated with a violet brushstroke of blueberry curd and topped with blueberries and lavender whipped cream. 

The sun is setting on the golden evening as I embrace my new friends and give my compliments to the chef. I walk through doors of the garden center and the thrum of the highway breaks the spell of the night. 

A part of me is wondering if my experience was even real when, suddenly, I see out of the corner of my eye a white tuft of a rabbit’s tail, hopping back to its garden home.

For more from Angela, catch up on Tulsa food news with The Digest.

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