July in Tulsa, Oklahoma, means tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.
What’s for dinner in Tulsa? At The Reserve, our new farm to table restaurant at Grogg’s Green Barn, the answer depends on what’s in season. Our approach to fine dining in Tulsa is based on what’s ripe for the picking today. In July, for food enthusiasts in Northeastern Oklahoma, farm to table at The Reserve means an abbondanza of peppers, eggplant and tomatoes. Humble and familiar produce, for sure. But in the capable hands of award winning Executive Chef Andrew Donovan, produce is transformed, offering Tulsans an elevated farm to table gastronomic experience. The Reserve brings food lovers several steps closer to nature so that they can enjoy food that is good for them.
The Reserve might more aptly be called “garden to table” rather than “farm to table” because our Chef harvests a panoply of produce from land immediately adjacent to the restaurant: dozens of varieties of tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and lettuces, as well as other organic foods like bok choy, rhubarb, and shallots. He picks it. He prepares it. He presents it. Three simple steps. Bringing years of organic farm to table dining to Tulsa, Chef Donovan’s constantly changing menu focuses on produce of the moment.
Take the tomato. Imagine one you would buy at a chain supermarket, possibly from Florida, a tomato likely bred for high yield in a way that sacrifices flavor and is grown to withstand the arduous journey to Tulsa. That tomato, picked green, endures days of handling, crating, stacking, exposure to extreme temperatures, transportation, delivery, etc. Big agribusiness. For the consumer, there’s disappointment at first taste almost every time. There’s a better way.
Imagine skipping all those steps. The Reserve’s Chef Donovan takes a daily assessment of his garden acreage. He identifies produce ready for harvest. When it’s tomato time, as it is in this moment, Donovan develops his menu accordingly. For lunch at The Reserve, that recently meant a BLT made with small batch bacon jam, thick sliced craft bacon, and housemade roasted garlic mayo layered between toasted slices of Tulsa’s Farrell Family sourdough bread. As everyone knows, the star of a BLT show is the tomato. The Reserve’s sandwich will not disappoint. The tomatoes from Grogg’s garden are utterly fresh, aromatic, and fruity. We like to say that our take on the classic evokes nostalgic feelings of that Sunday afternoon long ago when mom made a BLT with tomatoes that tasted like tomatoes and smelled like tomatoes. Donovan takes it one step further by marrying the tomatoes with sophisticated accoutrements. Yum.
With the bounty from Grogg’s garden of earthly delights, The Reserve also offers a prix fixe multi-course farm to table dinner on Friday and Saturday nights. In our general approach to farm to table dining, The Reserve incorporates elements of Italian and Spanish cuisine with regional cooking practices and current food trends. For example, using his seasonal tomatoes and eggplant, the Chef prepares a traditional Sicilian dish called caponata, an agrodolce (sweet and sour) medley of vegetables, olives and capers. Then by serving it as an accompaniment to buttermilk fried half quail, Donovan gives a nod to his North Carolina roots.
Our Chef Donovan wants to slow things down in Tulsa. His food philosophy is rooted in the idea of taking time. Stop and think about what that means. In one sense, Chef wants to spark an interest in where food comes from. He wants us to consider that the food you eat at the Reserve is not just from anywhere; it’s from this land. And, further, he hopes for restaurant patrons to enjoy dining as a slow and pleasurable ritual in which joy is found in the simple breaking of bread in the company of others. The Reserve promotes this ideology with family style seating consistent with farm to table culture. In a second sense, slow food relates to the way our Chef cooks. Many of his recipes require days of preparation, an idea adopted from the Slow Food Movement that originated in Italy in the late 1980s. The Movement sought to push back against fast food culture. From its beginning, the Slow Food initiative emphasised local, sustainable food production, and also focused on preserving local food cultures. The approach was adopted and popularized in the United States by Alice Waters of the famed farm to table restaurant Chez Panisse. Donovan, too, is an ardent believer in slow food. As it concerns his treatment of the beloved tomato of July, he takes his time.
On July’s set menu, the tomato makes multiple guest appearances. In the first course, it arrives on stage, front and center, as a galette, a tart-like creation in which the Chef brushes sliced heirloom tomatoes with fennel oil, layers them with tender thai basil leaves, and nestles the combination within a flaky, savory pastry. A slow poached farm egg with crispy shallots is yet another course on the July menu. Donovan’s interpretation is to pair it with a Basque dish known as piperade, a skillet mix of onions, peppers, garlic and–Yes! Yes!–tomatoes. For the final course, Donovan serves up an almond flour pound cake topped with mascarpone. Never one to neglect his abundant July crop, he presents it together with a tomato compote. The Chef harvests the indigo tomato, a cross cultivated species that becomes purple at its peak of freshness, and then he cooks it slowly in a syrupy liquid. Sweet or savory, Donovan’s dishes are always flavorful and a joy to the senses.
Under the direction and culinary talents of Andrew Donovan at The Reserve, Northeastern Oklahomans can enjoy fine dining in Tulsa where Mother Nature and Chef collaborate to bring the freshest locally sourced farm ingredients in thoughtfully curated dishes to the table.
You say tomato, I say pomodoro. We can all agree on fresh and delectable fine dining at The Reserve. Lucky Tulsa.
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