Review by Scott Cherry Photos by Ian Maule
We were among 30 diners shown out the back gate at Grogg’s Green Barn to get a private look at the gardens, fruit trees, hens and honey bees behind the organic nursery in southeast Tulsa.
We held vessels of a refreshing sangria made with white wine, rosé wine and fruit, and more was available in a large jug. Tasty hors d’oeurves also were offered as we toured the grounds, and owners Carla and Kelly Grogg visited with the group.
It was the start of one of the Friday-Saturday night prix fixe dinners at The Reserve at Grogg’s Green Barn.
It is the third year for the dinners and the first for chef Andrew Donovan, who moved here from a corporate chef position in Florida. His wife, Ashley Whitfield Donovan, is a sommelier and handles the wine pairings for the seven-course dinners.
Wine is included in the price of the dinners — $80 per person plus tax — for the first time.
Andrew Donovan, who also has added lunch service Tuesday-Thursday, changes the dinner menus monthly.
“I plan the menus around what grows in the gardens,” Donovan said. “We work with an organic seed company, and we have 14 varieties of tomatoes, most I’ve never heard of before. Everything we have is heirloom.
“We just finished the spring crops, and now, our crew will be planting fall crops like pumpkins and melons. The gardening aspect has been the biggest challenge. It’s fascinating.”
The July menu is included with this story. The menu we had in June, though, is typical of the stunning quality to expect at The Reserve.
Diners are seated at three tables of 10 inside the nursery, a very European way to dine and, for me, a favorite way to dine. Most often, by midway through the dinner, one has made a few new best friends, if only for an evening.
The first course was polenta cakes with a raspberry sofrito and basil gelee. The savory-fruity dish paired well with a sparkling cava from Spain.
The second course was among the most interesting. Slices of Broken Arrow Ranch wild boar sausage were served with peach mostarda and pickled blueberries. Donovan made a slurry with riesling wine and mustard powder to mix with local peaches in the mostarda, which was something like a chutney, to pair with the sausage. This one came with an Oregon riesling.
Next came a bowl of peaches, nectarines and plums over which was poured a sweet-and-sour apple broth and served with candied walnuts and borage flowers. The blue borage flowers, grown in Grogg’s edible flower garden, have a cucumber flavor and also are a source of enjoyment for the honey bees. A crisp, unoaked California chardonnay was paired with this dish.
A syrah rosé from southern France was chosen to pair with the next dish — pasta rags, in which hand-cut pasta was mixed with early tomatoes, snow peas and miso butter.
What I interpreted as the main course featured roasted Yorkshire lamb served over a minty pea puree with young potatoes and swirls of blackberry jam sauce. The lamb had a mild flavor and went well with the puree, which made a notable impression but wasn’t over the top. This one called for a dusty red blend from Spain.
At this point, we received a pleasing palate cleanser with a serving of maple-glazed peach gelato over an unstrained, chunky peach puree. It came with a pour of an aromatic blend of riesling, gewürztraminer, pinot gris and Müller-Thurgau from Oregon.
The dinner was capped with a luscious dessert. A butter biscuit was layered with Chantilly cream and a strawberry consommé and called for a strong cup of coffee.
Andrew and Ashley discussed each food and wine selection with the crowd, and a cadre of servers delivered the dishes. Wine was served in appropriate stemware, and utensils were replaced after every course.
The dining area has three wood tables with white wood chairs. White napkins with black trim hold a fork and knife, and a piece of twine holding a sprig of rosemary is wrapped around the napkin. Each seat receives a printed menu.
Dinners usually start at 6:30 or 7 p.m. It can be a bit warm before the sun goes down but generally was comfortable and pleasant. It was halfway through the dinner before I noticed an active bee hive on the wall at the other end of our table. The bees apparently were happy staying home.
Most of the women wore summer dresses or pants with a summery top. Most of the men wore slacks, though some had shorts, which was fine, too.
Dinner reservations and pre-payments can be made through reservetulsa.com.