It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of cooking. Just take a look in my pantry. You’ll find tablecloths, napkins…just about anything one would need for entertaining. But no food. I never really tried to carry on any kind of cooking tradition. I was complaining to my mom about the lack of chocolate meringue pie at my recent Thanksgivings, and she confided in me that Marie Callender made her pie this year. She also told me that my great-grandmother used to make an oyster dressing that she (my mom) despised. The oyster dressing never made an appearance at Thanksgiving after great-grandmother’s death.
I need to thank my mom for making this executive decision to discontinue that tradition. I’m sure I would not have liked it…but now – my lack of interest in cooking has landed me in a Thanksgiving predicament.
I married a Yankee with three kids. They were raised on lots of northern dishes like chicken and waffles and shoe fly pie. Since I’m the odd woman out, I have learned how to make a few dishes since I would like for them to keep me around. It was clear one Thanksgiving that it’s going to take them a little longer to warm up to some of my Oklahoma dishes. I can’t understand anyone not liking brisket for Thanksgiving, but…whatever.
As it gets colder outside I am constantly looking for new yummy, fulfilling things to make for dinner. I love anything spicy so this recipe really caught my eye!
My friend April made chicken chili and I knew this would go very well with the cornbread. I will say that most of my girlfriends are constantly watching what they eat, so the chili was a Weight Watchers recipe – and – well, this cornbread is not so healthy.
I decided to make it not-so-hearty by cutting down the meat in it. I also was unable to find jalapeno cheese in OKC. If you live somewhere around a Kroger, my mom said she found some there. I added chopped green chili’s to the mix instead.
by Matt Gilson
2 boxes Jiffy cornbread mix (I was raised on sweet cornbread so I substituted instead of Jiffy, although Jiffy is only 50 cents per box)
If you do what I did and accidentally search for the Ludivine restaurant in Oklahoma City by typing “Ludivine dot com” into your browser, you’ll be met with a screen full of drop dead gorgeous, blond – um…nakedness. Evidently Ludivine Sagnier, the French actress, is famous for her nude acting scenes. And, still photos of these scenes are displayed on the front page of her website in case you needed to be convinced of her ability to pull off the roles into which she was cast. Certainly it’s not just to garner website attention and attract high internet traffic, right?
I’m sharing this uncomfortable detail of my personal life because the information could be valuable in case you wish to eat at a new restaurant in the Mid-Town OKC area and you might happen to do a search at your place of employment. And, if you’re already past that stage and you work for a state agency like I do, then you might also want to do what I did: Immediately call or write your information technology friend and let them know of your faux pas. Here’s a copy of my e-mail…
Dear [Name of IT friend]–
I was looking up Ludivine restaurant because I want to go eat there tonight. I typed in Ludivine dot com (rather than the correct ludivineokc dot com) and for a brief moment was flashed with naked women photos.
Eek! I’m just telling you this because I may have set off some kind of filter or monitoring system within the workplace internet software…
In case you’re wondering if I’ll be the next state employee on the 10:00 p.m. news, the answer is no. Evidently, my anxiety level was much higher than my friend’s and his response was basically, “This stuff happens. Thanks for the heads up.”
I’m saving my e-mail just in case.
Enough about me…let’s talk about Ludivine. The restaurant. In Oklahoma City.
The Red Dirt Chronicles has already covered the establishment in three ways: a) We gave a shout out to Peach Crest farms, one of their local suppliers; b) I wrote an article about why I’m crazy about the concept of the restaurant and featured a link to their YouTube video library educating the viewer about various aspects re: their growers or producers, their purchasing philosophy, etc; and, c) the fact that they are now open for business. This review will wrap our regular coverage of the restaurant and we’ll only go back if we do some specialty work such as an interview or collaborative event. Oops – still talking about “us” now…time to get down to business.
Ludivine, New Prairie Cuisine…A Review
The restaurant site and interior
Located on the corner of 7th and Hudson, Ludivine sits diagonally across from the new Federal Building in the Mid-Town area of Oklahoma City. The streets in the vicinity are not too busy and provide ample parallel parking. At night, the restaurant sign beacons you with its bright robin egg blue color and a scissortail flycatcher punctuating the logo.
Enter the restaurant and you are met with a smart décor stitched together with pewter-look delicate chandelier placements, commissioned paintings that will keep you glancing at them throughout your entire visit, and heavy dark wood tables juxtaposed against seating covered with moss-green and soft gray textiles. A color palette of burnished fulvous, deep brick-red, ebony, gray, accents of goldenrod and a knock-out indigo made my synapses start firing…astute choices indeed. My favorite tabletop item was not the flowers grown in the Shawnee area, although they’re close. Rather, I was especially drawn to the flatware design – the forks have a 45-degree angle at the base of their tines, so they lend a trendy finish to a comfortable, sharp context.
The kitchen is in full view and guests are given a choice of sitting at the surrounding counter to watch the cooking action, or sit at a table in the dining area. The only drawback to the dining area I could see is that they could use between two and four feet more floor space width. The wait staff and guests move fluidly enough, but can be seen jockeying for position to find their way, regardless of the engaging and friendly banter.
The bar has plenty of space for a comfortable hang out, or to meet and greet prior to a meal. I’m still mulling over the large stripe patterned curtain chosen for the south window in the bar, but I’d take out-of-town guests there in a heartbeat. Overall, even with the space constraints factored in, I give the space a solid “A.” And, I tip my hat to the person or team who sweated the details to bring it all together. Nice job, Ludivine. You won’t be redecorating your space for a good long while.
Food and drink
A server fully invested in the restaurant, as well as his role as our dinner guide greeted us. He mentioned we were “lucky tonight because they had Coq au Vin on the menu,” kept the chilled water coming and answered all our questions. I had my eighteen year-old daughter with me; she decided to order the lamb burger. I ordered the Coq au Vin. We held off on appetizers because there was a strong possibility of dessert in our future, and I ordered one of their house specialty cocktails to start the evening.
I chose this particular drink because I had watched a video demonstration on their Facebook page and decided the beverage needed further investigation. When my Bee Smashed Kneecaps (an adaptation of their Bee’s Knees cocktail) arrived, I was not disappointed. A mixture of Broker’s gin, lemon, lavender, and honey – shaken and strained, filled the glass. At the same time refreshing and bold, the finish of lavender filled my “exhale” after the first gulp. I had been concerned there would be too much honey or sweetness but this fear was put to rest immediately. It was a grown up drink and a dandy one at that. The Ludivine bar also gets a solid “A.”
The chilled water plus the assortment of breads was a nice filler between courses. My daughter appreciated the pumpkin bread. I liked the bacon crumble extra-chewy baguette.
Next came dinner. I’ve had several variations of Coq au Vin over the years, so I was curious about the Ludivine approach. They served their chicken quarter over whipped turnips, with a few Crowder peas, steamed turnip wedges and a small pickled okra spear, the Vin sauce pooling on all sides. My most important question was answered on the first bite: Yes, the chicken came before the Vin, and was not covered up by the reduction. There is a spectrum of “done” for cooked vegetables and I was surprised to find the turnip wedges at the front edge of that range. I thought they might have been slow roasted for some time. This was a good choice because with a roasted chicken in rich sauce, plus brown Crowder peas and whipped turnip bed tending to take on the Vin flavor, a difference is needed. The barely-done turnip wedges and the tender okra spear provided that difference. I’d like to see perhaps one more element of variety to set off the complete dish; perhaps kicking the whipped turnips for something that holds up better, or pooling less sauce. Still, this dish earns an “A-.”
We ordered a plate of four assorted desserts. I’m sure these rotate every evening, so I won’t dwell too much on the detail. I will say, however, that the chilled blueberry soup was one of my top picks for the evening. If that soup is available when you visit, order it. They serve their coffee French Press fashion and for that I was grateful. The blend of their beans was roasted one to two shades too dark and oily, with a slightly bitter finish. Perhaps an intentional choice to compliment the sweet palate of desserts, but I think a bit more mellow of a finish would sit better with the majority of those dining. Dessert, A; coffee; B.
Here are a few extra notes to finish off this particular review – I noticed there wasn’t a huge amount of noise coming out of the open kitchen. This is unusual and I wonder if intentional as well? For me, it was a pleasant surprise. They provide a recycled carry out container similar to a cardboard material you would see in egg cartons…another nice touch. And, although they weren’t initially taking reservations last week, they are now. A needed addition if they keep performing like they did for our visit.
In sum, from the moment we exited my car to the moment we left the building after our meal, I felt relaxed, well served, and well fed. My artistic side was nurtured by the interior design. And, I’m certain I will go back again and again. My next goal is to try some of their colder salads and check out the homemade noodles dressed with soft herb pesto.
An overall solid “A” visit. And, I feel good about sending you, your family or your business guests there any time you’d like to go. Enjoy!
Lovin’ the New Prairie Cuisine…Red Dirt Kelly
P.S. If you click here, you’ll get straight to the CORRECT website. Isn’t is nice that we took care of that little task for you?
Editor’s note: For a full review on Ludivine OKC Restaurant, please visit HERE.
There is a line in The Princess Bride where Inigo Montoya says, “Let me ‘splain. No…there is too much. Let me sum up.” Well, I feel the need to ‘splain – not summarize.
Growing up in rural Oklahoma as a youngster meant I was exposed to a life different from my current suburban context. My father was tri-vocational. He worked at FAA for his day job, he and my mother operated a small Angus cattle farm during the evenings and weekends, he did electrical wiring jobs for occasional money and ran a small business with his friend called B&C Enterprises. Dad was the “B.” My maiden name is Bomgardner. B&C enterprises operated a transportation service to and from FAA every work day, bought scrap gold and jewelry to send to the refinery for a small profit, and perhaps other ventures I didn’t even comprehend.
We usually traded my grandfather one of our steers for one of his, thus not eating our own beef (we frequently named our cattle), but beef we knew was raised in an acceptable way. We ate eggs from our Bantam (we called them Banty) chickens and harvested honey from our beehives. We gathered dandelion greens and poke salad off the land and gathered Morel mushrooms from the creek beds. And, we raised much of our food in a garden. An “Organic Gardening” garden.
“Organic Gardening” was one of the magazines my father received in the mail for much of my formative years. Every year, my father would order a load of cotton hulls to be delivered to our garden. They would sit on top of the soil all winter long breaking down with the moisture of the snow, and in the springtime before planting he would turn it all under to begin the growing process once again.
My mother canned vegetables with a pressure cooker. My grandparents raised corn in a section of their land that we harvested every year. We picked sand plums to make jams and jellies, and picked blackberries when they were in season. Our neighbors’ parents had a large strawberry patch that we were allowed to harvest. My grandfather raised watermelons. My uncle in Tuttle and my aunt in Bethany had an apricot tree. My great-grandmother in town had a pear tree. We had an orchard where we raised sweet and tart cherries, peaches, plums and apples.
My brother and I used to play a game where we would ride our small Yamaha 50 under the cherry tree during harvesting time. We would reach out with one hand and grab a bunch while cruising under the tree at top 50cc speed, then stop to see how many cherries we had scored on that particular run.
We purchased milk from our neighbors and a friend in town who had a dairy. My parents made their own yogurt with their yogurt maker. We sometimes make sumac lemonade or tea when the red velvet sumac on our property pollinated at the end of the summer. We cut and bailed the prairie hay we fed our cattle. We purchased bales of alfalfa from local farmers for supplements.
A trip into town to eat at a restaurant was fairly rare. I usually ordered a bologna sandwich or a corn dog when that happened…that was “fancy food” to me. Ah, youth…
I’m sharing this information with you because it might better help you understand why I’m using this space on the RDC to give not just one but TWO shout-outs this week to the soon-to-open Ludivine restaurant in downtown Oklahoma City. I’ve now watched every one of their eleven 4.5 minute videos posted on their YouTube channel. In each segment, they highlight a vendor they have built a relationship with in order to bring the food raised in Oklahoma to the table of those who eat in their restaurant.
My heart warmed while viewing them. We used to raise “Jerusalem Artichokes” in our garden at home. They’re using “Sunchokes” (same thing) in their restaurants. One of the videos shows the pains of gathering Sand Plums and discusses the rewards of why you would do such a thing. And most of all – there are people across Oklahoma who Ludivine has connected with carrying on a tradition of raising organic, nutritious, fresh and wonderful treasures in our precious Oklahoma soil. They seem to be committed to helping you feast on their crops or products that they prepared in a loving and conscientious way.
Here’s to you, Ludivine, for documenting your developmental journeys and relationships with your growers and vendors. And here’s to you, Wagon Creek Creamery, Two Tomatoes Farm, OM Gardens, Regional Food Bank, Avalon Seafood, Willie’s Ribs, Coop Ale Works and Urban Agrarian. (We mentioned Peach Crest Farms earlier this week).
Thank you twice. Thanks for all you do, all your plans and for all you hope to be.
Good luck! (Click the picture below to visit Ludivine’s YouTube videos).
Showcasing Red Dirt culture ~ authored and managed by contributors with connections to the great state of Oklahoma.