The Pioneer Woman Experience
THE PIONEER WOMAN MERCANTILE
CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE | PAWHUSKA
Hold on to your hats, because this post is going to be a long one. I recently took the trip to Pawhuska, Oklahoma with my friend Tory for the full Pioneer Woman experience. We left no site unvisited and no crumb on our plates. I know that many of you are probably considering making the trip to P-Town, so if you read no further (though I hope you will!), here is my advice: GO!
While I will take you on this full journey with me, I want to start by answering the most pressing question on your mind: How is the chocolate chip cookie? Here is my answer. Ree’s Chocolate Chip Cookie is reflective of her lifestyle on the ranch. No fuss, no frills, just pure goodness exuding from within.
This no-nonsense cookie doesn’t place any emphasis on its appearance. No visible chocolate, a little crackly on the surface... nothing to make it stand out. Its emphasis is entirely on taste. And you know what? That’s exactly how it should be. As soon as I took my first bite I knew it was a great cookie. It is totally chewy and loaded with chocolate. The semi-sweet chips perfectly complemented the brown sugar and butter in the dough. It was one of those that you just can’t stop eating even though you’ve already eaten through chips and queso, cheesy grits, pulled pork, dinner rolls—I have to stop myself here and save some of the food news for later! All this to say, when you visit Ree’s upstairs bakery, don’t be distracted by the beautifully decorated cupcakes and oversized sticky buns. Go ahead and pick up the cookie. You won’t fully appreciate the simplicity of the small town life without it.
THE COOKIE TOUR STOP
The Pioneer Woman Mercantile, or “The Merc,” is a gorgeously restored historic brick building in downtown Pawhuska, Oklahoma. It stands proudly on the corner of what I would assume is Pawhuska’s main intersection and welcomes guests from all over the country with its simple charm.
Here’s a play-by-play of our Monday at The Merc.
10:30 a.m. | Tory and I arrive at The Merc after about a 75-minute drive from Tulsa. Other visitors are arriving and bustling through the shop. I wouldn’t say it was busy yet, but we were glad we got there early.
10:45 a.m. | We shop for a few minutes but decide to wait until later in the day to make purchases so that we don’t have to carry our bags around (we are experienced travelers, you know). The Merc’s web site told us there were Lodge Tours available that day, and that you had to ask any employee for a “ticket.” We walk up to the cash register that had no line (this only happened in the morning) and the cashier discreetly handed us our pass to the Lodge. For those who may not be familiar with the Lodge, this is where Ree films her Food Network show. For those who are unfamiliar with mine and Tory’s travel habits, if there is a unique/random/once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity available to us on a visit, we’re going. Once we secured our ticket to the Lodge, we decide to hop in line outside for lunch seating in The Deli.
11:10 a.m. | Wow! A short wait!* The staff efficiently seats guests and, after only about 20 minutes, we are shown to our table.
*You will wait outside so I suggest comfy shoes and weather-appropriate clothing.
LUNCH | This is where I lose track of time. We had both studied the menu ahead of time but still had tough decisions to make. Luckily, we did not eat breakfast that morning so we had ample eating room. I also wore a roomy dress in preparation for this marathon of eating. I highly recommend both of these tactics. What did we choose? Take a look.
CHIPS & QUESO
The manu says this is the best queso dip you’ll ever eat and I would have to agree. Served in a hot cast iron skillet, this thick, cheesy goodness is a little spicy and packed with Southwest flavor.
SPICY DR. PEPPER PORK
Just looking at this meal could put you into a food coma. While the sandwiches and salads all sounded delicious, I just couldn’t keep my eyes off of pulled pork braised in Dr. Pepper. My friends know that I sometimes refer to Dr. Pepper as “the sweet elixir of life” or “the cure to all ills.” Drinking Dr. P is a habit that I’ve been trying to break, but until then I will have it however it is served. This includes as a marinade for pulled pork. This dish did not disappoint! It tastes just as good as it looks. The pork was tender and flavorful. The corn salad was fresh. The grits were insanely cheesy. I’m sorry Southerners, but these were better than any grits I’ve had in Charleston. Put them all together for one perfect bite and you’ve got a meal that will keep you smiling for days.
MAC & CHEESE
As if our entrees weren’t enough, we were so taken by the sound of the sides that we had to try them, too. Our fabulous waitress encouraged us to stick with the classic mac & cheese. It was just as you want it to be—warm, cheesy and delicious. No surprises here.
WHISKEY GLAZED CARROTS
WOWOWOWOW. I am a fan of cooked carrots and these were glazed to perfection. I don’t want to know how much butter went into the creation of this dish, but I’m not mad about it. The carrots had a smoky flavor and were cut into chunks of sweet, buttery goodness. Yum!
I regret to inform you that we decided we didn’t have room for the famous chocolate cake. I guess I’ll just have to go back.
POST-LUNCH | Tory and I trudge our full selves up the stairs to The Bakery. Because most people are eating at The Deli or waiting in line for a table, the line was also pretty quick for The Bakery. I was prepared with my usual selection of a chocolate chip cookie, but was overwhelmed by the array of choices.
I landed on my cookie and a rainbow krispy the size of a brick. And then I saw the miniature cakes that were about the size of a Lean Cuisine and had to go back for the chocolate sheet cake. Because sheet cake. I’ll be honest, the rainbow krispy treat was gooey and great. That sheet cake tho. It was your traditional chocolate sheet cake and I couldn’t get enough. I am giving myself a big pat on the back for making it last a few days instead of eating it all in one sitting. Tory bought the bourbon pecan sticky buns to take home to her sweetie. Check those beauties out.
1:30 | We journey to the Lodge on Drummond Ranch. It’s about a 40 minute jaunt to the Ranch, but If you have the chance to visit, you should make the trip. When in Osage County, right? I drive a MINI Cooper and while I love my MINI, I do not recommend taking one down 20 miles of dirt and gravel roads. Bring your SUV, or if you want the true Oklahoma experience, take a truck.
2:15 | The Lodge! We’re here! We are welcomed to the Lodge by a few friendly faces and are encouraged to look around to our hearts’ content. Don’t mind if we do! We posed for photos in Ree’s kitchen, saw the prep kitchen, 8 different Kitchen Aid mixers, Le Creuset pieces galore, props, spices, the works. It was a lot of fun to see where the show is made and catch a glimpse of the Drummonds’ relaxed home life on the ranch.
And the views! Vast rolling hills and fields paint a serene scene. I wonder what the film crews from L.A. or New York think when they roll into Osage County for the first time. I can say that after I spent just a few hours there, I understood the appeal. The simple grandeur leaves you simultaneously in awe and at rest. Not a bad way to live, in my opinion.
That’s where I’ll end the re-cap of our day.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE
While you’re in Osage County, soak it in. See the sights! Tory and I visited cute boutiques near The Merc and stopped in at her new restaurant, P-Town Pizza. We were still too full from lunch to have dinner, but we had to try the “Not Knots.” We wrapped up our shopping at The Merc and decided to drive out to the Tallgrass Prairie Reserve where the buffalo literally roam. We drove a little way into the Reserve and did our best to see the buffalo. We saw them standing like rocks on hills in the distance and as tourists in a MINI Cooper, we decided that was probably close enough.
Our drive back to Tulsa presented an unexpected point of interest. Barnsdall, Oklahoma’s welcome sign boasts that it is the home of Clark Gable. Excuse me, what?! A very quick Google search later, we find ourselves passing by his childhood home! So there you go. An added stop on your tour for the day.
All in all, we had a wonderful trip to Pawhuska. I have to take a moment to recognize The Merc’s employees, local shop owners and servers. They were the friendliest bunch I’ve experienced while traveling and made our trip memorable.
Leave me a note to tell me what your favorite part of your trip to The Merc was OR what you most look forward to doing when you visit!