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Best Homemade Pies: Hammett House By Laura Araujo


Each morning before the sun comes up, baking begins at Hammett House restaurant where two bakers hand make a large selection of pies, fresh for the day. The pie-making process begins with homemade crusts. “We make all our crusts with Crisco and a rolling pin,” Owner Bill Biard


says.


Coconut cream, German chocolate, lemon pecan and fresh blueberry are just a few of the varieties available at the Claremore restaurant—voted the best pies in the state by Oklahoma Living readers.


“Our apple pie is served in a sizzling skillet with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a brandy butter sauce,” Biard says. “It sells about three more as it’s going out.”


The popular peanut butter chocolate chip pie is covered with a dome of whipped cream and topped with chocolate chips. It stands eight inches high and weighs in at 12 pounds before being sliced into eight servings.


Hammett House’s ex- traordinary pies have been a Claremore tradition since 1969


when Jim and LaNelle Hammett opened the restaurant. Biard and his wife, Linda, purchased the business in 1991 from the Hammetts. Forty- three years later, they still rely on LaNelle’s pie recipes. Printed on their place- mats, the recipes are no secret. Customers can go home and try to recreate them; but chances are they’ll be back for more of Hammett House’s home- made pies.


“The restaurant industry average is that 4 to 7 percent of customers have dessert. A really good restaurant will do 13 to 14 percent,” Biard says. “Thirty to 40 percent of our customers order dessert.” The delicious desserts draw in customers from all over Oklahoma and abroad, many who are travelling down Route 66.


Best Vineyard:


Tidal School By Laura Araujo


Once on the path to being bulldozed, an aban- doned schoolhouse in Drumright is now the site of Oklahoma Living readers’ favorite vineyard. Built by John D. Rockefeller in 1929 to educate the children of oil workers, the 8,000-square-foot brick building was rescued by Gary Schroeder of Chandler, presi- dent of Tidal School Vineyards and Winery. What started out as a wine-making hobby became a full-time operation when Schroeder purchased the structure from the City of Drumright in 2002 for $1 and invested half a million dollars into restoring the building.


Photo by Laura Araujo


“My father [Gary] and stepmom went on a trip to California. They wanted to bring the California wine experience to Oklahoma,” Manager Scott Schroeder says. “Tidal School is a place where you can hang out, enjoy the weather, some wine, and


even learn to make wine.”


Planted in 2003, the vineyard grows cabernet franc grapes; Tidal School sources other grapes regionally.


“We purchase as much as possible from Oklahoma,” Scott says. “However, sometimes the harsh weather—extreme heat and late freezes—can hurt the harvest.”


Housed in the basement of the restored building is the winery where Scott makes a variety of wines, from dry to sweet. One of the most popular, the Oklahoma Sweet, has won several awards. Scott invites guests to come out and enjoy a day at the historic vineyard. Visitors enter the wine tast- ing room where natural light streams through the school’s original windows and gleams on the re- stored hardwood fl oors. After discovering a new favorite, made-in-Oklahoma wine, guests can enjoy a relaxing lunch on one of the large patios overlook- ing the vineyard.


For those who don’t want to make the drive to Drumright, Tidal School Vineyards wines are sold in 270 liquor stores throughout Oklahoma.


Best Catfi sh: Bill’s Catfi sh By Meg McElhaney


The scene is familiar across all small towns in Oklahoma: a small diner, loyal following and a dangerously good family recipe passed down for genera- tions. This is no different at Bill’s Catfi sh House in Waurika, and a second location in Lone Grove.


Jeri Nell Mays, the granddaughter of the restaurant’s namesake has been at the reins of the small restaurants in rural Oklahoma since 1979. Her grand- mother and grandfather founded the original location in 1962. The Lone Grove location was added in 2001. Their secret? It’s simple.


“A simple recipe is easy to duplicate day in and day out,” Mays says. 14 WWW.OK-LIVING.COOP


“Simplicity is part of our success.” With an ‘if it ain’t broken, don’t fi x it’ mentality, Bill’s has been turning out some of the best hand-fi lleted, breaded and fried catfi sh this side of the Mississippi. As a result, they’ve gained a following of thousands throughout Oklahoma, Texas and other parts of the world who love their fi sh. “We’ve been so fortunate,” Mays says. “We have people tell us they consis- tently drive from Ft. Worth or Dallas to eat with us because they’re from here or stopped here years ago and just decided to try it.” People love Bill’s so much that it has become like a familiar part of the


family. Continued on Page 31


Photo by Laura Araujo


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