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Table Talk The Canebrake By Mitch Steichen I


The Canebrake Resort and Spa offers picturesque accomodations for a refi ned adult getaway or business conference. Courtesy photo


The welcoming atmosphere of the restaurant hosts global culinary creations with locally sourced, fresh ingredients. Photos by Mitch Steichen


n northeast Oklahoma’s Green Country, along the shores of Fort Gibson Lake, resides an oasis. The Canebrake Resort and Spa sits on a hill as you circle the road along the water and pull into the retreat’s drive. But the Canebrake is more than a spa, restaurant or yoga retreat. It combines the best parts of all these things, providing a unique and uncommon experience in rural Oklahoma. Sam Bracken, co-owner and head chef of the Canebrake, started the resort nine years ago with the help of his family and his wife and co-owner, Lisa Bracken. The Brackens are members of Lake Region Electric Cooperative. “The Canebrake sits within my family’s ranch,” Sam said. “Lisa and I carved out a little over 100 acres for the resort. It was very much a family endeavor. Lisa put to- gether all the programs, my mother Linda is very gifted with decorating, my dad took care of in-ground infrastructure and government relations, my uncle went over my architecture plans and my brother was our bookkeeper to start. It was a real group effort.” Today, the Canebrake sprawls across more than 250 acres of the ranch and includes a wonderfully designed guest services facility, several different lodging accommoda- tions and nearly four miles of walking trails. The guest services building houses Oklahoma’s only Ayurvedic spa, a yoga studio, boutique, conference facilities and its award-winning restaurant, the Canebrake Kitchen. “Our Chef de Cuisine, Matt Owen, does an incredible job in our kitchen,” Sam


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said. “Our staff loves him and the customers love his food. It is clean, simple, crisp and fresh. Everything is purely seasonal and ingredient-based. If it’s from our garden, it’s walked through the back door, which means it’s pretty fresh.” Wednesdays at the Canebrake are quickly becoming a “smash” hit, when the kitch- en grinds their own beef and offers three special smash burgers for one night only. Thursdays, as Sam would say, are a “free-for-all” as he tells his cooks to let loose on an all-barbecue menu. The Canebrake Kitchen doesn’t just provide food for its cus- tomers, but all forms of entertainment. In the bar, you’ll fi nd a full menu of hand- crafted cocktails and musicians playing live music on Fridays and Saturdays. The restaurant also plays host to a number of cooking classes throughout the year includ- ing Mediterranean, vegetarian, seafood, grill, and even Porter peach classes. “We don’t stick to a single driving theme or style of cooking,” Sam said. “We really bounce around the idea of an ingredient-based menu. We work with a lot of local farmers and ranchers for our local produce and protein. For our seafood, we use four different seafood mongers from Alaska, Washington, Florida and Hawaii.” As soon as you are handed the menu, you begin a culinary journey full of color,


aroma and great fl avor. From the roasted vegetable bean dip plate to the shrimp hush puppies, the appetizers and small plates are the perfect fi rst course. Follow this with a grand variety of entrees including buffalo Bolognese, grilled quail, linguini with mussels, ribeye, or mushroom risotto. The desserts then deliver the perfect fi nal combination of sweet and tart. The carrot cake cheesecake, brown butter plum parfait, or pear and almond tart with a side of avocado ice cream are a whirlwind of fl avors. Whatever your choice, the service fits the atmosphere by being warm and welcoming. “Really, our aim is to cause everyone to feel equally comfortable, but still provide a sophisticated experience,” Sam said. “You may come to dinner with your partner and sit down next to someone wearing shorts and a t-shirt or someone who is com- pletely decked out. We want people to come out and enjoy their visit however they want.”


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