Now empty nesters, the last several years we’ve spent Valentine’s Day at home and enjoyed cooking a nice meal together. The menu has stayed pretty much the same: a wedge salad, some kind of potato and a juicy Nebraska beef ribeye steak for Steve and a piece of fresh sea bass on the grill for me. And we love splurging on a red velvet lava cake with fresh raspberries for dessert. Here’s what we cooked last year on Valentine’s Day. 

wedge salad

ribeye steak

red velvet lava cake

A change in plans

We enjoy the time together in the kitchen and after traveling much of year, it’s always comforting to be at home. We’d planned to do the same for Valentine’s Day this year at our Nebraska house until I got a text Monday afternoon from none other than The Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond herself. I’d had an infusion for a chronic illness I have earlier in the day and was feeling just exhausted, so I laid down for nap.

infusion

About 5 p.m., I was awakened by a little ding on my Apple Watch. I squinted my eyes to see what it was and a text that said, “Hi Ann! This is Ree Drummond.” Still half asleep, I closed my eyes and laid my head back on the pillow. Wait a second. Ree is texting me? I was awake now. Despite all of the time we’ve spent in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, home of Ree and her family, we’ve never actually met The Pioneer Woman, so I was wondering how and why she was texting me.

I opened my eyes, sat up, got Steve, and started reading the text out loud.

On Valentine’s Day, Kurtess and chefs are putting on a “Whole Hog” private dinner, using a hog that was fed a diet of walnuts and olive oil.

At this point, Steve interrupted me and said, “We’re in.”

Ree went on to say that she was handpicking fun folks to attend and thought of me of Steve. We were so honored to be included in such a unique dinner. Because of another commitment, Ree wasn’t sure she’d be able to be there, but nonetheless, we knew this was going to be an incredible event.

Back to Pawhuska

We scrapped postponed our plans for dinner at home in Nebraska and Tuesday morning we packed a suitcase, made a PB&J sandwich for the car, and headed back to Pawhuska, Oklahoma. It actually worked out really well. The inside of our house in Pawhuska was being painted this week and some cracks in the walls repaired. I was anxious to see the progress and make sure it looked the way I’d hoped.

We promised our painter, Gio, we’d stay our of his way, so our friend Addie let us use her Little Rain Song Loft as an office to get some work done. (It’s right down the street from the Merc and super cute. Book Little Rain Song Loft on Airbnb.) This also gave us a chance to see and catch up with friends. It was so nice to be back in town for a few days.

Meal prep

Thursday morning we stopped by The Mercantile and Chef Kurtess Mortensen gave us a sneak peek at the dinner he was preparing for that night. It got us even more exited! He took us into the walk-in fridge to see the prep work he’d done for the pig trotter rillettes, the crispy pork belly, and even explained the sous-vide method he was using to make the roasted crown rack.

Kurtess Mortensen

crispy pork belly

Everything looked just delicious and we couldn’t wait for dinner! That night, we joined the rest of the group of 24 for one of the best dinners we’ve ever had. Not only was the food incredible, we had such a fun time with our friends, John and Cyndi Kane and a few other Oklahoma social media influencers, including Molly and David from This Simply Beautiful Life, Carissa and Mike from CC+Mike Creative, and Rob and Sandi from The Spoiled Home.

Stay tuned to read all about our 7-course whole hog Valentine’s Day dinner at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile … coming soon.

PIN FOR LATER

  • Just over two years ago, we stopped in Pawhuska to have lunch at Ree Drummond's @PWMercantile. From the person opening the door for us to the folks tending the line giving us water, we felt welcome from the moment we set foot in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.⁣
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But it turns out it wasn't just @thepioneerwoman and her husband, Ladd, who went above and beyond to welcome visitors. No, it turns out what they did was just par for the course in this town that's home to some of the friendliest and most welcoming people we've met in all our travels. ⁣
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So we bought a house there. We got it in part, so we could be a part of the community we've come to love. But we also got it so we could help welcome folks to town and let them know how glad we are they came to visit. Come and see Pawhuska. And when you do, stay awhile.
  • Fried dill pickles are a little different in North Dakota than they are in most other places we've been. Instead of just dipping some dill chips in batter, dropping them in the fryer, and then serving them in a basket with ranch, the folks there take their time and make a dish to remember.⁣
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They start with a dill pickle spear, wrap that in Havarti cheese, then put a wonton wrapper around it all. Then, they fry it, and slice it open just so before serving them alongside a spicy aioli dipping sauce. We had these at a complimentary meal at Outlaws Bar and Grill in @visitwilliston, North Dakota.⁣
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Let's be honest, these pickles are just one of many reasons we look forward to our return to @northdakotalegendary next year.
  • Have you ever had the chance to watch a cruise ship come into or leave port? These massive ships, often 1,000 feet or more long, can maneuver themselves by the dock so gently that you don't even realize you've stopped (or started) moving.⁣
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In Bermuda, we had the chance to watch the Norwegian Escape depart. We watched as she pushed away from the dock, then spun 180 degrees on a point before heading out to sea.⁣
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We've seen ships do this dozens of times. In fact, we've been on ships and have been part of this type of maneuvering dozens of times. And yet, given the sheer size of the vessels, it never ceases to impress.
  • You know you want to. Do it. Just book the ticket and go. At the end of your life, you likely won't remember most of the stuff you bought in 2019, but you will always remember the journey you took and the experiences you had. So enrich your life and go. We've never regretted spending money for a trip.
  • This just might be the sweetest, best pecan roll we've ever had. At the @PWMercantile, they bake these delicious treats daily. Covered in a luscious caramel and finely chopped pecans, these rolls are the stuff dreams are made of. Have you had one?
  • Smack in the middle of Portland, Oregon, we found the International Rose Test Garden. Set on 4.5 acres of land, the garden offers visitors a chance to see 10,000 rose bushes from about 650 different varieties. ⁣
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We spent more than an hour walking the carefully tended paths, snapping photos, and just enjoying the beautiful flowers. Our visit here made us glad that we literally scheduled time on this trip to stop and smell the roses.
  • Set in a renovated middle school in Grinnell, Iowa, Hotel Grinnell is one of our favorite boutique hotels. The owner thoughtfully designed the space and included touches from school including “Hall Pass” key card sleeves, and a bar cleverly named, “The Periodic Table.” We wrote a story on this hotel, you can read all about it on our blog. Link in bio. @hotelgrinnell #hosted @traveliowa
  • Everyone has a happy place, a spot where the world melts away and a sense of relaxation and calm settles in. For Steve, this place is on board a cruise ship, out on open water. He can spend hours sitting and watching the water, the ship's wake, and looking out for other ships. He loves soaking up the sun and fresh ocean air while cruising along on the sea. ⁣
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What's your happy place? ⁣
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