Every year, Oklahoma loses some of its best and brightest. And also some of its worst and dimmest. People move is what I’m getting at. Why they move is both debatable and fairly obvious, but the point is they’re gone.
They may not miss tornado season, life-threatening heatwaves, flash flooding, people so obsessed with college football that it borders on mental illness or some of our more colorful politicians who are definitely over the border on mental illness, but they do miss Oklahoma.
This is where you can choose to be nice or evil.
A nice person could send a gift basket of Oklahoma’s finest flavors as a fond reminder of times past and to keep the long-distance friendship alive.
An evil person could sent the same gift basket, but as a means of torture, like a vengeful ex who wants you to know what you’re missing.
Whatever your motivation, I’ve gathered some of my favorite locally made products that you can ship across the country or over the ocean to your friend/enemy.
Bedre Fine Chocolates
First of all, everybody loves chocolate.
“Not me!” says the nerd in the back of the room. Shut up, nerd. Don’t pretend to dislike chocolate just to be different. It’s not making you any friends.
‘Sup, bros. We all love chocolate and we all love Oklahoma and when you want to rub one on the other, you need Bedre Fine Chocolates.
The chocolate bars and meltaways are crowd pleasers, but if you’re looking for that unique item that will make your relatives ooh and aah and include you in their will, leaving you sole heir to their high fashion magazine and Ferrari dealership, the product you need to include are the dark chocolate crisps.
Potato crisps, basically. But covered in high-quality dark chocolate. (Or milk chocolate, snooze.) They’re crispy and crunchy and salty and sweet and sometimes I like to sit one on my tongue like it’s a hat and let it melt until I can’t take it anymore and I just chomp down that delectable treat.
GOOD GOD I LOVE THOSE CRISPS.
But, yeah, throw in some meltaways, too. Those are pretty good.
Della Terra Pasta
At this point I’m fairly certain Chris Becker knows I have a crush on him.
Yes, I’m a heterosexual male. So is Chris. We both have kids. He’s married. I don’t expect to run away with him, but a guy can dream, right? Like a dream about vacationing in a cabin in Maine and I come back after cooking some coffee over the fire and he’s rolling out fresh pasta.
“Hey handsome,” Dream Chris might say, “I’m making dinner.”
The rest of the dream is literally just me shoveling bowl after bowl of campanelle and rigatoni covered in a fresh pesto into my mouth while Chris looks on in horror. It’s how most of my relationships go.
What makes Della Terra Pasta special? Process and ingredients. Chris is kind of obsessed with creating the perfect product and it shows. The pasta dough is pressed through a bronze die, which gives the end product a rougher, textured look. That’s important. That’s where the sauce catches onto the pasta and holds on for the perilous trip from bowl to mouth.
If you like pasta that leaves most of the sauce in the bowl, hey, this might not be for you. But if you’re one of those weird people who enjoys food, Della Terra is the stuff.
Hardtimes Beef Jerky
At least part of the allure of El Reno-made Hardtimes Beef Jerky is that it comes with a plastic toothpick in each bag. This is jerky made by people who use the product enough to understand that a toothpick is a necessary accessory for proper enjoyment.
I’ve tasted every type of Hardtimes Beef Jerky and, while they’re all quite enjoyable, my favorite is the black pepper variety.
Teriyaki is flavorful, but a bit too sweet for me. Hot is, uh, it’s hot. I mean it’s right there in the name. But for added heat and a burst of savory flavor, black pepper is where it’s at.
DO NOT THROW AWAY THE TOOTHPICK.
Seriously, if the jerky doesn’t get stuck in your teeth, the black pepper absolutely will. Don’t take that as a negative. It’s just a fact of life you’ll have to face if you want to taste some really, really good beef jerky.
Andrews Honey Bees
Oklahoma’s No. 1 export is allergies. So help inoculate your loved ones before they visit with some natural, locally made honey from Andrews Honey Bees.
Andrews doesn’t just make honey, it uses its bees to pollinate crops across the midwest and California. So you’re basically saving nature when you buy this honey. You’re the Lorax. Congratulations.
After making sweet plant love, the bees make the honey and it’s sent back to Asher, Oklahoma to be extracted and bottled. So if you’ve got some kin in Nebraska, you can actually send their local honey to them and it’s still technically Made in Oklahoma.
Billy Goat Ice Cream Co.
In the words of the right honorable Judge Smails, “Oh Billy, Billy, Billy, Billy, Billy, Billy. Oh Billy, Billy, Billy. This is a biggie. Don't let me down Billy.”
Don’t worry, your lordship. The one thing Billy Goat Ice Cream won’t do is let you down. It is absolutely delicious ice cream and it’s absolutely made in Oklahoma from absolute goats. Now before you get all weird about goat mi-
“Another frozen item? Really?”
WELL I’M SORRY IF I CARE ABOUT QUALITY.
Here I thought the goat milk would be a sticking point. Okay, yes, it’s another frozen item. Shove it in with the sausage and stock up on dry ice.
Much like 1907, Billy Goat Ice Cream comes from Stillwater in a variety of flavors. Bourbon Vanilla, Dark Chocolate, Garden Mint, even Roasted Strawberry Balsamic. Sounds weird, right? It is! And it’s good! And it’s low in lactose and high in protein, calcium and potassium. You love those things!
Ace in the Bowl Salsa
Honestly, what’s the big deal if salsa is made in NEW YORK CITY?!
That reference is super old, I know. Here’s a video:
Did you know there was a version of that commercial that referenced lynching? The guy legit said, “Get a rope.”
Yikes. Stay away from all lynching-related condiments with Oklahoma-made Ace in the Bowl Salsa. Using a unique olive oil base, the salsa comes in three heat levels. It’s also gluten free, in case you’re part of the gluten abolitionist movement.
Eat steak like a turn-of-the-century oilman with Daddy Hinkle’s marinades and dry rubs. Named for James Frank Hinkle, this Oklahoma-born concoction was what his wife Zula would use to season meals she cooked for Hinkle’s many business associates. The recipe stayed in the family for nearly a century before Daddy Hinkle’s became available to consumers in the 1990s. And now you can send it to people across the country who have no idea how good a properly seasoned steak can be.
Any barbecue restaurant in Oklahoma that doesn’t make its own sauce is probably using Head Country. That’s because it’s the gold standard for most local ‘que lovers. Though the company now sells seven varieties, the two I usually favor are the original and hot & spicy. It’s a good finishing sauce with plenty of sugar, which means that it should be added late in the process or simply as a topping. Put it on too early and the sugar will burn.
If you want to see how to do it right, head up to Ponca City to the Head Country Restaurant for ribs, pulled pork and some of the best smoked ham I've ever had. Ever. And I eat a lot of ham.
KLLR Coffee and EOTE Coffee
People who say they don’t like coffee are sociopaths or Russian spies. Often both. Oklahoma’s craft coffee scene is booming and companies like KLLR and EOTE are excellent examples to share with friends and family.
KLLR Coffee has an all-purpose espresso roast and plenty of single-origin coffee beans with unique flavor profiles. Check out the single-origin sun-dried Ethiopia with a taste they classify as “berries, sweet and wild.”
EOTE Coffee has lots of info on where their beans come from, as well, but they do more blends like the French roast Kick-In-The-Face and the smooth and dark Traveler’s Blend.
Either way, give the gift of caffeination to your sleepy family.
Straight out of Krebs, Oklahoma — the Little Italy of the Sooner State — comes Lovera’s. Okies know them as the folks who make great Italian sausage, but there’s oh so much more. Pack in some pickled hot asparagus or one of the shelf-stable cacciocavera cheeses in your gift basket to bring the BIG flavors. (I mean, if you want to send me something, the award-winning cacciocavera sampler would really show how much you care.) This is some seriously gourmet stuff. The only problem with sending it is the recipient will ask for more every year from now on.
Mom, stop reading this and skip to the next one.
She gone? Cool. Okay, I love vodka because I am a delicate flower and I don’t like to taste my mood-altering substances. A lot of people swear by Texas-made Tito’s and, I don’t know, it’s just not my thing. Which is why it’s so weird that I love Success Vodka, the Moore-based company founded by the former distiller for Tito’s.
But I do! Success is just...cleaner. Shots go down smoother. Mixers come through more clearly. There’s less nasal heat with Success Vodka and less of that telltale burn that comes from drinking your booze straight.
“Is it really ‘The Taste of Oklahoma’ if you can’t taste it?”
I don’t know, man. It’s made in Oklahoma and it’s really good vodka. You want to give somebody bad vodka made somewhere else? Go for it. I’ll continue presenting my alcohol-loving friends with vodka I genuinely think they’ll enjoy.
Look, I like every kind of mustard except for one. Honey mustard is the devil’s spit and it was put here so you can tell who can be trusted. If you need mustard with a little sweetness, do what I do: take a bottle of honey mustard, get a young priest and an old priest and let them perform an exorcism on it. Meanwhile, get out some of Seikel’s Oklahoma Gold Old Style Mustard and smear it on bread, squeeze it on a brat or dip a hot pretzel in it. It’s got spice, it’s got sweet and it’s hard to beat.
While living in Jamaica, Suan Grant learned to use one the island’s most beloved products: scotch bonnet peppers. Using the blazing hot pepper, Suan went on to create an entire line of made-in-Oklahoma products that are sold throughout the state (and, in some cases, around the world). The original Suan’s Scotch Bonnet Pepper Jelly is the best to give as a gift. Use it to liven up sandwiches, kick up the heat on brie or flavor a batch of hot wings. Best get a jar for yourself, while you’re at it.