March 8, 2021

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Just Do Travel

Kentucky chefs serve up exotic locales during travel dinners

5 min read

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This was the place setting for Omage’s Lunar New Year celebration from last year. They plan another dinner party this February.

Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown would like to invite you to dinner at their place. Actually, they would like to invite you for a monthly series of Sunday Suppers at the Barn8 Farm Restaurant & Bourbon Bar at their Hermitage Farm in Goshen, outside of Louisville.

Wilson and Brown join chefs Ouita Michel and Jeremy Ashby and Apiary co-owner Cooper Vaughan as among those who are offering Lexington foodies an affair to remember. With travel, both domestic and international, still not recommended, these dinners provide the next best thing – combining elegant dining with an ersatz travel experience.

Hermitage Farm’s dinners – limited to 25 guests in this age of COVID-19 – are another of Wilson’s and Brown’s conservation efforts. The couple hopes to expand Hermitage Farm’s agritourism destination experience and preserve Kentucky’s rural heritage, especially its food heritage.

Barn8’s executive chef Alison Settle kicked off the supper series in January, but guest chefs will highlight the event in upcoming months. Jonathan Pearle of Louisville’s Proof on Main will be in the kitchen in February; Top Chef runner-up Sara Bradley of Paducah’s Freight House Restaurant in March, and Lexington’s own Samantha Fore of Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites in April.

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On the second flood of Hermitage Farm’s Barn8 Restaurant, there’s a staircase to the second floor lined with 100 bourbon barrels. Photo Provided

With a format that includes cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres followed by a four-course dinner with beverage pairings, you can bet this won’t be your typical Sunday evening family get together.

Cost of the dinners vary and reservations are available at HermitageFarm.com or (502) 889-1835.

Travel with Ouita Michel at Holly Hill Inn, Honeywood

Ouita Michel, a six-time James Beard Foundation Award nominee, also loves hosting Sunday Supper at Holly Hill Inn in Midway where she enjoys taking her guests on a culinary visit to a particular destination such as January’s food and wine tour of France’s Bordeaux region.

You may have missed that one – quel dommage (what a pity) – but you needn’t fret too much. Your ticket has been reserved for a trip to Latin America in February for their traditional Aphrodisiac dinners.

Throughout the month, the vibrancy, warmth and flavor of Latin American cuisine will be on the menu. The 4-course dinner is priced at $55, and for an extra charge you can choose wines to pair with the food.

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Country Style Pâté made with local pork, nuts and dried fruits, house mustard, pickles and croustades was a French starter at Holly Hill Inn in January. In February, Latin American cuisine will be featured. Photo provided

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Some classic French canelés were on the menu for dessert at Holly Hill Inn in January. Photo provided

Meanwhile, at Holly Hill Inn’s sister restaurant, Honeywood, the celebration will be of Asian cuisine. On January 31, Honeywood will continue its Sunday Supper series when Chef Ming Pu of Brooklyn and The Butcher in New Albany, Indiana brings to the Bluegrass his Taiwanese-American bites such as scallion pancakes with red-eye aioli and country ham; braised pork belly with crispy shallots and rice and Taiwanese fried chicken with Thai basil and chili honey.

With a menu like that, a cordial relationship between America and Taiwan appears secure.

Holly Hill Inn reservations may be made at hollyhillinn.com or 859-846-4732. For Honeywood reservations, go to honeywoodrestaurant.com or call 950-469-8234.

Azur: Out of culinary comfort zones

Chef Jeremy Ashby of Azur Restaurant & Patio is also offering a virtual travel experience along with his unique style of cooking. Each month, Azur gives guests a chance to experience dishes that may be outside of their culinary comfort zones with such past offerings as Chino-Latino, Asian-Latin and Native American cuisine.

Ashby, who has never shied away from layering his food with several distinct flavor profiles says that “these dinners allow our staff to flex their talents and diversity while offering guests a truly different experience and menu from what they have come to expect at Azur.”

The torrid flavors of Cuba warmed up a cold January in Lexington, but things don’t look to cool down any time soon. In March, he’s hosting Inferno, a spicy food fest for those not afraid to put their taste buds to the test.

“We will be exploring food from regions known for their spiciest dishes,” says Ashby. “That means Szechuan from China; cuisine from the South of India; Afro-Caribbean food from the West Indies and dishes from the American South, from Creole and Cajun to Tex-Mex.”

The spicy food of Singapore will be on the menu for June, while Ashby also plans to leap forward and imagine what the food scene will be like in Hong Kong in 2050.

No date has been set for that one yet because as Ashby puts it, “it will take a lot of thought and planning.”

If you would prefer to honor the red, white and blue and the true flavors of America, Azur will be focusing on Gourmet State Fair Foods, and no, that is not an oxymoron. Think lobster corn dogs and Kobe beef burgers on a doughnut.

“We want to have this dinner in August to coincide with the Kentucky State Fair,” says Ashby.

Prices for the dinners range from $45 to $75 exclusive of tax and gratuity. Reservations may be made at azurrestaurant.com or at 859-296-1007.

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This was the place setting for Omage’s Lunar New Year celebration from last year. They plan another dinner party this February. Amy Campbell

Omage: ‘travels the world for inspiration’

Cooper Vaughan at The Apiary is another advocate of the Supper Club, offering suppers several times a month, with a mouth-watering menu that would make his mother proud.

Alas, the only ones on the invite list for these suppers are members of the Apiary’s private club known as the Hive (ask about membership; it’s less expensive than you might think.)

Still, Vaughan hasn’t forgotten non-Hive members. Omage, the Apiary’s regular thematic dinner series, is open to both Hive and non-Hive members, and trust me when I tell you that you won’t just get an exceptional meal, but a visit to an exotic locale which won’t require getting on an airplane.

“Omage is a culinary concept that travels the world for inspiration and takes you along for the adventure,” says Mea Adams, the Apiary’s creative director.

For past Omage dinners, Apiary staff have recreated a luxury resort in Thailand and colonial Mexico for the Day of the Dead.

Expect equal excitement during this year’s dinner series. They will travel to South America’s Andes Mountain Region (Jan. 29 – Feb. 6); Southeast Asia in celebration of the Lunar New Year (Feb. 12-14); the Italian Alps (Feb. 26 – Mar.13); the Mediterranean for the Spring Equinox (March 19-21), and finally, to the Appalachian Mountain Region (April 9-17).

Omage dinners require a reservation and must be booked at least a week in advance. You may reserve a table for any of the dinners two weeks prior to the event by emailing [email protected]

So, get ready to travel and don’t worry about bringing your passport. For these dining experiences you won’t need it.

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