[View from The Lodge at Ashford Castle, on the grounds where we did our polytunnel tour and gourmet nature walk picking up herbs along the way. Photos by Akasha.]
I was drawn to The Lodge and Ashford Castle by the views, and enticed to stay longer by the charming hospitality team.
I had heard of the "imaginative cuisine, excellent wines, superb service and a relaxed yet elegant ambiance"; my good Irish friend Susan of Scala Advance and I had followed the chefs on Twitter before our arrival as well.
My research shows that the Lodge at Ashford Castle kitchen team is led by acclaimed Head Chef Jonathan Keane, recently awarded the prestigious title of Best Chef in Connaught at the Restaurant Association of Ireland Awards.
Chef Jonathan reached out to offer use a polytunnel tour and nature walk. He adopts a simple yet effective approach following his key principles; using local and seasonally sourced ingredients, creating a thought provoking dining experience and ensuring that each ingredient works together following his ‘circle of flavours’ method:
"Foraging was in at the time, about 5 years ago. I was just going out picking my own food! I need to know where my food comes from. Now I've extended that to work with producers I know."
Jonathan tells us that he grew up with a family farm and then continued his culinary education at Adare manor. He's been with The Lodge at Ashford Castle 5 years now, and has 17 chefs.
He has also extended his pride in the area and food to work together in the Cong, Ireland community to help each other.
The Cong Food Village has great knowledge of the region, Irish food and organic growth. They are modeling future growth on the success of Kinsale, which is known as a #foodie destination. (Excited to see how this develops! I visited Kinsale, in County Cork, on my first day in Ireland, and wrote about it as well. ~Akasha)
"Cong Food Village’s aims are to educate youth on good quality food and where it comes from and to put Cong on the map as a good quality food destination. We have organised many events through out the year which have taken place in the various Restaurants, Hotels and Coffee Shops in Cong. We have teamed up with Cong Festival and other various local events in the area."
So we are especially honored to have time to walk and visit with Chef Jonathan. We get some intriguing gourmet tips and tricks from the garden: The Gorse bush (a spiny evergreen shrub) on the property offers tropical coconut flavor for their desserts. Pineapple sage infuses tropical flavors into his brûlée, and lemon verbena rounds out the local herbs that add local tropical flavors to his menu.
Chef Jonantha sums it up with "Food in season works together." And that concept certainly comes through in the food we share later during our visit.
Wilde’s Restaurant serves fine contemporary Irish cuisine in a stunning setting. The entire first floor of the original house has been authentically restored and features a collection of intimate spaces to enjoy the delights of fine food and wine, with splendid views over the waters of Lough Corrib.
Jonathan creates a variety of delicious dishes that showcase the unique flavours and textures of the finest local produce, from succulent Irish beef and lamb to fish and seafood fresh from the waters of Galway Bay and the Connemara coastline. The kitchen brigade were recently awarded Best Emerging Irish Cuisine 2016 by the Restaurateurs Association of Ireland.
The restaurant takes its name from famous local character, Sir William Wilde. He qualified as a surgeon at the young age of 24 and went on to found the first eye and ear Hospital in Dublin, making him famous throughout Europe and the USA. He owned a house just off Lisloughrey by the harbour and The Lodge has a fantastic view of where the house stood. His other claim to fame is that he fathered a son of great talent and notoriety – Oscar Wilde.
[Polytunnel on the grounds of The Lodge at AShford Castle.]
[Foie gras, spring rolls, Dad's chips and slider lunch with Susan and Chef Jonathan.]
This visit to The Lodge and Ashford Castle was right before my Dublin #ShineThroughtheNoise reading. Thanks again to Colin, Christopher, Ashford Castle, Quay Bar, Wilde's and the entire hospitality teams on the estate!
You helped make my stay great for my first live chapter reading. Listen in.
I'll have my second part of our visit with Chef Jonathan Keane and dinner at Wilde's posted soon.
Thank you again Chef Jonathan!
[Image of Chef Jonathan Keane by Ireland-guide.com: recently described as “one of the country’s most exciting chefs”.]
I'll leave you with a quote of things to come:
"I need more sea buckthorn in my life!" ~Chef Jonathan Keane
And who doesn't?!
#FoodieFriday Sláinte! I'm sure I have more gourmet clues for my travel thriller series as well.
Cheers & fair winds,