Chef Jeremy Ashby at Woodford Reserve Bourbon Distillery

Friends Drift Inn – Real Life and Chefs

Chef Jeremy Ashby of Azur Restaurant and Patio Woodford Reserve Chef Series

If you follow Friends Drift Inn regularly, you already have met chef Jeremy Ashby of Azur Restaurant and Patio in Lexington, Kentucky. He and business partner, Sylvia Lovely, host a Saturday Talk Radio Show “Sunny Side Up Lexington” covering the Kentucky food scene. He is a Kentucky boy, and sure enough knows a few things about bourbon!

Kentucky Bourbon Festival Weekend

Chef Jeremy Ashby Guest Chef Series Woodford Reserve Kentucky Bourbon

It was a spur of the moment decision to make the three hour trek to Woodford Reserve to see Chef Jeremy Ashby in action. Rhoda and I really needed to “get out of town.” Woodford Reserve Bourbon Distillery was a good destination; Chef Ashby an interesting study. Known for his modern techniques and his aggresive promotion of Kentucky aquaculture we knew the menu would be a memorable one. With Ashby, it always is.


Woodford’s Chef-in-Residence Ouita Michel of   Holly Hill Inn enthusiastically welcomed a roomful of guests. Visitors from as far away as Sweden were in attendance. Ouita described Ashby as “Young and hip”. He is that.


Chef Ashby pours Woodford Reserve Bourbon for Bluegrass Sunrise

Chef Jeremy is a tough one to figure out. He is edgy, yet calm. He is a daring chef, but one who speaks from the heart. He captivated the audience with a style that warmly invited them into his world.

Ashby advocates using ingredients in season. Sprinkled with fruits of the harvest including pepper jelly, okra, and sweet potato the menu was billed as “Flavors of Fall.”
I am not just talking Kentucky Proud produce; I am talking aquaculture! Aquaculture in a landlocked state? Yes. Locally grown fresh water prawns are now being taken from their ponds before the winter chill. Ashby suggests that using sustainably grown fish and seafood gives the our ocean system time to “catch up” and rebalance. Crowned “King of Kentucky Seafood” Ashby represented Kentucky in this year’s “Great American Seafood Cookoff” in New Orleans.


Let’s Eat!

Chef Ashby's Appetizers Woodford Reserve Bourbon Guest Chef Series

Ashby’s appetizer menu included Ham Hock and Goat Cheese Wontons garnished with 5 Pepper Jelly, Pickled Okra Chow Chow and what I believe were pea shoots. The second appetizer served was an warm bourbon and buttered popcorn shooter with mushroom foam dusted with a layer of fennel pollen. AMAZING!


Azur Restaurant and Patio Award Winning Cocktail Bluegrass Sunrise

Rhoda and I especially liked the “shooter” rotating the glass and slurping to capture different flavors and aromas. Food as a “shooter” is a fun idea, something home cooks could easily incorporate into their holiday entertaining menus.

Azur Restaurant’s   award winning Bluegrass Sunrise was the first cocktail presented. Ashby suggests pouring grenadine around the rim, which makes for some very appealing eye candy.
I shared Azur’s Bluegrass Sunrise Cocktail Recipe Bourbontini a few days ago using Makers Mark 46. Woodford is a pleasant companion to citrus; Woodford Reserve gave a new spin to the Bluegrass Sunrise .
Chef Jeremy Ashby Signature Dish Woven Shrimp

Chef Ashby’s signature Woven Shrimp dish with lemon pepper and quince was the star of the menu. The “woven” presentation is accomplished with Kataifi, shredded fillo dough. Stunning and succulent!


Stuffed Kentucky Bass

Rhoda very much enjoyed Ashby’s Bourbon Smoked Kentucky Striped Bass stuffed with Kentucky freshwater prawn and shiitake mushroom mousse in a sweet potato-tangerine veloute with vanilla oil. She is still talking about it! I savored a similar dish made with pork.


Sylvia Lovely, Joyce Pinson of Friends Drift Inn, Chef Jeremy Ashby Woodford Reserve Guest Chef Series

For dessert (you know we needed it) we had a Sour Cream Blueberry Coffee Cake Recipe with Bourbon Sauce The cake was baked into muffins, served inverted and dripping with the sinfully rich bourbon sauce. I could have taken a bubble bath in that sauce! Giggles

Rhoda would never forgive me if I did not mention that as Jeremy began his presentation he announced that the menu was inspired by Friends Drift Inn blog!

I cannot begin to tell you what he said; all I know is that Rhoda and I both cried.

Ashby….he’s a rascal, a scholar, a showman, a charmer and an angel.

Good traits for a chef; even better for a friend. Cheers to you Chef Ashby! Got bourbon?

To get reservations to Woodford Reserve’s Chef Series go to Woodford Reserve website and check on their upcoming events. You can visit Chef Jeremy Ashby at Azur Restaurant and Patio and follow his farm-to-table adventures at Sunny Side Up Radio.

Disclaimer: I paid for my meal and costs incurred for this article. At the time of this writing, I am compensated for product links through

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More About Woodford Reserve and Chefs
Woodford Reserve Bourbon Distillery
Learning to Taste at Woodford Reserve Bourbon Distillery
Bluegrass Sunrise Cocktail Recipe Bourbontini

More About Chef Jeremy Ashby

About Joyce Pinson

Joyce Friend Pinson is a regional farm-to-table columnist for the Appalachian-News Express. She is a local television host. Her column show and blog, Friends Drift Inn, explores food, gardening, and real life farm-to-table stories from the perspective of a baby boomer in Appalachia. Joyce has a background in agriculture, media, and small business. Joyce is an heirloom gardening addict and home canner. She has a penchant for big hats, pointy toed shoes, and bourbon. Along with her husband Charlie, Joyce really does live in a barn where they ballroom dance. And laugh. And cook. And giggle.