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Bees on the Brain


Photo by Abby Laub


Executive Chef Jeremy Ashby of Lexington, Kentucky, joked that when he first heard of mead wine, he thought it sounded like Welch’s grape juice or a tennis ball company. The AZUR Restaurant & Patio chef said as soon as he tasted the honey-alcohol, though, he knew it would be a perfect fit for the Whole Hive chef series to bring awareness to losses of bee colonies around the world.

Lexington was “abuzz” with the first dinner, held in conjunction with the screening of the movie Wings of Life. The menu paid homage to the beautiful by-products of bees — pollen, honey, honeycomb and mead wine.

The first course featured a cast iron baked Boone Creek Creamery bread cheese with sunflower and poppy seed crust, hot pepper creamed honey, hoe cakes and AZUR two-year-old country ham. The spicy sweetness of the honey made for a perfect dipping sauce for the country ham and the Scandinavian bread cheese. The course was simply sticky-finger delicious.

Course two featured a fennel pollen-dusted tangerine and saffron chowder with pickled fennel salad, coconut pillows, tempura scallop and honey-cured salmon.

“On that saffron chowder, sprinkled with pollen, it was almost like we were pollinating the vegetable,” Ashby explained. “The pollen itself was really useful for cooking — a light powder, almost like a spice.”

Dessert was a baklava layered with local Crank + Boom bourbon-honey ice cream and topped with honey and pecan.

Ashby said creating meals like this is his favorite thing to do.

“I love writing menu that tells a story or history or even a sense of time,” he said. “It’s kind of like writing a poem.”

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