Chef Randy Lewis At The Ashford

Chef Randy Lewis At The Ashford

Every second Tuesday of the month, you’re invited to enjoy a private dining experience with Chef Randy Lewis at The Ashford. Chef opened the restaurant a few months ago, and they have started a month supper club of sorts. You’ll have to reserve a ticket in advance, but I promise it’s well worth it! Meanwhile, there were a total of four courses along with a tasting menu of appetizers. Each course was perfectly paired with incredible wines, and the whole setting was ideal for a date night or a dinner with your best friend. Consequently, as more Atlanta recommendations and events come up, you’ll be able to find them here in my Guide To Atlanta.

This past Tuesday I went with my best friend and I had to share the experience with you all. Chef Randy Lewis took us on a tour through Spain bringing his international experience with the best of local ingredients. It’s a treat to have him here in Atlanta, as he is truly a gem in the culinary world. If you’re local, my suggestion is to reserve tickets as soon as they become available. Read on to find out how you can make dinner at The Ashford a special dining experience! I’m also sharing my notes from the menu so you can get a small preview of how fantastic it is. The night highlighted a tasting Tour of Spain, including wines.

Spanish Wines

Spain has a long and proud history of winemaking, dating back to the time of the Roman Empire. Today, Spanish wines are enjoyed all over the world, and the country is home to some of the most prestigious wineries in the world. red wines are typically made with Tempranillo grapes, while white wines are usually made with Malvasia or Verdejo grapes. Some of the most popular Spanish wine regions include Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Jerez. Spanish wines are often noted for their deep, rich flavors, and they pair well with a variety of foods. Whether you’re enjoying a glass of Rioja with a plate of tapas or sipping a glass of Cava to celebrate, Spanish wines offer something for everyone to enjoy.

The Ashford is a chef-driven neighborhood restaurant set in the heart of Brookhaven on Dresden Drive. The serve a selection of both shareable dishes and traditional entrees, with a seasonal menu focused on locally-sourced ingredients and innovative takes on classic favorites. Experience the Ashford and explore a menu of sophisticated yet accessible cuisine, expertly paired with a craft cocktail or glass of wine.

If you can, enjoy their monthly private dining experience. You’ll start with appetizers in the bar and move into the dining room for an intimate meal. Each of the four following courses were perfectly paired with wines to go with the evenings theme. I recently went for their night in Spain and the meal was exceptional, as was the wine!

Chef Randy Lewis has been professionally crafting in the kitchen for over 30 years.   A native of New Orleans, Lewis’ innate and singular talent has been the adept use of local ingredients, masterfully integrating and transforming his native southern bounty into delicious, unexpected creations.  As a fourth-generation Lousianian, Lewis spent his youth in the family kitchen learning Creole culinary traditions while incorporating fresh, organic ingredients from his Mother’s garden.  Family trips to visit Cajun relatives in the bayou regions of the state completed this first education as he got to know Creole’s more rustic sister, world-renowned Cajun cuisine up close and personal as well.   Lewis’ passion for food and distinct flavors further evolved during family “eating” vacations to Europe while in his teens.

     As he moved toward the professional track, Chef Lewis trained at the acclaimed New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont.  Early in his career, he was inspired by the unique “New World Cuisine” creations of chef/owner Norman Van Aiken in South Florida.  After the stint at Norman’s, Randy returned home and opened his first restaurant, Indigo, where he thrived at bringing delicious, soulful and sustainable food to his tables.  At Indigo, Lewis was hailed for serving up surprising new facets of southern cuisine and uncovering the excitement found in under-appreciated regional ingredients.  His restaurant was named “Best in New Orleans” and “Most Splurge-Worthy” by Bon Appétit magazine.  In its four-bean review of Indigo, the local Times-Picayune heralded “Lewis has a gift for the unexpected”.    His most distinguished honor while leading Indigo was to be named one of top 10 “Best New Chefs” in the United States by Food & Wine magazine in 2001.  

Ever moving forward with his culinary ambitions, Randy was lured next to California’s wine country.  He began his journey in Sonoma, as Executive Chef of Jackson Family Wines, where he cooked daily with magical ingredients grown onsite in acres of organic gardens.  While cooking in the wine country, Randy also pursued his interest in the art of wine and food pairing.  In 2003, Lewis received his first  coveted invitation to cook a featured dinner at the James Beard House in New York where he served eight courses of heirloom tomato creations, each expertly wine-paired.  Several years later in Sonoma County, he opened Popina restaurant and earned a three-star review from Michael Bauer of the San Francisco Chronicle’s along with a perfect four-star review from Wine County’s Jeff Cox.  In his over thirteen years of experience in the Bay Area, Chef Lewis has taken the helm at several other restaurants and also consulted throughout The Bay Area. His food has always been met with critical acclaim and recived multiple awards, such as, a Michelin’s Bib Gourmand, three-three-stars from Michael Bauer. As well as donned an “uber-chef” and called “one of the best chefs in the Bay Area” by Mr. Bauer.  

      Always eager to expand his education in other regions and abroad, Lewis has traveled and worked throughout the States, Europe and Asia on multiple occasions to explore and to train culinary professionals on his locavore-inspired cuisine.  He filmed and appeared in four episodes of Ready, Set, Cook on the Food Network.  On the high seas, he served as a celebrity chef for Holland America’s Culinary Arts Center program and was the guest chef aboard the luxurious Crystal Cruise’s Crystal Harmony in Alaska.  He has participated as a chef in many important food and wine festivals, to include the Aspen Food and Wine Classic, the Toronto Film Festival and the Cayman Island Food and Wine.  Randy was a featured chef in the James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour Dinner Series in St. Louis, MO.  Finally, since 2001, Randy’s talents have been touted in numerous food and lifestyle publications.  Chef Lewis was recognized by the prestigious Food Arts Magazine as one of five ‘American Chefs re-defining America’s regional cuisine of the future and, most recently, he is one of the chefs referenced in Culinary Intelligence: The Art of Eating Healthy (and Really Well) by Peter Kaminsky (Knopf/Publisher 2012).  

     In 2014, Randy was lured to return South to be close to his family and opening Executive Chef of Gypsy Kitchen and The Southern Gentleman. In the first few months of opening, both restaurants were chosen in Jezebel Magazine’s “Top 100 Hottest restaurants 2015’ coming in at number 3 and 9.  This year he opened The Ashford and has created another outstanding restaurant with an exceptional menu.

Every month The Ashford hosts a private dining experience on the second Tuesday of the month. I went for the “Taste of Spain” this November, and had to share this experience with you all. It started with appetizers and cava in the bar and moved to the dining room for another four courses paired with wines from all over Spain. The pairings were put together by Executive Chef Randy Lewis and his team to create a cohesive selection of culinary delights alongside fantastic wines. As each course came, we had sommeliers share about each of the Spanish wines. It was such a fun experience to get professional knowledge in a very approachable way. Chef also came out with each course to discuss the preparation behind the cuisine. Every touch point of the evening was done professionally, and anyone who loves good food and wine will enjoy this intimate experience! Contact the restaurant here and reserve your tickets for the next event. Seating is limited, making this a special evening for you and your date.

Spanish Wines Of The Evening

Cava to verdejo

As I mentioned above, each course came with a different wine pairing, including two selections with the beef tenderloin over hardwood charred leeks. All of the wines come from various regions in Spain and the sommelier graciously walked us through each wine offering advice on tastings and my own desire to become a sommelier. They made each of the wines approachable and easy to understand at our level, but also went into more information on the grape varieties, production methods and tasting notes. It was a wonderful opportunity to sit down and ask questions without feeling like you’d be out of line!

The Pairings

A Quick breakdown of the courses and wines

The night began with tasting bites that ranged from caviar topped potato crisps with crème fraîche to chorizo on toast points. They served glasses of Poema Cava Brut alongside. Poema carefully observes the Cava DO’s stringent regulations to craft top-quality, small production Cavas, which are made using the same traditional method used in Champagne. The wine is made from the indigenous grapes of Macabeo, Xareil-Io, and Parellada, grown in the limestone hills surrounding Barcelona on vines that are a minimum of 20 years old. It was fresh and clean had citrus, mineral and Granny Smith apple aromas with toasted bread notes making it a great example of Cava.

Next we had carabinero al ajillo: Spanish red prawns in a garlic, smoked paprika, sherry and arebequina olive oil. Along with that chef prepared a toast topped with chorizo infused butter. We drank Bodegas Portia Verdejo. Rueda is characterized by its altitude, between 700 and 800 meters, in a continental climate. This wine sees 6 months on lees before bottling. Salted white flowers join lemon on the nose before sparkling acidity buzzes across the palate with cashew and chamomile. White grapefruit zest appears on the finish. It’s extremely well balanced and something I’d take as a hostess gift to any party.

After we finished this course, we moved on to arroz cremes de setas: a creamy bomb rice with wild mushrooms topped with a porcini-bomb rice cracker that the chef created for texture and taste. This was paired with a 2017 PagoDel Cielo “Celeste” Reserva. The wine is made primarily from estate-owned vineyards on over 40-year old vines planted in calcareous-soil slopes in the highest zones of the region. This limited edition, modern-style wine is made from 100% Tempranillo. Fresh and aromatic, the wine is aged for 15 months in French and American oak barrels and a minimum of 12 months in the bottle. Delicate as it unfolds across the palate, revealing fine, velvety tannins framed by subtle fruit acidity.

The Pairings Continued

The Main Course And Dessert

For the main course, Chef Lewis prepared a beef tenderloin that was crusted in the ash from charred leeks. He served the tender inner portion of the leeks alongside a fantastic romesco that rounded out the whole course. As a fun surprise, they paired this course with two extremely different wines. The first wine was a 2004 Bodegas Urbina Gran Reserva from Rioja Alta. This wine comes from a family-owned estate around the village of Cuzcurrita, situated in the north-west point area of Rioja Alta. Made from 90% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano and 5% Mazuelo, all grown organically. On the palate, harmonious oak balances fruity tannins with great elegance and velvety smoothness, finishing with a wonderful length. In contrast, the other wine for this course was a 2016 Family Torres “Grans Muralles” from Conca de Barbera. Grans Muralles is the first example of a passion project started in the early 1980s to recover ancestral Catalan varieties that had fallen into oblivion. The Garro and Querol varieties are true oenological treasures that were grown by their forebears. Together with Carinena, Garnacha, and Monastrell, they embody the spirit of this unique wine. What makes this wine so extraordinary, however, is not only these indigenous varieties but the influence of the vineyard’s singular slate and granite soils.

To finish the meal, Chef served a tart de queso: a burnt Basque cheesecake.The Lustau PX “San Emilio” sweetly complimented the dessert. Made of 100% Pedro Ximenez (PX), the grapes are laid out in the sun until they are practically raisins after the harvest. The wine ages for 12 years in Jerez de la Frontera. Dark mahogany with iodized edging. You taste floral and citrus flavors, fruit flavored raisins and spices. Full and long on the palate, it’s extremely sweet with a pleasant acidity.

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