I'm pretty sure that celebrity chef dinners happen quite often in places like Los Angeles and New York. And maybe even in Chicago. But it's not really something that happens in the center of the country so when I saw that one of my favorite Kansas City restaurants, Raglan Road, was hosting a Gastropub Dinner with Master Chef Kevin Dundon (Ireland's Chef of the Year 2009) we made the drive down for dinner.
Yes, we drove 3 hours- one way- for dinner. And drove back that night. Yes, it was worth it!
Kevin and his wife Catherine own and operate the incredible Dunbrody Country House Hotel in Arthurstown, County Wexford, Ireland. (It is, incidentally, across the road from Glendine House, where we stayed in 2008.)
We were lucky enough to meet Kevin briefly before dinner and again after the meal. It's no wonder his hotel is so highly rated: the man exudes Irish charm. And he can cook! Our meal was incredible! Forget what impressions you may have of Irish food- this isn't typical “pub grub”…
Our four course meal began with a choice of Warm Goat Cheese and Orange Salad with Caramelized Walnuts or Mini Beef and Lamb Shepherds Pie with a Port Wine Jus. I can't speak about the salad, though it looked incredible, because everyone at my table had the Shepherds Pie. The flavors of the meats with the port wine jus…fabulous. I loved the presentation of the potatoes artfully balanced on top with a caramelized onion leaf. Delish!
The second course was Maine Lobster Bisque. I'm not a huge fan of lobster but the bisque was very flavorful and creamy. Of course the presentation was incredible…
The entree followed. The choices were Roast Pork Belly with an Irish Mist and Honey Glaze served with Pickled Cabbage or Crispy Pan Seared Salmon served on a Ragout of Winter Vegetables. I chose the pork belly. I cut it with a butter knife. It was so tender and flavorful. The glaze was so sweet- I'm going to have to do my best to recreate it. Doug had the salmon. He pronounced it perfectly prepared and “excellent”.
And then came dessert. Merely calling the Chocolate Fondant with Irish Stout Ice Cream “dessert” is almost too plain. Though it appeared unassuming on sight there is really no way to describe the incredible richness of the chocolate, how the surface opened to reveal an interior of molten chocolate or how truly decadent it was.
The Gastropub Dinners at Raglan Road just began in summer 2009 but response has been positive and the restaurant plans to do more- one per quarter at each restaurant (there is another location at Pleasure Island in Downtown Disney, Orlando, Florida.) To keep up to date on upcoming events check out the “Get In Here” page on Raglan Road's website or follow @RaglanRoadPub on Twitter.
If you're really wanting a taste of Ireland try some of Kevin Dundon's recipes for yourself! The mini shepherds pie recipe is in the “starters” section, there is a lovely loin of bacon in Irish Mist glaze in the “mains”, and an Irish whiskey chocolate fondant in the “desserts”. I have a feeling my annual St. Patrick's feast may have some new dishes this year! Sláinte!