Upscale amenities paired with a farm-to-table restaurant gives both locals and out-of-town guests an experience fit for royalty.
The Kentucky Castle is one of those places we’ve all driven by. Most of us have yet to step food inside the massive walls of one of central Kentucky’s most impressive landmarks. What began as a love story back in 1969 is now a farm-to-table restaurant, boutique hotel and event space located on 55 acres of stunning Kentucky farmland. With just 14 guest rooms in the 17,000 sq. ft. castle, there’s no lack of Southern hospitality to go around. Service is at the very top of the list when it comes to giving guests the experience of a lifetime when they visit. “The castle sat empty for so long that I think it almost became an element of mystery. When our new owners purchased the property in 2017 and opened it to the public shortly after, people began visiting from all over the world, as well as locals just coming to see what it’s all about,” shares Christie Eckerline, the castle’s COO. “We strive to be elegant but not ostentatious and I think we’re doing a great job of that.”
Walking through the massive entrance to the Kentucky Castle, you’re promptly greeted by a warm and smiling staff. From the foyer, you can head to the bourbon bar for a cocktail before dinner or roam the grounds where you’ll find a greenhouse, an organic garden, a swimming pool, spa, truffle orchard, apiary, gourmet mushroom garden and more. “In the summer we actually grow 90-100% of our produce on the grounds that we use for our restaurant, so when we say farm-to-table, we really mean it,” says Jason Walls, Executive Chef at Castle Farms Restaurant. “In the winter we use about 20 local farms in central Kentucky–no more than an hour away–to keep things hyperlocal and then we produce over one thousand pounds of sweet potatoes from our garden along with mushrooms.” Walls says his motto is that if he didn’t raise it, he’s shaking the hand of the farmer who did.
Chef Jason, who was born and raised in Kentucky and attended culinary school at Sullivan, sharpened his impressive skills by studying under some of the best chefs in Lexington. “I have always been passionate about farm-to-table cuisine. I’ve raised sheep, chicken and vegetables myself for the past two decades so it’s always sort of been my niche,” says Walls. He has been at the Kentucky Castle since they originally opened in 2017. While the restaurant is considered fine dining, he has strived to keep things relaxed and casual. That way, every visitor– whether staying in the guest rooms or just coming by for dinner–can feel entirely at home while having an unbelievable dining experience.
The menu varies with what’s available seasonally. As the holidays approach, you’ll want to get to Castle Farms to take full advantage of all of the cozy dishes and cocktails you’ll find on the carefully curated winter menu. “I highly recommend our Hot Bourbon Ball Cocktail,” suggests Eckerline. “It’s a combination of Boone County Bourbon Cream mixed into hot cocoa and served with a flaming marshmallow on top. It’s decadent and delicious.”
When it comes to the dinner menu during the cooler months, Chef Jason focuses a lot on stews and braised meats as well as roasted root veggies. “The Braised Oxtail Medallion is one of our guest favorites, served with foie grois and a truffle demi-glace, garnished with local microgreens from Black Hawk Farms. The Black Hawk Farms filet is the best steak you’ll find in Kentucky. They’re 100% American Waygu beef raised in Paducah. We even get their birth certificates and we can track the lineage. It’s pretty cool,” shares Walls. If you’re in more of a fish mood, you’ll find the seafood dishes always changing due to Walls flying in what’s fresh daily. “All of our seafood comes from a fisherman who sends me a picture of what they’ve caught that day. I’ll say yes and have it here the next day,” says Walls. One of his favorite dishes is their Verlasso Salmon which is from Patagonia. “All of the fish we use are on the list of sustainable options from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I’ll take the whole salmon and break it down and then we make stock from the bones,” comments Walls. “What we serve with the salmon changes seasonally, of course”.
To wrap up your meal, you’ll want to take a good look at the dessert menu which also changes daily as everything–even the ice cream–is made in-house. “The pot de crème that we
do with bourbon and local sorghum is one that people come in asking for,” says Walls.
So whether you want to plan a visit to the Kentucky Castle to take a peek at their immaculate holiday décor, book a little pampering at the spa, plan your next staycation or visit for a cocktail and dinner, you’ll find a staff that’s thrilled to have you and ready to make sure your experience is one fit for royalty.
Q&A with Chef Jason Walls
What made you fall in love with food?
I started to love food from growing up on a small farm in Jessamine County. I was always growing veggies, so it led into cooking veggies. Now, my whole life revolves around food.
How do you stay inspired?
Different farms, different seasons, different vegetables. I’m never doing the same thing. We do prolong the seasons by freezing or making jams but once tomatoes are done, I’m done. It makes it pretty hard to get bored.
The tomato! I love to grow them because they’re very versatile. Kentucky is wonderful for tomatoes.
Do you have a morning ritual? If so, what does it look like?
Drink a quart of water. No caffeine for me haha!
Favorite dish from your childhood?
Green beans. We used to grow and can our beans eating them right out of the jar. They were so good. My mom would can 250 jars of green beans in the summer.
What do you love most about Lexington?
Lexington actually has a really great art scene and it also has a great music scene. I collect vinyls, so I really enjoy that.
When you're not working, are you cooking or grabbing carryout?
Cooking. I go to my greenhouse and start clipping vegetables. My freezer is full of meat that I raise or buy locally. My two kids love to see what I am cooking. And of course, we all eat the same things.
Share a tidbit of advice for someone who dreams of pursuing a career in food.
Stay in school. Don’t get discouraged and get plenty of rest. It’s an exhausting business, but so rewarding.
Castle Farms Cheddar Biscuits
2.5 cups flour
2 tablespoons baking powder 1 tablespoon sugar
1.5 teaspoon salt
1 cup white cheddar
8 tablespoons of butter
1 cup buttermilk
Salt to taste
Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and cheese. Using a pastry blender, cut in cold butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Fold in buttermilk and knead into dough. Pat dough three-quarters of an inch thick and fold over 5 times. Form dough into a flat rectangle, one and a 1/2 inches thick. Using a biscuit cutter, cut biscuits and place on a baking pan with parchment paper. Brush biscuits with lightly whisked egg and sprinkle tops with salt. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Then serve.