RECIPES: When it’s a short distance from farm to table

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Milton’s Cuisine & Cocktails, known for its garden, gets creative with produce

Nestled in the Crabapple Historic District in Milton, Milton’s Cuisine & Cocktails recently celebrated its 16th anniversary.

The restaurant’s long-running farm-to-table concept is driven by a kitchen garden known as Milton’s Acre. And executive chef and managing partner Derek Dollar, who has been at Milton’s nearly 12 years, curates events among the vegetables, fruits and herbs.

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Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

One favorite, the Farmyard Chow Down, has been dubbed “a Lowcountry boil on steroids,” with up to 300 guests, who enjoy an Airstream bar and live music, in addition to the sumptuous dinner.

“We grow everything we can — anything that’s good for Georgia,” Dollar said during a stroll through the garden one hot afternoon this summer.

That includes lettuces, summer squash, green beans, multiple varieties of heirloom tomatoes, okra, peppers, corn and cucumbers, plus blackberries and muscadine grapes, happy sunflowers and bug-fighting marigolds.

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Sometimes there are visiting critters, who enjoy the bounty, too.

“We still have deer problems,” Dollar allowed. “They’ve created a palate over the years. They like okra and green beans a lot now. It’s kind of strange because it used to be tomatoes and arugula.”

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Credit: CHRIS HUNT

For his kitchen, Dollar is especially fond of just-picked tomatoes.

“We say they still have the sun in them,” he enthused. ”We really like to grow Cherokee Purples, which are indigenous to this region. I like Green Zebras a lot, too. I don’t think they need salt, and they’re nice and tangy.

“In season, we’ll get 60-80 pounds a day coming in the back door. We try to use tomatoes in anything we can, from all kinds of salads, to just making jams, and succotash is great. The garden helps food costs, and you also know where your food comes from.”

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Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Most of the year, Milton’s Acre is maintained by a single gardener, Charlie Boatright, but the staff helps out during planting time in early April, and again in late summer.

“Not a lot of people have a farm that’s a hundred yards down the hill,” Dollar said. “The flavor, the freshness, the moisture content, and the nutrients, that’s what we’re after.”

Beyond that, Dollar is a big fan of bold flavors and bright colors.

“If you put something like lemon grits on the menu, it better taste like lemon,” he said. “Obviously, you eat with your eyes first, so I like to use different colors, and sometimes that’s how dishes start with me. And I’m all about doing classics with a twist.”

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

RECIPES

These recipes from Milton’s Cuisine & Cocktails executive chef Derek Dollar feature vegetable-driven dishes inspired by the restaurant’s kitchen garden, known as Milton’s Acre. There’s also a brie cheesecake from pastry chef Michelle Chan that’s topped with honey and fresh blueberries.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Chatel Farms Rib-eye with Succotash ‘Oscar’

The rib-eye is the most popular steak on the Milton’s menu. It’s served with succotash made with the farm’s Silver Queen sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes and asparagus. And it’s spiced with house-made smoked paprika chimichurri.

Credit: Brandon Amato

Credit: Brandon Amato

Summer Squash Casserole

Summer squash and zucchini are abundant during the summer at Milton’s Acre, and squash casserole is a good way to use them up. But this version of the popular Southern side dish is almost hearty enough to be a main dish.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Green Tomato and Peach Chow Chow

Milton’s zippy green tomato and peach chow chow is often served over fried green tomatoes stuffed with goat cheese. It’s also great on roasted chicken or fish, or as an accompaniment to a cheese plate.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Brie Cheesecake

You’ll need a 12-inch springform pan, heavy-duty aluminum foil, and a large roasting pan for the water bath. But the result is a creamy and delicious no-crack cheesecake, drizzled with honey and topped with blueberries.

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