Courtesy Chateau Elan
Published May 01, 2017
Georgia is known as the Peach State, and when the state nickname features food, travelers can count on the region’s offering plenty of delicious experiences.
Groups traveling in Georgia can dine under the stars in a garden, enjoying dishes made with produce plucked just feet from their plates. Visitors can stop at a roadside market where they can buy a seasonal peach or, when peaches are out of season, sample all sorts of peach products: cider, wine, fritters, ice cream, salsa and preserves. Barbecue lovers can learn the secrets of rubs, brines and marinades, smoking, grilling and roasting during a barbecue class.
These Georgia culinary experiences highlight the best flavors of the state: fresh produce, local fare and Southern food.
Milton’s Cuisine and Cocktails
A garden dinner at Milton’s Cuisine and Cocktails in Milton, Georgia, is “absolutely beautiful; it’s like a little piece of heaven,” said event sales manager Jill Hayes.
The one-acre garden is behind the 155-year-old restored farmhouse. The setting shapes group events there, infusing them with cozy comfort and seasonal flavors. The house restaurant can accommodate groups of 80 to 100 people, although they’ll be split up among the dining areas in various rooms. The farmhouse’s largest room, which is really a couple of rooms that open into one another, can seat about 40 people. The only “truly private room” is an enclosed banquet porch than can host meals for 40 people, Hayes said.
Outdoors offers space for larger events. In the middle of the garden is an open area for meals for up to 100 people. The restaurant can even set up one long table for lunch or dinner for 100 guests. Meals are served family style or in a buffet, and dishes are prepared with produce and herbs — squash, cucumber, melon, spinach and more — that were plucked just feet from the dinner table. Evening events are held beneath strung patio lights or in lighted event tents.
By setting up long estate tables in the field in front of the garden, Milton’s can host outdoor meals for up to 250 people, Hayes said. Milton’s menus are seasonal, but its signature dishes include Southern fried chicken and shrimp and grits, and the restaurant boasts a “killer pimento cheese dip,” she said. Herbs from the garden show up in almost everything, including seasonal cocktails such as The Thyme.
Southern Thunder Barbecue’s ’Que University
Southern Thunder Barbecue is a competitive barbecue team with some major pro division championships under its apron strings. When pit master Pete Warner “realized that the fact that we’re a real, live barbecue team landed on people,” the team decided to start sharing its secrets. Three years ago, it launched Southern Thunder ’Que University, an in-depth, hands-on barbecue school that teaches students how to smoke, roast and grill with the best of them.
“Barbecue is an odd thing: People have a passion for it, and it’s difficult to master,” Warner said. “Our typical student, when they get there, they’re excited.”
The full experience is a daylong class that is limited to 24 people who walk in in the morning “and we put an apron on ’em and a knife in their hand.” The day starts with briskets that will go into one of seven smokers; then teachers lead students through pulled pork, “lollipop drumsticks” and a juicy pork loin. Students also learn how to make applewood-smoked chicken breasts and wrap up by preparing competition ribs.
When class is over, it’s time to eat, “which is certainly one of the fun parts,” Warner said. The full banquet includes “adult” macaroni and cheese made with five cheeses, “The Best Baked Beans I’ve Ever Had” and a fresh, mayoless coleslaw made with apple cider dressing.
For groups that don’t have all day or don’t have the passion for barbecue, shorter classes can be offered for at least 40 people. For Valentine’s Day, the school recently held a ’Que With Your Cutie class, in which students learned how to cook elegant barbecue and pair it with wine. Classes are held at a Knights of Columbus farmhouse-turned-hall with a giant backyard strewn with picnic tables under trees. Inside, students learn about rubs, brines, marinades, injections and sauces at “lab tables,” each with an assistant to help.
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