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Chef Steven Hartman leaves Montaluce’s Le Vigne to open Buttermilk Fried Chicken

I'll miss Hartman's dishes at Le Vigne such as this sweet corn soup with buttered croutons and powdered arugula.

I'll miss Hartman's dishes at Le Vigne such as this sweet corn soup with buttered croutons and powdered arugula.

Montaluce Winery announced today that Chef Steven Hartman and General Manager Brad Egnor have left the winery’s restaurant, Le Vigne, to open their own restaurant called Buttermilk Fried Chicken. Montaluce said, “It is a terrible loss.”

Located in Dahlonega, Buttermilk Fried Chicken opened earlier this month and is co-owned by Hartman and Egnor. Though his original intention was to remain at Le Vigne despite his new venture, Hartman’s last day there was Friday.

The inspiration for Buttermilk grew out of the staff meals at Le Vigne. According to Hartman, “We were going through a lot of chicken with the weddings at Montaluce. That left lots of wings and thighs around.” Those leftover chicken parts were cooked sous vide (slow cooking “under vacuum” in plastic bags in a water bath) and served for staff meals. Hartman says, “We discovered the best fried chicken ever.”

Hartman explains that as a result of this discovery, Buttermilk “began with a playful conversation with Brad. We joked that there’s no fried chicken in Dahlonega. It turns out that down the street, there was a place available.”

The restaurant soaks Springer Mountain chicken in a sweet tea brine for 12 hours before being cooking it sous vide in buttermilk. The moist and perfectly-cooked bird is then breaded and fried just long enough to become crispy. Hartman tells me that cooking the chicken sous vide “breaks down the connective tissue in the thighs, legs and wings so that there’s less sinew.”

In addition to the chicken, at Buttermilk you’ll find locally grown veggies including creamed corn, fried okra and collards cooked with Benton’s ham bones and a dash of cider vinegar. Hartman also prepares his mom’s Coca-Cola cupcakes with Coca-Cola cream cheese frosting.

Sounds like a day trip might be in order. (And my own test run with the fried chicken in the sous vide machine!)

6:30 a.m.- 2 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m.- 6 p.m. Saturdays, noon – 4 p.m. Sundays. 2261 Oak Grove Road, Dahlonega. 706-867-4963. $.

–by Jenny Turknett, Food & More blog

– Jenny Turknett writes about Southern and Neighborhood Fare for the AJC Dining Team.

19 comments Add your comment


August 22nd, 2011
8:04 pm

Jenny – I’ll perform the sous vide experiment with you if you can get the exact cook times, brine recipe etc. I’ve been thinking a long time about how to do this with the Sous Vide Supreme. Could be fun.

up north

August 22nd, 2011
9:38 pm

Wait a minute! No fried chicken in Dahlonega?! How about some of the best around, at the Smith House?!

Jenny Turknett

August 22nd, 2011
10:02 pm

BBQgeek — half the fun is figuring it out! ;) We can do it!

I’m going to start with a trip to taste Hartman’s version.


August 23rd, 2011
7:52 am

Quote from Turknett: “I’m going to start with a trip to taste Hartman’s version.”

Sounds like something that would have been a good effort to employ before writing about the place and describing the product as “moist and perfectly cooked”.

Jenny Turknett

August 23rd, 2011
8:07 am

Mike, this is a news piece, not a review. I’m referring to the sous vide cooking method, which is known for retaining moisture and allowing you to cook to a precise temperature without overcooking.

Chuck Robertson

August 23rd, 2011
8:57 am

I’ve eaten there at least 5 times already and it’s wonderful. Simple food, prepared better than your momma could.


August 23rd, 2011
9:28 am

I attended a wedding at Montaluce Winery and the dinner served at Le Vigne was amazing. I could not believe we were in Dahlonega. The winery grounds are beautiful. The food was amazing. I wish they were closer to Atlanta. It is a rather long drive. Perhaps we can swing through there during apple season to check out the new spot.

Jenny, when are you going to visit Chicken and the Egg in Marietta? The bar program is amazing–rivals ONE Midtown Kitchen and 4th & Swift. The fried green tomatoes have pimento fondue with them.


August 23rd, 2011
10:15 am

Anyone who doesn’t eat properly cooked chicken thighs is missing out big time.


August 23rd, 2011
10:29 am

i think that this chicken is the best i have ever had!!!! i have been there as much as possible and i just cant get enough

Jenny Turknett

August 23rd, 2011
1:20 pm

Ganners, I’m eager to try Chicken and the Egg, but I was trying to give them a bit of time to iron out any kinks since they just opened. Sounds yummy, though!

Brent B

August 23rd, 2011
3:30 pm

Very sorry to see them leave Montaluce, but they will be successful at whatever they do. Tried to stop by today but was late for a meeting.

Lui lacoter

August 23rd, 2011
4:33 pm

Bob Flay

August 23rd, 2011
4:48 pm

Fried chicken over at the sizzler, yummy!

Chuck Snow

August 23rd, 2011
4:50 pm

Gonna be hard to compete with the Smith house Smith house fried chicken is very good it’ll take some serious chicken to beat them, Although The real fried Chicken Master was Deacon Burton now long gone but I’ve heard that his son has taken over and renamed the place Sons Place, not in Dahlonega but well worth the drive,


August 23rd, 2011
5:48 pm

Cue whining about this being too far outside of Atlanta…


August 23rd, 2011
5:52 pm

If you’re ever in Greenwood SC, go to Miss Ann’s on the main drag in town. A converted old gas station that does nothing but Fried chicken. 1/2 inch crunchy crust, not greasy, and moist wonderful chicken, and a 15 piece box is like 15 bucks. I have a lake place their and drive in for a box when I have lake guest. It’s so good it’s scary.


August 23rd, 2011
6:26 pm

If you think there is any difference in this and KFC except for the price, you are crazy. Give me the colonel any day. The chefs at KFC are the best in the biz.


August 23rd, 2011
9:09 pm

Loi Lacoter…..what is disgusting? Please explain!

Brent B

August 25th, 2011
10:02 am

KFC? Are you kidding? You obviously never had any of Steven’s food.