That’s right, Keller. While it may be known as a nice bedroom community to Dallas and Fort Worth commuters, and the home of a million chain restaurants and some average BBQ, Keller has not, hitherto, been a fine dining destination. That could all change. The Milk & Honey Co. is an offbeat lunch spot, tea room, fine dining restaurant and supper club based in an old clapboard house in the original 40 acre deed for the town. At lunch, it serves straightforward soups and sandwiches. In the afternoon it becomes a refined tea room. In the evening, the owner’s son Joshua Harmon takes over the kitchen and that is when the sparks begin to fly.
Joshua, it should be said, has a varied set of experiences. He started at Chef Pointe Café in Watuaga, possibly the best gourmet Conoco experience in the country. Then it was on to Tastings in Grapevine. He moved to New
York City for a lightning round of rapid stages and trails starting at April Bloomfield’s Spotted Pig for one night where he turned down a permanent job to continue experimenting. He became part of the opening crew for The Dutch under Andrew Carmellini (who was Daniel Boulud’s execuchef at Café Boulud for six years) for three months. He served in several roles including garde manger and cooked for such luminaries as Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller (twice) and Mario Batali (mit Crocs) who was kind enough to show the staff what serious drinking was all
about. Then it was a stage at David Burke’s Townhouse for one night that led to a job offer from execuchef Carmine Digiovanni, but he wanted to try additional things before settling down so it was off to Le Cirque where he was offered a job and stayed for two weeks. That time included Restaurant Week, during which the execuchef was away all the time. He wanted to learn Asian cooking technique, which led him to stage at Buddakan for a whole day. Sous chef Dale Talde is one of the chefs he most admires.
Finally, it was back to Texas where he was offered a gig at Stephan Pyles under execuchef Kyle Barham. During his time there he remembers being allowed to do a different vegetarian dish every night (“I could do anything I wanted. They had stuff like chanterelles in the kitchen…” ) and working last New Year’s Eve when the restaurant was slammed and did over 240 covers. After three months, his family persuaded him to start his own gig as the fine dining face of their new Milk & Honey Co. and that is where he began in February of this year.
It is still early days at Milk & Honey Co. The standard menu is solid Southern Home Cooking. It is aimed squarely at the regulars. A large blackboard in the center of the room is going to gradually fill over the next few weeks with more esoteric items learned on Harmon’s travels. He is already sourcing locally and making as much as possible in house (including desserts). He does all his own smoking, but does not have a smoker, so he uses a kitchen pan with a wire mesh on top. Coming, down the line, is smoked fish.
We were invited guests on a recent Saturday night where we sampled some of his skills. For example, Fried Chicken has a crisp, totally dry, batter but is oozing with succulent meat inside. An example of careful brining. On the side, is a hot sauce made from honey infused with rosemary. Grilled wild salmon was served atop grits (that’s polenta to y’all from Italy, TX) mixed with finely diced tomato and lightly seasoned with truffle oil. On one side was a chicken-fried poached egg. My personal favorite was the Broiled Pork Chop. He makes the apple butter from hickory-smoked apples, a process that lends a marked smoke character to the apple butter.
Among the house made desserts, the most popular is Pot Au Crème served in a jam jar.
On Saturday night, dinner is accompanied by a live jazz singer, Judy Chamberlain, with a keyboard player. I was impressed when I asked for “Daydream Believer” (this being the week that The Monkees lead singer Davy Jones passed away. He was able to put together the instrumentals based on just a vague memory of how the song went, back when he heard it in the 1960s.
The Milk & Honey Co. is thankfully BYOB, so bring along wine or beer to accompany your meal.
I hope that Joshua’s tendency to flit around is finished for the moment and he continues with the menu growth he plans for The Milk & Honey Co. Keller, Southlake and Colleyville have been remarkably barren of good food for years. Hopefully, this is the start of a turnaround.