By Carlynn Woolsey, Foodable Contributor
“Keep Calm and Eat Biscuits” and “I Heart Biscuits” are two of the slogans written across t-shirts available for purchase at the International Biscuit Festival in Knoxville, TN. Founded in 2009, the event began as a large gathering for friends and family wanting to share their love of the buttery, flaky baked goods, and has since evolved into a renowned food festival. The 2014 version boasts an appearance by chef Tyler Florence, plays host to the Southern Food Writing Conference, and allows attendees to participate in various contests including a “Miss and Mr. Biscuit Pageant.” Sound crazy? Not really to the legions of loyal biscuit fans across the country. With biscuit-centric restaurants now opening, and consumers stuffing anything and everything between them, biscuits are quite literally on the rise.
Not to be confused with the English tea biscuits commonly enjoyed across the pond, traditional American biscuits are made with baking powder or baking soda, as opposed to yeast, to create a soft fluffy texture on the inside, while the outside turns a crisp brown during the baking process. Biscuits first became popular in the South, as Southern flours such as the popular White Lily brand were made from the soft winter wheat that grew in warmer climates. This flour was overall more conducive to producing biscuits and quick breads. Many Southern households’ biscuits were — and still are — traditionally made fresh, early in the morning, to be enjoyed periodically throughout the day. Served sliced with meat as a meal, or slathered with butter, jelly, gravy, or sorghum syrup as a side, biscuits became a true dietary staple.
From Staple to Trend
Throughout the last year in particular, we have seen the evolution of once standby ingredients into newfangled creations, and consumers are eating them up! Cronut, anyone?
With croissants and donuts already accounted for, bakers and chefs have started experimenting with adding flavor-power to their biscuits, too. Take chef David LeFevre of restaurant Manhattan Beach Post, who created a bacon cheddar buttermilk biscuit so popular that even the dishwashers had to learn how to make it to keep up with demand. LeFevre says he’s “…never experienced the kind of reaction that we've gotten to biscuits," with the restaurant churning out at least 200 of them daily.
Biscuit Restaurant Breakdown
And what about consumers who would prefer their biscuits customized, or served up sandwich-style? Try visiting one of the dedicated concept restaurants currently popping up nationwide.
Empire Biscuits, a 24/7 establishment based out of New York City caters to “Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Drunk” cravings, all day, every day, unless, of course, they run out of biscuits first. After their opening day, the owners needed three additional days to restock and recuperate due to overwhelming sales. Empire–goers can choose from spread options including ‘Foie Gras Butter with Preserved Lemon & Cabbage Jam’ or sandwich options including ‘Fried Eggplant with Toasted Walnut and Onion Pate.’ With choices like that, it’s no wonder there’s been a run on biscuits in the Big Apple!
Meanwhile, out West, Pine State Biscuits currently operates two shops out of Portland and a popular booth at the downtown Farmers Market, where the concept was originally born. Pine State is known for plating up over-the-top sandwich creations like “The Wedgie” (fried chicken, fried green tomato, a wedge of iceberg lettuce, and blue cheese dressing) and “The Regina” (egg over-easy with braised greens, doused with Texas Pete Hot Sauce).
Last but not least, dessert lovers can get their biscuit fix from !Bang Bang!, located in Chicago. Famous for their pies, this joint also has a “Cinna Biscuit” on the menu, which is made with cinnamon, brown sugar, and bacon icing.
No matter what your style or taste, get ready, as biscuits in various forms are sure to be hitting your neck of the woods sometime soon!