The biscuit boom
Biscuits are among the ultimate comfort foods. Something about a warm, flaky biscuit can help turn around even the worst of days. Biscuits have long served the demand for an on-the-go breakfast food, and thanks to a new trend showcased in shops such as Seattle’s Serious Pie & Biscuit and Portland’s Pine State Biscuits, they have found a second calling as a gourmet specialty item.
“The biscuit is amazingly versatile, so we decided to center our concept on it and marry it with the incredible bounty here in the Pacific Northwest,” says Brian Snyder, partner at Pine State Biscuits.
Using the highest-quality ingredients they can find, the folks at Pine State Biscuits strive to create a warm, southern experience in all of their unique biscuit sandwiches.
“Hands down, The Reggie is our number one seller,” Snyder says. “It has organic, buttermilk fried chicken topped with thick cut bacon, gravy, and Tillamook cheddar; add an egg on top if you want it Deluxe. The McIsley is another popular biscuit sandwich. It has fried chicken topped with stone ground mustard, pickles, and honey. It's a savory, sweet and sour party in your mouth. The Moneyball is yet another combo of dreams—a biscuit topped with gravy and an over easy egg. The yolks mixed with the gravy and biscuit....rib stickin’ goodness!”
The Moneyball wasn’t the only thing that stuck with Tom Douglas, Seattle chef and restaurateur, after visiting Pine State Biscuits in Portland. He realized that his city needed good biscuits, too. So he brought back the concept to Seattle, had pastry chef Stacy Fortner develop a biscuit recipe, and opened Serious Pie & Biscuit.
“We now sell more than 400 biscuits per day on the weekends,” says Debi Smissen, with Serious Pie & Biscuit. “Our two most popular biscuits are our fried chicken with Tabasco black pepper gravy, and our homemade ham with egg, locally-made Beecher's white cheddar, and apple mustard. Our ham is unique in that we use pork shoulder, which is more marbled than your standard pork loin and is not smoked, just slow roasted after brining for a week.”
Both Pine State Biscuits and Serious Pie & Biscuit serve dine-in and take-out customers, and while they appreciate both, they love it when people stay to eat so they can observe how their food is received.
“Customers usually react to our biscuits with amazement,” says Snyder. “They're substantial in size and texture, and the combinations we create are unusual.”
Smissen echoed a similar sentiment and added, “Many people come up and tell us how delicious everything is, especially people visiting from the South.”
While biscuit shops have proven the gourmet versatility of the biscuit, its stand-alone potential should not be underestimated.
“Our biscuits are fresh from scratch every day, all day,” Snyder says. “They are great on their own—flaky, buttery, and tender.”
Pine State Biscuits sells its plain, buttermilk biscuits individually, as well as by the half dozen and dozen. Serious Pie & Biscuit also sells its plain, buttermilk biscuits ala carte.
No matter how customers choose to indulge, one thing is certain. The biscuit boom has arrived, and it’s making a big impact in the bakery business.
Unique biscuit shops around the country
Biscuit Head, in Asheville, North Carolina, works hard to cater to its customers with dietary restrictions, so it offers all of its menu items, such as the Black Eyed Pea Biscuit (pozole, black eyed pea cakes, poached eggs, and green chile hollandaise), on gluten-free biscuits for only one extra dollar.
In addition to its biscuit sandwiches, Empire Biscuit, in New York City, allows customers to create a custom biscuit by starting with either a Country Style or an All Butter biscuit, and then adding one of 12 Butters and Spreads (including French Toast Butter, Foie Gras Butter, Creole Cream Cheese, and more) as well as one of 12 Jams, Jellies, and Marmalades (including Banana Pudding, Pumpkin Pie Spread, Red Pepper & Jalapeno Jelly, and more).
Maple Street Biscuit Company
Maple Street, located in Jacksonville, Florida, just opened its second location and offers more than a dozen signature biscuit sandwiches, including the Blues Biscuit (pulled pork, homemade coleslaw, and barbecue sauce) and The Loaded Goat (fried chicken, a fried goat cheese medallion, and house-made pepper jelly).