Chattanooga’s Milk and Honey

Milk and Honey | Chattanooga | Persnickety Biscuit

I’ve spent all of about five days in Chattanooga in the last five years, but you don’t have to spend a lot of time here to get a feel for the place. It is one of those towns that just expresses itself well. It has developed a reputation as a hub for outdoor activity, with an arts district, a renowned aquarium and nicely developing riverfront.

But we are not here to discuss the minutiae of Tennessee cities, are we? We are here to discuss biscuits, which I found at a little place called Milk & Honey just across the river on the north side of town, within walking distance of the aquarium as long as the weather is cooperating. Which, I have to say, it only barely was. When we planned this trip, July seemed a safe bet for a rafting trip down the Ocoee and a weekend in Chattanooga. Sigh. We ended up with cold and rain in some weird summer weather anomaly. No matter. We were on vacation!

Milk and Honey | Chattanooga | Persnickety Biscuit

 

Anyway, Milk & Honey is a totally charming little place. Chalkboard-style menu on the wall, black and white tile, a few tables inside, several outdoor tables, and this great indoor/outdoor bar. The bar stretches along one side of the storefront and is divided in the middle by a garage door. I want one at home. We snagged the last three barstools outside. On this relatively cool day, the door was open allowing for easy and entertaining eavesdropping on our fellow diners. Religion, music, and theater were all discussed and gave us fodder for our own conversation for the rest of the day.

Milk and Honey | Chattanooga | Persnickety Biscuit

One thing I loved is that they actually have a BYOB option. That is, “Build Your Own Breakfast.” See this great assortment of options? They keep a stack of these on clipboards. I kept a blank one for ideas.

Milk and Honey BYOB Menu| Chattanooga | Persnickety Biscuit

M decided on the pre-defined Farmhouse Biscuit with M&H breakfast sausage, Benton’s bacon, tomato jam, egg, arugula, white cheddar, caramelized onions and shallots. I built my own with house-made sausage, egg, white cheddar, sliced apples, and seasonal house-made jam.

So how were the biscuits?
Fabulous! Big, flaky, fluffy, warm and fresh, with a light crust on top that was perfectly lightly salty. They had enough density to be able to hold the supporting cast of ingredients, which were considerable, without being heavy.

Milk and Honey Farmhouse Biscuit| Chattanooga | Persnickety Biscuit

What was persnickety about these biscuits?
The tricky part was trying to fit the whole thing in your mouth. These things were huge! I think I could have left off the egg and it would have been more manageable and not suffered from lack of flavor. The sausage provided perfect spice to counter the sweetness of the jam. And I was really pleased with the apple slices that I decided to add. They provided a wonderful crunchiness.

Build Your Own Biscuit - Milk and Honey | Chattanooga | Persnickety Biscuit

While I loved my biscuit concoction, I have to admit M’s was mighty tasty as well. It was spicier than mine, perhaps because of the tomato jam. It was just more savory overall, which suited M perfectly. In the end, I think we both were very happy with our choices.

Milk and Honey Farmhouse Biscuit| Chattanooga | Persnickety Biscuit

Would you come back here?
Absolutely!

 

Milk and Honey | Chattanooga | Persnickety Biscuit

Simple Shortcuts: Powdered Buttermilk

Banana Biscuits au Chocolat | Persnickety Biscuit

Until now, I have been fairly strict with my biscuit ingredient choices. I choose buttermilk, not the milk and lemon juice substitute many swear by. Butter, not margarine. White Lily flour, not store brand. But there are times you can’t get to the store but you still want biscuits, so what do you do?

The fact is that there are many more variations on biscuit ingredients and recipes than there are readers of this blog, so there are a lot of answers to that question. I decided to test one out that I have not heard anyone else mention: powdered buttermilk.

Powdered Buttermilk| Persnickety Biscuit

This nifty little invention can be found in the baking aisle of your local grocery store – where evaporated, condensed, and powdered milks are to be found. Directions for use are on the side of the container. Basically, a few tablespoons of the mix are added to your dry ingredients. Then water or some other kind of liquid is added at the appropriate time.

Biscuit Dough| Persnickety Biscuit

 

For my experiment, I decided to use my banana biscuit recipe as my base. I used the appropriate amount of powdered buttermilk and mixed it in with the flour. Then I chose almond milk as my liquid, because that is what I had on hand. Besides, I figured the vanilla flavor in the milk would just be a bonus.

Otherwise, I pretty much followed the recipe. Of course, I also used some of the dough to make little chocolate filled pockets because, well, why not?

Banana Biscuits au Chocolat | Persnickety Biscuit

Banana Biscuits au Chocolat

Why choose this biscuit recipe?
This was all about convenience. I had all of the ingredients on hand: the overripe banana, almond milk, and powdered buttermilk.

What is persnickety about this biscuit recipe?
The thing that surprised me was when I added the wet ingredients to the dry. The dough was initially too dry, so I added a little more liquid. Then it seemed like the dough got really wet, really fast. I wondered if there were some kind of chemical reaction with the powdered buttermilk and the liquid that caused this. Do any of you readers know?

So how were the biscuits?
Delicious! We enjoyed a few of them and then the rest were bundled up and left with a friend who was dealing with a family crisis. At the end of all of my recipes, I say “Share with someone you love,” so that is what I did. She reported back that they did not last long in her household.

Banana Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

 

Apple Butter and Biscuits at Sunset Grill

Everyone knows now. If we are at a restaurant and biscuits are on the menu, then I have to order them.

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So far, there have been no complaints.

Last night, we went to Sunset Grill to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Thanks to some connections, we were able to get a table (it is Vanderbilt’s graduation weekend) and a welcome visit from the owner Randy Rayburn.

The seasonal menu had cheddar biscuits and corn muffins with sorghum apple butter. We got a couple of orders and shared them around the table before our meal, which was delicious, by the way.

So how were the biscuits?
Quite wonderful, really. Just thick enough, with a lightly crisp top, and fluffy interior. A bit of salt and cheese to flavor them.

What was persnickety about these biscuits?
The butter, interestingly enough, was the real surprise here. When the menu said apple butter, I was thinking of thick, spiced, cooked down apple butter. But this was fresh butter, lightly sweetened with sorghum, with chopped up bits of fresh Granny Smith apple in it. Brilliant. It really made the dish. I’m definitely going to have to try this one at home.

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Wedding Strawberry Shortcake Bar

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Call it shortcake. Fine. Whatever makes you happy. But you know it looks like a biscuit. A sweet biscuit with strawberries and whipped cream and almonds.

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This was the scene at a wedding I recently attended. In lieu of cake, the bride and groom chose to serve this abundance of fabulous flavors and textures. Brilliant.

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So how was the biscuit . . . er . . . shortcake?
Delicious. Tender and sweet. The strawberries were served in a light syrup that was absorbed by the biscuit and brought the whole dessert together.

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What would you do differently?
I would think of it first. Kidding! I love that this bride and groom thought beyond the traditional wedding cake and did things their own way. It was a beautiful celebration of two special people and the shortcake was just a bonus.

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Biscuits on The Row

Biscuits at The Row | Persnickety Biscuit

The name of the place kept popping up. “Happy Hour at The Row this week.” Special deep fried pimento cheese bacon balls from The Row at the Bourbon and Bacon festival. Facebook postings from friends celebrating at The Row. So when I had the opportunity to join a group of friends for “girls’ night out” at The Row, I gave an unqualified “YES!” Little did I know at the time that they also have biscuits. Bonus.

Biscuits at The Row | Persnickety Biscuit

I have not yet tried every permutation of biscuit offered by The Row, but I did try two different items. The first was simply their appetizer portion. I loved the way it was presented. All in a row. Pun intended, perhaps? Hot biscuits wrapped in a flour sack towel, on a cutting board, with all the fixin’s. Not only was there butter, and strawberry jam, and blackberry jam, but there was also tomato jam which turned out to be this sweet savory topping that was unique and delicious. The biscuit was warm and fluffy and satisfying.

Biscuits at The Row | Persnickety Biscuit

I passed the rest down the table, but there was still one left at the end of the night. The waitress asked if I wanted any of it wrapped up to take home and I said, with a bright, hopeful smile, “I’d like all of it!” She willingly took the board away and returned with a huge bag – all for one lone biscuit.

The Row Nashville

At the end of the evening, the manager came around and handed out cards with a free item printed on the back. Mine just happened to be for a free order of Biscuit Beignets. That was all it took. On Saturday, I informed M and the monkey (soon to be stepson) that I had a great place for us to go for brunch. Off to The Row we went!

The Row Nashville

The Biscuit Beignets were lovely. Hot, fried crescents of biscuit dough, rolled in sugar and cinnamon, and served with a ramekin of rich, sweet creme anglaise. What is creme anglaise, you ask? Well, I looked it up for you. It is a custard sauce and it was fabulous.

Biscuit Beignets at The Row | Persnickety Biscuit

The Road to Scrumptious Cheddar Dill Beer Biscuits

Cheddar Dill Beer Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

These scrumptious, buttery, cheesy biscuits were the goal, but it took a couple of tries and a bit of heartache to get there. It was humbling, making a bad biscuit. So far, I had managed to elude the problems that so many novice biscuit-makers complain about. I suppose I got a little cocky.

I blame it on “New Kitchen Syndrome.” You know that stage where everything has been unpacked and stowed away, the counters have been cleared, and you should easily, at least in theory, be able to get back to baking again. Except you can’t remember where you put the measuring spoons and the ingredients you need are all in the very back of the cabinet. It is harder to do just about anything you want to do and can make you quite grumpy.

Eventually, I got to this. We are still talking about these Cheddar Dill Beer Biscuits. Buttery, cheesy, and slightly tangy biscuits made with beer instead of buttermilk. They were incredibly delicious and I will tell you how to make them in a moment.

Cheddar Dill Beer Biscuit | Persnickety Biscuit

First, though, we had this. They look pretty good, don’t they? Tall, flaky with a crisp slightly browned exterior. These should be wonderful. I am going to be honest and tell you they were not! They were incredibly dense and heavy and dry. They were edible but only with vast quantities of butter or completely smothered in soup.

Bad Beer Biscuits

So what went wrong? Two things. I forgot the cheese, for one. I was so mad when I realized, then kind of relieved that good cheese had not been wasted on this sub par biscuit. Second, not enough beer. Seriously, I believe the liquid to dry ratio was off, not allowing the beer to connect with the leaveners and help them work their magic. I was so concerned about making the dough too sticky that I made it too dry.

Well, with this little lesson under my belt I set out to make it right. I started again using the same ingredients, just with a little more beer. Despite the fact that I had trouble with the recipe the first time around, it is only a slight variation on my favorite buttermilk yogurt biscuit recipe. Self-rising flour, a little sugar, part shortening and part butter (frozen and then grated). I added grated sharp cheddar cheese and dill, along with a bit of black pepper. Because I did not want to waste a bunch of fresh dill, I got a paste from the produce department. Have you seen this before? It worked really well.

Dill

I mixed it in with the beer before adding it to the dry ingredients. Don’t be afraid to be a little heavy-handed with dill. I have found that it is one herb that can get lost if you don’t use enough. It is also a terrific compliment to the cheddar cheese.

Dill and Beer

The dough was a little sticky but still held together pretty well. I put the cut out biscuits pretty close together.

Cheddar Dill Beer Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

They rose nicely and joined together just enough to keep the sides moist. With a few minutes of baking time to go, I took them out of the oven, brushed them with butter, and sprinkled them with sea salt and a touch of fresh ground pepper. Then I put them back into the oven for a few more minutes.

Cheddar Dill Beer Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

Yes, that is a Yazoo beer – brewed in Nashville! Click on the photo for their site.

They broke apart perfectly and were thoroughly delicious with the slight amount of pepper and perfect melding of cheddar and dill. No additional butter was required and these definitely did not need to be smothered in soup! I felt completely vindicated. Here is the recipe. Don’t let my initial failure scare you off. These really are easy and so worth it when you get it right!

>>> Click here for printable biscuit recipe.

Cheddar Dill Beer Biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup butter, frozen and grated
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3 T dill (fresh or paste)
  • 3/4 cup beer
  • Melted butter for brushing tops of biscuits

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the first three dry ingredients.
  3. Add Crisco to dry ingredients and rub with your fingers to break the Crisco up into small, pea sized pieces.
  4. Add grated, frozen butter to dry ingredients and stir to coat butter pieces with flour mixture.
  5. Add grated cheddar cheese to dry ingredients and stir to coat cheese pieces with flour mixture.
  6. If using fresh dill, then add it to the dry ingredients and stir. If using dill paste, mix with the beer in small bowl or measuring cup.
  7. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the beer. Mix quickly with large spoon or hands, turning bowl and gently scooping the dry ingredients into the wet. Add more beer, if needed, to make dough moist but not too wet. It will be somewhat sticky.
  8. Sprinkle flour onto countertop or pastry board. Dump dough out of bowl onto flour. Sprinkle flour onto dough and rub onto hands. Knead a few times. Press dough together and flatten to about 1/2 inch. Fold dough in half. A pastry scraper can be really helpful here to lift up the dough.
  9. Transfer dough to parchment paper. Press out to about 1/2 inch. Make into a rough rectangular shape. Using a pastry scraper, knife, spatula or other edge, cut dough into squares about 1 1/2 inches across. You do not need to move the dough after cutting. Alternately, use a biscuit cutter to cut out rounds. Place them close together on the parchment. Press remaining dough together and repeat.
  10. Put cookie sheet in oven and bake for about 12 minutes, until tops of biscuits are slightly browned. Take the biscuits out of the oven and brush the tops of the biscuits with butter, sprinkle with sea salt and fresh pepper, then return them to the oven.
  11. Bake about 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and let rest a few minutes.
  12. Share with someone you love!

Happy Hour and Biscuits at Sportsman’s Grille

I watched his plate arrive, my eyes getting wide, mouth watering. They have biscuits here? How did I not know this? Has it been so long since I looked at their menu?

Sportsman's Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

To explain how we got to this point in my little story … I am lucky enough to belong to a long- lasting Friday night Happy Hour group. The group existed long before I invited myself to join their ranks, and I’ve been going since, oh, 2008 or so? The members come from all walks of life and parts of town.

On any given Friday, there might be anywhere from four to a dozen or so members gathered around a table, decompressing from the week. We talk about anything, from pop culture to politics to TV to sex, and any combination thereof.

The location changes every week, although there are a few spots that we tend to rotate through. One of our favorite places has been Sportsman’s Grille in Hillsboro Village at their upstairs bar. It is too smoky and for a long time you had to watch where you sat because the springs were coming through the booth seat (recently repaired). Somehow, though, this place has come to dominate the rotation. Brad, the bartender, knows us and what we like to drink, we have our favorite table in the corner, the chicken tenders are the best, and, of course, there are a lot of memories.

Sportsman's Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

All of which makes it shocking that in all this time, all the years, all the late nights, I had never tried their Chicken Biscuits. How did I miss that? Well, the time had come. I placed the order and waited with great anticipation. The serving was huge. Three large biscuits, each with a hefty piece of fried chicken nestled within. I was intrigued to find that the biscuits had been split and grilled to warm them. An ingenious way to reheat a biscuit, making it taste fresh and toasted at the same time. As I previously noted, Sportsman’s makes great fried chicken tenders, so I already knew those would be good.

Sportsman's Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

Mmm… It may have taken me a while, but those were worth the wait.