Sky Blue – Worth the Wait

Em's Bowl at Sky Blue Cafe | Persnickety Biscuit

I have to admit, when we went to Charlie Bob’s, we were originally headed to Sky Blue Cafe. They have one of my favorite biscuit dishes. Then we saw the line and thought that Charlie Bob’s would be faster. It was not. At all. So this time I was prepared for a wait.

Sky Blue Cafe | Persnickety Biscuit

It was a lovely day, if a bit chilly. As long as you were in the sun, it felt great. Sky Blue is fairly small. There is no space to wait inside, so we joined the group standing outside at the side of the building. I noticed there were even people waiting in the lot across the street, letting the children run around.

Sky Blue Cafe | Persnickety Biscuit

We had not waited too long before a table opened up outside. Rather than wait longer, we snapped it up. M. grabbed a couple of sweatshirts out of the car and we bundled up at our little table, appreciating the warmth of the fresh coffee. We knew exactly what to order. Em’s Bowl comes with hash browns, a biscuit, egg, gravy and cheese. It is something to behold. M. got his with jalapenos.

Em's Bowl at Sky Blue Cafe | Persnickety Biscuit

The biscuit was great, as were all of the toppings. Yum. Yum. Yum. Such a great combination. This is the dish that inspired my own layered biscuit concoction in St. Petersburg. It is the kind of meal that either prepares you for the day or makes you want to go home and take a nap. In our case, there was packing to do, so back to work we went!

Em's Bowl at Sky Blue Cafe | Persnickety Biscuit

Charlie Bob’s Biscuits and Gravy

Charlie Bob's | Persnickety Biscuit

There are some places you just really want to like, whether it actually makes sense or not. Charlie Bob’s is like that for me. And I do like it. I’m just not sure how much of that is deserved and how much is folklore.

Charlie Bob's | Persnickety Biscuit

Let me explain. First, I found out about this place from the East Nashville “listserve”. Restaurants in the ‘hood often get a lot of discussion on the listserve and it is fun to be in on what people are talking about.

East Nashville Mural

East Nashville is all about the dogs – even on the murals.

Second, it has this blend of old diner style and new kitsch. Old sign, checkered tablecloths, old photos on the walls. But there is also a bar in the back and a tiny stage area for songwriter nights. All of the ingredients of a hidden gem.

Charlie Bob's | Persnickety Biscuit

Third, it is on Dickerson Pike. When I was growing up here, Dickerson Pike was known as one of the seediest parts of Nashville. Drugs. Prostitution. Violence. But as East Nashville has gotten cleaned up, so has Dickerson Pike. At least to some extent. M. and I recently did a photo safari down Dickerson Pike, attempting to capture some of the character, before it all disappears.

Dickerson Pike

So we have been to Charlie Bob’s twice now, for breakfast. The first time we were practically the only ones there and could wander around, looking at the interesting stuff on the walls. This last time they were busy so we stayed put in our booth. Our breakfast was good, but I told M. I would have liked it a LOT better if it had arrived about 20 minutes earlier. The service was incredibly slow on this visit. I was really hungry and got pretty grumpy, especially when the people at the neighboring table (who arrived 15 minutes after us) got their food first.

Charlie Bob's | Persnickety Biscuit

So how were the biscuits?
Pretty good. They did not have the crisp “just baked” exterior that I like to find. I expect they were pulled from a warming drawer or something.

But the sausage gravy was really good! I think I hit on the distinction between good and better sausage gravy while at the Nashville Biscuit House. The better gravy is cooked with the sausage so that the flavors meld. I believe that was the case here.

The rest of the meal was good, too. Solid breakfast standards like super crispy bacon. It did not last long, though. We were too hungry. At one point, M. asked me a question about something and I did not even bother to answer. I just kept on eating. . . .

Charlie Bob's | Persnickety Biscuit

Nashville Biscuit House

Nashville Biscuit House

M. and I have begun what we are calling the Farewell Tour of East Nashville. I’m only moving across the city, but I know we won’t make it back to this part of town as much. So we are revisiting the places we have loved in our two and a half years of dating.

I’ve missed you, I thought as we drove into the parking lot of the Nashville Biscuit House. It is a comfortable place, diner-ish, familiar like an old friend.

Nashville Biscuit House

It was rainy and a little cold out so some comfort food was in order. We waited a few minutes for a table, standing just inside the door, watching the bustle of the place. There is no discernible pause. Someone is always sitting down, getting food, refilling coffee, lining up at the register to pay.

Nashville Biscuit House

The waitresses all wear these t-shirts, which are also for sale. Every time we go I have this internal dialogue. “I would LOVE a Nashville Biscuit House t-shirt. But the shirts have muffins on them, not biscuits. You don’t want a muffin shirt. Who designed these things anyway? Don’t they know the difference between a biscuit and a muffin?” I have not bought one yet, but am still torn.

Uneeda Biscuit at Nashville Biscuit House

This tin was on a shelf. Probably not the same kind of biscuit, but pretty cool anyway!

The menu consists of all of your standard breakfast foods – bacon, sausage, eggs, pancakes, etc. – combined in different ways and amounts so that everyone gets just what they want. Prices are very reasonable, the food is hot and fresh, the waitresses are friendly, and the coffee is passable.

I’ve eaten – and watched the eating of – a wide variety of breakfast configurations and no one leaves this place hungry. Regardless of what else I order, I always get a biscuit, and have even been known to order an extra one after my meal is finished. Just ’cause.

Nashville Biscuit House

On this day, I kept it simple. I ordered a biscuit sandwich with egg and turkey sausage. All the breakfast goodness I could want on a fresh-from-the-oven buttermilk biscuit. I persuaded M. to get a side of gravy that we could share. In the process of ordering that we learned the difference between their Country Gravy, which is a plain white vegetarian sauce, and their Sausage Gravy, which is just their Country Gravy with sausage crumbled into it.

Nashville Biscuit House

That explains it, I think. I have wondered why I prefer some sausage gravies to others. I’ve not tried making it myself (yet!), but think I like when the sausage is more incorporated – using the sausage drippings in the gravy as it is being made. That’s something I will have to try myself.

Nashville Biscuit House Menu

Nonetheless, the biscuit sandwich was delicious. I like to play with my food, so I ate some “as is,” some with jelly, and saved some biscuit to eat with the gravy. The biscuits here are so fluffy and tasty that I could eat them plain, but where’s the fun in that?

As we left, we saw that the line to get in was out the door, literally, and some people were even waiting in the rain. I felt a little guilty about lingering over my coffee. But I knew that soon enough these folks would be ushered into the warmth and served a good hot breakfast. They would just be glad to be there because sometimes good things are worth waiting for, you know?

A Yurt, a Secret, and a Tupelo Honey Biscuit

The trip was magical. It was late in the summer of 2012. First we went to Bryson City – about an hour from Asheville – to stay in a yurt.

Yurt

Why stay in a yurt? Why, because it is a yurt, of course. Actually, when we first started talking about a trip to Asheville, I sent M. a link to the yurt village as a joke. “I’ve always wanted to stay in a yurt!” he said, and I realized that is what we would do.

The yurt was beautiful and romantic and he surprised me with a ring, which we kept secret until now, for a variety of reasons. That was a big secret to keep! No matter. I’ll always know that we got engaged on the deck of a yurt, after a day of hiking, with a table full of snacks and (unintentionally) frozen leftover pizza, watching the sun set and the moon rise, and drinking “the toad” (aka Toad Hollow Risque Sparkling Wine).

Moon over Yurt

The rest of the trip went quite swimmingly, including a visit to the restaurant called Tupelo Honey. Although we ate many wonderful meals while in Asheville, nothing compared to the fresh biscuit, brought straight from the oven to the table before we had even ordered. It had a bit of a crisp outer layer, with a dusting of salt and pepper. Yes, pepper. It was soft and oh so flavorful inside. I was in heaven. No butter required. I only added a tiny bit of Tupelo Honey just to say I had.

Tupeolo Honey Biscuit

When I finally paused to raise my head from the biscuit I noticed that the woman sitting next to us was eating her lunch and HAD NOT TOUCHED HER BISCUIT. M. almost had to restrain me. I was not sure if I wanted to berate her for wasting the biscuit or just take it for myself. All I know is, the lack of biscuit appreciation was criminal.

After we got back to Nashville, he pinned a link to a biscuit recipe that purported to be a Tupelo Honey recipe. It was one of the first recipes I tried when I began this biscuit-blogging odyssey. It was good, but it was in no way shape or form a Tupelo Honey biscuit. The quest continues. Soon I’ll be moving into a new home with my M., his 12 year old son, and a kitchen that is new to me. We have many adventures and lots of biscuits ahead of us!

Billy Bragg, Biscuits, and BBQ (aka Why I Love Nashville)

As Winnie the Pooh would say, it was a rather biscuity day. Well, Pooh was actually talking about a blustery day, but close enough. In almost Pooh fashion, we began the day with biscuits and honey butter and not much of a plan. It had rained heavily the night before, knocking out the spider webs and ushering in some much welcomed cooler weather. Shortly after we got up, the skies began to clear and we could tell it would be a beautiful early fall day.

We gathered the rest of the batch of biscuits to deliver to the father of a friend – visiting from Scotland. He said he had never had biscuits before – not American “biscuits” anyway – and that was a situation that had to be rectified.

After the delivery across town, we did a little window shopping and ran into some friends we had not seen much of lately. It was a lovely little impromptu visit.

“What now?” said M.

“Hmmm,” I said, as I opened up the Nashville food truck app on my phone, “it looks like Smoke et Al is at Grimey’s. Some kind of special event for the Americana festival.”

Smoke Et Al

“Smoke Et Al?” he asked.

“Yes, they have biscuits,” and I clicked through to the description….  “Fiddler’s Biscuits – Shredded, smoked chicken, green onions, Bourbon Peach BBQ, on a Sour Cream Basil biscuit.”

Smoke Et Al

“What are we waiting for?” he said, and we were off!

Grimey’s New and Preloved Music is a local record shop (yes, those do still exist), known for carrying vinyl and second-hand CDs and getting some of the best bands that come through Nashville to play in their store. They expanded recently and this was the first time we had been to an event since then. Behind the shop, there was an open lot where the food truck was parked. There were also many tables full of bargain-basement priced records. Across the alley, a live performance was in progress. A band we later learned is called Daughter. Beautiful stuff.

Grimey's Americana

The crowd enjoying the music.

We made a beeline for the truck and got our biscuits. What a nice surprise they were. There were large scoops of smoky sweet spicy barbeque chicken piled up on a couple of biscuits, with a smattering of green onions and a side of potato salad overflowing it’s cup. Just looking at it was satisfying.

Biscuits and BBQ

The biscuit was peppery, with flaky layers and a density that held up well against the BBQ chicken. It really was not something you could eat with your hands. We had to use a fork to pile BBQ onto a corner of biscuit, then repeat. This meal disappeared quickly.

Biscuits and BBQ

We made our way over to the live music and checked out the afternoon’s lineup. Billy Bragg was due to play shortly. M. was, I think I can say, beside himself about this. While we waited for that set to start, we wandered through the sunshine to the bins of albums spread out on the tables, looking for nothing in particular and finding treasures galore. You know, if I had looked for this album, I’m sure I never would have found it. A 12″ HotBiscuit. We looked at it and laughed. A friend and fellow music lover glanced over and said, “Oh, that’s a really good album!” “Really?” we said. “Yeah.” So we got it. I think it cost $1.

Hot Biscuit Album

Before long, Billy Bragg came out on stage and gave an epic performance. He performed his whole first album (from 30 years ago) to an appreciative crowd.

Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg

To summarize: biscuits, friends, BBQ, biscuits, sunshine, a biscuit record album, and a happy crowd listening to fantastic music. This is what I love about Nashville.

Coffee Lunch Biscuit

I love it when an experience exceeds my expectations. It feels like a nice little surprise, warming up the day.

Coffee Lunch is the name. It’s a little place on the corner. Just close enough to the Music City Center (Nashville’s new convention center) and Cummins Station to be convenient for locals and visitors alike.

Coffee Lunch

I stopped in to meet a friend for coffee and was very surprised to see biscuit sandwiches on the menu. I knew they served lunch but was only expecting muffins and such (which they do have) for the breakfast hours. The biscuit selection was simple: meat, egg, cheese or some combination thereof on a biscuit.

I ordered the ham, egg, and cheese so that I would get the full effect. Well, I suppose I was expecting a smallish biscuit – “fast-food sized” for lack of a better description. What I got was truly a sandwich, larger than I could fit into my mouth, with a generous piece of ham that had been grilled, bringing out the savory smokiness.

Biscuit Sandwich

The biscuit itself was clearly homemade – no generic frozen biscuits here. Crispy on the outside and infused with garlic and some herb I never could identify. The flavors were subtle but very effective in combination with the fillings. Flaky and moist and, sadly, so huge that I could not eat it all.

Regardless, I enjoyed every bite that I did eat. So if you live in Nashville or happen to come here for a convention, look up Coffee Lunch for a latte and a delicious, biscuity snack.

Biscuit Ice Cream? Yes!

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You know how you can get focused on something, thinking you are the only one who cares about it, and then you start to notice that the thing you are focused on appears to be everywhere all of a sudden?

M. calls it the “plate of shrimp” thing from the movie Repo Man. All I know is that biscuits are everywhere these days – even in ice cream!

I read about it almost a week ago. Jeni’s ice cream has teamed up with the Loveless Cafe to make ice cream with biscuits and jam. They wrote a nice blog post about it, too.

All week I have been thinking about that ice cream. Finally, M. and I went out for a nice dinner, since it is Restaurant Week here in Nashville. The restaurant had an impressive dessert menu. “Ya know,” I said, as if I had not been thinking it all along, “we could go to Jeni’s for the biscuit ice cream instead?”

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That was all I had to say. We got the check, finished our wine, and headed back to East Nashville.

I first went to Jeni’s a couple of years ago, soon after they opened. I remember thinking how different the place was from the rest of East Nashville. The gleaming white tile and bright interior seemed incongruous. Perhaps East Nashville has changed, or Jeni’s, or me… but it now seems to fit in perfectly.

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This night, the line was literally out the door. I had this fear that they might not have the biscuit ice cream or it might run out. But they did and it didn’t, and the line moved quickly.

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So how was the ice cream?

Fabulous. Truly fabulous. The flavor was called “Loveless Biscuits & Peach Jam.” It went far beyond your ordinary peach ice cream, which usually has chunks of peach in a sweet base. This had ribbons of sweet peach jam that were the perfect counterpoint to an almost tart buttermilk base ice cream. There were little chunks and crumbs of biscuit throughout that made the texture even more satisfying.

So now I can’t help wondering … Where else will there be biscuits? What other surprises are in store?

A Biscuit with a View at Copper Kettle – Nashville

Copper Kettle

I have to admit, I don’t usually choose buffet meals. Too much food. Too much temptation. Too high a likelihood that I’ll need a nap afterwards. But the Copper Kettle in downtown Nashville has this wonderful casual vibe, and great food, so it is worth indulging myself every once in a while.

When we arrived for the famed Sunday brunch, there appeared to be a huge crowd waiting to be seated. Thankfully, at least for us, they were leaving instead of waiting, which meant we were seated immediately.copper kettle view

We got a lovely table by the window with a fabulous view of downtown Nashville and the Titans Stadium. It was a gorgeous day, but starting to get hot, so I was glad to be seated indoors. The best of both worlds.

I had been to Copper Kettle for brunch a few times, but M. had not, so I proceeded to show him the ropes. I usually try to scope out a buffet before beginning to fill my plate, but I knew mostly what I was going to get and am not shy about starting with small amounts then returning later if something is particularly tasty. Of course I had to get the biscuits and gravy or there would be no blog post! I did manage to fit some fruit on my plate, and potatoes, and a donut and…. you get the idea.

Copper Kettle brunch plate

Despite the fact that this was a buffet, all of the food tasted very fresh. I don’t know how they do that. Perhaps the quantity of brunch-goers allows them to replenish frequently? Even the biscuits had more of a fresh-baked taste than a warmed-over one, which was a pleasant surprise. The gravy was plain, with no sausage, so I got myself a sausage patty for a little DIY. I was really pleased, though, at how savory and flavorful the gravy was even without sausage and ate half the biscuit with just the gravy, then half with the sausage crumbled over the biscuit and topped with gravy.

Sausage Gravy Biscuit

One of the other things I really like about the Copper Kettle brunch is that you can order an omelette or waffle (or both) and they will be made to order, but still included in the price of the buffet. The omelette of the day had brisket and caramelized onions and sun dried tomatoes and was truly a highlight. M. said he thought it was one of the best omelettes he has ever had.

We lingered at the table over another cup of coffee and then were ready to start the day. Full, but not quite in a nap-required way. Now I call that success.

Copper Kettle Nashville

Another Beach Biscuit Breakfast

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How can you not go to a place that has not only a giant chicken outside, but also a humongous Humpty Dumpty sitting on the wall?

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Welcome to Skyway Jack’s.

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There were many tasty and creative items on the menu, but I selected a traditional scrambled egg and sausage meal with a biscuit and a side of sausage gravy.

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The biscuit was huge and appeared to be homemade. On its own, it was a bit heavy. But it proved to be an acceptable conduit for the gravy. I ended up creating my own sort of breakfast bowl with sausage, eggs, potatoes, and biscuits jumbled together and all smothered by the peppery sausage gravy. My companion called it a Breakfast Jump-up (movie reference). I called it scrumptious.

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They really should add this to the menu, don’t you think? They could call it The Persnickety Biscuit Special.

Biscuits at the Beach

Ah, vacation. The beach, the sun, the biscuits…. What? You didn’t think I would go a whole vacation without biscuits did you?

Thanks to Yelp, we found a place close by that has an extensive breakfast menu – including biscuits.

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I didn’t say it has the best name in the world, but isn’t that a groovy sign?

Kissin’ Cuzzins is a very casual, almost dive-y spot that serves breakfast and lunch. Breakfast is served all day, which was a good thing because we got there pretty late. What can I say? We arrived in town late the night before, went straight to the pool, then were shocked when we got out to realize it was after 1 am!

I was hungry so I ordered the Lexington Benedict, basically Eggs Benedict served on biscuits. This was a half order. Yes, that’s what I said. A half order.

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You can’t really see the biscuit there but when I rearranged things a bit it looked like the biscuit had been split open and then toasted face down in a skillet – something I now can’t wait to try when I get home. I don’t think it was a homemade biscuit but who cares when there is rich, buttery hollandaise and a thick slab of ham?

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Is that photo scary to you? I was told it is a little scary but wanted to show a little corner of biscuit not already covered in hollandaise. Regardless, you’ll have to trust me when I say it was delicious. I’d go back to Kissin’ Cuzzins anytime.