Husk Biscuits and Gravy

Biscuits and Gravy

“Have you been to Husk yet?”
“We just went to Husk.”
“We just made reservations for Husk.”
“You just have to go to Husk.”

This is what They said. But did we listen to Them? No. The demands of engagement, moving, and wedding plans sadly derailed much of our adventurous eating out. Months passed.

Then my hip Atlanta cousins came through town for a family wedding. “Have you been to Husk?” They asked. Chastened, we answered that we had not but that we must go for brunch that very weekend.

Hip cousins wisely made reservations. We did not and did not stand much chance of getting a table. So we followed our old dating routine and went straight to the bar, which, although tucked away in a corner of the lower level, was bright and cheerful and, for the moment empty.

Hip cousins hung with us for a Bloody Mary and a fun visit until their table was ready. Then we had to focus on the menu.

It did not take long to decide, once we caved and agreed to order all of the things we really wanted. To start, we went with the biscuits and gravy.

Biscuits and Gravy

I don’t know what I expected, but I can tell you that my expectations were far surpassed. Photos will never do this dish justice. Words cannot adequately describe. This was the most basic of comfort foods accompanied by sophistication and complexity of flavor and texture.

The biscuits were perfect. Fist sized with a slightly salty crust on the outside. Moist and somewhat peppery on the inside. Melt in your mouth. Glorious. Still, it was the gravy that took this dish over the top. I don’t know what kind of sausage they use, but it has an incredibly rich and deep flavor that infused all of the gravy.

The rest of the meal was wonderful, too. M got the Benedict and I had the french toast that seemed to contain everything except the kitchen sink: maple syrup, peaches, blueberries, and whipped cream; bread filled with peanut butter. Somehow, all of these ingredients were balanced so well that they worked together perfectly. Best french toast ever.

French Toast

Now when someone asks, “Have you been to Husk?” We can enthusiastically respond, “Yes! And it was fabulous!”

Moving Day Biscuits (er… scones?) – Sweet Sixteenth

Sweet Sixteenth Breakfast Sandwich | Persnickety Biscuit

It is important to plan a little treat for yourself occasionally. Especially in times of great stress. Moving Day qualifies. This would be my last stop on the farewell tour of East Nashville.

Sweet Sixteenth | Persnickety Biscuit

I planned it out far in advance. Sweet Sixteenth has these amazingly delicious breakfast sandwiches. They used to make them only on the weekends, but must have received many requests to offer them the rest of the week, because they are now available on weekdays, too.

They call them scones, but I think they are basically biscuits. I’m really not sure what differentiates the two and will have to explore that in more detail some day. For now, though, I’m just going to call this a biscuit sandwich. It is made with a cheddar cheese scone/biscuit that is heavenly on its own. I should know. I’ve eaten many of them over the years. Slightly sweet, fluffy, with a nice crisp outer layer and rich cheese. For the sandwich, they add a layer of egg casserole with bits of peppers in it – just enough to add flavor but not be hot.

Sweet Sixteenth Breakfast Sandwich | Persnickety Biscuit

When you order one, they literally call out “one to go” or “one for here” to the kitchen. Because that is the only item that comes from the kitchen. Everything else is in the cases out front. This is a tiny place where the counter is always manned by the couple that own it. When they want to go on vacation, they close up shop. Just like that. It is really quite charming. Thank goodness they were not on vacation on my Moving Day!

Sweet Sixteenth | Persnickety Biscuit

The breakfast sandwich was all I hoped it would be, everything I knew it could be. It came out of the kitchen quickly, wrapped carefully in paper and in a brown bag. I took it home for the last meal in my kitchen. I savored the flavors, the warmth, the large cup of coffee I got to go with it. Then I was ready to move to my new home.

Sweet Sixteenth Breakfast Sandwich | Persnickety Biscuit

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?

Biscuit Ice Cream? Yes!

20130824-083028.jpg

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?”

20130824-084213.jpg
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.

20130824-084423.jpg
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.

20130824-084017.jpg
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?

Pumpkin Biscuits with Maple Cinnamon Butter

Maple Cinnamon Butter

Where did this biscuit recipe come from?

The recipe came from My Life as a Mrs.

Why choose this biscuit recipe?

After spending some time focused on making more “traditional” biscuits, I was ready for something different. I love pumpkin muffins so figured I would like these, too!

Pumpkin Biscuits

What is Persnickety about this biscuit recipe?

For me, it is the spices. I don’t like too much pumpkin spice mix in anything. The blend is not quite right to me, but you need enough spice to make these interesting, so I fiddled with that a bit. It was also a little tricky to get the ratio of wet to dry ingredients right.

What changes were made to this biscuit recipe?

I made these several times. The first time, I made them as written, the second time (and third and …) I made the following changes:

  • Used a little more flour and a little less pumpkin so that the dough was easier to work with
  • Added 1/4 cup of brown sugar because I wanted them to be a bit sweeter
  • Used 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (instead of all pumpkin pie spice) – this was perfect for me
  • I modified the butter recipe, too, adding cinnamon to the Maple Butter, so it became Maple Cinnamon Butter. I used salted butter because I always prefer salted butter.

Pumpkin Biscuit

So how was the biscuit?

Wonderful! They were a gorgeous orange color and very moist with just enough spicy sweet pumpkin flavor to make it interesting, while still tasting like a biscuit. They did not rise terribly high but enough.

I ate them several different ways. I did make the maple cinnamon butter, and that was a really nice sweet, salty touch. I also served them with fresh sausage from my local butcher and blackberry jelly. I made little biscuits (about 1 1/2 inches diameter) for a party and served them with an assortment of butters and jams and the option of sausage. They were a hit!

Pumpkin Biscuits with Sausage