Confessions of a Biscuit Groupie

The Road to the Biscuit Festival | Persnickety Biscuit

The International Biscuit Festival is this weekend. If you have not already made plans to attend, you should. Just cancel whatever you had going on Saturday and get your hungry self to Knoxville. If you are already in Knoxville? Well, lucky you! Check out my festival tips from two years ago and head downtown on Saturday morning for some biscuit goodness! In honor of this weekend’s festival, I am posting my recap from last year. If you are on the fence about attending, perhaps this will change your mind.

Biscuit

Pork Maple Syrup Biscuit

 

Biscuitfest 2014

It was almost a disaster. I bought my ticket and happily traipsed off, only to look down at my hand and realize in horror that I had somehow already lost the ticket. Not twenty yards from the booth! I felt like a little kid whose ice cream had rolled off the cone onto the ground. I must have looked like one, too, as M. went back to the booth and explained. The kind fest-worker peeled another ticket off of the stack and handed it to me. Whew. Disaster averted.

Biscuit Ticket | Persnickety Biscuit

Humbled, we began again. Luckily, the previous day I had gone back and read my advice to festival goers from last year. One of the key pieces of advice was to arrive early. Tickets go on sale at 8:30 and they start serving biscuits at 9:00. Technically. But several started serving early, including Tupelo Honey, so we were able to get one of their large, fluffy, peach BBQ chicken topped masterpieces before a line really formed.

Biscuit Festival 2014

With a biscuit in our stomachs and a thimbleful of coffee (given away by one of the Biscuit Boulevard vendors), we were fortified and began sampling our way through the festival.

Biscuit Festival 2014

Biscuit Festival 2014

These were incredible – from Nashville-based Biscuit Love. That tomato jam. That pimento cheese. That biscuit.

After a few biscuits, we stopped eating the whole serving. We knew from last year that you can get very full very fast. It is kind of a waste, I know, but if you want to try a lot of biscuits, you need a strategy. There were a few that were smaller and we fully consumed those, and others were just so darn good that we ate every bite before realizing what we had done. We got a kick out of the couple we met in line who were filling up bags with their biscuit selections. They were going to take them home to enjoy in the peace and quiet.

Biscuit Festival 2014

We moved back and forth among the lines of booths until at some point we realized that we could not move at all. The lines had gotten so long and the crowd so thick that you could not tell where one started and another ended. Still, there were biscuits to be tasted. We bought a third and final ticket for our last selections and got into one of the longest lines with an elaborate biscuit at the end of it. The line stretched around the corner and about a block down the side of the building. It was, ironically, kind of a relief to be out of the crush of humanity on the main drag. Eventually, we made it through the line for that biscuit and our remaining spots in our ticket were filled quickly.

Biscuithead

Points for presentation – this one was from Biscuit Head out of North Carolina, I think. Called Country Fried Dream. And it was.

 

Biscuit Festival 2014

It was called the Hawaiian Hillbilly. I just remember there was bacon involved and some kind of banana jam. Sublime.

After the biscuits, we stopped at the Sprouted Designs booth, since it is owned and operated by M’s cousin. We bought a couple of gifts and then she gifted us with a few towels as a wedding gift, which we will treasure. Such a nice surprise!

On our way out of the festival, we glanced at the booths we had missed. I noticed that this one had a full jar of votes for best biscuit and realized we had probably missed something really good. One more reason to return in 2015!

Biscuit Festival 2014

Terrible picture, I know, but I had to include it. This one won and we did not even get to try it! There was corn, tomato, and Bentons Bacon involved, apparently.

 

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An Encounter with a Biscuit Star

What are the chances? How do the stars align in such a way as to bring biscuit people together so unexpectedly?

Biscuit Poetry

Biscuit Poetry

Here’s the story. We arrived late to the Yelp event and found ourselves seated next to an interesting couple we had not met before. It was a rather long, drawn out meal with a multitude of courses so we had plenty of time to chat and get to know one another. She is getting her PhD in Special Education. He is a puppeteer. Really. A puppeteer. You don’t run into those every day, do you?

At one point M. and I were talking about biscuits, as we frequently do these days. The husband, who was seated next to me, turned and said, “Excuse me, but are you talking about biscuits?”

“Yes. I am kind of obsessed with biscuits.” I confessed. “I have a blog that is all about biscuits.”

“Have you been to the International Biscuit Festival in Knoxville?” he asked.

“YES! We DID go to the biscuit festival this year!”

At that point, he shared that he had actually competed in the Bake-off at the Biscuit Festival, in the savory category. He won first place in the category! I felt like I was seated next to a star, a Biscuit Superstar. What are the chances? Seriously. I was beside myself.

Biscuit Trophy

Much discussion of biscuits ensued. The proper kind of baking powder (aluminum-free). The variety of biscuits tasted at the festival (like the Pimiento Cheese one). Favorite biscuit places (he recommends Biscuitville in North Carolina). How the Bake-off actually works (prep before you get there). We had to admit that we were so stuffed after sampling all the biscuits at the festival, that we did not stick around for the Bake-off. We will have to change that next time!

Well, he was kind enough to share his award-winning recipe for Paige’s Family Dinner Biscuits and photos from the bake-off. Don’t you just love the eyes and the quotes? I particularly liked the “hyacinths and biscuits” one. It is from Carl Sandburg.

Stay tuned for my next post, in which I will include the recipe and my attempt to recreate these winning savory biscuits!

Biscuits and Quotes

Paige’s Family Dinner Biscuits

Thank you to Matt Sandbank for the photos and upcoming recipe!

International Biscuit Festival – 7 Things to Know Before You Go

Thinking about going to the International Biscuit Festival in Knoxville? Whether you are local or have to travel across the country, you should find some of my notes helpful.

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1. Go! Yes, it is worth the trip and there are so many delicious, creative biscuits to be devoured in a relatively short period of time. Read my previous posts of favorite biscuit, second favorites, and honorable mentions to see examples of the kinds of biscuits you might encounter.

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2. Go early! Tickets for Biscuit Boulevard went on sale at 8:30 while the festival started at 9:00. We got there at 9. There were already long lines for some of the really popular booths. Although the festival officially goes to 3:00 pm, some booths were out of biscuits by 11:00.

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3. Finish your coffee before you get there. You want to have your hands free because they will fill up quickly. You will be carrying around your ticket, plates with biscuits, and the bottle of water they give you when you buy the ticket. Better yet, bring a shoulder bag you can put the water into. You may have to manage a huge biscuit like this one!

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4. Prepare for weather. It was raining when we left our hotel but that did not seem to diminish the crowd (I kind of hoped it might mean more biscuits for me!). See #3. Even more difficult to hold everything when you also have an umbrella.

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5. Bring a friend. Eating biscuits together is a bonding experience. Also, the way it works is you purchase a ticket for $10 that allows you 5 biscuits. If you and your good friend share each of the biscuits, then you each get to try 10.

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6. Stay close to Market Square if you are coming in from out of town. This area of Knoxville is lovely and everything you could want is within walking distance. Great restaurants. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza because it had a discounted rate for festival goers. Check the festival web site a few months ahead for info.

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7. Don’t panic! You will get your fill of biscuits. I wish I had taken a little more time to think about which biscuits I wanted to try because I missed a few that looked really good. I was worried by the long lines at first and then realized they move quickly. We actually could not finish all the samples that we did get.

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See you next year!

International Biscuit Festival 2013 (part 2)

My second favorite biscuit was a little different. Think of it this way. The Green-Eyed Monster was like a fiery redhead, exuberantly gathering all of the attention in the room. The Country Apple Cinnamon Biscuit was like her quiet, intellectual sidekick. No less interesting, but easier to miss.

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See? It was a little flat and plain. I almost passed it by and my expectations were low. Trust me though. It was wonderful. Light and fluffy, slightly sweet, with just enough cinnamon and a hint of apple. Such a pleasant surprise. This one was made by Latitude 35, a restaurant right on Market Square.

Third place, in my opinion, was somewhere between these two characters, if we’re going to continue my metaphor. Perhaps not the life of the party but everyone’s best friend.

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Oh my word. Shrimp Andouille Sausage Biscuit. The biscuit was fine but that gravy was amazing. I’ve never really tried to make gravy before but this both inspired and intimidated me in almost equal parts. If you happen to have a killer gravy recipe, please share it with me! This one was made by Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant.

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That’s it for now. More later . . .

International Biscuit Festival 2013

What a beautiful, rainy, crowded biscuity day it was! May 18, 2013. My first International Biscuit Festival and it did not disappoint.

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This was one of my favorites. The Green-eyed Monster Pimiento Cheese Buttermilk Biscuit from Biscuit Mecca, aka Tupelo Honey Cafe.

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It was huge, moist, slightly spicy, and fabulously flavorful. The pimiento cheese was in the biscuit dough, while the “monster” from the title was a deep fried pepper.

Green-eyed Monster Pimiento Cheese Buttermilk Biscuit
That, folks, is just the beginning. More later….