Loveless Hootenanny

Loveless Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

I’m not sure if there is a common use of the word “hootenanny.” Here in Nashville, it probably is mostly used to describe some kind of music event. Like a picking party, but with more alcohol? Or singing? Or both?

Loveless Biscuits with all the Fixin's| Persnickety Biscuit

A few years ago, my team at work started having quarterly meetings, where everyone who works remotely comes into the office for a few hours. We talk about strategy and process and eat a meal or two together. There is no music, or singing, or alcohol, but we call it our Quarterly Hootenanny anyway. This most recent quarter, a request was made for biscuits made by yours truly. I begged off, claiming the hassles of packing and moving and no space in my kitchen to make anything right now.

One of my coworkers graciously offered to bring in Loveless biscuits, as he lives out that way. When he came into the office that morning, he was glowing. There was a large tin wrapped in a beach towel sitting on his desk. “Get one while they are hot, ” he said, since our meeting did not actually start for a couple of hours. He said that when he picked them up, they brought the container to the car with potholders. They were truly fresh from the oven.

Loveless Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

Never one to do things halfway, he had gotten all the fixings. Butter. Three kinds of jam. Even Red-Eye Gravy. What is Red-Eye Gravy, you ask? First, it is really thin, more like an au jus than a gravy. Second, it is made with pork drippings and coffee. Yes, coffee. I had never had it before. Not exactly my favorite, I have to admit. But now I know. Here is a link to a recipe, in case you ever want to make it, because I don’t think I will.

Loveless Biscuits with Red Eye Gravy | Persnickety Biscuit

Regardless, the biscuits were warm and soft and fragrant and I had one before the meeting and one during. The jams that came with them – strawberry, blackberry, and peach – were homemade and amazing – perhaps even more noteworthy than the biscuits. My mouth is literally watering as I write this. Is that too much information? Too bad.

Loveless Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

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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

Grapefruit Biscuits

Mmm… citrus, butter, sugar – a lovely combination.

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Why choose this biscuit recipe?

My mother gave me a bunch of grapefruit! I remembered seeing the Grapefruit Biscuits recipe and figured it was now or never….

Where did this biscuit recipe come from?

I originally saw a recipe for Grapefruit Biscuits while browsing at The Southern Festival of books in Nashville – it was in Farm Fresh Southern Cooking. That recipe uses grapefruit juice instead of buttermilk. I love grapefruit and made a note to look them up again later. This is the recipe I found when I Googled. I went with the second one because it called for both grapefruit zest and juice. I think you need both to actually get the grapefruit flavor.
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What is Persnickety about this biscuit recipe?

I do not understand all of the chemistry of cooking but believe that the grapefruit juice provides the acid normally provided by the buttermilk to interact with the baking powder, allowing the biscuits to rise.

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Grapefruit Zest and Sugar

Also, while I used butter in this recipe, you could easily substitute vegetable shortening and make these vegan.

Grapefruit Biscuit

So how was the biscuit?

When I made these, I ate a biscuit straight from the oven (of course!). It was lovely. Fluffy, moist, slightly sweet. But I could not taste the grapefruit at all. I was kind of disappointed by that. The next day I toasted one and found that there was a very light citrus flavor. It was quite nice. I wonder if the flavor intensifies over time, but they did not last long enough for me to be sure!

What would you do differently next time?
More grapefruit zest! If I’m going to put grapefruit into a biscuit, I’d like to taste it.

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