Why is it so hard to get a good biscuit around here? I mean, who doesn’t love a good biscuit? We are in the South; biscuits are a Southern staple, easy to eat, but exemplars are few and far between in the Triad.
But people in the Triad are definitely interested in biscuits. The most watched food video I ever participated in was making biscuits with Eric Chilton. You would think something so simple would be ubiquitous, but that’s not really the case.
I grew up eating biscuits. No hand-me-down recipes or tugging at apron strings, this is no typical yarn spun by a polished chef with a marketable backstory. We enjoyed store-brand flaky biscuits from the tube, baked on Saturday mornings, eaten with butter — no jelly, no gravy. At some point in my childhood, I graduated to Bisquik, but more often than not, those endeavors resulted in drop biscuits. I did not possess the patience or the confidence to form stereotypical biscuits. Many moons later, as a practicing chef, I eventually taught myself how to make a proper biscuit with just three ingredients (buttermilk, butter and self-rising flour) and now I’m a bit of a snob about it.
Don’t get me wrong. There are passable biscuits to be had at two of North Carolina’s finest fast-food establishments, and maybe that is enough for most folks. Just like any mass-produced copy of a copy of a copy, those biscuits may satisfy the body, but the mind and the spirit will find them lacking. Often, fast-food specimens are higher in sodium and butter-flavored vegetable oil to overwhelm your taste buds and distract you from the compromise you made to eat breakfast on the run.
The Platonic ideal biscuit would have a craggy, crusty exterior encasing the fluffy, steamy innards. It would be about 3.5 inches in diameter and a good 2.5 inches tall. The color would be a mottled mix of tones from dried hay to chestnut. The smell of toasted flour and dairy richness would invade your sinuses before you laid eyes on your breakfast. There is no need for an accompaniment to mask the flavor of good buttermilk and real butter.
Better than passable biscuits can be found at Danny’s on New Garden Street and Smith Street Diner in Greensboro; Murphy’s Lunch, Krankies and Duke’s on Country Club in the Twin City, or at the Biscuit Factory in High Point, which despite all outward appearances is a single-location scratch kitchen turning out delicious food.
Biscuits need a Starbucks moment. Just like coffee drinkers didn’t realize that they wanted to pay 400 percent more for their cup of morning joe in order to experience more craftmanship and better sourcing and overall, more gustatory delight. Most of us didn’t know that coffee could get better before Starbucks burst on the scene, and that opened the floodgates for countless individuals passionate about the coffee experience to charge more money for better coffee. Extending the parallel, I’d pay eight bucks for an unadorned, honest to goodness, two-handed biscuit on a lazy weekend morning. Is that enough to keep an entrepreneur afloat?
Maybe our nation’s obsession with minimizing carbohydrate intake has crippled the biscuit business in restaurants. Or maybe I am just out of step with what people want and am left tilting at windmills. Or perhaps I just don’t know where to look.
Either way, I won’t abandon my curmudgeonly ways. I’ll make my own biscuits and grumble about it. And maybe I’ll post a picture to Instagram.