There are at least 2 things my mother is famous for: her homemade pies and her biscuits. She has been baking pies for friends, family and strangers for years. She even has a photo of former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels with one of her pies. She can make any kind, but blackberry is a specialty. It doesn't hurt that she has her own blackberry patch that yields as much as 60 gallons of big, juicy berries a year. At 88 she may have slowed down some, but she can still crank out a killer pie that would embarass most bakeries and grocers.
The other thing she is known for is her biscuits. From the time that I was a kid until I was in my late 20's, my mother always made a big Sunday morning breakfast. We would have eggs, fried potatos, ham or bacon or sometimes even pork chops. We would also have gravy and homeade biscuits. I'm not talking about flat, lifeless baking powder bisciuts like you buy in a can or get from the local restaurant. I'm talking about big, light, fluffy, melt in your mouth biscuits. Some people called them Sunday morning bisucits, because that's when Mom made them. We called them “Two-story biscuits,” because they were so tall.
Her biscuits were so good that my uncles would always come to visit on Sunday afternoon, just hoping for leftover biscuits! Her secret was to make the biscuits in the style of “angel” biscuits, that is, she used a little bit of yeast to help them rise more than a normal baking powder biscuit. Then, because Dad liked a crispy crust, she added oil to the pan before placing the biscuits in it, to make the crust harder.
I'm a fan of good biscuits, and all home-baked breads really. I can crank out some pretty good bread myself…and pie for that matter. Breakfast is my favorite meal and biscuits rank as an essential to a good breakfast. So, when I prepared to make my annual bike trip to Asheville, I was not only out to enjoy the many local, craft brews, I was also looking to enjoy some good biscuits. The Asheville City Bakery has a very nice Cheddar Scallion biscuit sandwich that I've had every time I visit.
But, there is a new player in town. And, after all, who should have better biscuits than a southern cook? Particlularly if you name your restaurant “Biscuit Head.”
But how would they compare to my mothers? Well, only one way to find out. On day 3, I had my first biscuit of the trip at Biscuit Head in West Asheville. So as to not bore you with a lengthy discourse, let me just say that these biscuist were very reminiscent of my mothers. I give Biscuit Head an A+ for their tall, light & tasty biscuits. I sampled a gravy “flight,” of fried chicken gravy, sausage gravy and red eye gravy. All good. I also sampled the jam bar, having pinneaple and strawberry orange jam. I have pretty high standards for jam as well. I was raised on a farm that used to be an orchard. I grew up on homeade jam. My mother's blackberry and strawberry jam can only be matched by…mine! Too bad I never make any these days. I went away stuffed. True to the Asheville funk and vibe, Biscuit Head biscuits were “heavy, man, heavy.” I didn't eat the rest of the day!
When I get back I'm going to have to visit my mother and make some biscuits together…just to see who the real biscuit king is!