Fluffy and crumbly inside. Crisp and crunchy outside. Warm and comforting all over. It’s no wonder more than 20,000 people flocked to downtown
Knoxville, Tenn., recently to celebrate one of their favorite foods at the sixth annual
Nearly 20 bakeries, cafes, and restaurants served up their finest creations, proving the versatility of one of America’s most beloved comfort foods. Biscuit fans only had to walk a few feet down Market Street, renamed Biscuit Boulevard for the event, to find something sweet or savory to satisfy their cravings.
The festival’s award winners highlighted the variety of biscuits that the crowd gobbled down.
Mama’s Farmhouse, Pigeon Forge, Tenn., captured the coveted People’s Choice award with its Mama Says Don’t Say Maybe to Chocolate Gravy biscuit, a decadent combination of chocolate, strawberry butter, whipped cream, and fresh strawberries. The Critic’s Choice award favored the savory side, going to the Nina Lee Biscuette, with collard greens and ham hocks, from
Mason Dixie Biscuit Co. in Washington, D.C.
But even the most simple and basic of biscuits have the power to gratify.
“Biscuits have a magical allure,” said Allan Benton of the legendary
Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams of Madisonville, Tenn., as he fried up ham and bacon in a big cast-iron skillet. “There’s nothing better than a hot buttered biscuit with country ham and a swab of strawberry jam,”
The crowd agreed. About an hour after
the festival opened, Benton’s stand was fresh out of its ham, bacon and jam biscuits.
There are few places better suited for a biscuit fest than Knoxville. Two staples of what many people consider the finest biscuit ingredients —
White Lily’s soft winter red wheat flour (now owned by the J.M. Smucker Co. and produced in Ohio) and
Cruze Dairy Farm’s buttermilk — have deep roots in the area.
“The White Lily plant was right over there on the corner until seven years ago, and Cruze Farm has the best buttermilk in the world,” said
Matt Gallaher, who’s winning national recognition for his work as executive chef of
Knox Mason on Gay Street.
And what is it about the appeal of biscuits that can draw tens of thousands of ravenous fans to one town each year?
“Biscuits are simple, accessible and honest food,” he said. “And you can put just about anything on them.”
Take a look at the slideshow above to see what he means.