The Great Joy of Biscuits
Two very, very different recipes. Also: many, many gift suggestions - and a surprisingly modern vintage menu.
I’ve known Scott Peacock - the way people in the food world tend to know each other - for many years. But we really became friends at a Charleston food conference about twenty years ago. We were on a panel together, and when it was over he asked if I wanted to join him for breakfast the next day.
We met at some fancy restaurant - I don’t remember where - took one look, shook our heads and walked out. We spent the rest of the day roaming the city, ostensibly looking for somewhere to eat but mostly falling in love with each other.
Since then we’ve walked in many different cities - and every time some kind of magic happens. Museums that are supposed to be closed open their doors, people who are meant to be halfway around the world stroll past, lost objects somehow appear.
Why am I telling you this? Because I’m about to post an old article I wrote for Saveur about biscuits - and Mr. Peacock is the King of Biscuits. Here’s a wonderful article John Kessler wrote about him in Garden Gun.
And if you really care about biscuits, you’ll visit Scott in Marion Georgia, join his Biscuit Experience and become a true biscuiteer .
In the meantime, here’s my take on biscuits.
All I can say about this article is that I probably should have run it last week - before Thanksgiving. But better late than never.
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In the Chips
If you have a friend who loves chocolate – and who doesn’t? – this would be the perfect present. Dandelion Chocolate Chips make the world’s best chocolate chip cookies. It’s not just that the chocolate – single origin, beautifully crafted – is so superb. It’s that the shape of these giant chips was engineered by a Tesla engineer to provide the optimal tasting experience. The facets allow the chocolate to melt on your tongue.
I love reading the descriptions of the various Dandelion chocolates. If you’re a chocolate lover, you’ll find that simply perusing the site is pure pleasure.
These were a housewarming gift when we moved into our house twenty-five years ago, and they’ve given me pleasure every day. I use them for juice, for wine, for a simple glass of water. Hirota glasses have been made in Japan for more than a hundred years. Founded in 1899, the Hirota Company aims to preserve the traditional art of Japanese glass-making. Hold one in your hand, and you’ll understand why this tradition is worth preserving. And while you’re on the Sara site, take a look at the other beautiful objects they sell. It’s a beautifully curated collection.
The Scoop on Scallops
It’s frustrating to walk into European fishmongers and find scallops sold on the half shell, complete with the delicious coral. Why can’t we find that here?
Well, now we can. Browne Trading Company, a principal supplier to restaurants like Le Bernardin, Daniel and Per Se, sells all manner of fantastic seafood. They’ve just added scallops on the half shell to their offerings. And since today is black Friday, they’re 15% off.
The Chef’s Garden, in Huron Ohio, has been growing vegetables for the world’s best chefs for 40 years. They are, among other things, responsible for the microgreen craze.
“When everybody else started using mesclun,” says farmer Lee Jones, “Charlie Trotter began looking for the next new thing. His chef came to our greenhouse and looked at a flat of radishes that were just beginning to sprout. ‘What’s that?’ he asked. We told him that they weren’t ready yet. He said he wanted them anyway – and before long we were sending microgreens to chefs across the country.”
For years chefs who wanted exotic produce – edible flowers, ice spinach, beautiful beans as skinny as threads – they called on the Jones family. When Covid forced restaurants to close, the Jones’ pivoted to supplying home cooks.
If you want the sweetest, most nutritious carrots, potatoes and salad greens, you can’t do better than this remarkable regenerative farm. Everything they grow is so beautiful that these days, when I think of sending flowers, I send vegetables instead.
Want to buy a wonderful gift for a gardener? Don’t even think about going to the Hudson Valley Seed Library’s website unless you’re willing to waste a significant amount of time; it’s one of the most seductive sites I know.
Started by passionate seed-savers in 2008 the company now maintains a seed farm to grow their own open-pollinated, non-hybridized and non-genetically engineered seeds.
But what’s really remarkable is the way they package their offerings, commissioning artists to create stunning seed packets. I’m sure I’m not the only one who buys them just to hang on the wall. At $4.79 a pack it’s an inexpensive way to surround yourself with colorful art. (They also sell gift baskets, tee shirts, art prints and greeting cards.)
A PAN OF A DIFFERENT COLOR
If you’ve got a passionate cook on your list – and you love them enough to want to spend some serious money- they will thank you for giving them this wonderful hand-forged carbon steel skillet from Blanc Creatives.
I wouldn’t exactly call it a skillet: the sides are very low. This makes it the perfect pan for flipping eggs, making pancakes and searing meats.
The blue black color is truly beautiful, and the pan gets even lovelier as it ages. I find myself caressing it each time I dry it. (It is much easier to care for than cast iron.)
The skillet comes in two sizes: I have the 9”, which I find incredibly useful. More often than not, when I reach for a pan, it’s this one.
I was 19 when a friend told me that there are clams that grow to fifteen pounds. I didn’t believe him. Then he told me that they were called “gooeyducks” and I knew he was pulling my leg.
But these giant clams really do exist - and they’re some of the most delicious creatures in the sea. Geoducks are native to the Pacific Northwest, and they live a very long time (the oldest on record was 168 years old). They are highly prized in Japan; if you’ve eaten giant clam in a sushi bar you’ll understand why. The texture is slightly crunchy, the flavor mild and intoxicating.
If you have a friend with a taste for the exotic, a live geoduck from Taylor Seafood would make a wonderful - and very surprising gift. And if they want to know how to use them, there are many instructional videos; here’s one from Andrew Zimmern.
My neighbor, Mary Anne Davis, makes the most beautiful plates. I’ve been using them every day for almost thirty years, and although they’re egg-shell thin, these porcelain plates have survived the depredations of the dishwasher. Just looking at these colors makes me happy. However, if pale is your preference, Mary Anne also does beautiful work in white.
A Fish Called Light
Those adorable little plastic fish filled with soy sauce are a Japanese classic - and an environmental disaster. Heliograf’s Light Soy Fish Lamp is one answer: made entirely of recycled plastic, it’s a playful reminder that plastic is not good for the planet.
A New Kind of Cooking Class
I can’t say I’ve tried this myself, but it certainly sounds like a great idea. The League of Kitchens is a way for immigrant cooks to share their expertise - and for you or your friends to learn the cooking of other cultures. If you’re eager to know more about the food of India, Japan, Argentina or Persia (there is a wide range of offerings), and live in New York City you can take in-person classes. But you can also join virtually, from the privacy of your own kitchen.
When you read about Tony Bill you learn that he’s an actor, director and producer. But I always think of him as a restaurateur. His 72 Market Street in Los Angeles (well, Venice, actually), was a pioneer in the California Cuisine movement and when you look at this menu from almost forty years ago you understand why. It’s so modern that you could absolutely open a restaurant today simply by replicating this menu. There’s even a vegan entree!
The prices, of course, would be rather different.