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Chicken Biscuit Heaven

IMG_5613During the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival this past May, Raleigh chef Ashley Christensen was part of an interesting panel of chefs talking about recipe development and experimentation. She was fresh from researching fried chicken preparation methods for her new restaurant, Beasley’s Chicken + Honey. After testing all kinds of brines and coatings, she found that simplest was best — just a salt water solution and a bit of seasoned flour.

I spent a few days in Raleigh this past week and got nice and up close with the fruits of Christensen’s chicken labor. Man. This biscuit became a close friend of my face.

If you look closely, you’ll see the chicken had been painted with a bit of pure honey then topped with thin slices of pickled green tomato. The Dijon honey mustard on the other half of the biscuit was not overkill (and not depressing in that way that honey mustard can be). I loved the way the flavors built, with sweetness, tang and salt mirrored in different ingredients. This is one carefully constructed chicken biscuit, let me tell you.

The sides at Beasley’s looked so good that I went back the following day to fill up on finely chopped collard greens braised in cider (great) and stewed tomatoes.

I got a good taste of Christensen’s work when I was in Raleigh. Her flagship, Poole’s Diner, strikes such a warm tone in design (a casually rehabbed downtown diner with a blackboard menu) and cooking. It reminds me of a grown-up, dinner-and-cocktails version of Home Grown GA in that it respects the architecture, expectations and vibe of a neighborhood diner, but then presents a sophisticated menu without any pretension. The dishes came together with a lot of care — simple, but seasoned in a way that let the ingredients communicate with each other. Christensen and her crew seem to have the cook’s version of perfect pitch. I’m still thinking about a salad of watermelon, creamy cheese and avocado — and the way temperature, (smallish) plate size, cut and and a few sprinkles of salt made it work.

Beasley’s is one of three establishments Christensen opened last year right next to each other on a downtown street corner. She also has Fox Liquor Bar, a speakeasy-style joint where tattooed bartenders serve creative cocktails to a seriously yuppie crowd. I’m guessing there are a lot of hard-working lawyers and lobbyists in the North Carolina capital city. The third restaurant is Chuck’s, a Farm Burger-style burger joint that I did not have the chance to visit.

Anyone else been? If so, should I have gotten the fried chicken plate? Next time…

- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog

24 comments Add your comment

The Dixie Diarist

August 7th, 2012
6:40 pm

Biscuits … made-with-love biscuits … they will cure what ails you. My father used to call them “dinosaurs” because he’d get to thinking they were extinct. And then my mother would make a batch and we’d put all kinds of great things between the halves, or use them to sop up the leavings of other food. Made-with-love cornbread is the biscuit’s favored maternal twin.

http://www.adixiediary.com

Coat hangers & Sawdust

August 8th, 2012
8:36 am

Shut up.

What if cancer ails me……Will a biscuit cure me?

Patrick

August 8th, 2012
9:06 am

One of the best fast-food places for biscuits would have to be Martin’s. There aren’t many locations in Georgia; the only ones I know of are in Villa Rica, Douglasville, and Norcross. They offer two sizes: small, which is the same size as most other fast food restaurants’ biscuits, and large, which are the mythical “cathead” biscuits you may have heard people talk about.

Grasshopper

August 8th, 2012
9:37 am

“She also has Fox Liquor Bar, a speakeasy-style joint where tattooed bartenders serve creative cocktails to a seriously yuppie crowd.”

Sounds like hell incarnate.

But the biscuits look good.

Uncle Jer

August 8th, 2012
9:46 am

Wow Coat Hanger, who whizzed on your corn flakes?

Paul

August 8th, 2012
9:57 am

Hey I know that it was decided to review more restaurants that were OTP but… Raleigh????? Are there no Atlanta restaurants that serve a decent chicken biscuit?

[...] enough waxing poetic. Others do a better job of describing Ashley and her restaurants, including the three new ones she recently opened at the [...]

Marsh

August 8th, 2012
12:27 pm

John Kessler

August 8th, 2012
1:23 pm

Paul – Sometimes I travel and bring back reports. Think I shouldn’t?

Chuckles™

August 8th, 2012
2:15 pm

Well, I enjoy your reports while you’re out & about John. I especially liked your reports from the UK.

Sophie

August 8th, 2012
3:28 pm

I like your reports from out of town. However, that picture of the biscuit just doesn’t look good to me. Sorry!

John Kessler

August 8th, 2012
3:47 pm

Ha. No worries Sophie. I refuse to take a picture with anything other than my phone…

FoodFreak

August 8th, 2012
3:48 pm

John, please don’t listen to Paul. Continue doing what you do.

Roger

August 8th, 2012
4:21 pm

Mrs. Winner’s has a pretty mean chicken biscuit, seriously.

Adam

August 8th, 2012
5:22 pm

I live in Raleigh and eat at both Beasley’s and Chuck’s regularly. Beasley’s Chicken & Honey is honestly some of the best fried chicken I have ever had. My grandmother, bless her soul, didnt make it as good as Ashley Christensen and staff. I prefer the 2 piece dark of a leg and thigh with 2 sides and some biscuits to share with the table. You will need a wheelchair when you leave if you can finish all of that.

Fox Liquor Bar is not anywhere close to hell incarnate. The atmosphere is not pretentious and more of a laid back lounge. The drinks are some of the strongest in town. I would equate the strength of one cocktail here to 3 at most bars. You will have to pay a little extra to drink here but it is well worth it. They do not serve any cheap liquor; all top shelf. You get ice to match the drink to make sure you maximize the enjoyment of your drink.

Grasshopper

August 8th, 2012
10:49 pm

Adam, your description of Fox Liquor Bar makes the place sound much less ghoulish than John’s.

NA

August 9th, 2012
9:28 am

From a Raleigh person who works down the block from Beasley’s – it really isn’t great. It’s a pretty cool atmosphere, but the chicken has never wow’ed me and the biscuits have been hit and miss. The Mac ‘n Cheese is pretty good though.

Chuck’s, the burger place next door, is awesome and may be the best burgers I’ve had.

Raleigh Guy

August 9th, 2012
8:11 pm

Beasley’s biscuit and mac n cheese did zero for me. The tomato and mustard on the biscuit added nothing. I would try basic chicken next time. Sharing the same building is Chucks — i agree that it could be the best burger I’ve had. Fox liquor bar is cool — lots o trim there.

Edward

August 9th, 2012
11:53 pm

Yes, what America really needs is something else to pour sugar (or honey, same difference) on needlessly. I’m really enjoying being here in China where the Chinese food DOESN’T HAVE SUGAR IN IT. Hear that, America? First the “chicken & waffle” craze where the chicken was doused in sugar, now this… enjoy your diabetes.

Raleigh Guy

August 10th, 2012
9:06 am

Edward — go back to your lo-mein, nerd. You couldn’t hack it over here.

Baltisraul

August 10th, 2012
5:11 pm

Edward……you just can’t help yourself, can you? You are the most intollerent person on these food blogs. People like what they like. Keep your nose out of it.

Edward

August 11th, 2012
10:38 am

And then there are those poor unlearned who think “lo mein” is Chinese food… it isn’t, it was “invented” in California. I’m an American, I can “hack it” anywhere I damn well want to, and do very well at it. And as an American, I’m entitled to express my opinion, same as anyone else here, on the topics at hand. And this topic is about a sugar-soaked chicken biscuit, which is just what the morbidly-obese people I see walking the streets around the US need so desperately. Yes, you.

Edward

August 11th, 2012
10:39 am

BTW, I can also spell “intolerant” correctly. ;-)

Baltisraul

August 11th, 2012
9:07 pm

Edward=food police and our personal protector for all that is tasty. Loner!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a Maroon!