I found this biscuit barrel at an estate sale.   This definition of biscuit barrel from the Collins English Dictionary sums it up pretty concisely: “an airtight container of circular section equipped with a lid and used  for storing biscuits.”  The same source offers this use of the term in a sentence:  “She looked with favour at the contents of his biscuit barrel.”  (Snicker.)  I’ve got quite a few biscuit barrels that I’ve picked up at estate sales, in cut crystal, oak, and silver-plate.  Most of them are in my kids’ rooms, where they hold “collections” of all sorts, including glass buttons, miniature Pokemon figures, ribbons, and coins.  I bet “she” would not look “with favour” at these contents.  About the only thing we don’t store in them are biscuits.

Recently my daughter and I treated ourselves to one of the giant biscuits with jam and crème fraiche at Blacksmith:


Biscuits aren’t something we indulge in very often, and that big biscuit, with its fluffy interior and craggy exterior was worth the calorie splurge.  Inspired by the biscuit barrel and the monster creation at Blacksmith, I thought I’d surprise my daughter by making homemade biscuits for breakfast.  I looked at a bunch of recipes, in search of one that would be suitably tender inside and craggy outside.  Tips for biscuit success include using well-chilled butter, working quickly to keep the butter from softening, not overworking the dough (to prevent tough biscuits), and baking at 400 degrees or higher (for high-rising biscuits).

The recipe I wound up working from was billed as the “best, fluffy, flakey, buttery biscuits ever.”  I want to stop here and say that I chose the recipe because the picture with it looked like what I was looking for, and NOT because someone declared these the “best ever.”  Don’t you find it obnoxious when someone declares something the “best ever?”  How about just saying your family or your guests loved these, or they disappeared quickly, or you like them best of all the recipes you’ve ever tried in your whole life?  But “best ever?”  No.

The same is true for “amazing,” one of the most overused words around.  How is your coffee?  Amazing?  Really?  A-ma-zing?  I noticed a while back that “super” had slipped into our vocabulary, as in “super cute” and “super fun” and “super easy.”  What does “super” add, other than the impression that you are perhaps 12 years old?  And yet, there are apparently some things that even “super” won’t adequately describe, and lately I’ve been seeing “beyond” replacing it, as in “that outfit is beyond cute” or “I am beyond blessed.”  Like “super,” tacking on “beyond” adds nothing, and is best saved for describing that area of the bed and bath store that doesn’t neatly fit into either the bed or bath category.

So were these the best, fluffy, flakey, buttery biscuits ever?  I have no idea.  But I did think they were really good, although perhaps not beyond amazing (wink), and slathered with butter and jam, warm out of the oven, they made a pretty indulgent breakfast.  “She” would look with “favour” at these.  :)

Recipe type: Breads and Muffins
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ cup salted butter, cut into small pieces
  • ⅔ cup half and half
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  2. Place flour, baking powder, salt, and cream of tartar in a food processor and pulse briefly to combine. Add butter and pulse until pea-sized. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the milk and honey, and stir until a shaggy dough is formed.
  3. Transfer dough to a lightly-floured surface and knead several times. Pat dough into a circle about ¾" high. Cut out biscuits using a 2" biscuit cutter. Transfer biscuits to a baking sheet, spacing them approximately 2" apart. Bake for approximately 10-12 minutes, until tops are golden brown. In the last minute of baking, brush tops of biscuits with melted butter. Remove to serving platter and serve warm.

 IMG_5911Biscuits on the rise

A brush with butter is better than a brush with danger


 Big ol’ biscuits with butter and jam 

butterWe used this Hand Rolled Butter, which has been showing up in grocery stores lately (including Kroger).  Not sure why hand-rolling is special, but the butter was sweet and creamy had a smoother texture than the sticks we usually buy.


Last week, my husband and I were invited to attend the soft opening of Peli Peli’s second restaurant, located inside the Galleria at 5085 Westheimer in the space formerly occupied by Gigi’s Asian Bistro.  Peli Peli’s popular original restaurant, located at 110 Vintage Park Blvd., is in the Tomball/Spring-Cypress area, and was always just a little too far for us, so we were excited to have one closer to home.

Peli Peli, which means bird’s-eye chili, is a spice that was discovered centuries ago in South Africa.  Per the restaurant’s website, “Peli Peli’s cuisine, known as South African Fusion, features authentic South African delicacies along with American steak, chicken and seafood favorites that are prepared in Chef Paul Friedman’s South African style. This style includes marinades, seasonings and spices used in South African cuisine with Dutch, Portuguese and Asian influences.”

The interior is striking:

The bar was packed:


We chose a South African chardonnay to have with dinner:

IMG_6012We tried two different salads to start.  The Caesar Salad was a fairly traditional Caesar Salad, presented with a pretty little cheesecloth-wrapped lemon, and the Peli-Peli Salad was made up of fresh field greens and baby spinach, topped with red onion, shaved carrots, red cabbage, tomato, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and caramelized pecans, tossed in a strawberry balsamic vinaigrette.  Both were fresh and smartly dressed:

For our appetizer we had the Stuffed Mushrooms, meaty little morsels stuffed with “secret breading,” herbs, and spices, topped with a mild, creamy sauce:


For our entrees, we sampled the Peli Peli Shrimp Scampi–shrimp sautéed in a spicy Peli-Peli butter sauce, served on a bed of rice pilaf:


And the Chilean Sea Bass, pan-seared in a Peli-Peli butter sauce, served on a bed of sautéed spinach, topped with a lemon butter sauce, which was our favorite dish of the evening:


We each had a choice of two sides, and chose (clockwise from upper left) Carrot Bredie, Sautéed Baby Spinach, Couscous Extravaganza, and Mango Coleslaw:


For dessert we shared a delicious Sticky Toffee Pudding, a moist cake, smothered with homemade sticky toffee, and topped with vanilla ice cream (maybe they should call it Licky Toffee Pudding, because believe me, you’re gonna want to lick every last drop of that toffee sauce off the plate):


We really enjoyed our meal, from the stunning décor, to the eager staff, to the well-executed food.  For April, the restaurant is by reservation only (tip:  make your graduation dinner reservations now!).

Last night we attended another special event — In Pursuit of Balance, or IPOB, which was held for the first time in Texas.  IPOB describes itself as “a non-profit organization founded in 2011 to promote dialogue around the meaning of balance in California pinot noir and chardonnay.”  Thirty-one of the thirty-three member IPOB wineries were present to share tastings of their pinot noirs and chardonnays.  I sampled a lot of great wines, and I’ll leave the descriptions of those wines to those more knowledgeable than myself.  But there were also some beautiful small plates from a variety of Texas restaurants, including:

Dry-aged strip loin with Peruvian purple mashed potatoes, wild mushrooms, and blackberry demi from Pappas Bros. Steakhouse:


Korean Braised Goat and Dumplings from Underbelly:


Cobia with Cedar and Oyster Mushrooms, from my favorite chefs at Pass & Provisions:


Dill-Cured Atlantic Salmon with Avocado Mousse, Fennel, Seeded Cracker, Lime, Chile, and Herbs from Pax Americana:


Lamb Tartare from laV in Austin (love the presentation):


Savory Bread Pudding with Mascarpone, Spinach, Mushrooms, Pine Nuts, and Pork Debris from Backstreet Café:


Comte Grilled Cheese with Mixed Seafood Salad and Watercress from Mark’s American Cuisine:


And Country-Style Paté from FT33 in Dallas:


On the way out, there were also beautiful chocolates from Cacao & Cardamom:


This was a great event, especially for wine lovers, and it was pretty exciting to have it here in Houston.

Peli Peli on Urbanspoon