Colleen Creamer • Lebanon Democrat
Wendy Nichols and Savannah Weeks work for the newly opened specialty biscuit shop in Mt. Juliet. The Sweet Biscuit Co. is owned by Shannon Gray, and recently opened to bring the people of Wilson County a little something different when it comes to biscuits.
As biscuits go, most people immediately conjure gravy, butter, jellies and jams, standard-issue condiments.
Not so, at Sweet Biscuit Co., a newly opened tearoom and restaurant at 2654 N. Mt Juliet Road, though gravy and other staples are clearly part of the fare. The litany of biscuit flavors at this shop include three-cheese bacon artichoke, white chocolate raspberry, peach, and key lime, just to name a few.
The Yelp reviews alone are mouthwatering.
Owner Shannon Gray was a pretty good journeyman baker prior to her new venture but had avoided breads and biscuits until fall 2014.
“I wasn’t intimidated by muffins or cookies or brownies,” said Gray. “Then my mother-in-law had given me some magazines. One of them was Southern Living that said it had the ‘best buttermilk biscuit recipe ever.’ It looked so easy. I had all the ingredients, so I made a batch, and they were horrible.”
Gray blames the “fat ratio,” a term with which she previously wasn’t entirely familiar. Now, however, the mechanics of that term she understands well.
“I had researched this quite a bit since that batch,” said Gray. “Those first biscuits were just not good. I knew it wasn’t the ingredients, that it had something to do with the proportion.”
Gray said she trudged along until she perfected the basic buttermilk biscuit, ones that had that “cakey, airy, fluffy” texture that she had wanted.
“It stayed that way for several weeks,” she said. “I just got bored with it. Like I do with anything, I began throwing stuff in.”
The former kindergarten teacher said one day she looked in the fridge and found she had a freshly made batch of homemade spinach dip.
“I was like, I wonder— because it had cream cheese in it — if that would taste good in this buttermilk biscuit. That’s how it started, and it was unbelievable.”
Gray wanted honest-to-goodness feedback, so she went out and got it. Courage she is not lacking in – even if it meant the unvarnished truth.
“Sometimes when people pay for stuff they just won’t honestly tell you. But if they are not paying, I find that people are more honest,” she said.
“What I did was go out and get some feedback when I first started putting new ingredients in the batter. I took them to my friends. I started taking it to my neighbors.”
That feedback was the beginning of an extremely positive whisper campaign — and one that shocked her.
“People were hunting me down,” Gray said. “It was crazy. People started calling me. It was overwhelming. It was approaching the holidays, and I remember one guy that called on Sunday and said that he wanted eight dozen, and he was going to pick them up Wednesday morning. I thought eight-dozen in a residential oven? So, January we started to look around for a place.”
The tearoom sells both sweet biscuits and savory biscuits. Biscuits are made in small batches, with flavors changing daily. The summer menu also includes soups, chicken salad, hashbrown casserole, pimento and cheese, spinach dip and three-cheese bacon artichoke dip.
So, which biscuits are currently most in favor?
“They love the peach, and they love blueberry with the lemon glaze,” Gray said. “Right now, those are the two, but they also love the berrylicious, which is a strawberry blueberry biscuit with a lemon glaze.”
What Gray discovered about her glazes is that they act as a way of insulating the freshness of both the bread ingredients and the added ingredients.
“Bread and air don‘t mix well unless you’re dealing with yeast, then you want a certain amount of oxygen,” said the baker. “ I had always made cupcakes, so I knew that it was going to need something to seal it in, so I just started experimenting with different recipes for glazes.”
She said there’s a perfect window of opportunity when the glazing really does its job.
“When they come out of the oven, we give that biscuit about five-to-seven minutes for that initial heat to get knocked off,” said Gray. “Then when we pour that glaze on, it just goes in all those little cracks, and the biscuit just soaks it up. When you bite into a peach biscuit that‘s marinated in a peach glaze, and already has peach bits in the biscuit, a lot of people tell me that it tastes a lot like a cobbler.”
Homework for her biscuit bistro included making sure her biscuits were both good and original and that had to incorporate some comparison.
“I did go around the Nashville area when we moved here… I did go to Biscuit Love. I did go to Loveless Café. I even went to Kitchen Notes at the Omni Hotel. They were all good in their own way, but they just didn’t compare. I do think very highly of my biscuits,” Gray said.
Originally a “country girl” from Mississippi, Gray said she, her husband, Mike, and son, Evan, who is 10, are busy getting to know the area. They moved to Mt. Juliet last fall to accommodate Mike’s work.
It’s very family friendly here,” she said. “It’s parks; it’s concerts; it’s a lot of culture, and we love it.”
The Sweet Biscuit Co. also serves, and sells, Shineworthy Tea, a Nashville purveyor of fine teas and accessories. The restaurant is the only distributor in Mt. Juliet.
“They are very very picky,” Gray said.
Gray said she has had people coming in from Franklin asking to put a Sweet Biscuit Co. there and also has had queries from other property owners around Nashville.
“There is a guy who came in last week who told me that he owned some property in the Gulch that he wanted to show me,” Gray said.
Nonetheless, she is staying put for the time being, but it won’t be long before she branches out.
“Next year we will definitely hit the ground running with this,” Gray said.
Shannon Gray may be partial to her own biscuits, but she’s not exactly taking the credit for them.
“Mike and I are both Christians, so I have to really give credit where the credit is due,” she said. “God really gave me talent, and all I am doing is being obedient and using it.”
For days and hours of operation, as well as a full menu, visit sweetbiscuitcompany.com.