Bursting at the seams with booth after booth of fresh berries, summer vegetables and forest mushrooms, the Portland Farmers Market is an embarrassment of riches straight from local farms.
The market is utopia to locals (and visitors) clamoring for farm-fresh, organic, sustainable produce, meats, cheeses, and of course, North Carolina biscuits.
Wait a minute. Huh? North Carolina biscuits? In Portland?
Yeah, and guess which line is longest at the 130+ stall Saturday market? The organic, hot oatmeal booth?
Hardly. It’s the Pine State Biscuits booth, tucked away in the center of the farmers market.
It’s become something of a market phenomenon ever since three North Carolina college friends first set up at the market in 2006. The success of the biscuits at the farmers market prompted the guys to open a restaurant storefront a couple years later.
Wandering around the periphery of the market, lost in the sheer bounty of gooseberries, tri-colored carrots and fresh porcini and morel mushrooms — not to mention tiny-but-real Oregon truffles for $10 an ounce — I feel my husband tugging on my shirt sleeve and he won’t stop.
He pleads with me to follow him– all the way to the back of a snaking line of market goers chomping at the bit to get their hands on (and sink their teeth into) a hot, buttermilk biscuit.
North Carolina fancies itself a bastion of southern-style biscuits. I know this because I lived there for six years (it is also the birthplace of Krispy Kreme doughnuts).
Truth be told, a good buttermilk biscuit isn’t as easy to pull off as it sounds. It takes a deft hand (and soft flour) to make a really tender biscuit.
I spotted the “Reggie” on the menu and asked Wes, the biscuit artist assembling the sandwiches, “Who’s Reggie?”
Wes, an engaging character and clearly loving the adoring crowd, tells me Reggie is a fictitious name. Oh.
Even if the name is made up, there is nothing remotely fictional about the sandwich ($7, or $8 topped with an egg).
It is, without a doubt, the most “real” biscuit sandwich ever to pass my lips and from there, land directly on my hips.
Let’s see, a biscuit topped with fried chicken, bacon, cheese and then covered in gravy? Outrageous — in a gotta-have-it way, though.
Pine State Biscuits may not make the gravy on-site — but get this — they DO bake the biscuits right there (and fry the chicken, the bacon and the eggs, too.)
The line of folks waiting for their shot at a North Carolina heart-attack-on-a-plate is only mind-boggling given the location – a farmers market, filled with fresh produce.
I feel for the booth selling wholesome, organic oatmeal. I’m sure the oats are delicious, but they had no customers. Everyone was in line for a biscuit.
But seriously, how could you not fall for this knife-and-fork beast?
Juicy, double-crusted fried chicken, a lone strip of chewy bacon, just melted cheddar cheese, sage and pepper-spiked gravy as thick as molasses and of course, that tender, butter-laden, fresh-from-the-oven biscuit.
It just goes to show you. You can lead a normally sane person to healthy food, but you can’t make her eat it.
At least not when a Pine State biscuit is an option.
Pine State Biscuits
3640 SE Belmont Street