Two Reasons You Should Visit Knoxville, Tennessee in May: International Biscuit Festival and Market Square Farmer’s Market

Egg and Cheese Biscuits from Cruze Farm Milk Bar
Egg and Cheese Biscuits from Cruze Farm Milk Bar

Yesterday was a lovely, unseasonably cool day in Knoxville.  It was also the annual biscuit festival that takes place here each May, the International Biscuit Festival, which is done in conjunction with a southern food writing conference.  A biscuit festival you may be asking?  That’s right, a festival in honor of BISCUITS.  It seems pretty much tailored for me.  And probably you.  Because who doesn’t love biscuits?

This was the first time I have ever been able to attend the biscuit fest though, as for the whole time I’ve been living in Knoxville I’ve been traveling during the biscuit festival.  Last year I was actually in Shanghai during the festival.  I know, I know, woe is me.  This year, though, pregnancy is keeping us stateside, and I was eager to check out the festival.  However, at 8:30 the line for tickets opened it was already blocks long. Then we discovered that of the five biscuits the ticket gets you (out of maybe 8-10 options), only two of them were veg friendly.  Whomp whomp.

Still, my husband and I were excited to walk around and see all of the vendors, biscuit sellers, and in general, the biscuit fueled hullabaloo.  After you eat your biscuits from the various tents, you vote for your favorite by placing your ticket in one of their jars supplied for that purpose.  My husband and I wandered by all of the tents, peeking at the biscuit prep, sad that we weren’t going to be able to participate.  While I think ten dollars for five biscuits is a pretty good deal, and perhaps even for just two, a two hour line for only sweet biscuit options was just not something we were going to do this weekend. I think, in the end, we discovered that three were actually veg friendly, but two were sweet biscuits – bourbon, blueberries, and cream (which we later found out won the People’s Choice Award) and apple butter and gouda, I believe.  The third option I couldn’t tell for sure if it was truly veg or not – it appeared to be a caprese salad biscuit (ho hum).  The Blue Coast Bar & Grill sponsored this one, and their booth won for best booth display.  Though personally, I was with Marble City for that one too – check out their display below.  They won the People’s Choice for Best Biscuit, and as you can see in my photo from below, they definitely had a good style game going.

Bourbon, Blueberries, and Cream biscuits. Gorgeous! And winner of the People's Choice Award for 2016. By Marble City Kitchen.
Blueberries and cream biscuits with a bourbon maple syrup. Gorgeous! And winner of the People’s Choice Award for 2016. By Marble City Kitchen.
Blue Coast Bar & Grill won for best booth!
Blue Coast Bar & Grill won for best booth!

I really hope that next year will bring a few more veg and pescetarian friendly options that include the savory.  There are so many possibilities.  It’s not that I even want a fake meat substitute.  Fake meats are pretty generally boring.  But that is hardly where protein begins and ends for alternative diets.  Can I get a fried green tomato and pimento cheese biscuit? A sea salt ricotta and strawberry chipotle jam? An over the top egg and cheese?

Still, we thoroughly enjoyed walking around, seeing the different vendors, and, in general, soaking up the scene.  Check out the vendor below, Y’allsome, whose t-shirts and onesies sales help to support southern foster kids.  I want the hush puppy onesie for our coming wee one!

15% of proceeds to go help children in need!
15% of proceeds to go help children in need!

And here is the famous Blackberry Farm, who not only had a biscuit offering, also had set up as a vendor.  They were offering a sampling of their jams and pickled products, as well as premade mixes for pancakes and waffles, etc.  Their pimento cheese?  Oh my goodness.  Delicious!

 

Blackberry Farms goodness.
Blackberry Farms goodness.

There is also a pageant, an art exhibition, live music, and a biscuit baking contest.  We missed the biscuit baking contest this year because I think we didn’t wander far enough and were there too early (hint – a festival map as well as a bit more info on what you need tickets for and what you don’t would be SUPER helpful fest organizers).  I am definitely checking it out next year though.  If you’re not in the area, but like to bake, they publish the winning recipes online for each category of biscuit.  I think I’m going to try one or two myself.  How about you?

 

Cruze Farm Milk Bar! Can't wait til it's warmer because they have lavender honey ice cream, which is - mmmmmm.
Cruze Farm Milk Bar! Can’t wait til it’s warmer because they have lavender honey ice cream, which is – mmmmmm.

And never fear, we did NOT go hungry.  Because one of the best things about biscuit fest is that it takes place adjacent to the Market Square Farmer’s Market.  MSFM is one of my FAVORITE things about Knoxville.  It gets a bit bigger each year, and is chock full of vendors selling locally harvested fruits, veggies, meats, cheeses, eggs, plants, jewelry, pottery and more.  There are local bakers tempting you with everything from focaccia to cannoli to pasties.  The east Tennessee region boasts a long growing season, and because there’s such a mix of climates in the area, there’s a wide range of product available.  Yesterday was a wealth of fresh strawberries and greens of every kind imaginable.

I CAN NOT get enough strawberries this year!
I CAN NOT get enough strawberries this year!
Gorgeous heirloom lettuce.
Gorgeous heirloom lettuce.

 

Look at all the pretty!
Look at all the pretty!

I have been known to overdo it at MSFM before.  I am sooooo tempted by all the delicious veg.  Sometimes when I see a new or different variety of eggplant or pepper I can’t resist and MUST try it.  So now I invest what I want to spend in MSFM cash.  These little tokens can be purchased with a card via the market’s Square reader at their information table, and exchanged with most of the vendors for their wares.  This helps me stay on budget (kind of, sort of, not really, but it helps? 😉

Tokens you can purchase end exchange for goods at the Farmer's Market. They never expire!
Tokens you can purchase end exchange for goods at the Farmer’s Market. They never expire!
Delicious locally roasted coffee from Three Bears.
Delicious locally roasted coffee from Three Bears.
Get your hands off my hand pie.
Get your hands off my hand pie.

MSFM also boasts a number of food trucks, and many of the vendors sell prepared foods.  My husband and I indulged in an iced coffee from Three Bears, a local roaster, and a blueberry hand pie from  a vendor to kick off our morning, and then later a delicious egg and cheese biscuit (in honor of the day!) from the Cruze Farm Milk Bar food truck (pictured at the top).  ALL were delicious, and the many baby kicks seemed to indicate the wee one approved as well!

Crooked Road Farms CSA
Crooked Road Farms CSA
Fruit and veg from our two CSAs
Fruit and veg from our two CSAs

We also were able to pick up our goods from our two CSAs.  It was, for us, a near perfect morning.  I am excited that the MSFM is back, and look forward to all the upcoming Saturdays spent wandering the aisles.  If you make it to Knoxville, you should definitely make sure you stop by the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays!

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