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Top Pick Of The Week

October 24, 2006

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Michael Gagne Meetinghouse Biscuits
Michael Gagné’s Cream Cheese Biscuits, shown above, have 72 layers of divine goodness (read why in the main article below). 
WHAT IT IS: Flaky cream cheese biscuits in regular, herb and cinnamon varieties.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: The most irresistible, creamy, buttery, flavor and melt-in-your-mouth texture. One could be happy making a meal of these biscuits.
WHY WE LOVE IT: We wish we had the recipe! But barring that, we can pop them frozen into the oven and have amazing biscuits for brunches or dinners in 25 minutes.
WHERE TO BUY IT: StonewallKitchen.com.


Michael Gagne’s Meetinghouse Biscuits: See Biscuit Champion

CAPSULE REPORT: Who doesn’t love a baking powder biscuit? Add cream cheese to the dough, and it’s a buttery, flaky piece of heaven. Among the many fine new foods we discovered at this summer’s Fancy Food Show, Michael Gagné’s Robinhood Free Meetinghouse Biscuits were one of our absolute favorites, earning one of THE NIBBLE’s top honors for Best Of Show. They also won the show’s award for Outstanding Baked Good, Bread, Grain or Cereal, which means that the judges considered these biscuits to be better than any cookie or cake—and there were many worthy contenders.

When a biscuit stands out among 125,000 products exhibited, you know it’s not just another roll in the basket. If you look forward to restaurants that serve great bread, you can treat yourself to the best at home, anytime. The biscuits arrive frozen, and are hot-from-the-oven in 25 minutes. Order a few boxes for company and for comfort food. As breads go, these biscuits are not just the staff of life—they’re Fred Astaire’s walking stick. Read the full review below.

Bake Your Own Bread

Breads From The La Brea Bakery The Bread Baker's Apprentice The Bread Bible
Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the La Brea Bakery: Recipes for the Connoisseur, by Nancy Silverton. While probably not for the beginning baker, those who enjoy baking bread rave about Silverton’s recipes. With time and energy, your breads will be the envy of the town. Click here for more information or to purchase. The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread, by Peter Reinhart. A non-intimidating guide to baking professional-quality loaves. Great for novices and experienced bakers alike, if your bread isn’t perfect, you’ll learn why and what to do next time. . Click here for more information or to purchase. The Bread Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. For people who like to know it all, the baroness of baking doesn't just offer recipes here; she dissects them, explains how they work, then puts them back together again with a number of variations. Click here for more information or to purchase.

See Biscuit Champion: Michael Gagné’s Robinhood Free
Meetinghouse Biscuits

INDEX

 

Robinhood Meetinghouse“Michael Gagné’s Robinhood Free Meetinghouse Biscuits” may be a long name for a small piece of bread, but as with other champions, this biscuit can carry it. To explain, Michael Gagné is the chef/owner of a five-star restaurant* in Georgetown, Maine, on the coast not far from Brunswick and about an hour’s drive north of Portland. On a quiet wooded road stands The Robinhood Free Meetinghouse, an 1855 classical Greek Revival-style post-and-beam structure, originally a church built by the town’s Congregationalists and Methodists. In the 1990s, renovation began to add a state-of-the-art kitchen and restaurant facility. Chef Gagné, a Maine native who had been spa chef at La Costa Country Club in Carlsbad, California, Executive Chef at the historic Red Fox Tavern in Middlesburg, Virginia, and developer of the local Osprey Restaurant, purchased the building in 2001. And he began to make cream cheese biscuits that drew such acclaim, that he found himself selling them—probably not thinking that by combining his name with the name of the restaurant, he was creating the longest-named product in the specialty food business. But, as the saying goes, call it whatever you want; just call us when the biscuits come out of the oven.

*As reviewed by the Maine Telegram. The restaurant has been awarded “Editor's Pick” by Yankee Magazine and received an Award of Merit from the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, among other distinctions.

Heavenly Biscuits

A great piece of artisan bread needs no embellishment. That is doubly true with Michael Gagné’s butter-packed, cream cheese dough biscuits. They are so moist that we enjoy them plain, although Chef Gagné likes to serve the 72-layer biscuits with herbed butter at dinner and with honey or jam at breakfast.

Seventy-two layers, you ask? How do you get that from a mound of dough, and who counts the layers?

The biscuits are made with a hand-laminated dough, a process used to make croissants, danish and puff pastry. It’s a fascinating technique. Just as it sounds, a layer of fat, e.g. butter, is enclosed by (laminated with) a layer of dough. The dough is then folded and refolded. In the oven, the butter melts, permeates the many layers and puffs up into beautiful a delectable, buttery biscuit. The number of layers can be computed with precision because the dough is folded and pressed together to create each one. Thus, in theory, if one starts with a piece of dough and folds it in thirds, you have three layers. If you fold that piece in thirds, you have nine; you just keep counting with each fold. There are other, easier ways to make biscuits. The actual process of laminating and folding each biscuit by hand requires a focus and a dedication to providing customers with a memorable experience. And it pays off—each bite is an “mmmm” that got Chef Gagné, a restaurateur, into the gourmet biscuit business.

Michael Gagne Cream Cheese Biscuits
The original and unforgettable Cream Cheese
Biscuit. Photo by Melody Lan.

Cream Cheese Biscuits. Where does the magic come from in these biscuits? Read the label and it’s just flour, milk, butter, cream cheese, baking power, a pinch of sugar and some salt. But oh, how it all adds up to heaven, whether your heaven is diving into the bread basket or using the biscuits as components of other dishes (see Serving Suggestions, below).

The biscuits are a hearty size: 2-3/4 inches in diameter by 2 inches high. The bottoms and tops are slightly crisp while the centers are all soft, creamy flakiness. The biscuits don’t fall apart in your hands or leave a crumby mess. They just melt in your mouth, perfection in biscuitry.

These might be the perfect gift to thank a host or hostess for an excellent dinner party or for entertaining you for a weekend. Sending something that is effortless to prepare yet is so memorable will certainly get you a return invitation (and you can work your way through the other NIBBLE Top Picks Of The Week for continued expressions of thanks).

Cream Cheese Five-Herb Parmesan Biscuits. These cream cheese biscuits start with the same dough, but are seasoned and shaped to taste and look nothing like the originals. Strongly flavored with cheese and herbs—imported parmesan, basil, marjoram, oregano, parsley and thyme—they become a completely different bread.

They’re slightly smaller than the plain biscuits, about 2-3/8 inches in diameter and 1-1/2 inches high. With so much flavor packed in, they complement less-highly-seasoned foods like salads, omelets and chicken. They’re a wonderful biscuit to serve with a baked ham, and as a base for ham or Italian sausage and egg sandwiches. They turn a bowl of soup into a gourmet lunch. Use them wherever you want to bring lots of flavor to perk up a course. They’re also multi-taskers: the uncooked biscuits can be cut into eighths and baked as seasoned croutons for salads; or cut into quarters for dumplings (so can the plain biscuits).

Meetinghouse Biscuits
Five-Herb Parmesan Biscuits are full of flavor, and can perk up quieter lunch or dinner dishes. Photo
by Melody Lan.

Cinnamon Rolls

For brunch, try the Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls.
You can say you made them yourself. After all, you
baked them in the oven and added the glaze
(provided). Photo by Melody Lan.

Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls. Chef Gagné rolls the basic biscuit dough with a brown sugar and cinnamon swirl to produce a pretty coil, 3 inches in diameter by about 1 inch high. After they’re baked, you get to drizzle the top with a confectioners’ sugar glaze that’s provided—a satisfying artistic moment in the kitchen (we went for the “Jackson Pollock” drizzle in the photo at the left, instead of a traditional icing swirl).

The dough is barely sweetened, not drenched with sugar, as typical cinnamon rolls are. Even with the glaze, these bear no resemblance to a sweet roll or a sticky bun. People who don’t like things sticky-sweet will enjoy this understated version. There are no nuts or raisins, but you can dot the glaze with them, thus adding to your creative efforts.

For a quality cinnamon roll that keeps in the freezer and cooks up while the coffee is brewing, these hit the spot. Consider them for a special breakfast or brunch treat or for afternoon tea.

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Serving Suggestions

This is a tough section to write, because while we are the master of finding a dozen things to do with any particular food, in this case all we want to do is sit with a cup of tea and a basket of plain Cream Cheese Biscuits. Maybe, for variety, we’ll add some strawberry jam (following our recent review of the best strawberry jams) and a dab of creme fraîche.

If this is your idea of a special treat, know that you can remove the biscuits from the carton one at a time and bake them individually. So:

  • Keep them in the freezer to bake up as the mood strikes you.
  • Add pizzazz to breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner.
  • Make berry shortcakes: Chef Gagné splits them, puts fresh berries and whipped cream on the bottom half, and then adds the top “layer.” When there are no fresh berries, defaulting to great preserves and creme fraîche., sour cream or Greek yogurt makes an excellent finale to brunch.
  • The boxes are small and don’t take up much room in the freezer. When there’s no exciting fresh bread in the house, remember that you can pull these out of the freezer like a rabbit out of the hat.
  • Treat your family on a special occasion, or as a reward for a task accomplished.

And, there are serving suggestions discussed with each specific flavor above.

If you serve Michael Gagné’s Robinhood Free Meetinghouse Biscuits to your guests and they do nothing but rave about them—ignoring the dishes that took you five hours to prepare—don’t take umbrage. Whether you’re the cook or the gatherer, it’s all your food. You found it, you cooked it, you served it. The credit is all yours. And you get to enjoy some great biscuits, too, with not much more effort than placing the order.

—Karen Hochman

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to anyone who loves biscuits, seeks great brunch foods or needs new gift ideas to thank hosts and hostesses.

MICHAEL GAGNÉ’s ROBINHOOD FREE MEETINGHOUSE BISCUITS

Cream Cheese Biscuits, Cream Cheese Five- Herb Parmesan, Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls

Prices for one dozen biscuits (add $10 shipping)

  • Cream Cheese Biscuits
    $24.95
  • Five-Herb Biscuits
    $34.95
  • Cinnamon Rolls
    $29.99

Shop online at
StonewallKitchen.com and find other e-tailers
and retailers at GagneFoods.com.

For Stonewall Kitchen, use the search box or look
under “Classic Specialty Foods” in the “Dining” section. To find the Cinnamon Rolls, type the term into the search box.

Prices and flavor availability are verified at
publication but are subject to change.

Biscuit Packages
Photo by Melody Lan.

For more information about Michael Gagné and the Robinhood Free Meetinghouse Inn, visit Robinhood-Meetinghouse.com or telephone 1.207.371.2188. If you’re in Maine, try to drop by for dinner: the biscuits are only the beginning.

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Read about some of our favorite breads and crackers in the
Breads Section
of THE NIBBLE
online magazine, and check out these
reviews:


To Go With The Biscuits

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ABOUT THE NIBBLE. THE NIBBLE, Great Finds For Foodies™, is an online magazine about specialty foods and the gourmet life. It is the only consumer publication and website that focuses on reviewing the best specialty foods and beverages, in every category. The magazine also covers tabletop items, gourmet housewares, and other areas of interest to people who love fine food.

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