Mason Dixie Biscuit Co. is a Washington D.C. based restaurant that offers a traditional southern menu that directs its focus on - you guessed it - biscuits. Together, Executive Chef Jason Gehring, Managing Chef Mo Cherry, and CEO Ayeshah Abuelhiga form a tightly bonded team motivated by the pure satisfaction that comes from serving what they love to their community.
"We at Mason Dixie started this business with the hopes of achieving our dream: owning and operating a successful restaurant that serves the food we know and love to a community we know and love - that's you D.C. All three of us were born and raised in Maryland and brought up in the Southern tradition, so Mason Dixie is a symbol of our past, present and future. We each remember growing up eating comforting Southern meals with our families and loving every minute: from cooking, to setting the table, to eating, to watching the day turn into night without feeling a minute pass, preoccupied with friends, family, and full bellies. We miss that slow pace of life that accompanied biscuits and fried chicken on the dinner table. Today, we look to recreate that moment in time for our customers using the skills and knowledge we have gained throughout our professional careers. We hope to be that iconic place to which people who frequent our restaurant today will take their children tomorrow, and one day even their grandchildren."
With a menu that offers such items as Adobo lamb with jalapeno, & egg sandwich and biscuits accompanied with your choice of buttermilk, ham and jalapeno or sweet corn - there's no way we could resist digging a little deeper.
When we asked CEO Ayeshah Abuelhiga what made Mason Dixie's biscuits more special or different from any other biscuit company, she divulged a little. "Love. And thinking about the application - we sell biscuit sandwiches, biscuits with gravies and spreads. We know that a typical biscuit can be crumbly - so more for a dinner roll. What we did is tweak the recipe a bit to provide a bit more air and cakiness to the flakiness so that it stands up to saucy braised meat fillings, thick gravies, and creamy spreads. Now that's just the biscuit. I think what also makes us different are the fillings. We try to get away from traditional and get adventurous. For example, we partnered up with a local Deli meat purveyor (Singer's Significant Meats) in DC last week to make the most AMAZING pastrami on a biscuit sandwich ever. Really makes you reconsider why you would ever get a Reuben on rye! The butteriness of the biscuit with the salt from the meat and the sweet cream from the dressing was an unbelievable combination. We really try to create those complex flavor combinations that take a biscuit to another level."
We were lucky enough to get a taste of these delicious creations this past year at the International Biscuit Festival, where they won the Critic's Choice Award for Best Biscuit. The "Nina Lee Biscuit" had collard greens and a roasted tomato accompanied by a sweet sauce and the line to get one never got shorter!
Clearly the day was a smashing success among festival attendees and workers alike!
Knowing first hand that these biscuits absolutely match up to their reputation, we asked this executive team to walk us through a step-by-step process of his individual technique.
"Now we can't give away all our secrets! I don't think we do anything different from a typical biscuit recipe. The biggest thing is using cold butter, cold buttermilk, and reducing the time you contact the dough. The more you work the dough, the less flaky the biscuit will be. It really is a food of love - so working the dough with a loving touch also helps - no slapping it on the work surface, no punching, just smooth kneading and rolling."
Convinced you're missing out if you're not in the D.C. area? Don't fret! We also managed to grab an actual recipe for a true Mason Dixie Biscuit Co. biscuit, so you can have it right in your own home - just make sure you practice the technique!
"Who doesn't love slow roasted or braised meat?" Abuelhiga asks. "One of our favorite fusions meat fillings for our Low Country Osso Bucco Sandwich is our Tomato Braised Pork. Super easy to do and delicious with a biscuit. Your guests will think you slaved for hours!"
1 pork butt 1 qt. chicken stock 1 14 oz. can of tomatoes
2 heads of garlic plus 2 cloves
1 bunch of Rosemary
1 bunch of parsley
1 tin of anchovies
1 lemon Olive oil Salt and Pepper 1 jar of your favorite pickled jalapenos (we use Gordy's Thai Basil Jalapenos) 1 dozen buttermilk biscuits (preferably from Mason Dixie Biscuit Co.)
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Trim excess thick fat off of the pork butt. Chop the pork butt into large chunks - about 3-4 inches a piece. Salt and pepper the chunks and set aside.
3. Heat a large, deep pan (preferably a dutch oven) over high heat. Add enough olive oil to cover the pan up to an 1/8 of an inch. Heat the oil until it glistens.
4. Add the pork butt chunks to the hot pan and reduce heat to medium high. Allow chunks to sear, then flip chunks so each side is seared.
5. Remove pork and place aside. Add chicken stock and the can of tomatoes to the hot pan, stirring to mix the juices.
6. Chop a head of garlic in half across the wide part of the head. Add to the pan along with the rosemary.
7. Return the meat to the pan. The meat should not be submerged–you're braising, not boiling those pork chunks! Bring the liquid to a simmer, then cover and slide into the 325-degree oven. Rotate the meat every so often to ensure coverage in the liquid. Braise for about 45 min to an hour.
8. While the pork is braising, start your gremolata by chopping your parsley by hand or place in a food processor to a fine chop. Also zest the lemon and mince the zest and cloves of garlic. Add to the parsley.
9. Finely chop about 2-3 anchovy filets and add to the parsley mixture. Juice half of the lemon and add it to the mixture along with enough olive oil until evenly distributed and smooth.
10. Test the doneness of the pork by pulling apart with two forks. When the pork pulls apart in juicy shreds, remove from the oven and set aside to rest for about 10-15 minutes.
11. Meanwhile, slide your biscuits in half and spread a teaspoon of gremolata onto the biscuit. Place some pork chunks and tomatoes onto the bottom of the biscuit and top off with the pickled jalapenos and the biscuit top. Enjoy an AMAZING biscuit sandwich a la Mason Dixie.
Ayeshah's personal opinion about what makes any biscuit the "perfect" biscuit is centered around locality.
"Quality ingredients. Anything worth putting in your body should originate somewhere wholesome and good. We use local buttermilk and butter whenever we can - you can really taste, feel and smell the difference in the biscuits when you do use better dairy from happy cows and good farmers. We used Cruze Farm's buttermilk while at the International Biscuit Festival and man did it make our biscuits smell amazing and have that light fluffy texture Knoxville loved! Food is really a labor of love - when you put good into it, you get good out."
So, next time you travel to our nation's capitol, be sure to stop by to keep your biscuit cravings at bay - until next May!
Mason Dixie Biscuit Co.
1309 5th Street Northeast
Washington, DC 20002