50 States of Biscuits- Arkansas
The Root Cafe
1500 S Main Street
Little Rock, Arkansas 72202
We talk a lot about biscuits around here. Some folks vow by the technique, while others swear by the ingredients. When it gets down to the heart of the matter, the real secret to a great biscuit is held in its maker’s hands.
Jack and Corri Sundell opened The Root Cafe in 2011 to build community through local food.
Jack explains that they believe “local is a lifestyle,” which is part of a much broader vision. It’s why The Root Cafe offers its Southside Main Street (SoMa) neighborhood’s local food economy a home base for supporting sustainable agriculture and a brighter future for our food systems. Corri smiles, “Everyone eats,” while Jack adds, “food is a great way to start the conversation.”
Little Rock is actually brimming with folks that share The Root’s philosophy. Less than 2 miles up the road, is an extraordinary non-profit- Heifer International. Working with communities to strengthen their local economies, including the U.S., Heifer has helped 25 million families lift themselves out of poverty and hunger.
Experience Heifer’s work first-hand right in The Root’s backyard with the more than 500 farms and producers in “The Land of Opportunity.”
The Root’s menu reads like a “Who’s Who in Farming” role-call featuring several producers that Heifer International lent a hand in building sustainable business models. Head over to therootcafe.com for a full-list of farm partners.
But, "What does this have to do with biscuits?" you may ask…
Initially, the Sundells never dreamt of a full-service breakfast. Because of their close proximity to downtown, it was their lunch crowd they focused on building. “We planned a grab-n-go breakfast menu, but the neighborhood asked for more,” Jack explains. The kitchen was small, which left no room for a complicated biscuit production. So, Corri rolled up her sleeves and perfected a buttermilk drop biscuit recipe that didn’t require a large floured surface for rolling, patting, laminating, proofing, or any of the other techniques some makers consider gospel. Corri says that the tricky part to her biscuit recipe is that she mixes the dry ingredients first. Then she melts the butter and lets it cool down before pouring in the ice-cold buttermilk, which recreates the chunks of cold fat that is the foundation for any prize-winning biscuit. The Root’s biscuit sets the “bass” while the finest of Arkansas farms sing lead, creating a most harmonious breakfast plate.
Necessity truly is the mother of invention at The Root Cafe. Come this January, the Sundells will do something else they didn’t plan on for their original locavore concept. They will expand as a Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner full-service mainstay in their beloved SoMa neighborhood. Still, they didn’t just up and re-invent themselves one morning. It all began with a call from the “MBAs Across America” back in 2014. After a summer of consultation, the take-away was dinner service for a more robust business plan. The Sundells ended up winning $25,000 from Holiday Inn in partnership with HLN to set them on the road to expansion.
Furthering the windfall, JPMorgan Chase Bank’s “Mission Mainstreet” granted The Root Cafe $150,000. Out of the 25,000 applications nationwide, 20 were selected, and the Sundells were the only Arkansas business owners to be awarded for their invaluable community commitment.
It just goes to show, you can make the world a better place one biscuit at a time.
Jack and Corri Sundell definitely inspire those they meet to plug into the community for positive change. One way to create a spark in your local food community on a global scale this holiday season is to #GiveHeifer. Television personality, Alton Brown, explains how Heifer passes the gift…
It’s time for a little holiday cheer. Make a batch of The Root Cafe “Wine Jelly” for your next holiday brunch. Jack and Corri typically use a red muscadine wine from Post Familie Vineyards in Altus, AR to serve with their breakfast items. “There's no need to can it,” Jack suggests,” you can just cool it in the refrigerator, and use it right out of the jar!”
yield = about 7 half-pints
3 to 3 ½ cups wine
½ cup lemon juice
1 package of pectin
4 ½ cups of sugar
1. Combine wine, lemon juice, and pectin in a large sauce pot. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam off top, if necessary.
2. Ladle hot jelly into hot, sterilized jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Tighten 2 piece lids. Process for 5 minutes in boiling water bath.
3. Remove from canner and place on a towel to cool.
Written by: Melissa D. Corbin
Corbin is a Nashville-based freelance food and travel journalist. She’s also the founder of Corbin In The Dell, a company connecting those who care where their food comes from through content development and strategies that matter. Follow her on instagram @melcorbin and twitter @mdcorbin.