BIDDEFORD, Maine — Inside the soon-to-open Biscuits and Company, the Southern staple is getting a northern update.
“I grew up in Canada, and we were always throwing together a batch of biscuits,” said Stacy Cooper, who makes good on a dream Friday when her biscuit bistro opens in downtown Biddeford.
To prove biscuits are “the utility infielder of the culinary world,” a favorite quote stamped on her wall, Cooper seeks to elevate gravy’s sidekick to gourmet status.
“People see the word ‘biscuit,’ and their eyes light up,” she said.
To keep the excitement going, she will bake a cache of biscuits and other goodies daily. Classics made of “flour, fat and buttermilk” to scones — both sweet and savory — will be in heavy rotation. Served with a smear of flavored butter, like cranberry orange from Casco Bay Butter Co., and local preserves, these biscuits travel in good company.
“The biscuit is the perfect canvas for experimentation,” said Cooper, who grew up summering in Biddeford Pool, where she worked in a local deli.
The Boston transplant who lives in Arundel wanted to go big with biscuits for years, but something always held her back. Applying for and winning the Heart of Biddeford’s Main Street Challenge changed that.
“This has been a seed forever,” said Cooper, who often drove by the empty storefront at the corner of Alfred and Bacon streets and peered in longingly.
She did not consider the foodie city of Portland because, she said, it is “too saturated.” Furthermore, Biddeford’s growing downtown district has embraced her. A founder’s wall attests to that.
“I want people to think of this as a gathering place,” said Cooper, who will hold classes in the evening and offer the space for events after-hours.
“Everyone has a connection with biscuits,” said Cooper, whose handsome renditions made with a percentage of Maine Grains milled in Skowhegan are crunchy and nourishing, not too fluffy or overly buttery.
Biscuits are the basis for all meals at the cafe, from stews to pulled pork sandwiches. Sliced ham and smoked cheddar topped with local greens and house-made sweet red pepper relish are a daily offering sandwiched between sliced biscuits. The big biscuit breakfast sandwich — a fresh egg, cheese, greens and sweet pepper relish delight — is the preordained signature.
Located next to the police department, Cooper is poised to wean cops off the classic, fried doughy discs.
“I’ve already talked to sergeants who are excited,” she said. “They watch the Food Network and are ready.”
Cooper will split baking duties with Kerry Kraker,an alum from Scratch Baking Co. in South Portland.
They are making their own gravy — mushroom and sausage — and hope to activate the power of this sturdy starch’s retro appeal. Served with a platter of wholesome biscuits, the gravy plate is the one to tuck into on a dreary Maine winter day. Wash these small-batch biscuits down with another Biddeford upstart — Maine Coast Roast coffee, roasted a few streets away.
“We hope it will be a community cafe,” said Cooper, who is no stranger to the area. As a child she came into Biddeford to buy shoes from merchants and sheets from the mills.
Now she is part of the city’s next creative wave.
Will this breaking food trend, which is big in Seattle and Denver, catch on here?
“I want people to come in wondering what we will cook up next,” said Cooper, who is experimenting with a vegan-friendly biscuit made with olive oil and almond milk. “We will do a lot of riffing.”
From repurposed benches made of parts culled from the mills to the energizing pop of hot orange chairs offset with slate accents, there is a playful spirit here.
“We want this to be the place you come for lunch, buy something for dinner and breakfast the next morning.”
Biscuits and Company, 25 Alfred St., Biddeford opens Friday. Tentative hours are7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m Sunday.