Looking Up

Bee Street Lofts, located near the Ashley River downtown, has two upper floor courtyards where owners and guests can entertain or hang out.

A co-worker's brother was visiting recently and they went to brunch at Charleston's Cafe, where he fell in love with the sweet potato biscuits.

He tried to replicate them at home without success ... so they asked for help.

Charleston's Cafe is actually in Mount Pleasant (1039 Johnnie Dodds Blvd., near Anna Knapp Boulevard).

The breakfast and lunch spot once existed as the popular Bookstore Cafe on King Street.

Many of us downtown are sad that it moved, but things have worked out well across the river. And there's always weekends for a visit.

Call ahead if you plan to go on Sunday because that's the busiest time.

The cafe's baker Linda Clarke says lots of folks ask for this recipe. The sweet potato biscuits are made and served daily at the cafe (along with buttermilk and whole wheat biscuits). The restaurant's Cafe Catering also does a miniature version for weddings.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Makes about 10 large biscuits

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

1/4 cup chilled vegetable shortening

2 tablespoons butter, chilled

1/2 cup cooked mashed sweet potato

1/2 to 3/4 cup cold buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients, then cut in shortening and butter. Mix in mashed sweet potato. Pour the buttermilk into the center of the mixture. Stir gently until the mixture is just holding together; add a little more buttermilk if necessary.

Transfer dough onto lightly floured surface and use a rolling pin to roll into 1- to 1 1/4-inch thick circle. Cut out biscuits with 2 1/2-inch cutter and place onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the tops are lightly browned. Serve biscuits warm with real butter.

The sweet potato biscuit request piqued the interest of other readers, including Oscar Vick of Charleston and Alma Collier of Harleyville.

Oscar pointed to a recipe from his wife's grandmother, Mabel T. Willis, in his book, "Gullah Seafood Cookbook, Crab and Shrimp Edition." But his serving suggestion is priceless:

"I like to put ham in them and put them in my hunting coat as they make a mighty good snack on a cold deer stand or in a duck blind at dawn with a cup of coffee laced with bourbon!"

Alma, meanwhile, passes along Brenda Jordan's recipe from the Ridgeville Cookbook (Baptist Church). These biscuits don't have spices like the first recipe. Alma also says she cut the recipe in half successfully.

Homestyle Sweet Potato Biscuits

Makes about 2 dozen biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened

1/4 cup vegetable shortening

1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potatoes

5 to 7 tablespoons buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter and shortening until well-blended. Add sweet potatoes and enough buttermilk to make a soft dough. Lightly knead dough about 20 times. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Use a 2-inch biscuit cutter to cut out biscuits. Bake on an ungreased baking sheet 12 to 15 minutes or until biscuits are light golden brown. Serve warm.

A tamer stir-fry

Holly H. Bagdonas of Johns Island offers a recipe for another co-worker who asked for stir-fry recipes (beef or chicken) that aren't very spicy.

This recipe originally came from the "Sunset Wok Cook Book."

Holly offers a few additional suggestions:

"After the chicken has been stir-fried, I wipe the wok out with clean paper towels then continue with directions.

"Have all the veggies prepared ahead of time before the stir-frying begins.

"I've used grocery store's chicken tenders, and freeze slightly; cutting into matchstick-size pieces is easier."

Cashew Chicken for Two

Makes 2 servings

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 cup regular-strength chicken broth

1 tablespoon each cornstarch and soy sauce

1 pound chicken breast, skinned, boned and cut in matchstick-size pieces

About 4 tablespoons peanut oil

1 stalk celery, thinly sliced

1/4 pound green beans, cut in 1/2-inch slanting slices

1 large carrot, cut in 1/4-inch slanting slices

1 small onion, cut in half then in 1/4-inch slices

1 garlic clove, minced or pressed

2 tablespoons water

1/3 cup roasted cashews

Mix 1 teaspoon cornstarch with chicken broth; set aside.

Combine 1 tablespoon cornstarch, soy and chicken. Mix well to coat chicken thoroughly; set aside.

Place wok on high heat. When wok is hot, add 2 tablespoons oil.

When oil is hot, add chicken mixture (may do in three or so small batches). Stir-fry until chicken is opaque (about 3 minutes), remove chicken from wok and set aside.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to wok. When oil is hot, add celery, beans, carrot, onion and garlic. Stir fry for 1 minute. Add water, cover and cook for 3 minutes or until vegetables are just tender-crisp.

Return chicken and chicken broth to wok. Stir until liquid boils and thickens (about 1 minute).

Stir in most of the cashews. Garnish with remaining cashews.

Can serve over rice.

Steak 'tips'

Ernie Berger of Seabrook Island responded to the request for steak tips in a slow cooker, minus sour cream.

"I made this up a few years ago and make it a lot with cubed steak, but with steak tips it would be great. Take the tips and shake them in a bag with flour, salt and pepper. Brown them in butter for a few minutes and remove to the Crock-Pot.

Slice several onions into rounds and layer them with the tips. Pour in a can of cream of mushroom soup, a bottle of good beer, salt and pepper (to taste) and cook (on low) for about 6 hours. It makes a great gravy; the meat falls apart. Good served over rice or noodles."

Who's got the recipe?

--Tom Hudson of Mount Pleasant would like a recipe for sauerbraten, remembering a particularly good version served at the former Max & Moritz restaurant that also was in Mount Pleasant.

--Bettina Swartz thinks Tommy Condon's serves the "best Key Lime Pie ever," and would love to have the recipe.

--We're holding out in hopes of a few more recipes for the Charleston reader who asked for dessert recipes that include both chocolate and peanut butter.

Looking for a recipe or have one to share? Reach Food Editor Teresa Taylor at 937-4886 or food@postandcourier.com.