29 December 2007

Ulika Kitchen Update

First of all, the Egg is back. The kind folks at Embers in Cool Springs were very helpful in getting me the piece that I needed to make my Egg whole again.

With the Egg back intact, I was able to use my newest toy - the BBQ Guru.

I have been cooking bbq now for a few years and I've known about the guru for sometime, but I was always a little hesitant about the whole idea of a fan controlled cooker. Well let me tell you, this has to be the greatest bbq accessory ever. The guru allows you to set the temperature of the pit and a fan control keeps the temp constant. Last night, I put two pork butts on the egg at 4:00am and went to bed. I woke up and wrapped the butts when they hit 165-degrees and then pulled them off at 195. I never once had to adjust the dampers or even worry about my temperature. The guru did all the work. Two 10-pound pork butts cooked in just 11 hours. After the butts came off, I ramped up the temp to 275 and put on 2 racks of baby backs.

I am really going to enjoy this new device. It will allow me to completely keep my focus on the food without having to worry about the temperature maintenace at all. If you have a cooker and the guru works with it, I highly recommend the purchase.

With my time off during the holidays, I decided to undertake a much needed project. With the egg disaster and my recent purchase of the Stumps Smoker, I was really in need of a level cooking area. With my old stick burner, I used jacks to level out the trailer and I had been using some plywood to level off my egg.

With the assistance of my father-in-law (thanks John),the nail gun (thanks Ben), and the hammer drill (thanks Matt), I built a mini deck right off the Ulika Kitchen. We placed extra reinforcements where the Stumps is going to "live" because the thing weighs 1100 pounds. The Egg will have a new home on the deck as well as I received an Egg Table for my birthday.

Since I now have a guru for the egg and the Stumps uses a guru, I needed some electricity outside. We added a plug outside as well as some flood lights pointed directly at the 2 cookers.

Future Home of the Stumps Elite 7

Now I am just waiting for the Stumps (January 23rd) and the Egg Table (any day now). Pictures to follow...

23 December 2007

Egg Disaster

Tonight the egg took somewhat of fatal fall. I was just rolling the egg into the garage after we returned from our Titan tailgate, and then BAM! One of the wheels got caught in a crack, and the momentum carried the egg all the way to the concrete floor.

The blog will suffer due to the loss of this key element. However, I will be getting the replacement piece as soon as possible. I hope everyone has a better Christmas than my egg.

Remember don't eat the "flapped food" at your various holiday events.

16 December 2007

Team Ulika in '08

In '08 Team Ulika is expecting its newest member to arrive around June. With this newest addition we will be taking a break to get the newest member up to speed on such things as fire control, meat tenderness, presentation, and other essential bbq knowledge. Once our new team member is up to speed on all things Ulika, we will resume our competitive bbq domination.

Team Ulika is currently looking at 3 contest before the big arrival in June.

April 4-5 Porkin' in the Park - Clarksville, TN
April 18-19 High on the Hog - Winchester, TN
May 2-3 Whistle Stop Festival - Huntsville, AL

New Smoker - Stumps Elite 7

On Monday I will be placing my order for a Stumps Elite 7. This cooker is the answer the the pellet shooters that are very prominent on the KCBS circuit. Utilizing the BBQ Guru, the Stumps cooker allows you to set the temperature and let the cooker do the rest. This is a major upgrade from my stick burner that needed constant attention. Now I will actually be able to get some sleep at a bbq competition. I still won't have my new cooker until sometime in January, but you can be assured I will post pictures of the cooker and the first cook.

15 December 2007

Christmas - Party of 50

I cooked at a Christmas party for 50 people. Enjoy the photos.


Rumaki (water chestnuts wrapped in bacon)

Pork Tenderloin

13 December 2007

Fat Tire is Coming

I just got word that all Publix stores in Tennessee will start carrying Fat Tire. For those of you that don't know, this is monumental. This is the biggest story in beer since the release of the low carb Michelob Ultra. Fat Tire has never been sold East of the Mississippi river. That is unless you count the illegal sale of Fat Tire in parking lots at ________ shows. (Fill in the blank with any jam band that tours the southeast)

I will no longer need to purchase six cases of Fat Tire when I am west of the Mississippi, because the fine folks at New Belgium Brewery are bringing my favorite beer to my favorite store. New Belgium also brews many other fine beers, but it is yet to be determined if their other beers will be available in this market.

10 December 2007

Pork Chops

Some of you (I am pretending that anyone reads this) may be thinking that I am turning into Tucker Shaw, but at least I am not posting about the doughnut that I had for breakfast.

If I do start to upload photos of my Cheerios, please, someone stop me.

Addition to the Ulika Kitchen

You have your spice racks, and then you have your spice shelves.

09 December 2007

Steaks on the Egg

On the menu for Sunday night, Ribeye Steaks. These steaks were cut from a standing rib roast that I purchased a few weeks ago from Publix. If you are new to this blog or don't know me, I am a very big proponent of Publix. In the future, I plan on blogging about Publix's superior quality, especially when it comes to the Meat Dept. For now enjoy the pictures from tonight.

I finally had the opportunity to use my new cast iron grate for the BGE. Notice the nice grill marks that the cast iron grate creates.

06 December 2007

More From the Ulika Kitchen

Now that I am getting caught up on my blog, I wanted to post some pictures that I have been taking over the last few weeks.

This was just a small little GreenWise brisket that I picked up last weekend. This little brisket stood out to me because it had a big hunk of fat running through it. So I thought what the hell, why not throw it on the egg? For a brisket that cooked in 1.5 hours it was pretty good.

From the time that I realized the Big Green Egg could cook one heckava pork tenderloin, I've been cooking them every few weeks. This is a picture of a couple tenderloins that were seasoned with Smokin' Guns Hot and Obie's Double Strength Garlic Pepper. For those of you cooking at home, remember the key to a nice juicy tenderloin is to cook to an internal temperature of 145°.

Pork, Pork, and more Pork

A few weeks ago I loaded up the smoker with 18 pork butts. This cook was the "stock the freezer for the winter" cook.

If you are interested in getting some of this pork please email me ulikabbq at gmail.com.

Pot Pie

Tonight's dinner was a chicken pot pie cooked in a cast iron skillet on the Big Green Egg.

It was pretty good, but next time I will use more chicken and add some additional cream to thicken the interior's consistency.

A Tennessee Breakfast

Does it get much better than Tennessee country ham for breakfast? I want to thank Patrick and the Wah for the ham you see here.

05 December 2007

Trip to Maryland - Part 3 Wag's

On my last night in Frederick I was really in the mood for a good burger. This led me to Wag's. Wag's has been rated the best burger in Frederick for 12-15 years running, depending on your source. Wag's is located in the downstairs of a building on Market Street. The walkway down to Wag's is very Cheers-esque.

I ventured down the steps and bellied up to the bar where I ordered the cheeseburger and fries. The burger was pretty darn good and the fries were hand cut and cooked to perfection.

I don't know if it is a Maryland thing, but I thought it to be rather odd that the bartender brought over some malt vinegar along with the ketchup. Do yankees put vinegar on their fries?
If I am ever in Frederick again, I think I would probably go back to Wag's, but I would not say it is as good as Rotier's or Brown's in Nashville and I have yet to find a better burger than Buster's Place in Murfreesboro (blog on Buster's coming soon).

Trip to Maryland - Part 2 Brewer's Alley

This was my first time to visit Frederick, Maryland or even Maryland period, and I have to say I was very impressed with Frederick. It's a very nice little town with lots of history and unique little eateries. My first night there I found a small local brewery called Brewer's Alley. I was still pretty full from the crab cakes, (see Trip to Maryland Part 1) so I just ordered some wings and some hand crafted brews. The beer was excellent. The wings...not so much. They were about what you would expect from a run-of-the-mill bar, but the beers were excellent. I somewhat rediscovered my love for microbrews and this may have inspired me to brew my own beer again. I have all of the equipment, but it has been almost two years since I last brewed a batch. Damn that is a long time. I think that while I have some time off over the holidays I might cook up a batch. Well, back to the brews at Brewer's Alley. Instead of opting for the sampler, I decided to pick and choose the beers I knew I would like. I started off with the Nut Brown Ale. This beer was very smooth and had a great flavor. Next up was the I.P.A. - this beer was very hoppy as are most I.P.As, and I would say that this one ranked right up there with some of the great I.P.As that I've had in the past. The I.P.A. is not my favorite, but it is a good change of pace. I then went with one of their seasonal beers, the Scotch Ale. The bartender was unsure of how this beer got its name because there was no scotch used in the brewing of this ale. This beer was served in a specially shaped thistle glass. According to their website, this serving method allows the beer to be held in the hand to warm up and release its aroma into the flared top-portion of the glass. Whatever. This was a pretty strong ale and reminded me somewhat of the Sierra Nevada BigFoot Ale. I finished my night off at Brewer's Alley with the Oatmeal Stout. It doesn't get much better than a good stout. Oatmeal Stouts can sometimes be a little too creamy for me, but this one was just right. With a strong rich flavor, it served as a great night cap. Overall, I would rank the beers at Brewer's Alley in the following order:

1. Oatmeal Stout
2. Nut Brown Ale
3. Scotch Ale
4. I.P.A

04 December 2007

Trip to Maryland - Part 1 Crab Cakes

I am on a business trip in Maryland this week. I don't travel that much for work and when I do it is usually to some very uninteresting places that are in the middle of nowhere. So, when I started to plan my trip to Maryland, I was excited that I would not have to eat at the local diner in bumfuck Alabama. Baltimore is known for its crab cakes, and I set out to find the best place in Baltimore for said cakes. I had recently discovered a website where the locals eat and I decided to take advantage of their rankings. This site recommended G&M Restaurant and Lounge for the "Best Crab Cakes".
From the outside, this is not a place that you would even think about stopping at...but that is why we trust the website, right? It was not that it looked shabby, but nothing about this place screamed "come on in for the best crab cakes." You can also see on the sign that the building was under some sort of construction. I came in with very high expectations, and while the paper place mats with advertising were somewhat buddy, I thought this was just part of the local charm.
I ordered the crab cake platter with two cakes. In hind site, I should have gone with just one. I'm just used to much smaller crab cakes. I was promptly served my crab cakes and they definitely passed the look test.
The cakes had a golden crispy outside and a nice soft crabby inside, but I was surprised to find that they were very plain. When I have had crab cakes in the past, they have onions, red peppers and various other ingredients. These cakes were loaded with crab, but I am not the biggest crab lover in the world...I just think that there is better seafood in the sea. The crab cakes were good, but I would not say they were the best I have ever had. I can see how a big crab lover would rank these high, but for me the other ingredients in crab cakes give them more flavors. I might as well have been eating lump crab with a little breading mixture. Maybe these are considered true crab cakes, and I can respect that. The final grade on these Maryland crab cakes is a 7.5 out of 10. My wife's crab cakes rank 8.5 and this just goes to prove my point that just about everything is better when it comes out of the Ulika kitchen.

I'm Back

As if anyone was even reading this.

Well, I now have a new digital camera and I will be posting more concoctions from the Ulika headquarters. The original intent of this blog was to just post picks and short comments on food that I cook and interesting places that I eat. For some reason I started to think too much about this blog and I wanted to have clever interesting post that people would want to read. Instead I am just going to post pictures and if I have something to say I might say it.

24 August 2007

Concoctions from the Ulika Headquarters volume 1

The Ulika Headquarters is a lot like the Food Network test kitchen (minus the endless budget, clean up crew, New York City, etc.). This is where the brains of the operation (yours truly) plays with new ways to cook a brisket or comes up with things like wrapping corn in bacon and smoking it. The headquarters is also the birthplace of the newest Ulika menu item, "Kitchen Sink Wings."

Kitchen Sink Wings

Kitchen Sink Wings


- Buy 24 whole chicken wings. Rinse the wings, but keep them whole.

- Rub the wings heavily with spices - 10 (minimum) various rubs and spices - black pepper, white pepper, chipotle powder, paprika, garlic powder, assorted BBQ rubs, lemon pepper, whatever you can find. No measuring needed, just dump and rub.

- Smoke 1 to 1 1/2 hours at 275 degrees. When the wings are done, they will easily pull apart.

These wings always taste a little bit different, but are always smoky and tasty.

Team Ulika is now the proud owner of a Big Green Egg

Recently, team Ulika found a great deal on an egg on Craig's List. We've been eyeing these things since we cooked next to an all-egg team in Lenoir City in 2006. We got a comprehensive sales pitch, errr, breakdown of how cool the eggs the really are.

Unlike Ryan Leaf, New Coke and The Adventures of Pluto Nash, the egg does not disappoint.

If I had to recommend one backyard grill, this would be it. You can go low and slow or hot and fast. The ceramic cooker allows the heat to be retained for long, slow cooks - making it perfect for cooking small amounts of BBQ (one to two butts). On the hot and fast side, you can sear steaks at temperatures over 750 degrees for great crust.

The egg can be used for baking as well, cooking breads, pizzas, meat loaf and more...team Ulika looks forward to experimenting with egg baking in the future. The egg may also become the team's new competition chicken cooker.

13 August 2007

NASHVILLE BBQ: Carl's Perfect Pig

In the conversations and compiled lists of the "best barbecue in Nashville," there are certain places that always seem to come up. You know the ones. Now some of them deserve it, and some of them don't. But one place that I never hear mentioned very much is Carl's Perfect Pig. Now to be honest, Carl's is not exactly in Nashville. It's in White Bluff, Tennessee, which is west of Nashville on Highway 70, almost to Montgomery Bell State Park. It's not too far of a drive from the city, and if you live in Bellevue, shoot, it's just about 15 minutes. And I'll tell ya - I'd put their pulled pork and their ribs up against just about any place in Nashville.

 A full parking lot is almost always a good sign. Is it somewhat of a red flag that "BURGERS" and "STEAK" are being advertised alongside "RIBS" in the front window? Yes it is, but at least it's all meat and it's all being cooked on a grill, and not something like, say, pizza. Or crab cakes.

Another good sign, nay, a MUST for any barbecue restaurant worth its salt is the presence of a smokehouse or a smoker. Right when you get out of your car at Carl's, that beautiful smoke smell hits your nose. Extra bonus points for the smokehouse being pink. Speaking of pink...

This picture probably elicits one of two reactions from you, doesn't it, dear reader? It's the pink. The pink is right up there with pig puns, jolly pig caricatures, and jorts in its ubiquitousness in the world of barbecue. I happen to love the pink, but I distinctly remember an occasion when I was asked to remove my pink Dale Jr hat, so I know it's not for everyone. Also, don't worry, this picture was taken after they'd closed for the day. Yours truly went up to the cash register to pay, only to be informed that Carl's only accepts cash. I was cashless, so I had to drive ten minutes to an ATM and back. Please note, dear reader, that if you were to encounter an occupancy level such as this at a barbecue place during regular business hours, you should be quite wary.

I'm a big fan of barbecue sauce being on the table. In this case, we have the hot and the regular. I'm not sure who Bill is, or what his relationship is to Carl, but he makes one hell of a barbecue sauce. It's ketchup-based and sweet, but with a lot of other mysterious flavors swirling around in the mix. I especially liked the hot, which had just the right amount of kick.

Carl's is known for their ribs, but I also wanted some pulled pork, so I went with the combo plate. I'm not sure why Carl's serves fries with their ribs (pulled pork plates come with two sides), but man, those fries go good with that Bill's sauce. The ribs were definitely fallin-off-the-bone, but not cooked to oblivion, and they had a great flavor. It's hard to see in the picture, but it seemed like maybe they were finished on a hot grill? The pork was about as good as you'll find in a restaurant, dear reader - tender and juicy, and flavorful enough to eat without sauce.

I think if I had to pick just one dessert that goes perfect with barbecue, it would have to be banana pudding. It's the perfect cool down after all that blazin, ya know? Carl's version is excellent, with just the right proportions of bananas, wafers, pudding and whipped cream. The flavor is creamy and soothing, never harsh. At a place like Carl's, you meet all kinds. Among other people, I met a couple from New York on a road trip who swung into Tennessee just to go to Carl's. It seems the owner of their favorite barbecue place in NYC, Virgil's Real Barbecue, told them that Carl's was a must-visit. I had a good chuckle knowing that people up in New York know and love Carl's Perfect Pig, but most of Nashville has never even heard of it.

Until next time...

03 August 2007

BBQ IN THE NEWS: Williamson County Fair

The Williamson County Fair gets underway this weekend, and once again they are having their buddy non-sanctioned barbecue cookoff. One thing about this cookoff - it's anyone's to win. Yep, even if you refuse to peel the membrane off of your ribs, or nearly burn your tent down sqirting lighter fluid on an open flame.

The article in The Tennessean touches on a point that I always try to make clear when talking to people about these events - barbecue cookoffs are like strip clubs. You can ogle all you want, but unless you know somebody, you're not gonna be sampling the merchandise. I mean, the title of the article sums it up:
"Smells great, but don't expect a taste"
I think a bouncer said that to me one time at Club Platinum! But seriously, I sometimes feel sorry for the general public who show up for a cookoff. They imagine that it will be like a giant barbecue buffet, only to arrive and discover that it IS a giant barbecue buffet - just not for them.

01 August 2007

BBQ IN THE NEWS: Blue Moon Lagoon

There was an interesting piece in this week's Nashville Scene. No, I'm not talking about this guy. Or these people. There was a review of the restaurant-formerly-known-as-the-Blue-Moon-Cafe. It's a place I knew well, charming shithole that it was. Supposedly now they've gussied it up a bit. I hear lobster's on the menu now.

Anyway, apparently this new incarnation, in addition to serving seafood, is going to have a go at doing barbecue. As you can see on their menu, they claim to serve "honest to goodness, true, for real, no kiddin', tennessee hickory hardwood, pit smoked perfection." That's a lot of descriptors! They go on to mention "pit master barry baker."

Well, leave it to Scene food critic Carrington Fox to pull back the curtain on these Wizzards of frOZ:
"When I asked the server-in-training where the pit was, she looked at me as if maybe I were asking for a latrine. Sensing her confusion, I pointed to the menu and asked where—or if—the barbecue was cooking. She retreated to the kitchen to ask her mentor, and a few minutes later she returned with the enthusiastic report that the barbecue comes from Sysco."

That's rich, right there. The barbecue comes from Sysco! I wonder if they smoke it over at that big factory by John Tune Airport? And I wonder if it comes in that awesome Dharma-esque packaging? Dharma Pulled Pork!

Until next time...

24 July 2007

BAR-B-CURIOS: Pulled Pork Slyderz

Those of ya'll who live in Middle Tennessee know that you can't swing a dead cat around here without hitting a barbecue restaurant - they're everywhere. And we aim to talk about a lot of 'em here on this blog. But to begin with, I'd like to start smaller. And squarer. As I was sitting in traffic in front of the White Castle on Broadway, imagine my surprise to see a sign advertising a pulled pork sandwich!

This struck me as odd for a couple of reasons. Usually, when fast food places try to do barbecue, they just throw some BBQ sauce on a chicken sandwich or a burger. Or they fashion a piece of "pork" into the shape of a miniature rack of ribs and serve it on a sandwich. This may just be the first attempt at a pulled pork sandwich by a fast food restaurant. And it comes from...White Castle? How did Krystal - the southern, non-buddy version of White Castle - allow this to happen on their home turf?
Anyway, seeing as this might be culinary history in the making and also seeing as I am a pulled pork junkie, I decided to give it a shot.

As you can see from the sign in the drive-thru line, they are pushing this sandwich hard. They are also calling it "slow cooked." I proceeded to order this slow cooked barbecue sandwich from a fast food restaurant.

As you can see in the picture, the sauce dominates. The meat itself, not really contributing any flavor, just serves as a vehicle to get more of the ketchupy sweet sauce between the buns. It was so saturated with the stuff that I have to think the meat has just been sitting in a crock pot full of sauce all day.
When it comes to pulled pork, dear reader, barbecue sauce is kind of like cologne. A little bit can complement what you've already got and make a good thing even better. But when there's way too much of it, you have to wonder what somebody's trying to cover up.

Until next time...

13 July 2007

Ulika Food Blog

Welcome to the Ulika Food Blog. This is a place where team Ulika will post all things food. From bbq recipes and techniques, to food cooked at the Ulika headquarters and even some other eateries of interest.

For more info on the Ulika BBQ team please visit www.ulikabbq.com