30 January 2009

Friday Night Slice, Part 1


I love pizza.

I mean, I really love pizza. Glorious, gooey, crunchy, sweet and spicy, piping hot, circular and sinful pizza.

My deep and sincere love for this doughy delicacy has prompted a new journey for me and for the Ulika Food Blog: I am embarking a mission to find the very best pizza in Nashville (and well, its surrounding areas).

To keep the playing field reasonably even, I’ll stick to just the traditional pies and toppings for my comparative review: pepperoni and cheese only. But I will search high and low, tirelessly trying slice after slice in order to find and crown a winner. I’ll post my progress each Friday, beginning this week with two local contenders:

* * * * *


Sticking with the straightforward toppings, we ordered The Associate: a traditional pepperoni and cheese pie. From the first bite, the cheese took center stage (and well it should, given the fact that the head chef is Bret Corrieri of neighboring Corrieri's Formaggeria). It was creamy, tangy, gooey and delicious with a wonderfully high pull-away factor. Juicy pepperoni slices were scattered cautiously - just a few across the top - but just enough were present to add a slightly spicy flavor.

The sauce was outstanding as well, tangy and slightly sweet with faint traces of rosemary and basil. It was thick without being heavy or chunky and was applied in perfect proportion. The crust was thin and slightly gummy on the bottom with a crispy puffed edge. It had a great flavor with a slight hint of sweetness, beautifully echoing the sweet aftertaste in the sauce.

Overall, this was an excellent slice of pizza. I have to say that I'm surprised at how much I enjoyed it as I had previously written this place off as nothing more than a happy hour hot spot. I know it's early in my hunt, but this is one of the finest slices I've tried thus far.

the dining experience:

MAFIAoZA’s was a loud and lively spot on the Friday night when we were patrons. The busy bar room and patio were overflowing with laughter and clanking glasses. The service started out just fair, but it got progressively better throughout the evening as the bar began to clear out, ending with a table visit by a friendly manager.

The menu includes a host of other Italian comfort foods, including the highly recommended fried ravioli appetizer and a relatively large (and primarily Italian) wine list, sorted by region and grape.

2400 12th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37204 (map)
Tue – Fri 4:00pm – 3:00am; Sat & Sun 11:00am – 3:00am (closed Mondays)
note: 2 for 1 beer and pizza specials on Tuesday nights
Dine-In and Carry Out

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Joey's House of Pizza

Joey and his brother Manny (who runs the downtown House of Pizza) left Brooklyn in the late 1980s in order to offer us Nashvillians a taste of true New York style pizza pies: pizza with thin and crunchy crust, sauce applied with restraint, huge triangle slices, and yelling among family members. Joey’s crust is a little heavier on the flour having a more doughy, bread-like chew from the very thin bottom base to the softer, porous edges. The crust has a simple flavor, generally good and lacking any surprises. I didn’t finish all of the crust this time, but normally, I do.

The cheese is always excellent with great pull-away, though its flavor was slightly upstaged this evening by the heavy-handed sprinkle of dry parmesan over the top of the pie. The full-bodied sauce was superbly applied however, bushed lightly over the crust leaving small chunks of tomato behind.

the dining experience:

We’ve dined in, but we prefer to take out. Dining in at Joey’s allows you to order a whole pie or order by the slice in the buffet line, but your home surely offers a more comfortable dining room than its open cafeteria-style space. The d├ęcor is the traditional what-you-think-Italy-looks-like scheme with scattered replicas of towers and statues. A large wishing fountain in the center of the room serves as a magnet for the restaurant’s many patrons who are under three-feet-tall and prefer to scream and chase each other rather than eat pizza.

With a price that rivals that of the soulless delivery chains, Joey’s is a huge leap upwards and grabbing one on the way home is hard to beat.

Joey's House of Pizza
locations in Brentwood and Spring Hill
Brentwood: Mon – Wed 11:00am – 6:30pm; Thu & Fri 11:00am – 8:00pm (closed Sat & Sun)
Spring Hill: Mon – Wed 11:00am – 8:00pm; Thu & Fri 11:00am – 8:30pm (closed Sat & Sun)
Dine-In and Carry Out

* * * * *

Got any suggestions for places that I should cover? Let me know!

29 January 2009

Music Thursday: R.I.P. Billy Powell

Billy Powell, the famed keyboardist from Lynyrd Skynyrd, passed away yesterday. A one time roadie for Skynyrd, Powell joined the band after an impromptu jam session on the piano. He was later a survivor of the famed plane crash that took the life of lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and five others in 1977. After the crash, Skynard went on hiatus, but that did not stop Powell from pursuing his love of the piano.

He had some rough times down the road though, including serving a bit of time for a DUI conviction. But in prison, Powell found the Lord. After being released, he joined a Christian rock band named Vision.

Well, when Johnny Van Zant decided to get the old band together, errr.... get his brothers old band together, Powell left the life of a CCM artist and went on tour with Skynyrd. When Skynyrd reunited/reformed (this time), they were still pretty good because Johnny sounded very similar to his brother, but they just couldn't write a good song like they did in the 70s. I guarantee that you can't even name a song that the band wrote after 1977...now the band has pretty much turned into a joke. How long can you really survive on Sweet Home Alabama and Freebird? I guess the answer is 22 years. Thank you, Kid Rock, for stretching out the run even farther.

The song I am bringing you this week is a classic Skynyrd tune: That Smell. It is a song about lead guitarist Gary Rossington, a man who was known for being wild, crazy and unstoppable. He bought a new car, got wasted and crashed it into a tree, then a house ("whiskey bottles, brand new car, oak tree you're in my way"). The band was supposed to start a tour a few days later, but it had to be postponed because of Rossington.

If the UlikaBBQ team were to make an album of cover songs, this would be track 1.

R.I.P. Billy Powell

27 January 2009

Recap of the 2009 KCBS Banquet

Last Saturday night, BP and I attended the annual KCBS Banquet. This end of the year/season banquet was being held outside of Kansas City for the first time ever and we were glad that they chose Nashville for the event. The banquet was held at the Sheraton Music City Hotel located near the airport. When this location was first announced, I gasped for a moment. Not because of the location or the quality of the place, but because I knew the chef at the Music City Sheraton. And where do I know him from? I met him at a competition as he is the chief cook on a KCBS team. I gasped because I could not imagine cooking for hundreds of my peers who are cooks themselves. However, whether the banquet attendees knew that their meal was prepared by a fellow competitor or not, the food was good. The intentionally basic menu certainly did not allow the chef to flex his culinary muscle, but everything served was pretty tasty and of good quality.

BP and I arrived just as the banquet was about to begin, so we grabbed some of the only open seats left in the back of the room. The banquet started with Mike McCloud from MMA Creative addressing the crowd and giving out the standard thank yous to the KCBS board, the members in attendance, the KCBS staff, and the volunteers that helped with the event. That was followed with a brief statement from the KCBS President Mike Lake and the introduction of the headlining speaker, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean. While I am not a supporter of Mr. Dean, I thought that he delivered a good speech. He talked about how he moved to Nashville to attend law school and was invited to a bbq on the first day of classes. He, of course, thought they would be having hamburgers and hot dogs, but he was treated to true pork bbq. This is the consistent annoyance for bbq cooks - barbecuing is incorrectly assumed to be synonymous with grilling. After his story he gave some shameless plugs for Nashville tourism, but the crowd seemed to eat it up. He then moved on to talk about how he was an honorary judge at the CMT Fan Fair BBQ Contest and he described the experience that he had at his first KCBS event. Overall, he delivered a good speech that seemed to entertain the crowd.

After the speech, the buffet opened. Dinner consisted of a Caesar salad, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, grilled zucchini with roasted red peppers, roast beef, pork loin, and a mushroom bisque. For dessert, they had a cheesecake and slices of an apple tart. Everyone at our table enjoyed the meal and the hotel patron that sneaked in towards the end of the banquet enjoyed the food as well, helping himself to some of the leftover rolls with some roast beef.

After everyone was finished eating (except some of us in the back), Mike Lake again addressed the crowd. He then brought Mike McCloud back on stage to give the 2009 Tour Sponsors and Marketing Brief. This was the most interesting part of the banquet. It was revealed that Weber and Tabasco are returning as sponsors and the new companies on board this year are Tums, Reynolds Wrap and Scott Towels. I can't believe that Tums is just now joining hands with the KCBS - Tums and bqq competitions have long been friends in my mind. It was also revealed that there is a NASCAR/KCBS event in the works. If this goes through, there will be a KCBS contest at Daytona for the night race in July. If that goes well, there is talk of future NASCAR/KCBS events. It seems that someone has finally realized that the bbq demographic and the NASCAR demographic are pretty similar. Kudos to MMA.

After Mike's power point presentation, they announced the results of the election for the Board of Directors. Three members were re-elected: Merl Whitebook, Don Harwell (not to be confused with local contest rep extraordinaire, Ron Harwell) and Wayne Lohman. One new member was elected: Gene Goychochea. I met Gene at a get together on Friday night (put on by DoRag and Long Dawg Blue Smoke), but I had no idea he was even running for the BOD. Gene was a very nice guy and I wish him best of luck as he joins the KCBS BOD. I am sure he will serve the membership well.

After the election results were revealed, the awards were announced. This was very anti-climatic since the KCBS had already posted the results on their website. They announced the Top 10 teams in all four meat categories and then announced the Top 20 overall teams. Munchin Hogs @ the Hilton was named the team of the year, Quau was named the chicken team of the year, Munchin Hogs @ the Hilton won the rib category, Four Men & a Pig was tabbed as the best pork team, and Smokey Mountain Smokers won top team in brisket. Lastly, they gave out the award for the top overall score from any contest which went to Rod Gray of Pellet Envy for the second year in a row. After the awards were presented, an announcement was made informing the membership that efforts were being made to reward the TOY with a monetary prize. The KCBS is also going to have an updated TOY tracking system on their website throughout the year. These changes should make for an exciting chase in 2009.

To close out the banquet, the raffle winners were announced. There were probably about 50 items that were given away from KCBS table centerpieces to a box of pellets. There were also about 160 contest entries that were given away through a raffle, but we were not fortunate enough to win one of those.

Overall, the banquet was a good experience. It wasn't a profoundly exciting event, but I wasn't expecting it to be as banquets are banquets - we've all been to them. BP made an interesting observation of the event, comparing it conversely to an afterhours gathering of co-workers. Just as it is odd to see your co-workers in their non-work, casual clothes, it's odd to see your bbq peers dressed up in formal wear. I doubt that I would travel to attend another event unless I was up for an award, but I'm certainly thankful that I had the opportunity to attend one here in my home city. It was nice to meet different faces from across the country and learn more about the future direction of the organization. I hope everyone enjoyed their trip to Nashville, and you are welcome back anytime.

26 January 2009

NASHVILLE BARBECUE: Part 6 - East Nashville

At first glance, it might appear that Nashville's trendy east side is what we might refer to as a "barbecue blind spot." Gallatin Road, East Nashville's main retail and commercial corridor, is completely bereft of any kind of barbecue establishment whatsoever. If you want to find the swine in this part of town, you've got to go off the beaten path.

The western side of Gallatin Road has a distinctly different feel than its bohemian eastern counterpart. This neighborhood, which is bisected by Ellington Parkway and bordered on the west by ultra-gritty Dickerson Pike, is a glimpse into the East Nashville of old, populated by an older, more blue collar demographic. It shows far less influence of the younger hipster crowd which has taken roost on the other side of Gallatin Road.

This area is home to Cantrell's Bar-B-Q, the elder statesman of East Nashville barbecue. It sits just west of Ellington Parkway, at the corner of Cleveland Street and Lischey Avenue. Cantrell's has operated on this sleepy corner since 1953. For a spell, they also had a second location on Woodland Street, adjacent to LP Field, but have since abandoned it.

The interior of the restaurant is interesting. The front room is brightly lit and decorated with Muhammad Ali Memorabilia. It also has a table with a large Bible open on it. But on to the food...

The ribs, like many of those found in North Nashville, were served without sauce. They were a bit undercooked for my taste, save for the very end of the rack, which had a nice lightly charred exterior. The flavor of the ribs was enhanced by the excellent barbecue sauce which was served on the side. It was very reminiscent of the sauce at Mary's on Jefferson Street - bright orange, with lots of mustard and hot sauce flavor.

The shoulder sandwich was better overall. The pulled pork was tender and seasoned nicely, and the sandwich came with a shot of that delicious orange sauce. The pickles (which I fully expect to find by now) are on the bottom.

The other barbecue joint which has traditionally been in this neighborhood is White's Fish & BBQ. For years, it occupied a small squat building adjacent to a gas station at the corner of Cleveland Street and McFerrin Avenue. And then, suddenly, it was gone.

By pure happenstance, when I was meeting Rob at Prince's Hot Chicken the other day, I noticed that a White's Fish & BBQ had opened up right next door.

Upon further investigation, I confirmed that yes, it is the same White's. I had actually never had their barbecue before, because I couldn't get over their fish sandwich, which I think is one of the best in town.

Boy, have I been missing out. This is an excellent shoulder sandwich - definitely the tastiest pulled pork that I have tasted in these reports - perfectly seasoned, smoky, juicy - and topped with probably the best barbecue sauce I have tasted in these reports - dark and sweet and spicy...very similar to Blues Hog. Very tasty.

Unfortunately, the same could not be said of the ribs. They were served sans sauce, which is crazy, considering how great their sauce is. And they were overcooked, falling apart upon handling.

Now we move to the other side of Gallatin Road. The two barbecue restaurants here have gotten more publicity, not necessarily because they're better, but because they exist in a more vibrant, revitalized part of East Nashville.

At the flourishing intersection of Riverside Drive and McGavock Pike, right across the way from the sushi bar, the coffee shop, and the soon-to-open chocolate boutique, sits a staunch holdout of old school East Nashville - Bailey & Cato Family Restaurant. It's true that barbecue is only part of the equation here - they have a meat-and-three menu that changes daily, and many of those items are well worth a taste. But how's the barbecue?

Unfortunately, on the day of my visit for this report, B&C were out of pulled pork, so I could only sample the ribs. As I have now practically come to expect, the ribs were served with the sauce on the side. But these ribs were a definite step above the bland, under-seasoned ribs that have (unfortunately) dominated these reports so far. They were very well-seasoned, if a bit salty, and they were perfectly cooked, with a nicely charred exterior and a juicy, tender interior. And that sauce of theirs is a nice addition, too. It's relatively thin, but sweet and hotter than most - prefect for dipping little pieces of rib meat into.

Dee's Q is the relative newcomer in the neighborhood. The Crowder family took over the shack at the corner of Riverside Drive and Rosebank Avenue in 2004, and have since developed a reputation as one of Nashville's best barbecue joints. A glance around the grounds reveals that Dee's is definitely doing things the old-fashioned way - they have quite a collection of cookers, including one mounted on a mobile serving trailer.

I also have to add that the staff at Dee's are just about the nicest people you will meet at a barbecue restaurant. They've always got smiles on their faces and are always so friendly.

One bite of the shoulder sandwich and you know immediately that this place is cooking with hickory. It's very rare when I'm eating barbecue that I think something is too smoky, but this might just be. The taste of smoke is almost overwhelming. The sweet, thick barbecue sauce does help to temper the smokiness, but it's still pretty powerful.

The ribs are more of the same. Dee's sauce serves the ribs well, and the ribs are cooked well, but the pervasiveness of the smoke flavor is overpowering.

Highlights: Cantrell's sandwich (Good), White's sandwich (Real Good), Bailey & Cato rib sandwich (Good)

Disclaimer: Please note that these reports are based on particular servings of barbecue at a particular day and time. Barbecue can be prone to fluctuation. Your experiences may vary.

More reports in this series:
Part 1 - The Legends
Part 2 - The Chain Gang
Part 3 - Local Chains
Part 4 - Jefferson Street
Part 5 - Clarksville Highway
Part 6 - East Nashville
Part 7 - The West Side
Part 8 - Memphis Imports
Part 9 - T for Texas
Part 10 - Williamson County
Part 11 - Murfreesboro
Part 12 - La Vergne & Smyrna
Part 13 - Wilson County
Part 14 - Catching Up in Nashville
Part 15 - Hendersonville & White House
Part 16 - Portland & Gallatin
Part 17 - Robertson County
Part 18 - Dickson County
Part 19 - "Barbecue by any other name..."
Part 20 - Places We Missed
Part 21 - More Places We Missed

24 January 2009

Ulika BBQ on Facebook

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KCBS Open Rules Meeting

As part of the KCBS Banquet this weekend there was an open rules meeting. This forum allowed the membership to have input on any potential rule changes to the KCBS Rules and Regulations. The Tulip Grove Room was filled with about 80 attendees that included seasoned cooks, judges, reps and me. Rod Gray, the chairperson for the rules committee, was the moderator for the open discussion.

Here is the list of topics that were discussed, and a brief summary of what took place:

1. Allowing an individual to cook for more than one team at any one event. Rule 2

This topic was brought about from a situation that occurred at an unnamed contest in 2008. During this contest, a cook from one team cooked ribs for his team and cooked ribs for another team. As the rules stand today, this is not a violation. As you can imagine, this brought about many comments from the crowd. It started out fairly slow with some talk of differentiating mentoring and cooking. Then others discussed if tending a fire or running a turn-in box would be considered cooking. The discussion on this topic lasted for about 30 minutes and in the end it seemed that the membership was all in agreement that this type of activity should not be allowed. This issue will be brought up at a board meeting for the review of a possible rule change.

2. Allowing multiple chief cooks to enter an event using the exact same team name. Rule 2

This issue has to do with multiple people cooking under the same name in different parts of the country. An example of this would be if I had someone cook under the name Ulika in California one weekend and I cooked in a local contest the next weekend. There is already a rule that says that the same team can not compete in different contests that occur on the same date, but nothing about this scenario of multiple weekends. After a brief discussion it was decided that the rule did not need to be changed or reworded.

3. Disconnecting propane from a legal pit during the cooking of contest meat. Rule 5

Of course there is an existing rule stating that teams can not use propane to operate their pit. The KCBS does allow the use of propane to start a cooker, but any propane lines that are connected to a cooker must be shut off. The creation of a new rule would require the hose to be completely disconnected from a pit. The discussion quickly turned towards vendors who will use propane to cook their meat for vending, then continue to use it when cooking their competition meat. However, a few members mentioned that their rigs are hard piped and having to disconnect the pipe instead of using a shut off valve would cost them money. After that was mentioned, the membership decided that this amendment did not need to be added to the rules, but having contest reps periodically check a vendor's rig might be a possibility.

4. Quiet time, a review and discussion of the current rule. CAUSES FOR DISQUALIFICATIONS & EVICTION. Sub. Paragraph E

With a couple of instances of this rule being violated last year, I thought that this subject might bring about several comments. However, the focus was more on the wording of this existing rule to insure that a competitor would not be violating this rule by simply having a radio on at a low volume. The current rule is as follows:
Excessive noise generated from speakers or public
address systems. (Quiet time will start at 11:00 p.m. on
contest nights and will last until 7:00 a.m. The use of
radios or amplifying equipment will not be allowed
during this time period.)
So it was quickly agreed upon that this rule needed to be modified to have excessive added before "The use of radios....". The fear was that technically a team could be disqualified if a radio was on after 11 pm, but this is ultimately up to the discretion of the contest reps.

5. Review of the sculpting rule wording. Rule 13
Here is the wording of the existing rule:
Meat shall not be sculptured, branded or presented in a
way to make it identifiable. Rosettes of meat slices are not
allowed. (Violations of this rule will be scored a one (1) on all
criteria by all six judges.)
This topic went back and forth with members debating whether or not molding and sculpting are the same thing. All of this really came about from teams using a bowl or mold (similar to that of an ice cream scoop) to portion out the pork entry. Most members (including myself) were under the opinion that if a cook wants to stretch the limits, then they are taking the risk of potentially being disqualified. As the discussion continued, it was determined that no language could make the rule any clearer. So it was decided to leave the rule as it is today.

6. Sanitary conditions in the judging area.

The reason that this potential rule change was brought up was because of a a frightening incident that occurred at a contest last year. It seems that someone thought that it would be okay to use the porta-john and then return to the judges table without washing their hands...then proceed to reach into a pork box with their hands and pull out an entry. This obviously would leave the judge seated next to them with a particular dilemma as it became their turn to select a portion from the box. It did not take long for everyone to agree that this was completely unacceptable, but that it was ultimately the responsibility of the organizers to provide either a fork or tongs and an adequate washing station.

7. Presentation of chicken category for judging.

There were three items that were brought up in this talking point. The first was about chicken salad. Yes, technically under the letter of the law, chicken salad is legal. A team can legally cook their chicken, chill it down, cube it, and then combine it with a "white bbq sauce" that consists of mayonnaise and celery. Most people in the room were stunned to learn that this would be a legal entry, but everyone seemed okay with someone willing to try it in a contest. As Tiger Woods says, "I like my chances".

Based on another incident in 2008, the next area for discussion was regarding deboning a chicken thigh and stuffing it with chopped white meat. Does this violate the "stuffing rule"? The answer is no. It was also revealed that the team that did this placed 3rd overall in chicken when this was done. Everyone agreed that this action was within the rules and no rule change was needed.

The last item discussed in regards to chicken presentation was about skin being removed and cooked apart from the chicken. This is usually done at really high heat to create crispy bites of chicken skin. This is not a common practice, but I think that more teams are trying it. While some found it to be outside of the "spirit" of bbq, most did not have any issue with it. It was decided that no rule changes needed to be made on chicken presentation.

After all was said and done, the only two issues that will be presented to the board are issues #1 and #4. With the overwhelming support of these issues by the membership, I am sure that they will pass right along through the board and will be accepted as new rule changes.

I didn't go to the board meeting on Friday night, but I will be reporting on the banquet ceremonies that take place on Saturday.

22 January 2009

Music Thursday: Bill Monroe

This week, I bring you the sounds of Bill Monroe. Mr. Monroe, who is considered to be "The Father of Bluegrass Music", is the only musician that is a member of four Halls of Fame (The Country Music Hall of Fame, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Honor, and The Songwriter Hall Of Fame). He first came into the national spotlight on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in the early 1940s and he continued to play bluegrass music up until his death in 1996. His music has influenced thousands of musicians in all genres. Even folks that don't care for bluegrass music can respect the life and career of Bill Monroe.

One of the most interesting things about Mr. Monroe is that he played the same mandolin for the majority of his 50+ year career. It was a 1923 Gibson F5 master model mandolin signed by Lloyd Loar. It is one of only 200 F5 mandolins signed by Lloyd Loar. In 1985, a home intruder smashed the famed mandolin into several pieces. All of the pieces were then gathered up and sent to Gibson where they had their specialist repair the instrument back to mint condition. After the instrument was returned to Bill, he continued to play it until he passed away.

More recently, the mandolin has been the center of some controversy involving a Ponzi scheme organized by the late Robert McLean. As part of the whole scheme, McLean made some large donations to the Country Music Hall of Fame - one of which was the purchase and donation of the F5 mandolin. When McLean passed away and the scheme unraveled, the duped investors wanted to collect the 1.5 million for the mandolin from the County Music Hall of Fame. The latest information I've been able to find on this issue still lists the lawsuit as ongoing, but the mandolin still rests today in the CMHoF (pictured above). When I visited the CMHoF a few years back, I thought that the F5 mandolin was one of the coolest things in the entire museum and I hope that the lawsuit ends up in their favor.

Without further ado, here is Uncle Pen by Bill Monroe

21 January 2009

BBQ SAUCE OF THE WEEK: Smithfield's Grilling & Dipping Sauce

Before we get to the review, let me just say that I'm sorry for being so scarce here over the last month. A battery of viruses, flus, and infections have had me in a perpetual state of funk for the last few weeks. But I'm better now - back among the living - and ready to eat something besides chicken noodle soup and Jell-O.

Also, a big "thank you" to Patrick, Sarah & Jack Gilliam, with whom I had a great time spending New Year's Eve/Day - they gave me this sauce.

It comes from North Carolina, which is always a nice change of pace. Smithfield's is North Carolina's largest barbecue chain, with over 30 locations in the eastern and central part of the state. They've been around for over 40 years, and bill themselves as "Eastern N.C. style BBQ", but they are also known for their fried chicken.

This particular sauce is not actually their barbecue sauce, but rather a "Grilling & Dipping Sauce", intended to be a complement for things like chicken and seafood. But it has all of the properties of a Western Carolina barbecue sauce - vinegar-based, but sweetened with ketchup and brown sugar. It's super-thin - only slightly thicker than water - and bright red. The aroma is sharp and heady, warning you that this sauce will have some zing. And it certainly does, but the sour power of the vinegar is immediately met by the sweet, earthy taste of tomato, and shortly followed by the tingle of red pepper.

It's a rare and appreciated thing to find a sauce with such simplicity of flavor. While there is certainly something to be said for extensive combinations of spices and flavors, I am reminded by this sauce that sometimes letting a few choice ingredients shine unfettered yields the best results.

Grade: A

20 January 2009

Ulika BBQ Early Contest Schedule

With the BBQ season quickly approaching, the Ulika BBQ Team has set its early season schedule. We will be returning to the second annual Porkin' in the Park in downtown Clarksville on April 3-4. We are very excited to get the season going and looking forward to checking out the new downtown location for this event. Last years event was held in a park with a large pavilion that was destroyed by a tornado a few weeks after the event.

The Ulika BBQ team will also be returning to Winchester for High on the Hog set for April 17-18. This is our favorite event of the year and we are very excited to be heading down again this year. This was our first ever contest back in 2006, and it is hard to believe that we will be seasoned veterans heading into this one. Oh what we have learned in just 3 short years.

Hopefully we may see some of the Ulika faithful out at one of these great events, and stay tuned for additional contest dates to be added later.

17 January 2009

BBQ IN THE NEWS: A Barbecue Study Abroad Program

From today's Tennessean, a story "talking slideshow" about a group of college students from Birmingham-Southern College who have embarked on a kind of independent study of barbecue and its place in Southern culture. Dubbing themselves the "Southern Barbecue Boys", they are on the road for 17 days, hitting the high points in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and the Carolinas. What's more, they even got the school to pay for it! They have a website, a blog, and a YouTube page devoted to the endeavor.

The Boys seemed to enjoy their time in Nashville, giving glowing reviews to both Jack's Bar-B-Que (especially the good-looking help) and Johnny Cash's gravesite. I wish I could've given them a heads up or two before they hit Memphis, but hey, sometimes the best way to learn is by trial and error.

Best of luck, gentlemen, and by all means, if you do this again and you need a graduate student to supervise, give me a ring.

15 January 2009

Music Thursday: Wilco

After a quick shuffle on the ipod, some Wilco came pumping through the speakers. Of the bands that I listen to, Wilco floats into the mainstream a little more than the others. This band has had its ups and it downs much like the mood swings of lead singer Jeff Tweedy. He is the brainchild behind such great albums like Being There and Summerteeth, but he has also shuffled the band line up so much that the cohesiveness is just no longer there. The band's line up has changed so much over the years that you need a chart to know what is going on. (see figure 1-a) Because of this I can safely vouch for their first four albums (A.M, Being There, Summerteeth, Y.H.F.T), but I don't even own the others. I mostly like to pretend that they don't exist.

figure 1-a

I first saw Wilco live in 1999 at the first ever Nashville River Stages. The now defunct downtown music event was in its first year, and was the first music festival I had ever attended. Of course a few years later Bonnaroo came along and River Stages could not compete with a 500 acre field full of hippies, hipsters, and three days of craziness. Speaking of Bonnaroo, that was also the last time I saw Wilco.

Wilco - I'm Always in Love (Summerteeth)

Stump announces a new series of smokers

On Monday, Stump's released the information on his new series of gravity feed smokers. There are 4 models of the gravity feed cookers, and they feature several new upgrades. Each of the new models features a new grease drain system w/ grease catch, adjustable rack runners (I am most interested in seeing this modification), a drip edge over the front door, and an option for casters or a dolly system. Here is a list of the new models:

The GF112 or Baby Stumps (pictured) is the new scaled down cooker designed for backyard use, or for someone looking for a more portable cooker. This cooker comes with three 18x18 racks, and features 5 rack runners. I figure that this cooker will be the perfect cooker for my son to start out with when he gets a little older.

The GF233CM or Competition Model is replacing the GF222 model. This will probably be the featured model in the gravity feed series and the most popular. This unit comes with 4 23x32 racks, a nipple for pit probes, and bigger tires. You can expect to see more and more of these cookers at competitions to come.

The GF223 or Classic has been overhauled and will feature 5 23x32 racks.

The GF234 is the biggest one of the bunch and is closest to my Elite 8. This unit comes with 8 23x32 racks, and will hold a couple hundred pounds of meat.

I am really looking forward to seeing these new cookers in person. I have now been a Stump owner for almost a year and I have been loving ever minute of it. We finished 3rd overall in our first competition with our Stumps, and it has allowed me to take my bbq to another level. As they say "Stump don't build no junk". For more information on the new Stump's smokers, or to find out about other Stump's products, visit the website at www.stumpssmokers.com.

If you are looking for a great used Stump's, my friend Billy with DoRagQ has an Elite 6 for sale. I would buy it myself if I could afford another smoker, but I am busy buying diapers these days.

Well, all this talk about smokers has got me excited about the upcoming bbq season. Pretty soon we will be establishing our 2009 schedule, and we will let you know where the crew is headed.

09 January 2009

New BBQ Blog

I have added a new BBQ Blog to my links. Over there --------->>>

BBQ Addicts is a blog that is run by a fellow KCBS team, Burnt Finger BBQ. They just have a few post on the blog, but it is a very entertaining read. I just recently came across this blog when the Nashville Bites posted about their Bacon Explosion. This is something that I plan on cooking very soon. I mean how can you go wrong with sausage wrapped in bacon? I think that I will stuff my sausage with jalapenos instead of bacon, and then do the bacon wrap. However, this really opens the door for so many opportunities in creating your own fattie concoction.

08 January 2009

Music Thursday: Belle and Sebastian

The Ulika Food Blog is committed to bringing you a different flavor of Music to kick off 2009. Instead of just posting a song from YouTube each week (sometimes food related, sometimes not), I am going to give you a little more information about the music and the artists that you might hear under the Ulika tent. I am not ready to rename the blog "Ulika Food and Music Blog" or anything, but I do want to make Music Thursdays a little more informative and fun. I decided that I would just shuffle my iTunes and see what comes up. I will continue this for Music Thursday until I run out of tunes or until I freak everyone out with the music I listen to.

In the first edition of Music Thursday, I am going to bring you a song from Belle and Sebastian. Now B&S is not a group that you would ever associate with bbq, nor would you ever hear anyone blasting their music at a competition. However, team Ulika does not really fit into the norm. If you stop by our site at any given competition, you might just hear some of Stuart Murdoch's catchy melodies.

For those that don't know, B&S hails from Glasgow, Scotland and they drew great acclaim in the UK in the late 1990s. I came to discover this band from Space Man some time in 1999. I had heard them before, but never really got into them until the album Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant. When I was living in Athens, GA I listened to this album almost nonstop. After that, I got into some of their later work and have continued to enjoy every album they have released since. As I was clicking through B&S songs on YouTube, I came across one of my favorite tunes, Like Dylan and the Movies. This is a live version of the song from the album If You're Feeling Sinister. This was B&S's second album and the one that launched them to the top of the charts. Pitchfork Music tabbed this album #14 in the top 100 albums of the 90's (what a list of albums). So enjoy the video and check back next Thursday for more music.

07 January 2009

NBBQA's 18th Annual Conference & Expo

The National BBQ Association is hosting its 18th Annual Conference and Expo in Austin, Texas February 17-21. The NBBQA has long been an association that strives to unite the bbq community - bringing together bbq enthusiasts from cooks to saucemakers to manufacturers of bbq pits.

With the growth of competition bbq, this year's conference will put a stronger focus on competition bbq topics. Many of the top cooks on the KCBS circuit will be speaking on panels and sharing their knowledge on several different topics. There is even going to be a competition cooking class held by Rod Gray and Johnny Trigg - their Old School vs. High Tech class is the most popular competition cooking class offered. Rod and Johnny walk you through how they prep and cook for a KCBS competition, sharing their recipes and cooking methods and answering all of your questions. For more information check out the Pellet Envy website.

My friend Pat Martin of Martin's will be speaking on one of the panels that will focus on opening your own bbq restaurant. As we've seen from BP's ongoing extensive review, Middle Tennessee is slightly flooded with bbq restaurants - yet Pat has opened a unique, successful establishment with an excellent product. If you have never read Pat's blog, you should check it out here. He is a no-holds-barred kind of guy and I am sure that he will be taking the same approach on the panel. There are 23 panel topics ranging from How to Select a Competition Pit to Public Relations and Leveraging Your Competition Success. If you are looking to start a bbq business, a competition cooking team, or just have some spare time to hang out in Austin, go check out the NBBQA Conference.