30 November 2013


Steve Ownby never imagined he'd wind up in the barbecue business. After retiring from a career in the insurance business, Ownby wasn't sure what to do with himself. He didn't hunt, fish or play golf, but he was a KCBS Certified Barbecue Judge and enjoyed cooking in his spare time. And other people enjoyed what he was cooking. One catering call led to another and before he knew it, he had a full-fledged catering business on his hands based out of his home in East Tennessee - Holy Smoke BBQ. And after months of using commercially available barbecue sauces and rubs for his catering business, Ownby eventually decided he needed his own line of products. He developed the products under the tutelage of one of the best - Bill Arnold, of Blues Hog Barbecue fame.

Long time readers of this blog know that Blues Hog is one of favorite barbecue sauces of all time. I have said before that I would eat shoe leather if I could dip it in Blues Hog. And I'm happy to report that Holy Smoke BBQ is a delicious apple that did not fall far from the tree. The sauce has a similar favor profile to Blues Hog - sweet, with a very mild burn on the back end, with some very interesting spice notes lingering in the mix. The consistency is thinner, though, which I like. Overall, this is simply one of the best sauces I have tasted. Do yourself a favor and give it a try!

Grade: A+

02 November 2013


Who doesn't love a good family recipe? Using a recipe from your ancestors creates a connection through generations and lets those loved ones live on each time someone enjoys that special family concoction. I treasure those recipes that have been handed down from my grandparents and great grandparents. That's why I think Millie's Barbecue Sauce is so special. Craig Brown and his wife Toni have taken his mother's secret recipe for barbecue sauce and shared it with the world in these great barbecue sauces. The Browns began by selling their sauces at St. Louis area farmers markets, and their popularity is growing.

The sauce comes in two variations - Sweet & Tasty and Sweet & Spicy. The Sweet & Tasty is a relatively straightforward Kansas City style sauce - thick and dark, sweet and sultry. Besides sweetness, there is a nice citrus-y brightness and a bit of vinegary tanginess. It's not quite as smoky as most KC-style sauces, but does have darker notes of molasses and raisins that are a nice touch. The Sweet & Spicy offers slightly more heat, though it is still quite mild.

Grade: B+

19 October 2013

BBQ SAUCE OF THE WEEK: Jay's Hole in the Wall

Jay Wilfong is a man of many talents. Based in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, he's been making music in Middle Tennessee for many years under the name Dr. Fong (listen here). He's been a barbecue restaurateur several times in the last four decades. And now he's got a line of barbecue sauces called Jay's Hole in the Wall.

Jay's products are featured in Kroger stores, and you can see that these bottles will surely stand out among the other barbecue sauces in the condiment aisle. If the colorful motif makes you think of reggae and rasta, that's just fine with Jay - his culinary style is heavily influenced by the flavors and spices of Jamaica and the Caribbean. The wax coating on the top adds more tropical flair (although I found them somewhat hard to remove).

Jay's Hole in the Wall has four primary flavors - Mild, Spicy, Firey Irie and Tennessee Tater Dip'n Sauce. The Mild is a recipe that Jay developed over 40 years ago when he opened his first restaurant. It's a relatively thick, lighter colored sauce. It is tangy and sweet, with a lot of mustard flavor. The Spicy version is essentially the same sauce, but with more heat on the finish. The heat of the Spicy version brings more balance to the sweet and tangy flavors. The Tennessee Tater Dip'n Sauce has the same color and consistency, and lies somewhere between Mild and Spicy on the heat scale. It also seems a bit more on the sweet side, with less tang, less mustard flavor and more exotic spices. The Firey Irie sauce turns the exotic spices and the heat up even higher. This sauce is legitimately hot, with an interesting complement of earthy and exotic flavors swirling above a base that is still fairly sweet.

Overall, this is a fun and tasty line of products with a lot of personality - a great reflection on the man who makes them.

Grade: A

02 September 2013

Pork Pork

This weekend we picked up a 190 lb. hog from the fine folks at Bear Creek Farm.

Here is what we did with it.

36 hour sous vide pork belly that was deep fried to crisp the skin

mortadella di bologna

22 hour slow smoked pork shoulder

smoked rack of loin

slaws and watermelon/heirloom tomato salad

pop tarts made with leaf lard from the pig

new tv setup to watch college football

14 June 2013

Sizzle-Q from Little Griddle

A few months ago, I received a Sizzle-Q from the Little Griddle company in exchange for placing a link to their site on this blog. They didn't ask me to write any kind of product review, but after using the griddle, I knew that I had to let you all know about it.

As a "bbq guy," I've been gifted griddles in the past and, as many other cooks probably agree, I've found them to be pretty useless. The vast majority of the griddles on the market are flat, cast iron griddles made to go on the stovetop or the grill. They are very uneven in cooking and you never use one enough to get it properly seasoned like your trusty cast iron skillet. I won't even mention the ones with the slots that try to resemble grill marks. So, even though the Sizzle-Q had a different design and was made from stainless steel, I was still a little skeptical. But I decided to give it try on my outdoor gas grill.

Over the past several years, I have been cooking my proteins primarily in a cast iron skillet and my twenty-year-old DCS gas grill has been very neglected. The exterior of the grill is still very pristine, but it is time for some new grill grates. It seemed like perfect timing to just remove the grill grates and slap on the Sizzle-Q.

The Sizzle-Q fit perfectly on the grill and I used all three burners to get it going. I used just a little oil to season it up, then the burgers went right on. Just like a nice commercial griddle, it produced immaculate crust on both sides making for a perfect juicy burger (note: to make this perfect burger, use Bear Creek Farms beef). I was even able to use the Sizzle-Q to cook 36 burgers for a party over the weekend and it handled the task with ease as it can cook about twelve full-sized burgers at once. Whether cooking two burgers or twelve, the results were the same.

So what makes the Sizzle-Q so great? In my opinion it is all in the design. The griddle is lifted off the heating source and has a vent for air flow. This creates a much more even heating surface, which is especially important when working in volume, and it allows you to more easily control the overall temperature. Adding the little bit of oil to the surface allowed me to lift and flip the meat without the any of the common sticking issues that can cause problems when cooking in multiple batches and make cleanup difficult later. Overall, I was very impressed.

So, I'd say that if you are tired of trying to fool with your old griddle, or if you want to cook a burger on the grill - you already know you're not supposed to cook your burgers directly on the grill grates, right? - then it is time to get a Sizzle-Q.

You can find the Sizzle-Q and other Little Griddle products at Bass Pro Shops, your local specialty grill shop, or online at littlegriddle.com.

29 May 2013

R.I.P. Mrs Grissom

The legendary Mrs. Grissom of Mrs Grissom's Salads, Sandwich Spreads, and Salsa has died at the age of 94. Say what you will about the product, this lady was as hard of a worker as they come. She still went to work everyday up until just a few weeks ago.

Here's to a Nashville legend. R.I.P. Mrs. G

22 May 2013

30 January 2013

Ulika on the Road: NY/Brooklyn Eats

'Love Letter to Brooklyn'

Momofuku Noodle Bar
David Chang's flagship restaurant Momofuku Noodle Bar doesn't need much of an introduction. The low profile restaurant, located in the East Village of Manhattan, quickly established its self as an essential NY restaurant since opening in 2004. Since that time Chang has built an empire out of the momofuku brand, and even though we were staying in Brooklyn we had to hop the three trains to get there.

Momofuku Kimchi
I have made the Momofuku Kimchi from Lucky Peach, and while my version was not nearly as good as this one, you could taste the similarities. By far the best kimchi I've ever had, but I admit I am not an expert in this area.

Pork Buns
Before we even stepped foot onto the plane bound for NYC, we had heard the pork buns are not to be missed. Well that is an understatement. If you have never had these you probably need to go ahead and book your flight.

This was on the snack board, and I have a hard time passing up octopus these days. City House has made me fall in love with the eight arm sea monsters, and I enjoy seeing how other chefs approach this seeming unfamiliar seafood item.

Pig Tails with Pickled Pears
This was the special for the night, and who can say no to pig tails. In this day and age of nose to tail you don't see tail on the menu all too often. So when it shows up as a special, it always needs to be ordered.

Momofuku Ramen
The signature dish of the noodle bar is shōyu style ramen. The broth is made with kombu, Benton's bacon, dried mushrooms, and scallions. The noodles had perfect chew and the layered flavors in the broth really shine.

Strong Place

Little Neck Clams
A dozen clams why not

Brooklyn Social
Brooklyn Social has been serving up carefully crafted pre-prohibition style cocktails since 2004 and the folks in Carroll Gardens helped start a trend that has swept all over the country.

The Brooklyn and The Reposto

Bar Great Harry

This is a true beer lovers bar. With 21 rotating taps this place has something for everyone. The only disappointment was that they had just run out of Breckenridge Lucky U IPA w/ Pineapple and Habanero. I did get a chance to have three beers I had never had before.
Uinta Dubhe Imperial Black IPA
Sly Fox Odyssey Imperial IPA
Barrier Submersion Un-Imperial IPA

The Local: Boat Bar

If you live in Brooklyn, you have a local. Basically defined as your local bar, or the one that is about a block away. Boat Bar is the local of my friend Jamie, and we got to hang here a couple of times. It's a great little bar with an original sit down style Ms. Pacman and a rocking jukebox. With great beers on tap you can't go wrong.

Frankies Spuntino
I first learned of Frankies Spuntino from their cookbook Frankies Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual. Reading through the pages of antipasti, and Sunday Sauce made this place a must visit on our trip.

Cured Meats - Prosciutto di Parma, Spicy Capicola, Spicy Soppressata, Sweet Soppressata

Vegetable Antipasti - Cauliflower & Broccoli Rabe

French Toast & Lancaster County Syrup with Thick Cut Bacon

Cavatelli, Sage Butter & Spicy Sausage

This was the crown jewel of our meal. The housemade pasta was cooked perfectly, and the spicy sausage may be the best sausage that I have ever eaten (fyi I've eaten a lot of sausage).

G Esposito & Sons
My wife was in Brooklyn last year and stumbled upon this place. She brought me back a stick of hot sopressata, and it was the best cured meat that I have ever had. So of course I had to get there and get three of them.

Hot and Sweet Sopressata hangs from the ceiling.

Nothing like getting greeted by a pig.

Pok Pok
I first heard of Andy Ricker's Pok Pok when he won a James Beard Award for best chef Northwest in 2011. A quick glance at the menu, and I knew I had to one day visit this place. There is simply no one else doing this Northern Thai cuisine with the quality of ingredients that Pok Pok uses. Lucky for me in 2012 he opened an outpost of Pok Pok in the Columbia Waterfront District in Brooklyn. Now before I went I knew there was the potential of a long wait, and that potential was met with a 3 hour wait. However, once we walked in the door the smells coming from that kitchen were intoxicating.

Paypaya Pok Pok - the name sake of the restaurant. This dish is a classic of Thailand, and it hits you with the sweet, spicy, and sour combination that you don't often come across.

Phat Khanaeng - oh Brussels sprouts how I love you. I've often said that I don't know how Brussels sprouts got such a bad name. Maybe it was because our moms were not making them with Thai chilies, garlic, oyster sauce, soy sauce and fish sauce.

Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings - one of the signature dishes of Pok Pok. Whenever I would see wings on a Thai restaurant menu, I just assumed that it was a western bastardization of the menu. Fish sauce wings seem to fit the mold a little more, and these things were incredible. I initially thought that the fish sauce may make for a really pungent flavor, but again the balance of flavors was remarkable. When Mr. Ricker opens Whiskey Soda Lounge in Brooklyn, you can go for just the wings and skip the wait.

Da Chom's Laap Meuang
I was just recently introduced to laap by BP when we made a trip to King Market. While their version is very authentic, the Pok Pok version was bursting with flavor. Paired with some sticky rice and a plate full of native herbs, this dish was one of our favorites.

Plaa Neung Manao - steamed branzino in a chili lime sauce. The sauce on this dish was amazing, and the perfectly steamed fish just melted in my mouth.

Muu Kham Waan - pork collar? oh yeah. The pork collar is not a common American cut of pork. It comes from the neck region near the shoulder. For you comp bbq cookers, you may remember when it caused a bit of a controversy.

This charcoal grilled pork neck was the highlight for me personally. The tender pork slices accompanied by the chili/garlic sauce was one of the best pieces of pork that I have ever tasted.

Thai-Style Ice Cream Sandwich - I've never been to Thailand, but apparently these things are just about everywhere. It was a perfect way to end a great meal.


An Army tent with a fully stocked bar and wood burning furnace inside. Prefect setup for waiting on a table.

Beef Tongue with fingerling potatoes and eggs. I'm a sucker for offal and eggs.

Pancakes with Apple Butter

Duck Breast Sandwich on an English Muffin

Axl Rosenberg

The Bee Sting - maybe the best pizza of all time. tomato, mozzarella, sopressata, chili, and honey

Although Franny's has been around for several years, it wasn't on my radar until I started doing some research on the Brooklyn food scene. The name kept popping up over and over so I knew it was a must visit. It also happened to be my Brooklynite friend's favorite restaurant in the borough. It was also nice to see that Alex Raij gave it a nice recommendation in the new book Where Chef's Eat.

Sopressata, Spicy Salami, Finocchiona, Mortadella di Fegato, Lonza, Coppa, Pancetta - can you tell that we dig cured meats?

Wood Roasted Pork Sausage with Broccoli - housemade sausage. yes please

Arancini with Spinach, Lardo and Caciocavallo - you know if there is lardo in it that it has to be good.

Mafalde with Duck Ragu, Mushrooms and Pecorino Romano - it's hard to beat housemade pasta with a duck ragu.

Pork Cheek and Beef Tongue Terrine - when I saw this on the menu, I knew that I had to order it. Turns out it was so good that we ordered two.

Clam Pizza - one of their signature pizzas.

Sausage Pizza

Franny's was probably the best overall dining experience that we had. From the service to all the great food, it was just a great visit.

Shake Shack
It is basically the East Coast version of In/Out. While it may not have the cult following of In/Out, it is beginning to rival it. Now just for fairness sake, I have only eaten at In/Out once, and now Shake Shack once, but I much more preferred the east coast style. The burger was cooked perfectly, and the flavor was fantastic. For me this has to be the best fast food style burger going.

num pang
Our last stop on the F train to conclude our eating adventure was the sandwich shop num pang. With two locations in the city (a third on the way), this sandwich shop a garnered quite a following in just the few years that it has been open. As you can see, if you blinked walking down the street you might miss this place, but more than likely you would run into the line of people waiting to get their hands on one of these sandwiches.

Pulled Duroc Pork sandwich in the style of a banh mi. The banh mi is a happening sandwich these days. It seems everyone has been inspired by the Vietnamese street food. This version was traditional with the toppings and kicked up with the duroc pork. The fresh baked bread had a nice crunch and a soft bite. While I really prefer the most traditional of banh mi, this version is hard to turn down. Add to that the rooster sauce that comes as a standard condiment, and you have a pretty great sandwich.