Holy smoke. These were the best ribs we'd ever tried in Nashville. When burly proprietor Jon Heidelberg (who proudly repeats his motto, "Never trust a skinny cook!") peeled back the aluminum foil and drew his knife between the ribs, they parted like Popsicles on a hot day. The meat was permeated with smoke and fell off the bone, and the crust had a spicy, faintly vinegary tang. One bite of this porcine crack, and I ended up taking home a $12 rack and wishing I'd gotten more. Good thing I thought to get some of those roasted ears of sweet corn that Heidelberg had sizzling on the smoker, along with a gooey slice of his amazing pina colada cake.
Heidelberg hasn't had ribs the past few weeks, but we hear that at Saturday's market he'll have those and something called "tiger wings," which sold out four dozen in 10 minutes the last time he brought them. We asked him to share something of his process, and he sent this reply:
But apparently, somebody left the back door open, because two of my favorite barbecue derelicts are taking over the joint for a weekend next month. Carey Bringle, infamously known as The Peg Leg Porker and Pat Martin of Martin's Barbecue Shack have been named as professors of pork at Blackberry Farm's BBQ IQ Weekend Aug. 7-10. I'm certain they'll be on their best behavior as they teach the hoi polloi the secrets of applying smoke to meat. However, if Pat doesn't demonstrate at least of few of his party tricks, those folks won't be getting their money's worth.
Carey and Pat will be joined by pitmasters Kenny Callaghan from New York City's Blue Smoke and Nick Pihakis and Drew Robinson of Jim n' Nick's BBQ in Birmingham. Liquid entertainment will be provided by Lamborn Family Wines out of Napa in addition to a separate tasting of fine whiskeys. Check out the full description from the Blackberry Farm website:
Twitterzens offered several good suggestions about where to eat in Antioch before a lake trip, and we settled on Fat Boy's on Murfreesboro Road.
For classic purist barbecue, it's as good as you could hope: smoked and chopped, with a little bark in each sandwich. Fat Boy's serves it without sauce, which means there's no fighting about Memphis-Kansas-Carolina-Texas style. Just smoky meat chopped to bite-size (or should that be "Bites-size"?) and tender enough to enjoy, with just the right chew left so you know it's not overcooked.
Frequent Bites commenter and competition barbecue smoker Rob Marlow asked himself that question a few weeks ago, and came up with the answer. What you do is hook up your smoker to the back of the Ulika-mobile and get your butts down to Alabama to start slow-cooking some pork and handing out some sammiches!
But King James' elite squad ain't got nothing on what Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q has assembled to compete in the whole hog category of Memphis in May’s World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. The Fatback Collective has to be the prohibitive favorite to win the category, or at least have the most fun at this year's competition. After extensive study, they have chosen to use Iowa-bred Swallow-Belly Mangalitsa breed hogs for their protein source. These huge Hungarian swine are considered to be the "It Pig" of the moment and should offer quite a unique flavor to the barbecue. You can even take a peek at the (un)lucky hogs while they were still on the hoof if you visit the website of Heath Putnam Farms.
Memphis in May's World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest is Thursday through Saturday, May 12-14. Check out this list of pitmasters:
This year the folks at Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q and friends have formed a team of people with a common belief in the celebration and brotherhood of barbecue. The team is comprised of James Beard award winners, celebrated pitmasters, chefs and Southern culturists to create the team Fatback Collective.
This all-star team includes Jim ‘N Nick’s founder Nick Pihakis (Birmingham, AL), Jim ‘N Nick’s Chef Drew Robinson (Birmingham, Ala.), Chef Donald Link of Link Restaurant Group (New Orleans), Chef Stephen Stryjewski of Cochon (New Orleans), Chef Ryan Prewitt of Herbsaint (New Orleans), Chef John Currence of City Grocery (Oxford, Miss.), Chef Sean Brock of Husk (Charleston, S.C.), Sam Jones of Skylight Inn Barbecue (Aden, N.C.), Pat Martin of Martin’s Barbeque Joint (Nolensville, Tenn.) and Rodney Scott of Scott’s BBQ (Hemingway, S.C.). Fatback Collective will compete in the whole hog category against top pitmasters around the country.
Two pulled pork sandwiches from Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint in Nolensville for $4, a savings of 50 percent — that's today's discount offer from The Big Deal Nashville.
And now that we've told you, we have to kill you.
My cohort and cube neighbor D. Patrick Rodgers hoofed it down the block this afternoon and asked partner Russell Nelson why they're dousing the coals. (Russell's the friendly fellow, usually wearing a Chicago White Sox hat — which makes him my kind of guy — who asks, "What you sippin' on?" when you take your seat for lunch. Which we do. Sometimes twice, or even three times, a week.) As you might have guessed, the decision comes down to money, or lack thereof. Between running lunch in The Gulch and catering private events (like the Scene's Next Big Nashville V.I.P. party) on the side, Nelson says that he and pitmaster Pat Isbey haven't had a day off in the past three weeks — and they still haven't been able to make ends meet.
A case in point is Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q. There's certainly nothing overtly wrong with the place. The food is solid, the service is dependable and the decor is actually a fairly thoughtful representation of the original restaurant. I just always assumed that because they have 20-something locations in seven states, somehow they had devolved from a BBQ joint to Olive Garden status and were unworthy of my recognition.
Shows how much I know. The Nick of Jim`N Nick's is Nick Pihakis, and I just found out that he's been nominated for a James Beard Award as one of the top 20 restaurateurs in America. That's some pretty high cotton for pig to trot in. They have also been a participant in the Big Apple BBQ Block Party that has featured our own Pat Martin for the past couple of years.
It's much more difficult to make a sauce with a pepper flavor that approximates fresh and is strong but not bitter. Equally important is a light touch with the vinegar — it shouldn't alter the flavor profile of the food.
This mental checklist on hot sauce goes with me as I pick up and examine the many hot sauces that cross my path. I feel like Goldilocks: This one's too hot, this one's too sweet, this one is too sour. I found a good one last week that's got a different approach.
Gunshot Sauce is a vinegar-based sauce that uses a touch of horseradish, lemon juice and lime juice. It's warm, not hot, and calls itself a barbecue sauce, not a hot sauce. It would make a good mop for pork, but unlike most vinegar mops, it has enough balance and complexity to also work as a condiment.
There's also some celery salt in there, so it has an undeniable Bloody Mary kick to it. That's what I'll be using it for, and deviled eggs, which the website recommends.
Well, there was one vendor last year, with Paradise Ridge providing some fine swine. But this year organizers have listened to the vox populi and invited five other BBQ purveyors to feed you on the midway. Most notably, Nolensville `Q-Master Pat Martin will be selling shoulder sandwiches on the corner of Broadway and First Avenue.
Easy to find. Tough to beat. Hopefully that will satisfy the nay-sayers. So head on down this weekend to meet the competing teams, listen to some great music, and enjoy some of the best smoked pork on the planet.
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