Monthly Archives: April 2011

REVIEW: Pulliam’s Barbeque – Winston-Salem

You may have already seen the post we did on Pulliams in Winston-Salem and how Rachel Ray Magazine recognized them as the Best Hot Dog in the South. Well, we finally got a chance to try out their dogs and can confirm that they are worthy of that title (even if it is from Rachel Ray).

I jumped in the car with two of my buddies, Ron and Larry, and headed over to Winston-Salem to check out a record store that they heard had a good selection and grab a late lunch. On the trip over, I was selling the hell out of Pulliams because I had been wanting to try that dog ever since another friend, Doug Grimes, had recommended to me that I try it.

The menu at Pulliam’s Barbeque is pretty basic. You can get hot dogs or barbecue. I didn’t try the barbecue but Larry did. He said it was alright especially if you add a little bit Big Ed’s Hot Sauce to it but he didn’t go back for a second one. I was a little thrown off by the fact that they reserve space on their very limited menu for a barbecue sandwich with cheese. That combination just doesn’t sound right…especially in North Carolina. It is a combination that I can’t really fathom anywhere even though I am notorious for throwing cheese on about anything.

They don’t serve french fries like a lot of North Carolina’s infamous hot dog places. You can pick up a bag of chips to go along with it but I wouldn’t waste stomach space on chips because the dogs are so good.

If you are a old-school soda lover, you have just hit a gold-mine. Pulliams has a variety of old-school bottled sodas like Cheerwine, Sun Drop, RC Cola, NuGrape and Nehi in a few different flavors. Pulliams also serves beer and Coke if you aren’t trying to go with a retro dog. However, I like to take things back to my childhood so I grabbed a cold-ass bottle of Cheerwine out of the cooler. Cheerwine in the bottle is truly a North Carolina thing and one of the fondest things I remember about growing up.

One of my favorite things about Pulliams (obviously other than the dogs) was the tree trunk table that they had outside that you could eat it. This is the only table outside so if it is busy you might be out of luck. We got there a little late in the day so it wasn’t busy and we were able to land the stump. It was a beautiful day so sitting outside was perfect (except for a car wash directly next door which was a getting a lot of traffic the day we went).

I think their hot dog very close to  perfection. It is the classic Carolina style with chili, slaw, mustard and onions. Pulliam’s uses the classic North Carolina red dog which isn’t the prettiest wiener in the world but it makes for one helluva hot dog. Before the toppings are added to the dog, Pulliam’s brushes a good amount of butter onto the bun and then toasts it, basically to a char, on the grill before covering it with the classic Carolina toppings. The chili has a nice spice to it and the slaw is cool and crunchy. A lot of people like to add Big Ed’s Hot Sauce to the dog but I decided to stick with the way they normally serve it.

Pulliam’s is a 100-year-old place that is definitely worthwhile taking a road trip for if you are a hot dog lover and should be added on your places to eat in North Carolina. I’ve recently tried a few other legendary hot dog shacks across the state (reviews coming soon) and Pulliam’s is definitely winning so far in my book.

 

Review: Spotted Dog – Carrboro

Spotted Dog in Carrboro is Man’s Best Friend

My husband and I finally got a chance to go out and celebrate our birthdays, which are held just over two weeks apart. This year we chose to celebrate at the Spotted Dog in Carrboro. Many people know that Carrboro is a vegetarian’s paradise, with many restaurants featuring plenty of great choices for both vegetarians and vegans and the Spotted Dog is no exception. There is a whole page of the menu dedicated to those who don’t eat meat.

vegetarian menu

The menu features many vegetarian items, but there's plenty for meat lovers too!

The restaurant is located right in the middle of Weaver Street and Main Street, so the building has a triangular shape to it. We came to the restaurant early, so were seated in an instant. The restaurant is cleverly decorated with lots of artwork featuring dogs, of course. But unfortunately man’s best friend is not allowed inside the restaurant and there is no outdoor seating, so pooches must be left at home.

The Spotted Dog is smack dab in the middle of Carrboro.

inside the Spotted Dog

The building is a triangular shape and has lots of dog art on the walls.

But this night, both Scott and I chose meals that were not on the vegetarian menu. We started off by having an appetizer of calamari. The Spotted Dog features one of the best dishes of calamari in the Triangle. It has a light, flaky crust and the calamari is as tender as a baby’s cheek. The sauce is a tangy version of Russian dressing with a little bit of cayenne pepper, giving it just a hint of spiciness.

calamari

The calamari is a great selection to start off your meal at the Spotted Dog.

For our main courses, I had the Mahi Mahi tacos and Scott had the roasted red pepper pasta with chicken. The tacos were amazing. They are wrapped in a tortilla and fried and are presented much like a very large egg roll. The Mahi Mahi was cooked perfectly. It was moist and succulent, but not undercooked. It was prepared with fresh cabbage, bean sprouts, lime, jalapeno and cilantro. The tortilla was nice and crunchy and since it was wrapped like an egg roll, the contents stayed nice and contained inside the tortilla. The tacos were also served with a fresh black bean salad that had red and green peppers, red onions, cilantro and lime. It was light and refreshing and was the perfect complement to the spicy tacos. Our waitress told us the tacos were very popular and at times they run out of them because so many people order them. I can understand why!

Mahi Mahi Tacos

The Mahi Mahi Tacos are a very popular item at the Spotted Dog.

Scott’s roasted red pepper pasta was a nice blend of roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, and basil served in a cream sauce with nice, large pieces of white chicken, served over linguini. We were told that this is a brand new dish for the Spotted Dog. It also did not disappoint. The flavors were a great combination for the pasta and the chicken was nice and tender.
Though we were both pretty full, we knew that we could not leave the Spotted Dog without having a piece of their famous bread pudding. The night we were there, they were featuring the lemon walnut bread pudding. They change the flavors from time to time, but all of the choices are amazing. The lemon sauce is delicate and is both sweet and tart. The crunchiness of the walnuts gives the bread pudding some texture and the vanilla sorbet helps bring this dish all together. Needless to say, our plates were clean and our bellies were full after this meal. Time to take a stroll around Carrboro and enjoy a lovely spring evening in Carolina!

lemon walnut bread pudding

The lemon walnut bread pudding is one of the most popular dessert items on the menu.

The Spotted Dog is located at 111 Main Street in downtown Carrboro. It is open from Tuesday-Sunday from 11:30a.m.-12a.m.

Spotted Dog Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

REVIEW: 33rd Annual Newport Pig Cookin’ Contest

 

Cooking barbecue in North Carolina is more than just making a meal. It’s an event that has been bringing families and friends together for over five hundred years. Cooking barbecue gives cooks an opportunity to showcase their barbecuing skills that that they have recently learned or those that have been passed down from generation to generation. This is what I experienced when I traveled down to Newport, NC a few weeks ago to attend the 33rd Annual Newport Pig Cookin’ Contest. There was a sense of camaraderie that was unlike any other type of competition that I have ever been to.

The Newport Pig Cookin’ Contest is about more than just barbecue. It is about community. Each year, the Newport Pig Cookin’ Contest donates thousands of dollars to local non-profit charities. It has donated over $700,000 since its inception 33 years ago. The event is also about bringing together the community. There are plenty of rides, games, live music and fun making the Newport Pig Cookin’ Contest a very family friendly atmosphere where everyone seems to be having fun.

There were about 80 tents skirted the outside of the festivals where the cooking teams awaited their hogs on Friday night. Many teams had extravagant set-ups at their site including banners, tables, awards, flags and about anything that they have that is pig related. The focal point of most tents was the slow-cooker which ranged from the extravagant to the simple but, as any cook can tell you, the price of a grill isn’t what makes a good cook. There were a few cook teams that were using wood to cook with but the majority used propane.

Each cooking team received a dressed, butterflied 120 lb. (approximate) pig on Friday night at the same time. After receiving their pigs, teams will trim and discard any excess fat and unnecessary pieces (like the ear flaps). Teams also inspected the pigs for any inconsistencies that their pig had like missing skin, broken ribs and other things that might affect how the pig was cooked. Inconsistencies were noted by the contest staff and then judges were alerted so the inconsistencies wouldn’t affect their judging.

I was able to walk around with Jim Bristle, the president of the contest, and his wife has they visited each site and checked to make sure that all of the chief cooks were happy with their pigs and, if not, what was wrong. A lot of cooks decided not to note any inconsistencies because they felt that they could work around most of it and felt like if it were noted that it could be a black mark on their site. There only seemed to be a few cooks that were unhappy about their pigs and you could definitely see it in their facial expressions when talking about their pig.

Presentation is key when it comes to the judging of one’s cooked pig. According the the North Carolina Pork Council judges, site presentation counts for a little under one fourth (which is a lot) of the total points that the barbecue is judged on so teams are cautioned to make sure that their site meets all the criteria including site & cooker cleanliness plus having knives, sauce bowls/cups, drinks & towels and meat thermometers available for the judges.

The above site was on point with its presentation. Another part of the site cleanliness included a clean grill. Notice how the grill above is sparkling even after having cooked a whole hog for about 10-12 hours. A good portion of the sites also served the judges palate cleansers including chocolate covered strawberries, tea and cake even though this wasn’t judged or required for the judges to eat (even though they happily did it). Serving palate cleansers is a great way to make sure that the judges are tasting your pig instead of the one that they judged right before you.


It was very interesting to watch the judges as they went around from site to site tasting each pig. The judges check for appearance, brownness, skin crispiness, moisture and meat/sauce taste The four judges arrived at each site and went directly for the grill where they simultaneously felt the skin for consistency and then flipped it together and then folded it in half when a definitive crack is heard signifying a good, crisp skin that has been cooked well.

Judges also dig through the meat by hand (they wear heavy-duty rubber gloves) and knife to check for any blood to indicate that it has been cooked adequately as well as the moisture of the cooked pig. They also pull the femur bone from the ham and the blade from the shoulder as another test. Here is a video (15 minutes) with a walk-through on the judging of a whole hog contest in North Carolina.

I had been in touch with Harris Vaughan, one of the four judges, before the contest and talked to him throughout the day as he was judging. It was pretty impressive to watch the judges as they walked around and tasted 80 different pigs. I was impressed that the judges were able to taste 80 pigs in the matter of four hours and still be able to function. I was more than impressed. I was amazed..just think about eating 80 bites of barbecue. In my mind, I picture it as an entire dinner plate piled high with barbecue. Not to mention the palate cleansers and if the judges wanted to taste the skin (like Vaughan did) or taste the ‘cue sauced and sauce-less to compare.

 

After the judges finish with each site, a group of volunteers gather the judged pig from the grill and take it up to a sorting session at the center of the festival grounds where it placed on a table where another group of volunteers sorts through the pig removing as much fat and bone from the pig. It is then sent over to another station where another group of volunteers chop the meat using a tool that was designed by the Newport Pig Cookin’ Contest staff that is a blade welded onto the end of a metal pole allowing users to expend less energy while chopping more barbecue than the traditional meat cleaver method. After chopping the barbecue, volunteers then combine the Newport Pig Cookin’ Contest’s secret barbecue sauce with fifty pounds of barbecue and prepare to serve it.

I was amazed to find out that the Newport Pig Cookin’ Contest bought 9,000 lbs of pork, and served 4,500 lbs of pork to festival goers. Each plate was $6.00 and contained a heaping of barbecue, baked beans, coleslaw and hush puppies. Luckily, we made the decision to get in line around 11:45 a.m. to get a plate because the line started to get pretty long right around noon. It must have been the incredible smell of eighty pigs being cooked all night that was wafting throughout the entire town of Newport enticing people to come get a plate.

 

The winner of the 33rd annual Newport Pig Cookin’ Contest was Chris Howard (above) who was cooking for the Moses Howard Family. I didn’t get a chance to taste his pig but it looked awesome. I’m a little disappointed that I don’t have a picture of the winning pig to share with you. One thing that stood out to me was the age of both the first and second place winners. Howard, 20, and Taylor Gregg, who was celebrating her eighteenth birthday during the contest, showed festival goers that cooking a pig isn’t about age and that a perfectly-cooked pig and a great sauce were the secret to winning.

Here is a list of the 2011 winners and their sponsors:

  1. Chris Howard – The Moses Howard Family
  2. Taylor Gregg – C Co Mini Mart
  3. Russell Snider – Floors by Floyd, Inc.
  4. Fred Woodard – Steve & Tammy Blizzard
  5. Christian Wiedner – Newport Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association
  6. David Grandy – Sheriff Asa Buck
  7. Carla Sweet – Progressive Properties, Inc. #2
  8. Frank Gregg – Bobby & Kelly Caldwell
  9. Greg Stallings – Doris & Ed Oglesby
  10. Hunter Hinnant  – Apex Propane Services, Inc.

I had a great time in Newport and hope that I can make it back next year. I am considering getting in touch with the North Carolina Pork Council and trying to become certified North Carolina Pork Council judge so that I can experience North Carolina barbecue festivals in a different light. One of the highlights of the event for me was being able to walk around the festival with Lisa Jeffries (@ncsulilwolf) who blogs over at NC BBQ Tour and talking with her about barbecue, North Carolina food, North Carolina craft beer and good times at N.C. State and ECU. I also really enjoyed being able to talk in depth with Jim Bristle, the president of the Newport Pig Cookin’ Contest, and Harris Vaughan, one of the certified North Carolina Pork Council judges, about barbecue. They were both very knowledgeable and welcoming to me as I took pictures and a ridiculous amount of notes throughout the weekend.

 

 

The judges check for appearane, browness, skin crispiness, moisture and meat/sauce taste

LINK: Mod Meals on Mendenhall’s Guava & Cream Cheese Pastry

I don’t much about baking pastries but I do know what looks good and Cecelia over at Mod Meals on Mendenhall has a winner here. She decided to to try to cook this after finding it at a local pastry shop in Greensboro and found a fairly easy recipe out of Gourmet (June 2010 issuse) which she has posted on her blog using a guava paste for year round enjoyment.

I tend to only eat guava when I visit family down in Florida? Do many North Carolinians get on the guava train?

Click  here to check out the full post on Mod Meals on Mendenhall

 

REVIEW: Becky’s & Mary’s – High Point

My buddy, Russ, is always telling me about new places in and around High Point that I need to try and write about on Eat It, North Carolina. I am forever grateful for his introduction to these all of these places because, even growing up in High Point, I had never heard about a few of them before. A couple of weeks ago, I drove over to High Point to meet him for lunch at a place called Becky’s and Mary’s on East Washington Drive near downtown High Point.

Becky’s and Mary’s is off the beaten path in an area of town that has seen better days. You could pass by Becky’s and Mary’s without ever realizing it because there is basically no visible signage except for an illuminated OPEN sign and two small paper signs taped to the windows. There is a dirt parking lot next to the restaurant that has potholes and collects water after it rains but there are always cars in it as long as the restaurant is open.

I didn’t get a chance to talk to anyone at the restaurant about the history of the place but I found a great article in Our State Magazine that goes into great detail about Becky’s and Mary’s with more of a focus on the culture than the the food.

The staff at Becky’s and Mary’s is some of the most friendly that you will come across in the restaurant industry. “Service with a smile” is something that it is widely used across the industry and many times a facade but Becky’s and Mary’s is the real deal. They are legitimately happy to see each and every person walk into the restaurant and sit down to enjoy the food that they put their heart and soul into. Whether it be a regular that they see everyday or a new face that has never been in there, they welcome you with open arms and kind spirits.

Meat and two vegetables is what the Southern cooking at Becky’s and Mary’s is all about. Each day, they have new specials which they write on the board in front of the cash register. They had the staples like country-style steak, fried chicken and pork chops plus sides like yams, potato salad, rice & gravy and mac & cheese. Russ told me that they had the best pork chops that he has ever had in his life so I figured I would give them a try.

He was absolutely right. The pork chops, two generous pieces, were buttermilk fried to a delicious crisp and extremely tender on the inside. I thought the breading was great but I still added a little Texas Pete to add a little kick to them. The potato salad was one of the best that I have ever had (recipe below via Our State Magazine) using a blend of potatoes, eggs and vegetables to give it a great consistency. The rice & gravy were out of this world, too. The meal came with a piece of cornbread which wasn’t very memorable but still delicious.

Here is a recipe for Becky’s and Mary’s Potato Salad from Our State Magazine’s website, one of our favorite resources for finding out about great things happening across the state of North Carolina:

Becky’s and Mary’s Family Reunion Potato Salad

Makes enough for about 25 people.

    • 20 pounds of potatoes
    • 30 eggs
    • 2 green peppers chopped
    • 2 onions grated
    • 3 cups of sweet relish
    • 4 cups of mayonnaise
    • 4 ounces of pimentos
    • Salt and sugar to taste

Place potatoes in a large pot, cover with water and boil until tender or done. It’ll take about 45 minutes. Then, peel and place in a large bowl and use a potato masher to mash. Place the eggs in a large pot, cover with water and boil for about 10-15 minutes. Peel and dice. In a large container, combine the potatoes, eggs, green peppers, onions, sweet relish, mayonnaise, pimentos, salt and sugar. Gently mix together and place in refrigerator to chill. Serve in about two hours. You’ll be able to feed about 25 people.

If you are in High Point, make it a point to stop down by Becky’s and Mary’s for a meal. You should definitely give the fried pork chops a try but all of their food looked delicious so I don’t think you can go wrong ordering anything on their menu. Don’t forget to get a glass of their sweet tea either because it is how good Southern sweet tea should taste.

Becky's & Mary's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

ROAD TRIP: New Orleans – Mother’s, Deanie’s & Crescent City

I just got back from a long weekend down in New Orleans for one of my best friend’s bachelor parties and thought I had so many incredible food experiences down that that I thought I would share them with you. There are so many unbelievable places in The Big Easy that someone could eat out every single meal for a year and would be hard pressed to be disappointed in a meal.

I didn’t research much food before I went down there like I should have and we didn’t stop into many of Emeril’s restaurants. We basically just asked the locals where we should try within walking distance of our hotel which was located just a few blocks from Bourbon Street. We also used the Foodspotting app (my favorite mobile food app) to find some places in the area. We didn’t jump in one cab the entire time so everywhere we went was on foot and within about three to four miles of each other.

On Saturday, we went to the Crescent City Brewhouse for a little while to stop in and sit down for some beers after walking around the French Quarter Festival. It was a lot of fun because we were able to sit out on the balcony and watch everyone as they walked to and from the festival. We ordered two different appetizers. The first was a dish called Baked Oysters Three Ways which consisted of half dozen fresh shucked oysters topped with crab & saffron, spinach & herbsaint, and spicy eggplant and then baked. The baked oysters were delicious and the flavors were outstanding. It was the first time that I had tried herbsaint, which is a herb-flavored liquor produced in New Orleans, and I really enjoyed it. My only issue is that the oysters were a little gritty but I would no doubt order them again if I went back.

The second appetizer we got before lunch was called the Seafood Cheesecake. It sounds a little iffy but the dish was delicious. It consists of shrimp, crab, crawfish and a blend of goat cheese and provolone served with a pepper sauce and little crispy, buttered baguettes. The seafood cheesecake was delicious as either a spread on the baguettes or as single, seafood filled bites. I definitely recommend getting this.

Crescent City Brewhouse also had some great craft brew made in house. I stuck with their seasonal called the Saints Ambrosia which was a Euro dark lager. Just like Red Oak in Whitsett, NC, Crescent City brewmasters follow the Reinheitsgebot which is the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516 stating that the only ingredients that can be used to produce the beer are water, malt, hops and yeast. It was delicious and one of the only beers other than Abita that I tried while I was down there.

Crescent City Brewhouse on Urbanspoon

Deanie’s Seafood was the first restaurant that we went to when we all got in town. We heard from the bellhop at the hotel that it had some of the best fried seafood in town and he was right. We got to Deanie’s and there was about a 15 minute so we grabbed a few of Abita’s high gravity beers from the bar including the Andygator and the S.O.S. (Save Our Shore). While we waited, I made sure to eye some of the people that were eating at the bar and it looked awesome.

I started out the night with a small bowl of seafood gumbo. The gumbo came as a side to a po’boy for a few bucks extra but I was glad I got it instead of fries. The gumbo was filled with shrimp, crab and a bunch of delicious spices. It didn’t have as much rice as I am used to but, then again, I don’t eat down in Nawlins much so I can’t call myself a gumbo connoisseur. However, this was great and I would go back just for a big bowl of this stuff.

My friend, Jake, and I split an oyster po’boy and a shrimp po’boy so we could get half of each one. The shrimp po’boy (above) was our favorite of the two. I think it was because the shrimp were cooked perfectly and that the oysters may have been fried a few seconds too long. We also smothered the fried shrimp po’boy in Crystal hot sauce which you could find on about any table throughout New Orleans.

Deanie's Seafood on Urbanspoon

I am pretty sure that we failed at our attempt to go to the infamous Mother’s Restaurant. Everything that I have read about it since has said that you must get a po’boy or muffuletta when you go. We woke up early on Friday and it was about a block and a half away from our hotel so we decided to go there for brunch. However, they don’t start serving lunch until after 11:00 a.m. so we were locked in for breakfast after waiting in line for 20 minutes.

The breakfast is served all day but we were limited to only that because of the time we arrived. I ordered the crawfish étouffée omelet with a side of grits and a biscuit. Étouffée is a gumbo-like Cajun soup and it literally means “smothered” in French. The omelet was basic but cooked to a perfect fluffiness with a light cheese filling. The grits were plentiful but pretty bland and needed a couple of shakes of ground pepper. The biscuit was great and came with an awesome fruit spread.

I was pretty pleased with the breakfast but I just wish that I had been able to get a chance to try their po’boys or muffulettas. Esquire Magazine wrote that the Ferdi’s Special (a po’boy with their famous baked ham, roast beef, and “debris”) is one of the best sandwiches in America. I will be getting one of these the next time I go down there. One issue that I had with Mother’s is that most everyone that worked there acted as if the patrons were lucky to be eating there instead of the other way around.

Mother's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

 

 

REVIEW: Kickback Jack’s – Greensboro

Kickback Jack‘s is a sports bar that I have been a few times a few miles up the street from my house. It is what your average sports bar would be after it took steroids and then robbed a bunch of flat screens from Best Buy. I tried to count the number of hi-def TVs there but I lost track around 33 or 34 and I probably only got through about 3/4 of the restaurant. I’ve been up on an NFL Sunday and during the college basketball season. The place is usually slammed but there are enough tables that you won’t have trouble finding a seat…except on Super Bowl Sunday.

The company that runs Kickback Jack’s, Battleground Restaurant Group, is located in Greensboro. They also ran a small chain of restaurants called Rockola Cafe which has depleted to one location in Asheboro which I’ve heard that they are planning on turning into a Kickback Jack’s within the next year. I will be sad to see the Rockola restaurant chain die because I had a lot of great memories eating there during my childhood after soccer practice and during birthday parties. Right now, there are two North Carolina-based Kickback Jack’s locations in Greensboro and Raleigh (plus, one in Danville, VA) and there are plans to open up other locations throughout the state including Fayetteville.

I went up there with my buddy, E, a few weeks ago and ordered the Firehouse Burger. It is a half-pound burger topped with pepperjack cheese, fried jalapeños, tobacco onions and smothered in their tavern sauce which had a little kick, too.  This thing lit me on fire but I thought it was great. The  heat gave me a reason to drink my beer a little quicker and try out a few different beers that they have on tap. The beer selection is pretty decent with some great craft beers but not that much North Carolina pride on the taps except for Red Oak and Natty Greene’s. The burger was massive and it comes with a ridiculous amount of fries on the side which are hand-cut and on point. I definitely recommend getting one of these if you are there.

Kickback Jack’s menu is huge but there aren’t that many surprises in terms of out of the ordinary items. E and I got The Tailgator (Kickback Jack’s appetizer sampler) which has mozzarella sticks, chicken tenders, Buffalo shrimp and boneless wings. It’s all fried food and good quality but I was less than impressed with the marinara sauce that actually made the mozzarella sticks worse.

I recommend Kickback Jack’s as a great place to go enjoy a few beers and eat some bar food while watching the game. The food quality is great with a fun atmosphere. They have cornhole, pool tables, NTN trivia and karaoke to keep you entertained if you aren’t watching the game wholeheartedly. It is pretty much what you look for in a sports bar because there really isn’t a bad seat unless you are stuck next to a bunch of Steelers fans.

Kick Back Jack's on Urbanspoon

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