NEW YORK: Okay, so the title of this entry is an understatement, a serious understatement.
This city – my favourite place to be and one that truly feels like home – has gone bananas over meatballs. And no, I did not eat “a meatball” as the title of this entry implies – it was more like 15 but who’s counting.
The occasion was an evening event called Meatball Madness: a glitzy kick-off party that launched the recent New York City Wine & Food Festival held the same day – what are the chances? – as my meatball lunch and the simultaneous lost-and-found wallet incident described in my previous blog entry.
Events like this have long been a perk of my job – a chance to eat some of the best food a city has to offer and to meet an array of top chefs who prepare it.
In this case, we’re talking a hot-ticket, jam-packed party held in a chic, back-alley renovated warehouse space called “la venue” in the Chelsea neighbourhood of Manhattan.
Here, more than 30 chefs – meatball mavens one and all – from well-known NYC eateries had gathered at work stations located in several rooms interspersed with winemakers dispensing wine. One of the sponsors, San Pellegrino, was there pouring mineral water for those who eschew alcohol like yours truly.
Everyone at this lively soiree was having a ball. Everyone was either serving or chowing down on meatballs of every shape, size and composition.
Maybe because I had eaten meatballs for lunch and in spite of the fact that they’re a favourite food of mine, I only managed to taste (and, in the case of the really good ones, devour) about a dozen different meatballs. Whether I chose to sample a particular offering depended on how the meatball looked, whether I knew the chef/restaurant in question and the length of the line-up. The latter explains why I didn’t try the reportedly excellent meatball served by Giada de Laurentiis of whom I am a fan. Nor was I able to procure a Meatball Slider on Potato Focaccia prepared by Donatella Arpaia of Mia Dona, winner of that evening’s People’s Choice Award.
However, I did try some toothsome offerings. The marks of a great meatball are, in my opinion, soft and moist texture but enough body to hold together well. Then there’s the required delectable taste of both the meatball and its sauce.
Highlights were as follows: The Roasted Veal Meatball with Truffle Glaze from Ciano restaurant. It had amazing depth of flavour and was delicately juicy. A Voce’s Ricotta-Filled Meatballs with Calabrian Chili and Fennel were lusciously tender and vibrant with fresh tomato flavour.
But perhaps best and most interesting was the superb Sicilian Meatball with Pine Nuts and Raisins created and served by Michael Lomonaco who famously escaped the 911 disaster when he was executive chef of Windows on the World. Now at Porter House New York, his amazing meatball creation was a winner in my books.
If all this has made you crave meatballs, watch this space as I plan to post a recipe for same once I’ve perfected it. Meanwhile, if you’re in the Big Apple, stop in at The Meatball Shop for a top-notch fix.