The other day, my friend Hungry from Tasty Eating, invited me to go Meatball Madness. It is one of the most popular events of the New York City Wine & Food Festival. It was an opportunity too good to pass up eventhough CT & I went to The Meatball Shop the night before for dinner(look for the review in a couple weeks). Check out Hungry’s great writeup here. She is much faster than me. 😉
There were over 40 different restaurants and vendors there. We knew from the start the best way to get through the event was divide and conquer by sharing each meatball. Since we had so many different kinds of meatballs, I can’t describe each one to you unfortunately. After a while, they started to taste the same, except for some of the more unique presentations.
Upon entering we were given a map to see where the different restaurants were setup and attached was a coin that I was supposed to use in order to vote for my favorite meatball. As mentioned above, there were just way too many to compare.
Carmine’s– Meatballs & Eggplant Parmigiana. Our first taste of the night. They gave me a huge slice of the eggplant. It was super dense, way too much if I wanted to taste from more of the others.
Tarallucci e Vino– Crispy Spaghetti and Squab Meatball with Black Olive and Porcini Ragu. They also had a dessert, but it was way too early in the night for something sweet. I never had a squab meatball before. It was quite good, not as mineraly as Hungry described. The fried spaghetti was a fun topping.
Peasant– Veal Ricotta Meatball with Creamy Polenta.
Mia Dona– Meatball Slider on Potato Focaccia with Cacciocavallo Cheese. Donatella herself was handing out the sliders. Not too many women in the world can rock a chef’s coat and hooker boots at the same time :P. This was actually really good. It is probably the same as what you get at their meatball cart outside the restaurant. Hungry also had the coconut cupcake that was offered, but again I passed. It was pretty though.
Whole Foods– An Organic Beef Meatball from a farm in New Jersey. This meat definitely tasted different in a good way.
The Lion– Nonna Julia’s Meatballs and Black Garlic Toasts with Parmesan Basil Foam. I recognized the chef de cuisine as one of the winners from Chopped on the Food Network. The executive chef, John DeLucie, was busy being interviewed by a reporter. I have some black garlic I got from Swagapalooza and haven’t really figured out what to do with it. Maybe I will put it on some crostini?
Ciano– Veal Meatball with some other things. I didn’t get a picture of the menu.
A Voce– Riccotta Filled Meatballs with Calabrian Chili and Fennel. Missy Robbins was handing out the sample. I really liked A Voce Columbus Circle when I went last winter. These were somewhat like the pizza meatballs I made at the last FBM potluck, but much better!
Porter House New York– Sicilian Meatball with Pine Nuts and Raisins. Another slider, jeez! I guess it makes sense though since it is an easy presentation. We accidently dropped the top of the bun, so we ate it with out forks. I didn’t really like this. It was too weird with nuts & raisins.
Godiva was on hand, but we skipped this. Please don’t be mad at me, CT!
Pulino’s– Pepperoni Meatball with Pizza Bianca. Nate Appleman, aka the current hot chef of the moment, was dishing out these bites. It was just ok.
Felidia– “Naked” Meatball Ravioli Meatball with Spaghetti Squash with Mushroom Marsala Sauce. This was a mushroom bomb!
Giada de Laurentiis was not only the host of the evening, she had a table setup. Although she was too busy to dish out the meatballs herself. Hungry and I immediately said “SAUSAGE” after tasting this. It was basically ground up Italian sausage in meatball form.
Yvo’s favorite pasta maker, Barilla was on hand with one of the largest stands. They had Barilla Orzotto with Truffle and Veal Meatballs. Truffle completely overwhelmed the dish. The tiny meatball was nothing to write home about.
There were various wines on offer throughout the space. This table had wine on tap out of those oversized bottles that you think are just for decoration. It was a pretty cool system. The wine was a nice red that helped with some of the much needed digestion, haha.
Led Zeppole– Peanut Butter & Jelly or Cookies & Cream Italian Ice. No meatballs here folks. Hungry chose Peanut Butter & Jelly. I had a taste. It definitely matched the flavor, but seemed to be more of an ice cream than italian ice?
L’Artusi– Olive Oil Cake with Creme Fraiche Mousse and Raisin Marmelletta. This was a much better use of raisins that in Porter House’s meatballs. The cake was light flavorful and quite moist.
Motorino– Neopolitan Meatball. This was topped with 10 year old pecorino that was aged in Brooklyn. I found the cheese a little strange with the overbearing hipster flavor. The accompanying riccotta was also quite tasty. The meatball just ok.
Quattro Gastronomia Italiana– Meatball Fingers with Bacon & Cabbage. This was another stuffed meatball. They made the cabbage into spaghetti and the acid helped cut into the richness of the meatball.
Mezzeta– They should win the award for best named meatball, Whatchu Lookin’ at Meatballs. Unfortunately, the name was a lot better than the meatball itself.
Trattoria L’Incontro– Wild Game Meatballs and a Lobster Salad. They used 3 or 4 kinds of wild game in the meatball, but I forget what critters were used. It was definitely a gamey meatball, only for the strongest of palettes. The Lobster Salad was meh, only because they could only put in a small amount of lobster due to the massive number of portions to be served.
Accademia di Vino– ADV Meatball with Peppers & Onion. We just had a small bite of this one before tossing. Too mean?
Co.– Mini Meatball Hero. Obviously the bread was delicious, since it came from Bread God Jim Lahey. The meatball was average.
Locanda Verde– Lamb Meatball Sliders with Caprino and Pickled Cucumber. Andrew Carmellini was talking to a reporter, probably about his chances for a repeat win this year. It was a pretty tall slider that would be impossible to eat as presented. I was getting pretty full at this point, but still managed to eat my half. It was not lambey at all.
SD26– a large selection of charcuterie. They even brought a whole proscuitto to slice from.
The Meatball Shop– Spicy Pork Meatballs with Spicy Meatsauce and Polenta. Why did I get the spicy pork the night before at their shop??? As my forthcoming review will show, they make a mean meatball. The polenta was very good, although with the stick of butter in each portion, how could it not?
I Trulli– Polpettine Wrapped in Pork Belly with Sauteed Broccoli Rabe.
Osteria del Circo– Classic Tuscan “Polpetta” Meatballs with homemade Foccacia. This is from the same family that owns Le Cirque. This was the only table serving two little meatballs per serving, but they were not very good.
Mama Mancini’s– All Natural Beef Meatballs cooked in San Marzano Tomato Sunday Sauce. I really like the hollowed out cheese wheel used as a bowl. Too bad I didn’t like the meatball itself as much.
Lavo– A5 Kobe Meatball with sausage ragu, Sheeps’ milk ricotta, and extra virgin olive oil. I recognized the chef, Manuel Trevino, as a former cheftestant on Top Chef. The meatball was average, but nicely assisted with the sausage ragu.
As we were starting to make our way back to the entrance to see what stations we missed, we came upon some sort of blond, spiky creature. Turns out it was Anne Burrell from various Food Network shows and various NYC restaurants. The platforms she wore made her even more intimidating. Hungry almost got crushed, while she took a picture.
Here is the trophy for the winner. We totally could have grabbed it and ran.
Our second to last stop was Salumeri Rosi Parmacotto serving meatballs and charcuterie.
Cesare Casella is quite a jolly character that you may recognize from a couple appearances on No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain and other TV shows. Like SD26, he was also hand slicing prosciutto from the huge leg. I was way too full to try any other meats, which looked great, but managed a taste of the meatball. It definitely was not the star of the table.
Lastly because we must hate ourselves, the final table of the evening, Northern Spy Food Co. with a Fleisher’s Heritage Pork Meatball with Marinara and Aged Sheep’s Milk Cheese. Since my taste buds were now officially shot and the meatball sweats arrived, I was not able to describe this one.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable evening except for the pain of carrying food baby septuplets home in my belly. Was it worth the $200 the tickets would have cost? I don’t think so, although it was benefiting the Food Bank for NYC and Share Our Strength. If most of the money went to these great charities, then yes it was. Thanks to Hungry for bringing me along. Thanks to Eater for holding the contest for tickets and selecting Hungry as the winner!