[Free stuff by Wilfrid: April 10, 2012]
Not every day you get a message titled "Beer Balls" dropping into your mailbox. I opened it because I love beer, and that's all I'm saying.
I'm sometimes partial to meatballs, sometimes a little cynical about their belated iconic status within the ambit of New York gastronomy. I mean, anyone can make them. This event was a salutory reminder that they can be done well or badly. There were dry, desiccated meatballs here, as well as flabby specimens packed with bread and egg. But let's celebrate what was tasty.
A couple of the best vendors, indeed, were off my radar. I thought The Clerkenwell on Clinton had been looking different recently. It seems it was re-branded as Kupersmith late last year. I was very pleased with the rich, dark, venison meatball, kicked up with a chili jam. The elk was comparatively pallid in appearance and flavor, but perfectly palatable.
MexiQ did well too, with a pairing beef meatballs/achiote sauce and pork meatballs/BBQ sauce; both just dandy.
Clay Gordon, of the chocoholical Website The Chocolate Life, was delivering turkeyballs in a musky mole poblano sauce.
Just a squirt of Mexican mayo on top of each ball to finish it off.
The team from Alewife in Long Island City, which I visited last October, fielded the surprise entrant, a "soup dumpling" meatball. Obvious once you think of it: a hot and spicy pork stock, neatly encased in a Berkshire pork wrapper, with won ton chips on the side. To be approached with care.
(Yes, the stock got slurped up when I bit in, of course, but you get the idea.)
The meatball sliders laid out by Tommy Lasagne looked grand, but just try eating them with one hand. (Your non-beer hand, if you see what I mean.)
And my unexpected champion? Who knew about Little Town NYC, a restaurant on Restaurant Row of all places (there's one on Union Square too), turning out a New York-themed menu? Beef on weck, Binghampton spiedies. Well, it's on my list now, thanks to really well-made, clean-flavored natural turkey and Wagyu meatballs, garnished with a figgy sauce which tasted like it had been cooked down forever.
Seen above in their naked state.
As for beers, I was pleased to raise a nostalgic glass of English-style dark mild brewed by Wandering Star. Also getting the thumbs up: Ballast Point Sea Monster stout, Mama's Little Yella Pils by Oskar Blues, Green Flash West Coast IPA, Founders Porter, and the Cigar City Maduro brown ale I'd previously enjoyed at The Cannibal. As for Rodenbacher Grand Cru, it was well described as sour, and I also had something which tasted like home brew out of a dirty bath, and thank goodness I don't remember its name.
Same again next year?