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This Week in Food: St. Hubertus Dinner, Movember Meatballs, Oyster Shucking Class

St. Hubertus Dinner
Prime Meats (465 Court Street, Brooklyn)
Tuesday, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Prime Meats is celebrating the patron saint of hunters with a menu dedicated to wild game. Offerings include pheasant, boar, and Scottish roe deer, with wine and cider pairings available. Reservations are $110 per person. Reserve your spot here.

Movember Ball
Refinery Rooftop (63 West 38th Street)
Wednesday, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Refinery Rooftop is hosting a meatball competition with NYC chefs, including Harold Moore of Harold’s Meat and Three. The contest will be judged by the Meatball Shop’s Daniel Holzman and special guest judge Dominic Chianese (of The Sopranos). Admission includes unlimited tastings and an open bar. Reserve your $60 ticket here.

An Evening of Learning and Climbing
Brooklyn Boulders Queensbridge (23-10 41st Avenue, Queens)
Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Clif Bar’s director of environmental stewardship will lead a discussion on the company’s path toward sustainability. Afterward, guests can scale the walls at Brooklyn Boulders, too. Tickets ($10) include craft beer, bites, and an optional climbing pass. Secure yours here.

Anniversary Party
Treadwell Park (1125 First Avenue)
Thursday, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Upper East Side beer hall Treadwell Park is hosting a one-year anniversary party featuring complimentary beer tastings and new rare beer offerings. The party will also include prize giveaways and snacks (think smoked-pork nachos).

Oyster Shucking Class
Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co. LIC Market (5-43 48th Avenue, Queens)
Thursday, 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Greenpoint Fish and Lobster Co. is offering a hands-on oyster shucking class. The class ($45 per person) includes drinks from Bluepoint Brewing Co. as well as light bites. Reserve your spot here.

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Nom on Nordic Food, Dance With Kiwis, and Grab Cheap Meatballs This Week

Brooklyn Brewery and the Craft Beer Revolution, 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue, Monday, 7 p.m.

If you’re looking to turn your extracurricular hobby into a booming business, do so by learning the history of local suds with Brooklyn Brewery, courtesy of brewmaster Garret Oliver and owner Steve Hindy. The duo will cover their transition into brewing (Hindy is a former war correspondent) as well as share a few secrets of the trade. The event includes a beer tasting as well as the chance to purchase signed copies of the pair’s tome, The Craft Beer Revolution. Tickets are $32 and can be reserved in advance here.

Nordic Food Festival, Multiple Locations, Wednesday through September 28

The cuisines of Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland are a few of the inspirations you’ll find at the annual Nordic Food Festival, which kicks off this Wednesday in the West Village. A few activities designed to release your inner Anna and Elsa include chocolate-making classes, daily street food tastings, and chef talks featuring Mads Refslund of ACME and Fredrik Berselius. A full lineup of scheduled events can be viewed on the festival website.

Save the Rhino Benefit Dinner, Madiba, 195 Dekalb Avenue, Brooklyn, Wednesday, 7 p.m.

Dine out for a cause this week as Madiba hosts a three-course dinner with wine pairings, with proceeds going to help wildlife conservation efforts. A few lucky guests will also be chosen to receive complimentary artwork, with live entertainment for everyone throughout the evening. Reservations are $65; secure them here.

Anniversary Party, Kiwiana, 847 Union Street, Brooklyn, Thursday, 6 p.m. until closing

Practice your Down Under dance moves with a New Zealand–themed Seventies party. Celebrating its fourth anniversary, Kiwiana is offering guests an open bar, passed appetizers, and, most importantly, the chance to break out your disco attire to win prizes. Tickets are $45 at the door and can be purchased here.

25 Cent Meatballs, Carmine’s, 200 West 44th Street/2450 Broadway, Friday

Celebrating its 25th anniversary, both locations of Carmine’s are toasting to restaurant eternity with 25-cent meatballs during lunchtime. Guests can visit the theater district location from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., or the Upper West Side digs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m to enjoy the deal.

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Is It Worth Riding the 1 Train Uptown for Craft Beer at Hogshead Tavern?

Craft beer is more commonly associated with hipster-laden pockets of the LES and Williamsburg than with the triple-digited streets of Upper Manhattan. Hogshead Tavern (126 Hamilton Place, 212-234-5411) hopes to change that perception, staking out the vastly untapped region of Hamilton Heights in the name of high-minded suds. The streamlined bar and restaurant — with warm, black-bricked, plaid-floored interior — has already charmed its way into something of a neighborhood staple. But for the faraway folks, is it worth the trek? I hopped on the 1 train to find out.

On its well-maintained website, Hogshead is quick to point out that it’s just a ten-minute ride from midtown. I found that to be wishful thinking, at best. But it is surprisingly accessible from the lower depths of the borough by way of several subway lines. Once inside, I was greeted by a slew of welcome sights, namely: twenty tap handles straddling a concise yet thoughtful platform of craft whiskeys, gins, and vodkas, all bound within a sleek, modish space.

The draft selections are sensibly displayed in large, white marker on transparent glass behind the bar. They’re impossible to miss, which is important, as the taplist frequently fluctuates, sometimes throughout the course of a single evening. Selections range from $6 to $8, mainly for sixteen-ounce pours, and include exclusive craft entities like Great Divide’s unapologetically viscous Yeti Imperial Stout, and Bell’s Two Hearted Ale — a masterfully balanced American IPA. Covering regions as divergent as Newport, Oregon, and Bavaria, Germany, the menu is surprisingly light on local brews — or it was when I visited.

But as geographically and stylistically expansive as the list is, it isn’t a radical departure from many other fine watering holes in more traveled sections of the city. To set itself apart, Hogshead offers unique beer cocktails, a notable weekend brunch, and — living up to its name — an efficient food menu dominated by pork.

Of the eight dishes, built to share and priced at around $10 a plate, only the kale and artichoke dip is devoid of meat — and it could hardly be considered light fare. Although the chipotle BBQ pig wings are notable for the unique delivery of pork attached to a Buffalo wing–like riblet, the bites were somewhat lacking in flavor when compared to the spicy Moroccan meatballs and the crispy pork belly grilled cheese, the former molded from braised lamb and chorizo, the latter enhanced by a sweet onion relish and three separate varieties of melted cheese. Together they were reason enough to rationalize the subway ride.

And that was before the Hogshead Buck, a bourbon and beer cocktail that relies on ginger and blood orange to round out wooded notes of Kentucky whiskey. It’s the standout from a list of four drinks, which should soon expand to feature more beers in cocktail form. The current selections, priced between $10 and $11, are built solely upon either Crabbies Ginger Beer or Crispin Pear Cider.

Well-fed and sufficiently served, I left the Hogshead unable to stomach food or drink for the foreseeable future. I did, however, find myself with a newfound hunger to further explore Hamilton Heights. The new tavern was by no means the first to tap into this neighborhood’s unrealized potential, but by feeding an increasing demand for craft here, it certainly won’t be the last.


 

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What’s Happening This Weekend – 2/7/2014

The work week’s almost over, so start thinking about where to enjoy the next 48 hours of freedom. Here are a few events that you should take into consideration.

First Fridays: Lunar New Years Celebration, Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue, Friday, 6:30 p.m.

The lunar new year parties continue throughout the city, as the Asia Society Museum is hosting a party showcasing culture and cosmos. Free tours of the museum’s Tales of Wonder exhibit will take place at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m., with special cocktails like lychee-tinis on hand for the occasion. A selection of small Asian bites will be available for purchase; a DJ will set the mood for the evening.

Cooking from the Masters, The Brooklyn Kitchen, Gotham West Market, 600 Eleventh Avenue, Saturday, 6:30 p.m.

Open to all levels of chefs, this course will cover global cuisine from one of Fork writer Eve Turow’s favorite reads: Jerusalem, A Cookbook. Instructor Kate Duff will cover the proper use of ingredients like rose water, harissa, and sumac before sitting down to a full dinner. The menu includes potato latkes, spicy carrot salad, and cardamon rice pudding among other dishes, with wine included. Tickets are $85 and can be reserved through the Brooklyn Kitchen’s website.

Everett Scotch Tasting: The Art of Scotch, Everett Pop Up Fashion Gallery
189 Orchard Street, Saturday, 6 p.m.

Peruse an art gallery while sipping fine scotch. For $45, guests will enjoy four tastings from four unique regions of Scotland while learning about the distilling process. Food is included in the cost of a ticket, which can be purchased through the event’s website. Sounds like an ideal date night to us — or even an early Valentine’s Day gift.

The Brooklyn Meatball Takedown, The Bell House, 149 7th Street, Brooklyn, Sunday, 2 p.m.

If you’re still claiming your grandma has the best recipe for meatballs, now’s your chance to back it up. Brooklyn chefs are encouraged to come out and show their borough whether or not they deserve best ball bragging rights for 2014. For $15, attendees can sample varieties like chicken, veal, and lamb among others with a variety of sauces for each. Register by emailing chilitakedown@gmail.com, or reserve your chance to crown Brooklyn’s best ball.


 

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Find Serious Meatballs and Sunday Gravy on Atlantic Avenue

Sunday gravy only sounds like one of those fast, unfussy, one-pot dishes. There’s the stuffing of the braciole, the mixing and shaping of the meatballs, the browning of the sausages. There’s the layering of the stock, amplified with bones and meat, simmered for hours. It’s no wonder that many Italian-American families have abandoned the tradition of weekly meals around this rich, time-consuming sauce. It’s a shame, too — gravy is glorious.

Chef Ayesha Nurdjaja grew up in Brooklyn on her grandmother’s, and the version she serves at Saul Bolton’s new restaurant, Red Gravy, is part of a $45 prix-fixe dinner, available only on Sundays.

Nurdjaja builds it with lamb ribs, cured with fennel seeds, pepper, and orange zest; a complex braciole made from short ribs sliced off the bone, filled with hard-boiled eggs and breadcrumbs; and a house-made sausage of pork shoulder and back fat. The gravy’s meatballs, available the rest of the week on a bed of polenta or spaghetti (seen above), are here in abundance, spiked with fennel confit. Nurdjaja browns the meat separately, deglazing with red wine, and finally simmers everything together, gently.

The result is a deeply meaty and multifaceted sauce. Eat it with fresh paccheri, a wide tubular pasta that’s also made in-house, and you’ll get why Bolton named his restaurant after it. For more on Red Gravy, read this week’s restaurant review here.

Red Gravy, 151 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-855-0051

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Polpettine Pizza — With a Gooey Egg — at Pulino’s, Dish #59

Welcome to 100 Dishes to Eat Now, the tasty countdown leading up to our “Best of 2012” issue. Tune in every day (weekends, too!) for a new dish from the Fork in the Road team.

See More 100 Dishes:
Grilled Veggies and Ricotta Pizza From Carmine’s Pizzeria in Brooklyn, Dish #60

Cheesecake From Two Little Red Hens, Dish #61
Chamorro de Borrego at Casa Enrique, Dish #62

Polpettine (“Meatball”) is a pizza on the Lunch and Late Lunch menus at Pulino’s. That’s the perfect time to go to the Keith McNally spot at the corner of Bowery and Houston Street, which can be impossible to get into around cocktail time.

The meatballs are plain and beefy, the cheese floe profuse, and the little piles of green pickled chiles send this delicious Frisbee spinning in a south-of-the-border direction. It’s an Italy-meets-Mexico move, and an utterly satisfying one.

Oh, and there’s a list of optional toppings on the menus, too, from which a jiggly egg was selected. You might want to give the special person in your life the slice with an egg, or divvy the egg up and spread the goodness among all the slices. Your choice.

Pulino’s
282 Bowery
212-226-1966

Your table awaits during the off-hours at Pulino’s.

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Meatball Obsession: On the Frontiers of Meat Ball Merchandising

Hidden under there somewhere is a single beef meatball.

You’d think the city had reached its meatball saturation limit. Following in the footsteps of the Meatball Shop — which itself has sprouted branches — there are plenty of places now willing to make you a premium meatball sub with exemplary cheese on good bread. Someone had to come up with another formula. Now they have.

After delays, Meatball Obsession finally opened yesterday afternoon.

Meatball Obsession (clever to make it sound like a mental illness) is a stall — just a window, really — embedded near the PATH train entrance on the east side of Sixth Avenue just short of 14th Street. Inside is a stove with three variously colored La Creuset Dutch ovens, each filled with meatballs of a single composition: beef, pork sausage, or turkey.

Here’s the fun part: The meatballs in ones, twos, or threes ($4, $7, $10) are deposited in a paper cup, with a sprightly tomato sauce, and your choice of toppings, some free, some requiring an extra $1-per-meatball charge. Plus a dry piece of focaccia you’ll probably end up throwing away.

The idea, I guess, is that you can enjoy a meatball any time you want on a whim, just one meatball, which makes it a snack rather than a full meal. Who ever thought of selling just one meatball before?

The interior of the beef meatball, which gives you some idea of its size and composition. The cup is a normal coffee or soup cup.

The pork sausage meatball with the crispy pasta option

The beef meatball is herby and good, but really, can meatballs get much better? The pork sausage meatball was a disappointment, only because you expect something zesty, and end up with just bland ground pork.

On the pork version I had fried pasta sprinkled on top, the most interesting-sounding topping. It wasn’t so great, but some of the other toppings probably are. The menu is one of those that seem inscrutable at first due to so many options, but you’ll quickly discover which combo you like and stick with it.

Really, I liked this place much better than I expected to. Pocket meatball sandwiches are also available. And that doesn’t mean they just pile the meatballs in your pants pocket!

Meatball Obsession
510 Sixth Avenue
212-260-8646

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This Week’s Specials: Booze, Brains, and Balls

And now, a look back at what was on the menu here at Fork in the Road this week.

Use your noggin.
Use your noggin.

Robert Sietsema slurps stews in this week’s 10 Best Soups in NYC. From borscht to matzo balls, he offers up the city’s tastiest picks.

Lauren Shockey tells you what kind of booze to buy in her holiday gift guide. Check out Shockey’s extensive list — and learn what to buy the alcoholics in your life.

Sparkletinis taste like a Four Loko-champagne mash-up. Spoiler: $8 faux bubbly is as bad as it sounds.

Lauren Bloomberg savors sufganiyot, a Hanukkah jelly donut of sorts, at Mile End.

Fork in the Road’s bloggers list their favorite New York dim sum spots, in Shockey’s weekly Tuesday Toasts feature.

Bad brains? Sietsema snacks on a beefy gray-matter sandwich in Bay Ridge.

Balls taste great — when made of pork!

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Meatball Madness! Sampling the Orbs of Goodness at Polpette

Seems like New York City is going mad for meatballs. In a matter of weeks, the Meatball Shop opened its latest outpost in the West Village, the Meatball Factory launched, and takeout spot Polpette began peddling its orbs in Park Slope adjacent to Fornino. For good reason — who doesn’t love them some balls? We recently stopped into Polpette and sampled all four of the meaty treats on hand. (There’s a veggie version, too, but an eggplant-and-mixed bean meatball just doesn’t qualify as a meatball in our book. Sorry.)

Meatballs can be had one of four ways: You can get three balls over salad for $7.95; two balls crushed on a roll for $4.95; four balls on a seeded bun for $7.95; or any three balls with sauce for $5.95. Extra balls $2 apiece. We went à la carte with sauce so we could sample the goods in their purest glory

To begin, the good: The Day After Thanksgiving meatball (above) contains ground turkey and cornbread stuffing, topped with thick, home-style gravy. The meatball was tender and moist, and did taste similar to a T-Day spread, minus the cranberry sauce. These would be great with a big plate of creamy mashed potatoes on the side.

Pork meatball
Pork meatball

Another winner was the Porco Due meatball, which topped ground pork balls with a chunky fennel sausage and tomato cream sauce. Really, you can’t go wrong with pork topped with pork. Ideal for a sandwich or on top of pasta.

Beef meatball
Beef meatball

Now, the not as good: The classic Josephine’s Famous beef meatball was fine, though somewhat mild and not as interesting as the previous two meatballs. If getting this one, you might want to add some mozzarella and/or Parmigiano ($1 each)

Chicken meatball
Chicken meatball

And finally, the chicken piccata. The ground-chicken ball came slicked with the classic lemon-butter-parsley sauce. While the sauce itself was good (though slightly runny), the texture of the meatball was off, simultaneously dense and chalky. It paired oddly with the topping, too.

If you’re a diehard Meatball Shop fan, you might not be a convert to Polpette, but then again, Polpette is in Park Slope, while the Meatball Shop has yet to make it to Southern Brooklyn. We’d come back for the Thanksgiving and pork meatballs, though maybe not for the others. And if we were really, really hungry, we might even try the bocce ball, a Scotch egg-like concoction that stuffs a hard boiled egg inside a giant beef ball the size of a baby’s head (OK, a preemie baby), served over salad for $7.95; it looks kind of amazeballs.

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Michael Chernow on the Meatball Shop – Meatball Factory Rivalry: Interview Part 2

Yesterday we spoke with Michael Chernow, co-owner of the popular Meatball Shop and co-author of the just-published The Meatball Shop Cookbook, who gave us tips for making great meatballs at home. Today he tells us how New York City’s culinary landscape has changed since he grew up here and shares his thoughts about the new Meatball Factory (231 Second Avenue, East Village, 212-260-8015).

So how do you feel about the Meatball Factory getting up on the meatball market?

We welcome them. This is New York City and it’s a big place. We wish them well and hope that they’ll succeed. There’s more than enough room for multiple meatballers.

How would you say you’ve distinguished yourself from the Meatball Factory?

We’re just happy to be at the forefront of meatballs. We opened a few years ago, and it’s been amazing to see people follow suit. We’ve seen meatball concepts open throughout the country, and that’s been really gratifying.

You grew up in New York City. How do you think the culinary landscape has changed?

Obviously chefs are up there on a celebrity platform. That’s really taken shape and the food scene has followed suit. People are eating focused foods as opposed to five-course tasting menus. I’ve just noticed over the years that people are more likely to gravitate towards a meal with more value involved. Do one thing, and do it really well; people are interested in the “best,” be it the best pizza, hot dogs, or meatballs.

Where do you eat when you’re not at the Meatball Shop?

I’m a sushi guy. I love Tomoe Sushi, and I love Takahachi. I love the burger at the Spotted Pig and there’s also a new restaurant in the neighborhood that I love, Betto. That restaurant is very special.

And they make meatballs, too!

Yeah, they do.

OK, so, finally — if you weren’t making meatballs what would you be doing?

I’ve found a real passion in designing restaurants, so I think at this point I’d be consulting and helping people design and decorate their own restaurants.