The second Atlanta Meatball Festival is coming up Sunday, August 30th and recently the current MeatBrawl Champion Chef Drew Belline (of # 248), the festival Chef Host Chef Linda Harrell (of Cibo E Beve) , and the Festival Organizer Dale DeSena were kind enough to talk with me about this event.
Q: Why a Meatball Festival?
A: Chef Linda Harrell: I had been planning a Meatball Festival in my mind for some time. When I approached Dale about teaming up, she thought it was a great event for Taste of Atlanta to get involved in and ran with it. I have the opportunity to serve as Chef Host and oversee the planning. I think that a Meatball Festival speaks to a wide audience and translates well in many different types of cuisine.
A: Dale DeSena: Our Chefs make meatballs from all types of ingredients, not just beef, pork or lamb but also chicken and seafood. They come up with some amazing combinations that are unbelievably creative and that is what makes it exciting. Everyone is competing to cook the crowd’s favorite and move on to compete in the Meat Brawl at Taste of Atlanta
A: Chef Drew Belline: Meatballs are one of those nostalgic type dishes that everyone has their own version of. Everyone likes to think that their meatball recipe is the best.
Q. I have heard of restaurants that serve only meatballs. Are meatballs becoming “trendy?”
A: Chef Drew Belline: I’ve always sort of done meatballs. But at Floataway Café, Annie was big on meatballs and she got me really going on meatballs. They made up a whole section of the menu.
A. Chef Linda Harrell: I consider meatballs to be a staple. They are one food whose recipe is passed down generation to generation.
Q: Meatballs boiled, baked or fried?
A: Chef Drew Belline: I start out with a deep fry and sort of half cook them then they are added to the tomato sauce and braised for two and a half hours. Then we let them cool down- kind of like a chili is better the next day type of thing. It is a process that takes a whole day in our kitchen.
A: Chef Linda Harrell: What I do is put them on a sheet pan with just enough water to line the bottom of the pan. Then I put them in the oven so while they are roasting the water creates a steam that keeps them from drying out. This has proven to be the best recipe for me.
Q: What two pieces of advice would you give those who make meatballs at home?
A: Chef Drew Belline: First, use fresh ground meat and know where your meat is coming from. Either grind it yourself or have your butcher grind it for you. Secondly, check your seasonings. Make a small test meatball first. You don’t have a chance to go back and re-season them.
A: Chef Linda Harrell: First, let me say…it is not that easy to make a great meatball. It really comes down to the meat ration. If you want a great meatball don’t go with just beef (in my opinion). Adding pork adds a different texture and makes them juicier. Some people will soak the bread in milk. You want the meatball to be soft – just enough so that you can mold it.
Q: When I have tried to make meatballs at home one of the key ingredients seems to be the amount of fat in them – both for holding them together and keeping them juicy.
A: Chef Drew Belline: The key as you said is the fat. We get a lot of homemade ricotta in there as well as bread that we have fried in butter. We are trying for that perfect ratio of bread, egg, and meat with as much fat as we can get in there without it falling apart.
Q: How large is this year’s event and what are you most looking forward to?
A: Chef Linda Harrell: The event is definitely growing, and people are excited about it. I have more and more chefs who want to be involved this year. It is an event that chefs like to participate in because it promotes camaraderie.
A: Chef Drew Belline: I always like to taste and see what all the other guys are doing. It is all about the culinary community and learning from what everyone else is doing – teaching each other.
A: Dale DeSena: The Atlanta Meatball Festival is such a great time to eat, drink and rub elbows with the chefs. It’s all about creating great food memories – and Meatball Fest is a cool fun daytime event for everyone! Come see what we’re talking about!
The Atlanta Meatball Festival
August 30th, 2015, 1:00pm – 5:00pm
4969 Roswell Rd,
Sandy Springs, GA 30342
Buy tickets at www.xorbia.com