Sunday Dinner with Johnny “Meatballs” and some new cocktail recipes
January 19, 2011
Last Sunday, by the kind invitation of Johnny “Meatballs” DeCarlo and his lovely wife Megin- I traveled to their gracious home for “Sunday Dinner.” They asked me to their home to share some of his signature meatballs and gravy. But what is gravy? According to Johnny, his gravy is made by using roasted meats. The use of roasted meats makes the flavors taste differently from vegetarian based, regular spaghetti sauce. Sauce, according to Johnny has no meat in it. I agree, mostly because while in culinary school, I was trained to be a saucier. Gravy always has a meat base. Sauce is with a vegetable base. In Southern Italian cooking this means vegetarian.
Arguments have started “spaghetti wars” over the decades about what is a sauce and what is a gravy.
What Johnny crafts is a gravy- it has meat in it!
And the meatballs are all natural!
Never one to show up without something in my hands for the hostess, I brought a case of Italian Moretti Beer (2 six packs of the lager and 2 of the La Rossa) which we found goes very nicely with his handcrafted and made with love- meatballs. Johnny only uses the very best ingredients that money can buy. The “Holy” Trinity of Pork, Beef and Veal go in, then his signature blend of seasoning. What’s in there? I won’t tell you the actual secret recipe-or it wouldn’t be secret! What I can tell you about these meatballs is the flavor and aroma had me coming back for more. Did I detect caramelized onions? Certainly. The sweet scent of his Italian seasonings-the smoky deeply flavored, sautéed meats, a bit of this and some of that. Yes, you can look at the package but that won’t tell you anything about the passion that goes into each hand-formed meatball. Johnny says: “If I don’t like the way they turn out, I won’t sell them!” His packaging is crisp with nice four-color photography showing his famous visage, his smile and the Italian flag. The “seen on TV” badge catches my eye immediately!
Johnny is standing in front of a few platters of his meatballs, they look great on the package- I want to dive right in and fix up a batch.
Today is “Prince” Spaghetti Day. It is Wednesday, food day in the newspapers. When I was a kid, only a few short decades ago, Wednesday was the day for pasta. If I had meatballs as well made as Johnny’s, I may have paid more attention in culinary school. They certainly are the best I’ve ever tasted.
Thank you Johnny and Megin for making me so full of your hospitality, your family and your gracious home.
Over the past few weeks I’ve received some nice samples from friendly liquor manufacturers. One package came recently. It contained the entire line-up of Jose Cuervo Tequila in little 50ml bottles. I learned that Jose Cuervo is a family-owned business. They have been creating the finest tequilas for over 250 years! I received a selection of little bottles… tasters they are called.
Jo Snow Syrups from Melissa Yen also grace my bar. A marriage of sorts is born. Taking the samples to craft new concoctions is one of my strengths. Melissa sent me her line-up. Tangerine lavender honey, fig vanilla and black pepper, ginger passion fruit, hibiscus basil orange blossom, cardamom rose water, and my favorite cafe de olla are all the flavors. Immediately I set out to create some new cocktails with some of the Tequila. The Café de Olla, is also known as “Coffee de Oh Yeah” according to Melissa’s informative web-site. I put pen to paper and created these cocktails using Melissa’s salubrious syrups and preparations.
The Spaghetti Western Cocktail:
1 scant splash of the Coffee de Oh Yeah syrup, 2 shots of Jose Cuervo Tradicional Tequila (Reposado) top with club soda and mix, add two drops of Bitter End Mexican Mole Bitters to finish. Serve straight. No ice, although you may chill the Tequila slightly before straining into a shot glass to be drunk quickly.
Red Dust Cocktail:
2 shots of Jose Cuervo PlatinoTequila, 1 scant splash of Jo Snow Cardamom Rose Water syrup, mix in cocktail shaker. Add 3 drops exactly of Blackstrap Bitters from Bittercube Bitters. Add a few cubes of ice and slurp.
Forest of Infamy Cocktail:
2 shots of Reserve De La Familia Tequila from Jose Cuervo, 1 scant splash of Jo Snow Ginger Passion Fruit syrup over ice. Stir and strain into a brandy snifter.
Dark and Bright Cocktail:
2 shots of Jose Cuervo Gold Tequila, 1 scant drop of Hibiscus Basil orange blossom syrup. To a cocktail shaker add ice and Cuervo Gold, add a drop or two of the syrup, then exactly four drops of Bittercube Bolivar Bitters and four drops of Bittercube Orange Bitters. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass with 3 ice cubes.
Candy Says Cocktail (influenced by the Velvet Underground)
2 shots of Jose Cuervo Silver Tequila, splash of Jo Snow tangerine, lavender honey syrup. Add to a cocktail shaker with some ice. Add four drops of Bittercube Bolivar Bitters. Shake, then strain into a tall glass, top with Q-Tonic water.
Warren Bobrow is a mixologist, chef, and writer known as the Cocktail Whisperer. In 2010, Bobrow founded “Wild Table” for Wild River Review and serves as the master mixologist for several brands of liquor, including the Busted Barrel rum produced by New Jersey’s first licensed distillery since Prohibition.
Bobrow has published three books on mixology and written articles for Saveur magazine, Voda magazine, Whole Foods-Dark Rye, Distiller, Beverage Media, DrinkupNY and other periodicals. He writes the “On Whiskey” column for Okra Magazine at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and has written restaurant reviews for New Jersey Monthly.
His first book Apothecary Cocktails, was published in September 2013; and immediately went into a second printing. In 2014, he published Whiskey Cocktails. He was born and raised in Morristown, NJ, on a Biodynamic farm.
Warren Bobrow in this Edition
COCKTAIL WHISPERER, Editor
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