After ten minutes in the kitchen, surrounded by mounds of meatballs, I finally broke the silence: "Who's got meatball jokes?" I asked. Jensen Cummings stopped me. "No, we're not going to do that. We're not going to be the guys that tell the bad ball jokes," he declared. Cummings (also the chef of Row 14, until the end of this month), along with pals -- and business partners -- Johnny Coast and Alex Comisar were in the latter's home kitchen, testing meatball recipes for their forthcoming restaurant, the Slotted Spoon Meatball Eatery, which will open in the spring of next year.
See also: - Exclusive: Jensen Cummings is leaving Row 14 to focus on meatballs and Revelry | Pangaean Eats, another new restaurant project - Row 14 chef Jensen Cummings opening a fast-casual meatball shop
And Cummings, especially, was taking his meatball making seriously, delicately holding the spheres of meat in the palm of his hand, pointing to different spices, waxing poetic about his various sauces, and explaining how the meatball may very well be the easiest food in the world to globalize. It's entirely possible that he may be right: Almost every culture lays claim to its own meatball -- the Vietnamese, the Swedish, the Mexicans, the Greeks, the Thais, the Spanish, the Caribbean, the Japanese, the Italians. And you find them prepared every which way: stewed, barbecued, fried, grilled, braised, stuffed in a pocket of pita, floating in pho, or noodling around with a plate of spaghetti.
Meatballs haven't quite reached the pinnacle of bacon, but they seem to be well on their way, and Cummings, along with his partners, have been spending the past few weeks making balls and sauces, using Comisar's kitchen -- not a commercial kitchen -- to cook, muse and brainstorm about all the possibilities. "I thought that doing this in a home kitchen would be daunting, buy I loved the challenge of it, and I've realized that I don't need a bunch of fancy equipment to pull this off," says Cummings. Instead, he explains, "all you need is a good idea, passion, good ingredients...and a slotted spoon."
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I spent a few hours with Cummings in Comisar's kitchen, tasting balls and sauces (love the romesco and the tzatziki cream) and a few other dishes that Cummings plans to pimp at his new restaurant, including shells and cheese with peppered bacon, a cilantro slaw jolted with citrus and salads. Here's a behind the scenes look of what I was privy to.