Saturday, October 16, 2010

Banh Mi-tyballs: Day 1


I first met Phillip Foss, former chef of Lockwood at the historic Palmer House Hilton, at Sarkis’ in Evanston.  For a couple nights at the end of September, he took over the cafe to showcase his Meatyballs concept (@FossFoodTrucks) in the guise of a pop-up restaurant.  My first impression of his refined meatball sandwiches was positive.  I was impressed by the moisture and delicateness of the meatballs as well as his Thai-inspired sauce that was served with turkey meatballs.  The freshly fried truffle dusted chips and chocolate salty balls were also memorable.

The following week, Foss ran Meatyball deliveries as his food truck was out of commission.  Luckily for my coworkers and me, he delivered to the Loop on the day we were all working in the West Loop.  After my second helping of his Meatyballs, Foss humbly asked for constructive criticism.  At that point, I had tried all but one of his sandwiches and gave a fairly detailed breakdown of each one and offered some suggestions for potential menu items.

Foss responded to my extremely verbose evaluation of his Meatyballs quite unexpectedly: he asked me if I’d like to come in and work on one of the sandwich ideas I suggested.  Of course, I was really excited and jumped at the opportunity to work him.  I would be the first guest to be featured on the Meatyballs Mobile, and the concept of crowdsourcing a menu item is a novel idea that can ultimately lead to a great connection between Foss and his customers.  For anyone interested in getting involved, email your Meatyball idea to thepickledtongue at gmail dot com.


The week before we got together, I made practice sandwiches and tested them on my coworkers.  Thankfully, they enjoyed the sandwich and gave me some good feedback.  That weekend, Foss and I got together at his kitchen to work on a banh mi inspired Meatyball sandwich that I’ve made in the past.  After a few iterations, we got the meatballs to our desired taste, consistency, and moisture level.

The meatballs were somewhat traditional in terms of ingredients (pork, fish sauce, sugar, salt), with a couple additions and a subtraction.  Foss added a couple ingredients to keep the meatballs moist, and I thought it would be a decent idea to take transfer the garlic from the meatball to an aioli.  I was hoping to get a little heat out of the raw garlic in order to replace the typically overwhelming raw seranos/jalapenos.  Traditional garnishes of pickled carrots/daikons in addition to cilantro rounded out the sandwich.

Throughout the entire process, I was surprised and thrilled by how it turned out to be a true collaboration rather than me writing down a few ratios for Foss and him implementing them as he saw fit.  He continuously sought my feedback after we tasted and tweaked something and reminded me that this was my sandwich.  After all our prep was done, we had about 100 Vietnamese meatballs ready for service, and I eagerly awaited Day 2 of my Meatyballs experience where I’d get the opportunity to help out with a day of service and ride along with the Meatyballs food truck.

1 comment:

  1. This is a fantastic idea. I am so glad you approach the idea of perfecting the meat balls recipe with experimentation, trial and error. The only way to success is to arrive to that magic formula. Congratulations, Mr Entrepreneur!