South Beach Wine & Food Festival

Balls in Our Mouths: Mark Oldman and Daniel Holzman Mix 'Em Up

​Around 100 folks at Saturday's South Beach Wine & Food Festival seminar with Meatball Shop owner Daniel Holzman and international wine personality Mark Oldman left with more than they probably hoped for: five balls in the mouth and all the alcohol a groupie should swallow by noon. The event was chock-full of spherical yumminess, bubbly, education, yuks, and--of course--a predictable smattering of testicular-themed jokes ("I was waiting two hours for my balls," "[New York] is a city that has good balls," "I want to go drink-for-drink, ball-for-ball," etc.), and the various guests we surveyed said they really enjoyed the lecture, regardless.

Upon being seated at tables set for four, most attendees were given a plate of five meatballs (all were cold upon arrival, though some still hadn't been served by 12:30), set on a placemat designating the appropriate wine pairings. Oldman began the lecture by declaring, "I look at this like a Death Row meal." [We might opt for a porterhouse, o toro, white cheddar and sage mashed potatoes, sweet tea, and a slab of killer cake, but that's just us...] Holtzman and Oldman ping-ponged between anecdotes about the origins of the meatball recipes and the tips one should know before considering which wines pair with which proteins best.

Here's what we were served, so you can consider it for your next party o' balls:

  • A crab meatball with an Old Bay dipping sauce paired with a rose Champagne
  • A chicken meatball slider with a parmesan cream sauce and Viognier
  • A lamb meatball with wild mushrooms in a tomato sauce with Pinot Noir
  • One beef and mortadella meatball with mustard greens and Grenache
  • And a spicy pork meatball with spicy meat sauce and Chianti

And here are a few tidbits we learned:

Oldman on why bubbly goes with spicy: "Something about bubbles cleanses the palate and cools the fire."

Oldman on what wine snobs mean when they talk about a wine's "funk": "Barnyard, rain on pavement, sweaty saddle...the problem with wine is there's no way to describe 'funk.' You can say it has a 'topsoil' smell to it, almost like number two."

And, continuing on that theme and on to his sex life...: "Wine people are notoriously repressed. You chefs get all the glory. These are people not getting enough sex. And they're a little into doody." Um, eww.

Holzman on the best part to use for a poultry ball: "We use chicken thighs and we put the skin right in [the grinder]. Fat is what makes the palate say 'moist.'"

And, of course, the question on everyone's mind: How big does Holzman like his balls? "Personally, as long as it fits in my mouth..." he began, than clarified with, "One point five inches is perfect. That's a 2-ounce meatball. Cooks in the right amount of time for that seared crust. I'm not known for having the biggest balls."

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Riki Altman