Love at First BiteMeet Michael and Donna, the too cute couple living the ultimate hipster foodie dream. He's a co-owner of the Meatball Shop, she's a Danish model who makes homemade ice cream. The combination? Just delicious.
It's a brisk afternoon on the Lower East Side, but at the Meatball Shop on Stanton Street, its open kitchen, packed with dudes who look like they might be pro skateboarders on the side, is heating up.
Michael Chernow, 30, who co-owns the laid-back hot spot with chef Daniel Holzman, bustles about the restaurant setting tables for the evening's service while fielding calls about the soon-to-open Bedford Avenue spin-off in Williamsburg. Michael's wife, Donna Hemmingsen Chernow, a Danish-born model with rippling brown hair and enviable cheekbones, stops in and gives him a kiss. It's hard not to think this guy has some pretty great karma.
Even better? Donna, who just touched down from three weeks in Paris, London and Lanzarote, Spain, for photo shoots, is an Institute of Culinary Education–trained pastry chef who interned at Le Bernardin and helped develop the dessert menu for the Meatball Shop. The pair met six years ago, when Donna walked into East Village Italian resto Frank, where Michael bartended. He asked her out on a date, and on the eve of her birthday the pair dined on oysters and bone marrow at Blue Ribbon, followed by cake at midnight. Two years later, the irritatingly handsome duo were married. Asked what makes their relationship work, Michael says, "We have the crazy sweet tooth of all time between us."
Since the Meatball Shop opened in February 2010, with its laddish slogan, "We Make Balls," Michael and his co-owner Dan have been riding a wave of meatball madness, with appearances on shows like Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Certainly, part of the allure is that they're good-looking guys with badass tattoos. But there's also the simple appeal of their business formula: Guests get menus with pens and circle their meatball choices from a selection of beef, chicken and veggie, as well as daily specials like rabbit. Dessert is the sort of comfort fare that makes you feel like a kid: chocolate ice-cream floats and peanut-butter cookie sandwiches filled with scoops of vanilla ice cream.
Though the twentysomething Donna no longer works at the restaurant (juggling modeling gigs with churning ice cream is a tall order), she's the dessert queen of their Williamsburg home and is thinking of someday opening a bakery.
But before you decide it's all too ideal, the couple admit they don't survive solely on red meat and sweet treats. "It would be a healthy bakery," laughs Donna, a devoted gym bunny, "probably vegan, using whole wheat. When I bake at home, it's always on the healthy side."
Michael is health-mad, too. He loves the martial-arts practice of muay Thai and regularly runs in races. "I eat a lot of veggie meatballs," he says.
But calorie-packed or not, the meatball trend shows no sign of letting up. "Meatballs are like the Yankees," says Michael. "They don't go out of style."
Fighting Irish Meatball YIELDS ABOUT 24 GOLF-BALL-SIZE MEATBALLS
Photo: Tom Corbett
* 11/2 pounds tinned corned beef
* 1/2 pound ground pork
* 2 cups day-old mashed potatoes
* 1 cup minced green cabbage
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
* 2 eggs
* 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 450º. Combine all the ingredients except the olive oil in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand.
2. Drizzle the olive oil into a 9x13 baking dish, making sure to evenly coat the entire surface (use your hand to help spread the oil). Roll the mixture into round, golf-ball-size meatballs, packing the meat firmly. Place the balls into the oiled baking dish and roast until firm and cooked through (about 20 minutes). Allow the meatballs to cool for five minutes before removing from the tray.
—Recipe by Daniel Holzman
Chocolate Walnute Meringue Cookies YIELDS 30
Photo: Tom Corbett
* 36 egg whites
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 1 cup granulated sugar
* 1 3/4 cups semisweet chocolate
* 2 cups walnuts
1. Preheat oven to 275º. Chop the chocolate and walnuts into small pieces.
2. Whip the egg whites till foamy, then add the salt and cream of tartar and continue whipping, adding the sugar gradually until the meringue reaches a stiff peak. Add the vanilla and incorporate it by whisking, then fold in the chocolate-and-walnut mixture.
3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spoon out heaping tablespoons of the meringue mix, flattening and spreading into 2½-inch circles. (Piping concentric circles with a pastry bag works as well.)
4. Bake for 90 minutes or until the centers of the cookies are firm to the touch. Rotate the pan halfway through baking. The cookies should be firm.
5. Assemble into ice cream cookies (pictured) using store-bought ice cream or Donna's decadent chocolate ice cream recipe, at nypost.com/pagesixmag.