March 25, 2020
by Bruce Neyers
Bud Break – The annual vineyard sign of life
A friend wrote me earlier this week from his home in New York, and remarked that he had never before felt so overwhelmed. I think I agreed with him, as there’s no shortage of ways to describe the bizarre nature of our lives today. Even the most optimistic among us are beginning to develop short tempers and shorter patience levels as the need to stay home continues. Barbara Neyers – ever the optimist — has a good idea about making the hours pass more agreeably. She’s overwhelming me with good old comfort food. Our two local grocery stores have both returned to sanity now. The lines are shorter and the shelves are stocked. Over the past few days I’ve left my work alcove to be greeted by meals that transported me back in time to the days when food was, simpler. On Sunday we had Chili con Queso – easy to prepare and delicious. Saturday was a beautiful spring day, and it was given over to freshly ground top sirloin burgers, grilled outdoors over mesquite hardwood. Friday night was a classic Black Bean Soup à la Robert del Grande of Cafe Annie fame. Thursday was Spaghetti and Meatballs, with the meatballs a mix of ground chuck and ground veal. I now find myself eager for the evening to arrive, so I can sit down at the table over a meal the likes of which I probably enjoyed 30 or 40 years ago. Our daughter Lizzie lives next door, and she has been enjoying many of these meals with us, bringing along her husband and our two-year-old grandson. We have hand-washing stations scattered through the house, and we’re careful to keep our proper distance. Last night’s meal was the capper though – Pasta in Alfredo sauce, a dish that I remember watching Barbara teach herself to cook soon after we set up our first apartment in San Francisco in 1970. Many things have changed in the ensuing 50 years — I’m not referring to my weight or the amount of hair on my head. We enjoyed the meal with some Chardonnay 304 to start, then moved into a young but delicious 2005 Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. Still, I can’t imagine a red wine from Neyers that wouldn’t go well with this. I don’t remember her early Fettuccini Alfredo ever tastier, but then as Barbara pointed out she’s now cooking with ingredients that are far better than those she used in the 1970’s. This dish was a mainstay in the Chez Panisse Cafe during Barbara’s early years there, and she cooked it often. Alice later included a recipe in her 1984 classic ‘Pasta, Pizza & Calzone’ written with Patty Curtan and Martine Labro. It’s simple and delicious, and can be prepared quickly. She prepared it Monday night with refrigerated prosciutto ravioli she bought from our local Sunshine Foods. A small green salad fancied it up some.
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sweet butter
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Ground black pepper
Bring the cream and butter to a boil in a sauté pan. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 minute. Add half the Parmesan and a little freshly ground black pepper. Whisk the mixture until smooth and remove from the heat. Add the remaining Parmesan.
Cook and drain the pasta of your choice, then add it to the alfredo sauce. Garnish with more black pepper. Serve while steaming.