We are seated in the back room of the Swingside Café, a sort of a candlelit sun porch used on busy weekends that is reached by scooting sideways past the kitchen and out the back door, dodging wait staff laden with plates, then down a few steps into the glassed-in annex. It is more obvious back here that these Fremont Avenue restaurants are a thin layer of converted houses, just a step from a neighborhood of actual lived-in houses.
We sip glasses of Zinfandel and dredge fresh focaccia through saucers of olive oil. As I savor my plate of Farfalle with Wild Boar and Venison Bolognese Sauce, the same scene is enacted over and over outside the rain-dotted window. A tabby cat strolls up the walk and then pauses, looking into our eyes through the window, nostrils twitching. He continues his stroll toward the kitchen door. Just as he gets there a waiter comes rushing out, and gently shoos the cat back toward the alley. A second cat strolls up, this one with a white chest and paws and a pink collar. She glances in the window at us, then makes for the kitchen door. Another waiter comes out, and says, “What are you doing here, huh?” He scoops up Miss WhitePaws and carries her away into the shadows, returning at a brisk pace without her. Mr. Tabby strolls up the walk toward the kitchen door, just steps behind the returning waiter. They reach the kitchen door together, the waiter turning just outside the door and clapping his hands, “Gowwan, geddoutaheah!”
The smells emanating from that kitchen door are enticing–garlic and roasting meat and sautéing seafood. It’s no wonder the cats persist in their efforts to gain entry.
I have been questing for the perfect Bolognese Sauce and the Swingside may well have it. Meaty, rich, impossibly mellow. But making my own Bolognese, long-simmering and rich on the stove, may be even better. Opinions differ on the components of the most authentic Bolognese, but all agree that the sauce has relatively little tomato, a touch of milk or cream, and plenty of long-simmered, tender meat.
This recipe is a mash-up of bits and pieces from multiple recipes, adapted to suit myself. It is very simple to make, requiring only a bit of patient chopping and stirring, and then a few hours more of patience while the sauce simmers on the stovetop.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 medium carrots, finely diced
- 2 celery stalks, finely diced
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 6 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- ½ cup red wine
- 2 cups beef broth
- 6 oz tomato paste
- 1.5 cups milk
- salt and pepper
Place a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat and melt butter into oil. Add onions, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft. Add a large pinch of salt, a few grinds of pepper, garlic and meat and cook, stirring frequently, until meat is browned. Increase heat to medium-high and add wine. Cook until wine is evaporated. Add broth, tomato paste, and milk and stir well. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 3-4 hours. Stir occasionally, and add a little bit of water if sauce starts to stick. The finished sauce should be very thick. Adjust salt and pepper as needed.
To serve, toss with freshly cooked pasta and top with grated parmesan cheese.