John Crouch, the winemaker from whom Carl and I bought Allegro Winery back in 2002, was quite an amazing person. In addition to his winemaking, he was an accomplished music composer and food and wine aficionado.
John kept his house here on the winery property by subdividing the property at the time of sale. So he was very much a part of our lives and the continuing work of the winery until his too-soon death in the spring of 2003, at the age of only 55.
John, Carl, and I shared many a happy hour together down at the winery deck here in The Brogue. John would also invite us to his house to listen to his music compositions (through an electronic MIDI) or to have supper. We'd talk about poetry and writings, food, wine, and his beloved Westie, Dudley.
On one memorable occasion, John showed me how to make gnocchi here in his kitchen. While I really enjoyed cooking, I'd never tried my hand at fresh pasta. I saw how fun and easy it was to make, and how the texture made the pasta such a perfect cradle for the simple marinara. Perfectly delicious.
My big culinary project yesterday was to create an Olive Garden-style supper, just for fun. I used every pot, pan, and measuring cup in my kitchen. John's kitchen! Yes--Carl and I now live in the house that used to be John's. After he passed away, our friends Margaret and Scott purchased his house, since Carl and I had already built our own up near the vineyard. After Margaret and Scott moved away, my parents bought the house and we spent several glorious years living here in a three-generation estate, in houses across the field from each other. When my folks moved back to State College (my hometown) two years ago, we swapped houses, turning our "old" house into a rental property and moving into John's old house, which had been dramatically renovated during my folks' tenure here.
All of that background is here just to show the path leading up to yesterday, when I found myself making gnocchi in this kitchen for the second time. It took me right back to that wonderful supper with John and Carl.
In addition to the gnocchi with a spicy tomato cream sauce, I made a whole feast of other recipes culled from Olive Garden copycats found on the web: air-fryer mushroom ravioli with marinara, chicken parmesan with penne and cream sauce, well-dressed iceberg lettuce salad, and -- of course -- breadsticks brushed with butter, garlic, and Italian seasoning. We paired the feast with Allegro's 2019 Dry Rosé.
I enjoy reflecting back on all of the wonderful meals which have come out of this very same kitchen: John's homemade pasta, Margaret's homemade pizza, my mom's incredible mac 'n cheese. My family and I have been so fortunate to share the table with all of them, right here at home.