I got a text from his granddaughter that Bud Goldberg passed away. The collective sigh you are hearing is from the restaurant community at large, and anyone who has helmed a kitchen or a host’s desk in this town in the last 20 years knows how deeply felt Bud’s passing will be. This was one of the great men of this city and speaking for many I offer my deepest sympathies to the entire Goldberg family.
I was at Café Un Deux Trois the first time I met Bud. I was new to Minneapolis and it was the spring of 1992 and Café Un Deux Trois had just opened. In the middle of the lunch rush a waiter came into the kitchen insisting on a very special “special order” for a pasta with light olive oil tossed with a number of health conscious ingredients hand selected from the mis en place of the rest of the menu. I was cranky. Of course, I screamed and yelled and then thought the better of it and went out to the table to intercept the waiter who had left the line to tell the customer “no deal.” I got to the table in time, and met Bud and his amazingly adorable wife, Lois. He stood right away, very dapper suit on, and offered his card and a lecture about what a great customer he would be, and we played Jewish geography and found out we had some friends in common. I was only a few months removed from actually needing a bail bondsman back in NYC so I saved his business card and sent the pasta to the table. The next day he walks into the kitchen at the height of the mid-day frenzy and asked what was good and what he should eat for lunch. I told him, making a few suggestions, and he returned to his four-top. The ticket came to the kitchen 10 minutes later. It simply read Goldberg Pasta, along with three menu items for his guests. And that’s how it went down for the next 5-6 years. Three times a week Bud would come in, ask what he should eat, listen intently, and then order his pasta. I adored that man. He was at first a great customer, but he was always a great friend.
A week after our first meeting his wife called me up in the kitchen and asked me where I was celebrating Passover. Having cratered my life in NYC and just moved to Minnesota to go to treatment for chem/dep and alcoholism, and having just left primary care, I was living in a halfway house in St Paul at the time. I had nowhere to go for Seder, knew no one, and felt pretty lonely. Despite my naggingly persistent and annoyingly self-pitying inner monologue I said yes to Lois right away and headed to their house for dinner the following night. Dozens of friends and family members crowded around their table(s) and I can vividly remember the bowl of chicken soup I devoured . . . and the third and fourth. There were people at that table that night who I have now known as long as I have been in the Twin Cities and whom I count as friends to this day. Bud’s granddaughter Tess worked with me one year as an intern and is going to be a big player in the food space, mark my words. So my feelings for this man and his family run pretty deep.
Like any artist, every chef needs a muse. You need to create and cook for specific people in mind when you are creating menus, arguing with partners, persuading cooks and so on. I never put a pan on a stove in a professional environment without thinking of Bud Goldberg. Not then, not now.
Over the last three years I haven’t seen much of anyone other than my wife and son. My life is not my own these days and I spend 30 weeks a year overseas. Thinking about the old days makes you question what’s really important in life, and to Bud, the most important thing in the world was his family. Same here . . . And in my house, whenever I make a light pasta dish tossed with olive oil and vegetables, I always call it Goldberg Pasta. Bud’s fave version of “His Dish” was the one I would toss with carrot, asparagus, and pistachio pesto. Here’s the recipe. I make it with crumbled bacon tossed in, but Bud always skipped that part.
Pasta with Asparagus, Carrot, and Pistachio Pesto
This sauce can be used with any pasta noodle, but I recommend penne, a large macaroni, or rigatoni so that all the pesto winds up ‘in’ the pasta.
1# asparagus, cleaned and trimmed, root ends peeled of their fibrous tissue- chopped into 1” lengths
5 carrots, peeled and cut into coins
Pulse this mixture in a food processor several times until ground but not mushy
Combine in a workbowl with the following . . .
2T sliced garlic
zest of one lemon
12 fresh basil leaves
1T fresh thyme leaves
1/2t ground cumin
3T olive oil
Toss and place in a 13 X 9 baking pan, cover with aluminum foil, and roast for 30 minutes at 400 degrees, uncovering for last 5 minutes. Let mixture cool and when room temperature, stir in the following ingredients, mix well, and store in fridge or freezer.
¼ cup crushed roasted pistachios (or more to taste or for garnish)
6 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
To serve . . . for six persons as a first course
Cook off a one pound box of penne. Drain and toss in 3T olive oil and reserve. Place the ‘sauce’ into a large 14-inch sauté pan, bring to a simmer, and add the pasta and sauté until the sauce has tightened around the pasta and there is no visible pooling of liquid. Serve and pass plenty of ground Reggiano Parmesan at the table.