by Janet Fletcher

Napa Register

Anybody else remember Vanessi’s, the long-gone Italian restaurant in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood? I lived nearby for a few years, in my 20s, and I loved going to Vanessi’s and eating at the counter so I could watch the cooks make zabaglione to order. They would put Marsala, sugar and egg yolks in a double boiler, then whisk like mad, until the mixture thickened and frothed like a billowy cloud.

They would pour the warm, fluffy zabaglione into a glass (I think — I’m a little fuzzy on that part). But I clearly recall how cosmopolitan I felt, dining alone at the counter and eating that winey dessert.

I haven’t made zabaglione in years, but I do regularly make a French sabayon, a close relative. It’s a luscious sauce to serve with fresh or poached fruit for a dinner-party finale. Instead of Marsala, I use a good sweet muscat wine, like Robert Mondavi’s Moscato d’Oro or Quady Essensia. If you’re not a muscat fan, use any affordable dessert wine. Many come in half-bottles, but buy a full bottle if you want enough wine left to serve with the dessert.

Sabayon, at least the way I make it, has whipped cream folded into it, so it isn’t served hot, like zabaglione. You can serve it at room temperature, right after you fold in the whipped cream (that’s my preference), or you can chill it for a few hours. It doesn’t hold up forever.

Substituting honey for sugar gives the sabayon another aromatic layer. Visit Marshall’s Farm Honey at the Napa Farmers Market and select a delicate honey that appeals to you.

Then pick up some strawberries and blueberries at the market. If Bera Ranch apricots have shown up, add a few of those to your basket. Later in the summer, you’ll want to add raspberries, blackberries, peaches and nectarines. The sabayon is delicious with any or all of them. With fresh figs (you’ll have to wait for those), it’s a dessert for the gods.

Farmers Market Strawberries with Honey Sabayon

Replace some of the strawberries with blueberries if you like. From “Eating Local: The Cookbook Inspired by America’s Farmers” by Janet Fletcher (Andrews McMeel).


¾ cup heavy cream

6 large egg yolks

¼ cup honey