This is the second post in my two-part Q & A with Tria partner Michael McCalley. The first installment posted yesterday.
Q. When it comes to drinking, I always encourage my clients to have the wine with the least amount of sugar and an appetizer or meal with protein to balance their blood sugar and thus, hunger. How can you gracefully determine the sweet spot of a wine where you get the least sugar and maximum “relaxation effect”?
A.Sugar in alcohol comes from the grapes. The alcohol comes from fermentation. The sweet spot is asking for a wine that has a moderate alcohol or 12-13% alcohol volume. These moderate alcohol wines have the lowest calorie and carbs while still maintaining decent feel-good alcohol levels and are relatively low in sugar content. Wine falls on a scale of 8.5% being low alcohol and on the sweeter side with 14.5% being high alcohol and dry.
The warmer the climate, the more sugar and potential alcohol. So the wines from California, Australia or South America are out—as they are alcohol-rich and have more calories. Wines from Northern France, Austria, certain parts of Germany, Northern Italy, the Finger Lakes in New York and parts of Oregon are where the cooler wine climates exist.
Sparkling wines like Champagne Brut and Cava have the sugar fermented out and have even lower carbs and calories than the moderate alcohol wines. They will be dry.
Q. So white wine has less sugar but red is touted as the healthy one. Why?
A. This isn’t true. It really depends upon the sweetness of the white and red wines. The sweeter the wines, the more calories from sugar. The health benefits of wine come from the skin. In white wine, the skin is removed because consumers demanded a clear, clean look and leaving the skins on green grapes produces a cloudier look. However, we are working with a guy who is bringing back the traditional way of making white wine, with the skins and health benefit. Red wine is made from red grapes, where the skin remains in contact with the juice during fermentation and contains resveratrol. So that’s the health benefit of red, but you have to balance the benefit of resveratrol with how sensitive you are to sugar.
Q. What are your thoughts on organic wine?
A.Just like food, it all comes down to flavor. Even better than organic in flavor is the potential in biodynamic. This method extends beyond the farming but a way of living and is based on the principles of philosopher Rudolph Steiner. The understanding is the entire universe is connected. Wine cycles connect to the seasons. If you disrupt these constraints, you break the circuit, which breaks the energy. So they produce seasonal wines and in small batches. There is a definite je ne sais quoi to the experience of drinking a biodynamic wine. My biodynamic favorite at Tria is Hofer Zweigelt from Austria.
I will definitely drink to that, adding that the entire dining experience is interconnected. By isolating food to its calories, we miss the meaning, which keeps us coming back for more…and more. But once we are emotionally nourished by the dining experience, we can relax into our confidence to be and feel elegant around food. Our mood influences the food we choose.
During your next evening out, start with choosing an atmosphere like Tria, where the service and food will lend itself to a great conversation. While the restaurant can have a maximum emotional IQ, selecting your company wisely will make your meal eligible for Mensa. And lastly, choose a moderate alcohol wine with a protein appetizer like the honey paprika cured lomo or the gorgonzola dolce. Eliminate the clutter of calorie or point counts and see what simplified eating does for you.
As promised, here’s a simplified recipe that works well on meat or veggie dishes needing some inspiration, compliments of Tria chef Bret Naylor:
1. Purchase or can high quality* apricot jam. Farmer’s markets are a good bet.
2. Blend eight ounces of apricot jam with 4 ounces of high quality Dijon mustard.
*Quality translates to the most fruit with the least added sugar.
Before you try this recipe at home, I’d love to hear if you’ve already had this experience of it being easy not to over-eat, by focusing on the quality of food, place and company. Inspire us by posting in the comments below.
Tria has locations in Rittenhouse Square, Washington Square West and Tria Wine Room in University City.
My next Q & A is with Vedge Restaurant, the previous owners of Horizons, the only vegan restaurant to receive an invite to cook at the James Beard House in New York City. The same classy innovation they brought to seitan, they are now bringing to vegetables. If you’ve wanted to be inspired by veggies, your time is now.