Q & A With Lou Amdur (Part 2): Lambruscos, Blanc de Blanc Champagne and The Effervescent Cure-All Known As Alka-Seltzer
In part one of our conversation with Lou Amdur, owner of Lou: A Wine Bar, we asked him for suggestions about what to drink on New Year's Eve, and he sang the praises of yeasty proseccos and fizzy red lambruscos (especially the ones made by third generation organic and biodynamic winemaker, Camillo Donati). In the second installment, Lou covers good champagne and the joys of cava rosé, then offers up a few day-after pain-relievers such as Alka-Seltzer, salty miso soup, and the Italian aperitivo, chinato. If you really want to be prepared for New Year's Day, check in later today for step-by-step instructions on how to make Lou's famously spicy Bloody Mary.
Anne Fishbein Lou Amdur, of LOU: A Wine Bar
SI: Some people don't have enough cash to buy a sack of sparkling wines and drink them all night long. What if you have only enough in your budget for one thing to toast with at midnight? What would that be?
LA: Is this a budget bottle? Or any budget?
SI: Let's do both.
LA: For non-budget, I'm a sucker for Blanc de Blanc champagne. I love Agrapart champagne and I believe all of their champagnes are Blanc de Blanc. I don't think they use any red grapes in their champagnes at all. The thing I find about Blanc de Blanc champagnes is that the wines tend to be very crisp, very focused and narrow. If you've been drinking and eating and yakking all evening long they'll function kind of like a little bit of a wake-up call, it'll perk you up again. These are very nervy, exciting wines. Every time I drink them it puts me in a good mood.
SI: What's a champagne for cheapskates that also tastes pretty good? Who wants to ring in the new year with a sip of something you want to spit out?
LA: I would urge you not to buy champagne then. There are some inexpensive champagnes that I could recommend, but I'd actually rather go with a non-champagne sparkling wine. I really like Raventos cava.
SI: Cava! What the New York Times once called "the prosecco of Spain"!
LA: Raventos makes a cava rosé that you can't even believe is a rosé. It's the palest, palest rosé. Bone dry. Not a molecule of residual sugar is left. Just because it's a rosé doesn't mean there's sweetness. And I'm guessing you could get it for $18. You can get some inexpensive champagnes that retail for about $25 or $30. On other one hand, the Raventos cava is actually a truly delicious cava. So that would be one option. But do not go to Trader Joe's or BevMo or Costco to get your cava. Likewise, do not go to Trader Joe's or BevMo to get your prosecco.
SI: Why not?
LA: Because at those places they're buying things by the mega-pallet. The wines that I'm recommending are not available in those sorts of quantities. They are available in L.A. Maybe you'll spend a buck or more. But you're going to get something that's much more interesting.
SI: Oh! Wait. So what you're saying is don't go to those places to buy them because they won't have them! What would happen if you DID find a bottle of cava at Costco?
LA: There's maybe five hundred producers of cava. There's ten that are really good. The rest are all mass-market. They make cheap, boring wine.
SI: Let's say I don't feel like drinking a bazillion different wines over the course of an evening. What would be the one kind of wine to drink?
LA: If you want to drink something all evening long, obviously you're not going to be opening your wallet wide for each individual bottle. Some people feel that good champagne will work all throughout a meal. I think that's ridiculous. I think some people fetishize champagne. The thing about drinking a good champagne all evening long is that it has a boatload of acidity. You get palate fatigue. So go ahead and drink champagne all evening, but I like my acidity to be modulated and maybe this is because I'm an old codger and it bothers me more now.
SI: So no champagne all evening. Now what?
LA: I would probably pick a white wine. And I would probably pick something that is fairly reasonably priced but interesting and not boring. So maybe that would be a Cortese. There's a Piedmontese white wine that I love called Belloti Bianco. I would think a non-boring white wine that doesn't' have a shitload of oak would be the way to go. This Cortese, I think would really fit the bill really well. It has lovely pineapple-y fruit, but it's quite dry and the acidity is very well integrated. That's what I would recommend.
SI: Now that we have covered a selection of wines to drink on New Year's Eve let's move on to the next portion of our conversation: What to drink on New Year's Day - especially if you have perhaps enjoyed your non-oaky white wine, grower-champagne or succession of sparkling wines with a bit too much gusto.
LA: With alcohol? Or not alcohol?
SI: Well, Lou Amdur, that is your choice.
LA: There's two things that young people need to know about - and they don't. One is Alka- Seltzer. I don't understand how Alka-Seltzer has so fucked up their brand. I'm always surprised how people in my employ who are in their twenties don't have a clue about the wonders of Alka-Seltzer. Another thing I would recommend is miso soup.
SI: Because it's salty?
LA: Yeah! Part of what causes a hangover is being dehydrated. With miso soup, you replenish some electrolytes and also rehydrate your body. I can easily drink a quart of good miso soup. It's one of the easiest things in the world to make.
SI: Someone has a roiling tummy, a parched tongue and is squinting painfully at the slightest ray of sunlight and you are now expecting them to be able to whip up a batch of miso soup?
LA: It's easy. Just take water, heat it up, add as much miso as you feel like and you're done. You can add scallions, bonito flakes. If you want to be fancy, you can make a dashi broth which has seaweed in it. I really like white miso myself. It's a lot less aggressive on a hangover stomach than red miso.
SI: There is another approach, of course: Hair of the dog.
LA: That's a good idea. Have a Bloody Mary. Don't make it from a mix and this is an opportunity to put a nice dollop of horseradish in your Bloody Mary. If you have enough forethought, make your own horseradish. It's not hard to do. It will take two seconds and you will have delicious horseradish.
SI: Tomato juice is very acidic. Why are Bloody Marys the go-to cure for the morning tremblies?
LA: Good Bloody Marys have lots of stuff in them. They have herbs, horseradish. I wonder if the alcohol in your palate balances out the acidity?
SI: What country is the smartest when it comes to hangover remedies?
LA: Look to Italy. The Italians seem to have the digestivo culture down really, really well. This is an opportunity to drink different kinds of amari or my favorite, a chinato. There are different kinds of chinato. There's a Barolo chinato. That's a barolo wine that has an infusion of traditional Italian digestive herbs in it. It's meant to be had after a big meal. If you must have something alcoholic, the old standby is bitters and seltzer. Or you can use chinato, which means quinine in Italian. My favorite chinato - and I'm thinking this would be a wonderful thing for New Year's Day - is a chinato that is made by a guy named Mauro Vergano. He makes a chinato that is not made from barolo but is made from moscato. If that doesn't cure your hangover, nothing will.
LA: Well it will at least make you fifty per cent less miserable.
Check back later for Lou Amdur's Bloody Mary recipe with homemade horseradish.