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As the ferociously cold first month of 2014 comes to a close (good riddance, January), you might be considering a new fresh start by amending those New Year’s resolutions that seemed so alluring on the 1st. Perhaps you want to reinstate your nightly wine ritual but aren’t sure whether your vino habit fits into a balanced diet, particularly if you’re trying to maintain a stricter standard than you did during the holidays. We asked Marissa Lippert, author, nutritionist, and owner of West Village cafe Nourish Kitchen + Table (95 Greenwich Ave, 212-242-6115) why wine, in moderation, not only deserves a place at your table, but pairs nicely with whatever kale/spinach/farro/beet/ancient grain concoction you’ve dreamed up.
How did you become interested in nutrition?
I don’t recall specifically, but I’ve always had an interest in food and culture (I majored in history in undergraduate), which eventually evolved to incorporate health. I knew there was rift in how people perceived “eating healthfully” — I wanted to help change the conversation about how many of us eat and work to elevate the idea that healthy, fresh food can actually be delicious and satisfying.
Why did you decide to open Nourish Kitchen and include wine into the concept? Most people think of healthy eating and automatically assume alcohol has no place in the concept. I personally love wine and spirits and I didn’t want to simply open another “healthy café.” I wanted to create an experience around eating really well…and often times that can include a glass of wine or beer or a really well-crafted cocktail. We aim to tell stories through our food — and alcohol — at Nourish. We only have a beer and wine license, but seek out small artisanal producers, many of whom are organic or natural, and makers that are doing interesting things with their product.
The beginning of the year tends to ignite people to make changes in their diet and fitness. Sometimes, however, too much restriction leads to failure later. How can wine be incorporated into one’s diet and lifestyle in a healthy way? Like with most other things, moderation is definitely the key. I’ve never been able to cut alcohol out of my routine completely in January, but that’s me. It works really well for others to be ultra-focused and have a strategic goal for month-end. Alternatively, being too restrictive can just lead to full-on over-indulgence. I do sort of “check myself” if I’ve had a long week of social events and dinners where the alcohol was flowing. Taking a break is a good thing sometimes and will definitely help improve sleep and energy levels, and of course if you’re seeking to drop a few pounds, it’ll make an impact.
Do you find wine can pair just as easily with healthy food as anything else?
Absolutely. The food we serve at Nourish, and what I’d cook at home, lends itself to really great wine. Our food aims to be beautiful and flavorful using fresh, seasonal, and locally-sourced ingredients. When you’ve got that equation going, the health value becomes automatic. A simple, fresh meal with the best quality ingredients…paired with an incredible glass of wine: I can’t think of much that would be better.
How frequently do you change the menu and wine list?
Our menu changes very frequently, daily sometimes, based on what’s in season and what looks best at the greenmarket. We typically have a monthly rotation of dishes that are exciting us at the time and that are relevant to the time of year. Overall, we’re heavily driven by season, freshness, and flavor with an emphasis on produce — vegetables and salads — along with a mix of intriguing grain dishes and lean proteins like our Moroccan harissa roast chicken with lemon and rose petals or, at the moment, our white bass with grapefruit, jalapeño, and mint. And of course, a few comfort dishes and house-made baked goods like our sweet and savory scones, coconut macaroons, and spiced sweet potato-dark chocolate bundt cake are thrown in there as well.
How did you compose your wine list, and how does it complement the food?
We change our list seasonally just like our food. Again, I always look to small producers/family-owned vineyards and wines that are interesting. For instance, we’ve got a beautiful, but “off the beaten path” Italian orange wine on the list — Lo Zerbone — which has musky overtones and white pepper. It sounds a bit odd, but it’s an amazing wine. We just brought in Pont de Gassac (from the Daumas Gassac family), a great wintry French Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah blend with deep cherry notes. I stumbled on this wine through a friend a few years ago whose brother-in-law owns the family vineyard in Languedoc. I love imparting stories and connections like these to our guests at Nourish. I think it makes your experience a little more special.
Do you have a favorite wine and food pairing on your menu?
I think our Frappato and roast chicken go really nicely together — the light raspberry notes of the wine complement the spice and flavor of the harissa. Our dry Riesling is a perfect wine for lighter salads and vegetable dishes; our Villa Sandi Prosecco, which is crisp with green apples notes is really good anytime.
What kind of wine do you like to drink at home?
Similar to what we might offer at Nourish. In the late spring and summer, I have a lot of French rose and crisp whites in my fridge. During the winter when temperatures are freezing, I’ll opt for deep, dark reds with a little spice or pepper.
Is there anything you always have in the fridge that you would prefer not to live without?
Savoie Jongiuex, any of Arianna Occhipinti’s wines, and, as of just recently, that Pont de Gassac!
Can you give readers one tip for staying healthy but satisfied and thus motivated?
Listen to what your body’s trying to tell you (most of us don’t), e.g., when you’re actually full. Drink plenty of water during the day — it’s not only great for digestion and maintaining a healthy weight, but it’ll help keep those wine hangovers/headaches away as well.