According to Ana Gasteyer, the trips that inspired the Netflix comedy Wine Country featured “a lot of public, annoying singing and dancing” involving the comedian and her other famous friends. And while you do get to see some drunken singing and dancing in the new movie, the best scenes are often the less-flashy moments where Gasteyer and fellow SNL veterans Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Paula Pell, and Emily Spivey riff off each other with wine glasses in hand, talking about their personal and professional lives. As Catherine, a successful pizzeria entrepreneur who’s vying for a spot on a cooking competition show, Gasteyer gets to tap into some of the same energy she channeled while playing Martha Stewart on SNL back in the day.
With the premiere of this Amy Poehler-directed feature film slated for this Friday, May 10, Eater thought it would be a great opportunity to talk to Gasteyer about her favorite foods and restaurants for The Famous Original Eater Questionnaire. In the middle of yet another trip up to Northern California with her Wine Country co-stars, Gasteyer hopped on the phone to discuss the vacation that inspired the film, the dishes that bring back memories of her childhood, and her rules for eating out at restaurants.
Welcome to the Famous Original Eater Questionnaire. What was the last thing that you ate?
I just had chicken-apple sausage for breakfast and a giant coffee. We also had dinner last night — the cast — when we got together, and that was a slightly more sophisticated meal. We ate here [at the hotel] where we’re staying, but the meal did feature a really yummy Brussels sprouts salad with grapefruit and Marcona almonds, which was fantastic, and chili oil-poached shrimp.
When and where was the last time you had a hot dog?
I’m a pretty regular hot dog consumer because I live in Brooklyn, so it was probably Nathan’s on Coney Island.
What is your favorite, but admittedly strange food combination?
Oh god, it’s going to really gross you out because you’re a man, but every woman I know loves this, especially if she’s feeling a little peaked. It’s a salad that I make with lentils, sardines, and spinach, and you chop it all up together and do kind of like a cold salad meal. It’s fantastic. My husband has to leave the house when I eat it.
Is there one food item that you did not try until later in life that you now love?
Yes. I hated asparagus as a kid. I grew up in what I would say was an “extensive palate household.” My mother was half Greek, first-generation American, and we ate with great variety growing up, but I hated asparagus, and, weirdly, spare ribs. I hated sweet sauce on meat — barbecue sauce. Obviously I like that now, and I really love asparagus.
I read that the film was inspired by real-life vacations that the cast took together years ago. Did any of your favorite moments make it into the movie?
Oh a lot of them did, yeah. Structurally, it’s very much based on the tentpole experiences of a girls’ trip, and we’ve taken a few of them now. I would say there is a lot more eating in our real-life trips at really amazing restaurants. Actually, our first trip was in Sonoma and it featured an incredible birthday dinner at Catelli’s — they really pulled out the stops for us for Dratch’s 50th birthday. There’s less food in the movie than there is on the real trips, but about the same amount of wine.
Some of my favorite jokes in the movie are about wine tasting. Are you someone who gets into it?
So on the Sonoma weekend, we did go to an extremely elegant tasting, but we’re not a great group for refinement. Yes, we certainly enjoy the wine, and we do shell out the bucks, so our wise-assery usually works to the advantage of the seller. But I don’t have a great ear for it — it’s like remembering sports stats or something. Also, I inherently find pretentious speech funny. The NPR character I did on SNL is about people who can kind of wax too poetic on something. Earnestness is, like, the funniest thing in the world. So when people start talking about “minerality” and “notes,” I think of how Dratch once joked, “I have notes of affluence and white privilege.”
Was your character inspired by any real-life person?
I would definitely say — and Amy said this more elegantly than I’m about to — that all of these women are basically versions of all of us. We’re heavy-duty career women with families and partners. Catherine, I think, represents the distracted business women in everyone in our group. We’re all people with pretty active and busy careers, and we’re trying to move ahead, but also be present for the moments in our lives.
Your character is always on her phone, even when the service is spotty. When you go out to a restaurant, do you have any rules about checking your phone?
I check it when my dining companion goes to the bathroom, but I do try to keep it in my purse. I also actually try to do that at work. Once we’re on set, I try to leave it either in the trailer or not at my chair, because if I go back in between takes, I will look at my phone. And if I don’t, I will stay present and “in the moment,” which is sort of cheesy but true.
My other culinary rule is that I tend to just order the first thing that looks good, because I will get menu paralysis otherwise.
Do you have a universal dinner party soundtrack?
Yes, I tend to put on jazz. There was a movie I was in a long time ago with Penelope Cruz called Woman on Top, which has really great Brazilian samba music on it, and I feel like it’s just a good go-to for a dinner party. If you start with “Girl From Ipanema” and go from there, it usually makes people happy. In the summertime, I entertain more than I do in the winter, but for some reason we tend to go for these ’70s fallbacks, and I play that Stevie Wonder album Songs in the Key of Life a lot. That was actually the first album I bought with my babysitting money — or it wasn’t my babysitting money, it was my allowance. I also play that Fleetwood Mac album, Rumours.
Do you have a favorite chain restaurant?
I don’t know if it really counts, but I do love Tender Greens, and we’re pretty devoted Chipotle people. In a pinch with kids, it’s really helpful — just something that everyone can eat that’s good for them.
What’s your “Proust’s madeleine,” i.e., the food or beverage that instantly brings back memories from your childhood?
My mother is an exquisite cook, and a lot of Greek food will do that, like really well-made dolmades, which are stuffed grape leaves with lamb, pine nuts, and mint. Also, when you make green beans in the Greek style with tomato and lots of oregano, those will take me back to childhood. My dad made homemade pasta a lot, so if anyone goes for it, that’s pretty transformative too. One more recipe which is so ’80s that I make for extra-special occasions like my parents’ 50th anniversary, is this chocolate amaretto cheesecake my mom used to make from an old issue of Gourmet Magazine. It is so bad for you and so fantastic.
Is there a food secret that you think more people should know about?
I feel, in general, that home cooking is easier than people make it out to be. And where I start with people — with my kids, for example, or friends that are just learning to cook — is really just getting one-on-one with chili or soup. That book Stone Soup was one of my favorites when I was little, and I love the idea that you can add these little ingredients and you have a whole thing — you have a meal — that you can feel proud of in an accomplished way without slaving over a stove or making an emulsion or whatever. And people are often really happy if you have popsicles, or what I try to do as, like, the greatest hostess thing ever is show up at a dinner party with Thin Mints. Girl Scout cookies are fun and you can stick them in the freezer. Easy comfort food is often the best way to entertain.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.