Playing with Fire

I had one the greatest meals of my life on Saturday afternoon.  Argentina’s most celebrated chef, Francis Mallman, prepared a feast on a Soho rooftop to celebrate Mallmann’s appointment as Executive Chef of the new restaurant at Vines of Mendoza.

Vines of Mendoza offers private vineyard estates where wine lovers can live and help craft their own wines at the base of the Andes mountains.  In addition to Mallmann, Vines of Mendoza founders Michael Evans and his business partner Pablo Gimenez Riili have also enlisted acclaimed winemaker Santiago Achával as their consulting winemaker.

I tasted the Vines’ own Recuerdo wines (crafted in partnership with the co-founders of Blackbird Vineyards in Napa Valley). The wines included a Malbec and a Torrontés both of which were awarded scores of 90 from Robert Parker (and who am I to argue?)

Mallman and his two sous chefs cooked salmon and fingerling potatoes in a salt crust on his specially-crafted infiernillo (“little hell”) which cooks the fish between two fires, above and below.  The melt-in-your-mouth fish and potatoes were topped with a dollop of this creamy, garlicky aioli.

If I ever win the lottery, my first act of frivolity would be to fly Mallmann to the Hudson Valley to cook a meal for me and my friends.  (And if that isn’t an incentive for my friends to start buying me lottery tickets, I don’t know what is.)

Aioli
(from Francis Mallman’s Seven Fires)

2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
3 garlic cloves
Coarse salt
3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

Put the egg yolks in a medium bowl.  Grate the garlic over the egg yolks with a Microplane (or smash and mince the garlic and add it to the egg yolks).  Season with a pinch of salt.  Add 1/4 c. of the olive oil, a few drops at a time, whisking constantly until the oil and eggs thicken and emulsify.  Whisk in the remaining olive oil in a slow, steady stream, until the aioli is smooth and thick.  The aioli can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

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