My parents came to visit me here in Mendoza in February, and were very excited to dine at Francis Mallmannʼs Siete Fuegos in the Uco Valley, having recently cooked a meal using recipes from his cookbook. Itʼs time to taste the real deal!
We headed out to Valle de Uco for a day of wine tasting and fine dining. If you donʼt immediately know the meaning of Siete Fuegos, your senses soon act as a translator for you when the doors open and the scent of an open fire wafts past your nose. If youʼre lucky with weather, you are guided through the open air kitchen while learning about the seven methods of cooking over a wood fire before sitting down to enjoy them yourself.
Settled into our table, lake side, with a panoramic view of the vines and the mountains in the distance, we asked about the various dishes and which methods are used on each. I must go back to try the rib eye, but decided to go with a less obvious order. The chicken. I could hear my foodie friends back home saying, “You are fine dining in Argentina and you ordered the chicken?!” They say you can tell the quality of a chef by how he cooks his eggs or roasted chicken though. And really, I was intrigued by the cooking method where a salt casing wraps the chicken up like a present to be hardened in the fire and cracked open after it has done its job of intensifying the natural juices. This leaves you with a massive, juicy explosion of flavor. It is accompanied with fire roasted vegetables, rustic and true in flavor and necessary and beautiful on the plate. On another occasion, I tried the cast iron roasted fish, which also shined in simplicity and aesthetics.
A meal like this requires dessert, even just to keep the experience going. I wanted to continue my stroll through simple, whole ingredients and chose the fire roasted fruit. I could have just looked at the cast iron dish of fruit kissed by the flames, but quickly dug my spoon in, racing the melting ice cream.
This illustration of culinary artistry shined in creating a masterpiece, using technique and simplicity to honor the essence of the ingredients and let nature show off its flavors. This meal gave us a glimpse into the soul of the meal we had prepared at home, like getting to taste the light, warmth, and spirit of a camp fire. We returned to the city full and very content.