Appetizer. Ensalada de Espinaca.

Feast. Ojo de Bife al Ajo.

Malbec has and always will be a solid choice for lovable meat eaters, at least for me. Juicy ribeyes and tender skirt steaks galore, not to mention their wonderfully balanced selection of salads.

Our starter was the Ensalada de Espinaca, a delicious and well-balanced combination of spinach, onions, walnuts, apples, bacon, mushroom, tomato, and feta, all over a warm mustard dressing. The salad itself was fairly jungle-tastic, given the amount of greenery that went into it. I was most impressed by the balance of the vinaigrette and the brilliantly combined textures.

The science behind a well-balanced vinaigrette lies in the fact that fatty richnesses (is that even a word?) and acidic flavors must be well balanced. Fatty flavors, while delicious, can quickly overwhelm taste receptors, as acidic flavors can also be extremely strong in small amounts. However, we all have experienced the amazing contrast of lightness that is experienced when lemon is served with grilled fish, or pork with apple. The reason for such odd combinations is purely technical, as acids can “cut” through the fatty flavors, lightening the sensation of heaviness within the mouth.

Traditional vinaigrettes (usually a 3:1 ratio of oil to vinegar + optional mustard) can be made beforehand, but should never be applied upon leafy greens for extended periods of time. The goal of a vinaigrette, when properly emulsified, is to lightly coat leaves, in order to preserve their color and integrity, thus preserving their “crunch.” Soaking salad greens for unnecessarily long periods of time in vinaigrettes would yield soggy, dark colored leaves, as the oil from the vinaigrette can coat the waxy cuticle (you can think of it as a layer on a leaf), and seep into the spaces of the leaf. Might as well be eating baby food at that point.

Mustard, although optional in most salad vinaigrettes, actually plays a pivotal role, as the constituents of mustard break down to be equal parts protein, carbohydrate, and fat. When properly ground up, the mustard seedcoat contains the ability to coat oil droplets within a vinaigrette, bringing homogeneity to a sauce. We call this emulfication. Without this, we wouldn’t have delicious things like hollandaise sauce, or chocolate (OH TEH NOES!) This is one reason why the vinaigrette (with warm mustard, in this case) doesn’t split into two phases, along with the help of vigorous mixing as well.

Aha, water and oil DO mix. cough With an emulsifier… cough.

Why can't we all get along?