Latin Flair, Local Quality, Food for the Soul
Recently opened in September, del Alma offers Valley Diners a unique combination of taste sensations, beautiful decor, and mixology. Del Alma offers small plates, larger meals such as Cuban Chicken and Drunken Lamb, and a fabulous bar with an extensive, and growing wine list. The new venture is manned by Kinn Edwards, Carolyn Krueger, and Mitch Rosenbaum. The trio seems to really observe the division of duties, and staying out of each others way serves them well. Mitch creates and oversees the food, Kinn the libations, and Carolyn the service and special functions. All three are very good at what they do, and we all know what they say about too many cooks in the kitchen…
As we spoke with Kinn about his role at Del Alma, his passion for what he does was very evident. Kinn has a dedicated local following from his (21 years) of previous engagements at local watering holes such as Big River, Aqua, and Cloud 9. In his new proprietor role at del Alma, Kinn is the master of the bar, he loves experimenting with mixology and is even working with his own brand of infused alcohols. For example, interesting tea, and yerba maté-infused vodkas. Kinn is so dedicated to his craft, that in his spare time (which, prior to restaurant ownership, he remembers fondly) he enjoys visiting wineries and sampling our Willamette Valley Wines. Kinn tells us his real love in the industry is wine, following local and world vintners, and preparing wine lists. While we were there Kinn mixed up a few of his signature beverages, for photographic purposes, of course. See the sidebar for Kinn’s del Alma Margarita recipe, que bueno! Kinn refers to the style of del Alma’s cuisine as Central and South American with Caribbean, Spanish and other Latin influences. The menu is an interesting combination of tastes and flavors made all the better by the use of our local Willamette Valley produce, meats, and Northwest seafood. Kinn’s plan is a simple one, to provide great food, great service, and to make diners feel at home. So far, so good.
Carolyn is Not only Kinn’s business partner, she’s his partner in life as well. Not that there IS life outside the restaurant business for either of them at this point, but they do have their moments away. Carolyn shares Kinn’s interest in Wines, and also loves dogs. One of the things she loves about the new space is looking out during the summer at all the dogs walking their masters along the river. Carolyn has also enjoyed owning her own cake business for the last 12 years.
While speaking with chef Mitch, one is immediately aware of his love of food. Mitch has landed at del Alma after cooking all over the country in such locales as Florida, Cape Cod, New York, and most recently at Bobby Flay’s (of cooking show fame) Mesa Grill in Las Vegas. Having spoken to many over the years, Mitch is clearly one of the “chef types” who is eager to speak at length about the moisture level of a dish, the subtleties of a goat cheese, or the color and texture of a coulis — things the average kitchen mortal doesn’t even notice, or know that they should notice. And we can assure you that Mitch’s attention to detail, and love of all things culinary, is also immediately evident in the food he prepares. During our visit, Mitch put together 4 small plates for us to sample.
First was “Beef Tenderloin Pinchos” made from the most delicious Eastern Oregon Painted Hills beef tenderloin, green chili mustard, chimichurri*, and sautéed arugula. Grilled to absolute perfection, the beef skewer had me sold on del Alma immediately – it was just delicious, the seasonings were sublime, the grilled arugula added just the perfect hint of veggie goodness (for lack of a more appropriate description) and the tenderloin was just as flavorful and tender as I believe I’ve had anywhere. This is a must-have.
Next, We sampled the “Brown Turkey Fig, Fraga Farms Goatzarella Salad”, a lighter dish with nuts and local Oregon “goatzarella” cheese. I must admit, I’m not normally a fan of goat cheese. That was BEFORE Chef Mitch’s Fig and Goatzarella creation — just delicious, with the tiny figs, the richness of pistachios, fresh basil and a very nice goat cheese with the usual texture of a mozzarella, but better — another winner.
Our third sample was the “Poblano Chili Relleno.” This was a very interesting dish, with a very unique signature of chef Mitch’s culinary prowess. If you’re used to eating Chili Relleno at the usual Mexican restaurants, this creation is something completely different. The pepper (Poblano) is coated with masa flour and filled with a spinach, goat cheese filling, and is served surrounded by a delicious salsa ranchera and black beans. It’s hard to describe the flavor of this exactly, other than to say it’s very, very good. The masa gives the whole dish a unique appeal, the poblano chili is light, and flavorful, just delicious, and doesn’t result in the usual rubbery shell of lesser Chili Relleno dishes. The goat cheese and spinach filling is just devine — with a firmer texture than you’d expect from spinach and cheese as a result of a base similar to sweet corn tortilla. Our summary: a very unique and delicious creation.
Our Fourth item was “El Bosque” As the menu describes, “Fresh foraged seasonal wild mushroom ragout, white hominy tamale, and local black truffle goat cheese.” This was another winner served in a delicious and very attractive bed of sauteed mushrooms and veggies. I’m a big veggie fan, and could almost be a vegetarian, were it not for things like the Beef Tenderloin Pinchos we discussed a minute ago, so this item was another winner for me with the perfectly cooked asparagus tips and mushrooms. Another must.
Sadly our timing was off for them, but Carolyn told us about the artisan breads Mitch makes for each dinner service and serves with olive tepenade, white bean and garlic, and pequillo pepper and goat cheese. Not the usual breads these are creations like: Coconut spice bread, Parmesan Focaccia, Olive Chili, and Acorn Squash. We’re definitely looking forward to a visit during dinner service for more!
Del alma is a great example of “dining as entertainment” — not like open grill, big show style, but in the sense that the four level dining room is beautifully decorated with the vivid colors of the fiery Latin cultures that inspired the menu. The bar features a large scale installation by local artist Gretchen Bracher, and the upstairs dining room features pieces by another local artist, Melinda Luksch. Very inviting and warm, all the seating is dramatically lit with down-facing accent lights and candles, and the dining room and bar both look out over the Willamette River-Walk, the heart of Corvallis. We visited on a blustery, November day, but look forward to a summer visit when the farmers Market is in full swing, and the outdoor seating is open. It will surely be the local place to “see and be seen.” del Alma observes events such as the Corvallis 1st Thursday Art Walk, and features a new musical talent each month. Also visit del Alma for paired dinners such as beer dinners paired with del Alma’s great food. Recently, for example, there was a beer dinner featuring Ninkasi Brews from Eugene, and coming up is a beer dinner featuring the local beer stylings of Block 15 Brewery. Of course there are paired wine dinners featuring our local Pinot vineyards and others, and Kinn is even working on a Tequilla Dinner — which brings to mind other events I’ve attended, mostly in college, but I’m sure this will be a civilized function with delicious food.
Entrees range from $16 to $29
Tapas from $7 to $11
Salads from $9 to $11
del Alma has open seating for up to 105 guests, and a private dining / function room is available upon request.
Contact del Alma:
136 SW Washington, Ste 102 in Corvallis
White Chocolate Cheesecake with a Guava Glaze
Grilled Ribeye Steak with Rogue “smokey blue” cheese, caramelized onions, “Double Alt” mustard, horseradish sauce, and alder wood smoked, sea salted yucca fries.
*Chimichurri Chimmichurri is a variant of green sauce, though there is a red version as well, also used as a marinade, for grilled meat. It is originally from Argentina and Uruguay, but is also used in countries as far north as Nicaragua and Mexico.