Tuesday, January 22, 2013

PRW Blogger Dinner at Alma

Allow me be sappy for a moment. As the Winter 2013 Pittsburgh Restaurant Week came to a close, I couldn't help but think to myself how lucky we are to live in this town. Since I relocated to Pittsburgh in 2002, I've watched this region blossom into something of a culinary heartland...and I couldn't be happier. There are so many non-chain, locally owned gems at every corner of the city that it's seemingly impossible to be left wanting, no matter your mood.

We kicked off the week at one such place with the blogger dinner at Alma. We'd been there in the past and had mixed opinions, so PID and I were excited to give it another go.

It all started with a drink, as it so often does. PID went with a Jalepeno Gimlet (which - with its beautiful fusion of lime, jalepeno, cucumber, rose and gin - seemed to be the popular pick of the night with our fellow foodies) and I channeled my inner sorority girl with the Pisco Passion Martini which perfectly blended Pisco brandy and passionfruit juice.

Pisco Passion Martini - $8.50 and Jalepeno Gimlet - $10
When we finally sat down to dinner, we were greeted by Brian McCollum (one of the brilliant minds behind Restaurant Week), Alissa Matthews (of Buy Fresh, Buy Local), and the owners of Alma. We learned about the challenges and rewards behind being a latin-inspired restaurant with a locally sourced menu. I always feel a sense of pride when I learn that a local restaurant uses local ingredients, but I never put much thought into how it changes things from an operational perspective. Mad props, people. MAD props.

PRW's Brian McCollum, Alma's owner and wife
PID and I began with a few starters: the bread salad and Ceviche de Hongos.

Bread Salad - $6
Ceviche de Hongos - part of special PRW menu
My bread salad was phenomenal. It was really a unique combination of textures and flavors: cucumber, queso fresco, tomato, olives and bread croutons. The ceviche wasn't our favorite appetizer. It lacked a bit of depth and we wouldn't order it again.

We were inspired by the owners story about using local chickens and the adjustments the chefs had to make to learn to cook with leaner birds. Both of us ordered chicken entrees. PID with the Pollo Criollo en Cazuela and I with a regular menu item, the Seco de Pollo.

Pollo Criollo en Cazuela - PRW Menu Special
Seco de Pollo - $15
This is the part where all those stories about the difficulty of working with leaner chickens started to sound like rubbish... because both of our dishes were OUTSTANDING. The chicken fell right off the bone. I've never had chicken cooked so perfectly.

PID's Pollo Criollo was a cuban inspired creole dish cooked in citrus juices, sherry and herbs.  My Seco de Pollo was braised in an aji and cilantro sauce and it was right up my alley.

We certainly enjoyed our trip back to Alma.  It was great to meet more members of the Pittsburgh blogger world and learn more about operating a locally-sourced restaurant.

Big thanks to Pittsburgh Restaurant Week for making it all happen!

Alma Pan-Latin Kitchen on Urbanspoon
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