CORVALLIS — When Kinn Edwards and Carolyn Krueger are old and gray, retired from their run as successful restaurateurs, they’ll look back and give the credit to their trusty pal, Craig S. List.
People find the darndest things on Craigslist, the ultra-popular Internet advertising site. Edwards and Krueger just so happened to find a world-class chef to build their posh Corvallis restaurant around.
Del Alma, the mid-valley’s newest fine dining venture, is barely three months old, and the riverfront eatery keeps coming up aces. That’s a good sign considering Edwards’ last attempt (Loca Luna) in the same venue was shuttered in August after just four months when his business partner moved.
That’s when he and Krueger got creative and found a chef with a bulletproof résumé in Mitch Rosenbaum. Most recently of Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in Las Vegas, Rosenbaum has spent time running the show at restaurants in New York City, Boston, Florida, you name it.
More than 100 people nationwide answered the Craigslist ad, but Edwards and Krueger knew they had their man practically the moment Rosenbaum showed up for his audition. He was likewise sold.
“From the time I walked in, it looked unusually cosmopolitan for this region,” the chef said. “I’m originally from New York City, and I watched Soho come up from factories in the 1970s. I saw that del Alma had a very Soho feel to it – but with the Willamette River and farmer’s markets within walking distance.”
If it seems like a minor coup for a fledgling restaurant with a shaky history to land a chef of Rosenbaum’s stature, that’s because it is. But Edwards and Krueger — both Corvallis natives — knew the mid-valley had more than enough to offer a bigwig from back East.
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“The Northwest is really attractive to chefs from the standpoint of all the fresh and local ingredients,” Krueger said. “All the mushrooms, truffles, farms, wine, beer — all of that certainly was a selling point for Mitch.”
Rosenbaum arrived as del Alma opened in late September and created a menu overflowing with the flavors of Latin America, Spain, the Caribbean. When the soft-spoken Edwards talks about the food, the tone in his voice picks up, giddy almost, like a first-time visitor gushing about a first-rate joint rather than an owner trying to inflate a bland product with fancy words.
“The food is fantatstic, very consistent. It’s a more focused menu than we had in the past,” he said, making a comparison to Loca Luna’s Latin fusion/Pacific Rim cuisine. “There is such a good variety of flavors, which makes it very palatable.”
The food isn’t cheap, but that’s the point, isn’t it? (See box at left for prices.) A night out at del Alma is intended to be special, and the staff sprinkles in special occasions to back that up. Their New Year’s Eve dinner is a five-course brouhaha of lamb, lobster bisque, salad, duck confit, chocolate truffles, wine and a handful of other items to choose from, all for $60. (Reservations are still available.)
Located in the old Iovino’s location in the Renaissance building on the corner of First Street and Washington Avenue, del Alma — Spanish for “from the soul” — fits in nicely on restaurant row on the waterfront. After the uncertainty surrounding Loca Luna, it’s clear they’ve found the right fit on all fronts.
“We had to be sure this time because we knew we weren’t going to get another chance at it,” Edwards said. “We wanted to make sure we got the right guy, and, with Mitch, we did.”