USA Dinner
Bailliage of Baltimore
Baltimore (Maryland), September 17, 2017
Exploring Venezuelan-inspired cuisine at Alma Cocina Latina

The Bailliages of Baltimore and Greater Washington, D.C. joined in an exploration of refined Venezuelan-inspired cuisine at Alma Cocina Latina in Baltimore’s South Canton neighbourhood.

Alma – “soul” in Spanish – reflects proprietor Irena Stein’s passion for food, culture and hospitality. Born in Caracas Irena grew up there and in Europe. She came to the USA in 1980 where she pursued her love of the arts.

She ventured into the culinary world in 2002 with two innovative cafés on a university campus and ultimately realized her dream of sharing the food and culture of her native country with the opening of Alma Cocina Latina. 

Executive Chef Enrique Limardo, Maître Rôtisseur, is also a native of Venezuela. Formally trained in Spain, he has cooked in Mexico, across the Caribbean and around the world.  Returning to Venezuela he opened restaurants fusing European and local flavours before moving to Baltimore to open Alma with Irena.

Irena welcomed us as though we were being invited into her home, not just her restaurant.  We mingled over champagne and passed hors d’oeuvres before settling down for a spectacular five-course dinner that highlighted flavours unlike any the group had savoured before with wines selected to match.

In Chef Limardo’s “kitchen without borders”, Venezuelan-inspired dishes are elevated with global flavours and techniques: a traditional layered fish dish becomes sophisticated skate ravioli; duck is accented with Venezuelan cacao and dulce de leche; Wagyu beef with arroz congri is constructed in Japanese niguiri style.

Amid this global sophistication, Alma remembers its roots partnering with local farmers to supply 900kg a year of ají dulce, a sweet pepper essential to Venezuelan cuisine and not easily found in the USA.

After some fun with meringues in a cauldron of liquid nitrogen, the evening of culinary discovery and regional camaraderie concluded with Irena saying, in Venezuela “besides tragedies, we have tremendous treasures.” Some of those treasures can be found in Baltimore at Alma Cocina Latina.

William Babash
Vice-Chargé de Presse, Bailliage of Greater Washington, D.C.