If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you may already have caught a whiff of what may well be the beginning of the end of fine dining in Minnesota. I will be collaborating with the fine chefs of Alma on an Indian pop-up dinner in the Cafe Alma space. The pop-up is named India’s Gandhi Tandoori Bollywood Mahal and will take place on Friday, February 24. There will be two seatings: one at 5.30 pm and one at 8 pm. The cost is $60/head before drinks, tax and the 21% hospitality charge.
Both seatings will feature the same set menu of 7-8 dishes presented in a few courses along the lines of the restaurant’s current dinner model. There will be no choices available, which means this will not be appropriate for vegans, vegetarians or people with dairy or gluten restrictions (and I should note that the menu will include pork). Nor will there be choices offered on spice/heat levels in any of the dishes (though I don’t think anything will be very hot).
And while I am putting you off the idea of attending, I will add that you should also not expect any of the greatest hits of Indian restaurant menus in the US to be served at this dinner: there will be no dal makhni or saag paneer or chicken tikka masala or tandoori chicken or naan. What will be served is a series of dishes from across the Indian home cooking repertoire, some in more traditional guises, some less; most with added touches that will leave Alma’s signature as well as mine on the menu. If you enjoy cooking the dishes I post recipes for on this blog, then I hazard to say that you are likely to enjoy this dinner. If you’re in the Twin Cities or will be on February 24, I invite you to make a booking for either the bar or table options.
How did this all of this come about? It turns out that various members of Alma’s team follow my recipes on the blog, as well as the cooking Reels I started posting on Instagram in 2022. In December the restaurant reached out to me to ask if I might be interested in doing a pop-up with them in early 2023. Being invited to do the first-ever Indian pop-up at Alma—a restaurant that, as my readers know, I have a very high opinion of—was very flattering. But, never having cooked in a restaurant setting before, leave alone in an operation as complex as Alma’s, I was also filled with trepidation at the thought. Conversations with the missus and a few friends convinced me that I would be a fool for not saying yes. They made the point that Alma surely knows that I am not a professional chef and would doubtless spread a safety net under me.
And when I went up in late December to discuss the dinner with Chefs Rosenbrook and Whelan, it became clear that would indeed be the case. Their vision for the dinner dovetailed nicely with mine and a possible menu came together very quickly in our conversation—and we fleshed it out over email while I was in India for most of January (and yes, I brought some ingredients back with me). I’m not sure if they’re going to reveal the menu in the lead-up to the dinners or if they intend for it to be a surprise, and so I’m not going to say anything more about it now. I will say I am looking forward to cooking alongside Alma’s chefs and to possibly introducing aficionados of Indian food in the Twin Cities to some dishes they have probably not eaten before.
If you’re a Twin Cities-based reader of the blog, I hope to see you there! And if you do attend, please do introduce yourselves to me.
What a singular opportunity! I’m glad you said yes. What is the restaurant equivalent of “break a leg”?
One question: will there be whiskey pairings?
Burn the onions?
Nope, no whisky pairing. Just the regular Alma bar menu.
Congratulations to you. Alas, we will be traveling. Good luck and have fun.
Sounds like a wonderful evening! How I wish I could be there. Congratulations on being offered the opportunity, and deciding to take it. I’ll look forward to reading about your experience.
Shoot! Read this too late.. Completely booked. Hope there will be others in the future… Good luck!
Yes, I was taken aback by how quickly it sold out—I’d only told very few of my friends about it. I don’t think that has much to do with me, however, and everything to do with Alma’s following.