Its name is an homage to the original Vinlanders, Vikings from Greenland, the first Western people known to have settled in North America. But the country’s first restaurant to serve 100 percent local, organic food started on Kickstarter.com.

On a snowy Sunday evening, Vinland, across the street from the Portland Museum of Art, filled to the brim with Kickstarter supporters invited for a taste of something radical and yet as old as the land. Not just any restaurant serves appetizers that are little works of art, layers of tastes, laid out on flat rocks – a beet chip with yogurt, black radish, and basil. Or angel eggs with pickled onion and cilantro. Or scallop with golden beet, dulse and leek emulsion.

“All food is labor intensive, but these appetizers are quite so,” said Lauri Gibson of Portland. “But David has such a wonderful spirit and huge energy and dedication.”

“It was a night about thanking those people who backed me,” said owner and executive chef David Levi. Through Kickstarter, Vinland raised more than $45,000 in one month last summer. “It showed a lot of people how much support there is for the idea, and it helped to bring in the other investors who came in later.”

Several of the Kickstarter supporters, including Pat Phillips of Auburn, had taken cooking classes with Levi.

“I recognized his skills, enthusiasm, and passion and wanted to support him, particularly because of the local food sources,” said Phillips.

“It’s fresher so you get more nutrition from it,” said SMCC nutrition student Katie Cardoza of Portland. “It also helps the local economy.”

“We are putting all the dollars for our food purchases into the hands of organic farmers and local fisherman: 100 percent,” Levi said. “We’re not buying from anyone else.”

“David cooks and lives by principles,” said Jeff Packard of Portland. “He’s a principled person and a principled chef. He created a box for himself. It’s a huge challenge, but I think he’s created some magical dishes within these constraints.”

The wine selection could be described more as curated than local. But mixologist Alex Winthrop has turned housemade cocktails into an art form, using only spirits distilled in the Northeast. Party guests raved about the Pine Gimlet: Barr Hill gin, condensed yogurt whey, and white pine syrup.

“I teach environmental science at USM and love the idea of sustainability and local food,” said Robert Sanford of Gorham. “It’s a really interesting project, and I hope it does well.”

“It’s nice to know that your meat doesn’t come from far away,” added his wife, Robin Sanford.

“We love the idea, and we were in the restaurant business for 35 years,” said Vivek Banbhu of Portland.

“It feels like this is a wonderful place to have a special event with live music, just like this,” said Nancy Nevergole of Portland.

“As another business owner in this area, I’m happy to help somebody get started here, especially somebody with such a creative vision,” said Russ Sargent, owner of Yes Books. “I like that I have a bookstore and he’s offering food that is like poetry to eat.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer based in Scarborough. Email her at:

amyedits@aol.com