Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Forget about the crescendo of publicity regarding David Levi, the Lord of Vinland, and his credo of eat local, sustainable food to the exclusion of stuff we take for granted like lemons, sugar and olive oil, which are not natural to our land, grown and harvested thousands of miles away from Maine’s borders.
Forget that this culinary gadabout has dug deep into the promiscuous portmanteau of his culinary arsenal and taken up root at the crossroads of High and Congress streets, one of the most bewildering corners of our fair city, where the locals frolic like kings and queens.
Forget all that and just guide your fork or spoon to taste one of Levi’s Vinland creations that are presented to you from the misty love of an extraordinary dining facility. Its simplicity is luxuriously spare. Even the staff of waiters, barkeeps and sous chefs have a certain élan after being on the job for only a week or two.
The kitchen staff at Vinland
That it would make you tipsy with joy to loll in this hot bath of culinary rapture with fire and ice at your side as you take that first bite and think--and this is the finest moment of my life!
Essence in a bowl--white turnip soup with yogurt and fermented carrot
I won’t say that all of what we ate was flawless. Most of it, though, was close to it. A turnip soup with yogurt and fermented carrot had crossed the border into the unknown land of something ridiculously delicious.
Levi's signature devise, the beet chip
Perhaps the fish (local hake) under its veil of woody herbs could have been a little hotter. Or the hen beans—were they just a tad tough or was the thought of them being tender not the slice for Nordic palates licking the horizon of new flavors?
The cocktail menu was another otherworldly trip into the unknown where the height of improbabilities became strikingly real. The spirits were local like the Barr Hill Gin gimlet made with condensed yogurt whey and white pine syrup. Or the Negroni with more locally distilled gin topped by house-made garnet red bitter spirits and Vinland sweet-beet vermouth. These were starry-eyed drinks even the most ascendant mixologist could love.
The Vinland Negroni--goes intensely down the hatch
Still our group who dined there was wowed by the food. Ending with a cheese course from a local creamery, the delights of a feather light compote or the utter creaminess of ice cream made from pure unadulterated local cream was a spiritually blissful ending.
In the final analysis, the build-up was unnecessary, like looking through the wrong end, because all you need to do is go there and see for yourself.
Some of the simple pleasures we enjoyed.
The dining room
Original artwork by David Levi (right)
Baked beans, chipolte, crispy onions, micro radish
Mussels in cider
Scallops with potato risotto, turnip tail, golden beets, shitake and micro basil
Local hake, burdock, yolk emulsion, watermelon radish, squid skin, leek hay
A simple dessert devise of fruit
John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.
In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.