Vinland -- Portland, ME

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Jay T.
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Vinland -- Portland, ME

#1 Post by Jay T. » May 18th, 2015, 12:23 pm

My wife and I ate at Vinland last Thursday. For those of you who are not familiar with the restaurant, it's chef/owner is attempting to create the Noma of Maine: all ingredients are sourced from New England, with 90% from Maine. That means no pepper, no olive oil, no lemons, etc. It got a lot of buzz both locally and to some extent nationally when it opened.

We'd hesitated for awhile mostly because the restaurant has a reputation for preachiness. The restaurant website doesn't do it any favors; it includes a nineteen point, several page manifesto. But we'd also heard good things about the food. The restaurant has been open for a little over a year.

The setting is not a strong suit. The decor is very bland, frankly. It kind of looks like a Starbucks inside. Its in an old building, and the eating space has a nice, vaulted tin ceiling, but everything is painted various shades of beige. There about 12 tables, all yellowish pine. The kitchen is partially open and merges into the bar.

When we arrived a little before our 8pm reservation, we were surprised to find that only one other couple was seated at a table, and one solo diner was seated at the bar. There were a few waitstaff and kitchen staff, but they were all congregated in the bar, chatting, seemingly with nothing to do. Not a promising start.

Our waitress, however, was wonderful. Helpful, knowledgeable, and less preachy than we feared. She seemed well trained and well-versed in the menu. We ended up ordering off the menu (they have a chef's tasting menu as well). I ordered give courses; my wife ordered 3.

Our food was fantastic from beginning to end, with one exception. I had a salad of locally foraged greens, a filet of seared monkfish, beef tartare, and pork belly, with cheese to finish. My wife had a carrot, ginger, and coriander soup, oat and corn polenta, and the mussels. But frankly, that list does not really describe what we ate. The flavors were excellent, the ingredients -- lots of stuff like yogurt, whey, oats, etc. that was transformed to serve the role of more typical ingredients that cannot be sourced locally -- were used in very interesting and effective ways, and the portions were well sized. My only real complaint was the cheese plate. I received two local cheeses, with some oat bread crackers, honey, and some apple slices. It wasn't much to look at, and I wasn't impressed by the cheeses at all. The crackers were bland too. Overall, it was not a successful dish. Kind of a bummer to end that way, but by then we'd already decided that the cooking is a success overall.

In total, we had a nice dinner. The food was great, and our waitress was excellent. Prices were decent too, at least if you are used to the big city. We each got a glass of wine, and I also had an apertif. We have only two real complaints: the setting is really pretty poor, and the place did not feel like it's succeeding, which really does affect you as a diner. We found ourselves wondering why no one was there throughout the meal.

I'd go back and would recommend Vinland to just about anyone, with the caveat that it's not really a great date night restaurant. At least right now, it's really only successful has a gastronomical experience. For many people, that's the only thing that matters.

If you do want to go, you might consider going soon. Maybe it was a fluke, but we were there for almost two hours on a nice Thursday night, and only two more couples came in to eat the entire time.
T*R*I*C*K*E*T*T

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Michel Abood
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Vinland -- Portland, ME

#2 Post by Michel Abood » May 18th, 2015, 2:40 pm

Thanks for the review, I hope to visit it when I'm up there in Fall.
Guess what? I'm ITB-> Vinotas Selections

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Re: Vinland -- Portland, ME

#3 Post by Kirk.Grant » December 1st, 2018, 11:16 am

Jay T. wrote:
May 18th, 2015, 12:23 pm
My wife and I ate at Vinland last Thursday. For those of you who are not familiar with the restaurant, it's chef/owner is attempting to create the Noma of Maine: all ingredients are sourced from New England, with 90% from Maine. That means no pepper, no olive oil, no lemons, etc. It got a lot of buzz both locally and to some extent nationally when it opened.
It's been some time since Jay's review. In the time between his visit and mine there seem to have been some changes in the planning and vision of the restaurant. Unlike Jay, whom I know and have a deep respect for; I felt relaxed and appreciated the simplicity of the decorations in the restaurant. There was something rustically peaceful to me with the lovely hand-made pottery, and large sections with thin white birch trees set to canvas covered frames that accentuated the natural elements and tied it all together with the theme of keeping it local and true to the land. The restaurant is now 100% sourced within 50 miles of Portland, Maine. We booked the 19 course tasting menu with wine pairings and I couldn't have been happier with the outcome. They seated us at the bar closest to the kitchen so we had a full view of everything from start to finish. Everything felt perfectly timed and just as I started to feel too full something would shift in the course and I was once again ready for the next course.

The setting was basically a shift between small bites and small courses with the three final courses being dessert and wines were shifted to pair with every 2-3 courses. There were 8 wines in total and a little something special that capped off the experience that left me feeling like this was both personal and intimate. This was one of the top 5 most adventurous and unique dining experiences of my life; I plan to go back with friends and loved ones as often as I can afford this experience...hopefully every 6-12 months with time to allow for differing seasons so I can see how things change throughout the year. This felt as ambitious and well thought out as my meals at Eleven Madison Park back in 2009 and Piazza Duomo in 2016. If you are an adventurous eater that's willing to step outside of the comfort zone many people stick to...this is a MUST HAVE experience. In an effort to fully enjoy the experience I left my camera in my pocket and wanted to be as present as possible. It was a nice change of pace and I think it added to the intimacy of the experience.

We were greeted by Tim, the bar manager. He and Chef David Levi took turns talking about the courses, ideas behind them, and how some were influenced by the Chef's travels and time in other cultures. Throughout the course of the meal there was only one course that did not "speak to me" and that was also true for my experience at Eleven Madison Park. I think that when food is this artisanal and unique that is part of the experience is finding something that doesn't quite fit...that being said, to me this is the highest compliment I can think of. A nineteen course tasting menu where something was good, but not as "mind-bending" as the other eighteen courses...that's exactly the experience I'm hoping for at top-tier restaurants like Vinland.

Vineland Tasting Menu 11.24.18
small courses - all lowercase
SMALL PLATES - IN ALL CAPS

salad toast - This was one of Erica's favorite parts of the tasting. What a great and fresh way to start the meal.

WINE - Laurent "Diabolico" Rosé

SHEEP'S MILK FETA SALAD: radish, "olive oil", hominy, romanesco - With the first small plate the excitement really started to build. Such a great balance of freshness, salt, fat, & acidity...

kinpira gobo - This was like being back in Seoul when the KATUSA's would take me out to eat at local restaurants. Chef said these were the first of the season. A good reminder that I need to re-book for this time of the year next winter.

WINE - Il Farneto Rio Rocca

FERMENTED OAT CAKE: leek hay, kale, feta, apple, shiitake - Erica said this dish was something she'd be happy ordering as a main course. The umami kicked in half-way like a wine with a long finish...the flavors seemed to shift while eating.

cured matsutake on buckwheat injera crisp

WINE - Angelo Negro 'Vino Bianco'

CRAB: tzatziki, nori, watermelon radish - This was the point where I realized in the meal that everything was going to be amazing. This paired beautifully with the wine and left me feeling like we were out at the ocean's edge.

fondue with boo choi

WINE: Frank Cornellisen 'Contadino'

RAW BEEF: shiitake, yolk, shallot, shiso - Erica flipped for this pairing. The wine had a bit of bite that I often associate with the wines of Frank Cornellisen...yet it seemed to marry and mirror the bite of the tartar perfectly.

dodge cove oyster

WINE: Gustavshof Riesling

BANGS ISLAND MUSSELS: verbena, coriander, shiso - I'm not usually a fan of mussels. The broth of this helped me understand the beauty and complexity that can exist when there's a pairing like this that works so well. I could see myself drinking a warm cup of this broth and feeling like everything is fine in the midst of the worst Maine winter storms.

reindeer lichen - I haven't commented on the "bites" that often...but this was unforgettable (and not in the way that Shirako was). I want to eat this over and over again.

WINE: Collecapretta 'Buscaia'

LOBSTER: black trumpet mushroom emulsion, hakurei turnip - Living in Maine, there's not that many dishes with lobster that I find to be inventive, or creative...this was both of those (turned up to 11).

harðfiskur

WINE: Luigi Giordano 'Langhe Rosso'

SMOKED MONKFISH: dulse oat crumble, kale juice, sunchokes - This was so lovely and one of the dishes that helped "make room" in my stomach during the meal progression. I want to try to re-create this at home...it was that good. The kale juice worked perfectly and provided tension in they dish that balanced everything along a knife's edge.

chicken mushroom on chicken skin - dear lord...mother of god, this was possibly the best (certainly the most guilty) bite of the entire meal. I want these every time I come back...can I get this year round? nope...but another phenomenal reason to come at the start of winter.

WINE: Andrea Calek 'A Toi Nous'

LAMB: polenta, brussels sprouts, maitake, bone broth - The polenta put Erica in shock...it was that good. I've never liked or understood why people eat (or serve) polenta...it married everything in this dish together beautifully. Erica also discovered she likes Lamb...A LOT.

Verbena Panna Cotta - what a lovely way to start winding down the meal. Probably one of the most delicious panna cottas that I've had.

Parsnip Turmeric Custard - This was hands-down my favorite part of the dessert courses. Just plain unique & wildly delicious...

Blueberry Semifreddo - This was the dish that was the least interesting of the 19 courses. It was similar to a very well done home-made ice-cream without quite enough sweetness to pull everything together. Having said that...this was still interesting to try and I'm glad to have had the experience. In a similar way to my trip to Eleven Madison Park when they offered up their version of ceviche...I'm glad to have tried/experienced it, but it did not call to me like...EVERY. OTHER. DISH.

With the meal behind us, we were already plotting who we could get to join us for the next trip. As the night moved along we started recognizing larger portions of the dishes we had go out to the tables. To me...this is a real value play for the adventurous foodies in the Northeast. I think it's worth coming up from NYC & Boston or coming down from Montreal. It's really that special...
Cellartracker:Kirk Grant

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Michel Abood
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Re: Vinland -- Portland, ME

#4 Post by Michel Abood » December 5th, 2018, 10:47 am

Kirk.Grant wrote:
December 1st, 2018, 11:16 am
Jay T. wrote:
May 18th, 2015, 12:23 pm
My wife and I ate at Vinland last Thursday. For those of you who are not familiar with the restaurant, it's chef/owner is attempting to create the Noma of Maine: all ingredients are sourced from New England, with 90% from Maine. That means no pepper, no olive oil, no lemons, etc. It got a lot of buzz both locally and to some extent nationally when it opened.
It's been some time since Jay's review. In the time between his visit and mine there seem to have been some changes in the planning and vision of the restaurant. Unlike Jay, whom I know and have a deep respect for; I felt relaxed and appreciated the simplicity of the decorations in the restaurant. There was something rustically peaceful to me with the lovely hand-made pottery, and large sections with thin white birch trees set to canvas covered frames that accentuated the natural elements and tied it all together with the theme of keeping it local and true to the land. The restaurant is now 100% sourced within 50 miles of Portland, Maine. We booked the 19 course tasting menu with wine pairings and I couldn't have been happier with the outcome. They seated us at the bar closest to the kitchen so we had a full view of everything from start to finish. Everything felt perfectly timed and just as I started to feel too full something would shift in the course and I was once again ready for the next course.

The setting was basically a shift between small bites and small courses with the three final courses being dessert and wines were shifted to pair with every 2-3 courses. There were 8 wines in total and a little something special that capped off the experience that left me feeling like this was both personal and intimate. This was one of the top 5 most adventurous and unique dining experiences of my life; I plan to go back with friends and loved ones as often as I can afford this experience...hopefully every 6-12 months with time to allow for differing seasons so I can see how things change throughout the year. This felt as ambitious and well thought out as my meals at Eleven Madison Park back in 2009 and Piazza Duomo in 2016. If you are an adventurous eater that's willing to step outside of the comfort zone many people stick to...this is a MUST HAVE experience. In an effort to fully enjoy the experience I left my camera in my pocket and wanted to be as present as possible. It was a nice change of pace and I think it added to the intimacy of the experience.

We were greeted by Tim, the bar manager. He and Chef David Levi took turns talking about the courses, ideas behind them, and how some were influenced by the Chef's travels and time in other cultures. Throughout the course of the meal there was only one course that did not "speak to me" and that was also true for my experience at Eleven Madison Park. I think that when food is this artisanal and unique that is part of the experience is finding something that doesn't quite fit...that being said, to me this is the highest compliment I can think of. A nineteen course tasting menu where something was good, but not as "mind-bending" as the other eighteen courses...that's exactly the experience I'm hoping for at top-tier restaurants like Vinland.

Vineland Tasting Menu 11.24.18
small courses - all lowercase
SMALL PLATES - IN ALL CAPS

salad toast - This was one of Erica's favorite parts of the tasting. What a great and fresh way to start the meal.

WINE - Laurent "Diabolico" Rosé

SHEEP'S MILK FETA SALAD: radish, "olive oil", hominy, romanesco - With the first small plate the excitement really started to build. Such a great balance of freshness, salt, fat, & acidity...

kinpira gobo - This was like being back in Seoul when the KATUSA's would take me out to eat at local restaurants. Chef said these were the first of the season. A good reminder that I need to re-book for this time of the year next winter.

WINE - Il Farneto Rio Rocca

FERMENTED OAT CAKE: leek hay, kale, feta, apple, shiitake - Erica said this dish was something she'd be happy ordering as a main course. The umami kicked in half-way like a wine with a long finish...the flavors seemed to shift while eating.

cured matsutake on buckwheat injera crisp

WINE - Angelo Negro 'Vino Bianco'

CRAB: tzatziki, nori, watermelon radish - This was the point where I realized in the meal that everything was going to be amazing. This paired beautifully with the wine and left me feeling like we were out at the ocean's edge.

fondue with boo choi

WINE: Frank Cornellisen 'Contadino'

RAW BEEF: shiitake, yolk, shallot, shiso - Erica flipped for this pairing. The wine had a bit of bite that I often associate with the wines of Frank Cornellisen...yet it seemed to marry and mirror the bite of the tartar perfectly.

dodge cove oyster

WINE: Gustavshof Riesling

BANGS ISLAND MUSSELS: verbena, coriander, shiso - I'm not usually a fan of mussels. The broth of this helped me understand the beauty and complexity that can exist when there's a pairing like this that works so well. I could see myself drinking a warm cup of this broth and feeling like everything is fine in the midst of the worst Maine winter storms.

reindeer lichen - I haven't commented on the "bites" that often...but this was unforgettable (and not in the way that Shirako was). I want to eat this over and over again.

WINE: Collecapretta 'Buscaia'

LOBSTER: black trumpet mushroom emulsion, hakurei turnip - Living in Maine, there's not that many dishes with lobster that I find to be inventive, or creative...this was both of those (turned up to 11).

harðfiskur

WINE: Luigi Giordano 'Langhe Rosso'

SMOKED MONKFISH: dulse oat crumble, kale juice, sunchokes - This was so lovely and one of the dishes that helped "make room" in my stomach during the meal progression. I want to try to re-create this at home...it was that good. The kale juice worked perfectly and provided tension in they dish that balanced everything along a knife's edge.

chicken mushroom on chicken skin - dear lord...mother of god, this was possibly the best (certainly the most guilty) bite of the entire meal. I want these every time I come back...can I get this year round? nope...but another phenomenal reason to come at the start of winter.

WINE: Andrea Calek 'A Toi Nous'

LAMB: polenta, brussels sprouts, maitake, bone broth - The polenta put Erica in shock...it was that good. I've never liked or understood why people eat (or serve) polenta...it married everything in this dish together beautifully. Erica also discovered she likes Lamb...A LOT.

Verbena Panna Cotta - what a lovely way to start winding down the meal. Probably one of the most delicious panna cottas that I've had.

Parsnip Turmeric Custard - This was hands-down my favorite part of the dessert courses. Just plain unique & wildly delicious...

Blueberry Semifreddo - This was the dish that was the least interesting of the 19 courses. It was similar to a very well done home-made ice-cream without quite enough sweetness to pull everything together. Having said that...this was still interesting to try and I'm glad to have had the experience. In a similar way to my trip to Eleven Madison Park when they offered up their version of ceviche...I'm glad to have tried/experienced it, but it did not call to me like...EVERY. OTHER. DISH.

With the meal behind us, we were already plotting who we could get to join us for the next trip. As the night moved along we started recognizing larger portions of the dishes we had go out to the tables. To me...this is a real value play for the adventurous foodies in the Northeast. I think it's worth coming up from NYC & Boston or coming down from Montreal. It's really that special...
Glad to hear it's back on point. BTW the Il Farneto Rio Rocca is a wine we import, was it the Spergola or the Berzmein (Marzemino)? In any case hope you enjoyed it and that it went well with the dish.
Guess what? I'm ITB-> Vinotas Selections

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Kirk.Grant
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Re: Vinland -- Portland, ME

#5 Post by Kirk.Grant » December 6th, 2018, 8:47 am

Michel Abood wrote:
December 5th, 2018, 10:47 am
Glad to hear it's back on point. BTW the Il Farneto Rio Rocca is a wine we import, was it the Spergola or the Berzmein (Marzemino)? In any case hope you enjoyed it and that it went well with the dish.
Thank you for sharing that...it was the Spèrgle. Just a lovely white that paired beautifully with the food.

I can't speak to what they were like years ago...but there's no way to experience this tasting menu and not be impressed. Knowing Jay, I also know he has a great palate...I hope that others can enjoy their meals there as well. I hope others get to experience this...
Cellartracker:Kirk Grant

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Michel Abood
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Re: Vinland -- Portland, ME

#6 Post by Michel Abood » December 7th, 2018, 11:54 am

Kirk.Grant wrote:
December 6th, 2018, 8:47 am
Michel Abood wrote:
December 5th, 2018, 10:47 am
Glad to hear it's back on point. BTW the Il Farneto Rio Rocca is a wine we import, was it the Spergola or the Berzmein (Marzemino)? In any case hope you enjoyed it and that it went well with the dish.
Thank you for sharing that...it was the Spèrgle. Just a lovely white that paired beautifully with the food.
I figured that's what it was. Flavio is doing some crazy good and fun things in Emilia Romagna, glad you liked it!
Guess what? I'm ITB-> Vinotas Selections

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