|Visited On:||May 16, 2014|
|Gluten Free Menu:||Regular menu is gluten-free (but changes frequently, check to confirm)|
|Variety of Gluten-Free Options:|
|Overall Gluten-Friendly Rating:||1/2|
|Overall Dining Experience:|
|Price Range:||$30-$40 per person (plus drinks, tax, and tip)|
Several months ago, I read an article about Vinland, a small restaurant in Portland, Maine that uses all-organic ingredients sourced locally. We had a chance to visit it on the long weekend, just as ferry service from Yarmouth was starting back up again. (Vinland is just a few blocks from the ferry terminal, making it an easy choice for Nova Scotian visitors!)
Reservations are highly recommended at Vinland, and I understood why when we got there. It is quite a small space, seating less than 50 people. The atmosphere is upscale yet casual, making it a comfortable spot to hang out and enjoy a good meal. That was our first surprise. The second surprise came when we asked our server about gluten-free options. She informed me that the kitchen does not use gluten at all. The only item that may not be safe for Celiacs is the oats, as they cannot guarantee that cross-contamination doesn’t happen during its growing and processing. (That being said, always ask your server about gluten-free options and make sure they’re aware of your needs.)
With that in mind, we ordered some drinks to start. I chose the Queen James, which featured a local cider with blackcurrant liqueur. Michael had a local, organic beer from Peak Brewing Company. We also decided to have the appetizer on special: charred ramp with duck egg and truffle salt.
As we waited for our drinks and appetizer, we reviewed the menu. It’s quite small, with only a few choices per course, and changes frequently. After a lot of debate, I chose the capocollo, a sous-vide pork dish served with apple butter and roast vegetables (including some potatoes). Michael chose the strip steak which was served with parsnip fries.
After we received our drinks and placed our order, our server stopped by with an amuse-bouche. We received two beet chips topped with a housemade condiment and bok choy flower, served on a small rock. I’ve only ever been to one restaurant that did this, and I think it’s a wonderful way to showcase interesting dishes. They were delicious, and a nice way to take the edge off our hunger.
Our charred ramp arrived next. Neither of us had tried ramp (or duck eggs, for that matter). It is basically a wild onion that is similar in flavour to garlic and looks like green onions. We really enjoyed trying the different elements on this dish and the flavour of the ramp. It’s something that I would buy and cook at home if I saw it at a farmer’s market around here.
After that, we were surprised with another amuse-bouche. This one was a small piece of dehydrated pollock topped with a dot of clarified butter and a few grains of sea salt. It was a great way to cleanse our palate and prepare us for the next dish.
Our mains arrived soon after the pollock and were just as amazing as the previous dishes. I’ve never had pork with the texture that the capocollo offered, and the apple butter was a real treat. Michael’s steak was cooked to perfection and the parsnip fries served with it had a really unique flavour. It was a great treat to be able to share our dishes and talk about the different components and flavours. We both cleaned our plates and enjoyed every bite.
We were quite full by this point but we had to try some dessert. To drink, I had a glass of wild-fermented organic red wine called Cuvée C’est Im-Portant from Le Mazel in France. When I ordered it, our waitress recommended that I try it first, so she brought me a sample glass. (Apparently people either love it or hate it.) It was an incredible wine, very complex and flavourful. It was so good, in fact, that Michael and I both ended up ordering a glass. We then chose a cheese board for our dessert, which seemed to take forever to arrive.
When our dessert did arrive at the table, I could see why it had taken so long; it looked like a work of art. The cheeses on it (all organic and local) included an amazing light goat, a raw two year old cheddar, and a local blue. It also featured apple butter, very thin apple slices, buckwheat crisps, and honey drizzle. What a fitting way to end a spectacular meal, and a beautiful complement to the wine we had ordered.
Overall, Vinland was an amazing dining experience. I’d recommend it whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or just want to try some local flavours. Ours was definitely a meal that we will remember for years to come.
598 Congress Street (Portland, Maine)
Web Site: http://www.vinland.me/