Vinland, the highly anticipated and long-in-the-works 100% local restaurant coming to the Arts District, is shooting to open on Dec. 6, according to chef/owner David Levi. Much progress has been done on the interior: an ultra-efficient heating/cooling unit has been installed, plumbing, electrical and fire suppression systems are mostly complete, and the kitchen is nearly operational. Over the next few weeks, there will be lots of finish work done as the space takes shape. A 14-seat bar is in place, which will surround Levi's open kitchen. The facade will also be looking a lot prettier within days.
Levi took a break from renovations to talk with Eater Maine about the progress and answer some questions.
· Levi showed off the finished tabletops, which are crafted by local woodworker Marc McCabe out of yellow birch and black walnut that spent some 200 years at the bottom of Moosehead Lake before being salvaged by DeadHead Lumber Company.
· Why won't the beverage program follow the strict, 100% local sourcing that the food will? "It's not about having a puritanical attitude. It's about doing something interesting that benefits the local economy," Levi says. "We're trying to work in a beautiful, fascinating and unexplored form. It's a way to showcase as clearly as possible the full array of what we have available locally, and it forces us to be creative."
With beverages, he says that 100% local offerings might be interesting for a night, "but if we were to do it night after night, there would be a huge loss in quality and what we can offer." He explained that local beers (which Vinland will carry) are brewed with ingredients that aren't grown locally. Likewise, coffee and tea aren't grown locally, but he will use local roasters and purveyors that carry organic, fair trade products. With wine, French and Italian imports will be on the menu (organic, biodynamic and wild fermented in many cases) because the options and quality just aren't available locally.
· The cocktail program (headed by Alex Winthrop) will utilize spirits that are 100% from the Northeast, including a number from Portland. At first, Levi hesitated to do this, as it means no scotch, bourbon, tequila, Campari, etc., but decided that by augmenting the local spirits with things like infusions and bitters, Vinland could offer a unique and full cocktail menu. Infusions will include the use of local, wild ingredients like herbs and reishi mushrooms. By using safe herbal ingredients that are free of toxins, Levi jokes, "We'll have the healthiest cocktails you'll find anywhere."
· Kate Whittemore and Ryan Quigley will be the sous chefs. They, like Levi and Winthrop, have backgrounds in arts and humanities. "No one among us is a culinary school grad," Levi says. Winthrop and Quigley are both Rhode Island School of Design grads, while Whittemore studied anthropology and Levi studied history and poetry.
· Vinland, which raised over $45K through Kickstarter, is still looking for investors. The entire project has been bootstrapped, Levi explained, which is one of the reasons it has taken a long time to come fruition. "The long lead time is a reflection that we're not a huge corporation." From Levi's Facebook page: "Looking for grassroots investors to finish the job at Vinland. It's a critical moment. We should be open in a month if we can raise the capital we need. Anyone considering buying Vinland credit or a loan, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org ... We're so close, but not there yet."
· All Coverage of Vinland [~EMAINE~]
[Photos: Tom Minervino]