Yesterday's "Dine Out Maine" column took reviewer Melissa Coleman to Portland's Vinland with guest Don Lindgren, co-owner of renowned food-bookstore Rabelais in Biddeford. In case you've hit your limit of ten articles at the Press Herald this month, the headline kindly points out that the restaurant—which serves food that is 100% local, organic, and gluten-free—received five stars. The headline is also a mouthful: "Vinland's star, five of them, is rising."
Coleman is delighted by the experience from start to finish. The anticipation builds before she arrives, as she reads chef/owner David Levi's "much-debated 19-point manifesto" about the evils of the industrial food system (she seems disappointed to find the "brightly comfortable" restaurant filled with a "happy and normal" crowd in place of guerrilla revolutionaries). The seemingly "endless stream of beautifully displayed dishes" in a $60 five-course tasting menu lives up to the expectations. She admires the house-made "limoncello" ("a non-cloying improvement over the original"), the bisque of green crab ("$14, and a good end for an invasive species"), and her favorites, the beef chuck tender and the pork belly. She cautions readers, "Don't forget to try the homemade ice cream," which includes a honey flavor during her visit. Lindgren is pleased that Levi is "not sacrificing flavor for his manifesto."
While an obvious (and admitted) trend in Coleman's reviews is her reliance on guest reviewers, who command as much of the word count as the food itself, another more curious trend has emerged slowly: The writer is remarkably fixated on the youth, health, attractiveness, and friendliness of staff and patrons she encounters.
In her very first review, she refers in her very first sentence to "the young but welcoming hostess" at Royal River Grillhouse. The "twenty-something" chefs at Palace Diner are "a talented and good-looking team." Last week's review of Bresca and the Honey Bee noted a "young server," followed by this description of owner Krista Desjarlais: "With her bright blue eyes, white-toothed smile, and blonde ponytail, she looks like the teenagers on staff."
To drive the point home, at Vinland she describes the crowd of diners as "healthy and enthusiastic" as well as "healthily attractive." The waiter "possesses healthy good looks," and the bartender is "as healthily handsome as the surrounding diners."
It's hard to know what to make of this trend, but Coleman is certainly delivering on the "less traditional approach" she promised in her recent interview with Eater.
· "Vinland's star, five of them, is rising" [PPH]
· All Melissa Coleman Coverage [-EME-]
· All Vinland Coverage [-EME-]