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Calling All Locavores! It’s 100% Local at Vinland Restaurant

December 11, 2013

In a cozy little spot right on Congress Street in Portland, you’ll find an amazing new restaurant forging a distinctly Maine cuisine. Vinland… the first restaurant in the United States to serve 100% local, organic food. And when David Levi says 100% local, he means it. You won’t find lemons, limes, black pepper or many other spices in their dishes, because as you know…you can’t get that in Maine. But what you will find is his remarkable creativity in using other ingredients to create similar flavors. You truly won’t even know what you’re missing. His philosophy…simple food that showcases the outstanding ingredients with recipes that don’t suffer for lack of spices. What a refreshing change from the typical fine dining places that load their dishes with sauces and spices!

Levi draws his concept from indigenous food traditions along with those of the Acadians, New Englanders, and other peoples of the North Atlantic. The mission is as much about ecology, building the local economy, and teaching good nutrition as it is about great food. Levi believes that the human is an animal, and animals need food…real food. He says, “The decline in the quality of our food began with the Agricultural Revolution, accelerated with the Industrial Revolution, and has now reached a sad and dangerous low. It is time for us to reclaim the dignity, beauty, and sustainability of real food, our birthright, and a blessing to our children.”

While you might think the name Vinland is more suitable for a winery, the actual meaning of the name refers to Vikings from Iceland and Greenland, the first Western people known to have settled in North America. Though we do not know the precise location of Vinland, and it may have been anywhere from Virginia to Newfoundland, it probably included Maine. Levi seeks to honor the courage, resilience, and adventurousness of the Vinlanders by naming his restaurant, Vinland.

A true entrepreneur, Levi is not only the head chef, but he designed the interior of the restaurant, is involved in all aspects of management and raised a successful Kickstarter campaign to help launch the business. I had to ask him if he ever sleeps, to which he laughed and said, “Not a lot.” Levi has a passion that shows through in everything he does from cooking to management and I was honored to have the time we spent together as it’s very rare to meet someone so dedicated to a mission. I know you all want to hear about the food, which I haven’t stopped raving about, but first I wanted to elaborate on some of his principles. They are principles we all should be living by if we truly want to save our planet from the abuse it’s taken over many years.

Principles of David Levi:

  1. We are what we eat. We are also what we eat eats. When we eat healthy beings prepared with love and respect, we are truly nourished.
  2. Real food must nourish. If food does not promote physical and soul health, it is not real food.
  3. The primary goal of any acceptable food system must the betterment of the total community. This includes eaters, chefs, artisans, farmers, hunters, gatherers, cultivated plants and animals, the wild beings whom we eat, all other wild beings with whom they (and we) coexist, the soil, the water, and the air. Any food system (or anything else) that is detrimental to any of these elements must be rejected, resisted, and replaced.
  4. Healthy foods taste good. While some unhealthy foods are addictive, they are never appealing to a palate that knows quality. We must dispel the myth that tasty foods are bad for us while boring, unappealing foods are good. We must dispel the lies about healthy animal fats and salt. The enjoyment of eating is a cornerstone of a happy life.
  5. Monetary profits should enrich the human and non-human community. It is unseemly and wrong to market sustainable food (or anything) as a means to hoard wealth, foster greed, or engage in consumerism. True profit is not monetary.
  6. The industrial food system is irredeemable. It is irredeemable because it requires fossil fuel for transport and processing energy, for fertilizer, for the poison it spreads across the Earth. It is irredeemable because it destroys soil, aquifers, waterways, oceans, and biodiversity. It also destroys traditional societies. It is a war on life. It is irredeemable because it is driven by the lust for ever more concentrated monetary wealth. It is irredeemable because it is controlled by the unaccountable few while pushing vast costs onto the disenfranchised many. It is irredeemable because its cruelty and destructiveness are intrinsic, not products of “a few bad apples.”
  7. We are preparing to help our communities survive the crash. The industrial food system is unsustainable, so it will collapse, whether or not we resist it, but we should resist it, and prepare our communities for the crash. The most essential preparation will be the (re)building of sustainable local food systems.
  8. The monolithic industrial system will not be replaced by a one-size-fits-all sustainable food system. Systems and the food they produce must be as distinct as the land bases of which they are part. Foods and techniques that are appropriate in one place will not be appropriate in all others. We should celebrate the uniqueness of our place in what we grow and eat, rather than deny its character by trying to have everything, everywhere, all the time.
  9. Real food should not be a niche product for the rich but a right for all. We must do all we can to educate people on healthful and sustainable food and build a local food system efficient and varied enough to meet their needs for nutrition and pleasure.
  10. Food is medicine. Look up any wild food in a good foraging guide and you will find its medicinal as well as culinary uses. Foods alter our bodies. Eating the wrong foods can do us a great deal of harm. Eating well helps keep us well, and when we are unwell, it helps make us well.

The full list is available on the Vinland website, www.vinland.me. So now, on to the food!

We were lucky to be able to sample many of the items on his menu, but things are changing seasonally, so don’t be surprised if these are already gone. First course included a delightful turnip soup with yogurt, fermented carrot and micro cilantro. If you’re a seafood fan, the Bang’s Island Mussels with cider, ginger and garlic were amazing. Second course included scallops with potato risotto (yes, I said potato – you won’t miss the rice), golden beet, turnip tail, shitake, and micro basil. The food is so healthy and light, you’ll have no trouble saving room for dessert – which of course we did. The white pine ice cream with juniper and maple sugar on maple granola was refreshing and delicious. We also enjoyed the buckwheat lavender cookies with maple mascarpone yogurt filling – to die for!

Vinland is a fantastic new addition to the already amazing Portland food scene. You won’t want to miss this one – and I’m proud to say that I dined at the first restaurant in the United States to serve 100% local, organic food!

 

Submitted by Dr. Diane Hindman. Vinland is located at 593 Congress Street, Portland, Maine. Dinner from Tuesday – Saturday, starting at 5:30, Lunch from Wednesday – Friday, 12:00 – 2:00 and Brunch from Saturday – Sunday, 10:00 – 1:30. There is an eight-course tasting menu available on Saturdays, by reservation only. $90. Wine pairing $45. Select wine pairings available by request for parties of four or more. Please write to info@vinland.me or call (207) 653-8617.

 

 

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