The Velveteen Habit. Is it a worthy successor, a culinary destination you need to seek out?
The restaurant closed this past weekend for the winter and will reopen in March. In November, I dined at the restaurant, as a media guest, which was during their Post Season Supper menu. As such, I experienced a sampling of the restaurant's potential and not the full menu which they have at the height of their season. My experience was compelling, with plenty of delicious food and drink, and I certainly want to return to The Velveteen Habit. In addition, it is worthy of my recommendation and I hope you will check it out too when it reopens in the Spring.
The restaurant is owned by Benjamin Goldman, who I had the pleasure of meeting, and he used to work in the corporate world, at Goldman Sachs. However, that wasn't satisfying enough for him and he eventually became a certified sommelier with a dream of owning a restaurant. When the Arrows location became available, that dream became a reality. It was Goldman's wife who developed the name of the restaurant, a clear reference to the famous child's story, The Velveteen Rabbit. The change from "Rabbit" to "Habit" was intended to reflect the hope that people would keep coming back to the restaurant.
The Executive Chef is Chris Wilcox, a young man who began working in restaurants in 2003, including stints at Spring Hill Restaurant in Washington, ON20 Restaurant in Connecticut, and Millwright’s Restaurant in Connecticut. The Connecticut restaurants have excellent reputations, and were a great place for Chef Wilcox to acquire culinary experience.
Blue Current Junmai Gino Sake, which is made in Kittery, Maine.
Post Season Supper Menu is small, with about ten appetizers (most $3-$9) and five entrees (most $14-$23). There are also seven local cheeses (most $5 each). Much of the menu would probably be considered creative American fare, with some French influences, from a Burger to a Tomahawk Ribeye, from Duck Meatballs to Roasted Wild Mushrooms. Prices are reasonable, there is plenty of diversity on the menu, and you get a sense of what the restaurant is like during its main season.
wine list, and there is plenty to intrigue and delight a wine lover. In addition, the wine list does change at times too when Benjamin discovers new treasures which he wants to add to the list. There are wines from all over the world, and the mark-up seems to be twice retail on many bottles, which is a lower mark-up than many other restaurants with three or four times retail mark-ups. For example, you can find the Sean Thackrey Pleaides, one of my favorite wines, for only $65. You will find plenty of bottles available for under $50 but if you want to splurge, there are some exciting pricier wines.
There are about 17 wines available by the glass, in either a 3 ounce or 6 ounce pour. Prices for 6 ounce pours range from $8-$26, including a 2010 Guiseppe Lonardi Amarone della Valpolicella which they pour using a Coravin, a method of pouring a glass of wine without removing the cork, which allows a restaurant to pour a more expensive bottle of wine without worrying about it going to waste. They also have about 15 Beers ($5-$16), an interesting list which should also please beer lovers.
Rather than select a bottle of wine, I asked Benjamin to select some wines by the glass to accompany our dinner, and that was a fine decision as he chose some delicious and interesting wines. The 2011 Domaine du Crêt de Bine Beaujolais is a natural French wine, made from Gamay, and possesses an alluring aroma. With tasty dark cherry and cranberry flavors, it had some nice depth, a touch of minerality, and good acidity. There was a hint of a rustic edge to this light red wine, and I was very much pleased with the taste. An excellent choice.
With dessert, we drank a glass of their house-made Irish Cream, which will remind you of Bailey's except that it tastes far more fresh and creamy. A pleasant way to end a big meal.
Overall, The Velveteen Habit impressed, from its excellent cocktail program to its tasty & well-made cuisine, from its intriguing wine list to its impeccable service. Their dedication to providing much of their own produce from their garden and their reliance on many local purveyors is admirable. Though I experienced only an abbreviated menu, it well showed their potential when they are at their peak. The Velveteen Habit is a culinary destination you need to seek out, to make the short drive to Maine to experience their cuisine & drinks program. You won't be disappointed.