Woot for anniversary date night and the parents in town, volunteering to give us a night off. Though we had properly celebrated early, and considered more involved pursuits, Old Town's Vermilion turned out to be the loveliest low-key meal. It allowed us to have an evening focused on each other (and, well, the food too). Though I was first skeptical of the tasting menu (as I noted, the night was not about excess), I’m glad we chose this route. Priced for value (seriously!! – all these courses for $50, $70 with wine), the courses were a pleasing display of cuisine and drink. Here’s my take on the deliciousness:
lobster saffron veloute
Thoughts - The lobster flavor dominated the more delicate saffron in this dish, but it was great pick-me-up for the taste buds to welcome the meal to come.
crispy dragon creek oysters
shaved local fennel, torn spearmint
tangy slaw dressing
Thoughts - Loved this!! I just can’t do the texture of raw oysters (I know, I just lost all foodie cred, right?), so I was really excited that the oysters were fried. They were complimented so well by the crispy fennel slaw.
2008 elk cove pinot gris
willamette valley, oregon
Thoughts – Yet another perfect Willamette pinot - red or white, I love them all. Who’s up for a train ride to NYC in February? (Also of note, Elk Cove is all over the place right now. I’m not complaining, but wow, go Oregon with getting the word out on your wines.)
celery 3 ways, surry ham
Thoughts – Serving the fish skin-on added another layer of texture and flavor – nice. I also loved the deconstructed chowder with the different presentations of celery. In my humble opinion, celery = underused; celery root = way overused.
2009 patrice cacheux chardonnay
Thoughts - This was the quintessential classic chardonnay – I’m surprised that it comes from Burgundy.
pineland farms beef striploin
house-cured pastrami, potato gallete
wilted path valley spinach
Thoughts - Of all the components on the plate, the garlic-accented spinach was my favorite part (sometimes, veggies can shine so much brighter than their carnivorous counterparts). And sometimes, keeping things simple is much more satisfying than refining them. This was the one course where the chef tried to do a little too much. Not that anything was bad; I was just a bit overwhelmed. I would take a whole plate of that spinach though.
2008 celler cecilio negre grenache blend
Thoughts – This wine was unfiltered, which made for a nice beverage on its own, but did not pair well, particularly given the already busy course.
cider roasted bosc pear
caramelized maple ice cream,
Thoughts – I really liked the maple ice cream. I like all things maple in the winter. No complaints about the simple pear presentation either. (Sorry, this is the only pic - we were too busy enjoying ourselves.)
2008 elio perrone moscato d’asti
Thoughts – Our server called this moscato "peaches and cream" – she was incredibly accurate. This wine was so very, VERY sweet. It would not be thought of twice at more serious establishments, but Vermilion has a more playful element, and this wine was a perfect compliment to that eccentricity. I'm quite glad that the sommelier included it on the pairing menu.
chantilly cream, berry compote
Thoughts – YES, I did say BONUS dessert – score! I actually liked this better than the pears. While donuts sounded heavy, they were instead light and fluffy. Just perfect with the berries and cream.
The décor is indicative of the food. Rich in color (red, obviously) and texture, but with an understated presence that evokes comfort rather than fashion. Sometimes that's what you want.
When you find a way to do something right, continue to do it that way. I feel strongly about this. No need to try to be fancy if that would lead to awkwardness. This is very true at Vermilion - it's a lovely place to dine without being over the top expensive, refined, or contemporary. In other words, it's just right.