I had the good fortune of being invited to The Velveteen Habit in Cape Neddick this past weekend. I don’t know much about the food scene in that area as I’m simply not there often, but I had heard from various sources that the restaurant that was there previously was a great place to eat. With a little research, I learned that the new restaurant had opened in the middle of last year and saw some pictures which showed a beautiful location punctuated by strong rustic overtones and a bar which was downright beautiful and very inviting. Maybe the coolest part of TVH is that they have their own micro farm which is one acre in size and at peak provides as much as 85% of the produce they use. That’s about as local as it gets and certainly a real reason to give them a shot.
We made the trek to TVH over the hills and through the woods to a remote but moderately busy location. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Owner/Founder/Sommelier/Host Ben Goldman who introduced himself and took us past the bar to a table where we faced the window. Unfortunately it was dark, so I couldn’t tell what was outside, but I imagined a beautiful micro farm. I don’t actually know if that was the location of the farm, but it was fun to pretend. A bit of head turning confirmed what I had seen in pictures – a quaint, rustic ambiance that felt very inviting. Even though there were plenty of customers nearby it certainly felt like our small slice of the room was secluded from everything.
A review of the drink menu let me know that there were no shortage of options for the thirsty customer. Mr. Goldman has compiled an impressive array of libations with an obvious emphasis on wines. Still, there were plenty of beer choices and intelligently crafted seasonal cocktails along with some house made sodas and sipping spirits. A quick scan of the mixed drinks guided me to a Whiskey Paramore with Laphroag Scotch, Clement Creole Shrubb, rosemary honey, and lemon. Mrs. Portlandeater landed on a Gruner Veltliner from Austria.
Moving on to the food menu was the next step in my night. We had been informed that the menus were printed daily – they are indeed dated – so I was excited to try the latest and greatest TVH had to offer. The menu had categories of Charcuterie, Cheese and Preserves followed by Small Plates, Dinner Plates, and a sidebar of Vegetables. They also offer a total of four family service meals for two each night, but that was not on my radar as it would not have fit within Mrs. Portlandeater’s diet restrictions and I really wanted to just sample the standard menu.
Cheese was the first thing that caught our eye and we decided it would make a great start to our meal. A review of the several cheeses listed helped us settle on the Invierno Two Year and Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, both from Vermont. After our drinks were delivered, we placed our cheese order and I tried my juice. Scotch drinkers know that distinct smoked peat flavor and Laphroag provided it in spades. The drink exuded every bit of that smoke and the lemon stood out too. I thought most scotch drinkers would appreciate the combination of flavors present unless they were scotch snobs who refused to mix it.
Our cheese delay was nearly non-existent and two large hunks of cheese came out with large, crisp lavosh and honeycomb. We immediately dug into the dairy delicacy, snapping pieces of the lavosh upon which to lay the cheese. I tasted each one after dragging one end of the crispy cracker pad through some honey to get just a hint of the sticky, sweet bee bounty. Both cheeses were great and we consumed way too much of each. It’s tough to go wrong with cheese, but these were great choices for certain.
With cheese down the hatch, we were ready for a small plate of TVH Tots with bravas sauce. I’m a big fan of potatoes and a superfan of tots, so I didn’t think there was any way the house tots would let me down. We continued to sip our drinks and enjoy the scenery. Before long, we had a plate of sizable square potato blocks in front of us. I couldn’t wait and dove in like Greg Louganis. I cut one of the taters in half and dropped it in my tater tunnel. It was spectacular with perfect seasoning. The bravas sauce added a beautiful, creamy zest to the potatoes that a typical add-on of ketchup could never match. Those spuds were definitely a multi-order option as I could have eaten them all night.
After our tots, I decided to go with Scallops – cranberry mostarda, grilled maitake, celery root – as my main course. Mrs. Portlandeater wished for Atlantic Salmon – creamy farro, peas, horseradish, grilled onion. Once those orders were in, I was ready for another drink and had my sights set on the Crabapple Rye sipping spirit. I asked to try it when I really just wanted to order one of the infused concoctions. I was told there was only one drink of it left, so not enough for me to have a sip and then pour another drink of it. I clarified that I just wanted a full serving and was promptly delivered a glass by the bartender with a large rock in a separate container and an added tasting of their Orange Spiced Rum. I poured the drink over the ice and readied my mental state.
My rye exhibited a floral, fragrant aroma which translated into an equal flavor. It was absolutely exceptional and most certainly the best pour of rye I ever tasted. It was so accessible that I had my wife – a total non-whiskey drinker – sip it and and she thought it was great. I basked in the glow that was a result of my rye as I waited for our entrees. They came out in due time and we were initially pleased by the presentation. It all looked quite appealing.
A piece of scallop quickly found it’s way to my mouth. The scallop was cooked as I ordered it – a little better than medium, but the kitchen was heavy handed with the salt. It’s possible my salt surplus was an isolated incident, but if not, it should be dialed back a bit. Fortunately, a pairing with the cranberry mitigated the sodium excess somewhat and overall, the meal was quite good. My wife was enthusiastic about her salmon and loved the farro mattress upon which it was placed.
Once our entire meals were gone, she was craving a dessert. After receiving the menu, we ended with a small version of Cinnamon Spiced Pound Cake with apple butter and granola. It came out with the chunks of cake surrounded by the apple and whipped cream and topped with a bit of the crunchy oat cereal. I was pleased that the granola was not excessive enough to distract from the other flavors. The dessert was light, not overly sugary, and small enough not to cause gastric issues. I ate a few bites and Mrs. P finished it along with a decaf coffee. While she did that, I finished my rye and tried the orange spiced rum. It was very good and frequent rum drinkers would surely love it, but for my money, it was no competition for the magical rye. After we finished it all, it was time to move on.
The Velveteen Habit is not somewhere I probably would have ever visited unless I had been invited, but I’m happy as hell that I was. Save for a slight misstep on the scallops, our dinner was exquisite. It’s hard to fault them too much as many people say I’m a bit salty myself. Stupid jokes aside, TVH has a good thing going. The service was outstanding, the food was superb overall, the atmosphere was one of the best in recent memory. Additionally, the bartender, as the women next to us stated, is an artist.
You should definitely consider heading to TVH, particularly if you’re in the vicinity. It’s a bit off the beaten path, even for that area, but when I was there, there were enough people around to verify that TVH is getting their name out. I think their micro farm is an excellent feature and they encourage patrons to arrive early and walk through it with a drink in hand. If that doesn’t work for you, consider pulling up a seat at the beautiful bar and ordering the crabapple rye. Don’t worry about sampling it, just get one for everyone in your party. It’s a can’t miss beverage. Aside from missing out on the rye, I don’t see how you could go wrong at TVH. I think they are on the right track and I bet you’ll agree.
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