It’s unusual for me to drive to Camden in the winter, so I’m amazed when I’m practically the only car on Route 1. There’s a light dusting of snow on the ground and in the hours before sunset the views are gorgeous. Since there’s no traffic, I arrive well before my dinner reservation and have time to walk around, do some window-shopping, and visit with a few shop owners. After a while, I’ve worked up an appetite and I’m ready for my meal at Fromviandoux.
Elaine, the restaurant’s general manager, greets me at the door—she’s poised and beautiful and makes me feel welcome immediately. The dining room is also warm and inviting. There’s a comfy-looking couch, chairs with fur throws draped over the backs, and a stunning wooden coffee table in the middle of the room. The walls are painted muted hues of green, yellow, and gray, and local art gives the room a splash of color. There are two raised dining areas and banquettes line the walls. The space isn’t overly fancy, but it feels special.
Owners Ryan and Alyson Flemming share the culinary duties—Alyson is responsible for the breads, sweets, and cheese program, while Ryan prepares the savory dishes. Together, the couple prepares updated, classic French peasant food. They want their guests to relax, drink wine, and share a few plates of food. That’s exactly what I intend to do.
The cocktail list is imaginative and filled with creative ingredients like housemade syrups, green Chartreuse, and absinthe. If not for the drive back to Portland I’d sample the concoctions, but instead I’m drawn to the wine list. I love that they offer many three-ounce pours in addition to each glass and bottle selection—it’s a genius idea that encourages sampling.
The name of the restaurant is a portmanteau that describes their food. The combination of the first syllables of the French words for cheese, meat, and sweets—fromage, viande, and doux—creates Fromviandoux.
The menu is organized into sections: charcuterie and greens, small and big plates, cheese and dessert. I like to order a few small plates and share, so I go for the frisée salad, escargot, sherry-glazed pork belly, and crispy veal sweetbreads. I completely trust my server when she encourages me to try the lobster cream soup and appreciate her reassurance that it’s not too much food. She’s right on both counts. The soup is silky and filled with chunks of lobster meat and mushrooms, and the portions are small but not tiny.
The dishes arrive two to a platter, making it easy to share. The frisée salad and sweetbreads are served together, as are the pork belly and escargot. The salad is topped with duck confit, shallot maple vinaigrette, and warm kale and apples. The crispy veal sweetbreads are lightly breaded and served over a vibrant green spinach puree. A sauce gribiche made with chopped hard-boiled egg whites, parsley, capers, herbs, and mustard gives the rich organ meat just the right amount of acidity.
But it’s really the second platter that transports me to France. The pork belly is crispy and fatty at the same time; it’s glazed in sherry and placed on a bed of Yukon gold potato hash and braised cabbage. The sauce is sell-your-soul good—a reduction of veal stock, sherry, cream, and sugar gives the already succulent dish even more depth. And the escargot is a reinvented masterpiece—classic, but not at all dated. The red wine-poached snails are tender and the anchovy and walnut sauce with bacon, herbs, and reduced stock is perfectly salty. This dish may be peasant food, but it makes me feel like royalty.
Next up is the cheese course. There is a whole page on the menu dedicated to cheese and the selection is impressive. Each cheese is categorized by type—sheep, cow, goat, and mixed milk—and comes with homemade accompaniments like Fig Newton’s and quince jelly. The descriptions are very helpful and I appreciate the humor—some are described as “pleasantly goaty” or soft “like butta.” The plate that arrives is one of the most beautiful presentations I’ve ever seen and I’m already planning my next visit.
I could have happily ended the meal here, but I’ve heard so much about the ricotta doughnuts I have to try them. As a refreshing palate cleanser, I also order a scoop of the lemon verbena sorbet. The three little doughnuts come coated with powdered sugar and served with a coffee pot de crème, mascarpone whipped foam, and three dollops of rich chocolate ganache. The combination of coffee, chocolate, and cream is a perfect ending to a beautiful meal.
This restaurant is exceptional—it’s fine dining without pretension. It’s affordable, comfortable, and relaxing. The service is spotless and the food is delicious. Merci beaucoup, Fromviandoux—you made my visit to Camden a very special one.
20 Washington St. | Camden | 207.230.7444 | Fromviandoux.com