Nestled in the heart of Eastport is one of its crowning jewels, Vin 909. Since it opened almost four years ago, owner and executive chef Justin Moore has been giving ‘Eastportaricans’ and Annapolitans alike tasty morsels like Fresh Hand Made Mozzarella and Cast Iron Skirt Steak (two of my personal favs). He has established himself as a supreme purveyor of American gastronomical delights, much of it sourced locally and organically (when possible).
The main attraction here is pizza, pizza, pizza. Oh yes, and wine. After all, what's better than a nice, big glass of wine and a hand-rolled, oven-baked pizza? Turns out I'm not the only one who thinks so; Vin rolls out about 150 pizzas per night. With the demand so high they order their pizza dough fresh-frozen from La Prima Catering in College Park. This dough combined with Vin’s fresh and creative toppings results in some of the best pizzas you can find Annapolis.
Chef de Cuisine Ryan Perry was manning the pizza station that day. We were being treated to one of Vin's most popular pizzas, the Wild Pig. This savory pie has tomato sauce, provolone, in-house made mozzarella (they go through a whopping 15 pounds of it a night), wild mushrooms, spinach, in-house made wild boar meatballs (a combination of pork, beef, and wild boar), finished with Maldon sea salt and a bacon pepperdew sauce.
First came the dusting of wheat semolina to keep the dough from sticking. Ryan rolled the dough out by hand with ease and then used a medieval-looking device called a docker (think hand-held rolling pin meets a porcupine) to give the dough a layer of small holes. These holes help prevent huge air bubbles from forming and allow the dough to breathe. This is also one of the secrets behind that perfectly thin crust.
Ryan allows the dough to sit for a few minutes, which also helps prevent air pockets from developing. The rest goes as expected; a spread of tomato sauce followed by the cheese and remaining toppings. The pizza bakes in the stone oven for about six to seven minutes. Of course, it comes out baked to perfection, just needing the finishing touches; a sprinkle of Maldon, a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive oil, and a good smattering of the bacon pepperdew sauce.
Even with the docking technique the pizza had developed a few of those characteristic air bubbles. "That's because it's fresh dough that's been rolled out,” explains Ryan. I happen to personally enjoy these distinctive bubbles and think they give the pizza added personality. Just looking at the pizza--sliced into squares, not triangles--is tantalizing with its contrasting pops of color from the spinach, tomato sauce, and pepperdew sauce.
As I take my first bite I marvel at the superb texture of the crust, crispy on the outside but still slightly fluffy on the inside. The mushrooms and spinach provide a nice earthy balance to the sweet and tangy pepperdew sauce that's so rich it reminds me of Barbeque sauce (I suspect that’s the good work of bacon at hand). The wild boar meatballs are tender and juicy while the flakes of Maldon salt make their presence known fairly popping with each bite. Its no wonder the Wild Pig is such a hit; it’s a wonderland of rich and savory flavors.
Of course, it wouldn't be a visit to Vin without that glass of wine. Alex, the manager on duty, poured me a glass of a Tuscan Sangiovese Cabernet. Balanced and easy to drink, it didn't overpower the flavors of the pizza. Sitting with my fresh, handmade pizza and lovely glass of red wine I can honestly say I didn't want the moment to ever end.
Vin offers a different pizza on special every night in addition to their seasonally changing menu. It's a cozy little spot that does around 250 to 300 covers a night. More than likely you'll have to wait a little while for a table, but just grab yourself a glass (or bottle) of wine and sit outside at their patio tables if the weather is nice, or by the standing tables near the fireplace if not. The staff is friendly, the service is always impeccable, and the food is definitely worth the wait.
Photos and videography courtesy of Darren Heater.