Archive for the ‘Oysters’ Category

Puritan & Company – The Culinary History of New England, Rewritten

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

http://puritancambridge.com/

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

–“Men of New England, I hold you to the doctrines of liberty which ye inherit from your Puritan forefathers.” –

The puritans left England to practice what they believed without persecution. Like the intense cult-prone adventurers who first developed the new world, Will Gilson has sailed out into uncharted culinary territory with his new restaurant to worship the demigods of lamb belly, jamon iberico, and bone marrow on his own terms.

I am here to tell his story.

While I’m pretending to be an historian, I’ll throw a little more history atch’ya – a local business called Puritan Cake Company once occupied the space that now houses this immaculate new temple of gourmet righteousness. In fact, the new owners will even present their interpretation of the cake once produced here in little bite-sized pieces at the end of your meal.

I open this review with a lesson of our past, for, in Churchill’s words: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Gilson, it appears, was paying attention during his “ye olde volume ‘o cooking history” class in culinary school. The menu at Puritan & Company shows deference and respect for rustic New England favorites while taking a few chances with cuisine from other regions and incorporating interesting twists on the foods of our forbearers. This is also a restaurant strongly grounded in the fat of Massachusetts soil – with goods sourced from Savenors and The Herb Lyceum (the Groton farmstead owned by Gilson’s family).

Now, without much further ado, I present to you my analysis on my flavor fave dishes from Puritan that I had the joy of eating from our charcuterie table seats:

The softest, buttery brioche roll you will ever taste – topped with some amazing lightly-shaved sea salt. Washed down with a Peak Organic dark nut brew made specially for Puritan that involves a little ginger and honey from the Herb Lyceum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something called Gougeres. I’ve never seen these in France (assuming they’re a French dish), but wherever they hail from these things are awesome. Lightly-toasted warm balls of wonder stuffed with rosemary and cheddar mornay. Tasted like a gourmet cheez-it.

Cheez-its, Beware!

Rare Jamon Iberico freshly shaved from a $1,200 hock of cured ham sitting by the charcuterie station. Lightly nutty, smooth, and tender.

Fresh-Shaved from the Ham Hock

“Swordfish Pastrami.” One of the most unique and inventive plates on the menu, this dish incorporates spiced strips of smoked sword, cannelles of chilled mustard cream, brussels, and pumpernickel essence. Amazing.

Pastrami of the Sea

Bone Marrow Gratin. Easily one of the best dishes on the menu here, Puritan’s bone marrow is beautifully plated on a bed of hay and roasted with an array of herbs, butter (surely) and garlic. Spreading a little of this gelatinous goodness on a slice of torched duck fat brioche was literally one of the best things I’ve done all year.

Will You Marrow-Me?

Lamb Belly. Probably the other “must try” dish on the menu here in addition to the marrow, lamb belly is similar to pork belly in terms of the presentation and texture, however it comes with an added gaminess and earthiness that is matched wonderfully with an orange + moxie sauce. I’ve never had anything quite like it but I loved it.

Lamb - The Other Delicious Belly Meat

Clam Chowder. Pure genius. Your server will bring over a sexy-looking lineup of clams sharing their shells with a little friend named fried pork belly. A warm creamy broth will then be poured over the bowl from a pitcher. Totally creative.

Not-Your-Mother's Clam Chowda

Wood-Roasted Muscovy Duck – A solid classic bird paired with quinoa, wild mushrooms and thyme.

Order any of these dishes and your stomach will thank you like a pilgrim feasting on a freshly-cooked turkey.

A few words on a singular Puritan plate that, while risqué and interesting – misses the mark a bit. Lamb chop and lamb sausage. This ends up looking like a funny giant lamb lollipop. A bunch of ground lamb sausage is packed around the chop and just becomes overwhelming to eat (plus a little dry – it’s gotta be tough to cook right). If there is one dish on the menu I would replace – it would be this one. Instead – put a game bird, rabbit,  wild boar or some lobster on the table!

On the whole, Puritan & Company really nails it. The restaurant itself is beautiful and will surely be a success with an array of very well-executed dishes that are unrivaled elsewhere.

The first settlers of the new land knew that they were on to something when they laid the first foundations of a society free from sexual misconduct, blasphemous words, and witchcraft. I thank Chef Gilson for bringing a few spoonfuls of sin back onto New England soil.

Wellfleet Oyster Fest – Ich Liebe Dich

Monday, October 17th, 2011

 Wellfleet Oyster Fest (Oct. 15-16)

http://www.wellfleetoysterfest.org/

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

Oyster Love - $9 the 1/2 doz.

Raw Oyster Boat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watch out Munich, salty Cape Cod has something going on that your little celebration called Oktoberfest cannot match.

Sure, you’ve got chesty dirndln-wearing beer maidens, world-class beer and sausages, but you don’t have:

The Oyster Crowd

  • Wellfleet oysters overflowing into the streets served by the producers themselves from a multitude of makeshift raw bars.
  • All manner of crustacean-inspired treats from fried clam cakes to New England clam chowder to fritters.
  • A rare special brew from Sam Adam’s called Oyster Stout – only unveiled at this occasion since it may be a turn-off out of context for the average beer snob.
  • BBC (Berkshire Brewing Company) selling off the season’s latest brews such as a delightful classic Oktoberfest and a refreshing, crisp, Harvest Lager.
  • An oyster-shucking contest that spans two days and features local shuckers from all over
  • All manner of local artisan crafty-work and live music (think bluegrass, Cape Cod indie rock)

In fact, after sucking down more oysters than I could count along with a few of the aforementioned beers and sitting in the sun-drenched vine-covered outdoor terrace at Winslow Tavern (the Hofbrauhaus of Oysterfest), I realized that Wellfleet really has created something special here.

BBC Harvest Brew

 

Winslow Tavern OysterGaarten

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the play-by-play of our day at the ‘Fest:

Wellfleet's Finest

11:00AM

We arrived early and just barely snagged walking-distance parking. By the time we hit Wellfleet center, the festival was already bumping and packed with oysterfesters.

11:30AM

Our first action was buying a half-dozen raw oysters at the paltry cost of $9 – which was the standard price set by every raw bar oyster-slinger at the festival. Amazing.

12:00PM

We then navigated the crowds to scope out some of the goods and festival tents, scarfed-down some fried clam cakes from Harmon’s then made our way to the central tent near the main stage for, of course, some beer.

Oyster Stout

1:00PM

The alcohol spread at the festival featured delicious Sam Adams “Oyster Stout” for $6 and wine from the nearby Truro Vineyards. Oyster Stout was a deep dark dry stout brewed using oysters and possibly the best tasting brew I’ve had from Sammy A. I grabbed an oyster brew and enjoyed the musical vibes emanating from center stage while wandering to scope out more oysters. In the process, I chanced upon a grilled baked oyster with spinach and cheese and some other goodness…totally different yet amazing.

1:30PM

By the early afternoon the bulk of the crowds had arrived and the penguin-shuffle became the only way to get through the streets, so we hit Winslow Tavern where they had their own little party going down, which featured bloody-mary’s, BBC beers, live music, and awesome seafood. We chilled at Winslow in the sun for what became a long time and enjoyed the respite from the masses.

3:00PM

After Winslow, we made our way back to center stage to check the oyster shucking contest. Man I’ve never seen someone shuck 24 oysters in under 3 minutes…incredible. I had to try another oyster stout, and then we sampled a few more oysters (thicker this time, grown in deeper waters) before heading out early to beat the crowds.

I left with a good buzz, a belly full of some of the best oysters anywhere, and a T-shirt that said “The Joy of Shucking…and what a joy it all was.

Peace, Love, and Oysters,

Nick the Foodie

 

B&G Oysters – There Are Lobster Rolls in Heaven

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

http://bandgoysters.com/ 

Location: Boston, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

Lord, if I go tomorrow, take me to an immaculate oyster bar in the sky. Let there be good fresh oysters from Wellfleet, Duxbury, Maine, and the West Coast. Let there be a nice selection of white wines that include an amazing Sancerre not to mention some baller beers. Let there be prompt service, friendly smiles, and a classy- upscale-neighborhood-but-not-snobby-and-still-chill vibe.

And upon entering the “pearly” gates into oyster bar heaven, drop this plate in my arms:

The cold Maine lobster roll at B&G is well worth it’s price tag and delivers amazingly succulent lobster meat in a soft bun along with amazing tarragon fries.

It’s as if Jesus hand made it himself.

Here’s praying I make it to the bright side of the afterlife and that they don’t knock me for a diet high in meatfat.

Island Creek Oyster Bar – From Farmer to Foodie

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

http://islandcreekoysterbar.com/

Location: Boston, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

Island Creek, lovingly referred to as ICOB, rekindled my love affair with oysters.

I once was quoted saying that Neptune Oyster was set up as oyster foreplay. If Neptune is foreplay, Island Creek is shucking.

I crack myself up. But seriously dear reader, I made out with several creatures from the sea here and loved every minute of it.

Let’s pause and recognize the fact that this restaurant marries a culinary dream team (of Lineage and Eastern Standard fame) with a local producer of excellent goods. Man that is something beautiful that we need to see more of.

ICOB delivers amazingly fresh oysters from Island Creek, New England, and all over as well as outstandingly executed cooked-food in a superbly classy setting.

Cue food blurb:

We were seated in front of the ‘oyster-wall’ that is decorated with protruding crates filled with real oyster shells and enjoyed a dozen of nature’s finest…a little Cape Cod action, a little Duxbury, and a huge mofo from Maine that was absolutely the most interesting-tasting oyster I’ve ever sucked down. Amazing. I had a craving for fish ‘n chips and enjoyed their take with lightly-battered cod atop fries and house-made malt vinegar. superb. I had a bit of my buddy’s lobster dish and it nearly knocked me out of my seat. I salivated for other menu options, and heavily enjoyed the Duvel green and specially brewed High ‘n Mighty offering that I gulped down throughout the meal.

All the while I took in the amazingly cool atmosphere at this place. Instantly became one of my fav. spots around and I’ll be back for more…oyster shucking. Yum.

Neptune Oyster – God of the Sea Goes Turf

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

http://www.neptuneoyster.com

Location: Boston, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

Typically Neptune is known as the God of the sea, but who would have thought he could also wield that trident on land?

Neptune caught me a hell of a burger and spiced it up with three of his most prized fried oysters topped with garlic mayo over relish over melted cheddar over a perfectly-cooked medium rare round of high-quality beef – all sandwiched between a perfect brioche roll.

In case you were wondering, yes it does make the Top 10 Burgers in Boston List.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fruits de mer for which Neptune is named. And by that I mean the lobster roll and insane selection of fresh oysters of course.

The Maine lobster roll is kingly – starting from the $25 price tag to the generous portion of lobster to the perfectly soft roll. They serve it hot cooked in butter or classically cold in mayo.

Last but not least, oysters are obviously the main event at this place, regardless of what else you order. The whole spot is structured to serve as shellfish foreplay – from the nautical decor to large metal chillers filled with bottles of champagne – it will get you in the mood.

They place a card down on your table before you’ve even ordered drinks with the list of oysters, their homes, and market prices. Wellfleet, Duxbury, Nova Scotia, Rhode Island, and even far-off Washington State are represented. To say that these creatures are served exquisitely fresh and delicious is an understatement.

No other restaurant in the Boston area features oysters this good and this fresh and with such a plentiful selection. And I challenge any place that claims otherwise to an Iron Chef throw-down.

Unfortunately, others have figured out how good this place is. I recommend coming early at 4 or 5pm to beat the crowd (no reservations), or to hit them up on an off night or snowy day.

Earth, Sea, and Seabed – After that first bite you won’t be able to get Neptune out of your head.