Archive for the ‘Contemporary American’ Category

Alden & Harlow – Another Reason Why Our Food Scene is Heating Up

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

http://aldenharlow.com/

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

I don’t know exactly when this started happening, but the eating scene at Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville restaurants is beginning to look a lot like the dining dynamics in other major food meccas across the U.S. – think San Fran, Chicago, and NYC. Case in point:

  • Reservations at an increasing number of HOT spots are required at least a week in advance, and then the only available opening is at 9:30PM for two
  • The house on Friday and Saturday nights is packed to the gills
  • Kitchens run out of things that are very special and handcrafted in small quantities…”We only make 30 of those, and they’ve all been eaten.”
  • The food truck revolution has struck the city hard
  • Many places have “secret,” “limited,” “exclusive,” items that are only order-able in certain seats
  • Small plates, small plates, small plates
  • Hipster beards, ‘staches, tattoos, flannel and garb from the early 1900s
  • Reclaimed wood, vintage x, exposed y
  • Speakeasys, burgers 1000 ways, fermented everything, and innovate vegetables
  • Celeb chefs have their eyes on opening new outposts on our soil

Indeed, for those who haven’t noticed, our food game is coming up in the world.

Slowly but steadily, this area has amassed a strong cohort of excellent chefs and restaurateurs who are doing it and doing it and doing it well.

Michael Scelfo and his team at Alden & Harlow are a shining example of the good things happening across the local food scene. This is fun, exciting, pretty, and interesting food at it’s best. Sure, there are a few dishes that fail to launch in the process, but overall A&H is killing it.

Let me elaborate:

UBIQUITOUS KALE SALAD, FENNEL, CREAMY PISTACHIO

It looks like the Grinch in this picture, but might just possibly be the best kale salad I’ve ever had. The fresh kale, fennel, citrus, and pistachio come together beautifully. Our server even snatched the recipe for us upon request – this isn’t a cooking blog, so I don’t have to share it!!!

ROMANESCO, FIDDLEHEADS – with Other Goodness

Besides being a simply beautiful dish, this homage to cool-looking vegetables most people haven’t heard of was simple, refined, and refreshing.

Pretty Veggies...

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SALAD – Raisins, Pecorino, Hazelnuts, Brown Butter

This was one of the dishes that didn’t quite do it for me here (and other critics have agreed). The squash in nearly-raw shredded form – though inventive – was far less flavorful than the roasted version and came off a bit bland.

BURRATA, ENGLISH PEA, & RADISH – Mint & Peperoncino Honey, Garlic Crostino

Burrata is a long-standing fixture that has been popping up on menus for a few years now and is one thing I am always compelled to order in an instinctual purely amygdala-driven primitive decision-making reflex. Alden & Harlow’s version was creamy, fresh and paired nicely with the accouterments.

Burrata

CHILI & HONEY GLAZED OCTOPUS – Pistachio & Spring Onion, Chick Peas, Pickled Lamb

The A&H octopus was killer, perfectly cooked, and so flavorful with the chili, honey, and…pickled lamb? Somehow they pulled it off. Damn-skippy.

SECRET BURGER – 8oz House Creekstone Grind, Faith, House Made Roll

Remains a secret – they were all out! Maybe I’d have a better shot at accessing one at brunch?

CHICKEN FRIED LOCAL RABBIT – Celery, Apple, Blue Cheese, Chili Oil

Though very well-marketed and alluring, the chicken fried rabbit is the other dish that didn’t wow me. I love rabbit in all its traditional forms but the version here failed to come together – the rabbit got lost in the picture and the celery, apple, and chili oil adorning the plate was not a flavor combo that sung for me.

Chicken-Fried Hopper

ENGLISH PEAS & WILD MUSHROOMS – 60 Degree Egg, Pine Nut Crumble

I have no idea what a 60 degree egg is – or all those fancy eggs cooked in delicate ways. I guess I should have asked (being a food blogger and all) but instead I just enjoyed.

Egg Dish with a Number

SLOW ROASTED BEEF NECK – Parsnips, Vinegar, Radishes

Beef neck – new part of the cow for me. Not too different from the cheeks though – little fatty, though succulent and tender when cooked with chef magic.

Beef Neck Meets Chef Magic

OLIVE OIL CAKE PANZANELLA – Rhubarb, Harry’s Strawberries, Fennel & Frozen Crème Fraiche

Olive oil desserts are all the rage right now, and this one was outstanding. Loved every bite and found this dish to be crisp, fruity, and soothing to the core.

Yum.

On the whole, A&H delivers well-crafted food that is worthy of being included in the wave of Boston restaurants that are putting this city increasingly on the map for good eats.

Three cheers for Alden, Harlow, and Scelfo. You are destined for greatness.

Message to the Secret Burger: I’M COMING TO GET YOU – HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

Merrill & Co. – For Your Next Dining Spree

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

www.merrillandcoboston.com

Location: Boston, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

Thinking that this was some new retail clothing chain selling hearty American outdoor-wear (sounds like it should be, right?), I came into Merrill & Co. looking for sturdy shorts but came out with my stomach stuffed full rather than my cargo pockets.

The South End spot, which opened in March, is a bit of a collab-o between the restaurant group behind Bin 26, Lala Rohk, and JM Curley and talent from the latter of the three joints.

Their funky menu spans Asian-influences, American comfort classics and fruits de mer. The offerings are organized as follows:

  • Raw Bar – oysters, shrimp, and ceviche
  • “Jump Offs” – bar snacks
  • “Lil’ Guys” – plates designed for sharing but many large enough to be enjoyed by one hungry Northeastern student. Largest section of the menu, so I guess that playing nice with your food is encouraged here.
  • “Big Boys” – even a Tufts frat boy couldn’t handle something like a “Big Ass Bone-In Ribeye” with lardo and beef butter on his own. These guys are meant for splitting.

Let me lay it down for you in more detail – retail style.

AISLE ONE

We started the meal off with a nice dish of artichokes, king trumpet mushrooms, and queso fresco. Very rustic flavor and an inventive dish. Plus One for Merrill.

AISLE TWO

Next, we moved on to the octopus with kimchi, pimento, and burnt onion. The tentacle was cooked well with the right mix of tenderness, seasoning, and char. The ‘pus went better with the sauce of pimento/onion than the pickled stuff, which was more of a palate cleanser. Overall, a well-conceived dish. Another point for Merrill.

AISLE THREE

The classic progression of a refined French meal: artichokes, octopus, then mac et fromage. Merrill’s take on a classic dish included a light and airy parmesan-cheddar sauce over some nice little elbows and bread crumbs. Refreshing to not have a mac ‘n cheese that hit my gullet like a ton of bricks. In the end though, I was hoping for a little more flavor from this bad boy – maybe some funkier cheese like Gruyere and some added kick from some chives? Minus a point for Merrill.

Mac Attack

AISLE FOUR

Awwwwwwww yeah. Sliders. Juicy frickin’ sliders. Special sauce. Pickles. Melty Cheese. Delicious. Perfection. Making the Top 10 Burgers in Boston List this year. I’m certain. The guys here must have ripped a page out of the JM Curley burger handbook (currently the #3 burger in the area by my count) with this one. A home run for Merrill & the whole damn company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHECK OUT

Finally, the drink spread here is pretty decent too – I sipped a tasty Devotion Belgian Pale from Lost Abbey (CA). Though not my thang – they also have a large selection of sherry.

This was a fun night of shopping for my tongue, teeth, nose, and innards. We all enjoyed the meal. Though the menu is a little helter-skelter without really hitting on a core theme, the food coming out of the kitchen is quite respectable and worthy of your time and money.

 – ESPECIALLY THE SLIDERS!!! – 

Asta – Current Crush.

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

www.astaboston.com

Location: Boston, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

So where does a Boston-based food nerd go for culinary romance on Valentine’s day? Why, Asta of course.

Chef Alex Crabb and co-owner Shish offer a value prop to the discriminating diner that reads like a brick house: 36-24-36, what a winning hand…

36: Chef Crabb spent time as a stagiaire at Noma, Rene Redzepi’s Copenhagen-based restaurant that pretty much took the reigns from El Bulli as #1 restaurant in the world.

24: An uber-local, constantly changing, seasonal nightly tasting menu that will give you things you’ve never tasted before in a 3, 5, or 8-course format (with amuse bouche and small bites putting parentheses around the meal).

36: Very sophisticated wine program, chefs tables overlooking an open kitchen (ballsy, I like it), and absolutely no ‘tude to which I bow given the price tag and location.

Their menu reads like some innovative new form of haiku. Here’s what they were serving for $70 on V-day:

cauliflower

bottarga, anchovy

monk fish

roasted brussel sprouts

bacon broth

braised celery

black garlic gnocchi

chicken skin

beef

hearty winter leaves

chestnut

black cocoa pavlova

passion fruit, olive oil

Glance on for Pictures of Food (many readers will just skip to here and leave this page to make reservations):

cauliflower

beef.

monkfish.

pavlova.

My Favorite Dish: Delicately browned cauliflower over cauliflower puree with wonderful slight touches of the sea. The opener. Incredibly refreshing and refined. Had me at first bite. Loved the classy touch of bottarga.

Second Favorite Dish: The beef. Very nice slices of medium-rare filet with a super-interesting chestnut jus drizzled over them.

Other Highlights:

  • A perfectly-seared monkfish.
  • The most vibrantly green brussel sprouts I’ve ever seen in a restaurant.
  • Black garlic gnocchi that tasted so soft and fresh they might as well have been made on the way to our table from the kitchen or right under my eyes as I stole a glance around the place.
  • Delightful pavlova dessert that resembled a cracked egg – man the passion fruit crème on that plate will haunt my dreams for years.

A meal that made this geek’s glasses steam up. Chef Crabb’s cooking ranges from simple pleasures to subtly refined hints of genius. A nice mix of skill that puts this restaurant on par with places churning out creative New England-ish contemporary American upscale foodstuffs – think Bondir, T.W. Food, Puritan & Co., and Ten Tables.

I think I’m in love.

Kirkland Tap & Trotter – KTT & Me

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

http://kirklandtapandtrotter.com

Location: Somerville, MA (See on Map)

The Foodie: Recommends

Dude – I had the craziest dream last night.

The Grill.

I was wandering through a corner of Somerville one Fall night and caught a glimpse of a restaurant through the fog. It had a sign with a steak knife, a fork, and a fireball.

I pushed through the doors and stepped inside.

There was a wood-fired grill (complete with adjustable cranks) powering the kitchen.

A familiar chef was inspecting the dishes as they made their way out to a floor of hungry Somervillains.

– It was Tony Maws. –

I wondered – what’s going on at Craigie on Main? Is the place burning down?  Squid tentacles, pig’s heads, snouts and trotters flying everywhere?

It appeared Chef Maws had grabbed a few of those trotters out ‘da air and planted them in a few recipes the next town over.

There were a bunch of bizzaro versions of people I know sitting at the tables. I took a seat at one of them and grabbed a menu.

The FOOD list looked like this:

We ordered. There were seasonal baller mushrooms on the menu and a new burger variation. A flurry of plates started arriving from smiling servers in flannel shirts. A Left Hand Milk Stout from the tap arrived in front of me. Under the dim lights, we ate these things:

Three Large Sardines.

Rare to find in many restaurants, KT&T grilled up three lull fishies for me. They arrive incredibly moist and flavorful despite a light hand on the seasonings…

Here's Lookin' At You, Kid.

Roasted Root Veggies.

In my dreamy haze I thought that the Trotter was only a meat-lovers palace. Turns out that wood-fired grill does amazing things to vegetables. The root veggies we ordered were scantily dressed and delightful – just like the imaginary babe beside me.

Matsutake Mushrooms.

Oh, and did we mention that our “mushroom guy” sent us some baller matsutake mushrooms today? Boom! A truly humbling and slightly spiritual experience took place as I savored the rare act of eating wood-fired fungi over a nutty pesto.

Matsu

The Burger.

As if things couldn’t get better – a burger arrived. It was a simple enough affair from the outside – poppy bun, provolone, horseradish cream, and a few thin slices of tater on the side. But that patented meat-wizardry that Chef Maws brings to the kitchen was definitely present in every bite of this tender, well-constructed patty from heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choucroute Garni.

The meats kept rolling in – next we had a slab of pork belly, two types of sausage, and kraut along with a trio of house-made mustards.

Skate Wing.

The meal finally devolved into a hearty bowl of fish and clams with beans and smoked tomatoes.

There were cheers, beer spilling, laughs, and huzzahs all around as my REM-friends and I devoured our meal.

As with most dreams, in retrospect it moved quite quickly.

Next we move into one of those fast-frame camera shots where I speed-up and slow-down walking my way out of the restaurant (you know, that film effect that they used to show in every episode of cribs).

Fog clears. I awake.

Not sure if it was all real or not. But I will be adding a new burger to my Top 10. I’ve got a new joint where I’d love to call myself a reg’lar. I can smell the wood fire already.

Trade – Lost in Transit

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

http://trade-boston.com/

Location: Boston, MA

The Foodie Say: Cosi-Cosi

There are some things that you just really WANT to love in life. That first report card in 3rd grade, your freshman year roommate, that date you scored through match.com…

Trade Restaurant was one of those things. Like a giddy eight-year-old – I scurried home to share my exciting news with the world when I first found out that the legendary Jody Adams was opening a sophomore restaurant following the ever-solid Rialto in the Charles Hotel.

I eagerly anticipated the opening, peering from a nearby street corner with binocs every so often to check upon their progress.

– Then the day finally came when they opened. –

But like the report card with straight S minuses, the roommate with a drum set, and the date who stood you up in the rain – my first meal was unfortunately a let down.

The burger was small and dry and lacked in flavor…such a shame. Definitely a far cry from the coveted Top 10 list. The only other thing I remember about the meal was my Pretty Things Jack D’Or – which is always like a comforting blanky at any restaurant experience.

Determined to give Trade a second go before the review, I returned recently to see if anything had changed. I ordered a lovely-sounding local burrata dish that fell a little flat for me – c’mon can’t we do better than grilled baguette and a little chutney on the side?

Ok, but I've had better

But then came the flatbread with lamb sausage, eggplant, manchego, peppers and garlic. Boom! The one bright spot that saved the day. Very inventive mix of ingredients that came together nicely and great quality bread churned out from a legit oven.

Shazam!

In the end, Trade is an inconsistent affair leaving this foodie teary-eyed and whimpering. The flatbreads appear to be the saving grace though, and I’d say this restaurant is best enjoyed at the bar with some fresh pies and booze.

Maybe the problem is an overzealous menu ranging from Asian to Italian to South American to Middle Eastern to straight-up Amuuurican.

We need to rein it in a little bit here guys – I got lost somewhere in my trip around the world. In the words of the Italians, I say this dining experience is cosi-cosi.

The Blue Ox – Magically Sweeping You Off Yer Feet to Lynn

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

www.theblueoxlynn.com

Location: Lynn, MA (See on Map)

The Foodie: Recommends

In the history of this blog, I’ve taken you far outside the city limits of Boston in pursuit of good food. We’ve flown out of Logan together multiple times – remember those hotdogs in Chicago, those lobster rolls in Portland, the ceviche in Lima? Remember our pastries and romance in Paris (hehe)?

Well today, my friends in wanderlust, I am magically sweeping you off your feet to…well, Lynn.

After winding our way up the majestic Route 1, we found ourselves in downtown Lynn and settled into our seats at the Blue Ox – today’s destination dining spot.

As you might imagine, this neighborhood spot in Lynn didn’t enter my food dar by way of Thrillist, Eater, or other local food bloggers even – it landed on my “To Try” list the old school way – through the word-of-mouth grapevine. Which is fitting given the fact that chef/owner Matt O’Neil got his culinary career started on Martha’s Vineyard before manning kitchen battle stations at No. 9 Park, The Butcher Shop, and Copia.

Together with his wife and chef de cuisine Guaracyara Pimenta (aka “G”), Matt has an immensely popular, unpretentious, and fun thing going on in Lynn.

Their menu is eclectic and melds together your favorite gastropub, Italian joint, and salty New England seafood spot down by the wharf.

For those solely interested in food pictures and a brief blurb on the dishes – The highlights of my eating experience here were as follows:

  • Fried Maitland Mountain Farm Pickles, grilled lemon & thyme aioli, and aged balsamic. One of the best beer pairings I’ve ever tasted, delightfully juicy, well-spiced, and nicely fried. These picklers are actually based out of Salem, FYI. If you like the pickles, you can get them in a spicy martini here too.

  • The Blue Ox Burgers. Seriously in the running for my Top 10 Burgers list of 2013, these are two quarter-pounder sliders stuffed with gorgonzola dolce, topped with applewood smoked pig strips, and slathered in lemon/thyme aioli. Served on a fluffy brioche bun with fries and another awesome MM F pickle. The best part about these burgers is that the gorgonzola basically explodes into your mouth as you bite hungrily into your slider. Seriously exciting. Delightfully unique.

Oozing Gorgonzola w/ Each Bite

  • Lobster Tacos. Served in grilled tortilla with avocado, diced tomato, scallion, chipotle aioli, and lime.

Other stuff that caught my eye for the next time here:

  • Spicy tuna tartare with cucumber, scallion, cilantro, chive cream, chili sauce and house-made chips
  • Blue Ox clam chowder with bacon, Tabasco, chive
  • The “Sin” burger with bacon, swiss, and truffle aioli
  • Pan roasted cod with wild mushroom risotto and fennel arugula salad

In the end, similar to Paris, Lima, and Chicago – the Ox was well worth the journey. I’m beginning the think that I should continue expanding my local radius outside of Boston, Cambridge, and the ‘Ville to keep bringing you hidden gems outside the city proper.

Get ready – you might be hearing soon about places in Lowell, Framingham, Milford, and who knows where else?

Build meat burgers, and I will come.

The Sinclair – Where Food Isn’t the Only Thing Taking Center Stage

Monday, March 25th, 2013

www.sinclaircambridge.com/

Location: Cambridge, MA (See on Map)

The Foodie: Recommends

Here on Nick The Foodie Boston, my meals are typically the main form of entertainment that I speak of. When dining out at Metro Boston restaurants, the small plates or appetizers serve as my opening act, the main plates my main show, the dessert the encore.

But this time, my compatriots, things are different. I actually will write about something other than food.

***GASP***

Oh no I di-int. Yes I did. I spent an incredibly fun night at the new Sinclair restaurant and show venue in Harvard Square. The Sinclair sports a good-sized “Kitchen” and an intimate space for concerts. Here’s a snapshot of upcoming shows that look worth attending (and aren’t sold out yet):

  • Kishi Bashi
  • Patrick Watson
  • The King Kahn & BBQ Show
  • Daughter

We saw the very first comedy show here and were cracking up the entire time – I haven’t laughed this much since Seinfeld, Something About Mary, It’s Always Sunny, Billy Madison, and the Chappelle Show…speaking of which – the main comedy act of the night was Neil Brennan – Dave’s co-creator for the show and co-writer on the stoner classic Half Baked. Brennan’s opener was a local act named Jenny Zigrino – who is a legitimate rising talent and one of funniest female comedians I’ve ever seen.

So there you have it – I led a review with a subject other than food. I’m sweaty, my hands are clammy, and I’m a bit light-headed. I’ve gotta throw some grub in here to revive myself.

So the Sinclair concert venue is housed through a separate entrance than the restaurant. The Sinclair Kitchen exists to feed hungry adventure-seekers prior to their music and entertainment next door. And they do a pretty good job at that. The menu delivers a solid lineup of pre-show supper items, including:

  • The Sinclair Burger – Thick patty, soft bun, watercress, basil aioli (nice touch), and secret sauce – could just make my Top 10 list of 2013, we shall see.
  • Steamed Mussels – with red curry and lychee (trust me, it works)
  • Pastrami’d Pork Belly Sliders – a gut and artery coagulant that is no doubt tasty
  • Crispy Fried Oysters
  • Shellfish Gumbo – with crispy rice and Andouille saucisse
  • Grilled Octopus – gigante beans and chorizo
  • Kale Salad – golden raisins, parsnips, sunflower seeds
  • Roasted Local Beets – honey, thyme, hazelnuts, goat cheese mousse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We sampled the roasted local beets, burger, and mussels and were quite pleased with all three. Though the Sinclair offers a pretty “safe” menu of time-tested, tried-and-true recipes and loses innovation points for things like Gianonne Farms Chicken, Steak Frites, and a Veggie Burger – they do pull all these things off with quality and a bit of style and flair.

So don’t expect something you’ve never seen before on the menu – but DO expect a well-executed and tasty munch pit before your mosh pit.

TIP: Ask your server to snag you some tix while eating if you plan to see a show after dinner and they’ll oblige.

Alcohol flows freely at both the restaurant and show venue, which is cool. Beer selection is, again, safe (think Harpoon, Miller Lite, ‘Gansett) but with a little flair (Pretty Things Jack D’Or).

So there you have it – good reliable food and good solid shows. Two doors. One roof. The Sinclair.

Tavern Road – Animals of the Day, Lardo, and (Drum Roll) Porchetta

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

http://tavernroad.com/menu/dinner/

Location: Boston, MA (See on Map)

The Foodie: Recommends

The Brothers DiBiccari just nailed a medium-rare skirt steak in the ground on Congress Street in the burgeoning Fort Point ‘hood.

It tastes good.

THE LOOK: I don’t usually dwell on the décor or ambiance of my chosen feasting grounds, but Tavern Road sports a ‘smart,’ ‘modern,’ ‘clean,’ ‘stylish,’ joint with a l’ull artistic flair.

THE COOK: Louis DiBiccari has an impressive resume that includes L’Espalier, Sel de la Terre, and the Herb Lyceum. He is also the secretive mastermind behind the infamous “Chef Louie Nights” that are one part Iron Chef, one part Pop-Up, and one part Awesome.

THE FOOD: My friends, the menu here reads like a carnivorous foodie’s last meal.  There are small tasting dishes of charcuterie items that include lardo, duck prosciutto, and smoked ham. The “first courses” take on the small plate format and feature pork, lamb meatballs, steak tartare, and smoked fish belly. There are a few dainty greens thrown in here and there as well.

Mmmmm....Lardo.

A feature called “Today’s Animal” includes one meaty dish ginned-up on the chef’s whim. When we ate here, said animal was a house-made sausage of duck, veal, and pork that made my heart skip a few beats (now and when I turn 65).

The main events include duck legs with lavender and honey, beef short rib with cinnamon and cashew, and one particular item that holds a special little space in my heart: porchetta.

=======Dramatic Porchetta Monologue=========

Let me pause right there for a moment. Porchetta is a skin-on slab of pork belly wrapped around a trimmed center-cut pork loin and seasoned with herbs, fennel, and citrus. Done properly, this masterpiece is first assembled before resting 1-2 days in a fridge, and then slow-roasted in the oven. The beautiful porchetta served at Tavern is a generous round slab of herbed-crusted, crispy-skinned, tender-as-hell pig that will linger on your taste buds and strum on your soul strings for weeks (nay months) after entering your food zone.

Where Pork Belly Meets Pork Loin

=======Fin======

Back to the menu. Innovatively, the main events are served without sides and the diners are left to choose between an assortment of dishes to share amongst the table. Sides include braised kale with raisins and pine nuts, spaetzle, and creamy grits with an egg on top (my favorite).

As if all that wasn’t enough, Eater Boston reports that Tavern Road will soon have a take-out operation hitched to the side of the restaurant that will be serving plates on the go that are inspired by street foods of the world.

MY MOOD: After enjoying a hearty man’s meal and washing that down with craft beers, I felt happiness, tightness in the stomach region, subtle glee, good cheer, and slight fogginess in the brain area at the hand of Pretty Things Baby Tree.

A nice addy to Fort Point as this corner of the city becomes more of a destination for food lovers. Come to Tavern Road for the porchetta, today’s animal, lardo, beer and creamy grits. Feel like I did.

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.

Mystery Review – How to Eat in Your Favorite Chef’s Dining Room

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Location: Once named Petapawag

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

Yes, I have a dirty habit of secretively clinging to some of my more exclusive dining experiences while simultaneously bragging about them here on the blog. But hey, we all have our foibles.

Plus, there’s always Google if you are inspired enough to track down the source of a mystery review. Or, you can unabashedly support my ego by pleading for the answer via the bird or the lower-case f.

Like the last mystery review, this one was inspired by a restaurant that combined exclusivity, farm-to-table cooking, and culinary intimacy.

We hopped in a car and drove on three or four highways. We passed by the relatively unmarked locale in the dark a few times before reaching our final destination.

The time: 6:45. We were told to arrive promptly. Dinner is served only on Friday and Saturday nights.

The menu: Shown below. They had me at “duck cracklings”

The scene: There are many reasons why this town founded by the great John Tinker was worth visiting for a three-hour dining experience at said mystery establishment. Here are a few:

  • Seasonally-inspired, farm-to-table cooking in an environment where the chef personally introduces each course and answers questions about their approach
  • Six courses of exquisitely-executed food for $60. A steal for the quality you receive here.
  • A rare BYOB establishment. We sported a 2005 Premier Cru Bourgogne from Domaine Michel Gay et Fils for the occasion.
  • Small capacity, communal-dining format housed in a refurbished carriage house on the grounds of a farmstead.
  • The place is run by a family powered by a passion for sharing good foodstuffs.

The food: Painstakingly prepared, creatively concocted – unique dishes with a nod to tradition. Duck smoked to succulent perfection. Apples reduced over the course of several hours to caramel. Parsnip and pear married into a rich and creamy soup. Careful thought applied to create a quintessential late Fall meal. Others we spoke with throughout the evening had been here five, six, seven times and said the cooking never falls short of spectacular. Observe:

Parsnip & Pear Soup

 

Poached Pear & Mache Salad

 

Fenugreek-Smoked Duck

 

Pumpkin Panna Cotta, Apple Caramel, Haute Fig Newton

The people: Unlike other eateries, our mystery locale will seat you at a large table with other hungry food lovers. Yes, there will be an expectation of that thing called “socializing” in which you will meet other human beings and communicate verbally. You can also bring a larger crowd and occupy one of two tables that seat six to eight individuals to solely exchange words with your own circle.

We loved the communal slant on everything though. Got a chance to meet the owners, our chef for the evening (a seasoned vet with several restaurants under his belt), a group of musicians, and a fellow blogger who writes an approachable, personal, and funny healthy living blog that can be found at sweatygirl.net. Our table mates laughed at our jokes, shared in our food joys, and overlooked our curious weird-nesses. For that we love them. The shared dining experience confirmed my believe that good cuisine is only enhanced by good chummeryTM

Excellent food, BYOB, reasonable price, intimate setting, awesome chef, farm-to-table, creative technique, social interaction – you understand my desire to keep this one under relative lock and key, right?