Archive for December, 2012

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.

Boston Resolution Restaurants 2013

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Well folks, it’s that time of year again. That’s right – it’s resolution time. But rather than join a gym to shed that extra 20 lbs of gut weight, resolve to stop eating baby animals (veal and cabri are too good to give up), or take up a diet of strictly flax and wheat germ – I am rolling out another list of restaurants in the area that I MUST try in the year ahead.

Admittedly, I made just an ‘OK’ dent in last year’s list, hitting six of the 16 spots that I pined for. The reason for that was  my culinary attention being pulled in other directions as new openings kept hitting my radar throughout 2012. But in the end, I did sample awesome cuisine from Casa B, Journeyman, Marliave, Radius, The Gallows, and Gaslight Brasserie Du Coin. Not too bad.

Looking ahead to the year of the Water Snake – here’s my list of resolution restaurants. Hiss, Hiss, Yum, Yum.

  1. Cinquecento | This hotly-anticipated cavernous Italian joint from the Aquitaine Group has wild boar gnocchi. Gnocch-said.
  2. Giulia | A just-opened Porter Square newcomer serving more upscale Italian eats. Run by a former Via Matta chef.
  3. Tavern Road | Chef Louis DiBarcarri (Sel de la Terre, Storyville, Chef Louie Night) plans to open a space in Fort Point with the words Porchetta, Game Birds, and Rotisserie on the menu. P.S. They’ll have a street food window. Booyah.
  4. Blue Dragon | Celeb chef Ming Tsai is opening an Asian Fusion spot in Fort Point.
  5. Ribelle | Strip T’s chef Tim Maslow is coming to Brookline (Washington Sq) with a new spot next year. I’ll be there.
  6. Bronwyn | We will finally have a good German restaurant around Boston. Currywurst and Spaten anyone?
  7. Spoke Wine Bar | The guys behind Dave’s Fresh Pasta bring you a wine bar right next to their current venue.
  8. Erbaluce | This Bay Village upscale Italian hideaway will be a romantic gourmet date for me at some point in 2013
  9. Oishii | A carry-over from last year’s list, but I will make it this time around!
  10. East By Northeast | This Pan-Asian small plates resto in Inman Square has been open for a while and deserves my attention.
  11. Santarpio’s | Yes, someday I will hike over to Eastie and eat pizza. It will happen.
  12. Estelle’s | This is what you get when you combine the chefs of Poe’s Kitchen and East Coast Grill.
  13. Bon Me (the restaurant) | A popular Vietnamese food truck goes brick and mortar in Kendall.
  14. Belly Wine Bar | The owners of Blue Room and Central Bottle team up to deliver a nice wine bar concept in Kendall.
  15. Uni Sashimi Bar (and late night ramen) | More for the late-night ramen to get Oringer’s take on a dish that is all the rage right now.
  16. Lone Star Taco Bar | These guys hit the Allston scene big and then fell off my radar. They’re back on, and I WILL get their tacos in the year ahead.

So there it is. Another 16 places to run to in an effort to continue eating my way through all that Boston has to offer. In case you haven’t noticed, the restaurant scene in the area is bumpin’. Lots of these places haven’t even opened yet, but when they do it promises to be an exciting year. See you there…

Amsterdam Falafel Shop – A Red Light District for Chickpeas

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

http://www.falafelshop.com

Location: Somerville, MA

The Foodie Says: Cosi-Cosi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyone who has been to Amsterdam and ventured outside the famed red light district will tell you that there is much more to this beautiful city than x-rated window shopping…great food, a beautiful riverboat tour, one of the skinniest buildings in the world, and lots of Van Gogh (best enjoyed after a few space cakes).

Similarly, there is much more to the world of falafel than Amsterdam Falafel Shop – but for an area starved for good fried chickpeas it’s a start.

AFS is a falafel shop with roots in Washington, DC that has decided to branch out and open a shop in the area where most future presidents get their Harvard degree and where most future diplomats pick up a few classes at the Fletcher School. Might as well feed your future leaders well as they feed their brains, right?

Here’s how the assembly-line format at AFS works:

  1. Order your falafel sandwich or falafel plate
  2. Load up on a wide assortment of toppings that include: pickled everything, cucumber + tomato, tahini, cabbage, hummus, yogurt sauce, spicy red stuff, etc.
  3. Devour

The falafel sandwich is pretty good, but I’ve had much better elsewhere. I take issue with the hard, crunchy, and slightly dry variety they are serving here. The toppings really save the day along with the pillow-soft pitas that they serve the falafel with. But the main event is a bit lackluster.

Amsterdam also boasts fries with a variety of interesting dipping sauces. Again, the fries are seriously lacking but are saved by an especially good curried ketchup dipping sauce.

So it appears a trend is surfacing here – AFS dresses-up their fare pretty well but misses the mark on the main events.

Like a tourist making a beeline for the red light district, AFS needs a better map of falafelville. But until better eats in this genre hit the area, I’m sticking with my Chickpea Fritter from Clover Food Lab.