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

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.