In November, 2012, Puritan & Company opened its doors in the lively Inman Square section of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Puritan is named for the Puritan Cake Company, a bakery that once occupied its space in the mid-1900’s. Chef and co-owner, Will Gilson serves modern American cuisine using seasonal New England ingredients whenever possible.
Chef Gilson grew up on his family’s farm in Groton, Massachusetts and was head chef at The Herb Lyceum at Gilson’s, a renovated carriage house on the family’s property which offers dinners and cooking classes. Gilson’s next stop was as founder and chef of Garden at the Cellar, also in Cambridge. He left Garden in 2011 to pursue a new restaurant concept which took its time to come to fruition. Looks like the wait might have been worth it. Gilson received two James Beard Foundation nominations last year (Rising Star Chef, Best New Restaurant), so it appears he is on a roll.
We went to the bustling Puritan on a Saturday night with another couple. My husband and I had originally planned to go alone and when we tried to change our reservation to 4, Puritan could only accommodate us at its “communal table” which is positioned at the center of the restaurant and can seat up to 8. Puritan holds this table back for walk-ins and often 4 parties of 2 or 2 parties of 4 are seated here. As it turned out, we had the table to ourselves for most of the evening. Here’s a shot of our friends and co-scouts for our Puritan experience, the fabulous Jane and Brad.
(My Iphone was not compatible with the light at Puritan – must buy real camera soon). Back to Puritan…….
Puritan’s vibe is farmhouse in the city. The hostess stand is an antique stove, wood tables and horizontal planks of barnwood on the walls add a rustic feel. Retro chic light fixtures and an elegant blue-gray paint color throughout balance the casual accents. One side of the restaurant has banquette style seating which is adorned in a cheerful blue and white damask fabric. The opposite side is home to a sizeable bar with ample seating. There is also a chef’s bar in the back that seats 7 and may be reserved.
Our server, Kristen was enthusiatic, friendly and attentive. We skipped the cocktail menu although it had some fun selections with names like “first encounter”, “church”, “thaw in the straw” and “the dissenter”. Instead, we chose wines from the funky wine list. Kristen brought a couple of whites for me to try and I selected a Sicilian white. The others chose a red from Sardinia. Both were excellent.
Puritan offers a variety of ways to begin your meal. Fresh oysters (from Wellfleet on this day) and a variety of snacks such as clouthbound cheddar gougeres, smoked mackerel pate and grilled beef riblets were offered. We ordered the gougeres and the deviled crab biscuits in addition to half a dozen oysters to share.
Brad and I each ordered a starter as well and they unfortunately arrived at the same time as the oysters and snacks so it was a lot of food all at once.
The oysters were delicious. The gougeres were filled with a creamy mornay sauce which was a twist on the classic presentation and we enjoyed those too, although they had cooled down quite a bit by the time we ate them. The deviled crab was heavily laden with Old Bay, but they were tasty and Kristen said they were one of the more popular snacks on the menu. There were four pieces in each snack order so no awkward sharing, and they were so beautifully presented on a little piece of slate. This is a shot of the deviled crab biscuits.
Darn Iphone. Off with your head!
Parker House style rolls, sprinkled with flaked salt and reminiscent of old-school New England meals were also served. They were moist and delicious.
For starters, Puritan offers a wide variety of plates including winter greens with blood orange and parmesan, beef tartare and a sea scallop crudo. Brad ordered a dish called “wild mushroom and farm egg”. Foraged mushrooms were sauteed and served with an arugula puree, smoked brioche croutons and an over easy egg. Brad thought it was completely delicious. I ordered the swordfish pastrami which I had read about in some of Puritan’s press. Swordfish belly is smoked, peppered and sliced very thin. It is served with a puree of pumpernickel bread, pickled vegetables and a mustard gelato. Sounds crazy but it was sensational.
Our main courses were the stars of the show. Jane and my husband split the special for the evening that was meant for two people to share. A gorgeous, thick ribeye steak was grilled and sliced for presentation. It was served with a bordelaise sauce and a potato-sunchoke rosti. The steak and sauce were perfectly seasoned. The rosti was crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.
Brad and I both ordered the pan-roasted Striped Bass at the recommendation of our server. Served with a brown butter lemon sauce, escarole and delicately browned cauliflower florets, this dish was wonderful. It was more than enough food, but very light, perfectly seasoned and beautifully plated. Other options on the menu were a Berkshire pork chop, free-range chicken, roasted duck and a vegetarian toasted barley risotto.
For dessert, there were five choices including a citrus tart, a dark chocolate brownie and a chocolate & hazelnut torte. We ordered a spice-poached pineapple that was served with brown sugar cake, cashews and coconut ice cream.
We also ordered the carrot cake. Tiny pieces of moist cake were serve with a tapioca pudding – so clever and an interesting contrast of textures.
Prices seemed reasonable with starters at $13-16 and mains from $18-31.
I think Puritan & Company is well worth a visit and I look forward to returning to try out some of the other fun menu items we couldn’t get to on this visit. Thank you to Jane and Brad for joining us!