Chef Will Gilson is a child of New England. He is also the child of the farm. These two facts are abundantly clear from the moment you walk into the beautifully appointed Puritan & Company. The space, at first airy and sophisticated, reveals itself to be familiar, then downright homey with each moment you spend there. The expansive soapstone bar warms with the engaging conversations from the extremely knowledgeable (to the point of almost encyclopedic) bar staff. Both Colin and David entertained and enlightened us with thoughtful wine and beer pairings, local history, upcoming restaurant events and even ushered us easily through a primer on sherry beginning with a blind tasting of Bodegas Cesar Florido Fino and La Cigarrera Manzanilla. Their competence solidified our decision to eat at the bar which was not an easy one to make considering all of the interesting and innovative seating options at Puritan and Co. There is the aforementioned bar, cozy banquettes, long “family style” farm tables, intimate nooks, high top seating away from the bar, and a theater-like chefs table where you can take in the staging and choreography of a beautifully trained staff of people who are clearly invested in your dining experience.
Tradition and local history abound from the weathered barn board accent the walls to the mason jar light fixtures to, well…simply the name, which harkens back to the Puritan Cake Company operating in the same building from 1920’s. But, don’t let the nostalgia fool you. There is a clear modern edge from the menu to the decor throughout. It is as if Chef Gilson wants it to be clear that his effort is a nod to the past but by no means does he plan on getting lost there. The result is clear comfort and familiarity with a fresh, invigorating new vibe. The menu selections feature local (whenever possible), fresh ingredients and traditional New England fare with a modern twist, as in the swordfish appetizer prepared “pastrami” style served with fresh pumpernickel bread, mustard and pickles or Roasted Muscovy Duck with mushroom, turnip and quinoa. The dish we came for was the Finnan Haddie.
Finnan Haddie seeped into the New England vernacular through Scottish heritage. It is a smoked haddock which is often served as a breakfast food with toast or in a cream sauce with potatoes and onions. Puritan & Co riffs on the traditional creamy version by adding fresh local clams, herbs and lightening the sauce to make it more of a chowder. The salty, smoky haddock plays beautifully with a cream broth that is rich and satisfying without being a thick goopy mess that can mar many New England style chowders. Every component was cooked to perfection, the haddock was flaky and moist, the clams were tender and not over cooked, the potatoes soft and velvety, and the vegetables had a beautifully toothsome bite that often gets lost in soup or chowder preparation. All in all it was a beautiful balance.
The Chef also treated us to an off-menu sampling of Curried Crab Bisque with coconut milk and meyer lemon that was fresh, vibrant and bursting with gorgeous chunks of green and Jonah crab. As a bisque it was unusually light, laced with refreshing, sinus cleansing heat from the curry, silky coconut milk made it substantial and welcome on a bitter winter night. Both soups were served with their sublime house made Parker House style rolls and in-house cultured butter. I could wax poetic about the butter alone for about three pages (finally, proof that yes, it is possible to get European style butter here in the US! and lets face it, if you don’t love European style butter, it’s because you haven’t tasted it yet.) Truly, the devil is in the details at P&Co. From the stuffed Bantam Rooster overseeing the bar service from its perch to the 1920’s farmhouse stove that serves as the hostess desk to the innovative wine and beer selections.
Puritan & Company serves dinner nightly starting at 5:30 and brunch on Sundays starting at 11:00am. They feature a Neighborhood friendly “InSquare” fixed price menu that is served Monday-Wednesday. Prime Rib Sundays (could there be anything *more* New England-y?) Check their events calendar has they seem to have new and exciting events for every season, cause and local supplier! Past events have included; Overkill (to benefit the Lovin’ Spoonfuls Charity) Beers with the Brewers nights featuring local brewing superstars such as Mystic Brewers from Chelsea and Night Shift Brewers from Everett. Seasonal Fish and Game nights. Seasonal Market Mondays and holiday and special occasion fixed priced multi-course dinners.