Normally I wouldn’t post about dining somewhere out-of-state, but I felt compelled to share this experience because there is actually a relevant connection. I made Vinland a fairly regular stop throughout the summer and came to learn that their sous chef, Ryan Quigley, was leaving his position to pursue a new gig in Boston. Ryan has been particularly supportive of my eating habits and also super generous with his time in sharing his creative process. While I was bummed that David Levi’s kitchen would have one less familiar face, I knew it was a promising opportunity for Ryan to continue to grow as a chef. Coincidentally, his new employer was just a short drive away from a concert venue where I was planning to see one of my favorite musicians. Obviously I had to eat before the show and making sure my chef buddy was in good hands just sweetened the deal. The menu looked right up my alley, so I made an OpenTable reservation for myself and an old friend living in the area. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not that well-traveled, so maybe spaces like Puritan & Co. are pretty standard in the Boston area, but I immediately fell in love with its layout and design. With the exceptions of Grace and Outliers, I’ve really not had many moments here in Portland where I’m taken aback by a restaurant’s sex appeal as soon as I set foot inside. The whole place just had a good vibe and I knew I was in for a treat.
Ryan popped over at our table to say hello and recommended a couple of dishes. I was instantly intrigued by the swordfish pastrami, a very imaginative deconstruction where you hardly realize you’re eating seafood. The squash dish was an item newly-rotated to keep up with their Monday farmer’s market theme, a simple preparation but appropriate to showcase the freshness of the ingredients. The cod was cooked perfectly and dessert was neither heavy nor overly sweet, which is how I prefer to finish out a meal. Our server brought over an extra course and explained it was one of the restaurant’s most popular items, consisting of a fried egg, arugula, smoked brioche, and a generous pile of wild mushrooms dressed in garlic. Eggs are such an accessible, versatile, and delicious ingredient…except I’ve gotta be the weirdo in the mix who can’t properly enjoy them. It was still somewhat surprising that this managed to sneak by since the restaurant took the time to confirm my reservation and any food allergies the night before. I hardly have the heart to turn down a comped dish, but luckily I had a dining partner-in-crime, so the egg did not go to waste and I was still able to salvage and thoroughly enjoy the other components of the dish. Other than that (and let’s be real, I can’t ever fault a restaurant for being overly hospitable), I could not nitpick a single thing during this meal. Temperatures, textures, portions, and flavors were all exactly where they were meant to be. I was highly impressed with my visit here and would come back in a heartbeat if I find myself in the area again. I feel more at ease ‘losing’ Ryan to a place of this caliber. I wish him all the best and know he will continue to flourish in his culinary career.