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01.05.15 - The Compass Tavern

Canal’s Compass points the way to big flavor

The question, “What’s your favorite restaurant?” is one I find challenging. Mostly because it’s a question I can’t respond to with one simple answer.

The Compass TavernBut I’m happy to oblige, so I opt for categories ~ favorite burger, favorite breakfast, favorite pizza. … Twenty minutes later, when we get to fish and chips, I find that I really can’t provide a Worcester standout, and I start to wander. There’s that take-out window off the Russell Square tube stop, but in the U.S., I’d vote for the seaside fish shanty in Point Judith, R.I.

Then, I dined at the Compass Tavern and found a fish and chips dish superior to any I’ve had in years. Tender, flaky-fresh and huge. But wait a minute. This is breaking the narrative arc in the Compass Tavern story; let’s go back to the beginning.

The Compass Tavern is still new; it’s taken over the Harding Street location that used to be home of Smokestack. Compass has reworked the floor plan by installing a bar in the center of the dining room and surrounding it with booths. This reduces the “cafeteria feel” it had before and makes the place feel more dynamic.

When my friend and I stopped by for dinner, we were urged to sit “wherever you want.” Given that there was just one open table, I wondered aloud if this meant we could evict diners from their more desirable booths. That seemed dangerous, so we encamped at the end of a row of booths.

Our server, Hannah, introduced herself, passed out menus and asked us what we’d like for drinks. The chalkboard listed Shipyard Brewing Company’s latest seasonal brew, GingerBreadHead. Even though my faith in Shipyard runs fathoms deep, I asked Hannah if it was being received well. “Oh yeah,” she replied. “Do you want a sample?”

“Perfect!” I replied.

She returned with a generous sample in a brandy snifter, which might be the ideal glassware for GingerBreadHead. The glass’s bulbous form focused the ale’s aromatic aspects, showcasing rich molasses, ginger and cinnamon flavors. But be not afraid! This is not a cloying, sweet, candy brew. Shipyard just doesn’t do that. I ordered a pint.

Compass TavernWe paired our drinks with Compass’s Chicken Wing appetizer ~ on the bone, of course. No nuggets at this table. OK, everyone’s got wings, right? You can get them for two bits apiece at some sports bars. So how does a place set itself apart? The Compass starts by procuring big meaty drumsticks and wings. The meat is just packed on these beauties, along with the genuine chicken flavor that’s lost when some industrial process chucks away the bones.

The menu boasts several different chicken wing treatments and lets you select two flavors. I’d already tried their Buffalo sauce and knew how good it is; tonight we paired it with Cajun Spiced Rub. What a combo! The tart heat of the Buffalo sauce contrasted delightfully with the salty heat of the Cajun. A most satisfying start.

Compass TavernAnd this brings me back to the Fish & Chips. What made it so superior? That’s simple: The large filet of tender white haddock just flaked apart with each forkful of sweet and tender flavor. The breading was golden brown and buttery-crisp, with little nubs of deeper, crispier flavor. My plate-long filet was draped over a bed of crunchy-hot fries and served with a cup of creamy coleslaw. This is fish you could get spoiled on!

I’d never slather condiments on fish. But I must note that my friend sampled the Compass’s tartar sauce and insisted I try it. Yes, this sauce was certainly superior to others. And if I was hungry enough, I’d eat it by the forkful ~ but nowhere near my fish.

As pleased as I was with my meal, my friend suffered no envy. He’d ordered their Western Ribeye Steak with mashed potatoes and vegetable. From my side of the table, it looked more medium than rare, but he described it as “… perfectly grilled, just as I ordered it, with a nice peppery char on the outside, juicy and delicious.”

Compass TavernHe wasn’t a fan of the vegetable featured that evening, a medley of summer and zucchini squashes. So I helped myself to them; they were the freshest I’ve encountered since summer.

Based on a couple visits, I would reckon that The Compass Tavern positions itself as a place for friends to drop by, have a drink or two and enjoy a good meal. No Michelin stars, just honest fare crafted by local, honest hands. The Compass is the kind of place that earns customer loyalty.

The Compass Tavern
90 Harding St., Worcester
(508) 304-6044
thecompasstavern.com

By Bernie Whitmore

 

01.05.15 - Sweets & savory.

Sweet on Worcester’s Shrewsbury Street will expand its menu and offer savory dishes for dinner. This is a take on the tapas craze, with dishes for sharing and small plates. The restaurant will offer dishes such as lamb sausage over lentils or Chef Alina Eisenhauer’s take on Korean nachos. Once you are done with dinner, leave room for dessert.

 

01.05.15 - Mourning Arthur Furtado.

Arthur Furtado, owner of The Pic on Worcester’s Shrewsbury Street recently passed away from diabetes-related complications. Furtado was only 30 years old. He will be missed by his family, co-workers and customers.

 

01.05.15 - Italy in Webster.

Mama Dolce’s Café, an Italian restaurant, opened at 8 Davis St. in Webster. The restaurant opened its doors in the middle of November and has been busy ever since. The business is owned by Nancy Zecco. Zecco said that she named the place for her mother, who must have been a sweet lady. Zecco plans on introducing music in the not-too-distant future. Try it out.

 

01.05.15 - Italian in Worcester.

It looks like Rod Haddad, of Shrewsbury’s Napoli Restaurant, is making progress on his plans to open a second restaurant. This one is on Plantation Street, near the intersection of Franklin. Haddad has gone before the Worcester Planning Board to get his approvals.

 

01.05.15 - One less Italian in Worcester.

Ziti’s Restaurant on Harding Street in the Canal District closed its doors at the end of December. The owners will concentrate on their restaurant in Westborough, which is closer to Boston.

 

01.05.15 - Mexican in the Canal.

El Patron Mexican Restaurant will take over the space now occupied by Ziti’s. The owner is Jose Cazares, who is a second-generation restaurateur. He grew up working in his mother’s restaurants in Mexico. According to Cazares, the food will be authentic, using his mother’s recipes. Look for a mid-January opening.

 

01.05.15 - They say the wings are wicked.

Snows Clam Box at 321 West Boylston St. in Worcester’s Greendale section has closed down, and the space is being taken over by the Norton brothers, Nick and Andy, who also own Wild Willy’s next door. The Nortons plan to open a wing place. If they do the wings like they do their burgers, they will have a hit on their hands. The burgers are big and juicy, and hopefully, the wings will be, too. Wicked Wings will open in a month after some renovations.

 

01.05.15 - Neil Rogers jumps stoves.

Neil Rogers, formerly of Volturno and last year’s winner of Worcester’s Best Chef, has joined Niche Hospitality Group as their executive chef de cuisine and will be responsible for food development. After a tour of Niche’s restaurants, Rogers will assume his duties at Niche’s commissary, located adjacent to Mezcal in Worcester. No word on who is taking over for him at Volturno.

 

01.05.15 - Girl Scout cookie challenge.

The annual Girl Scout Fork It Over fundraiser will be held Feb. 26 at the Beechwood Hotel. Chefs are challenged to come up with an innovative recipe using Girl Scout cookies. Chefs need to respond by Jan. 8, 2015, if they want to take part.

 

01.05.15 - PulseBREW: Baby, it’s cold outside

Here it is: January 2015. It’s a new year, but it will still be cold. When it gets to be winter, all sorts of seasonal beers show up, promising to warm you up. Winter Warmer beers are formulated to raise your temperature either through spices or a higher alcohol content. Below are some winter favorites that I have tried recently and wholeheartedly recommend. These are all readily available at any reputable craft beer outlet. No need to camp out the night before or be put on a waiting list. Cheers!

Lagunitas Brown Shugga, Lagunitas Brewing Company (9.84% ABV)

This beer has a story to it, as all great beers should. Lagunitas was brewing its Gnarlywine Barleywine and added brown sugar to it. It was a mistake that the yeast ate up so much of the brown sugar (that’s what yeast does; it eats sugar) but left a recognizable hop presence and a malty, sugary, festive sweetness. This beer is ridiculously drinkable. It has a subdued warm booziness that creeps up on you quickly, too quickly. Lagunitas created a whole new beer style that it likes to call “irresponsible.” You have been warned.

Holidale, Berkshire Brewing Company (9.5% ABV)

This is brewed right here in Massachusetts. This limited edition, once-a-year barleywine recipe changes from year to year, and I am always excited to see the slight changes. For one, I can remember this beer having a reddish tone, but now it has darkened to a luscious deep brown. I picked up no hops whatsoever in aroma or taste. The mouthfeel is full and coated my entire mouth. It smells and tastes of chocolate, sweet fig and a trace of cinnamon. It has the warmth of both alcohol and spice. Save this one for dessert and share it around the fireplace with close friends. I have one bottle left, and that’s when I plan on opening mine.

21st Amendment Fireside Chat, 21st Amendment Brewing (7.9% ABV)

First off, this is the only beer in this article offered in a can. This pours a dark red with a tan head. It is lighter in color and mouthfeel than the two previously mentioned beers. The flavor here is a muted chocolate and spice, with more of a focus on the malt. There is minimal hop aroma or flavor. If you like your winter beer to be a beer first, with less of a priority on the adjunct flavors, this one would be a good choice for you.

Troegs Mad Elf, Troegs Brewing Company, (11.0% ABV)

Cherries and honey. It says on the label that this is a beer brewed with cherries and honey. It should be listed the other way around. This is a perfect beer to share with someone that does not like beer but likes cherries and honey. It pours a ruby red with a fluffy white head that drops to a small lingering ring. It smells of ~ you guessed it ~ cherries and honey, but it does not stop there. I picked up some aromas from the Belgian yeast, cloves, banana and pitted fruit. It tastes as it smells and warms you like none other on this list. As it warms, this brew becomes more complex. Rose, bubblegum, citrus and sweet cherry all show themselves at some point, or maybe that’s just the 11% ABV talking. Regardless, I enjoyed it and bought a few more to age. This is available in 12-ounce bottles or a 22-ounce bomber with a tulip glass.

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company (6.9% ABV)

There was a theme going here of winter beers without hops. Here is an option if you like hops, dislike spices or just happen to want to have something a little lighter. This is the lightest beer on this list by far, but this is far from being the lightest in flavor. This beer was first brewed in 1981 using fresh, just-harvested and dried hops from the western United States. The company’s thought is that hops, like spices, degrade in flavor and aroma the longer they sit. This beer pours a deep ruby read with a two-finger foam. The aromas of the hops include pine and citrus, which fill the air as soon as the bottle is opened. There is no chocolate, cinnamon, fruits or exotic yeast esters. This is just a really good example of an American IPA, a balance between glorious hop flavor and aroma, with just enough of a malt backbone to remind you that you are drinking a 6.9% ABV beer.

By Kerry Cyganiewicz

 

12.10.14 - Sake Bomb Bistro

Sake Bomb Bistro is the sister restaurant of Kenichi Bistro in Worcester. Sake Bomb Bistro serves a unique blend of Asian cuisine and fresh sushi. You can sit at the sushi bar and watch their creative Executive Sushi chef would perform his signature sushi, sashimi, and Makimono. Inside the kitchen, the artisan dishes are prepared and presented with creative artistry and premium ingredients. They have a full cocktail bar which serves Polynesian drinks, and a great selection of wines/sakes.

Address: 258 Park Ave, Worcester, MA 01609
Phone: (508) 754-2426
Website: www.sakebombbistro.com
Menu: http://www.sakebombbistro.com/#!menu/c5hf
Hours:
Mon-Wed 11:30am – 10pm
Thurs-Sat 11:30am – 12am
Sun 12pm – 10pm
Accepts all Major Credit Cards

 

12.10.14 - Shangri La

At Shangri La, they claim to carefully pick fresh and natural ingredients to prepare every dish. They cook in a healthier way to serve a more nutritious version of Chinese food. Much attention has been given to create a cozy and inviting ambiance for the diners. There is also a large bar. Call for reservations or just stop by their downtown location (across from the Common).

Address: 50 Front Street, Worcester, MA 01608
Phone: (508) 798-0888
Website: www.shangrilarestaurant.net
Menu: http://www.shangrilarestaurant.net/menu.asp
Accepts all Major Credit Cards

 

12.02.14 - It’s not funny.

It appears that a Japanese steakhouse, Sawa Steak & Sushi, will soon open in Shrewsbury in the spot once occupied by Newbury Comics, which has gone out of business. The restaurant will be next door to the Fidelity Investments office on Route 9.

 

12.02.14 - Sweet Mother.

That is the name of Worcester’s first Ghanaian restaurant, which will open in the first week of December on Lincoln Street. The space housed a pizza place for more than 20 years before becoming a Latin restaurant for less than a year. It is opposite the VA clinic if you are looking for a landmark. The Ghanaian population is growing in the city, and this gives us all a new cuisine to try.

 

12.02.14 - Looking for happiness?

The Shangri La Restaurant has completed its move from Seven Hills Plaza on Myrtle Street and recently opened on Worcester’s Front Street. This gives the City Hall area a full-service restaurant. Look for other restaurant openings adjacent to Worcester’s City Hall soon.

 

12.02.14 - Coral Seafood update.

The longtime owners of Coral Seafood on Worcester’s Shrewsbury Street will retire after decades in the restaurant business. Teddy and Georgia Voyiatzis will retire shortly. Their son, Jimmy, who managed the place and cooked, will be taking a well-deserved vacation. Coral Seafood started in humble surroundings near Pleasant Street in Worcester as a fish and chip place. Then, it moved to Green Street before opening at its current location a decade ago. Son George, who owns the successful Fish in Marlborough, will take over the space after a short period of construction. The function space will be available during the change and all gift cards will be honored. Watch for a new restaurant to emerge after the first of the year. Ian Nal, who now runs Fish and formerly worked at The Oak Room in New York City, will be the manager. We wish Teddy, Georgia and Jimmy well, and we will miss them as much as we will miss the fried clams and scallops.

 

12.02.14 - Stop wine-ing and have a happy holiday.

The American Wine Society’s holiday party will be held from 7-11 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, at Shrewsbury Street’s Mac’s Diner. This has got to be a first for Mac’s, but it may be a look at things to come as owner Chris McMahon puts his stamp on the restaurant that has been in his family for generations. McMahon is the third generation to run the well-known East Side eatery.

 

12.02.14 - New at the Rhino.

Since we are talking about Shrewsbury Street, we can report that the Flying Rhino Café has instituted a few changes. In addition to its new fall menu, the Rhino is now doing Sunday brunch and a Sunday evening prime rib dinner. Check it out; Paul and Melinda Barber always do a great job keeping their customers happy.

 

12.02.14 - Happy belated birthday.

The Northworks Bar and Grille,106 Grove St., Worcester, turned 35 years old Nov. 13, according to owner Joe Marrone. We would like to congratulateMarrone and staff.

 

12.02.14 - South County news.

The Roadhouse Grille in North Oxford has been sold, and we hear it will become an Asian restaurant. Look for an opening after the first of the year.

 

12.02.14 - News about Pepe’s.

Pepe’s on Franklin Street in Worcester is going to start construction on a new restaurant further up Franklin Street near Chioda’s. According to Jon Travalio, one of the owners, they will break ground for the new place sometime in January. Travalio expects construction to take about nine months. Until that time, the current Pepe’s will remain open. The new place will feature a good-size function room. Pepe’s relocation may also help Chioda’s, which will remain a separate restaurant.

 

12.02.14 - New at Tower Hill.

Twigs Café at Tower Hill Botanical Gardens in Boylston has a new chef. Matt Landry, the former owner of Chloe in Hudson, has taken over the kitchen. Chloe closed its doors at the end of June after a decade-long run.

 

12.02.14 - Oli’s Italian Eatery

Oli’s offers creative Italian classics

It wasn’t until I read up on Oli’s that I realized it was an Oliveri family enterprise. And then I thought, “Yeah, that figures.”

The Oliveris have been in the hospitality business long enough to have developed a level of professionalism that virtually guarantees quality. And it shows in every way at Oli’s. The eatery is set in a new building, which is next to Gerardo’s Italian Bakery. The two businesses have some level of symbiosis; they’re connected by an open doorway. More on that later.

Oli’s dining room is bright and airy in a welcoming manner; the back wall is decorated with a mural depicting an olive sprig. Why some of the olives are stuffed with pimentos is an interesting question to ponder. But more important matters were at hand, such as cracking into the menu and making decisions. Kara, our server, was quite knowledgeable of Oli’s cuisine and, delightfully, very high energy.

Italian cuisine ranges from simple and rustic to refined and composed. Many of Oli’s entrees tend toward the more complicated end of the spectrum; here’s a chef unafraid of sauces and flavor layering.

I started with another Oliveri family enterprise, a glass of Wormtown’s Wintah Brown Ale. My immediate reaction was surprise. Most breweries offer seasonal specials that are variations on basic lagers. Wormtown Wintah is a horse of another color entirely. This was dark as coffee and deep in flavor but not as rich as a porter or stout. Each sip was a smooth pleasure, with flavors hinting of cocoa and roasted nuts.

Oli's Italian EateryThough I’ve already made note of Oli’s entrée complexity, we started out simple with an appetizer of Arancini. Made with Arborio rice and served steaming hot, they were tender on the inside with a gooey, four-cheese center. Four of these arancini balls were fried crispy golden brown and served on a platter schmeared with fresh marinara.

Seeing we were finished, Kara attempted to remove our dish. But we wouldn’t let go till we’d sopped up the last dab of marinara with slices of homemade Italian bread.

Chicken is usually my least-preferred entrée protein, especially in off-the-bone formats. I just can’t get that hyper-processed nugget concept out of my mind. But Oli’s seemed a safe haven from all that, so I decided to try the Chicken Fontina. Two chicken cutlets had been lightly crumb-breaded, sautéed and then layered with thin sheets of prosciutto ham and topped with a thick blanket of Fontina cheese. They were served atop a bed of linguini noodles dressed with a subtle garlic-lemon sauce.

Oli's Italian EateryThis combination of flavors: delicate Fontina and chicken, tasty prosciutto, lemon and garlic could have clashed. But in Oli’s capable hands, they found harmony. Kara had enthusiastically recommended this entrée. Lesson? Listen to your server!

My friend’s entrée was one of the evening’s specials, Chicken over Lobster Ravioli. It was quite a composition: Several of those chicken cutlets were smothered in a pink lobster cream sauce and nestled over black- and yellow-striped ravioli. Tangy sun-dried tomatoes, spears of asparagus and roasted red pepper strips were blended into the sauté, each contributing its distinctive color, flavor and texture.

The large raviolis were packed with pure lobster meat, making it a dish both huge in size and richness.

Oli's Italian EateryThese entrees were compositions to be explored, not the kind of affairs to be hurried through. So take time to enjoy Oli’s; it shows inventiveness while keeping true to classic recipes. I’d trust Oli’s with any of the Italian favorites.

Throughout my meal, I kept looking over my shoulder through the doorway into Gerardo’s Bakery… it was bright and its display cases sparkled with promise. After my meal, I just had to take a look.

Whenever I visit a European city or town, I take particular pleasure in visiting the food markets and, especially, bakeries. The ritual of browsing, discovering local delights and being politely served is a wondrous thing that imprints long-term memories. Gerardo’s has all of this. All I can say is, “Go there; it’s a pastry wonderland.”

Oli’s Italian Eatery
339 W. Boylston St., West Boylston
(508) 854-1500
oliseatery.com

Bernie Whitmore

 

12.02.14 - Give the gift of beer

Everyone has gotten a bottle of wine as a gift at one time or another. A fine bottle of beer can be easily substituted for that person who absolutely will not enjoy a bottle of wine. In the wrong hands, wine will just be re-gifted or used for cooking. Below are some ideas to help you drift away from the common and into something that will be remembered and cherished. Cheers!

Arrogant Bastard Box Set, Stone Brewing Company
This is an excellent choice if the recipient is either a craft beer fan or an arrogant bastard. I have written about Arrogant Bastard before and how much I adore it. This is a box set containing that, as well as Bourbon Barrel Aged Arrogant Bastard (just as the name implies, Arrogant Bastard aged in bourbon barrels), Lucky Bastard (a blend of Arrogant Bastard, Oaked Arrogant Bastard and Double Bastard) and Double Bastard (a stronger version of Arrogant Bastard). I said bastard 10 times, now 11.

Single bottle option: A bottle of Arrogant Bastard fits nicely into a wine bottle gift box.

Chimay Gift Pack, Bières de Chimay S.A.
I have seen many varieties of this company’s gift boxes. Some have multiple bottles; some have multiple bottles and a branded glass. I recommend the one with the branded glass, as Belgians are quite picky about having proper glassware for their beers. This is a great choice for wine drinkers, as these authentic Belgian ales have subtle nuances of vanilla, dark fruit and oak-like tannins.

Single bottle option: The red bottle is called Chimay Premiere. It is a dubbel with active carbonation that tastes of dark fruit with a hint of clove-like spice. It’s great around the holidays, and like the Arrogant Bastard, the 750 ml. bottle gifts as easily as wine.

Ommegang Gift Pack, Brewery Ommegang
This New York brewery puts out a must-have gift pack with its interpretations of Belgian ales. According to the company, “The ales are: Three Philosophers ~ A famed Belgian blend: a dark, malty quadruple ale with a splash of authentic Belgian Kriek (cherry-lambic). A fantastic sipping brew. Hennepin Saison ~ Rustic golden ale modeled on the brews farmers make in Belgium, with a touch of ginger. Chocolate Indulgence ~ A Belgian-style stout brewed with imported Belgian chocolate. Dark, rich, with subtle chocolate notes ~ dry, not sweet.” It also comes with a sweet branded glass.

Single bottle option: A bottle of Hennepin takes the place of a bottle of wine quite nicely. It is a saison with notes of pepper, grapefruit, ginger and clove. It goes well with a holiday feast

Non-alcoholic gifts
You cannot go wrong with any of the above choices unless you are in a dry workplace. For those times, I have a few recommendations. Julio’s Liquors in Westborough has a fine selection of glassware, hot sauce, bottle openers, cigars and other assorted things that beer lovers love. Crust Artisan Bakeshop in Worcester has a lovely selection of farmstead cheeses, fresh-baked breads, coffee and assorted sundries that I, personally, would love to see under the tree.

By Kerry Cyganiewicz