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11.11.14 - Not your parents’ Blue Jeans.

Blue Jeans Pizza, owned by Steve Hopkins, has just launched Blue Jeans Bistro, located under Loft 266. Worcester’s favorite pizza will now be served alongside a large beer selection. Blue Jeans Bistro also has a full dinner menu, including meals such as Baked Haddock and Steak Tips.

 

11.11.14 - It’s in your soul.

Downtown Worcester will be getting a new soul food restaurant with the opening of Addie Lee’s Soul Food at 596 Main St., across from the Federal Courthouse. The restaurant is named after the owner’s grandmother, who is from Mississippi. The menu will feature Southern Fried Chicken, Mac & Cheese and Collard Greens, among other food.

 

11.11.14 - Speaking of downtown.

The Salted Pig Market & Café will open soon in the old Telegram & Gazette Building at 20 Franklin St.. Owner Candy Murray formerly worked at the 1790 House and taught at the Cambridge Culinary School.

 

11.11.14 - Mill Street makeover.

A new restaurant will be going into the home of the old Joey’s at 242 Mill St. Birbeck’s Waterfront will open soon and will serve classic, affordable American food. Look for a January opening.

 

11.11.14 - If bread is your thing.

Look for the opening of BirchTree Bread Company at 138 Green St. in Worcester’s Canal District. Owner Robert Fecteau will open an artisanal bakery specializing in bread and croissants. He will also be serving breakfast and lunch.

 

11.11.14 - He’s back.

Judging by the sign over the door, Joe Petrou is back in business with the opening of Primo’s. Primo’s will be located where the Center Bar was on Worcester’s Green Street in the heart of the Canal District. Petrou formerly owned Primo’s when it was on Worcester’s Shrewsbury Street. John Piccolo owns the eponymous Piccolo’s at that spot now.

 

11.11.14 - So, what beer are you drinking?

“There is no such thing as a bad beer. It’s that some taste better than others.” ~ Billy Carter

It’s that time of year. Celebrations are everywhere. Whether it’s with family, friends or co-workers, you are bound to be asked an important question … “What are you drinking?” I have put together a list of excellent beers that you can order for yourself or for a friend who you are trying to bring along on the craft beer adventure. The question of “What are you drinking?” will soon be directed to you and your glass.

Alagash White (5.0% ABV)
This is my “gateway beer” ~ my beer of choice to get someone who usually drinks mass-market beers into craft beers. Alagash Brewing Company describes this beer as …”Our interpretation of a traditional Belgian wheat beer. Brewed with a generous portion of wheat and spiced with coriander and Curacao orange peel, this beer is fruity, refreshing and slightly cloudy in appearance.” It is the highest rated beer in its category, even including the Belgian beers on which it was based. It’s brewed in Maine, has a familiar flavor and is not disliked by anyone I have met. Give it a try and don’t be afraid to buy a round of it.

High and Mighty Beer of the Gods (4.5% ABV)
Here is another suitable choice to use as a “gateway beer.” It’s made right here in Massachusetts and is only distributed here. It is as light and refreshing as any mass-market lager but with a few more hops to let you know it’s different. The hops used are of a German variety, which means they are gentler than their citrusy, brash American cousins. This makes for a smooth drinking experience for those with the most delicate palate, yet it’s appreciated by craft beer aficionados.

Mayflower Pale Ale (5.1% ABV)
Do you like Bass Ale? Here is a lighter version of the same style. English malts, hops and a house yeast make this beer lighter in color and mouthfeel but with a malt backbone and earthy hop presence similar to the finest English pale ale. I think it’s kind of ironic that such a fine English pale ale is brewed in Plymouth. This is fine beer and an excellent conversation starter. If this particular beer is not available, any of this brewery’s offerings are good choices.

Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale (8.5% ABV)
Please make note of the high ABV. I found this beer to be the most drinkable of the bunch. Sometimes, farmhouse ales, or saisons as they are sometimes called, can be sour, funky and full of flavors resembling a horse blanket. This is a smooth, slightly peppery and citrusy example that is incredibly drinkable. It has a light body and a smooth flavor that is well balanced.

Berkshire Brewing Coffeehouse Porter (6.2% ABV)
This beer is brewed in South Deerfield and uses coffee from New Salem. Are you thinking that coffee and beer don’t go together? If so, you should give this a try. It is an incredibly well-balanced beer. No one ingredient outshines the others. Coffee, chocolate, dark fruit and toasted bread are the flavors that shine through. If the mouthfeel or perceived bitterness of dark beer make you shy away, do yourself a favor and try this one. It will change your mind.

Ithaca Flower Power IPA (7.5% ABV)
This is the one IPA of the bunch, and it is fast becoming one of my favorites. This New York brewery uses an assortment of hops and adds them at various times during the brewing and fermentation process. Tropical notes come through the second it is poured. Pineapple, melon and assorted citrus fill the air, giving you a preview of what is to come. It tastes as it smells, with just enough of a malt backbone to let you know this is a complete beer. There is an abrupt finish with a slight lingering of the tropical hop goodness.

All of these beers have something in common. They all have a story to tell when you hand someone one of them. Share the stories and, most importantly, share some great beer. Cheers!

By Kerry Cyganiewicz

 

11.11.14 - Vegan recipes for Thanksgiving

Ah, Thanksgiving dinner. For most, this meal consists of succulent turkey, zesty sausage stuffing, creamy mashed potatoes, jelled cranberry sauce and buttered veggies. But what does Thanksgiving dinner look like for vegans? Unlike vegetarians, who refrain from eating meat or using some animal products, vegans do not eat or use any animal products.

Many people follow a vegan lifestyle for moral, ethical and health reasons, but you do not need to be a vegan to enjoy vegan dishes. According to Holy Cross sophomore and vegan advocate, Will Peters, consuming a plant-based diet has helped him to feel better physically and have fun with food. Every meal is an opportunity to try new, tasty combinations of fruits and vegetables.

Whether you are looking for recipes to accommodate a vegan guest this Thanksgiving or interested in sprucing up your traditional Thanksgiving dinner with some healthier options, here are some vegan recipes that will surely leave everyone at your table thankful for a delicious meal.

VEGETABLE LENTIL LOAF:
1 cup dry lentils
Vegan Thanksgiving2½ cups water or vegetable broth
3 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil for sautéing
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, finely diced
1 small bell pepper, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced or grated
1 celery stalk, finely diced
¾ cup oats
½ cup oat flour or finely ground oats (any flour of choice will work here too)
1 heaping teaspoon dried thyme
½ heaping teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon each garlic powder & onion powder
¼-½ teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
Cracked pepper & sea salt to taste

GLAZE:
3 tablespoons organic ketchup
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Rinse lentils. In large pot add 2½ cups water with lentils. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once done, remove lid and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

In small bowl combine flaxseed meal and 1/3 cup water, set aside in refrigerator for about 10 minutes.

Prepare vegetables. In a sauté pan, heat oil or water over medium heat. Sauté garlic, onion, bell pepper, carrots and celery for about 5 minutes. Add spices, mixing well to incorporate. Set aside to cool.

Using a blender or food processor, blend ¾ of the lentil mixture. Combine sautéed vegetables with the lentils, oats, oat flour and flax egg, and mix well. Salt and pepper to taste. Place mixture into a loaf pan lined with parchment paper, leaving it overlapping for easy removal later. Press down firmly filling in along the edges, too.

Prepare your glaze by combining all ingredients in a small bowl, mixing until incorporated. Spread over top of loaf and bake in oven for about 45-50 minutes. Let cool before slicing.
From thesimpleveganista.blogspots.com

ONION, CELERY, AND MUSHROOM STUFFING:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons vegan butter
1 large onion, chopped
4 ribs celery, chopped
8 ounces button or Cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
Vegan Thanksgiving1 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried sage
1 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
8 cups gluten-free bread cubes
4-5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat until melted. Add in the onion and celery and let cook until softened, but not brown, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and let cook until softened and browned, about 5 minutes. Mix in the garlic and the seasonings.

Add the parsley and the bread cubes to the skillet. Mix well. Moisten the cubes with broth until it is soft but not wet. Remove the bay leaf and let the mixture cool.

Transfer the stuffing to a large casserole dish that has been brushed with some oil or cooking spray. Bake until the stuffing is set and crisp, about 15 minutes. Then turn the casserole dish around and cook 5 more minutes until browned to your liking.
From onegreenplanet.org

QUINOA, CRANBERRY, AND PISTACHIO STUFFED WINTER SQUASH:
Vegan Thanksgiving2 large or 3 small acorn or delicata squash
Maple syrup
Olive oil
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
1¾ cup water
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup pistachios
2 tablespoons finely minced shallot (optional)
Mineral salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Wash and dry squash. Slice each squash in half lengthwise, remove seeds. The seeds should come out easily by scraping the inside of the squash with a spoon. Lightly brush the inside of each squash with a little oil and/or maple syrup. Sprinkle with mineral salt. Place on baking sheet cut side up. Bake in oven for 35-40 minutes, or until squash is tender and pierces easily with a fork.

While squash is cooking add 1¾ cup water and 1 cup quinoa to a medium size pot. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove lid and let set 15 minutes. Add pistachios, cranberries, shallots, salt, juice of lemon and any other optional ingredients. Toss to combine.

Scoop quinoa into squash halves, place back in the oven for 10 minutes to warm, and serve.
From thesimpleveganista.blogspot.com

 

11.11.14 - The Banner Bar & Grille

The Banner offers a neighborhood feel and hearty comfort food

Years ago, when the Canal District was just taking off, the Banner Bar and Grille was one of its charter members. Up to this time, the area had felt like a post-industrial frontier but has since grown to achieve true “district” status. Now, the Canal District includes dining hotspots but tips more toward sports bar and watering holes; it’s the perfect area for pub crawls.

The Banner Bar and Grille
112 Green St., Worcester
(508) 755-0879
thebannerbar.com

As its name implies, The Banner is more than a watering hole. In the taxonomy of dining, I’d place it in the niche “Neighborhood Hangout Featuring Food and Keno.” When I met a friend for dinner, the question we set out to answer was, “Will we extend our run of surprisingly good sports bar dining?”

The evening we chose to meet at The Banner happened to be its seventh anniversary, and a buffet table had been set up but not yet provisioned. The festivities commenced later, so we took a booth and began our inspection of the menu.

Adrienne, our server, listed the lineup of draft beers. In honor of the season, I selected Shipyard Brewing Company’s Pumpkinhead Ale. The Banner served up its Pumpkinhead draft in a glass rimmed with sugary cinnamon. Unannounced. I don’t recommend this overpowering “upgrade”; the beer stands quite well on its own.

REVIEWBannerBThe Banner’s appetizer menu included all those deep-fried items we’ve come to expect expect, but what caught my fancy were the Cheesy Buffalo Tots. I’m old enough to remember the introduction of Tater Tots into the American canon of industrialized foodstuffs, a wave of items that promised to lead us into a culinary paradise of convenience. Mercifully perhaps, tots receded to the back of freezer sections. And then Napoleon Dynamite mainstreamed them again with the famous classroom bullying scene.

The Banner heaped a large pile of crunchy, fried tots into a paper-lined plastic basket and paid them due respect with a generous scattering of creamy blue cheese crumbles, molten cheddar and slices of jalapeño peppers. I’d expected something red in the form of buffalo sauce, so I asked Adrienne if it was missing. “Oh no, it’s there,” she replied. “Ours isn’t red.”

REVIEWBannerA

True enough, there was something else drizzled on these tots that provided spicy flavor. This dish proved that even lowly Tater Tots can find tasty redemption!

With these tots, the Banner’s chef showed his prowess in a trailer park kind of way. The Reuben Burger commanded my deeper respect with its deep-flavored, crusty char exterior and slathering of thin-sliced corned beef, sweet caramelized onions, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese. The thick burger patty tasted lean and beefy, so juicy that it dribbled over my French fries with every bite.

Whilst I effused over my tender burger, my friend was busy working on his hot-from-the-oven dish of Shepherd’s Pie. The Banner’s recipe was of the corn niblets, ground beef and mashed potato tradition and was served with two slabs of grilled garlic bread.

Things had become strangely quiet at our table. “Well, are you satisfied?” I asked.

REVIEWBannerC

To which my friend replied, “More than satisfied! It’s a nicely spiced combination of ground beef and corn topped with mashed potatoes browned under the broiler. It’s a lot of food!”

Shepherd’s Pie at The Banner: simple, wholesome and traditional. Perfect for the upcoming cold months.

The main room of The Banner has high tables for informal dining or gathering with friends to enjoy a drink and watch the many flat screens or even try your luck at a game of Keno. There are also a half-dozen dining tables, which in early evening, were occasionally used for staff mess. Which is always a good sign; when employees dine where they work, the food’s just got to be good!

By Bernie Whitmore

 

11.11.14 - Only bowling now.

Mohegan Bowl owners, Edward C. and Kelli Kinsley of Mendon, who bought the former Mohegan Bowl-A-Drome and The Lic’s restaurant from the Pelletier family two years ago, have decided to close the Webster restaurant. They had renamed the restaurant All-Star Pub, and it was a full-service restaurant the first year, and then they changed it to Scores, with more of a bar concept.

 

11.11.14 - More in South County.

Brian’s, located in Uxbridge, which first opened in 1996, closed after 18 years of business in mid- October. Brian’s, a mainstay of the Uxbridge community, served American food.

 

11.11.14 - And close to South County but not quite the Outback.

The official opening of the new Outback Steakhouse, 452 Southbridge St., Auburn, was Oct. 22. The Outback Steakhouse in the plaza at 771 Southbridge St., Auburn, closed the same day.

 

11.11.14 - Julio’s Liquors in Westboro recently received the award for Whisky Retailer of the Year ~ Single Outlet from Icons of Whisky America 2015.

The award was presented by Whisky Magazine. Congratulations to Ryan Maloney and his fine staff. The store received the same Icons of Whisky America award for 2013 and a considerable mention for 2014. Owner Ryan Maloney was inducted into Keepers of the Quaich, an exclusive, international community of members recognized for their outstanding commitment to Scotch whisky in 2012.

 

10.01.14 - Lost your way.

The Compass Tap Room on Worcester’s Harding Street in the Canal District was scheduled to open the last week of September. It will be home to a great beer selection and a sliced roast beef sandwich that, according tom owner Dave Dominick, will be the envy of the city.

 

10.01.14 - Take your pic.

The Pic on Worcester’s Shrewsbury Street is under new management with new owners. Arthur Furtonado heads up the new group. Look for a new menu soon.

 

10.01.14 - In other Brookfield news.

We hear that Carmella’s, a fixture in the Brookfields for a couple generations, has closed its doors. We wish the Fitzpatrick family well. Carmella’s celebrated its 25th year in business a few years back.

 

10.01.14 - Big news in the Brookfields.

A new restaurant is opening in East Brookfield ~ 308 Lakeside, which will take the place of the Lashaway Inn. The old Lashaway Inn, which was on Lake Lashaway, was torn down and a new 200-seat restaurant and bar was built in its place. Look for a late October/early November opening.

 

10.01.14 - Farm to stomach.

The Regional Environmental Council’s annual fundraiser will be held from 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, at Worcester’s Citizen restaurant in downtown Worcester. The event is now billed as The Farmers Gala, and it celebrates farm-to-table food. Call (508) 799-9130 for information and tickets.

 

10.01.14 - Get your fix.

The Fix on Worcester’s Shrewsbury Street opened in mid-September for lunch. This is a natural for the Niche Hospitality Group’s latest venture. Who doesn’t love a burger, fries and a milkshake for lunch?

 

10.01.14 - OktoberFest on Shrewsbury Street.

Can’t make it to Munich this year? Head down to Worcester’s Shrewsbury Street for a variety of Oktoberfest beers. There will be live music, as well as German food at some of the Shrewsbury Street eateries. Check out shrewsburystreetoktoberfest.com for details and participating restaurants. The event is sponsored by Leominster Credit Union and Harpoon Octoberfest, Sam Adams Octoberfest, Wachusett Octoberfest and Leinenaugel’s Oktoberfest beers.

 

10.01.14 - Not another pumpkin beer

I had the idea for this article back in July, when the first pumpkin beer hit the market for the season. I discussed pumpkin beers in this column last October, so if that is your thing, the recommendations there are still the same. For those of you wondering what else is out there for fall, read on. All of these recommendations are readily available in Central Massachusetts. Read the rest of this entry »

 

10.01.14 - Chuan Shabu

Experiment with the flavors.
Aromatic broths simmering in broad silver bowls right at your table. Baskets of fresh vegetables, seafood and thin-sliced meats ready to be plunged into the broth and cooked to your personal ideal of perfection. It’s the ultimate DIY meal and as healthy as you want it to be.

That’s hot pot at Chuan Shabu. It’s a concept that allows inventiveness and up-close participation in the preparation of your meal. Though Vietnamese restaurants have offered variations on it, the hot pot concept is fairly new in Worcester, and the friendly staff at Chuan Shabu is eager to assist.

Chuan ShabuHere’s how it works: My friend and I were seated at a jet-black, glass-topped table. At the center is an induction cook-top with a very simple set of controls. Induction cooking avoids an open flame and heats metallic cookware superfast. We were provided with a laminated menu and pen to check off items for our entrée.

It starts, I suppose, with broth selection. There are a number of choices, each $3, with a “basic” version offered for free. We selected Seafood and, at the recommendation of people nearby, Tom Yum ~ a Thai-inspired, spicy and slightly sour broth.

Then, we checked off our vegetable selections: bok choy, broccoli and wood ear mushrooms. For meat, we selected Angus sirloin. It came gorgeously red and marbled, sliced thin in big, loopy rolls and ready for the plunge. From a long list of seafood, we chose fresh clams (in the shell) and shrimp dumplings. To unite all this, we also ordered a bowl of Udon noodles.

Chuan ShabuIn addition to hot pot, Chuan Shabu also features a full Chinese menu. We started with one of its appetizers, Sliced Pork Belly in Mashed Garlic Sauce. Enough for sharing? Oh, yes! There were more than a dozen slices slightly less than ¼-inch thick and schmeared with sauce ~ I’d call it garlic-chili ~ and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It was served just under room temperature over salad greens.

We snagged slices of pork belly with our chopsticks and took the edge off the mildly spicy heat with bottles of Tiger Beer. Tiger is a lager from Singapore that’s really meant to be enjoyed with food; on its own, well, it’s just not that interesting. In contrast, the rest of our meal was quite fascinating.

Chuan ShabuWhen we finished with the appetizer course, our server set out small bowls of soy sauce and dishes of condiments for us to mix as we desired. Then, the large simmering bowl, divided down the middle and filled with our broths, was set on the table and the induction device was activated. In moments, the bowl’s contents were steaming away, and for the remainder of our meal, it emitted clouds of sumptuous vapor. The broths were rich creations that included chunks of ginseng root, jujube dates and citrus slices.

Some rudimentary knowledge of cooking helps when engaging in the hot pot. For example, it’s nice to know that razor-thin sliced beef will cook in seconds. And that overcooking it is not a good idea. Broccoli florets, on the other hand, can take five minutes or so to cook, but too long in the broth and they’ll go battleship grey. Some experimentation was required, but soon I felt reasonably proficient.

Chuan ShabuThe bok choy was one of my favorites. Perfectly green and flawless, these mini-stalks of tender leaves became exceedingly delicious in either of the broths, but I really favored the Tom Yum. Mushrooms took the plunge, and we fished them out with ladles. Other than that, we managed with our chopsticks.

The clams ~ cherrystones, actually ~ took more time to open than I expected. But they were well worth the wait; they were as fresh as possible, tender and clean.

As we proceeded through our meal, we concurred that on a return trip, we really should order a bowl of noodles per diner. They simmered up tender and acquired the flavor of the broth. Plus another meat; perhaps pork. And more vegetables. Oh, yeah, and I want to experiment with different broth.

Perhaps it should have been obvious to me, but the food choices you select for simmering add their own flavors to the broth, and by the end of the meal, it was just as satisfying to relax amidst the rich aromas and enjoy spoonfuls of our own unique creation.

Chuan Shabu’s hot pot is delicious and fun. Come the colder months, all that steamy redolence should make it the most sensual place in town.

Chuan Shabu
301 Park Ave., Worcester
(508) 762-9213
shabuworcester.com

By Bernie Whitmore

 

09.04.14 - Gee what is going on with Gia’s?

Gia’s Restaurant, 785 Quaker Highway, Uxbridge, recently reopened under new ownership. The old place abruptly closed the week before Father’s Day. The restaurant will be managed by Robert D. Passaretta, son of the new owner, Orlando Passaretta. Gia’s will honor all gift certificates from the previous business. The gift certificates will have by a deadline, most likely the end of the year.

 

09.04.14 - Go Fish.

Marlboro’s Fish restaurant recently hired a new chef. Jonathan Saiff was the former sous chef at the very posh Oak Room in New York City and head chef at Bretton Arms Inn in Bretton Woods, N.H. Saiff will bring his own style to the kitchen. George Voyatsis, the owner and son of the folks who own Worcester’s Coral Seafood, has really stepped up his game in what has become Metrowest’s best seafood restaurant.

 

09.04.14 - More than a sandwich.

A new sports bar has opened in Holden. The Specialty Sandwich Co. Bar & Grill recently opened at 624 Main St. Owned by Bill Gjinis, who formerly owned the Specialty Sandwich Co. next door, the pub opened on Aug. 1. In addition to sandwiches, the restaurant also offers brick-oven pizzas. It is open seven days a week.