07.08.14 - Mezé Greek Tapas Bar & Grille
Mezé offers up delightful surprises on small plates
Considering the large number of people in the area who identify themselves as Americans of Greek descent, it surprises me that we have such a scant choice of venues for Greek cuisine. This is all the more surprising because it’s such good food.
How many cuisines can you easily describe as “love at first bite”? Actually, quite a few, and if you were to try to list them, a good approach would be to draw an arc of the countries along the Mediterranean Sea. Unfortunately, too many people get as far as Italy and think they’re finished. But to omit Greek cuisine would be as much a crime as to dismiss Greece’s literature, classical sculpture, philosophers and, well, the Parthenon. Greek cuisine really is as significant as all other things Greek.
Now, there’s a new place in town that’s taken over the Portobello Restaurant location. Mezé Greek Tapas Bar has settled into a neat little space that feels as if you’re at a friend’s house, with both intimate and more public dining areas. The setting would prove appropriate, for as I journeyed through a range of mezé dishes, I encountered one family recipe after another.
Regarding the tapas format, perhaps Mezé’s website explains it best: “Mezé is not a meal course, like an appetizer, but rather a dish, hot or cold, spicy or savory, often salty, that is served alone or with other mezéthes as a separate eating experience.”
On the evening I joined my friend for dinner, we did a quick scan of the menu and devised a plan of attack. Sana, our server, was helpful in guiding us through the process.
Let me start with what proved to be my favorite, Fasolia Fournou. It sounds exotic, but it could be Mezé’s most basic offering ~ a dish of white beans baked in a sauce of tomato, with bits of carrot and a trace of onion flavor. The fasolia were so tasty, I wanted to bring a whole pot of them home! There must be something else in that sauce; I pleaded with the owner to divulge, but he just smiled and proudly replied “Family secret.”
Another surprising favorite was the Grilled Calamari. Whole squid had been sliced lengthwise, flattened out, seasoned with olive oil and lemon juice and grilled until firm and incredibly tasty. A scattering of grated Romano cheese melted into little pools of olive oil. If you’re of the belief that calamari exists as O-rings and tentacles washing up out of deep-fryers, try Mezé’s calamari for a very new taste experience.
Two more fish mezes were a study in contrast. Fried Smelts were lightly battered and quick-fried ~ ample, crunchy and plentiful. Shrimp Saganaki, on the other hand, was one of the more complicated dishes we sampled. Medium-sized shrimp were baked in a casserole dish slathered in rich tomato sauce, with bits of feta cheese and chopped chili peppers to lend sharp flavor. Each forkful snagged strands of stretchy mozzarella cheese.
Most dishes came with triangles of grilled pita bread, still soft inside. Which leads me to an over-arching comment regarding the food at Mezé: This is a kitchen of grill masters. Not content to lay down pallid, cross-hatch lines, Mezé’s grilled items have a rich char flavor that excites.
Realizing we hadn’t sampled a meat meze, we took the owner’s recommendation of Panseta ~ Greek Grilled Pork Strips. The name yields a clue about this cut of meat; imagine really thick strips of meaty bacon grilled until crisp. Consider it pancetta’s Greek cousin; one of the richest meat experiences going. Tzatziki sauce, a refreshing blend of yogurt and cucumber, contributed a cool and cleansing contrast.
We finished with Portokalopita, Orange Pie, made of shredded filo dough mixed with Greek yogurt, eggs and orange zest. The result resembled rich custard with a sweet and tart citrus topping. It was an ideal way to conclude this new dining experience.
The dishes at Mezé Greek Tapas Bar & Grill are elegantly simple affairs of fresh ingredients, skillfully prepared, that blossom with honest flavor. It’s as if you were welcomed off a street in Thira and into a Greek kitchen for dinner, which could be the best dining experience you’d have in Greece.
05.30.14 - Mezcal Tequila Cantina
Mezcal ups its game at new location.
Mezcal Tequila Cantina
30 Major Taylor Blvd., Worcester
In a town where a chief source of entertainment is dining out, a restaurant’s move to a new location often provokes concern and laments: ‘Woe betide us, neuer ageyn shalt we partake foode so precyouse, so gloryouse!”
But such histrionics have not materialized with Mezcal’s move from Shrewsbury Street. My first reaction on entering their new location was a sense of freedom that comes from open spaces. Indeed, Mezcal is introducing the experience of spacious dining to Worcester, a town accustomed to packed, “cozy” spaces.
The evening I joined a friend for dinner was one of the first warm spring days after what seemed the eternal winter. As if to celebrate, Mezcal had thrown open its wall of windows and set up streetside seating. Erica, our server, soon arrived to welcome us and describe the margarita offerings.
Looking around, I noted a few remnants of Mezcal’s recent Cinco de Mayo celebration hanging from industrial gauged I-beams overhead. Bare beams combined with polished concrete floors provide the room with the acoustic signature of a Mexican cantina. A huge bar, separated from the dining area by a row of booths, was packed with the after-work crowd. The energy level was cranked to “high.”
In that moment the only decision weighing upon us was which guacamole to order. Mezcal offers “tasting flights,” which proved irresistible. We anchored ours with homemade salsa, and for guacamole, we went with House and Thai Rooster. Soon after Erica presented our appetizer, with its bowl of crispy-thin chips, we went into analytical mode.
Fresh? Absolutely. A team of guacamole-makers work at their own station, scraping avocadoes nonstop. And tasty; my friend soon commented, “There’s something nice and spicy going on here!” I thought Thai Rooster was the standout; sriracha sauce stoked up the heat; toasted coconut and bits of dried pineapple provided a sweet balance. In texture, the dried pineapple reminded me of raisins, so those who hate raisins mixed into their food might want to steer clear. Happily, I’m not afflicted with such aversions.
We dipped away at our appetizer and sipped margaritas. A sample of my friend’s Blood Orange Margarita revealed a sweet-citrus flavor, cool and refreshing. I’ve had my share of too-sweet margaritas in the past, so I decided to try the Smoky. Made with mezcal, I thought it went well with both food courses.
True to its name, Mezcal offers an extensive bar menu of tequila and artisanal mezcal (“tequila’s smoky counterpart”). This is not a taste I’ve acquired … yet.
When I dine at a Niche Group restaurant, I don’t worry about menu items that might seem risky or uninteresting elsewhere. That’s because Niche’s many projects have earned a guarantee of quality and creativity. Thus freed of risk, I chose Mezcal’s Tacos (three for $13). When I read the list of taco choices, I saw it an opportunity to journey through the Mexican-fusion concept.
My choices: Vegetarian #2 was loaded with roasted cauliflower florets and topped with a wedge of avocado that had been fried golden-brown along the edge. Mixed together with creamy corn sauce, this was proof that vegetarianism doesn’t have to be punishment.
Next, a Duck Taco was shredded well-done duck meat drenched in sweet barbeque sauce slathered over a crunchy slaw made with julienned jicama.
My Asian Beef Taco rounded out the trio. Though the beef was also shredded, it had the most spicy-heat of my choices. Lined up on the dish, it looked similar to the duck taco, but its ginger-hoisin sauce gave it distinction.
Another fusion entry, Shrimp & Chorizo Risotto, was my friend’s entrée choice. Mexican? Italian? Portuguese? All of the above, the classic creamy Arborio rice was studded with bits of chorizo and roasted corn, then topped with five large, tender, grilled shrimp. Dabs of tasty cilantro pesto cream anchored each corner of the plate. Smoldering fire came from the nest of roasted red jalapeño peppers scattered amongst the shrimp.
Mezcal’s Tres Leches Cake seemed an ideal closure to the range of assertive flavors in our previous courses. A square of spongy cake was soaked in silky-smooth crème anglaise and striped with sweet strawberry sauce. My friend intoned, “Every bite was imbued with richness,” while I grabbed a spoon to scoop up the last of the creamy sauce.
No discussion of Mezcal’s location would be complete without acknowledging its solution to the city’s perennial parking nightmare: Just stack a multi-level parking garage upstairs! Mezcal Tequila Cantina has long been one of Worcester’s tastier dining options; now, it’s also our most convenient.
By Bernie Whitmore
05.06.14 - Polka Café
Polka Café serves up honest (and delicious) Polish fare
By Bernie Whitmore
I’d wager that most of us have acquaintances who love to drop the f-word, especially when it comes to dining. “Fabulous” is everything to these people; they love to rave about extravagant dining experiences, elegant dining rooms, astounding vintages and sumptuous meals costing fabulous amounts of money.
But for many of us, travel and dining memories are made of different stuff. Some our fondest memories were planted by unusual experiences that had little to do with money or luxury. Finding pleasure in the unexpected is so rewarding, it becomes addictive. And it can happen anywhere.
For many of us ~ I put myself first in line here ~ Polka Café is a most unusual experience.
It wasn’t till a couple of years ago, on a trip to Warsaw, that I discovered the merits of Polish cuisine. Every meal was an exciting experience. The richness of flavors and range of cuisine astounded me. So when I was asked to visit the Polka Café, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t even heard of it.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the funky experience you get when you venture into Polka’s dining room. Some call it austere. I call it full sensory assault, starting with the synth-pop of Yanni Live at the Acropolis blasting from a big-screen TV near the doorway.
The dining room was nearly empty, and there was no one ready to greet my friend and me. So, I went exploring. A stereo system (with turntable!) anchored one end of the room, with LPs scattered about in stacks. Other areas were arranged in tableaus of quasi-antiques harking from various periods: Colonial Americana, Colonial Revival and, weirdly, neo-Hooterville. Murky stemware hung from the ceiling of what appeared to be a non-functioning bar (Polka Cafe is BYOB).
Of all of this stuff, the most relevant ~ and, perhaps creepiest ~ was the statue of Mr. Kielbasa. Hand-carved, this is a meat-man made of one huge sausage sporting plaintive eyes and fearsome teeth. His tubular body sprouts jaunty appendages wielding a trident. Years of accumulated greasy dust had lent the statue a smoky patina. It was truly a treasure.
We sat down and waited until the proprietor arrived to greet us in a gruff manner that seemed to derive from English being his second language. As the evening ensued, he came to crack an occasional smile. And when the subject of kielbasa came up, his demeanor warmed to downright friendliness as he told of making and smoking the sausage right there on the premises to sell in the restaurant and at regional fairs.
We started with a cucumber salad, a Spartan affair of sliced fresh cucumber spears sprinkled with oil and a dusting of black pepper. A forgettable beginning, indeed, but the appetizers would set the evening back on track.
I daresay our appetizer choices targeted Polka Café’s specialties. Placki Ziemniaczane (potato pancakes, three to an order) were each the size of a butter dish, tender in the middle and fried perfectly crispy golden-brown at the edges. They were served with a large dab of sour cream. Some cooks grate onion into the potato; Polka’s seemed to be pure potato that, for lack of preservatives, had turned a bit gray. They were pure, honest peasant fare that had us raving.
Our other appetizer was Kielbasa z Grilla (grilled kielbasa). If your kielbasa experience has been limited to steamed or pan-fried, well, you aren’t really “experienced.” Grilling brings out an amazing depth of flavor. And the chef achieved a perfect layer of char that reminded me of my most cherished Warsaw dining experiences. I speared the crustier of the two sections for myself. They came with sauerkraut, whole-grain mustard and slices of French bread.
If we’d stopped there, I would have considered the evening a success. But we forged on with an order of Pierogi z Mięsem (meat pierogis). Consider them ravioli’s northern cousins; Polka stuffs its pierogis with cabbage, meat or cheese and dresses them with chopped sautéed onions and oil. The meat stuffing was mundane, but the pale pierogi dough was light and delicate.
Far more interesting was our plate of Gołąbki (aka ‘glumpkies’). These were two large rolls formed with layers of steamed cabbage leaves stuffed with ground meat and rice. They were served on a dish pooled with a tomatoey broth. Though I enjoyed mine, for my return trip I’ll venture into goulash territory.
Dessert appeared exotic enough. A coconut custard pastry was crazy-drizzled with chocolate syrup and then lavished with fluffy whipped cream. The cream alleviated some of the dense crustiness we soon encountered. It wasn’t till my friend flipped over his chunk that I discovered the tell-tale foil imprint of the classic Table Talk snack pie. Very resourceful.
After returning from Poland, it seemed everyone wanted to know, “What made you go there?” Well, I don’t rightly know. But it’s a place you soon learn to love. So I honestly reply, “For the sights, the people and the food … they’re wonderful!”
I think that also sums up why I’d return to Polka Café Restaurant.
169 Millbury St., Worcester
04.02.14 - Mexicali Fresh Mex Grill
It never fails; just mention a Mexican restaurant, and there will be some naysayer ready to insist that the cuisine is not authentic. I was ready to head off all this inevitable criticism in defense of Holden’s Mexicali Fresh Mex Grill.
However, after some research, I learned that Mexicali cuisine could refer to a full spectrum of ethnic dishes; the city is nestled just south of California and has a cuisine that was heavily influenced by early Chinese immigrants. My advice? Approach Mexicali with an open mind.
Perhaps this might sum it up best: After finishing our meal, my dining companion opined, “It’s traditional Mexican whose spice level has been adjusted for Northeastern palates.” True enough, the food may not be very spicy, but the constant playlist of Mexican music certainly was. And to be fair, after we mentioned the lack of fire, Michelle, our server, offered condiments guaranteed to ratchet up the heat.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind to the beginning of this adventure.
Mexicali Fresh Mex is split into lounge and dining areas. Both are moderate in size but not cramped. Each of the stuccoed walls in the dining room has been washed with its own bright color. As soon as we sat down, we were presented with a basket of oven-warm tortilla chips and a bowl of tasty salsa containing chunks of fresh tomato. Fortunately, the menu is laminated, because salsa kept running off my chips onto its pages as I scanned the colorful food photos.
We started with the Baby Chimichangas appetizer. Another appetizer, Taquito Bites, made me wonder if the cuisine would be that pre-fab stuff for teenagers you see advertised on TV. But these chimichangas were hand-wrapped and stuffed with tender chicken and cheese. They came with cups of sour cream and guacamole and were slathered with orange and white Jack cheeses that were baked till molten and stretchy.
The menu billed them as “mini,” but beware: Size is relative, and this portion of four obviously is for sharing. These chimichangas were at least six large forkloads each. We enjoyed them with refreshing margaritas made with fresh lime juice.
Mexicali’s menu offered an intriguing twist on a poblano pepper favorite: Chiles en Nogada. They’re stuffed with meat and served with pecans and pomegranate. I just had to try them and was crestfallen when Michelle told me they were not available that evening.
So I fell back to the obvious alternative: Chiles Rellenos. Mexicali takes two large poblano peppers, fills them with mozzarella cheese and batters them. If these were deep fried, as is so often the case, it was with great skill because they were not greasy or oily. The large peppers had collapsed under a slathering of gooey Jack cheese, the batter coating was golden-brown and thick, and the pepper walls were cooked till soft and creamy.
Combo meals are a tradition at Mexican restaurants, popular because they allow diners to pick and choose from across the menu. My friend tried the three-option Combo Mexicali. His choices: pork enchilada, beef burrito and chicken taco.
As he sampled his way through the combo, he reported the pork to be tender and tasty, but the beef was the spiciest of all. I inherited half the chicken taco; the texture contrast of the crunchy shell and the super-tender chicken chunks was striking ~ some serious marinating had taken place.
Both entrees were generous portions served with rice and creamy-soft refried beans topped with melted cheese. The menu describes the rice simply as “white,” but that hardly does it justice; it was flecked with herbs.
We finished with Churros, crispy sticks of cakey dough extruded though some sort of nozzle that yields crusty ridges, perfect for dipping in warmed chocolate sauce and velvety dulce de leche sauce. Michelle called it butterscotch, but I thought it smoother and richer than your average butterscotch.
Mexicali Fresh Mex has carved out its own cuisine space that manages to satisfy the urge for Mexican cuisine but does it with, perhaps, a lighter touch than others. And if you insist upon spicy, just have them pass the habanero sauce when you’re seated.
Mexicali Fresh Mex Grill
700 Main St., Holden, MA
By Bernie Whitmore
03.05.14 - Lakeside Bar & Grille
At its loftier reaches, our dining universe contains restaurants of heroic scale presenting landmark cuisine; establishments intent on leaving their mark on mankind. They can be exciting to visit for interesting spaces and provocative dining. Then, at the lower end of the spectrum, there’s the fast-food genre, whose industrialized fare I strive to avoid.
Wedged between these extremes is a huge firmament of indies, intent on simpler satisfactions, whose goal is honest cuisine at prices that don’t empty your wallet. This is the niche in which Lakeside Bar & Grille resides. When you find a good neighborhood restaurant, it can be wonderful; this is why I was pleased to give Lakeside a try.
Lakeside is situated in a corner of Shrewsbury’s Quinsigamond Plaza ~ that strip mall anchored by Trader Joe’s. Just step out of Petco, and Lakeside Bar and Grille is at your left. The lake we’re referring to is, of course, Quinsigamond. You can’t even see it from the restaurant, but there’s really no need to get much closer than this.
On a cold and nasty winter Monday evening, my friend and I were surprised that Lakeside was even open for business. Imagine our surprise to find a waiting line that stretched right out onto the sidewalk. Murmurs rippled through the line that there would be a 40-minute wait for a table. Gasp, no way! There were even darker rumblings regarding the (apparent) no-reservation policy. Things looked bleak at Lakeside.
But that was all just idle rumor, and soon enough, we were seated. Robin, our server, arrived with warm welcomes, menus and a pitcher to fill our water glasses. Lakeside’s menu is weighted toward Italian but provides a framework to satisfy just about any taste ~ sandwiches, burgers, pasta, chicken, steak … you name it.
The menu also posted a schedule of daily special events. It turns out Mondays are Kids-Eat-Free Night. That explained the crowd; especially since it was school vacation week. And as I looked around, I realized the place was crawling with children, mostly well-behaved.
I started with a glass of Wormtown Brewery’s Seven Hills Pale Ale, and we dug into an appetizer of Fried Calamari, formatted Rhode Island style, with a dash of red pepper flakes, sliced banana peppers and garlicky oil. The deep-frying oil must have been fresh and pure; the flavor of our plateload of rings and tangle of tentacles wasn’t burdened by that heavy, oily flavor you get when the fryer’s been left untended too long.
Surprisingly, the calamari’s spicy flavor was derived more from the zesty banana peppers; the mild red pepper flakes teamed up with flecks of green parsley for an attractive confetti of color.
That was a good start, but it was the entrée course that truly proved Lakeside’s culinary proficiency. My friend ordered Haddock Française. Two thick fillets of tender, fresh fish had been quick-dipped in a mild egg batter, then sautéed to a light golden brown in a lemony caper sauce. The filets were attractively draped with strips of rich sun-dried tomatoes ~ usually over your choice of pasta. However, at my friend’s request, Robin happily substituted a baked potato for the pasta.
I went with something more basic ~ the Lakeside Sauté, made with shrimp (chicken’s another option). Simple in scope, the dish boasted a white wine sauce flavored with strips of spinach and chopped tomatoes that allowed the mild seafood flavor to shine through. And the chef wasn’t skimpy with the shrimp; at meal’s end, I counted eight tails. I chose to have my sauté served over a bed of linguini.
Both meals came with a thick slice of bread, sliced diagonally into triangles and toasted on the grill. The texture was unusually dense, and the flavor was buttery-rich. It was perfect for sopping up the delicious sauces of our entrees and provided a crunchy counterpoint. A Lakeside signature touch, I assume.
From my vantage point in the corner of the dining room, I watched plenty of families coming for dinner and groups of good friends meeting at the bar. Everything about Lakeside seems modest and straightforward; it’s the kind of place you could go to every night. Tuesdays are Meatloaf Night; count me in!
97 Boston Turnpike, Shrewsbury
12.05.13 - Blueprint American Bar and Grille
Blueprint American Bar and Grille
9 Village Square, Westminster
From the street, Blueprint was hardly welcoming. After passing the Westminster Cracker Factory, I scanned every business I passed till encountering Blueprint’s unlit street sign. Even after parking directly in front of the place, I was still unsure that I’d found it. But through the restaurant’s dark-tinted glass, I finally noticed football playing on a flat-panel TV, and ~ with an assist from a smoker banished outside in the cold drizzly night ~ my friend and I found our way to the front door and entered.
It wasn’t until Lauren, our server, passed us menus that reality started to come into focus ~ the reality that Blueprint American Bar and Grille might just be exceptional. Perhaps it was the Fig and Gorgonzola Flatbread Pizza, but soon I realized everything on this menu is intriguing. With football blazing on a half-dozen TVs, Blueprint has the decibel level of a sports bar, but the food and drink are of a much higher order.
Now, it’s one thing to print up a terrific menu, but execution is what really matters. This proved to be an evening of surprises, all of them pretty wonderful. Let’s start with drinks. When I asked Lauren about the draft selection, she directed my attention to an entire chalkboard wall divided into categories of brews ranging from craft to the standards.
Sensing that my amazement was tempered by the desire to make a quick decision, she asked, “What do you prefer?”
“An IPA,” I replied.
“Try Dogfish; 12- or 20-ounce?”
I’ve had Dogfish several times, and it’s always been a piece of beer heaven. It has a clean and crisp bitter flavor and deep amber color ~ totally refreshing after a day of working outside.
Lauren was even more helpful with my friend. When he mentioned how much he enjoyed Leinenkugel’s Shandy last summer, she recommended Leinenkugel’s winter offering ~ Snowdrift Vanilla Porter ~ and offered him a sample taste. In color, it was as dark as vanilla extract, and it balanced rich coffee, chocolate and caramel flavors with a scent of sweet vanilla.
And now, the food. When was the last time you saw Deviled Eggs on a menu? Blueprint has them, with eggs (from local hens) topped with chunks of lump crabmeat and a dab of truffle oil. The order of six was ideal for sharing and soon established the chef’s credentials for restraint and balance. The seemingly disparate flavors balanced harmoniously.
We continued with a Wedge Salad. This is not something I would normally order because I find iceberg lettuce so boring. But Blueprint’s Wedge was in a class of its own. Large creamy chunks of blue cheese from Great Hill Dairy, of Marion, contrasted with the crunch of pecan-smoked bacon and ripe heirloom tomatoes. And, of course, the perfectly crisp iceberg was topped with tangy buttermilk dressing. Each forkful was a study in contrasting flavors and textures.
There isn’t a single entrée on Blueprint’s menu that I would hesitate to order, but I had to make a decision and chose the Caribbean Jerk Pork Chop. This generously-sized chop’s afterburners were fired up with a tasty bit of heat countered by touch of orange-blossom honey. Sticks of grilled sweet potato came on the side, and the chop was topped with roasted corn and smoked green and red peppers.
It soon became apparent that Blueprint’s chef has a theme: one of adventurous flavor and texture contrasts presented attractively with flashes of color. The result: delicious and exciting cuisine.
This theme continued with my friend’s entrée of Pan-Seared Scallops. Six large scallops were served in a row over a bed of creamy risotto flavored with Meyer lemon, truffle oil and studded with tender asparagus tips. He raved, “The risotto is not overpowered by the lemon or the truffle oil … it’s a perfect blend of the sweetness of the seared scallops with truffle oil!” The forkful of rice I sampled had each of these flavors, plus an undercurrent rich in scallop flavor.
Even though Blueprint’s portions are generous and I’d had three courses, I just had to know about dessert. Lauren began to recite the list, but when she got to the Flourless Chocolate Cake with Salted-Caramel Gelato, it was all over. Decision made.
As it turned out, the caramel gelato was replaced by vanilla bean. But the real star was, of course, the chocolate cake. Each forkful was sticky and moist and as deep and dark as the devil’s hopyard. No matter what happens in the world, just keep making chocolate this dense and rich and all will be well.
Blueprint American Bar and Grille was an exciting discovery. And I haven’t even mentioned the craft cocktails, Asian Hotdogs or Coffee-crusted Fillet. And did I mention the service? Lauren was, in every way, engaging and adept.
Blueprint’s just down the road from Wachusett Mountain Ski Area; I have a feeling it’ll be this winter’s favorite destination. But why not light up the place, so we can find you?
04.12.13 - Carmella’s Italian Kitchen
By Benjamin McNeil
If you’ve ever watched Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, you know that dining establishments crumble when owners fail to retain quality employees, menus become overcomplicated and unfocused, and food quality suffers. Truth is, most restaurants close after being open just five years, and blond f-bombing Brits usually aren’t around to play savior. That makes the 25th anniversary of Carmella’s Italian Kitchen something to celebrate.
For the past 25 years, Carmella’s Italian Kitchen, located in Brookfield, has thrived by following a concise list of ingredients: an allegiance to traditional Italian cuisine, family ownership and operation and a constant love of feeding the thousands of patrons who have walked through the doors since 1987.
“I run [Carmella’s] how my mother and grandfather told me to. Keep it simple and keep it fresh. Offer good portions at a fair price,” explained Marty Fitzpatrick Jr., general manager at Carmella’s. Carmella Fitzpatrick, Fitzpatrick’s mother, opened her kitchen in 1987 and modeled it after The Italian Kitchen on Shrewsbury Street, formerly owned by her father, Gerald “Chubby” Panarelli.
Fitzpatrick never attended a formal culinary school ~ with Chubby teaching him how to make true Italian meatballs and sausage from scratch, there was really no need. Fitzpatrick continues to stuff sausage and bake bread and pizza dough in-house. Fitzpatrick also serves beef tripe, a dish deeply rooted in Italian tradition, which is mostly ordered by the eatery’s old-timers and those feeling adventurous.
As for his dinner, “I always make and eat chicken Parmesan. It’s real simple, and that’s what I like.” The Kitchen’s menu also features fried calamari, chicken marsala, tiramisu and a host of other mouth-watering comfort dishes.
You want to drink some cold ones in the lounge while watching the Bruins, but you crave something other than Italian? As an Italian-American restaurant, Carmella’s also offers chicken wings, bacon cheeseburgers and a variety of sandwiches, along with fish and chips every Friday. Does your sweetheart want to end the meal with something sweet? Enjoy some spumoni whipped up in-house.
You can also belt out your best impression of Sinatra’s “That’s Life,” with karaoke at Carmella’s every Thursday night. (Just remember that there can only ever be one Rat Pack.) Carmella’s has treated customers like family for the past 25 years. That won’t change.
Fitzpatrick doesn’t hesitate when defining his favorite aspect of Carmella’s. “I like the people. Their kids play soccer with mine, so why wouldn’t I treat them like family?”
No one leaves Carmella’s hungry. That and the family atmosphere have made the establishment a mainstay. And Fitzpatrick’s not concerned with becoming wealthy, he said. “I don’t think anyone’s getting rich. But everyone’s getting back what they’ve put into [Carmella’s].”
If you consider yourself a foodie (or your kids want to get out of the house), come enjoy Carmella’s.
By Paul Giorgio
Ciao Italia is PBS’s longest-running cooking show. Recently, we had the chance to sit down with Mary Ann Esposito, who hosts the show, to talk about traditional Italian food, kitchen disasters and favorite dishes.
Tell me about your career. You have the longest-running TV show on PBS, which you are very proud of. What do you attribute this to?
Well, shows come and go. Ciao Italia is the longest running cooking show in America. Julia Child, for example, had a variety of shows. We are able to get the undivided attention of the viewer on PBS, which is why I like it.
I think we come from the same tradition, the grandchildren of Italian immigrants, and from the same part of Italy, outside of Naples. You talk about wanting American food occasionally. I remember asking my mother to buy Chef Boyardee canned ravioli because I saw it advertised on television. Did you do that?
No, we had hot dogs occasionally on July Fourth. We usually also had homemade sausage. I use the same funnel to make my sausage that my grandfather used. The only difference is that today, I have the butcher grind the meat.
Why do you like to cook?
It’s imbedded in Italians. I always grew up with good food, and now, it keeps me connected to my parents and grandparents. It’s healthier food, too.
What is your favorite meal to cook?
My very favorite meal is aglio olio. (Pasta made with olive oil and garlic). It’s a comfort food with so few ingredients.
How about your favorite non-Italian meal?
Grilled fish ~ haddock with a Ritz cracker topping.
You talk about there being no Italian cuisine like French food, that it is all regional cooking. Is there one thing that unifies Italian cooking?
Cooking with fresh ingredients is the unifying factor ~ and using product that is in season.
What is your favorite region in Italy in terms of cooking?
That’s so hard to answer because I love all the food, but I love the food of Sicily. A great many cultures have contributed to its cuisine, including everything from Moroccan and African to Roman food and French. There’s not a region I don’t like, but the two regions my family comes from ~ Campania and Sicily ~ are special to me.
Do you have a favorite dish from those regions?
Arrancini (a deep-fried rice ball) is high up there. I love any kind of tuna dish. I also love fresh artichokes and fava beans.
What is your favorite place to visit in Italy?
I love the big three ~ Rome, Venice and Florence. But the town of Gubbio, in the province of Umbria, is probably my favorite town of all. I also love Verona, which is a very refined city.
Let’s talk about your new cookbook. How is this different from the previous ones?
This is the largest one. It follows the cooking of three generations, my grandparents, my parents and me. All the recipes in my cookbooks are doable by the average cook.
How long did this book take?
It usually takes me a year and half to two years to complete a book.
How many times do you cook each meal?
Just once, since I’ve done this for so long.
How do you decide what to include?
First, it has to be doable; has to have a tradition to it. It has to be doable, and you have to be able to find the ingredients. Finally, it has to be easy to make and has to be delicious.
How many cookbooks have you written?
I’ve written 12.
Do you have a favorite one?
That’s like asking me which of my children I like better.
What do you consider to be the bible of Italian cuisine?
I don’t think there is a bible because everything is so local.
Pelegrino Artusi, who wrote Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, comes the closest He wrote it in the late 1800s. It is Italy’s most treasured cookbook. He lived from 1820-1911.”
What is your next project?
I’m working on a book about pasta. It is 365 recipes ~ a pasta dish for every day of the year. I will come out in 2014-15.
It appears that the Maryanne Esposito franchise is a family affair. Your son works for you, and your husband Guy helps out. How does that work out?
Well, my son Chris handles underwriting and public appearances. My husband Guy does the gardening. His garden is 50- by 30-feet, and he grows everything we need. He has 60 tomato plants and 12 different varieties.
Do you cook when you are home?
Why does everyone ask that? I would go out of my mind if I didn’t cook every day. I have three freezers filled with tomatoes.
What do you make?
I’m making rabbit tonight.
What is your favorite non-Italian meal?
I like Chinese food.
Who is your cooking idol?
My mother, Louisa.
What are three ingredients in your home refrigerator?
Lemons, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and hot pepper sauce that I made.
What is your favorite ingredient?
Butter. I hate to say it, but it makes everything taste so good.
What is your favorite flavor?
Chocolate. I’m a chocolate freak.
What is your favorite spice?
Have you ever had a disaster in the kitchen?
Oh my goodness, yes ~ it landed me in the emergency room. I was trying to make cookies. I turned the gas on to light the stove, and then I went looking for a match. I had third-degree burns. I’ve improved since then.
I noticed you give a scholarship for culinary students at Johnson & Wales University. Why?
I created The Maryanne Esposito Foundation about three years ago for two reasons: I want students to study Italian regional cooking and I also want to preserve the tradition of Italian regional cooking, which is disappearing here and in Italy.
I think you have a negative reaction to chefs as celebrities. Why?
In my mind, I don’t see myself as a celebrity; I see myself as a cook. Some chefs see it as about them and not the food.
Any last thoughts?
I am just happy to do what I do with a national TV audience ~ it’s been a great ride.
The Grey Hound Pub, located at 139 Water St. by Kelley Square, boasts a 75-bottle selection of whiskey, the perfect pint of Guinness and a full Irish breakfast, available day and night. From Scotch Eggs to Bangers and Mashed and from expertly poured Guinness to an imposing array of single malts, owner Paul Curley need not rely on imitation Irish.
Curley, who reopened The Grey Hound on New Year’s Eve, after moving the pub a few hundred yards from its previous location, has since been flooded with loyal patrons and newcomers alike. “The rush never stops,” Curley said.
Apart from memorizing the black label of a Jack Daniel’s liter and suffering the day-after effects of rum in excess, I conceded to Curley that my knowledge of hard alcohol is far from encyclopedic.
But The Grey Hound’s character, I learned, extends past the live European football and rugby matches aired daily on two plasma TVs and the sea of Irish League flags hanging from the ceiling. Curley and his bartenders happily explain the nuances of their Irish whiskies and Scotches.
They’re educators who don’t place cash over customer, but instead shed light on the Scotch filling your glass. The term “Scotch” gets thrown around a lot, often erroneously, Curley said. By definition, he emphasized, Scotch must meet three standards: “It must be made [distilled and matured] in Scotland. It must be aged for at least three years and in an oak cask. And it must contain at least 40 percent alcohol by volume [AVB].”
Why settle for Bushmills or Jameson when The Grey Hound’s bartenders can fix you a drink from the pub’s extensive selection? “I’m still trying to find out if it’s the biggest collection [in Worcester County],” Curley said
If you need more evidence that The Grey Hound is the pinnacle of Worcester County’s Irish pub scene, consider this: Curley proudly sponsors Worcester Faded Black Rugby FC, Worcester Rugby Football Club, Worcester Hurling Club and The Worcester Shamrocks, all local rugby or hurling clubs.
Why settle on the usual, when Paul and his staff can treat you to an unforgettable, authentic experience at The Grey Hound Pub?
For more information, visit thegreyhoundworcester.com.
02.07.13 - Worcester Restaurant Week kicks off 4th year
The wildly popular Worcester Restaurant Week will kick off its fourth year with the winter edition, from Feb. 25- March 8. More than 50 locally owned, independent restaurants will participate this year.
According to event producers, “This is a great dining value in tough economic times. You can get a three-course meal at the area’s finest restaurants for $23.13.”
Paul Barber, owner of the Flying Rhino Cafe, one of Shrewsbury Street’s most popular restaurants, said, “This is a way that we can give back to our customers. You will get an appetizer, entree and dessert for a low price of $23.13. Some of our entrees are priced higher than that, so you are really getting the appetizer and dessert for free.”
Returning for the fourth year is presenting sponsor UniBank, which recently opened its first Worcester location on Gold Star Boulevard. The other presenting sponsor is Pepsi Cola. Mercadate Funeral Home, of Worcester, returns as a supporting sponsor.
Atlas Distributing, distributors of Blue Moon, Harpoon, Sam Adams and Wachusett Brewery is taking a leadership role in supporting Worcester Restaurant Week.
Worcester Restaurant Week is produced by Pagio, Inc., publishers of Pulse magazine.
For a complete list of participating restaurants, visit www.WorcesterRestaurantWeek.com.
01.08.13 - Rhode Island Brew Fest is Coming!
Finally, a Reason to Look Forward to February!
February. Not exactly anyone’s favorite month of the year. Never mind the anxiety and pressure of Valentine’s Day, February usually comes with a lot of snow, shoveling, stupid high heating bills, and freezing your you-know-what off getting from the car to the office. It’s just that useless month between winter and the start of spring when all you want to do is hibernate.
Well, now there’s something to look forward to, a great way to start off the month ~ the Rhode Island Brew Fest on February 2. This inaugural year’s event is presented by Narragansett Beer and is an all-out celebration of American craft breweries ~ more than 30 of them ~ and a chance to sample over 100 styles of beer. See? February is looking better already.
Located in the beautiful, newly renovated Drill Hall at the Pawtucket Armory (172 Exchange Street), the Fest (a 21+ event) is split into two 3-hour sessions: 1:00pm – 4pm and 5:00pm – 8pm.
And while you’re deciding which brews to sample, you’ll get to enjoy live music as well.
Here’s some additional info about tickets, swag, and food, and for more information, just visit the event website. So choose which of the two sessions works best for you, and then order your tickets ASAP because they’re selling fast!
GENERAL ADMISSION: $45.00
• Entry to one session of the Inaugural Rhode Island Brew Festival
• Complimentary pint glass
• Unlimited sampling of over 100 styles of beer
VIP ADMISSION: $75.00
• Entry to one session of the Inaugural Rhode Island Brew Festival
• Complimentary pint glass
• Complimentary event T-Shirt
• Entry to the VIP Sampling area with up to 10 additional select/reserve beers to sample
• Complimentary food
• Only 100 VIP tickets available per session
DESIGNATED DRIVER: $15.00 (major props to the event for discouraging drinking and driving ~ and for treating designated drivers so well!)
• Entry to one session of the Inaugural Rhode Island Brew Festival without sampling
• Complimentary water and soft drinks
• Complimentary pint glass
• Designated Driver passes are only available with the purchase of a full price GA or VIP ticket.
Special thanks to Matt Gray of Gray Matter Marketing, www.graymattermarketing.com
A Piece of Mass in Every Glass
By Michael Walsh
Since its inception on Park Avenue in 2010, Wormtown Brewery has not stopped growing. As Worcester’s first operating brewery in nearly 50 years, it was important to Master Brewer Ben Roesch to keep things local.
New England has long been considered a hub of craft brewing in America, and when Roesch saw that one of the region’s largest cities was devoid of a brewery he leapt at the opportunity to start Wormtown.
He partnered with friend and restaurant owner Tom Oliveri, Jr. to plant the seeds for Wormtown, whose name comes from one of Worcester’s oldest nicknames.
A closed ice cream shop connected to Oliveri’s Peppercorn’s Grille and Tavern is where Roesch’s dream came to life. What started as a small 1,000 barrel per year production continued growing; this year, Wormtown Brewery will produce around 2,500 barrels.
“The reception from the people of Worcester has been absolutely phenomenal,” said Oliveri.
Keeping local has always been a goal of these two friends. At Wormtown, everything from the ingredients (hops, barley, wheat) to the beer names (Seven Hills, Turtle Boy, Kelly Square) is local.
Roesch, a Worcester native and UMass Amherst alum, makes sure that there is at least one Massachusetts grown ingredient in each of his brews. On special occasions, a batch is brewed using only locally grown ingredients; these special brews are known as the MassWhole series.
The relationship between brewery and restaurant could not have been stronger. Peppercorn’s offered the opportunity for immediate feedback to the brewery as all their beers went immediately to Peppercorn’s taps.
However, there was an inherent flaw in the recipe for growing a standalone brewery attached to a popular restaurant: for all the benefits Peppercorn’s offered to Wormtown, the Brewery’s name grew associated with their symbiotic partner. This meant other restaurants in and around the city viewed supporting the brewery as supporting their competition at Peppercorn’s.
“Breweries always have great relationships with one another,” said Roesch. “We can borrow or lend ingredients to other breweries with no issue. The restaurant game is a little different.”
Oliveri mirrored his partner’s sentiment saying, “While craft breweries have an ‘All for one, and one for all’ mentality, there has been some apprehension from local restaurant owners to accept Wormtown.”
Despite the public praise offered by local patrons, Wormtown has found it difficult to expand much further given their current geographic situation.
Wormtown has been actively searching for a 10,000 square foot space within the city. Though the location may change, the goals will not. Roesch’s No. 1 priority is to stay in Worcester and continue to bring people to the area.
Oliveri is a sucker for the Be Hoppy IPA, while Roesch feels the strongest connection to his Seven Hills Pale Ale. Look out for the Pumpkin Ale, hitting taps in late August. This brew is made with fresh Pumpkin straight from Czajkowski Farm in Hadley, MA.
Personally, I gravitate towards a brew named for one of the oldest parks in the U.S., the Elm Park Amber Ale ~ but hey I’m a traditionalist.
Plans for the second annual Portland Brew Festival (www.portlandbrewfestival.com) have been announced, and the much-anticipated event is shaping up to exceed last year’s success. Owner and producer Mak Sprague says that the festive, beer-centric event ~ scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Aug. 31 - Sept. 1 ~ will feature more brewers, a specialty sampling glass, and additional space made available for tasting and home brewing demonstrations. The event returns to Portland Company Complex at 58 Fore Street in Portland, Maine.
Designed for beer, ale, mead and cider lovers of all levels, the festival will spotlight established and up-and-coming breweries throughout New England, including two of Massachusetts’ best: Clown Shoes and Harpoon.
More than 30 beer producers, including Maine favorites Gritty McDuff’s, Allagash, Kennebec Ciders and D.L. Geary Brewing, have already signed on alongside other regional standouts including Magic Hat, Long Trail and White Birch from Vermont and Woodstock Inn Station and Brewery and Moonlight Meadery from New Hampshire. Additions are being made regularly, and Sprague plans to have more than 75 different brew offerings on site. In addition, attendees interested in crafting their own brew will have the opportunity to speak with home brewing specialists and see up close how the equipment works.
“The response to last year’s festival was outstanding, and we really listened to the feedback to make this year even bigger and better,” explains Sprague. “The expanded event and demonstration space will provide a comfortable setting to explore, visit, eat and learn.”
Every attendee will receive a signature tasting glass with the Portland Brew Festival logo and have the opportunity to purchase additional glasses along with T-shirts, posters and other festival-branded merchandise.
The event will feature traditional scheduled sessions, each with a limited admission that will allow guests the time and space to peruse the purveyors, interact with the experts, and hone their tasting techniques. The first session is scheduled for Fri., August 31, 5:30 – 9 p.m., a fantastic way to kick off the holiday weekend. Additional sessions are scheduled for Sat., September 1, from 12 – 4 p.m. and 5:30 – 9 p.m. An expanded array of local food vendors also will be on hand to add to the event’s appeal.
In addition to commercial brewing operations, Sprague has invited a number of respected home brewing clubs and retailers to the show to introduce attendees to the increasingly popular hobby of home brewing. Sprague will once again display the impressive tractor-powered cidering equipment he built with his father.
“Home brewing is growing by leaps and bounds, and this festival really showcases the hobby and gives folks the confidence to get started,” Sprague says. “As a novice homebrewer myself, I find the exhibitors very helpful and encouraging.”
The second annual Portland Brew Festival promises to be a one-of-a-kind beer experience, and tickets, on sale now for $35 each at www.portlandbrewfestival.com, are expected to sell out well before the event. Event sponsors include Portland Yacht Services. Anyone interested in volunteering at the festival can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
06.15.12 - Tipping ~ How to Respond to Hospitality
Tip: $1 per complex drink
Notes: At large chains, tip s completely optional. At smaller shops, tip $1 per cup or more for difficult orders.
Notes: There is no tip necessary for accessories such as scarves.
Notes: Tip when the car is returned to you.
Tip: 15-20% of cost of the bottle
Notes: At most restaurants, it’s okay to just tip the 15-20% of the final bill and let the restaurant divvy it up.
Notes: No less than 10% for poor service.
Notes: Consider giving more for extras such as mints, perfume or cologne.
Information borrowed from www.hospitalitymanagementschools.org/tipping/
Founded by Ambrosio Rosales and Aurelio Lopez, Casa Herradura is one of the oldest and most respected producers of tequila, which many believe, delivers the world’s highest quality, most authentic tequila experience because of the expertise and leadership it has developed since 1870.
Located and produced in the heart of Mexico’s tequila region, in the tiny town of Amatitan, Jalisco, Tequila Herradura is 100% blue agave tequila carefully crafted using traditional methods, such as cooking the agave in clay ovens and fermenting naturally with wild yeast.
This sophisticated process delivers a rich, smooth and unexpected taste that evokes memories of our agave fields. Tequila Herradura is all natural and estate bottled and includes:
Herradura Silver ~ Aged for 45 days in American oak barrels, the touch of oak gives a light straw color and hint of vanilla with a warm finish. Ideal for margaritas, Herradura Blanco is smooth and surprising with a rich flavor of agave that is certain to ignite your senses.
Herradura Reposado ~ Aged for 11 months, a full nine months longer than required by Mexican law, Herradura Reposado is deep in color with a cinnamon and oak aroma that provokes a rich, smooth and unexpected mild taste. Herradura Reposado can enhance various meals for a delectable cuisine experience and can be enjoyed mixed or neat in a snifter. Casa Herradura introduced the first Reposado to the commercial market in 1974.
Herradura Añejo ~ Aged for 25 months, 13 months longer than the industry standard. Its deep copper color hints to its oaky, spicy taste, which is apparent at the sniff of this refined expression and lingers on even after the first sip. Enjoyed like a fine Cognac or bourbon, Herradura Añejo is truly one of the world’s finest ultra premium spirits.
Herradura Selección Suprema ~ Aged for more than 49 months in American oak barrels, Casa Herradura introduced the first Extra Añejo, Selección Suprema in 1995. Very dark copper in color with an intense aroma of brown spice and floral notes, this tequila gives a creamy, soft finish with a long aftertaste. From the bottle design to the creamy and soft consistency, Herradura Selección Suprema is a delight to each sense. The result is an enormously complex, world class sipping tequila.
With this portfolio of ultra premium products certain to satisfy even the most discriminating palate, Tequila Herradura, imported by Brown-Forman of Louisville, KY, can be appreciated as part of a margarita or other mixed cocktail, by itself in a snifter, or as an ingredient in one of many delicious summer recipes.
CASA HERRADURA BAY SCALLOP CEVICHE by Chef Mark Williams, Brown-Forman Corporation
1 pound fresh bay scallops
1 cups fresh lime juice
½ cup Casa Herradura Silver Tequila
3 tbs. diced white onion
1 cup ripe tomatoes, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup fresh tomatillos, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
Fresh hot green chiles (2 to 3 serranos or 1 to 2 jalapenos), stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
1/3 cup chopped cilantro, plus a few leaves for garnish
1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
In a 1 1/2-quart glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the scallops, lime juice, casa herradura tequila and onion. Use enough juice to cover the fish and allow it to float freely; too little juice means unevenly “cooked” fish. Cover and refrigerate for about 4 hours, until the scallops no longer look raw .in a large bowl, mix together the tomatoes, green chiles, cilantro, olives and olive oil. Stir in the first ingredients and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon. Cover and refrigerate until serving time. Serve in a margarita or martini glass rimmed with coarse salt.
CASA HERRADURA BEEF ARRACHERA (Grilled Garlic-Marinated Flank Steak with Lime) by Chef Mark Williams
3 pounds flank steak
3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup Casa Herradura Reposada Tequila
¼ cup fresh lime juice coarse
Salt to taste
Use when grilling:
1 tablespoon coarse salt
½ tablespoon ground cumin
½ tablespoon ground black pepper
Whisk together marinade ingredients above Marinate steaks, covered and chilled, at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day. Prepare grill. Season steaks generously with seasonings and grill on a rack set 5 to 6 inches over glowing coals 2 to 3 minutes on each side for medium-rare, or cook in a sauté pan set over medium high heat for the same amount of time. Transfer steaks to a cutting board and drizzle with lime juice. Let steaks stand, uncovered, 5 to 10 minutes and with a sharp knife cut diagonally across grain into thin slices. Serve steak with sauce below.
CHIPOTLE PICO DE GALLO
Servings: Makes about 3 cups
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chopped seed tomatoes
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup Casa Herradura Tequila
Combine fresh lime juice, chipotle chilies and minced garlic in large bowl. Add chopped tomatoes, onion, tequila and fresh cilantro. Season to taste with salt. Let pico de gallo stand 1 hour at room temperature to allow flavors to develop.
CASA HERRADURA SUMMER GARDEN GAZPACHO by Chef Mark Williams
2 large tomatoes (about 1 pound)
1 medium onion
1 large roasted red bell pepper (available in jars)
3 cups tomato juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
½ cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1/3 cup rice wine or apple cider vinegar
¼ cup Casa Herradura Silver Tequila
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
Cut 1 tomato, 1/2 cucumber and 1/2 onion into 1-inch pieces and transfer to processor. Add bell pepper and puree. Transfer to bowl. Add tomato juice, cilantro, vinegar, Casa Herradura Tequila, oil and hot pepper sauce. Seed remaining tomato. Dice remaining tomato and cucumber and onion halves and add to soup. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead.) Serve well chilled.
HERRADURA SPLASH (only 98 calories!)
Named for the refreshment it provides, the Herradura Splash combines the sweet flavor of pineapple, tangy flavor of cranberry and the rich taste of Herradura Silver making it perfect for the hot summer season. The Herradura Splash is a burst of flavor that is sure to make anyone feel relaxed while they lounge by the pool, lake, on the sand or just about anywhere outdoors.
1.25 ounces Herradura Silver
2 ounces Light pineapple Juice
2 ounces Light cranberry Juice
Splash of diet lemon-lime soda
In a cocktail shaker, add ice, tequila, juices, lemon-lime soda, and shake. Serve over ice.
HERRADURA SUGAR AND SPICE MARGARITA (great accompaniment for outdoor barbeques and grilling!)
½ oz Agave nectar
½ oz Fresh squeezed lime juice
1 oz Mango Juice
Cayenne salt (mix cayenne to salt ratio of 1:4)
Garnish: Cayenne salt rim
1.) Gently wipe a lime wedge round the rim of a chilled coupe glass and lightly press into a plate of cayenne salt; take care to shake off any lumps of cayenne.
2.) Place add liquid ingredient into a cocktail shaker, fill with ice and shake vigorously.
3.) Strain into a chilled coupe glass taking care not to disturb the cayenne salt rim
2 oz Herradura Silver
½ oz Freshly squeezed lime juice
½ oz Simple syrup
1 inch Cucumber (diced)
6-8 mint leaves
Garnish: Cucumber disc and a mint sprig
1.) Place mint then cucumber into a cocktail shaker and gently crush with a muddler.
2.) Add the Herradura Silver, simple syrup and lime juice to the shaker.
3.) Fill shaker with Ice and shake vigorously to break down the mint and cucumber
4.) Strain through a fine strainer (to remove all the little bits of mint) into a Hi-ball glass filled with cubed ice and top with soda.
5.) Garnish with a cucumber disc and a mint sprig.
For the latest news from Tequila Herradura, visit www.facebook.com/HerraduraTequila.
By Rachel Shuster
Located at 58 Shrewsbury Street in Worcester, Allgos Sweets and Drinks has re-opened as of March 1st with new menu items ~ but with the same charm that made it one of Worcester’s favorite places to grab drinks and dessert.
Due to extensive water and mold damage caused by a fire on the third floor of the building where Allgos is located, the sweet spot had to shut down last June.
“We were going to change everything for our re-opening, from the menu to the décor, but we started to miss the original items and atmosphere, and decided to put everything back to its original form,” said owner Naat Paiva.
The atmosphere is welcoming, surrounding guests in colors like chocolate and olive. “It’s very rustic and laid back. We have couches and lounge chairs with local artwork hanging on the walls,” Paiva said.
Allgos offers delicious dessert items including profiteroles and a pecan chocolate torte. They have also introduced new spring and summer menu items like gelato. All desserts are $7 and under.
Drinks include everything from beers, martinis, 8-12 infused vodka flavors and high-end scotches to cappuccinos and lattes. Make sure to check out the popular “molecular drinks,” too!
“We do these as alcoholic or coffee that have a little, squishy ball in them. Press on the ball and based on the drink, either a shot of espresso or alcohol explodes in your mouth for an extra burst,” Paiva explained.
Allgos has live music Thursdays-Sundays and holds private parties at no charge for 40-50 people.
“We cater to everyone. I have regulars who are in their 20s and 50s. We always try to do something different and give people something to look forward to,” Paiva said.
Allgos is open Wednesday-Sunday 6pm-2am, with outdoor seating from 6-11pm. Visit www.allgoslounge.com for more information.
If you’ve been watching this season’s “Cake Boss: The Next Great Baker” on TLC, you may notice a familiar face: Carmello Oquendo. The Worcester resident, known in these parts as “The Cakefather,” can be seen bringing the same chill attitude (they don’t call him Mello for nothing) and artistic spin to his television goodies as he does to the cakes he makes right in his hometown.
“Anything can inspire me,” Uquendo says, with a cool, captivating enthusiasm. “I could be walking in the mall and think, ‘I am going to make that into art.’”
With his can-do spin and knack for turning ideas into mouth-watering cakes, TLC made Oquendo just one of 13 contestants vying for one hundred thousand dollars and an apprenticeship with Cake Boss Buddy Valastro. They discovered him after finding Oquendo’s cakes posted on cakecentral.com, known as “the world’s largest cake community.”
A gig on “Cake TV” is even more impressive when you consider that Uquendo’s been making cakes for less than a year. The 43-year old husband and father of six adult children previously worked for 17 years as a gang unit police officer for the Commonwealth.
“I had to leave because of my health,” Oquendo says, noting that his family lost his brother to gun violence and his sister to the streets. “I was getting a lot of death threats, and I had to reconsider my life.”
In a fateful seven-day visit last year to North Carolina to visit his cousin Marilyn, who happens to be a cake artist, Oquendo saw an outlet for his creativity and that there was money to be made in cakes.
“It was like bells starting ringing,” he says. “Could you imagine what I could do with my artistic ability with cakes?”
From the moment he made his first cake ~ a Tickle-Me Elmo ~for his grandson’s birthday last June, Oquendo’s second career started taking shape. Since then it’s taken the form of cakes shaped like turtles, Michael Jackson, and Spiderman, to name just a few. He’s created for customers as near as Worcester to as far away as New Jersey, and his cakes fetch anywhere from $15 to $1,000.
Oquendo’s quick rise to success has the David Hale Fanning vocational school grad characteristically mellow but excited as well. While he can’t reveal if he were named the Next Great Baker, Oquendo says you’ll be seeing him on quite a few upcoming episodes. And after that?
“We’d love to do a spinoff. I’d love to travel with my wife,” he says. “It beats getting shot at, people fighting with you, and the politics in court. You have no idea how stress free I am since this whole experience began.”
“Life is like a nice Puerto Rican mango,” he adds. “And I want to suck the juices out of it.”
To see some of Oquendo’s creations, visit his site at www.thecakefather.net.
Photos courtesy of TLC.
Bottom photo taken at chef reunion in the TLC studio in NY.
12.07.11 - Now Serving - Hirosaki Prime
By Rachel Shuster
Located at 1121 Grafton Street in Worcester, Hirosaki Prime, opened late this past summer, is a top notch Japanese steakhouse and sushi bar.
Hirosaki Prime’s menu ranges from appetizers to sushi to Hibachi items. Prices range from a $2.99 bowl of soup to the delectable $42.99 plate of prime filet and lobster tail. The lounge area also offers a majority of the same items, plus chicken, beef and seafood dinners ~ all in the same price range.
John McHugh and his wife Liz are co-owners and describe their restaurant as unique. “Our service is 5-star, our layout, design and decor create an ambiance that far exceeds any Japanese steakhouse and sushi bar on the east coast and the quality of meats and seafood we use are the best money can buy. We also are the only restaurant in the city that has wagyu beef on the menu,” McHugh says.
Hirosaki Prime also offers a full bar with house cocktails, an extensive wine list and traditional Japanese sake.
McHugh adds, “Our kitchen hours are Tues - Fri 4pm -10pm and now we’re open starting at 11:30am on Sat and Sun. We will be closed on Mondays.”
Visit www.hirosakiprime.com for more info or find them on Facebook.
11.07.11 - Avocados ~ Your New Best Friend
Discover the beauty of avocados. Technically a fruit, avocados are a wonderful source of fat ~ the good kind! With their creamy texture and beautifying oils, avocados are extremely filling and provide long-burning fuel. What better way to kick off fall than with a beautifying recipe from The Beauty Detox Solution by celebrity nutritionist Kimberly Snyder.
2 medium avocados
1 medium garlic clove, chopped very finely
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Juice of ½ a lemon
¼ tsp. Celtic or HimalayanSea Salt
1 cup chopped tomatoes
Slice the avocados lengthwise and remove the pit. Scoop out the green avocado flesh and add to a medium-size mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice and mash the avocados, using a fork. Make it as smooth as you like, or if you like your guacamole chunky, then don’t mash too much! Add the garlic, sea salt and cayenne pepper and mix well.
Add the chopped tomatoes last and mix well again.
Enjoy the guacamole with veggie sticks as a filling, wonderful afternoon snack during or serve the guacamole on top of a large green salad for a great lunch or dinner.
For more beautifying recipes, pick up a copy of The Beauty Detox Solution or visit Kim’s blog.
10.07.11 - Shrewsbury Street Oktoberfest
The Shrewsbury Street Area Merchants Association will host its second annual OktoberFest on Sunday, October 9 ~ the Sunday of Columbus Day weekend ~ at 6pm. Several of Shrewsbury Street’s restaurants will be cooking up German food for the occasion and there will be lots of music. Come down to Shrewsbury Street and let Schwarze Schafe, an authentic German Oom Pah band who will be performing at various venues along the street, entertain you; if you’ve never seen this band perform in their period customers, you’re in for a real treat ~ nothing goes better with German food than Bavarian music.
Last year, over 1,000 people came down to Shrewsbury Street for one of the only OktoberFests in the area; several of the restaurants hosted outdoor parties featuring Oktoberfest beers produced by Wachusett, Harpoon and Sam Adam Breweries, and although some of the establishments usually feature Italian food, they had no problem serving up delicious knockwurst, potato salad, sauerkraut and soft pretzels. To find a list of restaurants participating this year, visit www.ShrewsburystreetOktoberfest.com.
Sponsors for the event include Leominster Credit Union (located on Shrewsbury Street) and Atlas Distributors, who distribute Wachusett, Harpoon and Sam Adams beers.
Among the media sponsors are WCRN, WXLO, The Pike, and Oldies 98.5 as well as Pulse magazine and TasteWorcester.com.
09.07.11 - Now Serving - Cedar Street Grille
A perfect blend of upscale and casual dining
By Rachel Shuster
Cedar Street Grille, located at 12 Cedar Street in Sturbridge, is an American bistro that blends elegance with a warm, comfortable atmosphere. Chef Patrick Farrelly and Executive Chef of Table 3 Restaurant Group, Enrico Giovanello, offer delicious food for their loyal clientele.
“We opened after Christmas last year,” Farrelly says. “The restaurant seats 80 and is a mix of upscale, casual, urban and relaxed.”
Menu items that showcase the two men’s culinary expertise include cold and hot small plates like beef carpaccio and curry mussels, sandwiches including the BLT and avocado wrap, large plates including grilled cedar salmon, and steaks and chops a la carte. Prices range from $4 to $28.
Cedar Street Grille also has areas for banquets and special events. “We have an addition to the building for the lounge and bar,” Farrelly says.
Looking into the near future, Farrelly adds, “We plan on having a beer dinner night and a steak night once a month.”
Cedar Street Grille is open Tuesday-Saturday for lunch 11:30am - 3pm and dinner 4:30pm-9pm (10pm on Fridays and Saturdays), Sundays 4:30pm - 10pm, closed Mondays. Gift certificates are available.
Visit www.cedarstreetgrille.com for more information.
08.11.11 - Food Trends
By Tine Roycroft, Lynn N. Capri, and Josh Lyford
Each year, there are trends in dining ~ just like those in fashion, technology, films, etc. ~ that are a logical progression from the year before ~ like when we saw tapas become popular at a few select specialty restaurants before the trend caught on like wildfire the following year and seemed to be on everyone’s menu. Then there are the trends that come out of left field, like when blood sausage became a much sought-after main course for a [blessedly!] brief time (I blame Andrew Zimmern and his bizarre fascination with bizarre foods for that one!). Now, not all trends reach us here in Central MA ~ some are born and die, just flashes in the pan, in NY or LA or overseas (lots of trends come out of Japan each year), and some reach us slightly modified , but others do, and we’re going to introduce you to some of each, from the weird and obscure (wait ’til you read about corn fungus and edible dirt) to the yummy, like Mexican sandwiches called cemitas, to the technology that’s changing the whole concept of how we go out to eat. And since we’re most interested in the trends that will be shaping our dining experiences over the next year, we’ve called on the experts ~ local restaurant owners and chefs ~ to hear what they have to say about what’s headed to our plates next. …Read More
01.25.11 - Chef Ming Tsai, Owner of Blue Ginger
By Paul Giorgio
Ming Tsai was raised in Dayton, Ohio, where he spent hours cooking alongside his mother and father at their family-owned restaurant, Mandarin Kitchen. Ming Tsai attended Yale University, earning his degree in Mechanical Engineering. He later studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris during a semester abroad.
In 1998, Ming opened Blue Ginger in Wellesley, MA; the restaurant specialized in the best in East-West cuisine, service and wine. In its first year, Blue Ginger received 3 stars from the Boston Globe, was named “Best New Restaurant” by Boston Magazine, was nominated by the James Beard Foundation as “Best New Restaurant 1998,” and Esquire Magazine honored Ming as “Chef of the Year 1998.” The James Beard Foundation crowned Ming “2002 Best Chef Northeast” and, since 2002, the Zagat Restaurant Guide has rated Blue Ginger the “2nd Most Popular Boston Area Restaurant.”
Many of us are familiar with his Emmy nominated TV show “Simply Ming” that has taught a legion of loyal viewers Ming’s signature “one pot” cooking system. The show is now in its eighth season.
So who is the man who had earned these many accolades? We found out in an interview with Ming himself.
PG: How many restaurants do you have?
MT: I just have Blue Ginger. This way I can be with my kids ~ It is about quality of life ~ I have consciously made a descision. Also, I’m 46, so I have years ahead of me to open another.
What is your first memory of being in the kitchen?
I have so many. At the age of 2 or 3 I remember breaking down a chicken. Then later when I was a little older, around 6, I baked Duncan Hines cakes. I also made fried rice when I was 10 for friends of my mom who happened to stop by our house.
Yes, I’ve seen a couple of your shows with your mom “guest starring”. I think it was “East Meets West.”
She has been on every season ~she’s 79 now. I really enjoy being with her and cooking with her.
How did you get started in the culinary world?
My family owned a Chinese restaurant in Dayton, OH.
Last year, you were on “Iron Chef.” What was that experience like?
Yes, we taped the “Iron Chef Competitions” over a six week period. Iit was a riot and hard work. It was great to do it, but I’m sorry I lost.
Where does your heart lie ~ in cooking, running a restaurant, or writing a book/cookbook?
Cooking for sure and cooking for live people. I cook to make people happy. I love it when my 8 yr. old eats my food, but I also enjoy TV. I also enjoy the writing my cookbooks, but lately I have been writing about food allergies and how to cook around them. My heart also lies in fighting childhood obesity and I am working with Michele Obama on this.
Why are there so many kids with food allergies today?
They don’t get outdoors, everything is so sterile. I think we should take every child, bring him to a farm and roll him around on the ground.
Are you ever not in the mood to cook?
“The best food in the world is someone else’s” is a chef motto. I still cook for friends in the restaurant but I don’t work the line. I travel a week per month, so it makes it harder to cook.
What’s your favorite non-Asian meal or cuisine?
I would have to say New American Cuisine pioneered by Thomas Keller of Sonoma Valley’s French Laundry.
Who cooks at home?
My wife and I. Polly is a great cook
What kind of music really gets you going in the kitchen?
We play all kinds during prep but we never play music during service.
Which chef inspired/inspires you most?
A couple ~ I can think of Thomas Keller and Ken Orringer.
Are friends nervous having you over for dinner?
Friends really don’t invite me to dinner, although I had a fabulous meal at the home of John Abbot recently ~ He’s the head of WGBH and his wife is a fantastic cook.
What’s your go-to comfort food?
I have a couple. If you’re hung over, fried food. But I love braised meats like short ribs or duck.
Chef Tsai is a member of the Macy’s Culinary Council, an exclusive council of expert chefs from across the country who host culinary events at Macy’s stores nationwide throughout the year and also provide Macy’s customers with helpful shopping and cooking tips, recipes and entertaining ideas. The Council includes:
• Cat Cora
• Emeril Lagasse
• Gale Gand
• Andrew Robinson, master sommelier
• Govind Armstrong
• Marcus Samuelsson
• Michelle Bernstein
• Ming Tsai
• Nancy Silverton
• Rick Bayless
• Takashi Yagihashi
• Tim Scott
• Todd English
• Tom Douglas
• Tyler Florence
• Wolfgang Puck
To view live streaming video of the chefs in action, get delicious recipes and cooking tips, meet all the chefs on the Council, and find out when your favorite chef will be at a Macy’s near you, please visit www.macys.com/campaign/social?campaign_id=59&channel_id=1.
By Paul Giorgio
Buddy’s story is a familiar one; it’s the tale of his parents coming to America, of finding a job, of eventually buying the business. In this case, the business was Carlo’s Bakery, an icon of the Italian American community in Hoboken, New Jersey, just over the bridge from New York City and the birthplace of Frank Sinatra.
Today, Buddy owns Carlo’s, employs about 100 people ~ most of them his extended family of sisters, brothers-in-law, cousins, nephews and just good folks from the neighborhood.
Buddy recounts his story in Cake Boss, which is basically the story of America ~ only a little sweeter.
While we were growing up, my friend Gerry D’Amico’s family owned Boston Bread and D’Amico’s Bakery on Worcester’s Shrewsbury Street. We hung around the bakery eating fresh Italian cookies and pastries until all that baked-with-love goodness started packing on the pounds.
I remember thinking that a baker’s job was not easy; Gerry’s father Gerry, Sr. and his uncles Joe and Eddie would get up in the middle of the night to start baking the day’s bread and pastries. In my eyes, they were ethereal angels with hands full of cannoli, Neapolitans and other Italian treats. To this day, I remember them clearly, dressed in their whites and covered in flour.
So in a sense, Buddy Vallastro’s story is that of hundreds of Italian kids growing up in a hundred American cities.
We interviewed Buddy recently as he was kicking off his book signing tour across America, catching him before his November 5 appearance at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium.
Buddy, since you’re the Cake Boss, do you have an underboss?
No, I’m the only boss.
How many relatives do you have working for you?
Ten to twenty. I got my sisters, my mother and a bunch of cousins.
Have you ever had to fire one?
Fortunately, not yet.
How did the TV show come about?
I did a lot of Food Network challenges and the TLC Network wanted a show, so we put something together.
What is the difference between you and your show and Duff and his show, “Ace of Cakes?” Do people recognize you?
I get recognized wherever I go ~ went to a sports bar ~ lots of people recognized me but I’m a Yankees fan.
I think people relate to the show. We are still that old fashioned Italian bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey. We’re more down to earth and real. I get recognized wherever I go ~ went to a sports bar ~ lots of people recognized me but I’m a Yankees fan.
What does one of your cakes cost?
It depends. If you want a regular sheet cake, it’s a hundred bucks, but they can go up to$20,000 if it walks and talks.
Who comes up with most of the ideas for the cakes? Is it the customer or is it you?
Usually it’s me; they tell me the theme and I come up with the idea and the cake.
How long does it take to make one of your cakes?
It can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 weeks. If you want a simple half sheet cake, we can decorate it in 5 minutes. If it is like the NASCAR cake, it can take two weeks.
I saw the show when you brought your family back to Italy. Was that emotional for you? What region are you from?
We’re from Bari, near the boot. Both of my grandparents were born in U.S. and then moved back to Italy. They made money here and moved back. My parents were both born in Italy. My father is from Sicily, he came to the states in 1952 and my mother came over in 1954. He bought the bakery from Carlo in 1963 and we kept the name. When we went back, it was very emotional ~ seeing where my folks were from and going over with my kids and my cousins and sisters. It showed me what hard work can do.
What was your most challenging cake to make?
The NASCAR cake-it took years off of my life. It was 20,000 pounds. It was a full size car.
What is your bakery like now?
It’s crazy. It’s only 7,000 square feet and we have 100 employees ~ we work 24/7. I’m still there 5 days a week.
What is it like when you film? Do the cameras get in the way?
It’s all hand held cameras and it takes 5 days to film a show. Most of the stuff doesn’t make it onto the show.
Are you still a neighborhood place?
We are and that will never change, but currently we’re building a 400,000 square foot place in Jersey City to make all the pastries we make ~ everything from cookies to cannoli to lobster tails. And we still only charge $3 for a cannoli.
Tell me about your tour. What do you do at the appearance? Do you bake a cake?
It’s an interactive show and I have the audience help decorate a cake. I tell them my life story. It’s very “feel good.” I get to meet with fans. You hear stories about what “Cake Boss” means to them. We have a lot of Italian American fans but we are also broadcast in 93 countries
To learn more about Buddy, his bakery, and “Cake Boss,” visit the following websites:
11.20.09 - An Interview with Guy Fieri
By Paul Giorgio
Meet the rock-n-roll chef who, at age 41, has brought a new level of bleached-blonde cool to cooking. Guy Fieri was born in Columbus, Ohio, but moved to Whittier, California when he was 2. His mom taught school and his dad taught at Whittier College. He then lived in Ferndale, CA. His first cooking job came about from hanging around the local burger joint. His favorite part of the job? Working the milk shake machine. His next job was as a dishwasher at a Mexican restaurant called Roman’s.
OK, now we’ve got a little background on this traveling, entertaining, laughing whirlwind of culinary energy and adventure. But we all remember when Guy first caught our eye:
What made you try out for The Next Food Network Star?
My friends made me. They said, “Guido, you got to do this (my nickname is Guido). So on the last day, I sent in a 3 minute tape that was wild.”
When was that?
It was April 24th, 2006
Did you anticipate, and were you prepared for, the ‘star factor’ that came with your win on the show?
I was at Game 6 of the World Series and was surprised at my recognition factor. People coming up to me all during the game.
You recently returned from the Persian Gulf after entertaining the troops. What was that like?
It was awesome. I got to go on the USS Enterprise. I cooked for the troops and judged some cooking.
In World War II, they had the Andrews Sisters and Glenn Miller entertain the troops ~ now they have a chef! What’s up with that?
It was fun, and I guess times have changed ~ a lot!
Then you were the Grand Marshall of NASCAR in Sonoma, CA…
That was just crazy! I love cars.
So what’s your favorite diner that you’ve visited on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives?
That’s almost impossible to answer. If I say one, all others would be pissed!
How about a favorite dive?
Same answer, but I like Vito & Mike’s in Chicago for pizza. But there are so many other restaurants that I love. Especially the mom and pop ones that pour their heart and soul into good cooking.
Who came up with the concept of Diners, Drive Ins and Dives?
David Page, our producer, came up with the concept.
Tell us about the great car you drive on the show.
The car is shipped everywhere. We have a full time driving team. The only places the car hasn’t been is to Hawaii and Alaska ~ but it has gone everyplace else.
What would be your last meal?
Pasta and tomato sauce.
Who is your cooking idol?
I would have to say everyday people. I learned to cook from my mom and dad. But I am a huge Mario Batali fan.
How about a music idol? You’re known for playing some pretty hard music while you cook.
I would have to say AC/DC, Sammy Haggar…I love all the old 70 and 80s rock bands like Metallica. I have a jukebox in my kitchen and it has 50,000 songs on it.
Let’s get back to cooking. Do you get to do it much anymore with your insane schedule?
I cook on Guy’s Big Bite and I get to cook what I want, but I was on the road over 200 days last year, so…
I miss cooking. I made 4 gallons of chili, 5 gallons of tomato sauce and 180 meatballs this past weekend when I was home. That way my wife and kids (Hunter, 13, and Ryder, 4) get to eat my food when I’m not there.
Is there any food you hate?
Liver. I hate beef liver!
Tell us about The Guy Fieri Road Show that just blew away the audience in Lowell.
First of all, I love New England ~ my wife is from Providence so we get up there a lot. The show in Lowell was a blast. Lots of cooking and music. Michael Schlow from Radius in Boston and Via Alta 66 at Foxwoods was also be there, and plus some great flair bartenders.
Sounds almost like a Broadway show!
Nah, it wasn’t that well scripted, it was just a great, wild time!