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02.05.15 - Worcester Restaurant Week – Give yourself a treat

Once again, it’s time for the winter edition of Worcester Restaurant Week, a semi-annual event highlighting the food of local restaurants. Central Massachusetts is known for having great food at reasonable prices, but twice a year, local restaurant owners take their prices down even more. From Feb. 23-March 7, you can check out special menus at local restaurants for $23.15!

Got a favorite restaurant or want to discover a new favorite? Worcester Restaurant Week is the time to go out, dine and beat back those winter blues.

Worcester restaurant week is sponsored by, UniBank, Blue Moon, Yuengling, Harpoon, Samuel Adams, and Mercadante Funeral Home. Media sponsors include The Pike 100 FM, WXLO 104.5 FM, Nash Icon 98.9 FM, WCRN 830 AM, Vitality Magazine, TasteWorcester.com and Pulse.

For more information, check out worcesterrestaurantweek.com and facebook.com/worcesterrestaurantweek.

 

02.05.15 - Eating healthy on a budget

Tired of the grocery bills being in the triple digits because of your healthy-eating lifestyle? Well, this stops today because eating healthy on a budget is possible and definitely affordable. When it comes to eating healthy, everyone automatically thinks organic and dollar signs. However, there are many ways to eat clean while saving money. Here are some tips that will have you on the right track to eating healthy while spending less.

HOW TO SHOP:
Bargain Hunting
Everyone loves a bargain because sales help you to pay less than the original price. For example, fruits are probably one of the most expensive healthy items on your grocery list. Strawberries cost about $3.99 to $4.99 for a small plastic carton. On the other hand, if you are lucky, you can catch a bargain where the prices are two for $5.

Bundles/Stock-up
With bargain hunting comes the luxury of buying in bundles. This allows you to buy on sale and in large quantities to stock up. Going back to the example of the strawberries, one might buy one carton of strawberries at the price of $3.99, but with the sale price end up buying four. You¹re saving, getting more for your buck and stocking up your refrigerator. Now that is a deal!

Cross Shopping
Cross shopping is another technique used to save money. At home, spend time looking up different local supermarkets, food markets and even department stores like Walmart and Target in your area. This will allow you to cross shop products that are on your healthy grocery list and compare prices. Sometimes, the same items that you are waiting to go sale in one location is already on sale at another or even regularly priced cheaper than other stores.

Seasonal Shopping
Seasonal shopping is another way to save money. For instance, seafood can be very costly, especially salmon because it is high in nutrients and in high demand. Salmon contains protein, which is good for body growth and maintenance. In addition, salmon consists of the Omega 3 fats (good fatty acids), which help fight many health problems such as diabetes and cancer. So when is the best time to buy salmon? The answer is from May-September because this is when fish is more prominent in the water and large quantities can be sold to consumers at cheaper prices. Now that you have bought all your items, next is to determine how you cook them.

HOW TO COOK:
The way you prepare your food is very important. Let¹s take a look at chicken for a moment. As we know, fried chicken is most common, not only at home but in fast food restaurants. Yes, it might be enticing and satisfying to the stomach, but fried food also absorbs large amounts of grease and oil. Grease and oil breaks down into what is known as “bad” fat, which can clog arteries and cause heart disease and strokes. Baking, steaming, boiling and grilling are cooking alternatives that are much healthier. If you do choose to incorporate a little oil in your meal, cooking with extra virgin olive oil is recommended because it contains heart-healthy antioxidants. Remember to remove all skin and fat from the meat. A clean meal is a clean body!

HOW TO EAT:
Portion Control
Paying attention to how much food you are consuming is critical to eating healthy and sticking to the budget. Portion control is vital. It allows you to monitor your food intake, as well as budget your shopping list. For example, if you tend to eat larger portions of fish rather than steak, your budget will take in consideration the price of fish, going back to the idea of seasonal and bundle shopping. Portion control also brings about the strategy of substitution, where instead of having larger portions of fish, consider switching it up with shrimp or scallops. In this case, you are still obtaining protein but leaving yourself with options to make new dishes and try new foods.

Snacking
Stay away from junk food. Substitution is key! Snacking can get the best of us because junk foods like potato chips, cookies and ice cream taste so good. We think it is OK because we are only consuming small amounts. However, you can find healthy snacks that taste great, too. For example, instead of having ice cream, look at having yogurt. Yogurt is nutritious and light. As for potato chips, try baked chips like tortilla chips or even rice crisps; you can even take it a step further and make your own. Remember, make smart substitutions!

You can eat healthy regardless of your budget. Do not get discouraged by high costs of eating healthy. Conduct research and find ways to beat the prices. Your body is important, and eating right is a major step to staying healthy or improving your health. With all the tips above, you can eat smart, save money and live healthy!

For more information, visit actinspires.com.

By Akilah C. Thompson

Akilah C. Thompson earned bachelor’s degrees in accounting and business economics from North Carolina A&T State University. She is an IRS enrolled agent, certified life coach, licensed Zumba instructor and inspirational speaker. She is the founder and CEO of ACT Inspires, Inc. and the nonprofit Generations Inspired, Inc. Thompson is also a model, actor and author.

 

02.05.15 - Wachusett Brewing Company

Wachusett Brewing Company
175 State Road, East Westminster
Wachusettbrew.com
Open noon-5 p.m. on Saturdays

PulseBREW: Saturday beer tripsOne of the pioneers of the local craft beer scene, Wachusett is still going strong after more than 30 years in business. The company has no intention of resting on its laurels and has recently introduced its Milk Stout in a can, as well as being the first in the state to offer 32-ounce cans filled with the fresh beer of your choice at the brewery. These large cans are called crowlers, growlers with a “c” for “can.” The walking tour of the brewery takes almost an entire hour and comes with two 2-ounce samples at the end. Be sure to try Larry or Green Monsta if they are available that day.

Nearby on Route 2A is the 1761 Gift Shop. It kind of reminds me of a Cracker Barrel, but is an individual family business. Great rolls come with the dinner that’s served upstairs. Afterwards, head downstairs to the gift shop for all sorts of things, including old-fashioned penny candy. Wachusett Mountain in nearby Princeton has skiing and snowboarding, as well as other events throughout the year.

 

02.05.15 - Jack’s Abby

Jack’s Abby
81 Morton St., Framingham
Jacksabbybrewing.com
Open noon-8 p.m. on Saturdays

PulseBREW: Saturday beer tripsThis is one of the most diverse breweries you will ever encounter. Lagers are what Jack’s is known for, but don’t go in expecting to see boring mass-market offerings. Jack’s has everything from a 4.5% ABV Framinghammer Lager to a 13% ABV lagerwine known as Bridemaker. There are also smoked beers, imperial pale lagers and Baltic porters that include some aged in bourbon barrels and some that use cacao nibs or peanut butter and jelly. Jack’s license allows for 4-ounce samples, as well as full pints, and there are bottles to take home.

On nearby Route 9, there is a plethora of things to do. Shoppers World has just about every store you could imagine. The Natick Mall is also nearby if upscale shopping is your thing. Julio’s Liquors is a must-visit, as it has one of the best selections of craft beer in Massachusetts.

 

02.05.15 - Treehouse Brewing

Treehouse Brewing
Treehousebrew.com
Open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturdays

PulseBREW: Saturday beer tripsI think by now you get the point that this is one of my favorite breweries. Regardless of what is on tap, you should go. Treehouse sells refillable growlers. You fill out an order card ~ kind of like a sushi restaurant ~ and you wait for your growler to be filled. Tours are offered of the brewery, and sometimes there is a food vendor selling groovy grub, or you can just take a walk and enjoy the surrounding scenery.

Nearby on Route 20 in Sturbridge is Enrico’s Brick Oven Pizza and BT’s Smokehouse if you are looking for lunch or dinner. Sturbridge Coffee Shop is a great place to grab a coffee and a pastry on your way in. Yankee Candle has an outlet store there, in case your companion likes that sort of thing better than craft beer.

 

02.05.15 - In the ’burbs

 Wilson Wang, who owns Baba on Worcester’s Park Avenue, was recently given a liquor license in Holden. He plans on opening Blue Fish Restaurant at 1134 Main St. No opening date has been set.

 

02.05.15 - In more downtown news

 Jak’s Pub, across from the Hanover Theatre, has a new owner. No word yet on any plans for the space.

 

02.05.15 - Front Street gets a new restaurant

Talyta’s Café recently opened at 20 Front St. in Worcester, directly across from City Hall. The café specializes in Mexican and Salvadorian food.

 

02.05.15 - Speaking of water

 Birkbeck’s Waterfront Grill opened the first week of January on Worcester’s Mill Street. This has been the home of a few restaurants and is probably the only Worcester eatery on the water. Mike Birkbeck is the owner.

 

02.05.15 - Speaking of Water Street

We hear that Jose Murphy’s will not be reopening. Instead, a new owner, Jason Grayson, and a new concept will take the space.

 

02.05.15 - Don’t fall in

A new restaurant is going in on Water Street, right past The Perfect Game. Amici on Canal will be opening shortly.

 

02.05.15 - The Urban feel

The Urban Kitchen + Bar, 225 Shrewsbury St., opened its doors on New Year’s Eve. The chef has created an exciting menu. The bar is a showpiece and features craft cocktails. The owner is George Voyatzis, who also owns Fish in Marlboro, probably the best seafood restaurant outside of Boston.

 

02.05.15 - Changes at Ceres

 Bill Nemeroff, the chef at Ceres Bistro, has left to work at Sturbridge Village. No word yet on who will take over his duties at the Beechwood.

 

02.05.15 - Throw in your sombrero

Throw in your sombrero. We also hear the Ole, a Mexican eatery on Worcester’s Water Street, closed its doors at the end of the year. No word if anyone is moving into the space.

 

02.05.15 - Across the bridge.

 Another restaurant closed, this one in Shrewsbury. Buppa de Beppo, on the shores of Lake Quinsigamond, abruptly closed its doors in the middle of January. Maybe it was the astronomically high rent or the construction on the bridge that was the cause. Before that, Elsa’s, which was next door, also closed up shop.

 

02.05.15 - Don’t Pick This One

The Pic on Worcester’s Shrewsbury Street quietly closed its doors at the beginning of January. The business had been sold to Arthur Furtado, who unexpectedly passed away from complications due to diabetes.

 

02.05.15 - Last call at The Saloon

The Saloon on Worcester’s West Boylston Street recently closed its doors. The restaurant occupied the site of the former Banana Joe’s. It was only open for a little more than six months and had two owners in that brief time. It’s a great location for someone who knows what they are doing.

 

02.05.15 - Worcester Restaurant Week

The winter edition of Worcester Restaurant Week will be held from Feb. 23-March 7. The price of a three-course meal in almost 50 local eateries is $23.15. Visit worcesterrestaurantweek.com for a list of participating restaurants.

 

02.05.15 - Billy’s Pub

Billy’s Pub
81 Clinton Street, Shrewsbury, MA
(508) 425-3353

Cited in the outskirts of Worcester and Shrewsbury, near areas where strange stuff happens after the sun sets, Billy’s Pub is the latest incarnation in a long line of establishments. For any film noir buff, the building will provide moments of déjà vu, guaranteed.

For what we have here is a classic American roadhouse. Over the years, the place has changed hands and names numerous times. With each successive owner, I fear the place will be stripped of its character and transformed into some chain affair.

So it was with relief that my visit to Billy’s Pub felt like a homecoming. The new owner/curator has left intact the dining room’s curve-edged ceiling, heavily varnished wainscoting and general feeling of faded glory that seems to seep from every surface. The front lounge is a bit cheerier and updated, but when my friend and I walked through the front door, the column of bar patrons scarcely turned a head to see who’d just entered.

Billy's PubTo further the 1940’s ambiance, the dining room sported numerous old tin advertising pieces, a nod to the place’s heritage. Billy’s menu, on the other hand, was rooted firmly in the modern era. And once we sampled the cuisine, we discovered a standard of quality and flair for flavor that ignited the noir era with Disney Technicolor.

Katie, our server, was an absolute delight. Business had slacked off that freakishly cold winter night, and we were her only table. But never mind, she took our questions and teasing in easy stride and was attentive but not intrusive.

I started with a glass of Blue Point Oatmeal Stout. Actually, I was astonished to learn Billy’s had anything like this on tap and eagerly anticipated tasting it. In the minute it took Katie to walk it to the table, all trace of foamy head had vanished, and it looked just like a glass of coke. In flavor, it managed to summon up mild coffee notes, perhaps a smudge of chocolate. Call it “stout on training wheels.”

The beer really shouldn’t reflect on Billy’s; after all, they didn’t brew it. When it came to kitchen skill, critical elements such as flavor came out to shine. First example: our appetizer of Homemade Onion Rings. Rare is the proprietor who’ll admit he trucks in pre-formed frozen onion rings. It’s up to us to figure that out for ourselves. But Billy’s were homemade, no doubt.

Billy's PubIrregularly sliced rings of fresh, sweet onion were dipped in a made-to-order batter and deep fried to s crispy, golden brown. The onions were still a bit al dente, and the breading flaked apart when forked. Of course, I’m speculating on the assertion of “to-order,” but from my own experience, that’s the most sure-fire way to attain such a craggy texture. We loved every crunchy scrap!

Billy's PubAnd that was just the warm-up. My dining companion was lucky enough to score the last order of a daily special: Roast Pork with Mashed Potatoes. Sound mundane? Anything but! Three thick slabs of pork glistened with a peppery amber glaze and flavor that was beguiling. Where did all this spicy heat come from? Pepper? Hot sauce? Under its herb crust, the meat was juicy and tender. It was a jumbo portion with extraordinary flavor. Even the Red Bliss potatoes tasted freshly mashed.

My entree came from the menu’s modest selection of seafood entrees: Baked Scallops. Yeah, this was a staple entry on menus 30 years ago. But it seems to have faded after people got tired of overdone seafood swimming in pools of tired oil under a blanket of burned crumbs. So why did I order it? Research; to see if the chef could handle the basics.

Billy's PubBilly’s chef understands all that pain and brought Baked Scallops back to basics. These sea scallops were the most tender I’ve had in years ~ perhaps even a touch underdone ~ with just a trace of buttery broth and a scatter of golden crumb topping. Under such deft treatment, their fragile flavor shone through. The portion was generous in size and served piping hot.

The mid-20th century popularity of roadhouses was not based on quality dining. And, somehow, I doubt those customers demanded much in the area of flavor. These were rooms marinated in cigarette smoke and cheap whiskey. Nostalgia aside, I’ll eagerly take the Billy’s Pub reboot, hands down.

Still, sitting in that big empty room, I couldn’t help thinking of The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues”:

Yeah, keep your eyes on the road,
Your hands upon the wheel.
Keep your eyes on the road,
Your hands upon the wheel
Yeah, we’re goin’ to the Roadhouse,
Gonna have a real good time

By Bernie Whitmore

 

01.05.15 - The Compass Tavern

Canal’s Compass points the way to big flavor

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Perfect!” I replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Bernie Whitmore

 

01.05.15 - Sweets & savory.

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

 

01.05.15 - Mourning Arthur Furtado.

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

 

01.05.15 - Italy in Webster.

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

 

01.05.15 - Italian in Worcester.

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

 

01.05.15 - One less Italian in Worcester.

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