El Morocco was known as the hot spot in Worcester (From the collections of the Worcester Historical Museum – Worcester, MA)

A Note about “A Taste Of Worcester History”

Attention ticket holders for the 2020 “A Taste Of Worcester History!” Obviously, COVID has thrown a wrench into our plans to host the event to celebrate Worcester’s food culture from a historical standpoint. It was our intention to do a social wine tasting that pairs food and wine within the Worcester Historical Museum—the event would celebrate the founding cultures of the city while promoting today’s great chefs. We fully expect to host this event in the near future, however, we aren’t certain how it will look given the impact the pandemic has had on many of the restaurants in the region.

We’re sorry for the inconvenience and are hopeful that you join us for the “A Taste of Worcester History” once we can safely do so.

As the Country opens, so will the wine bottles.

Like every other organization, business, and person, last year was fairly quiet on the Mass Food & Wine front. Our events, A Taste of Worcester History, Willy Wonka Wine Dinners, Santa’s Sleigh, and more, were all postponed as we planned for the best interests to allow our chefs, wine experts, and industry partners to focus on preserving their restaurants and businesses and consumers and guests stay safe.

We’re thrilled to announce that we’ll be announcing our 2021 Worcester Wine Festival dates in the coming months and will be selling tickets shortly!

For those who purchased tickets to A Taste of Worcester History, we will be planning that event—albeit looking a little differently. We will offer ticket holders to hold onto those tickets for the future event or complimentary upgrade their tickets for the 2021 Worcester Wine Festival.

Although this year may not be full throttle, we’re looking forward to the Worcester Wine Festival to start the celebration of food and wine in Central Massachusetts and lead a year of events to satisfy your palate!

Stay hungry,

Luke, Ed, & Joe

A Year of Food & Wine

Two local organizations – MassFoodies™ and the Worcester Wine Festival™ – have merged to create a new brand – Mass Food & Wine™. The new organization began operation on January 1, 2020 with a mission of coordinating, promoting and executing world-class food and wine events throughout Massachusetts. The events are designed to entertain and inspire consumers, recognize culinary leaders and support the community.

Mass Food & Wine will combine the efforts of both previous organizations and continue to execute the many successful events they have become known for in the past. Their 2020 schedule will kick-off on April 4th, 2020 with a brand new event: “A Taste of Worcester History”. This festival-style, walk-around food and wine tasting will be held in conjunction with the Worcester Historical Museum and will feature regional chefs paying homage to Worcester’s wide-ranging ethnic food background. In addition, they will present their first annual Mass Food & Wine Lifetime Achievement Award to a prominent figure in Worcester’s culinary history.

The Mass Food & Wine 2020 schedule of events includes neighborhood Wine Walks, the Worcester Wine Festival, a Willy Wonka-themed dinner and the ever popular Santa’s Sleigh Trolley Ride. Other more intimate dinners and events will be scheduled throughout the year.

All Mass Food & Wine events are open to the public, but an Annual Membership can be purchased. The Annual Membership allows a member access to all event tickets before the general public, a discount price on many event tickets, exclusive offers from Mass Food & Wine sponsors, complimentary general admission tickets to the Worcester Wine Festival Grand Tasting and other benefits. 

Mass Food & Wine will also continue to publish original written and video content on their website curated around unique food and wine offerings in Massachusetts. For more information about events, memberships and to read and view new content, visit MassFoodAndWine.com.

Publisher’s Letter: “Check Please! Goodbye, Mass Foodies… Hello, Mass…

Mass Foodies and the Worcester Wine Festival will be merging into Mass Food & Wine in an effort to focus on coordinating, promoting, and executing world class food and wine events in Massachusetts with exclusive dinners and grand tastings effective January 2020.

When I started Mass Foodies in 2007 (then called WorcesterScene.com), the goal was to have one website that aggregated—and provided a free digital footprint for—the restaurants in Worcester. What began as a passion project quickly turned into a business after a year when I was joined by a business partner, talented contributors, photographers, and many friends who shared an affinity for the region’s culinary palates. Like all businesses, Mass Foodies has seen years of flourishing as well as weathering through the quieter news cycles. Today, the region continues to be infatuated with Worcester’s evolving food scene and, in stride, Mass Foodies has helped lead with events and content that offered insights for restaurant guests, advice and promotions for restaurant owners, and, above all, unique experiences for everyone. The products Mass Foodies curated were always aligned with its mission: to support and promote the independently owned businesses.

A few short years ago, I partnered with a few individuals to create the region’s first wine festival. The Worcester Wine Festival proved to be a tremendous success in every way we measured it. Even more so, it was fun.

In an effort to be more efficient in life and business, my partners from both Mass Foodies and Worcester Wine Festival made a strategic decision to merge both companies—bringing together the best of both, aligned with a leadership team, which includes Ed Russo and Joseph Giacobbe, that will focus on continuing the growth of the existing reputations of both organizations through the company, Mass Food & Wine.

Effective January 2020, you’ll notice that the branding will be switched and events that were formerly managed by Mass Foodies and the Worcester Wine Festival will be managed by Mass Food & Wine. Even more exciting, with a larger bandwidth, we’ll be introducing several other small events and new original content, all curated around food and wine—including, but not limited to, a food event focused on Worcester’s history; Worcester Wine Walks to bridge the gap of Worcester’s neighborhoods; and wine dinners that will promote the region’s most respected chefs and celebrate some of the world’s greatest wines.

Although Mass Foodies will cease to exist, I can promise that Mass Food & Wine will be better positioned to execute world class food and wine events, right here in the heart of New England.

Stay hungry,

Luke M. Vaillancourt
Publisher

All Aboard the Blog Bus

A few weeks ago, food photographer Ally Voner and graphic designer Chris Boudrow drove their converted school bus through the White Mountains of New Hampshire with no plan of a final destination. The Blog Bus had been years in the making. Voner and Boudrow’s longtime dream came to fruition last Christmas Eve with the purchase of a vintage school bus. After six months of automotive labor, nothing compared to the feeling of finally hitting the open road.

“I really like it when I’m sitting on the bench,” Voner says, “When we’re driving and we turn—with all the windows open—it’s an ‘oh my God’ moment.” She likens the feeling to that of a subway car winding down the tracks.

Graphic designer Chris Boudrow reviewing for Good Bites and Glass Pints.

Voner and Boudrow arrived in Worcester three weeks into their journey, prepared to pitch restaurants and breweries ripe for change. With many years of hospitality experience and an arsenal of marketing skills between the two of them, the couple had become something of a traveling PR agency. The mission was simple: find a new city, compile a list of establishments in need of a reboot, send out some introductory post cards, zero in on new businesses, and repeat. 

“I think one of the biggest things is that we had a stint working at a fine dining restaurant and it really put a bad taste in our mouths, not necessarily the job itself, but just the way that company in particular was run,” Voner recalls. “They kept growing to the point where they were buying hotels left and right and they were turning themselves into this big hospitality group.” Boudrow felt like the whole operation was growing impersonal. It was time to start calling their own shots.

Voner always has her camera in hand. When it comes to restaurant marketing, photos are everything. Voner’s blog, Good Bites & Glass Pints showcases a keen eye for detail and a passion for making small pubs and eateries shine. “I really wanted my voice to come through and I didn’t want stuffiness in my writing,” she says.

Food photographer Ally Voner reviewing for Good Bites and Glass Pints.

Boudrow hopes that their home grown platform can overshadow the antiquated constructs of sites like Yelp and Tripadvisor. “Bad reviews sit there and bring down the score,” he explains, adding, “One bad review can negate seven good ones and stay up at the top. Then, they’ll take your money in order to get rid of the bad review.”

Voner and Boudrow intend to change the narrative from the comfort of their Blog Bus. The hardest part of working and living out of a school bus is not the confined space so much as the lack of a shower. The couple is excited to head south where beaches and outdoor amenities abound. 

Inside the bus, everything has its secure place. Tucked into drawers, inlets, and corners are the makings of an entire screen printing studio.”I like how I can grab everything within an arm’s reach,”Boudrow says. “I have orangutan arms.” He reaches out his arms to demonstrate an impressive wingspan; it feels like the whole country is at his fingertips. 

You can follow @goodbitesandglasspints on Instagram to check out recent posts from Redemption Rock Brewery and Brew City in Worcester.

Simone Linson cutting cheese at Pecorino in Grafton, MA (Photo: Erb Photography)

Intimidated by Cheese? Leave it to Pecorino in Grafton.

Photo: Erb Photography

Simone Linsin’s brigade of cheese purists is unsuspecting. Some of them began training their palates at her country cheese shop, Pecorino, before they could talk.

“Those are our cheese kids,” she says, gesturing to a collage of smiling children holding up wedges of aged goat gouda and triple creme blue as big as their tiny heads. “The kids actually make buying decisions for their families. They sample things from the case, then their parents step aside and let them do the shopping.”

Linsin grew up in Heidelberg, Germany where her grandfather ran a butcher shop. When she and her husband moved from Germany to America two decades ago, she set out to recreate what she refers to as “the good old world.” The center of her universe is the cheese case, which consists of between 50 and 80 selections depending on the season.

Photo: Erb Photography

Linsin doesn’t sell so much as she consults. “Whether they have people coming over, they want to give a gift, they want a snack, or they want something for after dinner—we are prepared to help customers compose a cheese board,” she says, acknowledging that many people are anxious and embarrassed on their first go around with the cheese case.

“We help customers navigate through textural differences: soft, medium, hard. Different milks: goat, sheep, cow, buffalo. Raw milk cheeses, washed rinds, and all sorts of stinkers,” Linsin says with a lightness that at once renders her sharp and approachable. She stares at the case as if it lives and breathes like one of her beloved cheese kids.

Linsin frequently finds herself asking, “How can we elevate the cheese experience?” For a long time, she underestimated the importance of accompaniments. At present, Pecorino carries 35 cracker varieties in its pantry section, along with duck fat, cornichons, specialty spice blends, and heirloom salts.

She fiddles with the spout on a giant metal vat, explaining, “We have olive oil fresh from California here in the tank and we fill three different vessels. People can bring those back for a dollar off their refills.” The olive oil compliments a selection of fresh bread from Nashoba Brook Bakery in West Concord, with whom they have worked since Pecorino opened 10 years ago.

Back then, Linsin was still skeptical about opening a cheese shop in North Grafton. “To be very honest, I hated this building. It was run down and I didn’t want to be here. This was a shack.” Linsin points behind the counter to reveal the feature that changed her mind, saying, “I hated everything except this 800 degree wood fired oven, which was actually used by a pizza place in the old days.” There was still wood in the oven when she moved in. Her family helped clean the place out and scavenged for refurbish-able materials in the basement of the building.

When it comes to wine, Linsin is particular. “I taste everything before I buy. I don’t do commodity buying. I don’t do deals. Everything is very meaningful to me including how I source it.” Linsin focuses on European wines, but she has also taken to curating an impressive natural wine selection from California.

Linsin prefers to bring lesser known varietals to her shop. “Ten years ago, that was a no-no, because Chardonnay and Cabernet ruled the world in America. I was very fortunate to find a clientele in North Grafton that was eager to learn and raise the level of education around here,” she explains.

When Pecorino opened in 2010, people told Linsin she was crazy. Now, she hosts two tastings a month. “We draw a super-crowd!” she says. Just like Linsin’s original cheese kids, the shop has grown up. In 2019, Pecorino is a fearless touchpoint for food and culture in the community.

See for yourself at their next wine tasting on August 23 from 5-7 p.m.

Photo: Erb Photography

Juicy Seafood brings Cajun Seafood Boils to Worcester

Juicy Seafood opened a few months back and the Worcester Foodies’ have been planning their visit ever since we saw the announcement that a Cajun Seafood boil were now available in Worcester

Stepping inside the restaurant, the seafood theme is more than evident. The dining room has mounted fish, ropes, fishing nets and more. A big, bright bar is at the back of the room and rumor has it, they make a great Mai Tai for those that would like to indulge!

Obviously New England has plenty of seafood restaurants. And if you are looking for another cup of New England Clam Chowder or a pint of Fried Clams, you won’t find it here. But what you will find at Juicy Seafood is a Cajun seafood boil with Shrimp, Crawfish, Lobster, Crabs, King Crab Legs, Clams or Mussels, served hot and fresh with corn and potato.

Now lets talk spices! At Juicy you not only choose your spices – Cajun, Garlic Butter, Lemon Pepper, or the Juicy Special (which is all the spices combined) – you also choose the heat level of spice from No Spice right through Extra Hot! And from the reaction I saw, the Extra Hot is appropriately named! Our fantastic waitress made the recommendation to choose the Juicy Special spices which she said “is the best of all worlds”

I toured the kitchen to see exactly how the dishes were made and was amazed. Each order is cooked individually in massive woks over high heat sealing in the tenderness. Then the seafood is placed into large clear plastic bags, the spices are added and the bag is sealed. When delivered to the table you tear open the bag to a rush of spice, heat and flavor!

Get Your Hands Dirty

One of the themes at Juicy is “Get Your Hands Dirty” and believe me when your seafood boil is delivered to the table, you will. This is “eat with your hands food” – the tables are covered in brown butcher paper, you can wear the plastic bib to protect your clothes and there will be plenty of napkins and wet naps to help you clean up.

Looking up and down our table, our Foodies looked more than satisfied as they indulged in their seafood boils.

For those who don’t want the Cajun Seafood boil the menu does include some fried seafood platters and even chicken tenders, along with a list of appetizers like Hushpuppies, Calamari, Oysters and Chicken Wings. But really, try the boil, you definitely won’t be disappointed! And did we mention, as of this writing – all draft beer is $2.99! Ice cold beer, spicy Cajun Seafood boil in a casual atmosphere where you can use your hands to eat…wow!

Overall the Worcester Foodies enjoyed their meal with most finding the food incredibly flavorful, tender and JUICY and everyone spoke of a return visit.

Juicy Seafood is located at 1269 Main Street in Worcester. There is plenty of off-street parking and is open for lunch and dinner everyday. For those venturing to the western part of Massachusetts, Juicy Seafood has a second MA location at 1404 Boston Rd, Springfield, MA

Five Spots for Cold-Pressed Juice in Worcester

Let me begin by saying there is no shame in pledging your devotion to team-juice or team-smoothie. Both allow you the benefits of consuming raw plants, thereby supplying your body with essential nutrients and fiber. I will warn that certain smoothies can include large doses of peanut butter, frozen yogurt, and even ice cream. Cold-pressed juice on the other hand, is an easy way to get vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in one sitting without the risk of additives.

Where can you get cold-pressed juice in Worcester? Here are a few of my go-to spots.

Bedlam Book Cafe
Bedlam’s juice bar features a wide variety of tasty combinations to get you to the next chapter of your day. The owners believe our bodies and minds are closely linked. Their list is forever changing, but I am partial to “Summer Ginsberg on Green St.” featuring cucumber, spinach, apple, and celery.

Steam Energy Cafe
Steam Energy Cafe cold-presses all of its juices using a Goodnature CT7 Juicer—a hydraulic press that extracts liquid without heat or oxygen in order to harness all of the nutrients often emitted by others. Steam is proud to share that its juices are not pressurized or pasteurized. Treat yourself to a “strawberry patch” made with strawberry, celery, cucumber, lime, ginger, and mint.

NU Kitchen
“Nu” is meant to evoke the French term for “naked.” At NU Kitchen, juices are designed to strip away unnatural ingredients and showcase tall glasses of vibrant fuel for your hardworking body. “Vita C” combines orange, pineapple, ginger, and carrot, while the “sweet beach” refreshes with pineapple, apple, cucumber, and mint.

Fuel America
Fuel is conveniently located on the northeast corner of the Worcester Common. With spectacular wifi and plenty of comfortable seating options, Fuel has quickly become a popular spot for downtown meetings throughout the workday. The “green machine” will get you through your jam-packed afternoon by supplying hits of vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin A without packing on any extra calories.

Brew on the Grid
On the southwest end of the Common, you’ll find more cold-pressed options at Brew on the Grid including the “green monster” made with Granny Smith apples and fresh lime for a burst of sweet and sour. For something with earth and spice, try the “Mt. Fuji Juice” made with tumeric, Red Fuji apples, and ginger.

Russo Italian Restaurant Now Open on Water Street in…

The team behind Lock 50 opened their second restaurant in the same Canal District neighborhood. Russo Italian Restaurant, named for owner Ed Russo, opened the restaurant to the public June 13th.

Located across the street from Lock 50, Russo Italian Restaurant took residence at 65 Water Street, formerly the home of Canal Restaurant & Bar. Ed Russo’s nephew, Executive Chef Tim Russo created a menu that will feature classic Italian American cuisine, hand-crafted from family recipes passed down from Russo’s grandparents.

According to Russo, “the space has been completely renovated and the dining public can expect to see a touch of Boston’s North End combined with Providence’s Federal Hill when they step inside.” He added, “Exposed brick, large windows and the very distinctive cave room make the space unique. Combine that with the touches we’ve added and we know our guests will feel welcome and comfortable from their first step into the restaurant,” he added.

A Local, Fresh and Hand-Made Menu

The seasonal menu at Russo will include fresh, local ingredients. All the pasta and sausage will be handmade and only the highest quality meats, cheeses and seafood will be served. Expect to see approachable, affordable and familiar Italian American offerings such as Bolognese, Lasagna, Carbonara, Marsala, Parmesan, Frutti de Mare and more. Fish, chicken and veal dishes will also be featured including a whole roasted Bronzini, a thick-cut Pork Chop, and veal, chicken or pork Saltimbocca to name a few.

Sunday Family Dinner Tradition

Something unique to Russo Italian Restaurant will be their “Sunday Family Dinner.” This all-inclusive, family meal will include appetizers, pasta, salad and other traditional Italian dishes and will mimic the Sunday feast Russo shared with his family growing up. “We want families to start new traditions by gathering around our dining room tables on Sundays and let us cook for them,” he said.

Russo Italian Restaurant is located at 65 Water Street in Worcester. The restaurant is open Tuesday – Saturday from 4:30pm-10:00pm, and Sunday from 2:00pm – 8:00pm. There is off-street and on-street parking. For more details visit RussoWorcester.com

To the Rescue—Event Planner, Anita Amin

Anita Amin talks Indian weddings, melted frosting, and three-legged dogs on this week’s episode of Pop It, taped at the AC Hotel. Anita has patterned her friendships after Leslie Knope and her pets after April Ludgate. She loves Worcester’s rebirth almost as much as she appreciates its gritty past. When was the last time you dusted off your Boxcar Children Cookbook?