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.

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

Where to Find Fiddleheads and Ramps on the Menu

There are a few things I am forbidden from telling you about my afternoon of foraging with Julia Auger and Jared Forman.

I can tell you that traveling to their secret spot takes two hours roundtrip. I can tell you that Forman sometimes refers to it as “Ramptopia.” I can tell you that I was asked to turn my geotags off. I can tell you that they did not go so far as to blindfold me. But, I cannot tell you where they brought me or how we got there.

As proprietors of deadhorse hill and simjang in Worcester, Auger and Forman practice a modern philosophy of hospitality. This means taking excessive measures to guarantee an optimal guest experience—even if that requires braving the untamed forest in search of wild bounty.

Chefs favor ramps and fiddleheads as the first sign of spring. Ramp season is short, lasting about a month as soon as the weather grows seasonable. Fiddleheads are equally elusive, calling for wet and swampy conditions.

You don’t need to go off the grid to sample these rare treasures of New England. A variety of farm stands west of the Quabbin reservoir have ramps available for purchase and many of your neighborhood chefs have done the hard work for you.

Lock 50
Executive Chef Tim Russo is pickling fiddleheads at Lock 50 to extend their availability over the next two months. He also charred and packed his ramp haul in oil to make chimichurri and salsa verde set to appear in feature dishes all season long.

City Bar and Grille
Chef/Owner Al Soto has fiddleheads and ramps on the menu at his new westside hot spot, City Bar and Grille. Expect a dose of grilled ramp aioli with your first course at CBG’s Mad River cocktail dinner on May 15th.

BirchTree Bread Co.
This week, BirchTree Bread’s specialty toast features roasted fiddleheads along with a fried duck egg and asiago cream sauce served on seeded levain. Keep an eye out for fiddleheads on future Wednesday and Friday pizza nights.

deadhorse hill
If you aren’t lucky enough to enjoy your ramp-stuffed trout over an outdoor grill after hours of manual labor in the pouring rain, enjoy your ramps the civilized way—in the dining room. Forman has a kurobuta pork chop on the menu right now dressed with wild ramps, fiddleheads, and mushrooms.

Armsby Abbey
Armsby Abbey no longer uses foraged ingredients, but you can still find ramps and fiddleheads on the menu for special occasions. Executive Chef Sean Dacey was serving up pickled ramps in his fried vegetables along with a horseradish cream puree, aged sheep’s milk cheese, and a fried egg. The ramps used were a one time purchase from a farm and once gone they are gone (hint: they’re gone). He has also devised a tasty carrot-ramp vinaigrette to properly dress the spring salad for Mother’s Day brunch. Like the ramps, you’ll only be able to get the fiddleheads through Mother’s Day before they are off of the menu!

Owners of Herbie’s and Lakeside Open Center Tree Bar…

Korean Short Rib Tacos
served on a corn tortilla with slaw, gochujang aioli, and pickled red onion.

Center Tree Bar & Grill is officially open for business on Main Street in Rutland, brought to you by the same family responsible for Lakeside Bar & Grille in Shrewsbury and Herbie’s Bar in Worcester. Co-owner Joe Kaplan invites guests to enjoy the restaurant’s spacious lounge which features a crackling fireplace and a 500 pound tree trunk salvaged from a forest in Western Mass by his brother and business partner, Ben Kaplan. The dining room offers a modern-rustic aesthetic including air plants and geometric light fixtures. Don’t miss the lobster grilled cheese topped with gruyere and a fried egg or the totchos served with braised chicken, scallions, crème fraîche, pickled onions, and hot peppers.

Live from Hanover Theater—Anna MacInnis & Erin Hockey

This week, we’re on stage at The Hanover Theater with Anna MacInnis of The Baphomettes burlesque troupe and Erin Hockey who recently appeared in the female butcher episode of Chopped. Anna and Erin are womb-level bff’s. We hear their beautiful origin story and then discuss the difficult realities of friend-breakups. Sitting alone in a 2,300 seat theater makes honesty come easily. We cover body positivity, mean girls, and fat rendering. Photos by the talented Unity Mike Hendrickson (Best of Worcester nominee) and sound design by John Tonelli. Last chance to vote for us as Worcester’s Best Radio Personalities! Click here if you feel so obliged.

STEAK & EGGS from the brunch menu at Cal Mare at MGM Springfield (submitted)

No Playing Games When It Comes To Brunch

Brunch isn’t a luxury, it’s the necessity of a credible restaurant and in downtown Springfield, it’s brunch time.

Brunch Libations from the brunch menu at Cal Mare at MGM Springfield (submitted)
Brunch Libations from the brunch menu at Cal Mare at MGM Springfield (submitted)

Celebrated chefs Michael Mina and Adam Sobel have debuted a new weekend menu for Cal Mare at MGM Springfield, featuring iconic brunch staples complemented by Italian classics and refreshing cocktails.

“Brunch is more than a meal—it’s a culture,” said Chef Sobel. “We couldn’t be more excited to introduce our brunch experience and hope everyone will love it as much as we loved creating it.” Available for reservations on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Cal Mare’s new brunch menu features a bevy of delicious offerings:

  • Kick Start the Day: To begin the feast, guests can enjoy Cal Mare’s Roman Sweet Buns served with whipped mascarpone, Nutella and salted caramel. For a savory appetizer, cured Salmon Flatbread topped with burrata, avocado and salted egg yolk delivers a multitude of flavors and textures. On the spicy side, Yellowfin Tuna Tartare turns mornings up a notch with tomato sauce, pickled hot peppers and capers.
  • Mangia, Mangia: The main event on the menu showcases entrees with a Mediterranean flair. The Italian Cheeseburger is a fun twist on a favorite, served with provolone, giardiniera and Calabrian chili aioli. Meanwhile, Ricotta Pancakes drizzled with orange marmalade, wildflower honey and walnuts bring a sweet crunch to a classic.
  • Seafood Delights: What’s a New England brunch without seafood? Guests can savor fresh catches including Atlantic Oysters with limoncello mignonette and Calabrian cocktail sauce; Whole Grilled Branzino on a bed of arugula, fennel and grilled lemon; or the indulgent Lobster Tagliatelle, served with toasted garlic and Calabrian chili.
  • That’s Amore: Guests can dig into Cal Mare’s specialty pizzas even earlier now on the weekends. The new menu includes gourmet three-cheese slices with shaved brussels sprouts and scallions, while the Margherita is topped with fior di latte cheese and fresh basil.
  • Bottoms Up: It wouldn’t be brunch without a little bubbly. Cal Mare’s morning cocktail menu includes mimosas and bellinis made with orange juice or peach nectar and the ultimate brunch necessity, the Bloody Mary, infused with tomato, Italian spices and balsamic vinegar. For a taste of Italy, guests can sample the Negroni, made with beefeater gin, Alessio vermouth and Campari; or the Aperol Spritz – one of the region’s most popular apéritifs – featuring Aperol, prosecco and soda. A Cal Mare original, the Wandering Albatross refreshes with Barsol pisco, Aperol, grapefruit and prosecco.

Next weekend, Mass Foodies will be joining MGM Springfield for brunch… stay tuned!

APPLE CUSTARD TOAST from the brunch menu at Cal Mare at MGM Springfield (submitted)
APPLE CUSTARD TOAST from the brunch menu at Cal Mare at MGM Springfield (submitted)

Chorizo Tacos: Housemade chorizo, cotija cheese, pico de gallo and cilantro lime creme from The Civic Kitchen & Drink.

Six Restaurants in Central Mass That Will Transport You…

The Farmer and the Fork Cafe at Tower Hill
Tower Hill Botanic Garden’s two conservatories are lush and aromatic even in the dead of winter. The Limonaia (Lemon House) is brimming with bright camellias and bold citrus fruit. The Farmer and the Fork Cafe offers a seasonal menu that includes healthy grain bowls along with soups and salads. Guests can enjoy the fire place in the Great Hall after working up an appetite in the Orangerie, Tower Hill’s 18th-century-style greenhouse.

The AC Lounge
If I could bring the bar from Crazy, Stupid, Love. to life, it would look like The AC Lounge. The space is bright, posh, and metropolitan. Hotel bars have a certain formality about them and a level of anonymity given the number of out-of-towners. This is not the sort of watering hole where everybody knows your name; enjoy it.

The Civic Kitchen + Drink
The Civic has played host to a series of themed events over the last few months, including a Great Gatsby dinner party straight out of West Egg. Guests partied like it was the summer of 1922. The staff manages to take The Civic’s signature patio vibe indoors during the colder months. This spot is the perfect cure for the winter blues.

Avellino
It’s easy to picture the small Italian village from which Chef Rico’s vision was born when you sit down at Avellino. The menu is rich with handmade specialties including house-cured pancetta and freshly pulled mozzarella. For the full effect, Chef Rico offers monthly cooking classes modeled after his grandmother’s Italian kitchen.

Rose 32 Bread
Rose 32 is a world class operation dressed down in small town clothing. Master baker Glenn Mitchell studied and trained in France before launching a small bakery in California with his wife Cindy that quickly grew into a national conglomerate. Glenn never lost sight of his love of baking, as exhibited by his top honors from Coup du Monde de la Boulangerie, the World Cup of baking held in Paris. The Mitchells may have retired from West coast living, but their little Hardwick bakery will make you feel like you’re in sneezing distance of San Francisco.

simjang
Simjang has tiki drinks, a fluorescent color palate, and an oyster bar that’s straight fire. You can play video games upstairs and mainline rosé froyo downstairs. Remind me again why we aren’t there right now?