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A City Should Be Measured By Its Brunch And Cal Mare Springfield Is Worth It

Cal Mare Springfield, MA

From a food perspective, a city’s worth should be measured by its brunch. For years we’ve overlooked Springfield but with Chefs Michael Mina and Adam Sobel introducing Cal Mare’s brunch menu this past January, they have made a destination out of an option.

Mass Foodies focuses a lot of its content in the Heart of the Commonwealth—arguably focusing on Worcester and its neighboring towns. A lot of this is natural, if not involuntary, after Worcester seems to have to defend itself from the “big city in the east.” Regardless, Worcester is reaping the benefits from immense investments in the city and to say that we need Boston’s once vibrant culinary scene would be hyperbole. However, having played defense for so many years, we sometimes forget not to turn into the bully we’re trying to overcome. This became most apparent after a recent visit to the “Wild West.” Sorry, Springfield, we pulled a Boston.

Let’s dive in. First, Springfield’s major presence is MGM casino. Anyone having ever attended a casino knows that, outside of Las Vegas, the casino’s business is getting customers onto the gaming floor by any means possible; food and entertainment is usually secondary. MGM Springfield, from the get-go, has focused on becoming a community within the city. By embracing the historic architecture, partnering with existing organizations, and upgrading city infrastructure, it put its money where its mouth is. This is apparent with the food options within the casino, all having street access to allow non-gamblers to quickly pop-in for lunch, dinner, or… brunch.

Cal Mare is not a new concept. Tried and true, Cal Mare Springfield is a sister restaurant to California’s original name sake and offers the same focused menu…. coastal Italian. It’s easy for any diner, casual or professional, to rag on Italian—it’s the only food category that a simple dish like lasagna, can be made countless ways without straying from its generally accepted definition.

Yellowfin tuna Tartare from Cal Mare Springfield, MA.To experience the range of flavors, brunch at Cal Mare should be shared with friends. One might easily consume just a starter and main dish to be full, but with such an extensive menu there are options that shouldn’t be overlooked. To start, our party of four began with the sweet Atlantic Oysters, half-shelled with limoncello mignonette and a Calabrian cocktail sauce; Yellowfin tuna Tartare which had a beautiful spice from the Tonnato sauce and pickled hot pepper which balanced with the savory of capers; the Little Gem Greens, which were simply mind blowing that such small, delicate portions could pack such flavor—the truffle vinaigrette played beautifully with the familiar flavor and texture of onion dip and parmesan; and ended with the Roman Sweet Buns which was a meal unto itself, a modern take to the sweet bun that, again, combines a complex level of flavors and textures as the whipped Mascarpone balanced the Nutella, highlighted through a salted caramel. To cleanse the palates from the wide range of starters, the house granola and yogurt was a beautiful way to subdue everything with a calming, smooth, orange blossom honey. While not everyone can get behind “family style,” starting brunch with a spread like this is a sure way to experience Chef Mina and Sobel’s culinary depth.

Italian Cheeseburger—a great brunch option from Cal Mare Springfield, MA.As for the main courses, there were two that really stood out from the rest. Although a brick pressed chicken is something found on many menus, its usage of chickpea and Pancetta offered a round experience that, when topped with fried sage, brought out flavors that you might not always expect from a dish of this nature. The second main course that is of note is the Italian Cheeseburger. The safest, American-looking meal on the menu, it is most likely the most approachable regarding preconceived notions of what to expect. While its plating was insignificant (burger, bun, fries, ketchup), the burger itself was not. With giardiniera replacing an American relish, and a spicy aioli made from combining garlic, olive oil, Calabrian Chili, and emulsified with egg replacing an American condiment; combined with a striking provolone, replacing an American cheese (you get the picture). The Italian Cheeseburger pushed the envelope when it comes to taking something “safe and standard” and elevating it to something that you’d be hard pressed to finish despite being full from the starters. Add sides of crispy smashed potatoes and bacon to ensure your taste buds go into overdrive.

Springfield has a reputation. Reputations are very hard to overcome. When you have corporations as large as MGM investing so much into such a small footprint, it should be noticed. While naysayers will never stop trolling the numbers, it’s vital to understand that what the city of Springfield has done with MGM goes beyond opening a casino—it’s created a community. And, like anything Italian, community revolves around food. With Cal Mare’s brunch, Springfield is serious. Sorry we treated you the same way Boston treats Worcester.

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Worcester Foodies Visit Cedar Street Grille in Sturbridge

Cedar Street Grill in Sturbridge, MA

Recently, Mass Foodies’ Worcester Foodies ventured to Sturbridge to visit the Cedar Street Grille on Stephanie’s recommendation. And if you haven’t been there yet, you need to make the trip.

As many of our readers know, Sturbridge is well worth the short drive if you are looking for restaurants to indulge in some outstanding food! From world-class BBQ at BT’s Smokehouse, classic Italian at Rovezzi’s, award-winning sushi at Baba Sushi and lots of eclectic options in-between, Sturbridge offers up a variety of menus to satisfy any craving.

Cedar Street Grille’s atmosphere is casual and comfortable, with warm décor and calming colors that fit perfectly. The layout offers multiple small dining areas as well as a front bar area perfect for enjoying drinks and sharing food. Evan thought “The interior was quaint and perfect for a romantic evening out”.

The Menu and More

The restaurant’s menu offers a few appetizers, a mix of small plates and a list of larger entrees giving you plenty of options depending on how you want to dine.

Stephanie thought “The restaurants’ tapas menu made it easy for sharing and allowed us to try a variety of different things, which was really great”.

Burger Sliders at Cedar Street Grille

The small plates at Cedar Street Grille encourage sharing around the table with options such as Lamb Meatballs, Duck Confit, Burger Sliders, Garlic Shrimp and lots more. The large plates include Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Hanger Steak and Pan Roasted Salmon to name a few.

Starting off with Drinks and Appetizers

Once we all arrived at Cedar Street Grille were seated immediately in a room off the main dining area to accommodate our large group. A seasonal drink menu was presented which included some interesting options, one of which was a Pear Martini that Scott felt was “quite good” and Aaron added his Espresso Martini was “very well done”. Looking down the table I saw a traditional Old Fashioned, some craft beer options and plenty of glasses of wine being enjoyed along with lots of apps and small plates.

Salmon Steak at Cedar Street Grille

The Deep Fried Goat Cheese and Mac & Cheese seemed to be popular small plate choices. Evan commented, “the fried goat cheese had a crispy exterior and a creamy, rich interior that was a textural delight”. He also thought the Buffalo Mac & Cheese was “one of the best I have ever had, bar none. The small cast iron pan kept the dish warm and pasta was covered in velvety cheese sauce”. According to Katie, the Flash Fried Brussel Sprouts with roasted garlic and lemon aioli were “amazing.”

On to the Main Courses

For her meal, Julie indulged in the Swordfish Steak which she thought was “fantastic”. She added, “the fish was tender and flavorful, and the restaurant provided portions that were big enough for two people”.

Robyn and Dana shared the Beef Sliders and thought they were “cooked perfectly”. In addition, Robyn had a Caesar Salad and thought “the dressing was one of the best she has ever had and she would go back for the salad alone…it was that good”.

The Fried Chicken with Red Bliss Mashed and Spinach Rockefeller

Aaron and Jamie seemed to enjoy the Cedar Street Grille. The Fried Chicken with Red Bliss Mashed and Spinach Rockefeller looked to be an incredible portion and as Aaron told us, was “the best we ever had”.

Our end of the table shared the Pan Seared Scallops and we were more than impressed. The three large scallops were delightfully light and the warm Parsnip Puree and Maple, Raisin and Almond Agrodolce added a sweet and sour flavor that paired perfectly.

We also shared a Harvest Salad that was a perfect starter. Full of Roasted Butternut Squash, Toasted Almonds, Robinson’s Farm cheese, Dried Cranberry and topped with a Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette the salad was an early Winter delight!

Harvest Salad with Butternut Squash, Toasted Almonds, Robinson’s Farm Cheese

For my meal, I opted for the Grilled Pork Tenderloin. The pork had a honey Dijon marinate that added some sweetness. Finished with Brussel Sprouts, Bacon and a Port Wine Demi, this meal seemed to be a signature of Cedar Street Grille. I would definitely return for this!

Outstanding Service

Given our large party and the fact most of our meals were shared small plates, the food arrived in a timely manner. Our servers were always close by to help with drinks, water and to clear empty dishes. Clearly, this was not the first time the restaurant had encountered a group of our size.

Overall our experience at Cedar Street Grille was excellent with many commenting it stood out as one of the best meals they had in 2018. Many folks added they would be making the trip to return soon!

Cedar Street Grille is at 12 Cedar Street in Sturbridge, MA and is part of the Table 3 Restaurant Group which also operates The Duck, Avellino and The Barn at Wight Farm.