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.
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.
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 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!
As Contributing Editor at Mass Foodies, I always find it intriguing to look back at the posts that gained the most traction with our readers over the course of the year. I took the liberty of breaking down the numbers to find out which stories engaged Mass Foodies’ readers above all others during 2018. One thing was clear; you like to read about openings, you love to read about closings, and you know how to pay proper tribute when it is due.
I was surprised to find that the 2018 openings of simjang and North Main Provisions did not make bigger media imprints on our site. In my professional opinion, these two establishments will have long lasting implications for Worcester’s food landscape. The closing of decade-long downtown staple The Citizen Wine Bar yielded fewer clicks than I predicted, eclipsed by the Thanksgiving holiday. Perhaps, this was thoughtful timing on behalf of Niche Hospitality President and CEO Michael Covino.
Mass Foodies subsists on the underlying principle that the foundation for strong restaurants is an adaptive and collaborative culinary community. It is comforting to find that thousands upon thousands of readers continue to share our vision year in and year out. Happy New Years from the Mass Foodies team.
Ed Hyder’s Mediterranean Marketplace faced the saddening blow of Ed Hyder’s passing on February 5th. This Pleasant Street landmark continues to thrive as a true family business, invigorated by the dedication of the Hyder children. Ed Hyder is remembered in our neighborhoods, kitchens, and hearts.
On Sunday, October 28th, Kummerspeck folded after 15 months in business on Water Street. Chef-owners Matt Mahoney and Rachel Coit sat down with Mass Foodies for an unfiltered look at what lead to the closure.
We started the year with seven new restaurants on the horizon including Maddi’s Cookery & Taphouse, 110 Grill, Protein House, STIX Noodle Bar, Revolution Pie + Pint, Craft Table and Bar, and Brew Beer Garden. (You can add Fuel America to that list as well.) We should note that although Protein House, Revolution Pie + Pint, and Craft Table and Bar have installed new and prominent signage downtown, they have yet to open their doors. And, what’s going on with Josephine’s anyways?
Developer Allen Fletcher turned heads when he broke ground on May 7th for his Kelley Square Market, which will house 30-40 vendors along with a sit down eatery. There was a lot of chatter about construction’s impact on parking, lest we remind you that Fletcher’s lot had been made available out by his sheer good will in the past. Did we ever bother to send him a thank you card?
Worcester got a taste for authentic Belgian Liege waffles with the growing popularity of Blue Shades on Park Ave, an establishment that zeroes in on the mastery of a single specialty cuisine. This burst of interest proved that our readers are interested in supporting specialty and niche shops with a food truck model. (I’ve said on many occasions that I believe some of the best food in the city comes out of the MamaRoux food trailer parked behind The Dive Bar.)
Mass Foodies went live from 110 Grill prior to their May 22nd opening in a space adjacent to the AC Hotel. Viewers got a preview of the traditional interior built to accommodate large groups along with the charming outdoor fire pits. In recent months, the restaurant has served as a frequent filming location for Liam Neeson’s latest flick, “Honest Thief.”
Red Lantern completed its last dinner service on December 9th at 235 Shrewsbury Street. One block away, neighboring restaurant, British Beer Company at 225 Shrewsbury Street also closed up shop to make room for the future home of Mexicali Mexican Grill. A week later, 7 Nana at 60 Shrewsbury Street also closed permanently.
Mass Foodies attended the grand opening of Maddi’s Cookery and Taphouse on June 18th. Chef Christopher O’Harra, formerly of Flying Rhino, brings two decades of experience in Worcester’s dining scene to the newest Water Street watering hole. Owner Adam Hicks also runs Depot Street Tavern in nearby Milford.
In April, Mass Foodies got a first look at Buck’s Whiskey and Burger Bar in the Canal District, which is conveniently located within spitting distance of Polar Park, the future home of the Worcester Red Sox.
Sherri Sadowski and Alec Lopez announced in February that they have a new project on the horizon. Their downtown craft beer bar and restaurant, Armsby Abbey, celebrated its tenth anniversary over the summer. Their second restaurant, Conico, will be located in Hudson with a focus on traditional Mexican cuisine. Sadowski and Lopez demand a level of excellence that takes precision and patience, so don’t expect a rushed opening any time soon.
The Hangover Pub and Broth, both of The Hangover Corporation, reopened over the summer after temporary closure on account of previous owner, Christopher Slavinskas’ involvement in concealment of drug money for restaurateur Kevin A. Perry Jr. Broth and The Hangover have since reopened under a newly formed corporation without Slavinskas.
More than 2,000 people came out for the first Food Truck Throwdown in Green Hill Park in May, organized by The Dogfather, Mark Gallant. Beyond simply satisfying our appetites, food trucks have major spatial benefits which impact our abilities to activate blank territories throughout the city. We predict that the pop-up mentality will continue to grow based on popular entities like Wooden Noodles.