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The March Wrap Up

The raw bar at simjang on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester, MA (Erb Photo for Mass Foodies)

As is typical of New England, March came in like a lion and out like a rhino with a host of key developments for the Central Mass food scene.

B.T.’s 26 hour smoked beef brisket paired with Wormtown Buddha Juice X2IPA

On March 28th, Drew Day was named Executive Chef of Flying Rhino on Shrewsbury Street as former Executive Chef Chris O’Harra announced his transition to Maddi’s Cookery and Taphouse, set to open on Water Street by early May in the space that previously housed The Perfect Game. Maddi’s will mark the second restaurant for Adam Hicks, who also owns Depot Street Tavern in Milford, which opened in August of 2014. O’Harra was recently awarded first prize in the people’s choice category at the Worcester’s Best Chef Competition.

While Day and O’Harra were parting kitchens this month, two other Central Mass chefs joined forces. Chef Rick Araujo of Civic Kitchen & Drink in Westborough teamed up with B.T.’s Smokehouse Director of Operations William Nemeroff of Sturbridge for a night of award winning barbecue. B.T.’s smoked beef brisket has built up a loyal following to the tune of over 120,000 pounds of hand selected, hand rubbed beef brisket sold last year. Araujo and Nemeroff looped themselves into captivating harmony for the evening with Wormtown Brewery along for the thrilling ride.

Bibimbap from Choose and Mix in Worcester, MA
Bibimbap from Choose and Mix in Worcester, MA

B.T.’s whet our appetites for barbeque and Choose & Mix swooped in for the assist. Contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores visited this Korean hot spot on East Mountain Street for “bulgolgi – thinly sliced beef tenderloin strips in flavorful Korean barbecue sauce – and galbi – Korean barbecue ribs.” She found the eatery welcoming, affordable, and loaded with flavor. Flores also visited Millbury’s new doughnut hotspot, Rocco’s, located at the former address of the Queen’s Cups. Members of the Astrella family have doughnuts “embedded in their DNA,” as evidenced by what Flores calls a frenzied social media buzz in addition to the long (but quickly moving) line out the door.

Contributor Jim Eber spent some time at simjang’s raw bar on Shrewsbury Street with Executive Chef Jared Forman whom he deemed, “a chef intimately connected to what he serves.” The two sampled sexy oysters, fat kid’s oysters, punchy oysters, crisp beginner oysters, and coppery oysters. If Eber’s praise is any indication, he’ll be back at the deep rock maple bar very soon for a Jang and a dozen more.

Stack of Doughnuts from Rocco's Doughnut Company in Millbury, MA
Stack of Doughnuts from Rocco’s Doughnut Company in Millbury, MA

Next door at Volturno, owner Greg Califano Jr. kept busy teaching pasta classes in his private function space as well as the Neapolitan pizzeria fresh outpost in Framingham. Volturno’s new location maintains the rustic charm of its counterpart, offering the added intimacy of a smaller space. Guests still have a view of the wood burning oven, and we were pleased to find that the “2 for 1” deal on Mondays and Tuesdays is graciously honored in Framingham as it is in Worcester. Pasta classes are offered monthly at each location and no two are ever the same.

In bleaker news, both Broth and The Hangover Pub shuttered their doors after former owner Chris Slavinskas pleaded guilty to charges of making a false statement to federal investigators relating to the ongoing Kevin Perry saga. Perry’s indictment resulted in the shutdown of The Usual, Blackstone Tap, and The Chameleon.

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Choose and Mix with Bibimbap

Bibimbap from Choose and Mix in Worcester, MA

Korean food is a relative rarity in Worcester. For years, finding a good menu lined with Korean BBQ or bibimbap was an exhausting task yielding little or no results. Now, Korean food is claiming Worcester its new home and Choose and Mix, its founding inspiration.

Rolling off the tongue like the sound of a jazz sequence, bibimbap is the quintessential Korean meal-in-a-bowl. Meaning, “mixed rice,” the bowl is a culmination of flavors and ingredients. A dish loaded with rice at the bottom (white rice, brown rice or sweet potato noodles are all options at Choose and Mix) and topped with namul (sauteed and seasoned vegetables), and protein like tofu, chicken, beef, spicy chicken or shrimp, Choose and Mix is serving an authentic Korean icon to all foodie lifestyles with the vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. The dish is served in a dolsot, a hot “stone pot,” made of agalmatolite with the purpose of cooking the rice until crispy. Bibimbap is a dish exploding with flavor, texture, and creativity. In 2011, the dish was listed at number 40 on the World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods readers’ poll compiled by CNN travel.

At Choose and Mix, the concept of creating your own bowl is only a part of the restaurant’s dynamics. Including authentic Korean dishes like bulgogi – thinly sliced beef tenderloin strips in flavorful Korean barbecue sauce – and galbi – Korean barbecue ribs – Choose and Mix brings more than just good food to Worcester; they also bring culture. While the game changer remains in its presentation of stone pots, it is its price point that really speaks to the Worcester food scene. At an affordable price, ordering a bibimbap dish lunch special includes the bibimbap mix of your choice, miso soup, and a drink, and honestly, foodies love a good deal, especially when it speaks to our quest of searching for authentic recipes.

Choose and Mix offers a welcoming atmosphere, original flavors and a reason to visit again.