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activities also in issue art&culture entertainment Featured Columns Featured Posts

Kool Aid George is Crushing It 

LuAnn Thibodeau

George Annan is an artist who captures the world through the lens of a camera. George hails from Worcester and said that photography has not always been something that he did. But that changed when some college friends introduced him to their love of photography, and it was magical. 

George has done a lot of great commission work for nationally known companies like Puma and Converse, but his deep love for urban agriculture and his family roots in the country of Ghana led him to become very involved with Worcester Environmental Council (REC), and 2Gether We Eat, two Worcester organizations that are focused on ways to cease food insecurity while also providing education and employment opportunities in the city. 

From late summer of 2022 through September of 2023, George became involved in the inaugural Black Artist Residency program at the Fitchburg Art Museum (FAM), something that he says has been a wonderful experience for which he is very grateful. He said that he owes a great deal of thanks to FAM, whose staff was absolutely amazing in their help and support of him. His photo series part of this program is entitled “From Seed to Plates”, focusing on black farming. This is part of the current exhibit- “Dialogues, Diasporas, and Detours Through Africa”- at FAM, and is on display through January 14, 2024.

 

Among honors that George has received are being named an Outstanding Alumnus at Worcester State University and being featured a couple of years ago in Pulse as one of the People to Watch. 

When I asked George about the differences or similarities between the United States and Ghana, he said that he hadn’t been to Ghana since he was 11 years old, but he remembers it as being such an expressive land. He also feels that way about the US and is thankful for his friends who showed him the beauty of the world of photography. 

So, my next logical question was- what’s the next step, what’s next for George? He said that he moved to the Boston area in February of this year, so he is exploring the region and getting a taste of what it has to offer. He says he’s very curious, and loves the good energy around it. 

And while he thought back, in sort of a flashback way, his photography he “spoke into existence” and “it’s not a finished product yet”. “There are still many dreams and goals, and the sky is the limit”. Well, I must say that if anyone can reach their goals, realize their dreams, and go to the limits of the sky, George Annan is the one who will do it. He’s an amazing, dynamic young man, whose future looks blazingly bright and brilliant. 

To see more of George’s work, check him out on Instagram at koolaidgeorge, and also see his display at the Fitchburg Art Museum. Now if I may borrow a phrase from a famous movie, to George I say, “May the force be with you”, as you continue to rise above the moon and stars. 

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entertainment Featured Posts

Now Streaming: January 2024

Joshua Lyford

As a disgusting, ancient creature fueled by cheap beer and tawdry, broken things, I am thrilled to leave 2023 in the rear-view and perform a tire-squealing getaway into the new year. Let the trash remain where it lie, I say.

Like a lost can of Busch rolled behind an expired tub of spinach, rising like a phoenix from the ashes: there are a few things from the tail-end of 2023 that deserve revisiting. In this case, we are talking straight up aural, baby.

Worcester’s own Clock Out released their “No Control” EP in late September and it rips, hard. The riffs are mean, the vocals are meaner and, if you haven’t caught them yet, it’s time to right your wrong. As far as I’m concerned, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing the next generation of hardcore kids doing their thing.

At the time of this writing, I have been unable to view what I’m about to gleefully discuss [Editor’s note: get your stories in on time and I’ll grant you more time to watch videos], but Wisdom & War, who toured extensively through the last year, have released a music video for their single “Painting your Hell.” I don’t want to blow up their spot too hard here, but Central MA music aficionados will likely get a kick out of the video’s shooting locale and you should hop into the algorithm to catch it for yourself.

Speaking of getting after it, The Mass of the Oracle, who themselves returned from a UK run late November, have released a split EP with Reign A.D. The Oracle rides in their own lane, so it’s especially interesting to hear them in this setting. Again, if you haven’t caught The Oracle, you really should. I can promise that you haven’t seen anything like it.

The new year ought to be an interesting one. Central Massachusetts hardcore is as alive as it’s been in years with talented new bands going off and some of the old dogs shaking the cobwebs off to jump back in the ring. I see this as a net positive for everyone, specifically sales for affordable tall cans and Uber rides to strange basements.  

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Featured Columns sports&fitness

That’s A Strike

Andrew Johnson 

The crack of a baseball bat. The swish of a basketball hoop. Sports often reward their participants with satisfying sounds as they compete. Just as pleasing to the ear is the thunderous yet hollow clatter of ricocheting pins upon contact with a hefty bowling ball.

This is the sound that emanates from each lane as you walk into a bowling alley – any bowling alley. It’s the sound of birthday parties, it’s the sound of too many drinks on a Tuesday night, and it’s the sound of families, too restless for board games, taking out their frustrations with one another on the ten vaguely humanoid shapes lined up 60 feet away. The more precise the roll, the louder the sound. You are surrounded by these echoes and the low growl of the ball as each one rolls down the smooth hardwood toward its target. 

Unlike many sports, bowling often slowly morphs into a social activity rather than an athletic one. Professional competitors remain loyal to the letter and law of the rulebook (which, I imagine, is kept in Arlington, TX, the location of the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame, behind plate glass like the Book of Kells) and retain focus throughout each frame, even while watching teammates and opponents, but many participants, myself included, take the opportunity to converse with those with whom I share a booth. Good and serious intentions may create a spirit of competition at the start, but, in my experience, the intensity wanes, especially as food and drinks are consumed.

Bowling presents as a uniquely American sport, though that is far from the truth. It originated in ancient Egypt, and bowling alleys exist all over the world today. Perhaps we have been fooled by the hegemony of our historically insular culture, the likes of which have produced such films like Kingpin and The Big Lebowski. Perhaps it has been ingrained as a Nixonian quirk of patriotism during a particularly tumultuous time in the United States. Perhaps, too, it evokes a romanticism of a past time when cigarette smoke hung in the air, the frayed shoes squeaked uneasily, and the canned nacho cheese flowed like molten iron. All of these may be true, and yet, it is popular everywhere, especially among residents of Worcester. 

Unfortunately, there are no alleys in the city anymore. Residents still bemoan the lack of candlepin options in the surrounding area; an activity that was once a source of pride given that candlepin bowling was invented in Worcester. However, there is reason for optimism. A new development under construction near Polar Park, called “The Cove”, is reported to feature a bowling alley, with candlepin, no less. One day there may once again be a place for local enthusiasts to roll on Shabbos or any other day without traveling to the suburbs. But today is not that day. The Cove is expected to open in the summer of 2024. 

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dining Featured Posts

La Miette La Mai Thai Bistro

Bernard Whitmore

278 Main Street, Northborough

508) 393-7714

Lamiettelamai.com

Their name alone was enough to pique my interest. French name + Thai bistro; it’s an equation that holds promise of fusion cuisine and an unusual dining experience. And when we walked into LMLM and the first thing I spotted was their sushi bar. Totally unexpected, it added another layer of expectations.

From the street, LMLM looks like a large place; once I was in it, though, I could see that it really is a bistro with just a handful of tables. Their limited dining space was augmented by a bolted-on sunroom with dining tables and velvety lounge furniture for when they bring in musical entertainment. Seated next to the glass wall, I made note that thicker sweaters would be necessary as we slide into the colder months of winter.

A quick scan of the menu was enough to dispel thoughts of quaint little bistro with culinary restraint. Large formatted and stiffly laminated, LMLM’s menu contained rows and rows of sections with multiple options that boggled this first-time customer. Should I get noodles? Or noodles with rice? Or one of the seven curry dishes that come with ten different protein options? 

I checked the Chef’s Specials without definitively finding French-Thai fusion dishes. Filet Mignon Massamen Curry or the Wild Boar Basil sounded interesting and, perhaps, fusion possibilities. But then I remembered the sushi bar and turned my attention to its menu. I looked everywhere for omakase because I like to let the sushi chef determine what’s best. But where was it? Oh yeah, back in the appetizer list, sashimi appetizer with seafood salad. Excellent!

With decisions made, we turned our attention to our appetizer, Thai Dumplings. They looked very similar to Chinese potstickers; tender dough crimped together around a filling of ground pork and vegetables so finely minced they’d vanished into the mildly seasoned meat. Ours were fried to an even deep-golden brown and served with a dipping sauce too sweet for my liking.

After a short interlude, entrées arrived, and I was presented with LMLM’s Sashimi Appetizer. As with each of our selections, the presentation was elegantly simple. Seven slices of three different fish were served over a bed of curly mixed greens on a long rectangular white dish. At one end, a salad of springy green seaweed, the other end held sliced ginger and a dab of wasabi molded into the shape of a leaf.

I started with warm slices of unagi, incredibly tender, lightly glazed and so mild in flavor I refused to dip them in soy sauce or wasabi. They were perfect as-is. Next in line were three slices of salmon, striated and glistening pinkish orange. And finally, the deep red tuna. This was a large appetizer; the salmon and tuna slices were perfectly trimmed and pristine-fresh. Moreover, they were triple the size of most sashimi portions, a happy challenge for my chopstick skills.

A glass of Alta Via Pinot Grigio provided tart-dry flavor counterpoint to the rich sashimi experience with its smooth dry finish. Add LMLM to my list of sushi recommendations!

Drunken Noodle, my friend’s entrée, provided a sampling of LMLM’s Thai cuisine. Broad flat rice noodles were mixed with large chunks of onion and sweet peppers – red and green – and coated with a spicy brown sauce. He ordered it with the menu’s ‘Whole Duck’ option. Whole duck? Really? We doubted it. The waitstaff were in disarray as to whether we should take the term literally.

On arrival, it took the form we expected. Slices and bits of duck breast meat blended perfectly with the noodles. It was a study in contrasting textures: firm duck meat, springy-soft noodles and slightly crunchy vegetables. All in a somewhat spicy sauce.

And here I will take note of LMLM’s 3-pepper scale of spiciness. Drunken Noodles max’d out the scale with three peppers. As executed, though, I’m not sure the sauce warranted any warning. Yes, there was a pleasing spicy edge to the flavor. But no, there wasn’t the slightest danger of inferno.

And now, back to their name. Entering La Miette La Mai into Google’s translator yielded something about ‘crumb’. LMLM’s homepage explains that their name conveys meaning in regard to their attention to the smallest of details. For most of us though, finding its meaning can be a challenge. No worries, when you’re ready for a good Thai or sushi meal, just google “Thai in Northboro”.

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Featured Columns

Eat Beat: January 2024

Paul Giorgio

That Was A Short Song: Stogotz, located on Worcester’s Chandler Street, has closed down after being open just nine months. This was a “Soprano’s” themed restaurant/bar that featured karaoke with a limited food menu.

I Guess They’ll Make More Chili:  It looks like the owners of Chuck’s Steakhouse have reached an agreement with the town of Auburn to purchase their property. The town hopes to build a new firehouse on the land, while Chuck’s is looking to relocate its operation. 

Looking Inward:  Inward Grill in Leominster recently opened their doors at 785 North Main Street. I don’t have any info about the place since they have no web page. I can’t even tell you what they serve.

Igloos Are For More Than Eskimos: Lock 50 in Worcester, along with the Black & White Grille in Spencer are still doing outdoor dining. In both cases it takes place in heated Igloos. Try it out but reservations are suggested.

Best In The East:  B.T.’s Smokehouse in Sturbridge was recently named the best barbeque joint in Massachusetts by the Food Network. B.T.’s has a sister restaurant at the corner of Park Ave and Chandler Streets in Worcester.

The Sun Also Rises: It looks like Mohegan Sun will be once again hosting its “Sun Wine and Food Fest” for four days starting on Thursday January 25th and ending on Sunday the 28th. Tickets prices vary and can be purchased online. The brunch for example is $125 and the Grand tasting is $178.

Speaking Of Food And Wine: The Boston Wine Expo is back on March 2nd and 3rd at the Boston Park Plaza. You can sample wines from over 100 different wineries.

Didn’t Know They Were Closed:  It looks like East Brookfield‘s 308 Lakeside is open again, according to a Facebook post. I didn’t even know they were closed.

Speaking About Opening: The 1885 opened on December 13th on Worcester’s Green Street. This cocktail lounge offers craft drinks and small plates.

The Fix Is In: Leominster’s Fix restaurant has renovated and reopened its downstairs bar. The downstairs has been renamed to The Fix Underground and will have live music.

It’s Moved: Akra Eatery recently closed their operation in the Public Market and have opened a brick and mortar restaurant at 1280 Grafton Street in Worcester by Blithewood Ave. They got great reviews in The Public Market.

Moran Diner Set To Close: Since 1939 the Moran Square Diner in Fitchburg has been serving food to the hungry folks of North Worcester County. Owned by Adam and Brittany Willoughby, who refurbished the Worcester Lunch Car in 2020. Willoughby has accepted a job at Groton’s Gibbet Hill Grill. Hopefully someone will take it over.

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also in issue architecture Featured Posts

The Hotel Vernon

Vincent Pacifico

One of Worcester’s most iconic and significant historic properties is hidden in plain sight in the heart of Kelley Square. Most of us drive right by it and don’t even realize how legendary the Hotel Vernon is. This four story masonry building is located at the corner of Vernon and Millbury Street and has its back towards the highway. The building has a bar room on the ground floor with hotel rooms on the second through fourth floors with communal bathrooms. At its original time of construction in 1901 the area was known as Vernon Square and was most likely a gathering place for the neighboring community. The construction of Interstate 290 changed everything when it cut off the Vernon Hill neighborhood from the square making it harder for people to access the downtown from all of the residential areas. But what makes this place so legendary? So far this describes most hotels built in the early 20th century.

During the years of prohibition this building became a gathering place for locals to drink and hang out. Local baseball legend Babe Ruth frequented the Hotel Vernon during his time on the Boston Red Sox and it’s said he used to eat raw hamburgers here. However, it wasn’t on the ground floor bar that people drank at – that’d be too risky. A secret speakeasy bar located in the basement is where all the action happened. You had to know how to get down there and what the secret password was to get in. It’s said that no one ever got caught drinking there. Today the speakeasy still stands, feeling almost stuck in time with dust on the bar and dim lighting as you walk through the cave-like basement. A truly magical piece of Worcester’s history still very much intact.

But what’s up with the nautical theme and the big boat steering wheel? They call it the Kelley Square Yacht club and it has its very own ship room that resembles the inside of a yacht. This was during the great depression when money was tight so it gave everyone in the neighborhood their own yacht to hang out in. Nautical treasures and memorabilia can be found through the ship room and bar room.

Today, over 100 years later, the Hotel Vernon is still very much alive and well, serving cheap beer, putting on live performances and renting out rooms. Its charm is still very much there and its secrets of the past are still hidden in plain sight. If you’re looking for a cold drink and know where to go, tell them that Madame Rhubarb sent you…

Photo Citations

Image 1-7: Image taken by Peter Fauci