Culinary Director Alina Eisenhauer debuted with her new team from the International's Fireplace Room at Worcester's Best Chef on Sunday.

With the dawn of a new year came the promise of eight new Worcester restaurants, and counting. This month, Mass Foodies contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores reported on the anticipated rollouts of Maddi’s Cookery, 110 Grill, Protein House, STIX Noodle Bar, Revolution Pie + Pint, Craft Table Bar, and Legacy Bar & Grill. While most of these new establishments will take root near downtown, Rivera-Flores pointed out that Legacy is unique in its location along the waterfront at Coes Reservoir. Executive Chef Michael Sobel has a long history on the west side of Worcester and promises prime rib every Friday and Saturday night. Veronica Van Jura likewise took a spin around one of the recent additions to the scene, touring Niche’s new concept: The Railer’s Sports Tavern. Van Jura favored a print of Ted Williams playing at Holy Cross during a 1939 exhibition game versus the Red Sox.

Everyone seemed to be embracing one ‘clean living’ trend or another during the month of January. At Mass Foodies, we tested the waters with the Vegan Nest, pairing plant-based pastrami and spicy lemonade. We continued our wellness kick at Steam Energy Cafe with the Tropic Thunder acai (that’s ‘ah-sah-EE’) bowl and some soothing peppermint tea. Consequently, “America’s healthiest grocery store” Whole Foods Market also opened its doors in Central Mass this month revealing a 50,000 square foot outpost in Shrewsbury. Nods to the site’s former tenant, Spag’s, were not lost including an enormous original marquee sign, Olive’s Flower Shop (named for Anthony ‘Spag’ Borgatti’s wife) and the Borgatti Bar.

Health food is great, but we believe in enjoying everything in moderation. The Worcester Foodies visited Dacosta’s Pizza Bakery where they savored Neapolitan style wood-fired pizza, vintage video games, and a fierce round of ping pong. Contributor Mark DiStefano Jr. likewise let loose with a Diablo Margarita and some tequila shrimp tacos at ¡Hola! in Southborough. We don’t, however, claim to have exercised restraint at Worcester’s Best Chef where twenty local restaurants competed for our affection. Chef Alina Eisenhauer was spotted with her new team from the International where she plans to transform the Fireplace Room beginning with a Valentine’s event on February 11th. Deadhorse hill Chef de Cuisine Robin Clark’s dish was named the top ‘Judge’s Choice,’ the first woman to be recognized for this award since 2008. Other honorees included Brian Treitman of BT’s Smokehouse and Ken O’Keefe from the Publick House. O’Keefe won the Iron Chef portion of the competition at the end of the night.

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