In and Around Fitchburg, Massachusetts

This blog was created to discuss some of the positive aspects of living in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, that are often overlooked by outsiders and residents alike.

Friday, May 07, 2010

First Thursdays and Chaibo

Last night marked the premiere of the reinvigorated First Thursdays program in downtown Fitchburg, and the weather cooperated with warm sunshine. Pedestrians strolled along Main Street, enjoying the many free events. There were a lot of musical performances to choose from, including The Bella Birds at The Rabbit Hole. Admission to the Fitchburg Art Museum is free on First Thursdays, which is perfect for those who might want to check out a special exhibit they’ve not yet seen; last night, I explored an interesting collection of Finnish jewelry organized by the Helsinki Design Museum.

There were many other performances, gallery shows, art workshops, and other events occurring throughout the afternoon and evening, but I simply didn’t have the time to visit the many things that appealed to me! For more information about First Thursdays, follow the Twitter account or see the event blog for a complete schedule of activities.

The decision to pair entertainment venues with Fitchburg restaurants not located in the downtown area was a great one. Country Good’s BBQ outside Design at 639 seemed to be especially popular! Last night, however, my husband and I decided to try the new Chaibo café (13 Cushing Street, below Destare) for a casual meal.

I can’t imagine a more perfect addition to the downtown area. The coffee house décor, with brick walls, eclectic lighting fixtures, and cozy couches, lends an immediate sense of relaxation. With free WiFi and excellent food and beverages to choose from, it would be easy to settle in at Chaibo for hours, either productively studying or simply passing the time watching out the large windows to Riverfront Park across the street. Outdoor seating is available as well, although last night was a bit too windy to take advantage of that.

The vision for Chaibo apparently began when its owners decided that Fitchburg could use a good fondue place. I’ve actually frequently bemoaned the lack of a local fondue restaurant (Melting Pot is too far away and frankly, not very good for the price) and was therefore very eager to try this specialty item at Chaibo. Unfortunately, I never made it to dessert. The panini that I ordered, expecting a small sandwich given the reasonable price, was large, incredibly tasty, and accompanied by fabulous veggie chips, leaving me with no room for even a bite of cheesecake, let alone a pot of fondue. I look forward to future visits to try the fondue as well as the many other available items, including salads, specialty coffees, loose-leaf teas, fruit smoothies, and a variety of gelato and sorbets from which I have no idea how to choose only one flavor. There are also plans to add cheese fondue to the menu when colder weather approaches – if that happens, I will be there so often that the staff will tire of me.

Speaking of the staff, they could not have been more friendly. The café was said to have been at full capacity for the official grand opening ceremony earlier in the day, and things were still quite busy when we arrived. Working out the kinks for any new restaurant is challenging, but special kudos must be given to those who do so in the midst of a rush of customers. Yet the owner and other staff with whom we interacted were nothing but cheerful and accommodating. I look forward to many happy return visits, and I would highly recommend that anyone looking for a cappuccino, a casual meal, or a great dessert try Chaibo!

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Regional Flooding

I just took this photo from the Searstown Mall parking lot. Perhaps they should rebrand the mall again, this time as The Mall at Whitney Lake?

To those of you NOT being idiots like this person, I hope you and your homes are staying dry!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Yamato Japan

A new Japanese restaurant opened this week in the Twin Cities plaza (at the site of the former Moose Creek coffee shop), and I had the pleasure of trying it last night. It's a wonderful addition to the area! The interior has been completely renovated in a warm, modern style, with approximately ten or fifteen tables and a small sushi bar seating area. Service was very friendly and efficient, and the food was fabulous. The menu features both sushi/sashimi offerings as well as an array of hibachi entrees. There is also a small selection of soba dishes.

My husband and I opted for hibachi and look forward to returning soon to try the sushi. Our soups were tasty, the salad ingredients fresh, and the entrees incredibly flavorful. We also couldn't resist the tempura ice cream (coated in pound cake for frying - SOOO good!), though there were some other intriguing-sounding desserts on the menu as well, including a mousse concoction with the amusing name "magic cube." Also worth mentioning, this is a BYOB establishment - one couple there had even brought their own sake cups.

In addition to appreciating the food and service, we were quite impressed by the reasonable prices. A multi-course dinner for two (with dessert and beverages) was only around $40, including tax and tip. The restaurant is also running a frequent diner promotion - for every $20 you spend at a single visit, you earn one stamp on your card. Once you've acquired ten stamps, you get a $30 gift certificate. Something tells me I'll have my first card fully stamped pretty quickly. :)

Although the restaurant is new and we were there on a Wednesday night, it was actually quite busy. We overheard two other tables talking about getting something different from their last visit, so the venue is already drawing repeat customers. I'm almost reluctant to spread the word about this place for fear it will become too difficult to get a table!

A restaurant website is listed on the take-out menus, but it's not currently functional. In case that doesn't change anytime soon, I've scanned in the menu and am including it here for reference (just click on the image above for a larger size). Enjoy!


Tuesday, November 03, 2009


Obviously, I've been pretty awful about updating this blog lately. There are so many fabulous local things I intend to post about - the farmers' market, Rabbit Hole, Marshall Farm, the list goes on an on - but I just haven't had the time. For anyone's who's interested, please feel free to follow me on's much easier to toss out quick comments in that format!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Frisbee Golf

At last night’s Park Board meeting, I learned that efforts are underway to bring a disc golf course to Fitchburg’s Coggshall Park. For those not familiar with the game, the idea is to land your Frisbee in a basket using as few throws as possible. Just like with traditional golf, each “hole” features a different par, distance, and terrain. The New England Flying Disc Association (NEFA) offers a lot more details about the intricacies of the game; in addition to the many people who just play occasionally for fun, there are some pretty hardcore players out there!

This Friday, July 10, at 4:30 p.m., a trial run of the proposed Coggshall course will take place. The event is free and open to anyone, and a big crowd would be great to show support for developing a permanent course. Late-comers are welcome, as the organizers realize that not everyone can make such an early start on a weekday. Discs will be provided, unless you happen to be an experienced player who would prefer to bring your own. Being a spectator is fine if you’d rather watch a bit before trying yourself.

The 18-hole course will begin and end at the South Street entrance to Coggshall Park. This area of the park was chosen because the road in this section has been closed for a number of years, and there are few hiking trails around. Therefore, other park visitors are unlikely to be disturbed by the Frisbee golfers, and the players will be able to enjoy a course free of vehicular and pedestrian obstacles.

Friday’s game will be played using a portable basket, but if feedback from the community is positive, fundraising efforts will begin to install permanent baskets along the course. (Course maintenance is done by volunteers, but baskets cost several hundred dollars each – generally local businesses are asked to consider sponsoring a basket.) The installation will not require modifying the natural landscape in any way, as the purpose of disc golf is to make use of the existing terrain. And perhaps the best part? The plan is to make the Fitchburg course free. This is exactly the kind of activity that would be a great fit for our city, something individuals and families can choose to do at any time, outdoors and at no cost. If you can, stop by Friday to check it out!

[9/4/09 addendum: The 7/10 trial run was lots of fun, and the city has given approval to move forward with development of an 18-hole course. There's a dedicated group of volunteers who are working hard to get the baskets set up and to begin fund-raising efforts - as of early September, several holes are already cleared. For the most up-to-date info about the status of the course, the Coggshall NEFA forum thread is the best source of info...or you can head to Coggshall and check things out for yourself!]


Thursday, July 02, 2009

Community 5K

Every June, Sergeant Mark Jackson of the Fitchburg Police Relief Association organizes a 5K race, with all proceeds donated to a community cause. This year, the Friends of Coggshall group was chosen as the event's beneficiary. Sgt. Jackson recognized the strong need for support to help rebuild the Stone House, and his efforts were beyond impressive.

The race is based at The Cellar, which conveniently permits the use of a covered garage in case of inclement weather. As has been the sad norm throughout this "summer," the forecast called for rain on the day of the race, but luckily it held off for the afternoon. The day began with a 5K walk in the Main Street and Fitchburg State College area, along the same course the runners later used. A kids' "fun run" was also arranged. Runners ranged in age from 12 to 76 years, and the overall winner finished in 16:06. Participants celebrated with grilled food, beer, and a fabulous raffle that included running gear, gift certificates to local businesses, and even a limited edition print of a Stone House painting done by a local artist.

Sgt. Jackson and his team of volunteers put so much work into this event yet somehow managed to make it look easy. The numerous sponsors and participants also helped make for a great day. The race was just one more example of how people in Fitchburg come together to support the community. Now that I know about this annual event, I look forward to being a part of it in the years to come, and hopefully some of you will consider volunteering or participating as well!

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Sonoma Princeton

As part of my quest to visit all of the establishments that are part of the local Independent Restaurant Collaborative (earlier post here), I recently had the pleasure of dining at Sonoma in Princeton. Okay, I guess “recently” isn’t the best choice of words, as I went on Valentine’s Day and was only reminded to write this long overdue post because I just made reservations for a return visit. Time is flying by this year!

My experience at Sonoma was truly outstanding. Because my visit occurred on a popular restaurant holiday, I was prepared for the rushed service and drastically abbreviated menus to which I’m accustomed from past Valentine’s Day dinners at other establishments. I was thrilled to encounter just the opposite at Sonoma. Our server encouraged us to linger as long as we wanted, and we were presented with a lengthy specials menu in addition to the regular menu. My husband and I sipped complimentary glasses of champagne as we took in the pleasant, understated décor and the faint sound of an unobtrusive live string musician meandering around the two dining rooms.

Throughout our visit, we enjoyed friendly, knowledgeable, attentive (but not overly attentive!) service that is so difficult to find these days. Yet to be perfectly honest, we could have had the rudest server in the world and we would still be returning to Sonoma – the food is that amazing! It was nearly impossible to select only one of the many tempting menu options, though I suspect any of the choices would have been good ones. Having just spent time in the region earlier this winter, I was particularly drawn to the Mediterranean influences evident in many of the dishes. The wine list was quite good and offered numerous higher end choices, as well as several wines by the glass.

My chosen appetizer, the sautéed medallion of goat cheese and watercress, proved to be literally one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten anywhere, ever. My husband was also quite impressed with his portobello and Crystal Brook Farm goat cheese tart. (Can you tell we’re big fans of Crystal Brook Farm goat cheese?) The grilled free-range chicken breast entrée, served over whole wheat pasta and fresh vegetables, was incredibly flavorful. All portion sizes were generous, but the prime rib special my husband selected was the most astounding – it was several inches thick and generated enough leftovers for two additional full meals. The only negative aspect of our entire visit was that we had no room left for dessert!

In honor of Valentine’s Day, the servers presented each woman with a long-stemmed rose at the conclusion of her meal. It was a nice final touch to end a perfect dining experience, and I can’t wait to return to Sonoma.