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, December 29, 2006

Tory's Subs & Burritos

Anyone who watches Phantom Gourmet has probably seen the frequently-repeated episode in which the Landos brothers’ sub restaurants are lauded as a “Hidden Jewel.” Unfortunately, while the show focuses on Carl and Eric’s shops in Waltham and Acton, it fails to draw attention to the fact that we’ve got Tory’s shop right in Leominster! Tory’s Subs & Burritos serves truly wonderful food. The portion sizes are famously huge, and the quality is unmatched as well. I’m not a red meat eater, but many of my friends (and the Phantom Gourmet) have indicated that the cheesesteak sandwiches are among the best they’ve ever tried. Personally, my favorite item is the Mediterranean quesadilla, which combines grilled chicken, feta, spinach, tomato, and melted Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese (although I try not to get that every time since other menu items are also fabulous). My husband swears by the Tory’s Special, which is a cheesesteak sub with sausage, green peppers, mushrooms, and onions. Be forewarned that when you go to Tory’s for the first time, you’ll be overwhelmed by the array of mouth-watering options and will inevitably have a difficult time choosing just one. Your best bet is to plan on take-out, as the tiny store has only a few counter seats available. Hmmm, I think I just figured out what I’ll be having for dinner tonight!

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Regional Commercial Development

According to an article in today’s Telegram and Gazette, Wal-Mart has just announced plans to build two new stores in the area, one in Leominster and one in Lancaster. These would be in addition to an existing store in Lunenburg. Now, I recognize the passionate array of arguments in favor of and against store chains like Wal-Mart - my intention is not to debate whether Wal-Mart in and of itself is a good thing. Instead, I want to draw attention to some of the points made in the article that bode well for the general future direction of our region.

The article quotes a Wal-Mart executive as saying the following: “Our real estate department conducted a thorough review and discovered that this region is very, very underserved in terms of retail development.” He is also reported to have indicated, “We’re looking at the region as a whole, and there’s a definite market there.”

I’m thrilled to hear these sentiments expressed publicly. In the two years alone that I’ve lived in Fitchburg, I’ve been astounded by the rapid rate of commercial development in the region. Major chains including Starbuck’s, Target, Chile’s, Best Buy, etc. (I could name so many more!) have all recognized the area’s potential. No doubt there will be many more to come in the future, particularly given that a burst of development tends to be particularly effective at capturing the attention of other chains. Trader Joe’s, if any of your representatives happen upon this blog, I beg you to consider opening a store out this way!

I’m actually someone who typically prefers to eat and shop at unique, local establishments (e.g. Shack’s, Mill No. 3 Farmstand, Bombay Tandoor Grill) rather than at the major chains. However, it is nonetheless encouraging that a number of major chains are beginning to realize that our area is up-and-coming. Not only will this help improve our tax base, but it will also play a role in drawing new residents to the region (to partake of both chain and non-chain offerings) as we begin to overcome that false stigma that we’re located “in the middle of nowhere.” I’m also quite hopeful that it will encourage individuals to open small businesses, along the lines of the piano bar that’s due to open soon on Main Street in Fitchburg.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Crystal Brook Farm

Over the weekend, I headed to Crystal Brook Farm (no website, but their address is 192 Tuttle Road, Sterling) for an “open house” event. This place makes the most unbelievable goat cheese, and it was great to meet the owner and get a tour of the facilities. The most astounding thing I learned is that the entire business is run solely by the owners, Ann and Eric Starbard, with some help from only a couple of employees! The goat herd now includes about 70 animals encompassing three different breeds of goats. The milking season is just wrapping up now, with all of the goats presumed pregnant (by the single male in the herd, talk about a major responsibility!) and expected to deliver in February. We met the herd and were particularly impressed with how affectionate the animals were.

From late February through December, each goat is milked twice per day. Until very recently, that process was done entirely manually! The farm now features a milking machine that pipes the milk in for pasteurization, but from that point forward, the cheese is made by hand. In addition to taking care of the goats, maintaining the farm, and making homemade cheese, the owners also attend nine farmers’ markets every week throughout the summer. I was actually fortunate enough to stumble upon a kiosk set up by Ann Starbard at the Garlic and Arts Festival this summer (see earlier post). After sampling some of the farm’s cheese, I was thrilled to discover that they’re located very close to home!

In addition to nine mouth-watering varieties of goat cheese logs (including garlic, chive, dill, and a sweeter cranberry variation that makes a perfect bagel topping), Crystal Brook Farm makes two different “party spreads” that I would highly recommend. All items are available at various farmers’ markets throughout the state and also year-round at the farm itself in a small self-service shop. We’re so lucky to live close enough to stop in any time of day and pick up whatever we’re in the mood for. And it’s amazing that the cheese we picked up was literally only two days old - it doesn’t get much fresher than that! The on-site shop also sells other handmade products, such as goat milk soap, herbal tea, and knit items. A variety of free recipe cards are available as well for those looking to cook up something creative using goat cheese. I grabbed a recipe this weekend for a goat cheese and hazelnut pesto pasta dish that I can’t wait to try.

If you live in the area or are simply planning to come out here for a visit, I would definitely suggest that you stop by Crystal Brook Farm. Not only are the cheeses truly wonderful, but it’s great to know that the business is run by hard-working individuals who are incredibly passionate about what they do and who are eager to share their enthusiasm with others!

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