Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Triumvirate of Awesome

It is my esteemed pleasure to introduce you to my "place" in Worcester.  It seems like everyone in Worcester has their place, some have Peppercorns, some people have the Banner, others like Via, and some (like my dad) prefer Breen's.  Meanwhile, I was floating listlessly through the city trying to find a spot to call my own.  Well NICHExchange is it and has been for quite some time now, but I'm a slacker blogger so I haven't posted about it until now. I also needed some time to try to write a post that didn't make me sound too much like a fan-girl, but you'll be the judge of my success on that.

Prior to the start of my love affair with Niche, I had only heard whispers about it. I was intrigued when co-workers mentioned "that wine bar in Worcester," because obviously, my ears perk up at the mention of wine. So, FINALLY Jackson and I made it to The Citizen Wine, Cheese & Chocolate Bar. Now I take EVERYONE there and suggest EVERYONE eat and drink there, because it is the coolest place in Worcester.

I hope you noticed that title of this post is "Triumvirate of Awesome," (truthfully, I've been trying to use the word triumvirate in a post for a while, so I'm psyched, "sisyphean task" is next on the list if you are curious) and while you might think I am exaggerating, I promise you, I am not!  Niche is 3 layers of excellence, 3 layers deep.  Let me explain:

1.  The Citizen is a (1) Wine, (2) Cheese, and (3) Chocolate Bar!!!  - Already incredible on it's own.

2.  NICHEXchange is actually 3 different venues rolled into one location (1) The Citizen, (2) The People's Kitchen (TPK) - Restaurant, and (3) The Still & Stir - speakeasy style bar - how cool is that?

3. NICHEXchange is part of Niche Hospitality Group that includes (1) NICHEXchange, (2) Mezcal (Mexican Cantina, read: out-of-this-world Margaritas), and (3) Bocado (flamenco dancing and tapas, need I say more?).  FANTASTIC!

THE ULTIMATE TRIUMVIRATE! Teehee, still with me?

The combination of the Citizen, TPK, and the Still & Stir is heaven, my particular heaven to be exact  - I'd be thrilled to spend eternity there. It is as if it is tailored perfectly to fit my preferences. To begin with, it's an excellent example of adaptive reuse, which you've all come to realize is of the utmost importance to me. There are plenty of fantastic historic buildings around, no need to rip them down to build something new, utilitarian, and ugly. Just saying... The beautiful brick building and steel beams create a comfortable atmosphere that fits with the cultural fabric of Worcester in it's glory days.

Next, they've got plenty of options based on your dining/drinking pleasure for the evening, whether it be a private dining room, an open bar area with both bar and table seating, a private 'back room" bar, and an open patio (that is available year round do to space heaters and a nifty iron canopy). No matter your mood, they've got a space for you. They also host private functions, so if anyone is planning a party, you're covered as well, be sure to invite me though.

The menu is by far the best in the city. The People's Kitchen cuisine changes monthly depending on what fresh options are available, but they always have a fish, beef and vegetarian entree. You can often detect a theme in the entrees based on season, but it is varied enough that everyone can always find something they like - even the pickiest eaters go home happy. Honestly, they provide a much needed reprieve from the sea of Italian restaurants and steak houses that flood the Worcester dining culture. I love options and Niche is full of them. Every bite is full of flavor and prepared in a way that makes me want to lick my plate clean.  Not very lady-like, I know, but the food is that good. The TPK menu is available when sitting in the Citizen as well, but they also have their own "bar menu." Don't be fooled, the bar menu is filled with gourmet options, but they double as comfort food, like macaroni and cheese, burgers, and American Chop Suey.

For the adult crowd, niche cocktails are works of art. Traditional drinks are served to perfection and they are constantly developing new house concoctions for patrons to try. The Citizen has a huge wine list and even serves wine on tap! My fav is the Gotham Project Pinot Noir, but they are all worth a taste. The bartenders are masters of their trade and really personable. I'm not even embarrassed to say that I'm somewhat of a regular and I may have decided on my new apartment because it is walking distance from this place.

If you are looking for a late night spot, wander back through the courtyard to the Still & Stir. The bar was once the home of the Worcester jail! Iron bars and a low ceiling create a unique cave-like atmosphere. I've been to several tastings and drink competitions back there, where live music and a rowdy crowd made for memorable nights. The bartenders identify as part artist, part scientist and full time ambassadors to the customers. The experience is top notch and no cocktail is off limits. Don't know what you want? No problem, they are quick with suggestions and new ideas to meet the approval of your taste buds. Even if you aren't a big drinker, it is worth checking out.  The space has a great vibe and speakeasy-like feel that you won't find elsewhere in Worcester.

Niche tops that charts for location, cuisine, service and beverages, but what I LOVE about this place are the events. Niche knows how to throw a party!  Whether it be a Kentucky Derby party (where Millionaire row attire is strongly suggested), an experiential meal with wine and liquor pairings, or a Friday night concert on the patio, they spare no expense. They've created the formula for an impressive event and they keep their patrons coming back for more.

Not that you need any more encouragement, but here's the latest monthly menu straight from the website:


Garden and Caesar Salad Always Available on Request
Radish & Romaine Salad
Fresh Strawberries, Trio of Radishes, Balsamic Black Pepper Vinaigrette
Frisk “Prickly” Riesling
Creamy Potato Leek Soup
with Chorizo Sausage
The Game Reserve Chenin Blanc
Shrimp Toast Bruschetta 
Baby Greens, Balsamic Reduction, Olive Oil
Lobster Reef Sauvignon Blanc
Grilled Beef Tenderloin Kabobs 
Summer Vegetables, Chipotle Honey Drizzle, House Steak Sauce
Indaba Shiraz
Kobe Beef & Pork Meatballs
BBQ Molasses Broth, Spicy Romaine Slaw, Chopped Pistachios
Spellbound Petite Sirah

Signature Steaks Available with Prix Fixe
Sirloin: Uppercut Cabernet Sauvignon  / Filet: Velvet Devil Merlot
Grilled Mahi Mahi 
Pistachio Peppadew Relish, Charred Asparagus, Grilled Vidalia Onion Mashed Potato
La Cappuccina Soave
Roasted Pepita Crusted Tilapia 
Mango Salsa, Dressed Baby Greens, Creamy Pineapple Basil Risotto
Mercer Pinot Gris
Smoked Barbeque Short Rib
Grilled Sweet Corn with Truffle Butter, Warm Pancetta Potato Salad
90+ Cellars Shiraz
Bacon Wrapped Pork Medallions 
Warm JalapeƱo Corn Bread, Marinated Vegetables, Pomegranate Molasses
Hullabaloo Zinfandel
Seared Sesame Tofu 
Chilled Bean Salad, Scallion Couscous, Ginger Hoisin Glaze
Paul Dolan Chardonnay

Lemongrass Infused Tropical Fruit Salad
Standing Stone Chardonnay Ice
Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta 
Orange Ginger Coulis, Fresh Berries
M Trignon Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise
Trio of Sorbet
Chef’s Selection
Alasia Moscato d’Asti
Belgian Chocolate Tasting
Sampling of Our Callebaut Squares
Leacock Rainwater Madeira

Be still my foodie heart....

I did a little searching through my facebook page to find some photos for this post.  Honestly, my photography skills are even worse than my writing, so judge me and not the venue... better yet go see for yourself!

The actual STILL at the Still & Stir, note the piano and jail cell bars.
Syd on the patio enjoying some wine and music.

It goes without saying that Niche gets 200 gold stars, two enthusiastic thumbs up, and whatever other award I can give them. It's definitely my favorite place in Worcester.

See you there!

Until next time,