I consider myself a foodie. Yes, I’m a vegetarian bordering on vegan, but I’m a foodie nonetheless! I am that person who walks into a farmer’s market and gets realllly irrationally excited for the heirloom tomatoes on display that day or the unique fruit or veggie offering I’ve never tasted before. I love specialty stores that are bespoke in nature and offer the very best and nuanced flavors of a particular item. I am also enamored by ethnic markets and unique food stuffs that you can’t find at your local Stop & Shop or elsewhere.
As an eating psychology coach, I teach about mindful eating and using all of your senses in a food experience. I love teaching my kids about mindful cooking and eating. When they come with me to a farmer’s market or specialty store, it can become a sensory learning experience for them. One of our favorite family traditions is visiting the Vermont Country Store each summer and tasting all the different types of cheeses, dips, and treats. Helping your children learn where food comes from, the people who were involved, and the pleasure they can receive from eating is a powerful way to help them develop trust and inner wisdom around their food choices and have a healing and nourishing relationship with food in general.
Here are five unique and tasty specialty food stores in the Boston area. Which ones have you explored? Which do you want to check out? What did I miss? Let me know!
During a late-night, first-trimester, morning sickness-induced craving when I was pregnant with my third child, I demanded (ahem, I mean, asked sweetly for) some halvah and mango sorbet, stat. Why I craved those two particular types of foods, no one knows. But my husband was on a mission. Three supermarket runs and one 7-Eleven trip later he called me, exasperated and ready to give up.
He had found the sorbet easily enough, but, for the life of him, he couldn’t find the halvah. I suggested Baza’s, which had recently opened. Lo and behold, they had my halvah, and the crisis was averted. Now we visit this market regularly for its wide selection of Russian and other ethnic foods. They will have in stock what many might consider a delicacy. In fact, their tagline is “royal delicacies at peasant prices.” Visit this one soon.
Boston Cheese Cellar (Boston, Roslindale)
I’ll just come out and say it: I love cheese. In fact, the main reason I’m not 100% vegan is my penchant for cheese. Seeing all the cheese get downed quickly and furiously at my monthly book club and at other social events, I’m guessing you love cheese, too. Boston has a fantastic cheese emporium called the Boston Cheese Cellar. Whether you’re looking for a good gouda or a sharp cheddar, this store has it. They have cheese-making classes, cheese-of-the-month clubs, and a lot of other cheese accoutrements, like chutney or the perfect cracker to pair it with.
Boston Olive Oil Company (Boston)
Infused olive oil, anyone? This Boston-based (Newbury Street) olive oil establishment creates infused olive oil concoctions, like basil olive oil, chipotle olive oil, and even a blood orange-infused olive oil. They have endless varieties and, of course, the traditional kinds, which are sourced and produced from small artisans and farmers from around the world. The store features regular olive oil and balsamic vinegar tastings.
Russo’s fulfills all my needs. It’s inexpensive, it’s abundant, and it’s unique. Once just a produce store, Russo’s has expanded into a full-service market with a bread section, ample condiments, and even meats and poultry. But I go for the produce and, man, they do not disappoint. Want to grab some fiddleheads in that tiny three-week span where they are available without breaking the bank? Russo’s. Want to try a type of eggplant you’ve never heard of and can’t pronounce the name of? Russo’s. Looking for some unique greens to throw into your soup or stew? Russo’s. Located in Watertown near the Waltham and Newton border, this store has quickly turned into my favorite in this entire region.
H-Mart (Burlington, Cambridge)
H-Mart is your local Asian food experience market. While a regular grocery store will certainly carry your soy sauce and fish sauce, an authentic Asian market like this gives us all an opportunity to explore the fascinating and unique foods and flavors of Asia. Whether you want to try a Korean radish and learn how to use and prepare it, or if you’re simply looking for Soon Chang hot pepper paste, visiting H-Mart is a must for the “Asianphile” foodie.
Follow the Honey (Cambridge)
I love a food company with a mission. Follow the Honey’s mission is to build business relationships through the development of “human rights” honey. They have a relationship with the Tanzanian government to source premium honey from the African forage. Their website is flush with information about their raw honey and the medicinal and antimicrobial benefits of using honey. They also make artisan soaps and candles, with the same sourced beeswax from pristine areas of Africa.