To Market, To Market

In springtime, a young man’s (or woman’s) fancy turns to thoughts of food. Real food. No longer confined to dismal

In springtime, a young man’s (or woman’s) fancy turns to thoughts of food. Real food. No longer confined to dismal dining halls by the biting cold, many a student ventures out of the Harvard bubble in search of something more palatable. For the amateur shoppers, FM has compiled a helpful list of some of Boston’s finest specialty markets. From kalamatas to kumquats, we’ve got you covered.

Open Air Market

Between Quincy Market and Haymarket

The open air market between Quincy Market and Haymarket is the culinary equivalent of a carnival midway. (In other words, if you object to being addressed as either “Girly” or “Blondie,” this is probably not the place for you.) But if you don’t mind the raucous atmosphere and shop judiciously, rare fruits and vegetables will be your reward. The selection of South American and Latin American goodies is particularly fresh. You can find jicama, fist-sized pineapples and bags of multi-colored Habernero peppers with enough heat to stun a yak—or maybe just that indecorous vendor two stalls back.

Christina’s Spice and Specialty Shop

1254 Cambridge St. (Inman Square)

A mere ten minute walk away, there is an antidote for HUDS-dulled taste buds: Christina’s Spice and Specialty Shop. As soon as one walks through the door, hallucinogenic wafts of star anise and cardamom replace the Mass. Ave. car exhaust. The 80-plus varieties of spices often find their way into the ice cream made in its adjacent sister shop, in the much-touted Christina’s Ice Cream. Aside from the wide array of whole and ground spices available, Christina’s also stocks dried fruits and vegetables. Go for the dried morel mushrooms—these extremely porous fungi are expensive but worth it.

Whole Foods Market

340 River St. (Cambridge)

If your last wine-and-cheese affair was heavy on the wine and not so much on the cheese, the River Street location of the Whole Foods Market is the place to go. Their stock of top-notch cheeses won the Boston Magazine’s Best of Boston award in the cheese category. It’s easy to see why: with tall fridges of softer goat’s milk cheeses against the walls, semi-cooled nests of sheep’s milk cheeses along the aisles and the harder cow’s milk cheeses displayed on the counter, the Whole Foods Market is a veritable cheese museum. A nutty Manchego with quince preserves (or even a dining hall pear) is sublime, and a good aged cheddar served with a few Spanish olives never fails. And if you’re in the area, don’t forget the beverages—though Trader Joe’s down the street has some surprisingly good “two buck chuck.”

Dairy Fresh Candies

57 Salem St. (North End)

John Reilly of Dairy Fresh Candies bills himself as “the Irish Candy Man.” In his twenty years as manager, the store’s reputation has made it one of the Phantom Gourmet’s eight picks for favorite candy stores in New England. If you are having trouble finding authentic Italian baking ingredients—like hazelnut flour, Calabrese licorice or whole candied fruit for your Christmas panettone—look no further. And on the off chance that your favorite condiment isn’t in stock, Reilly will import it straight from Italy. Even the fudge flavors are rotated seasonally—it’s too late for pumpkin right now, but Reilly whispers in confidence, “strawberry will be coming in soon!”

Salumeria Italiana

51 Richmond St. (North End)

With 14 different kinds of olives and a selection of fresh-baked bread, it is little wonder that Salumeria Italiana made the short list of Gourmet Magazine’s Boston favorites this year. Though tiny, this shop stocks everything you could possibly need—from meats to pastas to coffee. Goni Topi, the manager for the last six years, says, “We’re a candy store for chefs—as you can see, we have an open bar,” as he gestures to the racks of vinegars open for tasting.

Super 88

1095 Comm. Ave. (Allston)

The blue crabs couldn’t be any fresher at the Super 88, where the fishmongers will scoop out your selection—claws still waving—from an open tank and bag it for you to go. “This is the place to come for the [East] Asian ingredients you can’t get anywhere else,” says Akemi Yanada, a Cantabrigian who has shopped here since moving from Japan five years ago. She personally recommends their extensive noodle collection, which takes up more than one long supermarket aisle. If you’re too timid to undertake a full meal, the frozen food section has a large selection of hors d’oeuvres, from custard pastry puff to pre-cooked spring rolls. Want an instant party? Pop these in the microwave, set up some decorations and incense (both can be found toward the back of the store) and then sit back and relax with a cup of organic green tea. You’ve earned it—sort of.