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searching for some speciality foods

HELP! Have just moved to Boston from NYC & am trying to feel out the scene for eclectic/ethnic grocery shopping - looking for some suggestions!

Specifically:
*frozen Acai - does the Brazilian supermarket near Porter Sq have this?
*spelt pizza dough - prefer fresh (i.e. from a pizza place that offers it as a crust option) versus frozen...
*GOOD quality RAW bulk nuts & dried fruits - again, would prefer fresh versus packaged - any good middle eastern markets that would have a wide selection?
*as above, good quality, bulk olives/capers/hot peppers/etc
*really dense, dark, multi grain & seed breads - my husband & I prefer our bread almost a little 'sour' versus 'sweet,' so no honey, etc

We are located Downtown and I am fully willing to travel within Boston/Cambridge area, whatever is reachable by T! For comparison, if people know NYC, I lived in Chelsea and went to Queens for the Trade Fair grocery stores for my Brazilian fix, to Sahadi's in Brooklyn for all my bulk stuff (as well as the best hummus, taramosalata, fresh feta...yum)Union Square market for my bread and to the East Village for my pizza dough.

I've been exploring the farmer's markets - Copley Sq last Friday, City Hall yesterday... great quality - yay!
Thanks in advance.

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  1. Last time I was in the Brazilian Butcher "Casa de Carne Solucao" on Bow St in Union Sq they had frozen Acai. Near the entrance there is a chest freezer with a clear top that has all the frozen pulps. The Gol Supermarket should probably have it too, but its been a bit hit or miss with things there since Gol took over from the previous owners. The just don't have enough regular selection to justify shopping there -- DeMoulas + one of the butchers is better.

    The other thing you could do is get friendly with someone in one of the Brazilian bakeries and ask the supplier, or perhaps simply just buy the pulp from them. The retail locations mark up enough that the bakeries would possibly match and might have better turnover. I had the name of a supplier in Metrowest, but its likely its now coming up from the City. If you search the board you can find articles on the bakeries.

    For a lot of bulk things, I have tended to go to Harvest in Central Sq. Bulk portuguese olives are available from Courthouse seafood in Cambridge and occasionally fresh piri piri peppers, bulk italian from Sessa's in Davis Sq and bulk raw cashews (and packaged peppers, plus some frozen) from La Internacional in Union. For Greek stuff, I tend to frequent a store in Belmont next to Linda's Donuts, although Sessa's carries pretty good fresh feta.

    1 Reply
    1. re: itaunas

      Agreed that since the Brazilian market on Somerville Ave became Gol! it has gone way downhill. They used to have interesting produce and lots of cool imports, but it's nowhere near as interesting as it was when it opened. I hardly go in there anymore.

    2. Sevan's Bakery in Watertown's "Little Armenia" has a great selection of fresh (not packaged) nuts. Their walnuts are blonde and never bitter! Quite good, and the place is worth the trip.

      1 Reply
      1. re: fullbelly

        I concur. Also check out Massis, Arax and the grocery store whose name I forget (across the street from these three). It has good, cheap fresh herbs as well as some of the same fresh varieties of feta as at these stores. All are good for fresh olives, nuts, greek cheeses, baked items, etc.

        There is also a nut specialty store in the area.

        Here is a good thread from the past.

        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

      2. To make up for all the bulk and Middle eastern items you're missing, you'll have to hit the whole block of shops in Watertown's Little Armenia. Arax has the best bulk spices, an immense pickled veggie and olive bin set-up, a wide range of breads (tho not heavy, dense ones). I love their store-made sauces and spreads, like the garlic one (not for the faint of heart!) and the shallot one...(ditto)...Good range of bulk fetas, and halloumi if you need it; lots of labnehs and halvahs.

        The best taramasalata is store-made (not the Krinos) at Sevan. Great nuts there, too; I agree. I don't care for their baked goods; they never taste as good as they look, except for thei tahini bread(better than any in NY!)

        I don't get much at Massis...If there are any spices you can'r find at Arax, head to the "Wall of Spices" at the Harvest in Central Square.

        1. Believe it or not, frozen Acai is getting so popular that they now stock it in (at least some) Shaw's supermarkets. I definitely saw it for sale in the Porter Square branch.

          1. My favorite place for everything delicious is Fromaggio Kitchen. There is one in Huron Village, Cambridge and the other in the South End. Their cheese selection is the best in the city, and they also have a bakery, gourmet groceries, nuts, produce and beer and wine.

            1. I love Fromaggio as well, but they are (as might be expected, and is, perhaps, fair) quite expensive. Great samples though!

              1. Also excellent in the Southend is: Syrian Grocery Importing Company, (617) 426-1458, 270 Shawmut Ave., Tues.-Sat. 11:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.

                1. For dense--and delicious--multigrain breads, try Clear Flour Bread in Brookline. It's very close to Packard's Corner on the B line and a pleasant 15-minute walk from Coolidge Corner on the C line (during which you'll pass other interesting eateries and shops). Their two most dense breads, leinsamenbrot and organic vollkornbrot, are available on Saturdays. and probably at least one other day. Both are mainly rye. Clear Flour's selection changes daily; I think it is always worth a visit! Good luck.

                  http://www.clearflourbread.com/

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: cheesehound

                    Thanks for all the suggestions! I spent yesterday afternoon doing a quick recon of Union Square area - found the acai pulp at the butcher, amazingly enough! Did some gen'l shopping for necessities at the Market Basket (amazing prices!). Also stopped in at La Internacional, the Brazilian Mkt and Little India Groceries. Will definitely go back.
                    Heading to the South End anyway this afternoon anyway, and so will check out the Syrian place & Formaggio - which I have heard of - it sounds along the lines of Murray's in NYC, which means great selection, amazing info, high prices. Like the above poster stated - as expected, and fair, I guess.
                    Thinking I might head out to Watertown midweek next week. Any suggestions on the easiest T/bus route?
                    Thanks again!

                    1. re: jdubboston

                      Wine and Cheese Cask on Beacon St also has an excellent selection of Olives (I preferred it to Formaggio for olives, but formaggio for cheese, olive oils.) I didn't bring it up because its on the expensive side, but next time you head to Union you might want to check it out. Also the Portuguese liquor store in Union (across from La Internacional) has an excellent selection of Brazilian cachaca -- several varieties from Minas Gerais, portuguese liquors, and 5L bottles of portuguese wine.

                  2. You'll love the Watertown grocery stores on Mount Auburn St. We're in the opposite direction from you, but we make regular shopping trips to Arax to stock up on Middle Eastern supplies.

                    Specific recommendations (in addition to what other posters have already mentioned):

                    Byblos yogurt - wonderfully rich Greek-style yogurt, far better price than anything in TJs

                    Spices - just picked up some Aleppo pepper there on Saturday, we buy zataar regularly. They have a huge variety of dried herbs and spices.

                    Produce - they manage to find some of the most unusual fruits in the area. Last weekend they had sour grapes (tiny fruit in bunches), green almonds, Mauritius lichees, a variety of nectarine I can't remember but have never seen before, muskmelons. Lots of other stuff I can't remember.

                    Cheese - 3 or 4 kinds of feta, several kinds of halloumi, plus a lot of others.

                    We also stocked up on olives, bread, tarama, cheese and some preserves. It's a great place for foodies.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: cheryl_h

                      i'm a new yorker who spent years traipsing through watertown--arax is a lot like sahadi's, but better in some ways--as mentioned the produce is awesome. they have lovely persian cukes, green baby almonds, and all sorts of fragrant fruits and vegetables that actually have flavor. also get the artichoke hearts in the olive section, loaded with red pepper and garlic.

                      my other watertown favorite is the tabrizi bakery. amazing fresh iranian cookies, baked there, reasonably priced. they also have a good selection of pistachios and roasted seeds and nuts, also reasonably priced. their owner is surly, but their stuff is really really great. 56 mt auburn st. 617 926 0880.

                      rose water (f/k/a freddie)

                    2. To get to the Watertown places everyone is recommending, take the Red Line T to Harvard Square. From there, take the 71 bus towards Watertown Square. Get off at "Coolidge Square" (not to be confused with Coolidge Corner in Brookline). From there, you are within minutes of everything. While in the neighborhood, also hit the Danish Bakery-- and if you walk down Arlington Street through a residential neighborhood and take a right on Belmont Ave, you can also go to Eastern Lamejun bakers. The Greek place mentioned earlier in Belmont next to Linda's Donuts is also a short (5 minute) walk, except you take a left off on Belmont off Arlington.

                      The fresh nuts place amidst all the M.E. grocers is called Fastachi--nuts are roasted in-house.

                      Enjoy-- this area is definitely worth the trip!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: newhound

                        Also consider dining at Shangri-La for some excellent Taiwanese cuisine. It's at 149 Belmont St. Lots of posts here on it.

                        1. re: Dax

                          In case anyone isn't familiar with the Greek place in Belmont. It is called Sophia's Greek Pantry and is at 265 Belmont St, Belmont, MA - (617) 489-1371.

                          They also do a little take-out catering. We've gotten souvlaki, cheese pies, spinach pies, pastisio, cookies etc. Everything has been wonderful and the prices are reasonable.

                          Also, Sophia couldn't be nicer. I like to buy her frozen spinach pies to bake at home. One time when they were out she gave me her recipe so I could make them myself. Greek yogurt makes her crust so tender!

                          She also sells big trays of frozen spinach and cheese phylo trianges for ~$20. I could barely fit it in my freezer.

                        2. re: newhound

                          The #73 bus runs along Belmont Ave. from Harvard Sq.

                          Alternatively you might want to check out the express bus service to Watertown Sq. from downtown.

                        3. For Another bread option I would try Iggy's breads. Particularly their whole wheat sourdough, which is available as a baguette, round or loaf. You can go to their bakery in Cambridge, but you can also find them at a number of local markets. There is a huge list on the Iggy's website:

                          http://www.iggysbread.com/main.html

                          I tend to get them as I can't get to Clear Flour regularly and I can find the Iggy's breads at my local Shaw's and/or Whole Foods in Newton.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Science Chick

                            Oh yes, we worship at Iggy's shrine. Their francese is fabulous. My husband can demolish an entire loaf in a day. Their bagels are the best I've ever tasted, we order the multi-seed ones by the dozen. We get the country sourdough and ciabatta regularly, both are of the dense, chewy variety loaded with flavor. The brioche makes sensational French toast. We often pick up a couple of the small rolls - cranberry pecan is my favorite - to nibble on the drive home.