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Dec 9, 2008 04:52 AM

Foodie Tour Challenge

I have several out of town girlfriends coming for a visit this weekend. I live in Somerville near Ball Sq. I told them I would put together an area foodie tour. The plan is that a couple of us starting at my house in Somerville will take the T out to the furthest stop on the tour. We'd meet the group with the car coming up from the South where the first stop would be lunch. This would hopefully be a place that has fun atmosphere and great food. These ladies are real foodies (one is married to a fairly well known chef) but most of us try to eat kinda healthy, favoring veggie &/or seafood meals.

From there we would start our tour, walking off lunch a little. We would make stops working our way back to Somerville. Some of the places of interest are the Watertown Armenian shops, Russo's, Fastachi's nut place, Formaggio, Dave's, Christina's or Penzys, maybe Sofra, maybe Iggy's, Wine & Cheese Cask, maybe Burdick's or Tazzo (do they have retail shop?).

I am wondering if we should include/start at the South End where I know there will be lunch places. Or maybe Coolidge Corner. These places are less familiar to me as to the food markets. Or is there stuff in Newton, and have lunch there?

If you have any ideas to share, please throw them out there and I thank you for any advice!

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  1. Don't miss Sofra and a walk up Mt. Auburn street to the Watertown Armenian shops. You wont be sorry. Sofra is amazing, but it does get a bit crowded. Could be a good stop mid-afternoon since they only have a few seats.

    Yes to Formaggio !
    Christina's spices are amazing, but I have never been to Penzy's.

    1 Reply
    1. re: earlg

      I've been to Penzey's and I found it to be a very nice place to shop. The interior is rustic unfinished wood with wooden crate-like shelves. You feel as if your in a cabin. All the spices and herbs are grouped according to those which are most likely to be used together in cooking. There are separate sections for the chilis and there's a separate little room where all the baking spices and extracts are displayed. The clerk is welcoming and very helpful. Oh and I love the shopping baskets.. black wire. Something I would buy if I didn't have my own.

    2. Coolidge Corner is not exactly a food-shopping mecca, but it has the When Pigs Fly bread store, Michael's Deli (best corned beef in the city), and Bazaar (good variety of Russian and other Eastern European delicacies). And when you're in the area be sure to head down Harvard St. toward Allston and hit Clear Flour on Thorndike St, quite possibly the finest European-style bread bakery in New England.

      Closer to (your) home, Union Square in Somerville is worthy of a chow tour all by itself. It has Capone Foods (fresh-made pasta, frozen house-made sauces and prepared foods, imported European canned and boxed goods, nice little cheese and salumi selection, great variety of olive oils and balsamic vinegars - and on Saturday mornings they usually put out little tasting cups with bits of bread to sample them), Reliable Market for Korean and Japanese foods, La Internacional for Mexican imports, as well as a couple of Brazilian places, New Bombay Market for Indian, and the Neighborhood restaurant for Portuguese sweet bread. And I'm probably forgetting someplace, it's been a few years since I lived in the neighborhood.

      19 Replies
      1. re: BobB

        Thanks for info on Coolidge Corner, sounds like we can probably skip it since there is a Pigs Fly in Davis Sq. I guess I was thinking there is a famous bagel place around there but I may have the wrong part of Brookline, and maybe to far aside to include in the itinerary for just that.

        1. re: SEH

          You may be thinking of Kupel's, which is a decent enough bagel place and not far from Coolidge Corner (in fact, right on your way if you make BobB's recommended visit to Clear Flour), but I'm not at all sure it's worth building a trip around.

          1. re: Allstonian

            Depending on which day, Kupel's may not even be open. That is if they are still closed on Saturday for the Sabbath to retain Kosher status.

            1. re: bostonbroad

              They are indeed closed on Saturdays, and mobbed on Sunday mornings. I agree with Allstonian that they're good but not worth a special trip.

              1. re: bostonbroad

                Good point - they certainly are closed Friday afternoons and all day Saturday.

            2. re: SEH

              You should hit at least one good Russian store on your tour, in their own way they're as interesting as the Armenian places in Watertown. The best are the aforementioned Bazaar on Beacon St., Berezka on Comm Ave near the corner of Harvard Ave (just a couple of blocks from Clear Flour), and the larger Bazaar outlet on Cambridge St in Allston.

              1. re: BobB

                And you canmake it worth your while with one of the best Thai places in Boston; Dok Bua, Rod Dee II, or Khao Sarn....

                1. re: galleygirl

                  This is an aside, but so many Chowhounds have recommended Dok Bua and the only lunch I had there was only mediocre. I'm planning to try again for dinner tomorrow night and was wondering about favorite dishes? Thanks! (I've loved everything I've had at Khao Sarn- drunken noodle is one of my favs and those appetizer rolls with the dried shrimp coconut & spinach leaves are amazing- I like spicy, and eat just about anything)

                  1. re: Parsnipity

                    Lots of threads about Dok Bua if you search, but don't get any of their lunch or dinner "meals", ya know, the ones that come with spring rolls, and soup, ya know what I mean. If you like the drunken noodles at KS, order the Pad Kee Mow at DB....Also, catfish in chili sauce....

                    1. re: galleygirl

                      Thanks! Most of my searches came up with "eat's good." Catfish in chili sauce sounds like a winner, though.

                      1. re: Parsnipity

                        Okay, watercress with pork (actually bacon), their version of miang kum (the spinach leaf with stuff in it), any whole fish dish, the soft shell crab, (get it to share as an app), beef rad nua, or something like that, my SO gets it, I hear the crispey duck is good, usually anything on a xeroxed sheet inside the menu....And Jungle Curry, really a soup, w/no coconut milk, kind of sour, with lots of greens and seafood....

                        1. re: Parsnipity

                          Would add to Galleygirl's recommendations to include duck larb, spicy beef salad, pad kee mao (sp?) and the pumpkin custard dessert.

                          Dok Bua is a wonderland ... I haven't been lately and I miss it.

                          1. re: yumyum

                            Thanks, galleygirl & yumyum- I really liked the drunken noodle- great flavor and not greasy, nice spice level. The "catfish" in chili sauce was really good as well, but I'm pretty sure they gave me cod- I ended up having to do takeout. I liked their miang kum as well, but was a little surprised at the do-it-yourself assembly- for take out, it comes in 6 or 7 tiny little condiment cups that you assemble on leaves of chinese broccoli. Yummy, but I would have to rate Khao Sarn's higher. Interesting about the concurrent thread on higher prices- it was a bit pricier than I expected but really excellent flavors so I'll go again- hopefully with menu in hand, this time!

                            1. re: Parsnipity

                              Cod sounds kind of strange for Thai place; maybe tilapia? They used to do chunks of catfish on the bone, but too many people complained, and they switched it to fillets...
                              BTW, I sometimes get the drunken noodles (pad kee mao) with squid...Love it!

                              Anyplace that I've gotten miang kum to go,it's been 'do-it-yourself", the same way, which I kind of like....They do use more tender greens at Khao Sarn...

                              1. re: galleygirl

                                I just don't get Dok Bua. I've been to Thailand twice now, have taken cooking classes in Chiang Mai and I know the CHers who like Dok Bua have great taste, are well-traveled, and know their Thai food. What the hell am I missing about this place?! Everything I seem to order has globby brown-ish sweet sauce and is pretty non-descript. Definitely not distinguishable from any other Thai I've had in Boston.

              2. re: BobB

                Please everyone! Stop saying that Clear Flour is a "European-style bakery"!!! This drives me nuts as a Montrealer now living in Boston. I had the baguette there on recs from people on the board here and have to say that it is NO WHERE CLOSE to a proper baguette. A baguette should be crispy on the outside, soft and moist on the inside. And when you squeeze it, it should NEVER bounce back! What people here call baguettes are just long sourdoughs!

                Sorry for the rant, but that's my (and 2 Frenchmans) opinion....

                1. re: nader

                  Nader, I'm curious - did you get one from their store, or from another retail outlet? When sold elsewhere they may not be fresh or well-stored. Baguettes are not my favorite items there, but they are definitely within the tradition of crisp outside, soft inside. Try their ancienne baguette for an even crisper version.

                  They make a lot more than just baguettes, too. Their German rye is the best I've tasted since I lived in Hamburg years ago, and their rustic Italian is the very definition of smoky crustiness.

                  Sorry you had a disappointing experience with them but it's very much the exception.

                  1. re: BobB

                    hell, if you can find better bread around (also for less than 3usd per loaf) buy it! and report back.

                    1. re: BobB

                      We got the baguette from the store itself. Maybe we'll have to try it again. We're off to Montreal for the week, so we'll definitely be bringing back some baguettes for the winter season (frozen baguettes can last for around 1-2 months and taste great if placed in the oven for 5 minutes!).

                      I will report back if I find anyplace that has decent baguettes in Boston though...

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