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In praise of Arax fruit

StriperGuy May 12, 2011 06:50 AM

I know, I know, I'm a broken record.

On any given visit, Arax will consistently, all year long, have at least one or two fruit that blow my mind. Recent examples: tiny French plums, Haitian Mangos, Fragrant pears, Kiwi Berries.

I thought I knew fragrant pears. Had them a hundred times. The ones I had last week were the best I have ever eaten.

Here's the VERY important secret:

Ask the BIG young guy, one of the three siblings now running the place, which fruit he recommends. Heck, he's at the Chelsea produce market every morning at 4:00am tasting and buying the stuff, then driving the truck on home. He has never failed me. If he says its GOOD, it's better than good.

Whew, glad I got that off my chest.

  1. v
    varraspa May 12, 2011 07:34 AM

    StriperGuy is correct, beautiful fruit at Arax. Amazing that they can keep their produce costs so low and the quality high. Instead of eating the horrible Star Market/Stop & Shop stuff sold as fresh produce, or battling the mobs at Russo's, I just walk around the corner to Arax. And don't get me started on their other foods, we are loving the Armenian salad and spicy cheese spread and...well, go and check it out.

    11 Replies
    1. re: varraspa
      okra May 12, 2011 08:08 AM

      Last 3 years in a row, I've needed some mint for a Derby party, and the stuff at Russo's looked like.. merde. Arax saved me.

      1. re: okra
        StriperGuy May 12, 2011 08:18 AM

        HUGE bunches, small money.

        1. re: StriperGuy
          bear May 12, 2011 08:53 AM

          I got a huge bunch of gorgeous fresh oregano the other day for next to nothing. It wasn't located with the other herbs, but was in a large plastic bag on the counter. They also had really nice looking heirloom tomatoes for $1.49/lb. The prices are great.

          1. re: bear
            StriperGuy May 12, 2011 09:09 AM

            Aaaah, they often have the more herbal herbs (as opposed to parsley and cilantro) up front. Keep an eye out for the amazing fresh Tarragon, HUGE bunches, that they occasionally have.

            Also up front they sometimes have rather unusual greens: purslane (yummy in a salad, I just pick mine wild cause it grows in my driveway) Egyptian Spinach, and others.

            1. re: StriperGuy
              bear May 12, 2011 09:18 AM

              Good to know. My son and I were cooking a Portuguese fish stew and really wanted some oregano. I thought we'd hit Arax and take a chance, rather than head to Shaw's. We got our other produce but figured we struck out on the oregano, only to catch a glimpse of it hiding in a large bag as we were checking out. I guess there are other goodies not to be missed up front.

              They also often have great prices on pint containers of berries on the checkout counter as well.

              The grape leaves we grabbed helped to stave off hunger until our stew was done.

              1. re: bear
                StriperGuy May 12, 2011 09:45 AM

                If you like grape leaves, make sure you try the veggie ones. The meat are good, but the veggie, with pine nuts and currants are the best I've had.

      2. re: varraspa
        chickendhansak May 12, 2011 09:18 AM

        Yes -- the spicy cheese spread is fantastic.

        1. re: chickendhansak
          threedogs May 12, 2011 09:47 AM

          How do I find that (the spice cheese spread)?

          1. re: threedogs
            Madrid May 12, 2011 09:55 AM

            it's in the refrigerator cabinet on the back wall, across from the olives.

            1. re: Madrid
              okra May 12, 2011 10:23 AM

              It is a mix of feta, red pepper and spices... some find it kinda salty, just be conscious of what bread/cracker you spread it upon.

              FWIW, I'm finding that my homegrown tarragon is coming back like gangbusters, despite its reputation for not being all that hardy in this zone...

              1. re: okra
                lergnom May 8, 2012 04:32 PM

                Also get the garlic spread. It's white. Delicious in anything.

      3. Bob Dobalina May 12, 2011 07:38 AM

        As I was browsing the French melons last Saturday (2 - $5), big guy said "those are really good melons." He sure was right.

        1. s
          scotty27 May 12, 2011 07:38 AM

          True, but I miss Hagop!!!

          2 Replies
          1. re: scotty27
            StriperGuy May 12, 2011 07:42 AM

            Dad's still around, just not as often.

            1. re: StriperGuy
              scotty27 May 12, 2011 07:46 AM

              Right, but not running the show. Love him, put him on the radio three times.

          2. threedogs May 12, 2011 09:45 AM

            Thanks for the tip, StriperGuy! Had my son drive me over last night - I was tempted by those fragrant pears, but didn't buy any (they looked like they needed to sit & ripen a bit), so I passed for now. Got some oranges instead, but even those are delish.

            I've noticed that the veggies are amazingly good, too.

            3 Replies
            1. re: threedogs
              teezeetoo May 12, 2011 10:01 AM

              there are so many things i love about this place, including the owners and the folks who work there. In addition to the gorgeous prepared stuff, the olive bar, the fruits and vegetables, the fresh and dried herbs and spices, there's the feta cheese, the homemade jam, my source for pomegranate molasses, olive oil, dried limes, fabulous halvah, and something new to try each time i stop in. We are so lucky to have stores like Arax, Severn, Baza, Bazaar, Indian market in Waltham, etc. Makes shopping and cooking a pleasurable adventure.

              30 Tower Road, Newton, MA 02464

              1. re: teezeetoo
                StriperGuy May 12, 2011 10:11 AM


                1. re: StriperGuy
                  Madrid May 13, 2011 01:28 PM

                  yes yes yes yes yes. Our son adopted from foster care is now at the therapeutic day school on the McLean campus...he is on an abbreviated starting schedule so we drop him off and have just enough time to go to Arax and I get to spend a nice long time browsing before it's time to pick him up. Such a treasure. On other days we go to Russo's or another of the ethnic markets and today we dropped off knives for sharpening at Stoddard's. But I insist on Arax at least twice a week. My son likes it too....his bio parents are of Puerto Rican descent but he has an unusually narrow nose...one of the owners asked him if he was Egyptian a few years ago and he is still totally charmed by that. *Always* check the stuff at the register, as others have said, very special things there. They spend lots of time sorting through the produce discarding the wearing items. I don't know where they get those great strawberries...better than the strawberries I got when I lived in Northern Calif. and they mark them down by half when they are still utterly delicious.

            2. c
              cpingenot May 12, 2011 10:43 AM

              Ahhh, I miss Arax. I used to live 2 blocks away and they were my "corner store" They were always so friendly- more so than several of the places around there who gave me a bit of attitude, plus they were open later.

              It's always an adventure what you might find there- chinese long beans, saturn peaches, those AMAZING french Melons, fresh (uncured) olives, fresh almonds... Also an adventure is that you might not find what some markets consider "standard" there might not be broccoli or carrots for example.

              I wish I lived closer so I could stop by more often!

              1. g
                galka May 12, 2011 11:08 AM

                Can you please suggest what olive oils to try there? I never know which ones to get and end up buying oil in Traders although I am at Arax every two weeks or so.

                2 Replies
                1. re: galka
                  tatsu May 12, 2011 12:09 PM

                  The oil Arax uses themselves in their prepared foods (I literally just finished off some pinenut current grape leaves and lima bean salad, both excellent.) is Solon.

                  I noticed they recently started carrying Urfa Pepper in the spice section. A smoky piquant somewhat moist dried/smoked chili pepper which bleeds it's unique dark reddish purple hue into olive oils or whatever dish you are making. Essential.

                  Also I spied roasted almonds in the shell, never seen that, but I passed as it was 10 bucks a pound, and I figure the shell is some of that. I went with the old standby, roasted almonds at Sevan next door. The best almonds in Boston, I've said a million times.

                  1. re: tatsu
                    teezeetoo May 12, 2011 03:05 PM

                    Solon is my basic olive oil and I like it for cooking and every day use. It is reasonably priced and you can get it in large sizes at Arax. Falconero is my "fine finish" favorite olive oil (expensive!) and I get it at New Deal Seafood.

                2. okra May 4, 2012 10:43 AM

                  Seen today...

                  Fresh chickpeas

                  (anyone know what to do with these?)

                  1. StriperGuy May 8, 2012 07:33 AM

                    Not exactly fruit, but picked up some truly amazing frozen Black Sea Anchovies that they had raved about. Superb product. Never had anything quite like them.

                    Most amazing anchovy I have ever eaten.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: StriperGuy
                      Bob Dobalina May 8, 2012 08:00 AM

                      Do go on...what were they like?

                      1. re: Bob Dobalina
                        StriperGuy May 8, 2012 12:04 PM

                        A little like the classic Spanish white anchovy filets only whole fish, on the bone, and frozen VERY fresh. I gutted them, dredged them in a smidge of flour, and flash fried in oil. I ate them whole bones and all.. Quite honestly amazing stuff.

                        That classic anchovy flavor PLUS PLUS.

                        1. re: StriperGuy
                          Bob Dobalina May 8, 2012 12:20 PM

                          Thanks. Wow, that is cool....when you said frozen, I expected filets in oil or pre-cooked.

                    2. yumyum May 8, 2012 05:05 PM

                      Great reminder stripes. Chow mom is in town starting tomorrow and would dig a chow field trip to Arax! Any great lunch spots nearby? We like to combine shopping with lunching.

                      21 Replies
                      1. re: yumyum
                        FoodDabbler May 8, 2012 05:35 PM

                        I'm no stripes, but there's Red Lentil across the street, at which I've not eaten, and Jasmine, at which I have (it's only so-so). If it were my mother I'd take her to Sofra, which I know Striper thinks is over priced (but which I think is very good). You're also within striking distance of Strip T's at this point, or Shangri La.

                        1. re: FoodDabbler
                          dsmoxie May 8, 2012 08:06 PM

                          Or, especially if the weather's good, Celebrity Pizza, where I had a terrific lobster roll last week -- well-toasted bun, lots of meat including plenty of claw, but not ridiculously overstuffed like Belle Isle, a touch of lettuce. Good frappes, too.

                          1. re: FoodDabbler
                            yumyum May 8, 2012 08:39 PM

                            Thanks dabbler. I've tried red lentil and it was okay. Maybe ill take mom to strip ts. She doesn't know of the hype and is always my barometer for good food.

                            1. re: yumyum
                              FoodDabbler May 9, 2012 02:37 AM

                              Yes, I think Strip T's is probably the best option in that general neighborhood. But, who am I to be advising the great yumyum on yum chow?

                              1. re: FoodDabbler
                                yumyum May 9, 2012 08:37 PM

                                Thanks! I loved strip-t for dinner. Might need to check out lunch with mom. She'd love that bahn mi. Anyone know if it's on the lunch menu?

                                1. re: yumyum
                                  opinionatedchef May 10, 2012 01:46 AM

                                  yes it is.along w/ a number of dinner items and specials>>check the current looong ST thread.

                                  1. re: yumyum
                                    Bob Dobalina May 10, 2012 05:09 PM

                                    Bach mi is on the lunch menu (on Saturday at least). But do consider the cauliflower sandwich as well.

                              2. re: FoodDabbler
                                StriperGuy May 9, 2012 03:14 AM

                                On the Sofra front not just over priced, also just not THAT yummy. Lamb sandwich I had at the Greek place on MA Ave. blows away Sofra's version which is smaller, and pricier... I also am not really a fan of precious, which Sofra does a bit too much of...

                                To YY above head to the Strip fo sho! Some of the most exciting food in town these days.

                                1. re: StriperGuy
                                  Bob Dobalina May 9, 2012 04:19 AM

                                  Will say the carrot gyro at Sofra is an excellent thing for the veggie crowd.

                                  1. re: Bob Dobalina
                                    StriperGuy May 9, 2012 04:23 AM

                                    I ain't saying the food is bad, it's just not first on my list. Between the non-comfy seating, high prices, preciousity, Huron Village twirpy crowd, and smallish portions it is just not a place that often calls to me.

                                    1. re: StriperGuy
                                      Bob Dobalina May 9, 2012 04:31 AM

                                      100% agree - just have had that sandwich a couple of times and have been looking for an opportunity to post. If I try to go to Sofra, there is a 50/50 chance that I will drive on by, or get one foot in the door, assess the douchebaggery quotient and leave. And I don't care how lovingly the cherry tomatoes were individually coddled and cuddled, $5 / pint is a joke.

                                      1. re: Bob Dobalina
                                        StriperGuy May 9, 2012 04:57 AM


                                      2. re: StriperGuy
                                        opinionatedchef May 10, 2012 01:51 AM

                                        could not agree with you more, and for all the same reasons. And i just don't get what appeals to people about those baked goods. i honestly have not had one thing (and i tried soooo many) that i really liked, except the chocolate earthquake? cookies.

                                        1. re: opinionatedchef
                                          StriperGuy May 10, 2012 07:32 AM

                                          Yah, even the baked goods are only okay... I never have the craving that drags me all the way there.

                                          I'd rather eat an Ohlin's donut ANY day. Had a cinamon sugar jelly stick this morning that blew my mind...

                                          1. re: StriperGuy
                                            opinionatedchef May 10, 2012 11:29 AM

                                            so have you ever wondered why a talented chef like Ana-thinks this baker is so talented? maybe yet another example of what makes the world go 'round.

                                            1. re: opinionatedchef
                                              FoodDabbler May 10, 2012 12:55 PM

                                              Because she *is* very talented.

                                              1. re: FoodDabbler
                                                StriperGuy May 11, 2012 06:46 AM

                                                What of the baked goods do you find exceptional?

                                                I've tried a half dozen things there that were certainly good, but not so wonderful that I find myself drawn there.

                                              2. re: opinionatedchef
                                                Madrid May 10, 2012 12:59 PM

                                                I don't have much of a sweet tooth so I've only tried a few of the pastries and I liked all of them very much. the chocolate earthquakes are amazing. I also liked the savory pastries as well. I agree that much of the pricing as well as the entire set up is a problem and I don't enjoy the other customers much either.

                                                1. re: Madrid
                                                  Bob Dobalina May 10, 2012 05:10 PM

                                                  For me, it's all about the orange monkey bread thing.

                                  2. re: yumyum
                                    katzzz May 9, 2012 06:23 AM

                                    If you're in the mood for Cuban, the new Gustazo on Belmont St. is a short drive from Arax.

                                    1. re: yumyum
                                      gourmaniac May 10, 2012 11:52 AM

                                      You're down the street from Roxana, the new persian take out place near Watertown Sq.

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