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In praise of Arax fruit

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.

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  1. 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

      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: StriperGuy

          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

            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

              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

                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.

      1. re: varraspa

        Yes -- the spicy cheese spread is fantastic.

        1. re: chickendhansak

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

          1. re: threedogs

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

            1. re: Madrid

              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

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

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

          1. re: scotty27

            Dad's still around, just not as often.

            1. re: StriperGuy

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

          2. 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

              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: StriperGuy

                  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. 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. 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

                  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

                    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. Seen today...

                  Fresh chickpeas

                  (anyone know what to do with these?)

                  1. 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: Bob Dobalina

                        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

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

                    1. 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

                        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

                          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

                            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

                              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

                                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

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

                                  1. re: yumyum

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

                              2. re: FoodDabbler

                                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

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

                                  1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                    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

                                      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: StriperGuy

                                        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

                                          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

                                            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: FoodDabbler

                                                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

                                                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

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

                                  2. re: yumyum

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

                                    1. re: yumyum

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