A recent long weekend in the Boston area revealed that the grass is sometimes indeed greener on the other side of the fens.* Specifically, the fruit and vegetable paradise known as Russo’s transcends anything I know of in greater DC.
Russo’s isn’t really all that big, but it seems huge, thanks in part to the rows of lovely fresh flowers, pumpkins (October!), and rows of apples and squash and potatoes in the outdoor courtyard. Also, in part, due to the interior arrangement, where the dry goods are on shelves underneath the bins of produce, so you can see clear across the entire store. And then there’s the quality: uniformly high. Prices are generally low, though that can vary: five limes for a dollar is good (and especially at Russo’s high quality, I wonder who is their lime source?), these days, but green onions were crazy expensive, I think over a dollar a bunch. Just for example. Overall, great selection and value. They also have a bakery and limited deli, but no butcher or fishmonger.
After Russo’s, we visited the H Mart in Burlington, Mass., a bit north of Boston; I don’t think it is the H Mart mothership but it was huge, twice the size of the Wheaton H Mart, with similar stuff but even more of it. And some stuff was different; I was particularly envious of all the sashimi-grade seafood on offer, like a dozen different kinds from salmon to tuna to scallops, etc., none of which is carried here. Limes 4/$1 just like here, but marginally better quality — not like Russo’s, though.
The H Mart up there also has a glorious food court, with little shops selling dishes from Vietnam, Korea, Japan (one for sushi, one for ramen and other items), a couple of others; apparently the Indian counter closed recently. We went for Korean (when in a Korean-owned store, eat as the Koreans eat?) at Woo Jeon (I had thought it was all H Mart-owned but maybe the storefronts are outside franchises like in a mall food court? Anyway, they all have names) and it was fantastic; I scorched my palate on a steaming bowl of spicy shrimp-and-tofu stew; my lunching companion enjoyed some great-looking bibimbap. Big portions, served in nice stone bowls, and a decent value at around $10 per entree. Not everyone thinks a big bowl of soup/stew/stuff is a good value at $10 or so, judging from some folks’ reaction to all the attention Ren’s has been getting for their $12 bowls of (awesome) ramen. But I thought it was worth the price.
I wonder if the once and future Wheaton Safeway will carry sashimi-grade tuna? HAHAHAHAHAHA.