Contributed by Guest Blogger Katherine Hunt
I just finished a little pre-writing snack: two slices of bread, toasted, spread with cheese. Simple, but made with extraordinary components. The bread contained kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, and garlic, and emerged from the oven only a few hours before I picked it up. It came from When Pigs Fly bakery, on Highland Ave. in Somerville, Massachusetts, which I pass on my walk home from work.
When I stopped in tonight, the woman behind the counter greeted me, as she usually does, with samples from three or four different fresh-baked loaves. I tried a slice of the apple-cinnamon, which tasted spicy and sweet, but still like bread, not dessert. Then I picked out my loaf from selections that ranged from the mundane – sourdough, multigrain, whole wheat – to the exotic – potato, rosemary and chives; green olive and sweet pepper. Good, basic bread makes the perfect blank canvas for such culinary creativity, and I’m always delighted to try whatever concoction the staff of When Pigs Fly has to offer me.
Then, I ventured next-door to Kick Ass Cupcakes and Dairy Bar for more provisions. The concept of this place, as its name suggests, approaches perfection: they sell fresh-made cupcakes and dairy products. And that’s about it. The dairy products come from local sources: Vermont and New Hampshire farms, mostly.
This particular evening, I bought a small container of soft goat cheese and a half-gallon of skim milk, which, I swear, tastes better than the watery stuff I get from most other stores. Then, I picked out a pair of cupcakes, even though they weren’t technically on my list of staples: one of my favorites, the mojito flavor, which tastes like it has a shot of rum baked into it, and the other, a reliably delicious vanilla.
These two stores share a mission – they focus on the quality of what they sell, not the variety of their products. And while I appreciate the quality, I love them most for their specificity (not that you can totally separate the two). I love that, on my walk from the train to my apartment each day, I can stop in at a few small stores, without massive lines and an overwhelming array of selections, and get my milk and bread. And, of course, my dessert.
I feel like I’m shopping in an older model, before chain grocery stores consolidated bakers, butchers, and produce vendors under one roof. This strip of Highland Ave. isn’t perfect – no stores sell meat or veggies, for example. But it provides an easy, local, delicious supplement to the big grocery store a few blocks away, and for that I am grateful. And above all, I am grateful for my mojito cupcake.
Boston-based freelance writer and editor Katherine Hunt may be reached at email@example.com.