In 1982, when the University of Massachusetts Extension Agent Anneli Johnson volunteered to help launch a farmers market in Quincy, she prepared herself for an uphill battle. “I had done thesis work on agriculture in Massachusetts,” says the Finnish native who immigrated to the United States at age 21. “I knew there wasn’t adequate support for farmland. In Finland, agriculture is put on a pedestal. Here, land is given away for strip malls.” In other words, she was fired up. Thirty years later, farmers markets dot the Boston landscape like pumpkins, but Johnson still carries the flame. Though she retired from managing the Quincy market in 2010, she remains an authority on food sourcing—and on Quincy.
Who better, we thought, to help inaugurate Edible Food Finds, Edible Boston’s new department mapping resources across the metro area, one neighborhood at a time? And what better season to kick off the series than winter, when we’re deep in the throes of farmers market withdrawal?
Once again, it’s Johnson to the rescue. Turns out there’s more to Quincy’s culinary pedigree than simply serving as the birthplace of Dunkin Donuts and HoJo’s. The hamlet is flush with food finds, even after market season is over—if you know where to look. Here, Johnson shares her favorite hometown haunts.
Ashmont Grill: Johnson’s favorite area eatery, in neighboring Dorchester, gets its produce from the Farm at Long Island Shelter, a four-acre working farm in Boston Harbor that teaches agricultural skills to the homeless. 555 Talbot Avenue, Dorchester; 617.825.4300; ashmontgrill.com.
Bay State Milling Company: “The bakeries in Quincy have really fine flour to work with because they buy from Bay State,” Johnson says of this wholesale operation. “Bakeries are only as good as their ingredients, and when those ingredients are freshly milled, they’re good.” 100 Congress Street, Quincy; 800.553.5687; bsm.com.
Bistecca Meat Market: The owner of this butcher shop hails from Brazil, where folks know their meat. Go here for house-made sausages, as well as exotic selections, such as frogs legs, alligator, and rabbit. 51 Franklin Street, Quincy; 866.860.5289; bisteccameatmarket.com.
Captain Fishbones: Johnson cites this seafood spot as an example of consumer power: “I was at dinner here and I asked who made their bread, because it was so good,” she recalls. “The waitress didn’t know but volunteered to find out. This was a waitress who was willing to ask the question! We are helping these restaurants become more local. If they aren’t already buying local, they will be after we ask.” 332 Victory Rd., Quincy; 617.471.3511; captainfishbones.com.
Franklin Beer and Wine: The best local bet for New England craft beer. 55 Franklin Street, Quincy; 617.847.1582.
Fratelli’s Pastry Shop: The world’s best strawberry shortcake? Johnson swears it comes from this family-owned bakery. 25 Broad Street, Quincy; 617.328.7855; fratellispastryshop.com.
Fruit Center Marketplace: Just over the Milton border, this mom and pop offers cooking classes, specialty items (Cocoapelli Chocolates from Natick and Golden Meadow Honey from Holliston to name a few,) and locally-caught seafood. 10 Bassett Street, Milton; 617.696.5274; fruitcentermarketplace.com.
Good Health Natural Foods: Johnson’s source for bulk items, such as cardamom seeds, rice, and oatmeal. “There’s less packaging when you buy bulk, which I like,” she says. The store carries only certified organic produce, including veggies from the Crown O’ Maine Organic Cooperative—and if you don’t see what you’re looking for, take a page from Johnson and ask: Good Health accepts special requests. 1627 Hancock Street, Quincy; 617.773.4925; goodhealthnaturalfood.com.
Hallowed Herbs Tea House: Great scones; plus, cooking classes from the daughter of the couple behind the legendary Boston restaurant Marliave. 25 High School Avenue, Quincy; 617.479.2259; hallowedherbsteahouse.com.
Konditor Meister: When only European confections will do, Johnson heads to neighboring Braintree. “They use real mousse. These aren’t the cakes you buy in the supermarket with Crisco frosting.” 32 Wood Road, Braintree; 781.849.1970; konditormeister.com.
Mina Halal Meat & Groceries: Between Mina and Bistecca, “This corner has become a real plus for the area,” Johnson says. Look for affordable organic chicken, as well as basics like bulgur. 139 Water Street, Quincy; 617.472.0031.
Montilio’s: Specialty cakes for special occasions—think papal visits and JFK’s wedding. “I ordered a cake here for Quincy’s tomato festival,” Johnson says. “It took four men to carry it, and it had little tomatoes all the way around it.” 638 Adams Street, Quincy; 508.894.8855; montilios.com.
O’Brien’s Bakery: Johnson heads here for top-shelf Swedish rye bread and poppy-seed cake—her pick for potlucks and parties. “One poppy-seed cake feeds a ton of people,” she says. 11 Vernon Street, Quincy; 617.472.4025; obriensbakeryquincy.com.
Star Market: Before you thumb your nose, heed Johnson’s advice: “The chain’s headquarters is in Bridgewater, and they do a good job of working with local farmers. The key is to ask what’s local. Always ask questions! We’re helping educate the stores and ourselves.” Locally grown items often include cranberries, winter squash (“Look for the ones that don’t have a sticker,” as stickers can indicate factory farms), pumpkins, Cape white and Macomber turnips (imagine the sweetness of a turnip with the juiciness of a radish), and, at the tail end of winter, spring-dug turnips: “sweet as candy; the chefs go crazy,” Johnson says. Also look for Maine red kidney beans; Bell’s turkey seasoning from East Weymouth; and Cabot’s cheese from Vermont. “When I’m homesick, I buy Jarlsberg, from Norway, but my favorite local cheese is Cabot,” Johnson says. 130 Granite Street, Quincy; 617.770.0841; shaws.com.
Winter Farmers Market: On Johnson’s shopping list for nearby winter farmers markets: local jams, pears, root vegetables, cheese, fish, and wine. Dorchester Winter Farmers Market; Codman Square Health Center, 6 Norfolk Street, Dorchester; 617.822.8278.
A former senior editor at Chicago magazine who recently relocated to the Boston area, Jennifer Wehunt likes to write about food almost as much as she likes to eat it. She's currently in the market for kohlrabi recipes; email her at email@example.com