To up your meal planning game, head to a specialty shop. Here are a few of our all-time favorites. First, Formaggio Kitchen (formaggiokitchen.com) in Cambridge ferrets out the finest specialty foods from around the world. A flotilla of cheesemongers will slice that hunk of cheddar or calm your nerves if you can’t decide. The equally great South End Formaggio has just about the same selection as its older sibling.
In Brookline, pop into Allium (alliummarket.com) for condiments, spreads and a vast cheese selection that includes an impressive New England showing. If Italian cheese and accompaniments are your culinary earworm, Eataly (eataly.com), despite its Disneyland aesthetic, is a legit source of a head-spinning variety of cheeses, among other staples. If you’re still hankering for cheese, olives or more, Salt & Olive (saltandolive.com) in the Harvard Square Garage takes its cheeses and sustainability seriously.
Cheese, charcuterie and little delectables, check. For the main event, the Boston Public Market (bostonpublicmarket.org) is often overlooked as a food hall or “only for tourists.” Wrong! Consider Chestnut Farms. The display case is filled with all manner of meats, from the usual suspects to the unexpected goat and rabbit. If meats are out, look to Red’s Best for local seafood. Piles of shellfish sit next to fillets and sides of cod, as well as some lesser-known yet equally delicious choices.