One of the best things about living in the city is having access to an incredible variety of culinary experiences. I used to derive so much joy from popping into a new (or new to me) cafe or restaurant, and ordering something off of the menu or board (gasp!) for the first time. I still get that excitement when a new restaurant opens in the neighborhood, and I get to peak at the menu posted in the window with the naive hope of a child at Christmas, hoping against hope that there is something that I can eat without extreme modifications. (I never can.) But no point in dwelling on what I can't have; I now satisfy my need for trying new flavors by exploring a number of small specialty food shops, be they Indian, Korean, Brazilian, or wonderful gourmet shops like Christina's in Cambridge. 
 When I first moved to Boston seven years ago, my oldest sister Steph was also living here with her husband and my then 2 year old niece. Steph has an incredible gift for finding all of the best places in a city to eat (we Hatch sisters love food), and she would often call me up to join her on a drive to some difficult to access cafe, double-parking when necessary, just to try some highly lauded treat she read about online or in Zagat. It was always worth it! The most memorable of these trips were our weekly visits to Christina's Ice Cream, which is next door to their spice shop. I will let Steph explain how wonderful it is as, once again, I don't want to dwell on what I can't have. (It hurts.) You can read of her affection here.
After being tested for food sensitivities last fall, I discovered that I'm sensitive to quite a few spices that were a staple in my diet previously, so I needed to find some new flavors to add to my kitchen. I remembered the specialty shop next to my beloved ice cream joint, so I told myself to be strong, resist temptation, and take a peak at their selection. I found so much more than I expected to. Not only does Christina's have a beautiful variety of spices and loose teas, they also have loose botanicals (for medicinal herbal teas, etc.), a really impressive variety of alternative grains, rice, and legumes, and a variety of alternative flours that I haven't seen elsewhere. Their prices are completely fair, in my opinion, so it makes purchasing unfamiliar ingredients for experimentation less intimidating. Once you are introduced to this shop, you can truly appreciate the expertise that goes into making the forbidden treats next door. On this last visit, I went there to purchase some Mexican smoked sea salt that I got hooked on this last year, but also left with dried fenugreek leaves, dried savory, crushed epazote and black-eyed pea flour (!). I've already come up with some new recipes this week using the sea salt and black-eyed pea flour that I can't wait to share with you all! 

Visit Christina's in Inman Square, Cambridge, or on Facebook.


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