Starting this week, The Lo-Down will be doing a weekly check-in with local Essex Market merchants.
I went to visit Roni-Sue of Roni-Sue's Chocolates. She's moved across the way from her old post and has an updated look and more space. I have to admit I hesitated slightly before trying a piece of chocolate-covered bacon, but, I must say it was good. The taste is rich (could be the lard) chocolaty, crunchy, and salty – what's not to like? Apparently people are really taking to the maple and bacon lollipops, as well. She gave me a taste of one her favorites, "Down the Hatch". It's dark chocolate over toffee with green chili. At first you only taste the chocolate but then the chili slowly sneaks up on you in a strangely satisfying way. Yum.
I finally had a seared salmon sandwich on a roll from Rainbo's Fish. It was great and is a steal-of-a-deal at $4.50. They are the same guys that make the delicious home-made muffins at Tra La La Juice Bar. Ron, the co-owner and muffin baker, says his favorite muffin of the moment is Banana-Blueberry.
The folks at Puerto Rico Importing Co. gave me an iced coffee, which they make with their house blend, and said yes, the season has definitely started, even though it's been cool and rainy.
I noticed they are selling small bags of raw sugar labeled "brown sugar" at Essex Farm Groceries, which is also what people are spending a lot of money on these days when it is called Turbanado sugar. Because they buy it in bulk and bag it themselves, they are able to sell the bags for around $1.50, a real steal compared to some similar-sized bags I've seen selling for as much as $6.00.
Cheese monger Ann Saxelbly recommends the new sheep's milk ricotta she just found in Vermont. She says it's rare to find sheep's milk ricotta and she loves the taste. It's somehow more "barnyard-y, in a good way". She is also featuring little buttons of "3 sisters" cow, sheep and goat milk cheese from Nettle Meadow.