Knowing my motto that I Brake For Bakeries, the first stop was the kind of storefront, narrow pastry shop of your dreams. Madeline Delosh, a pastry chef who trained with Jean-Georges Vongerichten among others and is a devoted Francophile, opened Mado's last summer after selling pastries at a local farmer's market. You can see her winsome, tired face in this article by Marilyn Bethany--just the same expression she offered us a few minutes past 4:00 p.m., when she was closing and there were only two things left: a few brownies and two puck-shaped walnut caramel tarts, half the top smartly dusted with confectioner's sugar. The pate-brisee crust was tender and buttery, the walnut pieces generous and held together by a not-too-sticky caramel; I devoured it on the spot, as she reminded me that we'd met a few years ago at a regional Slow Food launch event and asked why there hadn't been more Slow events lately. Between gooey bites I told her I'd kick it over to Josh Viertel and his Dumbo crew. We took a few homemade dog biscuits--the only other thing left--for Hobbes and continued.
(What is it about dog bakeries? Are they the new cupcake shops? My own Jamaica Plain just saw the opening of an enormous homemade pet-food store, with a layout like an old-fashioned general store and big glass jars of cookies and treats that I see as a big cheat for humans. Is this because people won't let themselves eat actual baked goods? Or that dog owners are taking a cue from helicopter parents and transfer their own obsessions about healthful food to the pets? The Web site has an of-course heartwarming description of the dog named Pearl, a one-eyed stray found in Puerto Rico, whose polka-like way of moving inspired the name, Polka Dog Bakery, and the owners to "use the finest ingredients, and bake and prepare all our delicacies by hand." I won't make a secret of my deep and abiding dog envy. But I'm still not sure how I view this trend.)
Our apple-discovery stop was an attractive, new-looking co-op called the Chatham Real Food Market, one of the new breed of locavore stores that look clean and spruce while still featuring plenty of raw-wood crates and hand-lettered signs. I headed straight for the apples, to see what I hadn't seen lately at Boston farmer's markets. And passed by most of them: Empire, the fine but kind of dull New York apple that helped give rise to the evil Delicious; Macoun and Cortland, related apples that are just fine but easy to find; Gala, a too-sweet apple I'll happily leave to New Zealand; and Honeycrisp, the University of Minnesota marketing smash that has taken the country (and Frank Bruni, though not Zeke despite his friend's predictions) by storm.
I went instead for two apples I always try when I find them, and will a bit later in Boston: Northern Spy, a good eating and pie apple, and Spartan, an exceptionally handsome, deep-purple apple. The Spy was fine, though still too tart; I'll wait. But the Spartan: what a fine and beautifully flavored apple, and its slightly pink, white, juicy flesh makes a handsome contrast to the high-shouldered shape and richly colored skin. Spartans have a long and proud New York State and, as you might expect from the name, New England history. Buy them when you find them.