"Glo-cows debating nuclear power" cards available at Bassil & McNichols, Quincy Market. Plain white cards cut in the silhouette of nuclear power plants, with two little pink glowing cows in the foreground. Comes with a map showing all U.S. nuke facilities. Quality watermarked paper, $1.50 apiece. Quincy Market, Boston, MA .
Andy Seplow, part-time owner of a limited catering service called L'Alliance Pate, makes a firm, toothsome cheesecake based on cream cheese, sour cream, and ground almonds. It's available regularly at Peasant Stock, the Stock Pot, and Malben's Gourmet. 383 Somerville Ave., Somerville, MA .
Drawing from an arsenal of locally sourced produce, Chive whips up such mouthwatering dishes as apple-and-wine-braised short ribs and decadent cocoa-caramel cream puffs. Need another reason to book? To avoid wasting food, the company delivers leftovers to local composting businesses. Virtue never tasted so good. 30 Rantoul St., Beverly, MA 01915, chiveevents.com.
Chef-owner Ben Elliott, whose grandparents started the family farm in the 1940s, grows garden staples and lesser-known heirloom veggies and raises sheep for meat, chickens for eggs, and bees for honey, which translates to the freshest ingredients possible on your wedding plate. His stint as chef de cuisine at Barbara Lynch’s No. 9 Park, meanwhile, translates to creative, beautifully plated dishes—from wild striped bass with tomato agrodolce in the summer to handmade tagliatelle with white-wine-braised rabbit and charred baby onions in the fall. 84 Commonwealth Ave., Concord, MA saltboxkitchen.com.
It's your wedding and all you got was this lousy, rubbery chicken. Make your special day special by hiring Boston Unique Events. Owner Susan Callender puts together wedding menus with a chef s eye, and her seasonal dishes lemon-marinated grilled scallops, warm pumpkin-ginger bisque, seafood crêpes with thyme cream made with fresh ingredients and plated with a subtle flair, ensure the food looks as good as you do. 498 Pleasant St., Watertown, MA bostonuniqueevents.com.
Does your windowsill already resemble a jungle, but you still need one more hedgehog aloe? Is your sun porch incomplete without twin philodendrons flanking the entrance? Then you just might be the kind of urban gardener Niche caters to. Its two retail locations are all-in-one stops for plants, pots, soil, fertilizer, tools, and, yes, more plants, letting you indulge your green thumb without sacrificing your prime city real estate. 619 Tremont St., Boston, MA nicheplantshop.com.
With floor-to-ceiling windows and a string-lit terrace showcasing Green Monster vistas, Hotel Commonwealth’s new event space hits it out of the park. Part of the hotel’s recent $50 million makeover, the just-built wing is now the perfect spot for both Sox fans and culinary-minded couples to celebrate their love: The catering menu features dishes inspired by on-site hot spots Eastern Standard and Island Creek Oyster Bar. 500 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA hotelcommonwealth.com.
For many Bostonians, summer is a savored moment wedged between the brutal bookends of the New England winter. For skiers, it's an interruption. They're already dreaming of the first snowstorm. Bob Smith's Wilderness House caters to these people—novices and experts alike—because the staff feels their pain. Völkl, Salomon, Rossignol: The employees here know them all and can discuss at length the merits of each brand (and the best slopes to break them in). Custom boot fitting puts the icing on the cake. 1048 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA .
Anyone tired of cheesy, slick portraits on fake backgrounds will appreciate the simply, honest beauty of Unger's work. She prefers her subjects unposed in familiar surroundings with natural light. The result: refreshingly candid and artful shots. And she prints everything in classy black and white on high-quality paper, perfect for a long-lasting family heirloom.
Overnighting at a Lenox mansion is a thrill in its own right, so we recommend you combine a sumptuous meal at Blantyre with an equally luxurious stay. Striking tapers, crystal glassware, and courtly waiters set the scene for an extravagant dinner of halibut bouillabaisse, Bordelaise beef tenderloin, and brandy-flavored foie gras. It's okay if it all stimulates another kind of appetite: You are sleeping over. 16 Blantyre Rd., Lenox, MA 1240, blantyre.com.
The décor is worn; the waiters, crusty. The low-priced seafood, on the other hand, couldn't be fresher, and the kitchen knows what to do with it, displaying considerable finesse with battered fried clams, seared scallops, and buttery chowder made with leftovers from the catches of the day. While some people may be put off by the No Name's unfussy shtick—the restaurant famously serves water by the pitcher in tiny paper cups—regulars know it's part of what amounts to one of the tastiest bargains in Boston. 15 1/2 Fish Pier, Boston, MA nonamerestaurant.com.
Texas smoke versus Memphis rub, vinegar tang versus peppery heat—barbecue debates will likely rage until kingdom come (and straight on into the sweet hereafter). This year our returning champion silenced at least one point of contention—which of its two outlets is better—by debuting a central, honking-big smoker (reportedly New England's largest) that turns out uniformly succulent sliced brisket, pulled pork, and an array of other regional specialties for both Blue Ribbon locations, as well as its booming catering business. 1375 Washington St., West Newton, MA blueribbonbbq.com.
First, Idaho russets are aged for at least a month before the peeling, cutting, and rinsing commences. Next comes a low-temperature dunk in the fryolator. Finally, the Belgian-style frites are flash-fried to order in a vegetable-oil blend, salted, and corralled into a stiff paper cone—and only then are they ready to be dunked into one of the 12 house-made sauces on offer (we're partial to the curry ketchup, cheddar Duvel, and "Saturday-night chive"). 33 Union St., Boston, MA eatfrites.com.
This off-the-beaten path spot in East Cambridge has been around for decades, yet somehow manages to make us feel like we're discovering something new every time we visit. Such are the wonders of the authentic Afghani cuisine—kaddo, or pan-fried baby pumpkin baked with ground beef, and aushak, or paper-thin ravioli skins with a bright leek filling. Don't pass up dessert—the homemade cardamom ice cream with pistachios is a knockout. 143 First St., Cambridge, MA helmandrestaurant.com.
This swanky spot in the Hotel Commonwealth combines the comforts of a hotel bar—plush chaise lounges, velvet armchairs—with the top-notch libations and luxurious snacks of a craft-cocktail den. Unwind with an Aperol-and-bourbon-laced "Paper Plane" and an order of the raclette-topped fingerling "potato skins," and you just might forget you're not sleeping upstairs. 500A Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA thehawthornebar.com.