Gordon's Fine Wines
Gordon's is Waltham's answer to one-stop shopping for wine and spirits aficionados. The wine market has a solid foundation in Bordeaux in addition to an impressive international selection; in addition, Gordon's sells a wide range of single-malt scotches and imported tequilas. Added amenities: a gourmet catering service, a glassware department, and an e-mail newsletter listing daily specials. 892 Main Street, Waltham, MA gordonswine.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.
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.
No Name Restaurant
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.
Amid the vibeless businesses catering to tourists around the Common, Thinking Cup reminds us of the downtown that Bostonians deserve: grownup, urbane, and a little sexy. Outfitted with a sweeping marble counter and leather banquettes, this newcomer channels an old-school European café while crafting deeply flavorful espressos, lavish Valrhona-chocolate mochas, and mor—all using Oregon's legendary Stumptown roasts. But the apex of Thinking Cup's artisanry just might be its Pour Over: a single flawless cup, ground and brewed expressly for you. 165 Tremont St., Boston, MA 2111, thinkingcup.com.
Where to go when you're craving fantastic raw creations on a burned-out budget: Douzo, near Back Bay Station, which serves up little sushi treasures that are every bit as pristine (if a tad less transcendent) as those at the city's big-price bars. The loungey space is hopping on weekends, but don't let that distract from the kitchen's deft flavor-texture balancing act, as displayed in the torched toro maki wrapped with asparagus and paper-thin raw jalapeño. 131 Dartmouth St., Boston, MA 2116, douzosushi.com.
The <em>Globe</em>'s assault on <em>Herald</em> reporter Beverly Ford
The Globe's assault on Herald reporter Beverly Ford, which claimed wrongly that she had made up an interview in the Reverend Accelyne Williams case. Globe reporter Tom Mashberg defended Ford, became persona non grata at his paper, and left shortly after the incident. Meanwhile, you can read Mike Barnicle regularly in the Globe.
Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Q
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.
Henry Fonda meets Cape Cod.
Loyal Supply Co.
Even in a sea of emailed wedding invites and digital birthday wishes, nothing beats the power of pen and paper. Especially when said stationery comes from this minimalist workshop/real-life Pinterest board, where the shelves teem with artisanal greeting cards and a rainbow’s worth of writing utensils. 21 Union Sq., Somerville, MA 02143, loyalsupplyco.com.
Beacon Hill Bistro
Hill dwellers flock to this chic little bistro for its cozy atmosphere and inspired French cooking. And while the long, narrow dining room is packed most nights for dinner, weekend brunch is the real draw, with mouthwatering fruit-topped pancakes and fluffy omelets—perfect accompaniments to coffee and the morning paper. 19-25 Charles St., Boston, MA beaconhillhotel.com/bistro-hours.
An adorable selection of threads from Petit Bateau, Kissy Kissy, and Pink Chicken is displayed here among hanging paper lanterns and decorative flags. The icing on this charming confection of a children's boutique is the sweet-as-pie staffers, who are more than happy to elucidate on the mysteries of newborn sizing as they ring up their cotton-candy clothes. 10124 Great Plain Ave., Needham, MA 2492, pollywogskids.com.
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 .