From the moment you walk up the narrow stairway, you sense something unique about this chic interior design boutique. The collection is defined by rare vintage glass vases from Denmark, rich Belgium linens, and cashmere throws from Scandinavia. Each piece feels hand-picked with deliberation, rather than part of a cluttered consortium of ideas. And little surprises, like a linen dress or a leather handbag, make each visit a Good reason to splurge. 88 Charles St., Boston, MA .
Put down the Consumer Reports and delete the electronics in your Amazon cart. No one's going to be impressed by the shoddy home-theater system you're trying to jury-rig. Instead, go to the Audio Concepts near BU, a playground for audio- and cinephiles alike. The top-notch systems here are custom-designed to fit each home—and, mercifully, don't resemble the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. 870 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 2215, audioconcepts.com.
Boston has long had a stormy relationship with tea, but this Alice in Wonderland-inspired joint puts all bad memories to rest with its 80-plus flavor selections. The menu offers authentic choices—black, green, white teas—and otherworldly flavors, including Russian Caravan and Madagascar Vanilla. Tea-Tray's innovative tendencies extend to brewed edibles including Earl Grey truffles and Jasmine tea tarts. 1796 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA .
The prized entree at this southern Indian restaurant is called dosa—a huge crunchy crepe stuffed with rice, lentils, and your choice of meat. But that doesn't mean you should neglect the dahi bhala (lentil balls and yogurt) or the tomato-coconut shorba (soup). The chef works with a cunning palette of tart and sweet flavors guaranteed to tickled your buds. 129 Brighton Avenue, Allston, MA .
He wants the Boston Cream Pie, she likes the Lemon Custard cake, their dinner guests are partial to mousse cakes and fruit tarts. How to make everybody happy? Order little individual cakes for each person in his or her favorite flavor. They're all so good, you'll be tempted to swap samples. 8 Elm Street, Braintree, MA .
Time was when Wellesley only meant straight and preppy. Well, no longer—thanks in no small part to this new boutique. Gretta Luxe carries an eclectic mix of international designers, from the clean, modern likes of Samsonite and Strenesse to more fashion-forward styles from Nanette Leopre and Ulla Johnson. There's a jeans bar stocked with denim from Earl Jean, Parasuco, C by Chloé, and Jean Paul Gaultier. And the shoe selection, including must-have models by Robert Clergerie, rivals any you'll find in the city. 94 Central St., Wellesley, MA grettastyle.com/.
True, Ming Tsai is part of America's elite cadre of celebrity chefs. His cookware, cookbooks, and PBS cooking shows are ubiquitous—all for good reason. He and sous-chef Jonathan Taylor lead a crackerjack team at Blue Ginger, where the garlic—black pepper lobster is a wonder. The tightly run restaurant has unparalleled service and a standout wine selection. 583 Washington St., Wellesley, MA ming.com/blue-ginger.htm.
As the new host to The Fringe's (Best Jazz Band) Monday night jams— and occasionally to delights from the free-form experimental acid-jazz group Club d'Elf (Best Cutting-Edge Band)— this lounge has the coolest in-the-round setting. Owing partly to a respectable selection of booze and excellent vibes, the unassuming Lizard Lounge has slithered to the top. 1667 Masachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA .
Big venues usually mean small performers—not in terms of musical stature, but because you're so far away the act looks like a dot with a guitar. So thank God and Pat Lyons for Avalon, where despite its capacity of 1,950, you never feel far from the stage. A spacious main floor, tiered stairs, and a balcony with great stage views make seeing big-time indie performers—Rhett Miller and Doves—seem almost intimate. 15 Lansdowne St., Boston, MA .
Jazz in its live form requires a venue that does it justice. With a slew of world-class acts ranging from timbale guru Eguie Castrillo to prog-funk trio Garage à Trois, this 220-seat space packs in the tables but leaves room for dancing out back. Bands play on the floor rather than a stage, making banter with the audience a common occurrence. 1 Bennett St., Cambridge, MA 2138, regattabarjazz.com.
Goody Whitcher doubles as Amesbury's town witch and favorite ghost. She specializes in banging her loom shuttle day and night, three centuries after she gave up the ghost. Her act has far more finesse than the severed-head-in-hand, street-walking routine reportedly practiced by another deceased Amesbury resident. Amesbury, MA
Dinner at Sorellina can cost as much as a flight to Italy, but at least here the life-altering food comes without jet lag. The hearty pappardelle with rabbit ragu is a bowl of Bologna, the delicate beet-filled ravioli further evidence to support the Italians' long-held claim that they taught the French everything they know about gastronomy. The only inauthentic items—and this is a good thing—are Shane Gray's desserts, which best their often disappointing Italian counter-parts: The impossibly light semifreddo is the finest we've ever had, here or abroad. One Huntington Ave., Boston, MA sorellinaboston.com.
Nothing spruces up a space like fresh flowers. And no florist arranges fresh flowers quite like Jamaica Plain's Petal & Leaf. From spare, arty decorations to lively, full bouquets, owner Cat Thomson's creative floral stylings include short-stemmed pavé groupings of Thai orchids and classic tulips, and pretty pitcher plants with water reeds. 461 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, MA .
The city's Italian-dining scene skews either reasonably authentic (yet undistinguished), or posh (but not quite legit). Rialto bridges the gap with seasonal, from-scratch cooking (strands of bucatini with lobster and saffron; salumi with house-made ricotta) and attentive, special-occasion-worthy service. Chef Jody Adams's regional menus, which spotlight a different part of Italy every two months, are delightful, especially when paired with the suggested wines. 1 Bennett St., Cambridge, MA 2138, rialto-restaurant.com.
Want to know a secret? We love eating at a fine-dining establishment's bar, where we get the same great fare and ambiance sans obsequious servers. And the best spot in town is Clio, which offers selections from the main menu as well as superlative bar-only options (togarashi-spiced fried chicken, fall-apart duck drummettes). Of course, the best part of the experience just may be picking the brain of bar whiz Todd Maul (his burnt-cherrywood Old Fashioned, by the way, 370 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 2215, cliorestaurant.com.