Earthy-crunchy' isn't how we'd describe 51 Lincoln, a polished little dining room and bar serving craft cocktails and schmancy cheeses. Unless by 'earthy' we meant the wild mushroom ragout that chef Jeff Fournier spoons over scallops, and 'crunchy' referred to his famous polenta fries. Sure, he adores local ingredients from sustainable farms and grows produce in his own garden. Yet his greenness is cleverly packaged in a changing lineup of dishes like carrot-ginger soup with smoked-paprika crème fraîche, and flatiron steak with jalapeño jam—making him a perfect match for the yuppie-hippie types in this part of town. 51 Lincoln St., Newton Highlands, MA 2461, 51lincolnnewton.com.
Increasingly popular in commercial projects, green renovations are still relatively rare for private homes, which is odd, considering they cut utility costs, boost resale value, and, oh yeah, help keep the planet from dying. With more than 25 years' experience under his belt, Paul Marquis is doing his part to change that, as he takes homeowners through the entire project—from recommending eco-conscious architects and contractors to finding landfill alternatives for construction materials—with a thoroughness that any home consultant, green or otherwise, should aspire to. P.O. Box 164, Arlington, MA .
The Kobe cap steak at Grill 23: We’re jonesing for the primal pleasures of a deep-charred steak crust that doesn’t involve sweating bullets over a home grill. The charred avocado nigiri at Café Sushi: Precise applications of lemon, salt, truffle oil, and fire-breathing blowtorch yield a showstopper too delicate for takeout travel. The quail kebobs at at Oleana: Ana Sortun’s elegantly boned-out game-bird skewers taste best in the urban paradise of Oleana’s gorgeous garden. The double-pork ramen at Yume Wo Katare: We miss waiting for hot bowlfuls of garlicky, pork-fat-drenched noodle soup at this intimate eatery, where the camaraderie in line is part of the fun. The “Royal Chocolate Cake for Two, Kween” at Orfano: The indulgence is available in sensible slices for the social-distancing era, but you can’t top the hedonistic joy of double-teaming an entire cake with a close friend.
Though the menu incorporates tot pleasers like a Kobe mini burger and glasses of eminently slurpable banana milk, Toro doesn't exactly break out the crayons and coloring books for its brunch service. For certain parents—specifically, those who secretly miss their carefree nights out at places like Toro—that's part of the charm. They get to enjoy a midday meal in an atmosphere that, if more laid-back than the frothy vibe that takes over the restaurant during the dinner shift, is pleasantly grownup. And so long as they get there shortly after the doors open at 10:30 a.m. (not a problem, thanks to the little early risers!), they'll likely be seated right away, sparing Junior the risk of suffering a class 5 meltdown while the family waits for a table. 1704 Washington St., Boston, MA 2118, toro-restaurant.com.
Like his longtime collaborator, Michael Schlow, Connors focuses on pushing techniques to their limits in the interest of maximizing flavor and perfecting texture. His chocolate cake is not just a chocolate cake. Connors has figured out how to bring out the acidity of the Valrhona Manjari cru chcolate in the ganache, while making a thin layer of caramelized banana the perfect counterpoint. His other creations? A grapefruit tart with Muscat sorbet, red-wine-basted pear on black walnut cake with star anise ice cream, Tahitian vanilla creme brulée, and hot apple soup with candied pecans and vanilla ice cream. Connors, in short, is a great talent who often creates dishes that you will remember for years. 8 High St., Boston, MA .
The Boston Children's Museum has been mobbed since it unveiled its 23,000-square-foot expansion and accompanying renovation in April, so chances are good you'll arrive to find a long queue snaking from the door. Try to tough it out: Your reward is just inside, in the form of a corkscrew-shaped three-story contraption that the museum calls the New Balance Climb, and grateful parents might regard as the mother of all monkey bars. Even if your kids don't hit another exhibit, a scamper across, up, through, and under its twisting platforms will leave them too exhausted to do anything but go home and watch their SpongeBob DVDs until the clouds part. 300 Congress St., Boston, MA 2210, bostonchildrensmuseum.org.
Don't let the trendy name fool you: Fifty-three South is far more nouvelle than nouveau. That's not to say this fetching bistro, opened at the site of the former Seasons restaurant, doesn't have a classic strain. Candles light the tables, dried flowers warm up the walls, and the delicate menu caresses the palate. Starters such as tender scallops paired with silky cauliflower cream are downright delectable, and the melt-in-your-mouth short ribs are plump with deep-flavored sweet and smoky meat. Main courses—the seafood stew of cod, crab claws, shrimp, potatoes, and fruity tomatoes, all swimming in a full-on saffron broth—are well-orchestrated balancing acts of texture and flavor. Factor in incredibly attentive service and a well-edited wine list, and you've got a bistro that defines modern classic. 124 Washington Street (Route 153), Norwell, MA .
Some less enlightened staffers here at Boston magazine argued against this pick, citing its limited availability (Formaggio fires up its sidewalk grill once a week, and for only half the year) and the unforgivable snobbishness of awarding the title of best street food to a purveyor of $7 hot dogs. But proponents were unmoved, pointing out that said dogs weigh in at a juicy half pound. And that—like the house-made sausages and the pulled pork, chicken, and lamb—forms part of what just might be the Hub's most joyous eating experience. That status is owed largely to Formaggio's new grill-master, Kurt Gurdal, whose infectious enthusiasm will surely stand him in good stead through season's end, in mid-November. 244 Huron Ave., Cambridge, MA formaggiokitchen.com.
The maitre d' at L'Espalier is so accustomed to proposals among his customers, he'll happily dispense advice about where to conceal the ring. It's all part of the superb and attentive service at this Back Bay institution, which just so happens to serve equally superb food. Chef Frank McClelland's delectable courses, which start with a dainty amuse bouche, are cosseted with luxury ingredients and inevitably end with tiered trays of precious petits fours—the fabled backdrop to more than a few passion plays. And if all that doesn't whet your appetite for love, consider the surroundings: a dimly lit and tastefully sumptuous townhouse that even includes one chamber known as the Seduction Room. 30 Gloucester St., Boston, MA lespalier.com/.
Who would expect to find the recherché charm of an exquisite Champs-Elysées café in Chelsea? Anyone who knows Truly Jörg's—the tiny European-style patisserie crammed with utter delicacies—that's who. Co-owner Jörg Amsler has created desserts for Dubya's dad in Kennebunkport and was trained as a pastry chef and chocolatier in Switzerland, and it shows in every crumb. His chocolate croissants are a perfect blend of bittersweet satisfaction. The tantalizing cakes on sale here range from decadent coffee buttercream and mocha genoise torte to deeply tart-sweet raspberry swirl cheesecake. The dainty petit fours, bite-sized treats that melt on your tongue, will have the most discriminately sweet tooth addicted at first bite. 131 Arlington St., Chelsea, MA trulyjorgs.com/.
Keeping up with Hollywood's barrage of blockbusters, tearjerkers, and indies-gone-mainstream is less daunting when you can do it at the AMC Fenway 13. This theater's strongest appeal is its easy access: convenient $4 parking, a close-by Green Line stop, and the luxury of avoiding downtown congestion. Inside, arm yourself with popcorn (the butter is do-it-yourself) and a monster soda, and settle into the comfy stadium-style seating. The largest of the 13 auditoriums has more than 550 seats, so you'll worry less about lines and more about finding the ideal place from which to soak up the Sony Digital surround-sound system and see the massive 62-foot-wide screen. Perks like these nearly justify the $9 ticket price. Nearly. 401 Park Dr., Boston, MA .
A yacht club aura sets the tone for the lively crowd that comes here to nosh on lobster, steak, and fried seafood in the Yardarm Saloon while admiring the view of Salem Harbor. Live and DJ-spun music keeps things playful, as do the bar games and irreverent signature drinks such as the "fearless margarita" and "Woody's relaxer," a potent vodka, rum, and fruit juice concoction. The best part about the restaurant isn't dry at all: the Rockmore Floating Restaurant, which consists of a tent-covered bar atop two tied-together barges moored in the harbor. Access is as simple as hopping on a launch from either the restaurant or Village Street dock in Marblehead. Gives new meaning to the term "wet bar." 94 Wharf Street, Pickering Wharf, Salem, MA pickeringwharf.com/rockmore.html.
This ride has everything: shade, scenery, and history. It even has—for the most part—good pavement. Start at Weston Center. Take Conant Road into Lincoln, turn right on Silver Street and left on Weston Road to the traffic circle. Continue straight on Sandy Pond Road past the DeCordova Museum. Turn left on Baker Bridge and right on Route 126, which takes you past Walden Pond, across Route 2, and into Concord Center. Head north on Monument Street past the Concord Battleground and the Old North Bridge. Keep going until you hit Route 225 (Bedford Street). Turn left and ride into Carlisle Center, where the hungry can stop at Daisy's for sports drinks and homemade muffins. Head back toward Concord on Concord Street, which turns into Lowell Road and leads to the Concord Green. Retrace steps back to Weston. It's 30 miles, 14 if you drive to Concord.
The $100,000 mural of the original hills of Boston covering the State House renovation, part of which blew off after five days.
We've tried it at home. We've done the booth. We've stood stark naked before strangers and had every inch of our bodies airbrushed, only to emerge St. Barts brown on one side, Back Bay white on the other. But we never got the elusive all-over glow until we went to Bella Santé, where an almost painfully thorough full-body exfoliation precedes careful application of Phytomer's clear (!) bronzer. It won't streak when you sweat or rub off on your clothes, which means that even after a sticky, slow ride to the beach, we pulled up looking as if we had been there all summer long. 38 Newbury St., Boston, MA 2116, bellasante.com.