Saturday afternoon. T minus two hours. Sure, there was chemistry in your e-mail exchanges, but now your blind date is about to size you up in person. The team at Uniform, helmed by the highly stylish Gary Ritacco, will help you appear effortlessly with-it. Both rabid and reluctant shoppers will feel in their element, thanks to the store's downtown elan and array of easy-to-wear options, which include knits and jackets by Original Penguin, Ben Sherman, and Modern Amusement, and a denim stash that features True Religion and the tougher-to-find L.A. brand Crate. 511 Tremont St., Boston, MA uniformboston.com.
Hands down, Schwartz is the most distinguished walker of dogs in the city. Gray-haired and bespectacled, Philip stalks the streets of the South End, Back Bay, and Beacon Hill with his small leashed brood (including his own gentle doberman, Tara). A former retail executive, Schwartz never had a dog as a child and is making up for lost time, caring for up to 40 a day. He also does some sleepover home-stays—attending to pets, mail, and plants—and gives advice about Parisian travel and cooking. The cost: $10 per walk, $40-$50 per night for home stays.
O'Connor's men (he's got two crews) dress in the traditional top hats (tails optional in summer) to do your chimney. And now's the time to get an appointment: fully three quarters of the company's business is done between September and December—and we're talking about thousands of chimneys. O'Connor started in Stowe, Vermont, in 1973, and moved here five years later. He's good, and very neat, too. "We make sure we keep our customer's homes clean by taking along an industrial vacuum cleaner to every job." Ah, progress. Cambridge, MA
Those smug Concord so-and-sos. It's not enough they've got bragging rights on historic charm and sterling schools; they also get La Provence and its viands par excellence coming and going. Located opposite the commuter rail station, this longtime French bakery-café sees commuters off to work with spiraling golden croissants and buttery brioches, while in the evening it sends them home with herbes de Provence rotisserie chickens and tender salmon in champagne sauce. Top dessert pick? The jaw-droppingly rich gateau Concorde. Talk about having your cake! 105 Thoreau St., Concord, MA 1742, .
Thanks to new chef Seth Fernald, who hails from the dearly departed Federalist, it's easy to attain euphoria at Soma. Menu standards like 'Duck, Duck, Goose,' a crisp-skinned duck breast served with foie gras butter and sautéed brussels sprouts, are impeccable. Specials such as gray sole-enveloped honshemeji mushrooms with a ricotta-stuffed squash blossom beguile at first bite ('Like spring on a plate,' one diner mused). If that doesn't leave your head spinning, the house-infused bourbons and raspberry-kumquat martinis certainly will. 256 Cabot St., Beverly, MA 1915, somabeverly.com.
There are plenty of great wine stores in Boston, but what keeps Brookline one step ahead of the pack are its serious French wines—particularly Burgundies and Rhones. BLM has been bringing in Guigal's great Rhones for more than a generation, and the result is a selection that is extraordinarily broad and deep. Bargain hunters can look for finds in BLM's basement and close-out bins, and special at its Saturday tastings. And for the real oenophile cum computer geek, its e-mail newsletter, with Roger Ormon's informative tasting notes, keeps you abreast of a wide range of special offerings, as does its Web site at www.blmwine.com. 1354 Commonwealth Ave., Allston, MA .
Yes, we love the biscotti (and the heavenly hazelnut meringues) at Biscotti's, made by a strapping soccer-playing lad from Salerno (95 Salem Street, Boston, 617-227-8365). But on North End pastry expeditions, we head to Maria's Pastry Shop, where Maria Merola continues to turn out her addictive, chocolate-drenched spice cookies; crunchy, shell-shaped sfogliatelle and extravagant lobster tails; soft, nearly fat-free anisette cookies; big, wheel-shapped taralli; and, of course, cannoli filled to order. Some North End traditions won't change, come hell or Big Dig derricks. 46 Cross St., Boston, MA .
What does "Bread of the World" mean? For Iggy's, it translates into old-fashioned, naturally leavened, hearth-baked breads made from ingredients that have not been chemically treated in any way ("as close to the tree as possible") and available at a price "for all people." For the yeast-addicted, it means the yummiest bread in Boston, from country sourdough to brioche to the decadent orange chocolate cherry. If you can't make it to the retail store in Watertown, Iggy's breads can be found at various stores in Boston (Bread &Circus, Savenour's, select Star Markets) or ordered by mail. 250-4 Arlington St., Watertown, MA .
Dock all the points you like for the pricey beer, seasonal setup, and occasional 'Ya Mo B There' booking, and this harborside venue with the graceful sail-like tent and stunning skyline backdrop still posts the winning score. Wide aisles give the B of A's 5,000 seats serious elbow room, while nine jumbo TVs ensure everyone gets an eyeful of the onstage action. Even if you believe the Roxy has the more intimate and interesting space, and the House of Blues (provided it sprays for tourists first) is coming on as a contender, you'd still have to concede that with the right band on the right night, the Pavilion is nothing short of a concertgoer's nirvana. 290 Northern Ave., Boston, MA 2210, bankofamericapavillion.net.
Some of the area’s boarding facilities seem better suited to humans than dogs (TV? Treadmills? Come on). The folks at the Dog Scoop, however, know how to make a tail wag. The crate-free facility, which was expanded in 2012, is a doggie paradise. After spending the day running around their huge indoor/outdoor play space, canines (any breed is welcome) crash on leather couches in the company of the Dog Scoop’s 24/7 staff, one of whom sleeps in the room alongside them. It’s like overnight camp for man’s best friend. 216 Webster St., West Newton, MA 2465, thedogscoop.com.
The best galleries have a knack for spotting cool things early. In recent years, the Harrison Avenue space featured Andrew Masullo’s cartoony paintings before he appeared in the Whitney Biennial and presented "Not About Paint," a survey of gonzo assemblage that went on to inspire a deCordova show. Last year’s coup was Ben Sloat’s "One Blast," which explored how technology modulates everything via paintings of a dazzle-camouflaged ship riding digital waves. 450 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA 2118, stevenzevitasgallery.com.
Could easily be in New York City given the sophistication and consistency of the shows. Lincoln Station, Lincoln, MA .
Nina Nielsen's vision is unique, and she has stuck with it. 179 Newbury St., Boston, MA .
Fine space, stable avant-garde artists. 36 Newbury St., Boston, MA .