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.
Order a burger at the Black Cow, and you may never fire up your Weber again. These handpacked 10-ounce patties are so juicy and flavorful, any attempt to imitate them on your own home grill is sure to come up short. It's hard to believe such flame-broiled babies are only 7 bucks ($8 with cheese), accompanied as they are by mountains of crisp, golden, diet-busting French fries. For maximum enjoyment, pair one with a cold Black Cow Blond Ale, then sit back to feel your iron count rise. 16 Bay Rd., South Hamilton, MA blackcowrestaurants.com/.
A couple of years ago, Warren Asnes was a bureaucrat in the state's Office of Human Services. But last year, he decided to become a full-time housewatcher—a move inspired by his musing whether he or the other occupant of a two-family home was responsible for filling the house's boiler. Today he'll tend to the care and feeding of your home while you're away by walking your dog, watering your plants, forwarding your mail, even stocking your refrigerator for your return—all for seven bucks a trip. He comes with references, is fully insured, and is not put off by large numbers of pets: he once baby-sat 34 cats. Newton, MA
Danny Wisel has found a new home and is once again cooking to his heart's content, which makes us very happy. 1314 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA .
Jobless recovery or none, work still needs to get done: Telephones need to get answered, mail needs to be sorted, and bosses need to have someone to order around. Providing that work force is the raison d'être of Temporary Solution Staffing, which recruits aggressively, screens rigorously, and follows up with a rare level of attention to each assignment to make sure that the match was a good one. 540 Tremont St., Boston, MA .
From the outside, this sprawling liquor store looks like any other rundown rendezvous for drunken booze-hounds. Inside, however, you'll find one of the finest selections of vintage wine in New England. It's for the latter that we just can't seem to get enough of this store. Laid out in neatly labeled rows are bottles of liquid gold that may cost you more than a month's rent. But no matter: Even if you're not a millionaire collector, the knowledgeable staff will help you find a reasonable red to go with the venison stew that's bubbling at home. Especially strong: Rhone, Burgundy, and Bordeaux selections. Expand your vino repertoire at the Mart's regular tastings or by clicking through their encyclopedic Web site. And don't miss the bargain basement (which is exactly what it sounds like); it can be a treasure trove if you hit it at the right moment. 1354 Commonwealth Avenue, Allston, MA blmwine.com/.
Kind and gentle to your treasures. 870 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA .
This pizza is not unlike many of the customers of the female persuasion who dine in the café at Louis Boston itself: high-maintenance, but, frankly, divine. To put a finer point on it, there's only a small handful of predetermined choices, they're expensive, and they don't reheat well. But after one bite of the fresh, free-form pies, you'll understand why we're hooked. The grilled calamari pizza is the standout, with its spicy sauce and tender rings of battered squid. But the arugula pizza, with its rich crust, tangy cheese, and peppery greens, will have you looking at salad in a whole new light. Being high-maintenance has its privileges. What else do you expect from Louis Boston? 234 Berkeley St., Boston, MA .
You can gripe until the cows come home about Boston's relative lack of great steakhouses, but until you've bitten into a richly marbled, truly succulent Delmonico at G23, you'll get little sympathy from us. Sure, it boasts all the requisite amenities of its genre—informed and prompt service, an exemplary wine list, sharp-as-a-tack martinis, and the scent of power wafting from table to table. But what elevates Grill 23 is its willingness to move beyond the hackneyed old boys' club formula. (With their overly wrought, stereotypically masculine décor, one has to wonder whether other steakhouses around town aren't compensating for something.) And the menu, while focused on the classics, dares to administer a creative twerk. 161 Berkeley St., Boston, MA grill23.com/.
Who needs another trip to the beach when you can spend a sunny afternoon tackling rolling logs, ladders, and ziplines? The high ropes courses and trails at TreeTop Adventures are built for both experts and beginners, making it a great place for the whole family to get out of their comfort zone together. treetopcanton.com.
A dim attic in a Chinese restaurant may not shout "big laughs inside," but the Comedy Studio consistently delivers them. The room's long communal tables—and an audience lubricated with potent scorpion bowls—provide a perfect setting for seasoned pros to test new material, and for up-and-comers to hone their timing. 1238 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 2138, thecomedystudio.com.
Perhaps the best answer to what defines the Cambridge experience, The Charles Hotel is the epitome of understated elegance. Sure, The Charles has all the amenities one would expect from a first-class hotel (health club, plush towels, in-room computer portals), but it also has a combination of "extras" that take it over the top in our book: the Regattabar (the best place to hear live jazz in town); incredibly private rooms (you'll have no idea you even have neighbors, the walls are so thick); and even a library form which patrons can check out anything from Iris Murdoch novels to cookbooks. For a real splurge, the presidential suite, which has been enjoyed by the likes of Barbra Streisand and Jane Fonda, is the way to go: With its own kitchen, baby grand piano, two bathrooms, and entertainment center, you'll never want to go home again. 1 Bennett Street, Cambridge, MA charleshotel.com/.
A good breakfast joint is the kind of place where you can settle down with your morning paper, sipping from a bottomless cup of self-serve coffee, and order what mom used to cook (or what you wish she had). After seven years in Ball Square, SoundBites is still sans frills; just good home cookin' fresh out of the oven and off the grill. Order French toast or waffles with fruit and you'll get a mound of cool, glistening slices of sunshine atop the warm, light battercakes. The other side of the menu proves there's more than one right way to do eggs, whether they're Moroccan, Benedict, or an omelet. 708 Broadway, Ball Square, Somerville, MA .
After a quick tête-à-tête, Brianna Coons shaped our unruly hair into something slick, taking into account our capacity for at-home styling (none). The best part? The chop grew out so evenly, it still looked fresh months later. 840 Summer St., South Boston, MA 2127, shagboston.com.