It may not be the 1890s anymore, but Crescent Ridge Dairy still delivers glass jars of milk—really good milk—to doorsteps across the western (and many southern) suburbs. Smooth and clean-tasting whole, chocolate, 2 percent, and skim are dropped off in retro metal containers at customers' requests, then replaced each week. The company also carries more than 100 products, from hamburger buns and chowder to margarine and laundry detergent. But really, it's the dairy that counts; the 2 percent milk couldn't taste more wholesome, and the chocolate sports the richness of a melted candy bar. 355 Bay Rd., Sharon, MA crescentridge.com/.
The white sand goes on forever—or at least for four-and-a-half miles. This North Shore strip has the dunes, the best-blended concession stands, the most peaceful ambience—all in a preserved marshland setting that makes the parking fee ($9 to $15—half price after 3 p.m. every day) worth it. Besides, proceeds go to the Trustees of Reservations to protect historic homes in the area. If the greenheads are getting nippy, as they can in August, head uphill and tour the grounds of the historic Crane estate, and make a pit stop for fried clams at Woodman's around the corner. Argilla Rd., Ipswich, MA .
Turning out memorable meals in private homes—which often means tight quarters and picky palates—is a task that could sap any chef's muse. No surprise the catering arm of the vaunted L'Espalier/Sel de la Terre group is more than up to the challenge. Planning a small fete, we laid out the hurdles: seafood allergies, vegan diets, decorating don'ts. Au Soleil fired back with scads of ideas, including using petits fours as favors and dressing the table with bouquets of our favorite blooms. From intimate dinners to 600-person galas, this event-maker handles every gathering with aplomb. 148 Hampden St., Boston, MA 2119, ausoleilcatering.com/.
Anatomy of a Winner: Whether you're shopping for an elegant dinner party or a simple weeknight meal, you're sure to find a bevy of options at this Somerville meat specialist. That's because the butchers here break down whole animals to create a variety of tasty cuts. Here's how they carved up a Berkshire/Yorkshire hybrid pig. 1. Pig head, for an adventurous crowd. 2. Boneless pork loin, which is perfect for roasts. 3. House-ground sweet Italian sausage. 4. Garlic-and-thyme sausage farce, for making stuffing. 5. Pig skin, for frying into cracklings. 6. Rolled porchetta, filled with garlic and herbs. 201A Highland Ave., Somerville, MA mfdulock.com.
After a few years of flirtation with more-is-more sashimi decadence, we've come back around to sushi that's simple, delicate, and pure. No gold-flaked lacquer, please. And hold the foie gras sauce, while you're at it. We prefer to actually taste how fresh the fish is. This is Oishii's enduring formula: seafood, allowed to shine beneath only the most carefully chosen sauces. But that doesn't mean the presentations aren't artful: Crowned with just a garnish here or a flower there, each piece gleams like a jewel, a tribute to minimalism. 612 Hammond St., Boston, MA 2118, oishiiboston.com.
Talk about knowing your audience. With its giant bucket of crayons on the hostess stand and army of highchairs standing at the ready, this seafood favorite not only welcomes tots with open arms—there's even a balloon sculptor and free sundaes on Sunday evenings—but it also serves the grownups in tow some very respectable chow (think ceviche and wood-grilled lobster). The latter accommodation, in fact, nudged the Summer Shack ahead of perennial pick Full Moon, which, while wonderful for its party vibe and fully stocked play area, keeps the food on the so-simple-you-could've-made-it-at-home side. 149 Alewife Brook Pkwy., Cambridge, MA 2140, summershackrestaurant.com.
The award-winning fare at Martha Stone's home-cooking-meets-haute-cuisine establishment is deliciously all over the map: a strawberry soup made from fruit grown in Middleborough, a salad sprinkled with Westport cheese, homemade bread punched up with garlic from Carver. A 15-year food-business vet, Stone calls on deep ties to local farms in her quest for fresh, organic ingredients, and even attends farmers' market meetings to keep up with what's available. She leaves no stone unturned, and we return the favor by leaving no plate unpolished. 517 Old Sandwich Rd., Plymouth, MA 2360, .
Food lovers are advised to use the buddy system at Evenfall: You'll definitely need someone to shore up your self-control in the face of chef Scott Pelletier's seductive creations, which include pan-seared duck breast with lemon pappardelle, fava beans, and wild mushrooms, and orange-infused pound cake with mint macerated strawberries and strawberry sorbet. Besides, you'll want someone to ooh and aah along with you over the artistic presentation of your meal—and possibly drive you home after that last irresistible cocktail from Evenfall's master mixologists. 8 Knipe Road, Haverhill, MA 1835, evenfallrestaurant.com.
The turquoise-and-orange Caribbean fantasyland that is the East Coast Grill plays home to an eclectic, winning formula of Nuevo Latino, barbecue, and fresh seafood dishes. Chef Chris Schlesinger has scoured the globe, not to mention the local environs, for the best purveyors of crustaceans and fish: Check out the blackboard of daily seafood specials to see what we mean. You'll find all manner of oysters, clams, mussels, and shrimp in addition to fish filets, including the point of origin of each. Favorites: barbecued oysters, house-smoked salmon, pepper-crusted tuna. 1271 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA eastcoastgrill.net.
This has become a crowded category, thanks to a rack of new barbecue joints around town and in the suburbs. But we're going back to basics. Redbones, the funky, down-home joint in Davis Square, is the granddaddy of Boston barbecue, thanks to its efficient waitstaff, not to mention the biggest helpings of chicken, ribs, pork, and fish you've ever seen. Fortifying side dishes include succotash, hushpuppies, collard greens, corn fritters, and our favorite: Redbones' signature black beans and dirty rice. The homey bar has 24 great beers on tap. 55 Chester Street, Somerville, MA redbones.com.
Then again, not everyone can build himself up to the point that he won't get sand kicked in his face. Beckner's bodyguard service provides both personal security and discreet protection at large gatherings. "There are some people, especially in smaller entrepreneurial companies, who are the brains of the whole operation," Beckner explains. "They can't be replaced." So Beckner offers a staff of black-belt-level martial-arts experts who also know CPR, First Aid, and the proper handling of weapons. Beckner's service is not cheap, so if cost counts, you're probably better off with general workouts and karate classes elsewhere. Needham, MA
A garden plot or even a tiny flowerbox can provide welcome relief from pocked and pitted urban landscapes, a sense of having borrowed a bit of paradise. The tradeoff is that you have to do the dirty work to keep paradise looking pristine. Cue Mahoney's, a flourishing local chain whose Brighton location is dense with fertilizers, soils, tools, and possibly the most wide-ranging selection of planters around, including biodegradable models. For those who haven't yet started their own at-home oasis, the wealth of flora for sale—from fragile orchids to death-defying houseplants like pothos and dracaena—is sure to cultivate inspiration. 449 Western Ave., Brighton, MA 2135, .
When you start naming your dust bunnies, you know it's time to stage an intervention. Let the Maids help by eradicating all that befouls your home. Using environmentally friendly cleaning products, teams of four dirt-purging professionals will degrease your kitchen, disinfect your bathroom, and polish your floors to a glossy shine. Prices range from $140 per hour for a first-time cleaning down to $102 per cleaning for a weekly visit—and the results are worth the price. As for those dust bunnies, let's just say the Maids know a little farm in the country. 73 Lexington St., Newton, MA themaidsma.com.
What do you do when you’re craving that #beachlife but can’t get on a plane? You start searching for a home across the bridge. As legions of the region’s newly minted WFHers began a mass exodus down Route 6 last spring and summer, house prices skyrocketed, leaving those who didn’t find their slice of paradise early in the pandemic in the dust. Our advice if you’re still desperately scanning Zillow this summer? Beg your friends for an invitation (or blow up a kiddie pool in your landlocked backyard).
When Peter Ungár’s 20-seat Somerville restaurant temporarily shuttered back in March, he knew transitioning to ordinary takeout service couldn’t possibly re-create his restaurant’s expo-kitchen intimacy. So instead he launched [email protected], a unique, interactive alternative. Over two hours, the chef remotely guides online “guests” through assembling multicourse meals using the provided components. By the time you’ve put the finishing touches on the King crab risotto and almond cake with seaweed caramel, you’ll agree: This is officially the coolest online dinner party around. 14 Tyler St., Somerville, MA 02143, tastingcounter.com.