If God is indeed in the details, Au Soleil must be nigh holy. The operation gets every last request right, and often adds a few flourishes of its own. That might mean having bartenders shake up pitch-perfect cocktails to order. Or creating entrées that play up your favorite ingredients, or that reflect the seasonal bounty at chef-owner Frank McClelland's Apple Street Farm. Whatever occasion you're having catered, you can count on the eats being divine. 148 Hampden St., Boston, MA 2119, ausoleilcatering.com.
If it's true that everything good is better fried, you plain can't lose at Sayle's. Diners choose from tasty fresh quahogs, steamers, and lobsters, and even tastier fried clams, scallops, shrimp, calamari, and (for the odd landlubber) chicken. The venerable shack also offers a $35-a-head clambake with corn, potatoes, a half pound each of steamers and mussels, a whole lobster, and a bucket of chowder big enough to float back to Hyannis in. 99 Washington St., Nantucket, MA 2554, saylessseafood.com.
Not everyone appreciates the olfactory assault that is Formaggio. In fact, we frequently have to check our companions at the curb before heading in to sample this place's runny gobs of poisses and Robiola. True fans of the stinky stuff, however, will be blown away by the shop's countless whole wheels of raw-milk cheddars, marbled blues, and crumbly Parmigianos, aged and tended in Formaggio's own custom-built cheese cave. 244 Huron Ave., Cambridge, MA 2138, formaggiokitchen.com.
Notwithstanding the beef tendon fire pot at Montien (still the hottest soup around, in both senses of the word), this unassuming Allston 12-seater is your first-class ticket to Bangkok. The Thai-language menu is filled with enough mild-mannered fare to sate even the most uninitiated of palates, while devotees can delight in rare finds like crispy double-fried catfish laced with whole sprigs of fresh peppercorns and volcanic som tums flavored with raw salted crab. 168a Brighton Ave., Allston, MA 2134, .
Brant Rock Fish Market owner Henry Dunbar is a world traveler. He's been to Tanzania, Madagascar, and Puerto Rico. Before going on his journeys, he posts a poem in his shop window about his latest adventure. But when it comes to fish, Dunbar knows that the best-tasting stuff is found close to home: Some of the fresh cod, haddock, and flounder he sells are caught right in Duxbury Bay. 267 Ocean St., Marshfield, MA 2020, .
It's no Star Market, which is precisely what makes buying produce from Volante Farm so much fun. All the green stuff (lettuce, cukes, beans) is grown in the fields behind the stand, ensuring freshness and seasonality. Other offerings are all made locally including fresh bread and candy. There's also a midsized greenhouse, with rows of colorful herbs, annuals, and perennials to take home. 829 Central Avenue, Needham, MA volantefarms.com.
Baked right on the premises with organic whole wheat, rye, and corn flours, Hi-Rise bread does a body good. In addition to more than a dozen breads offered on the menu, different specialty breads take turns haring the spotlight as bread of the day, seven days a week. The cell-phone-free environment, which is strictly enforced, ensures a wondrous, relaxing visit. Ingredients necessary: a good book, a cup of java, and a slice of some cinnamon-raising bread. 208 Concord Avenue, Cambridge, MA hi-risebread.com/.
Crone's father began the J.A. Sanborn Company forty-nine years ago at 28 Merchants Row (next door to Quincy Market), and it's still flourishing. "We go out of our way to buy the best," Crones told us. "We buy whole fish off the boats, and cut them here. You can always find a good selection." If you dine at the Ritz, or at St. Botolph Street, you're eating Sanborn selections, and Crones will even mail fresh lobsters for you. J.A. Sanborn Company, 28 Merchants Row, Boston, MA .
Tinier than many walk-in closets and closed by 2 p.m. each day, Mike & Patty's isn't your typical café. But it's home to the most satisfying handheld breakfast around—the "fancy" egg sandwich, a pile-up of bacon, cheddar, avocado, house-made mayo, and red onion on crisp multigrain bread. 12 Church St., Boston, MA 2116, mikeandpattys.com.
So many men's stores have forsaken good, old-fashioned service for the ubiquitous bottom line. But integrity still means something at this North Street shop, where customers can choose from among Coconut Grove silk sport coats, XMI dress shirts, Barry Bricken cotton trousers, and Cole Haan loafers. And shopping at Steven Valenti ensures a flawless fit: An on-site tailor will adjust your purchases. 157 North St., Pittsfield, MA stevenvalenticlothing.com/.
Provincetown is awash in style-savvy men. We're guessing that best dressed of them frequent Market, a small but flashy clothing destination on Commercial Street. Pick up a new pair of swim shorts by a notably chic designer such as D&G, Hugo Boss, Jean-Paul Gaultier, or DSquared2. What's even better? Market has two sister stores in Boston, so you can still shop till you drop when you get home. 173 Commercial St., Provincetown, MA .
With an unadulterated sound and a timeless, gamine look, Aly Spaltro, a.k.a. Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, upstages every testosterone-fueled act in Boston. Her voice is light yet certain, as are her banjo and guitar stylings, which will sound even better when properly recorded (until now, her bedroom has served as her studio). Next to Spaltro's spare verses and trancelike repetition, everything else sounds like a whole lotta noise. ladylambthebeekeeper.com.
Rustic charm meets sophistication in Hingham's happening flagship restaurant—from the funky décor and hip, laid-back crowd to the nouveau Italian menu. Chef Kevin Long, following in the accomplished foosteps of predecessors including Ken Oringer and Joe Simone, takes good advantage of the neighboring sea. Gems like whole shrimp with beefsteak tomatoes and Cerignola olives are best followed by the fantastic thin-crusted, wood-fired porcini mushroom and asparagus pizza or a plate of pan-roasted hake served over fresh pea anolini. 14 North St., Hingham, MA toscahingham.com.
This brunch spot got Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler’s vote for " best food in the whole wide world" (he presented A & P’s with the title and a platinum-record plaque several years ago), and now it has our stamp of approval as well. Having trouble deciding among the eggs Benedict with homemade pastrami, chocolate waffles with white chocolate crème anglaise, and the " Joey K" (smoked salmon atop a scallion-potato pancake with poached eggs)? Order all three, then nap all afternoon. 239 Ocean St., Marshfield, MA 2050, .
Don’t know the first thing about carats and clarity? Head to Royal Jewelers, where experienced staffers (the shop’s been in the same family since 1948) are ready to hold your hand through every step of the ring-selection process. For a sparkler as unique as your soon-to-be bride, ask about the store’s customizable Royal Crown Collection. 58 Main St., Andover, MA 1810, royaljewelers.com.