Think hot-towel shaving is a lost art? Not so: Young Rich Firicano is keeping the tradition alive and well. After thoroughly prepping your whiskers with a warm washcloth, a special softening cream, and the standard foam, he will proceed to dispatch them with smooth strokes and a steady hand—just what you want when a four-inch razor is skimming your neck. 240 North St., Boston, MA firicanosbarbershop.com/.
Waterworks' assortment of beautiful tiles, stylish showerheads, and adorably petite powder-room sinks will inspire you to overhaul every WC in your house. And the luxurious niceties—plush towels and robes, fresh-smelling soaps and lotions from the company's Clean line, and bath accessories in crystal, nickel, and resin—mean you can spruce up your loo without any major construction. 103 Newbury St., Boston, MA waterworks.com/.
This venture from Deuxave's Chris Coombs and Brian Piccini is billed as an "urban steak bistro"—shorthand for "not your grandparents' steakhouse." Start with daring small plates like oxtail croquets with red pepper mostarda, then tuck into an order of steak frites, which combines your favorite cut with a house-made sauce and heaping piles of greens, as well as fries served tableside from large copper bowls. 1375 Washington St., Boston, MA 02118, bostonchops.com.
Feeling sexy begins with what’s underneath your clothes. Let this four-year-old Harvard Square outfitter help you build a beautiful foundation with its fine selection of intimates from Elle MacPherson, Chantelle, Claudette, Hanky Panky, and other luxe lines. In addition to underpinnings and unmentionables, Forty Winks has you covered—literally—for all four seasons with sophisticated hosiery, flirty swimwear, and soft cotton pajamas. 56 JFK St., Cambridge, MA 2138, shopfortywinks.com.
Situated on 30 acres of lush green fields, this full-service grooming and boarding facility offers large private kennels for all of its four-legged guests, each of whom get a gated outdoor space and a deluxe doggie bed. If you’d like to treat your pampered pooch to a vacation as lavish as your own, upgrade to a luxury suite and take advantage of à la carte services such as nature walks, play sessions, and face time with Fido (via Web cam). 1040 Central St., East Bridgewater, MA 2333, secretgardenpetresort.com.
The 50th season launched with a bang—including a bang-up London tour that deserved every "favourable" review it received. The company then gave Boston a free "Night of Stars" gala on the Common. At the Opera House, it looked equally at home in the classical Cinderella, George Balanchine’s neoclassical Jewels, and Jirí Kylián’s quirky Bella Figura. Capping off the season this past June with a traveling tour to Washington and New York, the Boston Ballet is solidly placed as one of the top five companies in the U.S. bostonballet.org.
A wedding cake is more than just flour, eggs, and sugar — it's an expression of your personal style. And Amesbury baker Jenny Williamson, whose breathtaking designs are informed by 14 years of experience, can execute just about any vision. Need a gluten- and dairy-free cake with art deco flair? No problem. Want your grandmother's vintage handkerchief pattern turned into a four-tier masterpiece? Consider it done. jencakes.squarespace.com.
Forget about the movie-theatre-popcorn-has-more-saturated-fat-than-a-Big-Mac scare a few years back. Send your gourmet popping corn back to Williams-Sonoma. This is fresh popcorn at its finest, with just the right combination of chewiness and crunch, nary a stray burned kernel, and salt measured to perfection. It will neither grease up your hands nor leave you desperately for a four-dollar jumbo soda. Do it right—opt for the real butter. 1296 Washington St., West Newton, MA .
No pansy drinks, these. The Rio features big, honkin' 'ritas shaken into those pint glasses most bars reserve for ales. But while size does matter, a perfect margarita is in the mixing. Here, the base is a perfectly tangy blend of lime and lemon juices tweaked with a helping of lime pulp. Take your pick of either Suaza or Jose Cuervo (the house is made with Gold Suaza) to suit your taste. Purists beware, though, of some of the gussied-up 'ritas on the menu: Chambord and Cuervo really shouldn't be mixed in the same glass. 12 School St., Marblehead, MA .
While some restaurants offer $90-plus takes on set menus, the prix-fixe concept actually originated as a deal. At Cambridge bistro T. W. Food, tradition prevails: Sunday through Thursday, $49 gets you your pick of the menu's starters (we love the silky scrambled farm egg), entrées (like the superb house-made pastas), and dessert (the sorbets are breathtaking)—leaving enough in your wallet for a bottle of good wine. 377 Walden St., Cambridge, MA 2138, twfoodrestaurant.com.
Downscale ambience in an upscale neighborhood. Drop in for beer on your way to the Parkman House for supper. 77 Charles St., Boston, MA .
Is Junior grappling with the moral implications of a carnivorous diet? Take him to Porter Square to read Herb, The Vegetarian Dragon. Barefoot Books' sunny little children's nook, stocked by its own locally based international publishing company of the same name, also boasts plenty of other creative, beautifully illustrated multicultural, and often idiosyncratic, choices. One book of the month was written by a professional faerie, and the world religions section boasts a book about the Hindu goddess Divaali. (There are also plenty of creative but basically apolitical fairy tales and stories about animals.) Community is as important as storytelling here: There are regular story hours—some bilingual—author events, and an adult evening series on topics such as "Creating a Place for Your Child to Grow and Thrive." 1771 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA .
Like an antique wing chair done up in a sharp new print, Citizen's spin on the Manhattan hews to tradition while freshening things up. The cocktail starts with the classic recipe (Maker's Mark, sweet vermouth, Angostura), then amps it up with a touch of the unconventional (St. Germain, grapefruit bitters). The final effect? True to the original cocktail's spirit, but tastier. 1310 Boylston St., Boston, MA 2215, .
This grooming service is no-nonsense and no-frills, but we like it that way. And so do our dogs, who don't balk at returning when we pull into the parking lot. The cheap $7 nail-clipping service can't be beat. 310 Lincoln St. (Route 3A), Hingham, MA .
In a city full of bars with loud music, weak drinks, and meat-market mentalities, the Oak Bar is an oasis of refinement, elegance, and call brands. No sneakers, please. And do not, by any means, forget your jacket and tie. Or your martini preference—at last count, there were 21 varieties on the cocktail menu, including the 007, the Barbie-tini, and the Engaging Martini (which, for a modest $12,750, comes complete with a platinum and diamond engagement ring from Shreve, Crump & Low). But good martinis aren't all it takes. Rather, it is the quiet piano music, soaring gilt-covered, vaulted ceiling, plus chairs, and skilled bartenders—who will do so little as pour you a beer and so much as mix your margarita the way you like it— which put the Oak Bar into a category all its own. And the burgers aren't bad, either. Fairmont Copley Plaza, 138 St. James Avenue, Boston, MA oaklongbarkitchen.com.