Dreams and Prayers, A Far Cry's self-released, Grammy-nominated album with clarinetist David Krakauer, isn't just one of this year's best classical recordings, but also one of the best narratives, too. As dramatic as anything in our Netflix queue, Dreams and Prayers—recorded at Sacred Heart Church, in Fall River—is a thoroughly modern, century-spanning, globe-trotting sonic adventure. Catch the group live at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where it's the in-house chamber orchestra. afarcry.org.
There's a reason Cheryl Richards is our go-to wedding photographer (and frequent Best of Boston winner): She manages to be both unobtrusive and friendly as she preserves your memories in her signature photojournalistic style. You'll treasure her snapshots because, after all those long months of planning, the only things that last (other than the marriage, we hope) are the photographs. 224 Clarendon St., Boston, MA cherylrichards.com/.
Vintners Bob and Carol Russell often refer to themselves as farmers rather than winemakers, though they produce a national and international award-winning series of methode Champenoise sparkling wines. These are bottled testimony to their efforts and ethos—the Russells' business is a family one (sons Bill and Bob make the wine and manage the vineyard respectively) devoted to preserving Massachusetts farmland and producing a superior product. If it's good enough for the White House (the sparkling wines were served at the Governor's Dinner 2000), then it is welcome on our table. 417 Hixbridge Road, Westport, MA westportrivers.com.
Sonsie-bashing had become such a popular sport for a while, the ensuing recoil could only have put the place back in vogue. Well, here's at least one hard-hitting reason to quit caviling: the martinis. To start, simply sit back and admire the presentation: A gargantuan, perfectly chilled glass arrives empty, frosty, and luminous. Then the fetching bartenders (ours had an uncanny resemblance to the French lover in Unfaithful) quickly and efficiently shake, ice, add the perfect amount of vermouth, and pour. Just one inspires great conversation. 327 Newbury St., Boston, MA sonsieboston.com/.
This Italian specialty shop routinely stocks the finest and freshest selection of fresh pasta. Four or five daily flavors can be cut to order, and the freezer cases hold homemade tortellini filled with chicken, pesto, pumpkin, or roasted garlic, as well as a variety of sauces and oven-ready hors d'oeuvres. Also look for for the barrels of dry pasta in every shape and form, and don't miss the huge deli selection. 31 Putnam Ave., Cambridge, MA .
Lynn may be a ways past the city limits, but this 8,000-square-foot lighting nirvana set in a historic mansion proved an irresistible beacon to our Best of Boston judges. The brainchild of spunky Salem State College grad Lucy Dearborn, Lucia comprises 12 showrooms with themes like 'The Crystal Room' (sparkles galore) and 'The Loft' (sleek and funky). With approximately 1,000 fixtures to choose from, and the guidance of in-house designers, customers are bound to find something here that turns them on, and vice versa. 311 Western Ave., Lynn, MA 1904, lucialighting.com.
We're not in the habit of awarding locations around town, but we would like to share our favorite walk with like-minded leisure hunters. The lap around this picturesque reservoir is framed with storied Brookline townhouses, and the track is clean, shaded by tall trees, and utterly peaceful. This could be the most perfect place to clear your head in the city. Route 9 and Chestnut Hill Avenue, Brookline, MA .
We might roll our eyes at precious, overpriced kids' clothes, but it's near impossible to resist the teeny, hand-knit pale pink sweaters and soft cotton bonnets and caps at Pinwheels. Miniature outfits for boys and girls—including many pieces with embroidered animals—abound at this island spot. There's only one downside: You'll wish Pinwheels carried its charming fashions in your size, too. 7 S. Beacon St., Nantucket, MA .
All of our local museums have responded to 2020’s challenges with aplomb, working hard to launch online programs that keep the public connected. But the MFA has gone above and beyond with offerings as labyrinthine as its physical complex on Huntington Ave. In addition to a deep dive into the landmark Basquiat exhibit, the museum also uploaded artist interviews and art classes for kids on its website and YouTube channel—to say nothing of its immaculately produced collection tours on Google Arts & Culture. 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02115, mfa.org.
Jill Rosenwald's groovy patterned pottery and accessories are pure bold technicolor, and so is her personality: Chatty and effusive, Rosenwald considers her clients and colleagues old friends. When you call her studio, it's actually her on the other end, always game to kibitz about your latest design needs. She's a big supporter of our arts scene, too, as a cofounder of the Design Salon, a networking organization for creative women to swap ideas and advice. 369 Congress St., Boston, MA 02210, jillrosenwald.com.
We'll cop to ordering kibble in bulk and rolls of doggy bags online, but when we want to reward our most loyal friends, we load up on the chicken littles, cod skins, and duck jerky dehydrated in Polka Dog's South Boston kitchen. Beyond the treat jars, the retail shops deal in Big Shrimpy dog beds, Bella Bean collars, and sturdy Tuffy chew toys—certain to command semper fi from your pup—plus a range of purr-inducing cat provisions. 356 Shawmut Ave., Boston, MA polkadog.com.
You don't go to Cigar Masters to smoke. You go to savor. Settle into a soft, cigar-brown (of course) leather couch and choose from roughly 200 cigars—from $3 to $30—kept in an oversized humidor. Along with complimentary hors d'oeuvres from Formaggio Kitchen (during special tastings), the smoke shop serves beer, wine, champagne, and port. So pair your stogy with some bubbly and puff away. 745 Boylston St., Boston, MA 2116, cigarmasters.com.
The travel superstore stocks alarm clocks, passport cases, wrinkles-free clothing with hidden pockets, electronic travel gadgets, guidebooks, maps, journals, and a full-service, in-house travel agency. If you can think of anything else you'd need for a weekend getaway or a trip around the world, we'll eat our lightweight, floats-in-water, sun-protective, ventilated safari hat. 519 Boylston St., Boston, MA .
For those who go regularly to get buffed, the occasional cheap pedicure will do. For the rest of us, with our callused heels, blistered toes, and chipped polish, the Emerge deluxe pedicure functions like a foot intervention. First, anything unsightly gets whisked away by a chamomile scrub. Feet are then dunked in a paraffin treatment that softens even the toughest soles. Technicians are meticulous when grooming cuticles and perfecting polish application, leaving ample time for you to relax and marvel at the transformation of your digits. 275 Newbury St., Boston, MA 2116, emergespasalon.com.
How would you like your blowout today: sleek and long or Barbarella-style bouncy? Of all the stylists we visited, this was the only one to ask our preference. But that's not all. The B&D staffers really tease out the pampering experience; never do you feel hurried as the friendly folks shepherd you from shampoo station (where they give some of the finest scalp rubs in town) to massage chair. Best of all, each client leaves with a mane that looks as sexy as a supermodel's for three whole days. 77 Newbury St, Boston, MA 2116, bradleyanddiegel.com.