In characteristic Baptiste Power Yoga fashion, the temperature during Glen Cunningham's methodical Vinyasa-style classes is set to a steamy 90 degrees (though the room feels much hotter). But the unique playfulness Cunningham brings to each rigorous session in the Boston studio has students smiling through even the most painful positions. Cunningham's gentle, yet powerful, presence is supported by three years of study in Anusara yoga, a technique that emphasizes graceful alignment principles and ancient Tantric philosophy. In other words, he knows from the intricacies of body positioning, and can speak to every student's strengths and differences. It's a fun and invigorating twist on the Baptiste Power Yoga style that has devotees lining up to stretch and sweat. 139 Columbus Ave., Boston, MA baronbaptiste.com/the-boston-studios/.
With its great taquerias, Irish pubs, and Korean restaurants, this thriving Somerville neighborhood offers plenty of restaurants to try. Our vote this year goes to India Palace. Sure, the friendly service and simple décor make dining here a pleasant experience, but it's the delicious, inexpensive, and exotic food that brings us back. Tandoori specialties like chicken marinated in spiced yogurt, vegetarian dishes such as chana masala (slow-cooked chickpeas in a rich tomato-based sauce with coriander and sweet onions), and a creamy mix of onions, nuts, and herbs called rogan josh make it hard to decide which dish to try. So go ahead and try them all. The prices are that low, and with plenty of experience from their busy takeaway business, the servers will be more than happy to pack up your leftovers for you. 23 Union Square, Somerville, MA indiapalacesomerville.info/.
The Huntington Theatre Company had a lot to crow about with this spring's production of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, which marked the company's completion of all 10 plays in August Wilson's legendary Century Cycle series, about the African-American experience in the 20th century. TV and Broadway star Yvette Freeman played titular blues diva Ma Rainey, but it was Roslindale's own Jason Bowen who stole the show. His roiling, titanic performance as Levee, Rainey's trumpeter, perfectly captured the unbridled ambition that led to his character's violent downfall. Combine that with his sweet performance last fall as the lovestruck Duke Orsino in the Actors' Shakespeare Project's Twelfth Night, and Bowen is well on his way to stardom.
Norwell is hardly a hotbed of international enchantment, but this tiny house of beauty has it in spades. The journey begins in the tasseled Moroccan aesthetics room, where you can undergo a Valmont facial—using the famed and exquisite Swiss product line laced with sweet Bulgarian rose—at the nurturing hands of Barbara Foley while you gaze up at a swathed ceiling. Or give yourself over to one of the masseuses, who make their own herb-infused oils and will leave you wondering if you even have a spine. Maxime's nerve center is a conglomerate of beauty bar and hair salon. (Ronit Enos is a meticulous whiz at color.) Relax in the plush cranny decked out like the Taj Mahal as you wait for your day of beauty. 124 Washington St., Norwell, MA maximesalon.com/.
Chef Barbara Lynch strikes just the right chord with her Beacon Hill restaurant, which is elegant and haute without any pretension. The ambiance: The music is low and sultry (Billie Holiday is often spinning); the bar is swanky yet small; the dining room is well-appointed and unostentatious. And the food, oh, the food. Lynch is a wonder at homemade Italiana. You can't go wrong with her starchy creations; even simple spaghetti with meat sauce is elevated to higher ground. No. 9 has given Lynch license to be more ambitious, though. Foie gras terrine wrapped in proscuitto with caramelized apples is ethereal; seasonal specialties like lightly fried soft shell crabs with pea shoots are terrifically inventive; and milk chocoalte bread pudding is sweet satisfaction. Added to the mix: sommelier Cat Silirie's impressive Burgundian wine sensibilities, a quietly efficient staff, and a picture-perfect perch on the Common. 9 Park Street, Boston, MA no9park.com.
Celebrated grill god Chris Schlesinger's Inman Square spot is its own Cambridge institution—part community hangout, part nationally known restaurant, part vacation. Wild décor (from the blackboard that shouts daily fresh fish specials to the kitschy "live volcano") and even wilder mixed drinks (like the scotch bonnet pepper—infused "martini from hell") set the scene for equatorial specialties from the world's most spice-obsessed regions. That means terrific barbecue, sweetly rich fried plantains, wasabi-laced tuna, and an inventive postmodern pupu platter to die for. Hot-food connoisseurs shouldn't miss "Hell Night," a fiery food challenge featuring some of the spiciest foodstuffs on the planet. 1271 Cambridge St., Cambridge, MA eastcoastgrill.net/.
The real meat of a truly great steakhouse is just that: its meat. And while the opulent Oak Room may look too delicate to deliver on such a carnivorous front, this year it left the competition begging for scraps. Witness the splendidly marbled bone-in rib-eye, juicy to its sweet core. And the pliant slab of aged New York strip under a voluptuous horseradish sauce. Sides and seafood, too, are much more than standard: thick spears of tender asparagus, chilled artichokes with thick and fresh lobster tail, and sharp-flavored calamari salad. Service is thoughtful, informed, and perfectly timed, and the epic wine list is packed with impressive (mostly French and American) choices. Why haven't we mentioned the room's flat-out stunning décor by now? Because with credentials like this, it shouldn't matter. Saying the Oak Room isn't a real steakhouse is as silly as saying a beautiful woman can't be smart. Fairmont Copley Plaza, 138 St. James Ave., Boston, MA .
Don't let the trendy name fool you: Fifty-three South is far more nouvelle than nouveau. That's not to say this fetching bistro, opened at the site of the former Seasons restaurant, doesn't have a classic strain. Candles light the tables, dried flowers warm up the walls, and the delicate menu caresses the palate. Starters such as tender scallops paired with silky cauliflower cream are downright delectable, and the melt-in-your-mouth short ribs are plump with deep-flavored sweet and smoky meat. Main courses—the seafood stew of cod, crab claws, shrimp, potatoes, and fruity tomatoes, all swimming in a full-on saffron broth—are well-orchestrated balancing acts of texture and flavor. Factor in incredibly attentive service and a well-edited wine list, and you've got a bistro that defines modern classic. 124 Washington Street (Route 153), Norwell, MA .
Just about any facial you receive at Grettacole will be head and shoulders above the rest in town. But those at the hands of Katerina Kolokotronis are nothing short of miraculous. The sweet and down-to-earth Kolokotronis swiftly determines the needs of even the most sensitive skin and, using the acclaimed Swiss beauty line Valmont, sets about rejuvenating it with the most luxurious, restorative facial in town. Gentle extractions and calming masks designed to make the skin glow are applied during the relaxing one-hour treatment. (The collagen mask is a surefire way to keep Botox at bay for years to come.) And to keep the rest of you from getting jealous while your face is pampered, Kolokotronis can arrange for a hair conditioning treatment, after-facial blowout, and makeup application. If that's not enough, she's a master at eyebrow shaping and waxing—which is why Kolokotronis is more than just an aesthetician, she's a miracle worker. Westin Copley/Copley Place, Boston, MA .
For a town that prides itself on its seafood, it can be tough to find a seafood restaurant that goes beyond the standard boiled lobsters or watery clam chowder. Enter KingFish Hall, where chef-owner Todd English has designed a menu that delights, with everything from traditional lobster rolls—sweet and tender lobster meat on a buttery, toasted nest of bread with just enough mayo and celery leaves to hold it together—to more complicated dishes, such as miso-marinated cod. There's also the "dancing fish" of the day (herb- and butter-basted fish placed on individual rotating skewers that spin around a circular wood-burning pit) and a daily chilled and briny selection of raw shellfish. As for the chowder, there's the not-so-traditional New England style, thick and delightfully creamy, or the ever-changing daily varieties accompanied by homemade oyster crackers. 188 South Market Building, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston, MA .
Plenty of pastry chefs around town put together fussy, high-styled confections that scream "innovation." But if you're looking for someone versatil—someone who can do comfort sweets as well as fine dining—there's no topping Kilpatrick. With both Oleana and Sofra bakery as her platforms, she twists her way through composed desserts (a funky take on baked Alaska; nougat glacé with apricot sorbet) and fly-off-the-shelves-good coffee cakes, sesame scones, and sugared donuts. What's more, her inventive use of Mediterranean ingredients produces stellar (and utterly addictive) results across the board. Oleana, 134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, 617-661-0505, oleanarestaurant.com; Sofra, 1 Belmont St., Cambridge, 617-661-3161, sofrabakery.com MA
European fashion mags, out-of-state newspapers, porn, and politically broad-sheets. If it can be read, it can probably be bought here. Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA .
Looks like the Marlboro Man. Drips sweat all over me when we kiss. Peabody, MA
These pyromaniacs could blow a nine-run lead to the Coors Silver Bullets all-women's team without breaking a sweat.