Rani is a study in contrasts. The spicy pinch of lamb vindaloo meets the sugary melt of mango chutney, and the taste of sour curry is followed by the sweet nectar of a rose lassi. No taste bud is ignored at Coolidge Corner's hottest new bistro. The atmosphere is airy and pleasant, with authentic décor to match the authentic Hyderabadi cuisine. And the service is as steady as the stream of locals coming through the door. 1353 Beacon St., Brookline, MA ranibistro.com/.
American Seasons co-owner Orla Murphy LaScola greets patrons with a charming Irish brogue as she seats them on the cool, inviting porch or in the warm, rustic dining room. Wherever they sit, they're in for a treat: Chef-owner Michael LaScola's creations—which include such delights as fried oyster and rare beef salad with mustard greens and orange, and blackberry-anise bomb—are seasonally inspired and beautifully executed. Dine here during a weekend getaway, and you'll soon find yourself studying ferry schedules just to plot your next feast. 80 Centre St., Nantucket Island, MA 2554, americanseasons.com.
Need some inspiration to kickstart that rooftop garden you've always wanted? You'll find it here. Part hardware store, part botanical garden, Mahoney's has countless spades and shears, plus all the soil, fertilizer, and pots you'll ever need. The selection of seeds, hanging plants, flower trays, vegetable plants, herbs, cacti, and even bonsai trees, makes this the most fertile corner of Cambridge. 889 Memorial Dr., Cambridge, MA mahoneysgarden.com/.
Not only does Mahoney's stock every hue of azalea and geranium God ever contemplated and many he didn't, but the selection of hedges, annuals, bedding plants and potted palms is simply the best. Energetic local youngsters supplement the sage advice of the nursery professionals, who give sound tips to those with even the un-greenest thumb. And plants come with up to a 90-day replacement guarantee. 242 Cambridge St., Route 3, Winchester, MA .
Boston's best-kept secret works on Tremont Street in Chinatown. His name is Gin Soon Chu, but he is known in the area only as sifu (teacher). Sifu is one of two living disciples of the Yang Tai Chi line. Martial artists from all over the world come here to study with the grand master, who is said to be wiser than an owl and stronger than a bear. 324 Tremont St., Boston, MA .
The Four Seasons' lounge caters to both sorts of solo patrons: those who find themselves alone, and those who wish to be left alone. The skilled barkeeps are the city's quickest studies of stag drinkers, able to gauge whether you're up for a chat, a snack, or a stiff drink and silence. And the Bristol's cozy appointments make it perfectly suited to parties of one. 200 Boylston St., Boston, MA 2116, .
Too many makeup artists labor under the tragic misconception that "bridal" means caked-on foundation, tarlike mascara, and Dynasty-esque cheek contouring. Not Wagener, who studies the bride-to-be's everyday look, then simply ratchets it up for the nuptials. After a session in her cozy workspace—well worth her $125 hourly fee—we walked away feeling glamorous as hell, but looking like ourselves. 130 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 2116, shuuemura-usa.com.
At this South End hot spot inspired by Venetian bacaros, chefs Kevin O’Donnell and Michael Lombardi deliver a singular study in layered flavors and textures: See fried artichoke electrified with tonnato sauce and capers, and the house-made pillows of fontina-stuffed scarpinocc dressed with crunchy almonds. Creative cicchetti shoot in rapid-fire from the kitchen, each dreamier than the last, each designed to pair perfectly with cocktails on the charming patio. 569 Columbus Ave., Boston, MA srvboston.com.
It’s worth a trip to the ’burbs for chef Mario Capone’s towering lunchtime burger, a study in pure, beefy excess. Made with a high percentage of prime chuck, each juicy 8-ounce patty is sandwiched between a just-squishy-enough brioche bun and complemented by crispy fried onion strings, house-made ketchup, and a mantle of molten Vermont cave-aged cheddar. 15 3rd Ave., Burlington, MA 01803, the-bancroft.com.
For more than 16 years, Linda Varone has been boosting the chi of Greater Boston's living spaces with her personal blend of eastern feng shui and western architectural psychology. Taking a balanced approach to color, lighting, and organization, she aims to increase the flow of positive energy through homes, making studies more productive, for example, and bedrooms more romantic. PMB 196, 1337 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington, MA 2476, .
The Milky Way looks the picture of a suburban basement lounge—if only a basement could be this cool. Tucked beneath Bella Luna restaurant in J.P.'s Hyde Square, the space is a study in shabby chic. Mismatched chairs, dim lighting, pool tables, and candlepin bowling set the stage for a young, hipster clientele. The funky locale is intentionally Bohemian, working to evoke the slacker-glam feel of joints on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Don't hold its pretensions against it, though: The Milky Way is a very fun place to hang for an evening. 403-405 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, MA milkywayjp.com.
Here in the Hub, oenophiles generally have two types of stores from which to choose. There's the overly curated boutique, where every bottle warrants its own spotlight and price hike. Then there's the warehouse, where half the inventory seems the result of bargain-driven haggling ('We got an extra pallet of this merlot to get rid of!'), not some connoisseur's strategic sipping. Bauer lands right in the middle, with a store full of attractively organized bottles that are fairly priced yet well chosen. Everything in moderation, people—even when it's a gnarly 2003 Chateau du Tertre Margaux (a recent store promotion) that opens up into a berry-enriched study in liquid gossamer. 330 Newbury St., Boston, MA 2115, bauerwines.com.
Local masterpiece-mongers tend to deal in one of two extremes: jejune still-lifes geared to designers who spruce up Back Bay sunrooms, or sprawling esoterica that cause poseurs to start lusting for home-display space. Hewing a noble path between pear paintings and "environments," Lanoue focuses on established artists who tackle traditional genres—portraits, landscapes, even floral studies—with modern flair. Though varied in style, the monthly exhibitions all balance craftsmanship with conceptual edge, requiring neither advanced degree nor audio tour to blow you away. 125 Newbury St., Boston, MA 2116, lanouefineart.com.
Few food-world darlings have gotten more love of late than chef Tony Maws; everyone from Martha Stewart to James Beard has gushed. But for all the highfalutin accolades Maws has received for his inventive dinner menu, we can't help gravitating to Craigie's always-packed bar for his more-casual fare. There you can sup on food that qualifies as both hearty and succulent—and that never fails to satisfy: crispy fried pig tails, roasted bone marrow, and the grass-fed burger that's become as famous as Maws's other, more-studied creations. 853 Main St., Cambridge, MA 2139, craigieonmain.com.
Beautiful arrangements of fresh and dried flowers, plenty of potted plants, and service with a smile. 227 Newbury St., Boston, MA .