This caterer has been a mainstay at Boston’s classiest affairs since 1989, for good reason: Its food is all over the map, in the best way. Proper salmon with dill? Taco buffet? Pork-belly sliders? There are no fixed menus or cookie-cutter ideas here; the only limit is your imagination. Best of all, the team behind East Meets West doesn’t stop with menu planning: With such deep industry ties, they’ll recommend just the right DJ, florist, and venue to suit your vision. eastmeetswestcatering.com.
Transparency tops FBN Construction’s list of priorities, and that’s a good thing. The firm’s commitment to communication—to say nothing of its proven planning and building skills—practically guarantees satisfaction, whether you’re overhauling the kitchen in your high-rise condo, creating the ultimate master suite in your suburban Colonial, or simply designing a functional yet elegant home office with loads of built-ins. 17 Wolcott Ct., Boston, MA 02136, fbnconstruction.net.
Bryan Rafanelli is the Keith Lockhart of party planning: able to orchestrate a dizzying number of players to masterful effect. Even more impressive is his repertoire. He and design partner Billy Everse have personalized and pulled off nearly every memorable wedding modern-day Boston has seen, from the stately and elegant to the outrageous. With impeccable taste and a knack for details, the team provides everything from invitations and tunes to food and decorations. All you have to provide are the tears and hugs. 450 Harrison Ave., Suite 401, Boston, MA rafanellievents.com/.
He can find that extra inch in the Prada pants on sale that you can barely squeeze into, transform a jacket so it looks custom-made, and miraculously mend that favorite outfit, which is beginning to look a little on the shabby side. Check with Stephen before you break down in despair over the dress you coveted all season—now that it's available...two sizes too big or one size too small. Barney's New York at the Mall at Chestnut Hill, Chestnut Hill, MA .
There is an art to dressing down, but most people usually head to the nearest Gap or Banana Republic. Throw the flair back into casual Fridays with a visit to agnes b. The place is a gold mine for fashionable yet fuss-free clothing. Signature pieces like fleece cardigans with snaps, well-cut t-shirts and simple dresses, pants and skirts fit nicely into a working girl's wardrobe and her budget. 172 Newbury St., Boston, MA .
You're only as old as you feel, so throw on some track pants and a baby-tee and join the high-energy kids at this "alternative Irish bar." After midnight, the Phoenix transforms itself into the hottest dance club on the left bank of the Chuck—with zero attitude and some of the best trance and drum 'n' bass nights in the city. Owners Kevin Treanor and Joey McCabe have as much fun as they provide, hosting creative events like an independent film night, a rooftop rave, and an annual harbor cruise. 512 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA phoenixlandingbar.com/.
It's a vaunted sports temple, of course, but the Garden had a banner year for music, with appearances by everybody from the current stars Museto the stalwart Rolling Stones, on their 50th-anniversary tour—plus Justin Bieber, Mumford & Sons, and Coldplay. Lady Gaga had to cancel her show to undergo hip surgery, but the fact that she planned to perform here, for the second tour in a row, is a testament to the arena's go-to status. 100 Legends Way, Boston, MA tdgarden.com.
This Harvard Square spot was designed for experimentation, and that's exactly what the American Repertory Theatre is doing with its flexible, intimate new venue. The unadorned black-box design allows the theater and actors to adapt to any performance, while the ART's planned collaborations with other local cultural groups, such as World Music and PEN New England, promise a steady flow of interesting productions. Zero Arrow St., Cambridge, MA americanrepertorytheater.org/venue/zero-arrow.
Used to be this hophead's delight was available only on the occasional tap at, say, F.J.Doyle's in Jamaica Plan. As of April, though, the good people at the Tremont Brewery, way over in Charlestown, started running product through their million-dollar bottling line. The ale is alty, extremely well-hopped and just the right shade of light copper. By now, it should be flying off the shelves at your neighborhood's finest packy.
A bagpiper who leads guests through a forest to the reception, a private fireworks display above a string-lit al fresco dinner party—with Britt Cole and Francie Dorman running the show, the sky is the limit. The luxury event planners work with only 10 couples a year, so you know you'll have their full attention—and all the unbridled creativity that comes with it—throughout the planning process. 42northweddings.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 .
Once in a blue moon, you get a Blue Bunny. Cofounded by children's author-illustrator Peter H. Reynolds (The Dot, The North Star) five years ago, the magical little bookshop has grown into an area hub of reading and imagination. In scarcely more than 1,000 square feet it offers classic kids' books, young-adult novels (some for grownups, too), and lots of low-tech, high-fun games. But more than that, it provides a genuine springboard for creativity. There's always an art or writing workshop planned, and this spring the store launched a magazine created by and for youngsters called The Hutch—underscoring how rare this Bunny truly is. 577 High St., Dedham, MA 2026, .
Turning out memorable meals in private homes—which often means tight quarters and picky palates—is a task that could sap any chef's muse. No surprise the catering arm of the vaunted L'Espalier/Sel de la Terre group is more than up to the challenge. Planning a small fete, we laid out the hurdles: seafood allergies, vegan diets, decorating don'ts. Au Soleil fired back with scads of ideas, including using petits fours as favors and dressing the table with bouquets of our favorite blooms. From intimate dinners to 600-person galas, this event-maker handles every gathering with aplomb. 148 Hampden St., Boston, MA 2119, ausoleilcatering.com.
A lack of hassle is one major thing to look for in a cleaning service; the other, sparkling results. The Maids are the sole local pros in the tidying-up business who nail both every time. Armed with a serious stash of cleaning products, the uniformed crews deploy from their sunny yellow vehicles with a speed-oriented, no-fooling-around plan that leaves every corner of the target home immaculate. And unlike some experiences we've had with other, larger services, the Maids have yet to mix up our keys with another client's, or let our indoor cat outside. 179 Boylston St., Jamaica Plain, MA 2130, .