The chefs at 29 Newbury arrange fresh ingredients into artfully presented, gourmet cuisine for guests dining between crisp white walls or on the outdoor patio. Both the eatery's menu and the local art adorning its walls rotate with the seasons to incorporate the latest harvests and trends in art criticism. A starter of steamed clams and mussels prepared with white wine, chorizo, and garlic warms up palates for a pan-roasted entree of sesame-encrusted salmon, which floats atop a blizzard of snow peas drizzled with soy-sesame sauce. Warm lobster salad tosses together sautéed white beans with mixed greens, avocado, and basil-lemon vinaigrette. Patrons concerned with etiquette debate between dessertspoons and grappling hooks before spelunking into layers of 29 Signature tiramisu or sojourning through heaps of homemade whipped cream topped with seasonal berries.
Anyone strolling down Marlborough Street in tony Back Bay might miss the French Cultural Center of Boston if they weren’t looking for it. The nonprofit’s home looks like any other historic mansion lining the street, but inside is a Francophile’s dream. Dedicated to ensuring the growth of French language and culture in present-day New England, the organization boasts the second largest private collection of French books in the United States – more than 25,000 publications – as well as periodicals, DVDs, CDs and more. The cultural center is also home to a school that offers language classes for both adults and children. Combine all of that with an array of lively cultural events held throughout the year, from art exhibitions and lectures to cooking demonstrations, and the French Cultural Center becomes one of Boston’s hubs of French culture.
The Paramount’s brightly illuminated Broadway-style sign in the Theater District has taken over the role of eye-catcher along Washington Street, now that the Filene’s infamous clock tower is no more. The space was originally opened as a cinema in the 1930s, but was forced to shutter in the mid-1970s, a time when the entire downtown area needed to be revitalized. In 2005, Emerson College purchased the building, renovated the interior and transformed it into the intimate 596-seat venue it is today. With large gold columns and artistically painted walls, The Paramount’s main stage stands out. But the facility also hosts nine rehearsal studios, four classrooms, a sound stage, the Bright Family screening room and two smaller performance spaces that host everything from comedians and dance troupes to more official theatrical productions.
Sharing a single art studio with 65 other artists, while inspiring, can get a bit crowded. So when the owner of the renovated factory building in the South End decided to renovate another nearby building, bead crocheter Andrea Garr put her dreams of opening her own studio and bead store into action, and Bead + Fiber was born. Wielding multihued beads, a fine selection of specialty yarns, tools and jewelry-making materials picked up from her travels around the globe, Garr sells her creations as well as those of the other teachers and instructs students on how to make their own, whether it's a pair of elegant earrings for a wedding or a retractable necklace for a fashion-forward pet turtle. A lifelong artist, Garr revels in the rhythm and meditative vibe of crocheting beads as well as the seemingly endless possibilities of making your own jewelry.
Shopping has never been more interesting than it is at Shake the Tree. This unique boutique features a little bit of this and a lot of that, from beautifully scented candles and rich hand lotions to a collection of perfume from various designers. Hand-milled soaps and silk scarves stand out for their uniqueness, while wool hats, locally-made jewelry, contemporary dresses and leather wallets and handbags are also available, each set perfectly on a beautiful display inside the sunny shop. Gift ideas include Sriracha cookbooks for home chefs, leather totes for the modern fashionista and even stuffed animals for youngsters. Shake the Tree also hosts monthly cocktail parties featuring some of the designers, with food from area North End restaurants.
Precious coffee is expertly brewed and measured at Voltage Coffee, which pours custom blends and premium chocolate concoctions into the cups of thirsty customers. The tasteful menu demonstrates the breadth of the store’s sippables, a roster that includes exotic creations such as the paper plane latte, which, like most actual planes, is powered by cardamom, rose water, and honey ($4 for 12 oz.). Three single-origin hot-chocolate drinks provided with tasting notes will please cocoaholics ($4 for 12 oz.).