When Valerie Beck was in kindergarten, there was only one way to get her to drink her milk: mixing in chocolate. As she grew up, her passion for the sweet treat only deepened. During a five-year stint living in Europe, she sleuthed out the most delectable chocolate shops and bakeries, eventually bringing friends along with her on trips to chocolate hot spots. After returning to the United States, she broadened her scope to create Boston Chocolate Walking Tours, focusing on the city’s increasing number of premium chocolatiers.
Valerie’s team of tour guides reveals Boston's best chocolate spots to guests on 2.5-hour tours around the Newbury Street neighborhood. They embark from Teuscher Chocolates of Switzerland, walking or canoeing across the city's historic chocolate canals. The tour changes daily, hitting five–six spots, such as DeLuca's Market and Emack & Bolio's, though the Lindt shop is always on the list.
Aromas of sizzling meats fill Mela's dining room as patrons sear helpings of marinated lamb chops, scallops, or Atlantic salmon at their tables with hot oiled stones. To supplement the patron-grilled dishes, chefs lend their culinary expertise while baking skewered meats and pillowy naan in a traditional tandoor oven and sautéing lentils and vegetables in a fragrant confetti of herbs and Indian spices. They tailor the amount of heat in each entree to accommodate each diner's preferences, preparing mild, savory dishes as well as meals with enough heat to vaporize an army of snowmen.
Salmon-pink drapes line the dining room's floor-to-ceiling windows, lending a soft touch to the stone flooring and walls lined in sheets of hammered copper.
The Dave behind Dave’s Fresh Pasta has spent more than 20 years perfecting the art of pasta making, so it’s no surprise that he doesn’t mind having an audience as he works. He and his staff cut fresh fettuccine, spaghetti, and handmade ravioli right in front of customers. From there, diners take their meal's conception into their own hands, choosing from any of Dave's fresh, house-made sauces––puttanesca, vodka cream, and basil pesto are just a few of the choices available on any given day. But despite the name, pasta isn’t the only draw at Dave's. The grocery store brings together a tantalizing spread of homemade items—croutons, crostini, pestos, dressings—with a curated selection of cheeses, chocolates, olives, cured meats, oils, vinegars, craft beers, and wines. Customers looking to try something new will find plenty of samples to enjoy as they browse, while grilled paninis, fresh soups, and ready-to-eat pasta dishes await anyone in desperate need of a quick meal or ammunition for an office food fight.
Vinny's Ristorante encapsulates the notion of a hidden gem—upon arrival at the address, customers often first think they're lost, as it appears they're mistakenly at a convenience store. The Italian eatery is tucked in the back of this store, so once customers spot red-checkered tablecloths, along with "the vaguely Sopranos-esque clientele sucking down pasta fazool," it's clear they've made it.
Boston magazine reviewers—who observed the Tony Soprano lookalikes when they deemed Vinny's worthy of the Best of Boston list for affordable Italian in 2006—highlight the restaurant's antipasto bar and "massive" portions of handmade pasta as the major draws. And although the word's been out for some time about this secluded Sicilian hotspot, Vinny's marinara and handmade mafalda noodles, impressive Zagat rating, and ceiling fans modeled after da Vinci's helicopter blueprints continue to captivate loyal regulars.
There's only one way to describe the drinks at Cantina La Mexicana: colorful. The bartending team specializes in fresh fruit margaritas, which they blend together and serve on the rocks with 30 different tequilas, instead of one tequila with 29 nicknames. They also squeeze limonada, melon, and other seasonal juices, serving up sweet counterpoints to the zesty cuisine.
That cuisine is inspired by a combination of family recipes and Boston-area chefs. On command, the kitchen springs into action to cook homemade chicken mole, pulled pork, and grilled chicken with pickled cactus, pairing these entrees with rice, beans, avocado, salad, and corn tortillas on the signature "Mexican Plate." At lunch time, the focus turns to satisfying meals such as chalupas and fish tacos.