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A celebratory chocolate rush

Need to vent in prep for an ominous birthday? The chocolate piñata cake, designed by Serenade Chocolatier, will help you do just that. Hollow dark or milk chocolate cakes have a small wooden mallet tucked into the box, so when you get home, you can hammer the thin chocolate walls to reveal many tiny treats inside. Taste your way through chocolate truffles, caramel patties, and nut clusters made from butter and premium European chocolate. Each cake, in 8- and 10-inch sizes ($30 and $40 respectively), can be custom created. Prefer dark chocolates only? Done. Gluten allergies? The confections are gluten-free. The piñata cakes were inspired by the shop's 20th anniversary. Shop owner Nur Kilic says, "Forget smashing the champagne, smash the cake." Serenade Chocolatier, 5 Harvard Square, Brookline, 617-739-0795, and 2 South Station, 617-261-9941, - JEFF MIRANDA

Precious preserves
With its $15.75 price tag, Tiptree Little Scarlet Strawberry Preserve is extravagant lunchbox fare for the kids, so be greedy and savor it on your own morning toast after the little ones have left for school. Each 12-ounce jar includes 60 tiny, intensely flavored "Little Scarlet" strawberries suspended in a crimson jelly. The berries are native to the United States, but Wilkin & Sons' growing estates in southern England are the only places where this tempestuous variety is cultivated and handpicked. "Little Scarlets" enjoyed a stellar growing season in 2006; with the UK's wet, miserable summer this year, you'll want to hoard. Available at British Delights, 63 Power Road, Unit 2, Westford, 978-392-0077. - DIANA BURRELL

Meat at the Station
Meat lovers who go to The Carving Station downtown will relish BLTs ($7.25), Reubens ($7.50), pulled pork sandwiches ($7.25), and the "day after" (turkey with stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce, $7.50). The small shop features sandwiches made with quality roasted meats, chicken, turkey, ham, and roast and corned beef, all carved to order. Breads are fresh daily from Iggy's and all the sides, including baked beans, cole slaw, and mac and gorgonzola cheese, are made on the premises, as are the seasoned tortilla chips you can munch on while waiting for your order. For nonmeaters in your crowd, there are salads, and for anyone who claims to have room for dessert, the house pecan pie or cheesecake. The Carving Station, 1 Beacon St., 617-367-8500, - LISA ZWIRN

From boxing ring to boxing pizzas
Before John Mastrangelo was a restaurateur, he was a professional boxer. Growing up in East Boston, says the 68-year-old owner of Kelly's Pub, "I used to get into too much trouble. So my mother brought me to the gym." In his early 20s, an injury ended his career, but his passion for the sport is still evident in the posters and signed photographs that decorate the dining room at Kelly's. "My whole family was pizza makers," he says, so Mastrangelo gravitated toward the restaurant business, opening this spot 20 years ago. Large cheese pizzas go for $7.95, and though the place is usually filled with regulars, "even when strangers come in they feel like family," says the pie maker. "We treat everyone the same." Kelly's Pub, 84 Bennington St., # 1, East Boston, 617-567-4627. - LEIGH BELANGER

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