Best of the new: diversions

Aussie Aviary at Franklin Park Zoo (Zoo New England) Aussie Aviary at Franklin Park Zoo
By Best of the New contributors: Jenn Abelson, Ellen Albanese, Ami Albernaz, Kathleen Burge, Karen Campbell, Maria Cramer, Geoff Edgers, Jeremy Eichler, Devra First, Jan Gardner, Alyssa Giacobbe, Meredith Goldstein, Jolyon Helterman, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Susa
December 19, 2010

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American Craft

A few drops of provenance-driven knowledge are all it takes to spin indiscriminate binge drinking as “potable connoisseurship.” Indeed, focused (initially) due diligence is the dominant activity at this Publick House spinoff, where a lively crowd of non-teetotaling thirtysomethings geeks out on artisanal brews and small-batch gins, rums, whiskeys, bourbons, and vodkas. Off-the-beaten-path imbibing never felt so . . . tight. 1700 Beacon Street, Brookline, 617-487-4290,

Artisan’s Asylum

With 9,000 square feet of workshop space housing thousands of pounds of equipment, founders Gui Cavalcanti, a robotics engineer, and Jenn Martinez, a costume designer, have attracted a devoted following to their craft studio. DIYers come to learn everything from woodworking and welding to screen printing and millinery, in classes taught by local artisans. 13 Joy Street and 561 Windsor Street, Somerville,

Art of the Americas Wing, Museum of Fine Arts

Fifty-three new galleries. A soaring glass-covered courtyard. And the art. The MFA’s new wing opened with considerable fanfare in November – and with good reason. The expansion changes the way you visit one of Boston’s oldest cultural institutions. The project also made national waves, with critics praising the MFA’s decision to cover all of the Americas, not just John Singer Sargent’s turf. But if you’re looking for some of the MFA’s popular standbys, no fear. The Boit daughters, re-hung in the new wing, have never looked better. 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, 617- 267-9300,

ArtsEmerson: The World on Stage

In its inaugural season, this fabulous series offers more than 100 performances of 18 different productions, starting with Doug Elkins’s hilarious Fraulein Maria and the world premiere of The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later. Under the artistic leadership of Rob Orchard, it’s finally an arts series worthy of Emerson College, lighting up the newly opened Paramount Center and the Cutler Majestic. Box office, 559 Washington Street, Boston, 617-824-8000,

Aussie Aviary

The Franklin Park Zoo’s new interactive free-flight exhibit lets guests stroll among hundreds of charming, chattering brightly colored budgerigars, or budgies (also known as grass parakeets), as they fly around the aviary atrium. You can purchase special seed sticks to feed the birds, which is a thrill for kids of all ages. Closed for winter, the outdoor aviary reopens in the spring. One Franklin Park Road, Dorchester, 617-541-5466,

Back Bay Social Club

Against steep odds – specifically, the bourgeois address, and the deja-hipsterishness of its name – this upstart lounge and eatery has coalesced into a legit locals hangout. Mitigating factors: a bar manned by craft-cocktail nerds; a $21 burger so magnificent it tastes like a bargain; a sidewalk patio strategically positioned (Mandarin to the left, Hynes to the right) for unobstructed views of the passing bourgeoisie. 867 Boylston Street, Boston, 617-247-3200,

Boston Conservatory’s Hemenway Project

The conservatory finally has a first-class venue to showcase its superb training. Completed this fall, the $32 million Hemenway Project expanded and renovated the old theater building, adding 16,000 square feet of teaching, rehearsal, and performance space. It’s stark but impressively functional. Students are thrilled, and audiences will appreciate comfy new theater seating, terrific sightlines, and updated climate control. 31 Hemenway Street, Boston, 617-536-6340,

Co Lab: process + performance

In partnership with the Institute of Contemporary Art, Summer Stages Dance’s new initiative brings together some of America’s most adventurous voices in music, visual arts, poetry, and dance for dynamic collaborations performed on the ICA’s stage. In 2010, visionary artists like Jenny Holzer and Anne Carson presented provocative multimedia collaborations and shared insights into the creative process. Two more collaborations are already scheduled for 2011. Performances are at the ICA, 100 Northern Avenue, Boston; for information, call Summer Stages Dance, 978-402-2339,

Formaggio Kitchen Annex

Butchering a pig from snout to tail takes space. This demonstration kitchen/classroom provides it, accommodating 30 foodies plus featured subject. The gourmet do-it-yourself crowd no longer bumps elbows in classes covering everything from charcuterie to chocolate. Coming soon: Boston’s top chefs. It’s time to eat, drink, learn how to build a better cheese plate, and be merry. 67 Smith Place, Unit 13A, Cambridge, 617-354-7112,

Modern theatre

Rising from the decades-long wreckage of Boston’s first theater showing “talkies,” Suffolk University’s intimate 185-seat gem is a charmingly appointed multiuse jewel box, complete with modest orchestra pit and decent wing space, for performing arts, films, lectures, etc. The meticulously restored 1913 facade and vivid decorative details reinvigorate the historic theater with contemporary flair. 525 Washington Street, Boston, 617-557-6537,


Berklee students gather – and serious coffee drinkers get their fix – amid exposed brick and giant art canvases that create a cool bohemian vibe. Dash in for a quick cup, or order from the slow bar, which features rotating coffee and espresso selections made one cup at a time. 1096 Boylston Street, Boston, 617-236-1500,

Raising the barre: Ballet from around the world

Coolidge Corner Theatre’s new yearlong dance on film series offers Bostonians big-screen, high-definition access to acclaimed (sometimes rare) productions by leading international dance companies. The initial offering was the Bolshoi Ballet’s provocative, rarely seen production of Shostakovich’s The Bolt. Look for Stravinsky and the Mariinsky Ballet (a.k.a. Kirov) in February. 290 Harvard Street, Brookline, 617-734-2501,

Shalin Liu Performance Center

After almost three decades of borrowing space from a local art gallery, the Rockport Chamber Music Festival in June opened a striking venue of its own: the Shalin Liu Performance Center. It’s an intimate, beautifully appointed hall with clear acoustics and dramatic views of the sea, making it one of New England’s most magical spots for chamber music. 37 Main Street, Rockport, 978-546-7391,

Shining Rock Golf Club

Since opening in April, Shining Rock in Northbridge has wowed scratch golfers and hackers alike with its pristine conditions, undulating fairways, and slippery greens that feature more tiers than a wedding cake. This rookie has already cracked Golf Magazine’s “Top 10 Courses You Can Play” in Massachusetts, and most tracks only get better with age. 91 Clubhouse Lane, Northbridge, 508-234-0400,

Sky Zone indoor trampoline park

Get your bounce on. Inside this 20,000-square-foot Hyde Park warehouse turned play space, three trampoline “courts” (grids of interlocked rectangles with just the right amount of resiliency) encourage gravity-defying fun for adults and kids. To the beat of pop-rock, flip head over heels, play 3-D dodge ball with trampoline walls in-bounds, or take high-flying fitness classes. 91-B Sprague Street, Boston, 857-345-9693,


When an elder insulted a pack of twentysomething poets by remarking on the folly of youth, they didn’t just get mad, they got even – and launched a poetry series of their own. Every other month their anointed leader, Daniel E. Pritchard, hosts a reading by two poets under 35. All ages welcome. U35 Poetry @ The Marliave, 10 Bosworth Street, Boston, 617-422-0004,

Ultimate Fighting Championship

Honestly, it’s not as if Bostonians had never seen a fight before. In August, onetime Southie boxing coach Dana White (above) brought his Ultimate Fighting Championship to the Gahden for the first time, after state legislators lifted the ban on mixed martial arts. UFC 118 featured heavyweight boxer James Toney taking on MMA legend Randy Couture. As a bonus for fans, man mountain Shaquille O’Neal was in the audience – one of his first public appearances in the Hub after joining the Celtics.

Yard House

OMG, Rogue Hazelnut Brown on tap! This popular California chain is famous for offering the world’s largest selection of draft beer, but it’s also a cool place to eat and hang out, with classic rock music, a lively ambience, and an enormous American fusion menu (including enlightened veggie and gluten-sensitive offerings, often a tough find).Legacy Place, Dedham, 781-326-4644,

  • December 19, 2010 cover
  • Best of the New