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Boston Uncommon

Life, Liberty, and the Putsuit of a Great Burger After Midnight

The Getaway: Montreal

This inviting French-speaking city oozes style, grace, and great taste.

SHOPPING If you prowl the high-end shops on Boston's Newbury Street, you'll love two particular streets in Montreal. Check out rue St-Denis for designer fashion; two stores worth a peek are Artefact and Revenge. At the western end of rue Sherbrooke you'll find antiques shops and art galleries. Antiquites Phyllis Friedman showcases English and European furniture; Galerie Elca London specializes in Inuit sculpture. (Artefact, 4117 rue St-Denis, 514-842-2780; Revenge, 3852 rue St-Denis, 514-843-4379; Antiquites Phyllis Friedman, 1476 rue Sherbrooke ouest, 514-935-1991; Galerie Elca London, 1196 rue Sherbrooke ouest, 514-282-1173)

GALLERY HOPPING If local architect Moshe Safdie's new wing of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem wows you, you should visit his addition to the Musee des Beaux-Arts. The Jean-Noel Desmarais Pavilion displays 16th- through 19th-century European art and contemporary works. (Musee des Beaux-Arts, 1379 rue Sherbrooke ouest, 514-285-1600)

FRENCH DINING If you swoon over the French bistro fare in Boston's South End, Montreal dining is for you. For simple, nostalgic food like sausages and calf's liver, visit Le Paris. For a more haute menu, drop in at Guy & Dodo Morali. (Le Paris, 1812 rue Ste-Catherine ouest, 514-937-4898; Guy & Dodo Morali, 1444 rue Metcalfe, 514-842-3636)

Patricia Harris and David Lyon

Just a Taste: Eat Your Words

Book clubs turn over a new page by meeting and eating.

Would you like some romance on the side with that sushi? Or how about some true crime with your pasta carbonara? Nothing beats a forkful of great prose, and apparently some local booksellers agree. They are bringing together readers and authors to chat, eat, and drink. Wellesley Booksmith arranges reader luncheons at Figs in Wellesley with such authors as Anita Shreve and Elizabeth Benedict. The response from the public has been great, says Susan Taylor, one of the store's buyers. (Tickets cost $20. For information, call 781-431-1160 or visit www.wellesleybooksmith.com.) Newtonville Books hosts events called "Books & Brews" and "Newtonville Books in the Attic." Readers and authors gather at Newton restaurants and bars like Garden City Grille and The Attic. (For a schedule, call 617-244-6619 or visit www.newtonvillebooks.com.)

You and your book-loving friends can also meet at Novel, the restaurant in the Boston Public Library in Copley Square. The eatery will take group reservations and cater a lunch menu complementing the book you're reading. What goes good with Stephen King? (For information, call 617-385-5660 or visit www.bpl.org.) "It seems natural to combine food for the body with food for the mind," says library president Bernard Margolis.

Clare Horn

Second Bite: Appetite for Literature

A club dines out one book at a time.

For eight local women in their 20s and 30s, book club meetings are a great opportunity to try the city's restaurants. About every six weeks, the group selects an eatery that relates to the book the women are reading. Brookline's deli Zaftigs, the discussion spot for Portnoy's Complaint, ranks as one favorite, and Brighton's Jasmine Bistro, with a French-Hungarian menu, was the perfect place to eat chicken paprikash and discuss Prague, says member Erin McKenna, 28. But not every choice has been a success, she adds: Although Central Square's Enormous Room got a universal thumbs up, E. E. Cummings's book by the same name bombed.

Clare Horn

3 Questions: Jay Leno

The comic taps his Andover memories for his first children's book, If Roast Beef Could Fly, out this week.

Your book features your dad building a backyard roast-beef rotisserie, a task that becomes a major undertaking. Was this the sort of thing your father would do during your childhood in Andover?

My dad was a great dad, but everything was a project. Everything my dad did, the whole family would have to come around [and see]. "I put a new doorknob on. Honey, take a look at this." And my dad would then show us how the doorknob worked, what we could do, how to make sure to not break the door. Whereas my mother just went around and did the chores that people do and didn't say anything. It's not that one is right and one is wrong - it just makes for interesting things when you're a child, and that's kind of what the book is about.

I'm wondering if you have a thing for roast beef. Were you a regular at the old Buzzy's Fabulous Roast Beef when you were at Emerson College in the 1970s?

They made a fine roast-beef sandwich. It was a very Boston, character-driven place. It was right near the Charles Street Jail, so there were colorful characters hanging out. Back in the '70s there weren't a lot of places open real late at night, but that was one of them. So, you know, you're a kid with no money, and it wasn't that far a walk, and it was just an interesting place to hang out.

You're now joining the company of Madonna, Carl Reiner, and Spike Lee. Why are so many celebrities writing children's books?

I got approached by Simon & Schuster. They had seen my show in Vegas, and I tend to work clean as a comic. And they said, "Some of those stories we hear you telling would probably make a good children's book." And I said, "You think so? OK, sure, let's give it a shot." ... Most children's books tend to be pretty simple-minded, and they have some overly condescending moralistic tale to tell. Mine is just a fun story.

Susanne Althoff

Streetwise: Mission Hill's Brigham Circle

Steps from the Longwood Medical Area lies a welcoming neighborhood undergoing an economic renaissance.

1. HOME COOKIN' At Brigham Circle Diner, open early mornings to late afternoons, Norman Rockwell prints adorn the lime-green walls. What locals consider their very own Seinfeld-esque diner serves greasy-spoon specialties at dirt-cheap prices. (737 Huntington Avenue, 617-277-2730)

2. PERFECT PUB Outside Flann O'Brien's Pub stands a statue of the late satirical writer Flann O'Brien, welcoming you to one of the city's best Irish bars. Be sure to try the steak tips from the selection of pub grub and pick a song from the well-stocked jukebox. (1619 Tremont Street, 617-566-7744, www.flannobriens.com)

3. EAT THE STREETS At the colorful Solstice Cafe, you'll find 14 sandwiches (named after local streets and institutions) and other healthful fare. Paintings by local artists are on display. (1625 Tremont Street, 617-566-5958)

4. SKY SCRAPER Architecture buffs should stop and gawk at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, better known as Mission Church, which celebrated its 125th anniversary last April. This marvel has two spires, though because of an uneven foundation, one is 215 feet tall and the other is 2 feet shorter. (1545 Tremont Street, 617-445-2600, www.themissionchurch.com)

5. HEALING TOUCH If you want a massage and want it now, drop by Chi Wellness, where walk-in clients are welcome. This office also offers acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and tai chi instruction. (1520 Tremont Street, 617-989-8658, www.chiwellness.com)

Theresa Sanchez

Face value: French Connection

From pushcart owner to entrepreneur.

Michel Soltani came to Boston from Montpellier, France, in 1986 and started small. First he manned a pushcart at Faneuil Hall Marketplace for several years. Then he opened the former Cafe de Michel in Mission Hill's Brigham Circle. In 2001, he bought a liquor store in the same neighborhood and renamed it Michel's Wine and Spirits. Now settled and happy, he's working to encourage local businesses to become involved in the community. "I'm proud to be a part of the neighborhood's transformation," says the 46-year-old immigrant. "This is the best location in Boston right now - it's real America here."

Theresa Sanchez

What's Next?: Dr. Judah Folkman

When the FDA approved the cancer drug Avastin late last month, it was the end of a long road for Dr. Judah Folkman. The drug works on the principle that Folkman, a 71-year-old surgeon at Children's Hospital Boston, first proposed more than 30 years ago: that you can slow cancer growth by starving the blood vessels that feed tumors. So now that the drug has been OK'd, is Folkman ready to retire? No way. He and his team are looking for ways to detect and treat small tumors before they grow larger and more problematic. "We need to know," he says, "is it possible to develop a blood test or a urine test that could detect a tumor that's smaller than can be detected by current medicine? That could tell you that you have a cancer years before you could see it by conventional X-ray, colonoscopy, or other screens." He adds: "My research is not dependent on how old you are; it lies in how experienced you are." -

Jeffrey Klineman

Where Are They Now?: Bernadette Yao

Bernadette Yao appeared on the PBS children's show Zoom only for two seasons in the early 1970s, but the helicopterlike twirl of her arms has become her enduring legacy. The act drew hundreds of fan letters, says Yao, 43, who lives outside of Boston with her husband and two daughters. After a freak ankle injury 14 years ago, Yao relied on massage and other healing methods to relieve the pain. She's now considering combining her professional experience as a TV producer with her nearly completed degree in energy healing to host a talk show on holistic medicine. "If I go back to TV, it's got to be for my passion."

Clare Horn

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