So, here we are, in the slow week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, when everybody and their brother and their sister and their mailman comes out with their Best [Something] of 2010 List. I already did my annual music list, because I’m an eager beaver that way, but here are eleven other things that rocked my world in 2010.
1. Best Dinner of the Year (Out of Town Division): Cafe Marquesa, Key West, Florida. Marcia, Katelin and I all agree this was probably one of, if not the, best meals we’ve ever eaten in a restaurant, food-wise, ambiance-wise, experience-wise. Everything was simply perfect, with flavors unlike any we’ve experienced before, and elegant surroundings, courteous fellow customers and exceptional service capping one of those evenings out when everything just clicks. Truly magnificent, truly memorable, highly recommended if you find yourself down that way in 2011.
2. Best Dinners of the Year (Local Division): A tie between the venerable River Street Cafe in Troy (which has been the scene of so many wonderful meals over the years for our family) and the new Epicurean Bistro and Wine Bar, located in the former Vin Santo’s location at Latham Farms. Marcia and I ate at both places multiple times this year, and appreciate their menus enough to recognize that, while both locations can struggle sometimes in terms of crowd management, room volume, and service time, it’s almost always worth the effort and the risk to hit them if you’re looking for a well-prepared, well-presented meal. At River Street, when they have cod on the menu, and I can get it with Chef George Schroter’s signature sesame scallion brown butter sauce, then (in the immortal words of Metallica) nothing else matters. At Epicurean, the creamed vegetable soups are to die for (except when the vegetables being creamed are cauliflower or broccoli), and their mushroom linguine or cheese-stuffed sachets or steak with creamed pepper latte are all exceptional. Good wine lists at both locations seal the deal.
3. Song of the Year (Released in 2010 Division): “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” by Frightened Rabbit. I love the melody, the arrangement, the lyrics, the video, everything. Everything about this song is magnificent. This song improves your quality of life anytime you listen to it. And it will for many years to come.
4. Song of the Year (Rediscovered Division): “I Chase the Devil” by Max Romeo. I loved this song three decades ago, and recently grabbed it to share with my nephew, and was reminded about how incredibly awesome reggae could actually be, when it wasn’t be promoted or promulgated by annoying, patchouli-scented young white men with bad dreadlocks. This is some seriously spiritual music, and I haven’t been able to stop listening to it.
5. Movie of the Year: Black Swan. Darren Aronofsky has directed five feature films, and I would easily include four of them among my Top 25 films ever. His latest work is stunning, and I’m rooting for Natalie Portman to win a Best Actress Oscar for her jaw-dropping performance in this flick, which finds her on camera for about 98% of its running time. I think 2010 was a truly God-awful year for new major American movies (the affected and episodic The Social Network being touted as historically memorable fare? Uhhhhh . . . ), but I think this film is one for the ages.
6. Best New Blog of the Year: Duh. Indie Albany, right? I keep pinching myself at how quickly and solidly this beast has grown. It’s a true web contender at this point, and I’m glad that my hunch regarding non-commercial blogging hereabouts has proven true. We have an audience, and it’s a sizable one. Our writers are happily producing major volumes of epic writing, just because they want to write. We’re not worrying about producing enough product to keep our profile pictures on the front page, nor about cultivating communities in the comments section, nor about what companies’ products are being presented alongside our words. It’s pure creativity, commercial free. So thank you to everyone writing, reading and morally supporting us here. It’s been good. And it will be even better in 2011.
7. Best New Blog (Not Involving Me) of the Year (Lifestyle Division): Me 2.0 by Mikalee Byerman (Note: Language NSFW). I am totally happily married, and have been for a long, long time, so a blog about a truly catastrophic divorce and its aftermath should have no appeal for me, except for the fact that this one is brilliantly written, by a fellow tall humanoid, and is hilarious to boot. So I’m hooked. Guilty of trainwreck watching as charged.
8. Best New Blog (Not Involving Me) of the Year (Geek Division): The Road to Endeavour by, uh, Stu . . . or, um, Phoenixpics . . . I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that I don’t know the author’s full, real name. But he’s doing incredible work processing photographic imagery as the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity wears out its warranty while driving to the large and exciting Endeavour crater, which is way, way, way farther than this little electro-mechanical monster was ever intended to travel. I check this site daily, and am riveted by what I see. But, then, I am a geek.
9. Best Breakfast of the Year (Healthy Division): I was diagnosed with a fairly gnarly peptic ulcer earlier this year (what I learned: when you are doubled over in pain after a workout, your body is trying to tell you something), and as part of the physical work-up done afterward, the doctors noted that my bad cholesterol was a little bit elevated, though my overall blood levels were good. This offended my sensibilities, because I’m actually in very good physical shape, and my blood should obey my wishes at all times, and not go off making bad cholesterol unless I tell it to, dammit. So to curb my precious bodily fluids’ proclivity toward manufacturing unauthorized, vein-clogging goop, I sought out a high fiber, low fat, lower calorie breakfast alternative to my long-time classic of grilled cheese on rye and sausage. Believe it or not, the healthiest, most satisfying option I’ve found is to get two whole wheat pancakes (no butter!) and a cup of coffee at Denny’s on Wolf Road in Colonie. Total price (including tip and a Troy Record to read while I eat): $6.75 per day. It features about 350 calories, with nearly half of a day’s recommended cholesterol-eating fiber content. Take that, bad blood!
10. Best Breakfast of the Year (Cholesterol Nightmare and Closed for Renovation Divisions): Sometimes in 2010, though, I still wanted that grilled cheese on rye and sausage for breakfast, bad cholesterol be damned. And when I did, nobody did it better than the Metro 20 Diner, on the outskirts of the odious Crossgates Mall. But, alas and alack, Metro 20 was recently shuttered for renovation, under new management, so I don’t know if they’re going to continue delivering the goods in 2011 or not. Which makes them worth a mention today, if for no other reason than to preserve their greasy goodness for posterity’s sake.
11. Best Way to Deal With a 2010 Snowpocalypse: Sit in a hot tub. Drink wine. Don’t let winter get you down.