CHICAGO BEAT :: The Best (and Worst) of 2010

by Paul Ciminero on January 16, 2011

Ed: Paul Ciminero is not only a wine expert, but a former DJ and current musicologist, a cartoon aficionado, and a skilled, award winning photographer, to name only a few attributes and interests. Thus, we see him as something of a Renaissance Guy. Just do NOT talk politics with him. He’s smart and well read, but you’ll never get those hours, days, and weeks back, y’know? We’re pleased that he agreed to be a YBN contributor, especially since he receives no compensation for doing so!

It seems every critic (and anyone currently breathing usually considers him/herself one) has a “Top” movie list (best and worst), restaurant list (best and worst), event list, and drink list. The past year here in Da Windy City has given me an interesting perspective on these things so here’s some pontification:

Best Movies of 2010: (in no particular order, my top 5 of movies I actually SAW)

The Social Network – David Fincher nails this great movie about Mark Zuckerberg and the start up of the “Facebook” phenomenon.

True Grit – The grand “Western” genre has never been better with this stunning adaptation from, who else, the Coen Brothers.

The King’s Speech – Colin Firth should get the best acting nod for the true story of King Edward’s abdication in the late 1930’s and his brother, Prince George’s (with a severe speech impediment) ascension to the throne.

The Fighter – Christian Bale and Melissa Leo are sure “shoe-ins “(or is it shut-ins?) in the best supporting categories for this forceful bio-pic.

Conviction – Maybe the most overlooked movie in 2010.  Another bio-pic with Sam Rockwell and Hillary Swank turning in Oscar worthy performances.

Geee…there seems to be a trend here. This year may well be referred to as the “Year of the Bio-Pic”  but maybe not.

I didn’t see “127 Hours,” “I Am Love,” “Carlos,” “The American” and “The Secrets in their Eyes.”  I’d definitely give Best Pic honorable mentions to “Inception,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Black Swan,” Toy Story 3” and “Secretariat.”

Most Disappointing Movies of 2010:

Winter’s Bone – It’s on every critic Top 10 list and it sucks. I didn’t care if the girl finds her missing father or if her little siblings starve.

Greenberg – Like Winter’s Bone, you don’t CARE about any of the characters including the self -absorbed title character played by Ben Stiller.

Worst Movies I Have Not Seen (Nor Missed)

Yogi Bear in 3-D – Are they freaking kidding me?  I did NOT (and will not ever) see this train wreck. Justin Timberlake should get a best supporting acting nomination for “Social Network” and worst nod for Boo-Boo, just like Sandra Bullock did in her two roles last year. (Good luck, Justin!)   I’ve got to remind myself to STOP going to movies because they’re ANIMATED.  That said, I need to see “Tangled” in 3-D.

Burlesque – A favorite with the plastic surgeon crowd of which “I don’t hang with…”

Best Eats and Drinks

Here’s a category you can really sink your teeth into and drink from a well“th” of goodliness.

The Purple Pig – Hands down the pork has returned to the city that invented the political version of it and this is the BEST new restaurant in 2010.  Served Mediterranean tapas style, the emphasis is on small plates with matching wines from predominately the same region.  Wow!  The bone marrow and pork rillette are standouts , but be sure not to pass up the marinated shaved asparagus, Cheese and fresh charcuterie selections, or the Halibut Cheeks.  They have a marginally interesting beer list but the sign at the entrance reads “Cheese, Wine, and Swine” so live with it, try to find a seat, and ENJOY!

Revolution Brewing Co. – I haven’t been to Owen and Engine, The Grafton Pub, The Fountainhead, Old Town Social, and the other emerging gastro pubs yet but you’ll see columns about those stops later this year (I promise).  Revolution Brewing Co. was a great visit, as my next-to-be-published column here [the editor flip-flopped posts] will tout. Start with the sampler menu of 6 2-ounce beers/ales and pick some apps like “Bacon Fat Popcorn” and begin grazing.

St. Sylvestre Xmas Ale (1991?) and Biere des Mars 1992 – OK, so this is a predominately beer-related network and website so my favorite finds in the drinks category this year were these two great brews I found buried in my wine cellar.  (I’ll let the other expert columnists review the other great new seasonal brews like New Belgium’s “2 Below” and Anchor “Xmas Ale” but these finds deserve a review.)

Biere des Mars 1992 – This past spring I found two bottles of Biere des Mars 1992 in my cellar and promptly opened one at a BYO dinner with fellow wine supplier and beer geek, Donald S.  (Please note: WITHOUT EXCEPTION, all winery reps, winemakers, cellar rats, and owners are BEER GEEKS.) Donald immediately emailed the brewery, letting them know that this 18-year-old brew was the best beer/ale he had tasted in 2010. In a follow-up email, the brewery responded to my friend Donald’s gushing noting that this beer has a “guaranteed shelf  life of three years” as it is “re-fermented in the bottle.”

Now called “Biere Nouvelle,” this brew is left on the lees (dead yeast cells) over the winter after being made with the last hops and grain from the fall harvest.  The cork-finished 750ml limited bottling is released every February.  The brewery also wrote that they hoped Donald will “enjoy a bottle of Biere Nouvelle 2010 in a few years” and that it was the first time they’d ever heard of someone trying their beer after 18 years. Both the balance of the fruit, acid and subtle bubbles had remained and there was a distinct nuttiness to the palate. Look for YBN editor Harvey Gold to give this a bigger review soon.

St. Sylvestre Christmas Ale – I believe this was a 1991 bottling. Another night, another BYO, another outing with Donald S. the Wine Guy/Beer Geek. Again, this ale blew him away. It had notes of cinnamon and cloves, a wonderful effervescence and good caramel weight. If you think beer and ales don’t last be sure to check out Chimay’s Reserve brews. God must love a great aged beer because that what the monks and other brewers from in and around the Flanders region make. St. Sylvestre is a family owned French Flanders Brewery in an area in Northeastern France bordering Belgium and includes the famous town of Dunkerque. (Dunkerque is the site where Churchill successfully evacuated the British Army at the start of WW II.)

Worst Eats and Drink

I’ll spare you the names of these dubious offenders and only say that as Pig and Barbecue had a huge resurgence in Chicago in the past 12 months, one particular “Carolina Q”-style joint in Bucktown failed miserably on almost every level; serving cold, undercooked, and chewy brisket with an unimaginative beer selection (oh yeah, Bucktown is so freaking trendy that every joint on North, Milwaukee, and Damen thinks having PBR for the masses is cool. PLEASEEEEEEEEEE!!!) And this joint was overpriced to the hilt.

Best Events of 2010

Ramsey Lewis’ 75th Birthday Celebration, June 18, 2010 – Ravinia Festival IL -  I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Ramsey for 20 years and this concert, featuring his pals Dave Brubeck and Nancy Wilson, played to a packed house at the oldest outdoor music venue in America. God, is he an amazing musician!  Sadly, Ramsey and the rest of the world lost a great friend and musical collaborator of his when Dr. Billy Taylor passed on this week.  Keep carrying that Jazz torch, Ram…you are one of the greatest!

Roger Waters – The Wall, October 2, 2010 – Quicken Arena, Cleveland OH – For those of you who hate Roger Waters, Pink Floyd, or the album “The Wall” in general,  YOU FREAKIN’ LOSE! As my buddy Bob’s 27-year-old son Trevor said, “I hate Roger Waters…I hate The Wall, but HOLY CRAP, this show is AMAZING.”   The Floyds (all three remaining, not the brewery — although that’s great, too) have NEVER been subtle. This show was one of the best live shows in the last decade for this humble reporter. The sound and visuals were astounding but then what do you expect from a member of the band that brought more innovation to live performances in the last 40 years than any other group?

Newport Folk Festival, August 1, 2010 – Ft. Adams State Park, Newport RI -  I always try to see either the Newport Folk Festival or the Newport Jazz Festival every year while visiting family in Rhode Island. There really is NOTHING better than August in Rhode Island and those two festivals are the grandparents of the modern live festival movement. From Sharon Jones’ electrifying performance with the Dap Kings on the Fort Stage, The Swell Seasons eclectic selections, and two wonderful newcomers (April Smith and Pokey LeFarge) on the new Quad stage INSIDE the fort, almost all bands were worth the two days of severe arthritis pain I endured the following day from running back and forth between stages.

Worst Event of 2010

Richie Havens, Newport Folk Festival, August 1, 2010 – Newport RI – Rambling incoherently about puffy clouds, rain, peace and love man, Richie barely got through 6 songs in 45 minutes. Not even dialed in, there were few sparks in his set which frustrated the heck out of me. Even with another guitarist accompanying him, it was at best feeble and at worst puzzling to see this hero barely playing competently at any point during the set.

Well that’s it. I’m looking forward to yet another series of “feedings” after putting the next five days swimming in my favorite neighborhood lap pool to burn off some of the past weeks’ excesses. Reporting from Chicago, –Paul Ciminero.

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