Friday, January 1, 2010

Over My Shoulder, A Quick Look Back

First, right off the bat, HAPPY NEW YEAR! May 2010 be a much, much better year for all of us!

Not that all of 2009 was bad; it just seemed like it for some of us. I went to a lot of funerals in 2009. Funerals for folks whose time, after endless infirmities, had come. Funerals for friends who died too young. Heartbreaking stuff no matter how you look at it.

I watched, and experienced personally, downturns in business that make you shake your head in numbing frustration. I've also watched several friends' businesses succeed nicely, and grow beautifully, which keeps me ever optimstic.

On the very cusp of this new year, beer writer-philosopher-friend Jack Curtin said it most suscinctly on his blog, Jack Curtin's Liquid Diet:

"Has there been a better year, in more than half a century, in which to dream dreams, revitalize hope and commit ourselves to a better tomorrow?"

I think you're right, Jack, so thanks.

So there have been some good things to look back on too. Not that many, but here are my 2009 highlights:

Ben and Sophie's Pre-School Adventure: I've never seen two kids more excited to go to school in my life. Though their enthusasm has waned a bit, especially when it's time to wake up in the morning, they're having more fun than I ever remember having in school. And their school and teacher are the perfect match for their endess curiosity and gifted intellect. And their teacher provided me with....

My Favorite Quote of the Year: "Your kids don't speak like any 4 year olds I've ever taught; they speak in complete sentences and they have an amazng vocabulary." Ms. Poli, Ben and Sophie's preschool teacher, parent-teacher conference, November

Pizza of the Year: It could have been the two pizzas I sampled at Steven Starr's new Pizzeria Stella, a classic Margherita and a prosciutto-topped number, and it surely could have been any of the half dozen pizzas we sampled this summer at One Guy Brewing in Berwick, PA. That is, until the twins and I decided one dreary Friday afternoon to make our own. They helped punch down the dough as it rose, and spread the sauce and grated cheeses, and were very precise about how they placed their pepperoni, and those 3 pies we made were 3 of the best pies I've had in a long time.

Beers of the Year: God, it was a good year for beer, and even though I haven't been out and about anywhere as much as I used to, I've managed to drink some really exceptional stuff. I really can't pick one, so I'm just going to let fly with an unranked six-pack or so: Guy Hagner's One Guy Brewing's Atomic Punk IPA, which blew me away at a Philly Beer Week dinner at the Grey Lodge; Triumph Old City's Pils Jay's Way, their tribute to Jay Mission, former head brewer at Triumph, who passed away months before the Philly Beer Week event that honored him with a night full of pilsners at their brewpub; Sierra Nevada Torpedo, their "Extra IPA," which plows a ton of hops into your mouth, all green and herby-spicy, and then slips over your tongue like mist through your fingers; Yards Brawler, roasty, malty silky, an amazing session beer, served up at the newly re-born Oyster House in Center City Philly, alongside the only-in-Philly lunch platter of fried oysters and chicken salad (best lunch I've had all year,too); Victory Yakima Twilight, served up at the third and most recent Friday the Firkinteenth at the Grey Lodge, teeth-chatteringly hoppy, with a nice tart finish; and Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA, a blend of DFH's 60 and 120 Minute IPAs, made especially for that same Friday the Firkinteenth, bursting with sweet-herby hops and ending with an unexpectedly sweet, soft finish; and McGillin's 1860 Anniversary Ale, made for McGillin's Olde Ale House, Philly's oldest continually operated tavern, by Stoudt's Brewing Co., on the occasion (2010!) of the tavern's 150th anniversary, it's another agressively hopped brew, but like DFH's 75 Min. IPA, its begins sweetly and then ends with its own unique twist: a, crisp, bright, snappy pilsner finish that makes this one of the most dangerously drinkable beers in the country.

Pub Visits of the Year: These have been few and far between for me this year, but there were a small handful of great visits: a quiet lunch on a rainy day at Memphis Taproom, the Port Richmond platter of pierogis, kielbasa, potato pancakes and sauerkraut (delicious, but a little too greasy maybe...), some fried pickles (sorry, but just too big and unappetizing to me) and some Edmund Fitzgerald Porter; a mini-Philly beer tour with friend Scott Hibberd and his visiting brother, Josh: 1860 Anniversary Ale and then nachos and pumpkin beers at McGillin's, with owner Chris Muillins' son, Chris (we made him a believer of that terrific beer-food pairing!), fresh hot pretzels and Oktoberfests at Brauhaus Schmitz, Yards ESA on handpump and some fried smelts at Standard Tap, and a bunch of beers, including Philadelphia Brewing's JOE, at the Grey Lodge.

And speaking of the Grey Lodge, that's where my other 4 memorable pub visits took place, at all three of the pub's Friday The Firkinteenths in 2009 (yes there were THREE!), and at the GL's hilarious 13th Anniversary celebration, which, of course was celebrated on the 15th, and featured 13 different "events" and beer menus for 13 straight hours. I caught 4 of those hours and they were wacky.

TV Moments of the Year: Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) singing on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, wherein the show showed its chops, made its credibility and held anyone watching spellbound; and just a week ago, The Muppets and Fallon singing the 12 Days of Christmas, wherein Fozzy Bear stole ths show. The entire season of Rescue Me, on FX, as well as the season finale of Dexter, on Showtime, elevated TV beyond what it usually, and sadly, is.

So all in all, not a bad year. But here's to hoping for a MUCH better year in 2010!

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