2008 Wrap-Up

You’re probably sick of all these 2008 wrap-ups (someone over at Serious Eats certainly is!) so I’ll try to keep mine short and sweet.

2008 was a wild year for me. In my job as host of The FN Dish I met many of my food world heroes: among them, Alice Waters, Mario Batali, Anthony Bourdain and so on. But the clip above, my “23 Awkward Seconds with Rachael Ray” is the moment I’ll cherish forever. It’s just the purest, most authentic representation of everything I was feeling in that moment; my 2nd day on the job, thrown right into the ring with Rachael who, after I said hello, didn’t seem very open to conversation. That was 2008 for me: the year a measly little blogger jumped into the ring with the big boys (or girls, as the case may be) and sweated. Visibly. I think it’s rather funny.

Foodwise, I made a list of my Top 5 Favorite Dishes I made this year. Here they are; click the titles to go to the posts.

1. Luisa’s Potato Focaccia

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2. Improvised Sugar Snap Pea Pasta

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3. Braised Monkfish with Cherry Tomatoes & Basil

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4. Rigatoni Bolognese

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5. Spiced Eggplant Salad

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These are all dishes I would absolutely make again; especially the potato focaccia, which I’ve already made several times again since. Honorable mentions must go, of course, to the best broccoli of my life, Molly’s slow-roasted tomatoes, and the no-knead bread, all of which are certain to enter the pantheon of great dishes made in my kitchen.

I’ve already told you about the Top 10 Restaurant Dishes I ate this year, so let’s talk about food books.

My favorite food book I read this year wasn’t published this year or last year, but more than 20 years ago: that’s Craig Claiborne’s “A Feast Made for Laughter” which I wrote about here. That post, in fact, may be my favorite post I wrote this year (thank you to those who left kind comments about it.)

Cookbook-wise, my Top 3 picks are:

Martha Stewart’s Cookies,

Second Helpings of Roast Chicken,

and Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics.

And that concludes the food section of my year-end wrap up.

As for non-food stuff, here’s a quick list of my 2008 favorites:

Favorite Movie: IMDB says this was released in 2007, but I’m pretty sure I saw it in 2008: “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days”. Talk about harrowing, this movie–about one woman’s attempt to get an abortion in 1980s Romania–was thrilling, terrifying, exciting, even funny in parts. It’s impossible to watch this movie without being riveted, love it or hate it–and it’s entirely memorable.

On the lighter side, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I loved “Enchanted” which–now that I look–was also released in 2007.

Holy crap, what movies did I love in 2008? I loved “Milk,” of course. “Rachel Getting Married.” I liked “Wall-E” but I’m not ga-ga over it.

My least favorite movie of 2008 was many people’s most favorite: I really didn’t get “The Dark Knight.” Heath Ledger’s performance aside, to me, it was a big murky, miserable mess. Maybe I need to see it again to reevaluate.

Favorite Music: No question, my favorite CD of 2008 was Aimee Mann’s “@#%&! Smilers.” The song “31 Today” which has an awesome YouTube video which I’ll embed below, is like an anthem for anyone entering their 30s (which I’m about to do in February). Other notable CDs I enjoyed this year: Jenny Lewis’s “Acid Tongue” (which has my favorite song of the year, the title song from the CD–it’s beautiful), Beirut’s “Gulag Orkestar” which I heard on Sirius radio and instantly loved, Lucinda Williams’s “Little Honey,” MGMT’s “Oracular Spectacular,” and–most definitely–Elbow’s “The Seldom Seen Kid.” That last one could very easily bump Aimee Mann for the top spot, but I just love this “31 Today” song.

Favorite Books: Even though the year began with “Kafka on the Shore,” this year was a year of catching up on the classics for me. Far and away, the most mind-blowing book that I finally hunkered down and read was “Anna Karenina.” If you’re anything like me, you probably thought you knew the story already–the whole tragic heroine “Madame Bovary” thing–but you’d be dead wrong. What makes the book remarkable is how it balances everything: comedy, drama, religion, romance, birth, death, and everything in between. It’s a bold statement, but if ever there was a book that contained EVERYTHING, this might be it. I can’t recommend it enough.

On the lighter side, but still a classic, was “The Picture of Dorian Gray” which really had me laughing in parts. I also enjoyed “A Confederacy of Dunces,” “Pride & Prejudice,” and–though it was tough to get through–“The Tin Drum.”

The one book I couldn’t get through at all was “The Savage Detectives” by Roberto Bolano. Maybe I’ll pick it up again later, but by page 270 I just didn’t care about anyone enough to keep reading. Which is why all this buzz about his newer book–2666–has me doubtful. If anyone of you read it, let me know if it’s better than “The Savage Detectives”; and if anyone’s finished “The Savage Detectives” and thinks I should soldier on through it, please inspire me in the comments.

And that, my friends, is my 2008 in review. I better go get ready: we’re having an army of people over to our barbell-shaped apartment tonight for a bit of a get-together. I have the vodka, the gin, and the rum, but we have no mixers or sparkling drinks. I did make gingerbread blondies, David Lebovitz’s butter crunch toffee and holiday snack mix, so at least they’ll be well fed. Have a Happy New Year everyone!

UPDATE: After talking to Craig, I remembered that my favorite movie of 2008 was “Vicky Christina Barcelona” and that honorable mention should go to “Happy-Go-Lucky.” Also: my favorite TV show this year was “Summer Heights High” which, by the end, I found strangely moving. “Mr. G: The Musical” rivals the Blaine musical in “Waiting For Guffman.”

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