Sure, you’ve read your share of 10-best lists of 2012. But most of them are laser-focused: books, movies, music, sports moments, restaurants, etc. Well, this one’s laser-focused, too. But since it’s my blog, that big laser is shining brightly on me — and anyone who knows me realizes that a list of my 10 favorite moments of the year about to pass is going to include a number of different things. So, here they are … my 10 favorite moments of 2012:
10. Brunch at Duke’s Malibu, November 4: The opportunity to enjoy a Sunday morning on the patio at the Barefoot Bar at Duke’s in Malibu is something anyone — native or tourist — should enjoy as often as possible. This particular November Sunday featured unseasonably warm temperatures tickling the 80-degree mark and great company, as Caitlin’s family was visiting for the weekend. Sunshine, relaxed smiles, tiki drinks and a great buffet made for one of the best mornings of the year.
9. Jack White at the Shrine Auditorium, August 11: As I wrote in my quick-hitting review on the blog on Aug. 12, “There’s nothing better than going into a concert with high expectations and having them met, let alone exceeded. Such was the case with Jack White’s epic performance last night at the Shrine Auditorium near USC.” The moment of moments that night, though, was White’s stinging performance of his White Stripes classic, “Ball and Biscuit.” To grab my Spotify playlist of that night’s setlist, find it here: Jack White Shrine Setlist 8/11/12
8. A Sunday in New York City, September 9: In town for the previous night’s USC football game against Syracuse at MetLife Stadium across the river in New Jersey, we had a full day to kill before catching a late flight back to Los Angeles. It’s been a long time since I did a bunch of “touristy” things in NYC, but with glorious weather to wander the city, we set off on just such a journey, with no pressure and no schedule. The day ended up including: a visit to Gray’s Papaya on the Upper West Side for some dogs; a stop by Strawberry Fields in Central Park; a walk across the park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (where we relaxed on the steps and watched the city move by); and, finally, a taxi ride to the Empire State Building where we enjoyed both observation decks. Truly, a perfect day.
7. Dinner at Chicago Chop House, March 10: The company, the city and the celebration would have made this a pretty memorable night no matter what. But, the staff at the Chicago Chop House on this night made it incredible — from the chefs who absolutely nailed the entire meal, to the maitre d’ and servers who made sure the whole experience was smooth, fun and special, there was a high likelihood from the moment this amazing meal ended that it would be my favorite of 2012. Only something incredibly special would be able to push it aside.
6. Christmas Eve at Dad’s, December 24: The most recent entry on this list, last week’s holiday celebration at my dad’s home was among the most relaxed and pleasant we’ve had. After spending last Christmas on the East Coast, it was a pleasure to be back in California for the holiday in 2012. Though the afternoon and evening were still missing a few key pieces, the return of my Aunt Sue to Southern California in 2012 was a massive factor in how great and memorable the day was. It was simply fantastic to have her a part of the family celebration and to see her so happy and relaxed with all of us.
5. Viewing the Eiffel Tower Light Show from atop the Arc de Triomphe, October 5: The early fall trip to London and Paris was full of amazing and memorable moments — one of which ranks slightly higher on this very list. However, from the perspective of having a purely “Paris moment,” nothing was better than our climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe on a Friday night. The views were stunning 360 degrees around, but our timing was perfect — we arrived just 10 minutes prior to the 9 p.m. version of the hourly light show on the Eiffel Tower. What happened next can only be the magic of the City of Light.
4. Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg Live at Coachella, April 15: My first Coachella was a truly fantastic experience, one that I summed up with one of my longer blog posts of the year. But the highlight of highlights was the event’s closing performance by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. With “The Chronic” being a major part of the soundtrack of my college years, my hopes were incredibly hight, but as I wrote on April 25: “… to say they lived up to those hopes would fall short. An unbelievable 75 minutes that featured a bevy of SoCal hip-hop greatest hits; cameos by Wiz Khalifa, Warren G., Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent and Eminem; and the much-discussed Tupac ‘hologram’ – what more could you ask for?” Dre & Snoop grabbed the crowd by the throat, opening with their classic “The Next Episode” and showed the 80,000 in attendance that night one helluva great time. To grab my Spotify playlist of that night’s setlist, find it here: Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg Coachella Set List 4/15/12
3. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band Perform “Jungleland,” December 4: It took 27 years and nearly 20 Springsteen shows before it finally happened: I got to see the epic “Jungleland” performed live. That it happened as the third of a four-song arc that also included “Badlands,” “Thunder Road” and “Born to Run” — even better. That, two songs later, I also saw my first live performance ever of the band’s version of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” — wow. And all of this was at the tail end of a show that had spent its first two hours and 45 minutes being one of the best Springsteen shows I’d seen in more than a decade. It was one great night.
2. Dinner at L’Ami Jean, Paris, October 4: I got the idea to possibly visit this bistro during our Paris journey from a short piece I read on BonAppetit.com. When we arrived in town, we had our hotel book a reservation for us. What happened when we showed up is one of the greatest dining experiences of my life. Chef Stephane Jego’s food — advertised at seven courses for $75 Euro, but in reality closer to 10 courses — was beyond creative. I’d have never imagined eating foie gras with smoked eel in a herring bouillabaisse — let alone thinking it was one of the most delectable things I’ve ever tasted. Each course built on the last and was simply spectacular, finishing with the best duck I’ve ever had. For dessert, the restaurant’s famous rice pudding was as good as advertised. Beyond the food, the atmosphere in the tiny (maybe 40 seats) location was so alive. There was great service and great conversation with the folks sitting so close to you that you felt you were at — almost — a communal dinner. The entertainment of Jego finishing each dish for delivery to each table just outside the kitchen was also worth more than the price we paid. If you’re ever in Paris, trust the menu and do not miss this place.
1. The Kings Win the Stanley Cup, June 11: Yes, certainly the moment of victory was the best. But it was the two months — not to mention the 33 years since my first Kings game in 1979 — leading up to the final seconds ticking away in the 6-1 Game 6 win over New Jersey that made this so sweet. Committing to getting to one game per round prior to the playoffs didn’t seem like such a big thing, considering the Kings were the No. 8 seed in the West. But as they upset Vancouver in round one, thumped St. Louis in round two and put away Phoenix to reach the Stanley Cup Final, those pilgrimages to Staples Center became more and more enjoyable (and expensive). I thought we’d peaked out by attending the Kings’ 4-0 win in Game 3 of the Final, one of the great sports experiences I’ve ever had. But, no … at midnight the night before Game 6, I was about to shut down my computer for the night and head to bed when I decided to jump on Ticketmaster.com to see if anything might have been released for the “sold out” game. When those Premier level seats popped up for face value, I was stunned. Seventeen hours later, we were in the building. And four hours after that, we saw THIS. Go Kings Go, indeed!
All the best for a great 2013!