Best in Print

Cover by Ivan Brunetti

Cover by Ivan Brunetti

With the great digital beast devouring the media landscape at a still-ferocious pace, those of us who retain an affection for and livelihood from print have spent the last decade contemplating the future in ways more emphatic, perhaps, than those who do not. We can’t speak for others, but here’s what we’re thinking: print is not dead, or even dying. In an increasingly ephemeral digital world (coming soon, the end of cash!), the tangible object becomes increasingly dear. Maybe not for everyone, not for the masses who once flipped their nickels to the newsies for a fix on the day’s headlines and stock prices, but for a discerning audience. Because print serves a smaller, if more selective crowd, than not long ago, its Darwinian struggles are not over. So what will separate the tetrapods who climb out of the media sludge and onto the dry land of the twenty-first century from those doomed to sink in the mud? Quality, we think, of writing and of image-making. And, most of all, finesse in integrating the whole into something that conveys the essence of print—that is, something that would be inherently inferior experientially in byte form. Continue reading

Best way to keep your balance on the El

Stand sideways like you’re on a surfboard and hang on
As difficult as it is to give up the sight of tourists and businessmen falling over like drunken idiots whenever the El has a lead-foot conductor, the time has come to establish an easy method for maintaining balance while riding the El. Step one: stand facing sideways, parallel to the window. Step two: hold on to a standalone bar, or one connected to the back of a seat. Step three: wait until the train car stops and exit with dignity.

Best of Chicago 2013

Best tribute show that’s actually a play

“Hank Williams: Lost Highway”
When American Blues Theater was casting “Hank Williams: Lost Highway” they were savvy (and darn lucky) enough not to settle for actors with a bit of musical talent (or musicians with some light acting chops) but managed to snag a cast full of double- (and in some cases, triple-) threats. Most notably, Matthew Brumlow captures the heart, soul and voice of Hank Williams throughout. And his band (consisting of impressively talented actor/musicians Austin Cook, Michael Mahler, Greg Hirte and John Foley) knocks each song out of the park, making this moving portrayal of the country legend feel like a tribute show with dramatic moments built around it.
American Blues Theater, (773)404-7336, americanbluestheater.com

Best of Chicago 2013

Best art exhibit in the last year or so

Amalia Pica, Museum of Contemporary Art
This past spring and summer, MCA visitors were introduced to an artist they’ve probably never heard of, with a large career survey of the Argentinian-born, London-based Amalia Pica. It was a treat to see so many of her artworks in one exhibition; they made sense as a body of work by an artist with a vision. Pica’s work is a friendly type of conceptualism. She abstracted the way we communicate, from secrets to media outlets, and asked viewers to piece them back together, in our minds. Maybe we never reassembled her puzzles perfectly, but that may have been the point.

AUDIENCE CHOICE: “Picasso and Chicago,” Art Institute of Chicago

Best of Chicago 2013

Best boozy dessert

French apple at Acadia
Calvados roasted Granny Smith apple still has a subtle crunch, nestled in a cool and creamy cinnamon custard, with a quenelle of canelé ice cream. The dish is topped with arcs of caramelized puff pastry reminiscent of flaky croissant crumbs. The booze factor steps up with a side shot of apple cider and Armagnac in pastry chef Thomas Raquel’s version of a hot toddy. All the familiar fall flavors are here, yet this dessert is unique, more alluring than any apple pie, crisp or apfelstrudel you’ve tasted.
1639 South Wabash, (312)360-9500, acadiachicago.com

Best of Chicago 2013