Best of Connecticut 2010: People
Judith PszenicaACTOR: FEMALE
This Hollywood legend owns the box office at 60! Meryl Streep’s work in Julie & Julia (she was a knockout as Julia Child), Fantastic Mr. Fox and the romantic comedy It’s Complicated made 2009 a banner year for the accomplished actor. The buzz for 2010: Streep will play British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the BBC biopic Iron Lady (can you just imagine the accent?), and then will star in Great Hope Springs, a story about a couple working to save their 30-year marriage. Smells a whole lot like Oscar contenders in the making.
Mr. “King of All Chameleon Actors” doesn’t hit one out of the park every time, but the fun is always in anticipating what’s next. Right now, that includes an adaptation of Hunter Thompson’s The Rum Diary, the romance The Tourist and any number of other projects his name’s up for. We’re most excited about Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Depp’s fourth turn as Capt. Jack Sparrow. It may seem to promise the same old yo ho!-hum, but it’s directed by Oscar-winner Rob Marshall and co-stars Ian McShane and Penelope Cruz as Blackbeard and his daughter.
ATHLETE: FEMALE PRO
Can we still claim soccer legend Kristine Lilly as our own? Since playing at Wilton High School (when she earned a place on the U.S. National Team at age 16), Lilly has gone on to rack up the most impressive stats in the history of her sport. She’s been on the U.S. World Cup team in 1991, ‘95, ‘99, ‘03 and ‘07 and an Olympian in 1996, ‘00 and ‘04. At age 39, she remains on the national team and plays for the professional Boston Breakers. Yes, we’ll claim all that—gladly!
ATHLETE: FEMALE AMATEUR
Down by eight points to Stanford at halftime of last April’s national championship game, UConn knew it had to turn to Maya Moore to restore order to the women’s basketball universe. And that’s just what the junior did, scoring 13 points in the first 11 minutes of the second half as the Huskies pulled away to a victory. “She was the difference,” wrote an ESPN analyst. “Moore played like two Wade Trophy [player of the year] winners rolled into one.”
ATHLETE: MALE PRO
We went to press too early to catch the result of “Bad” Chad Dawson’s Aug. 14 bout against Canadian Jean Pascal in Montreal. A win would crown Dawson, 28, the WBC light-heavyweight world champion. Going into the fight, Dawson’s résumé was already impressive. The New Haven resident (he went to Hillhouse High) boasted a 29-0 record, with 17 knockouts, over the course of a 10-year career that has included fights in New Haven and Hartford, and at Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Casino. Here’s hoping he brings the champion’s belt back home.
Formed in 1999, the Manchurians—Dean Falcone (guitar), Bob Orsi (harp), Roger Reale (bass) and Cozy Reale (drums)—have evolved into Connecticut’s premier rhythm & blues badasses, influenced by not only classic bluesmen like Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley, but seemingly the entirety of the 1960s British Invasion (from the Beatles and Stones to the Yardbirds and Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac). Nominated for Grammys and the W.C. Handy Award, their songs have been recorded by Buddy Guy, BB King, Johnny Winter and “lost” ’60s soul queen Betty Harris (now recording again and residing in Hartford).
Bon Appetit Café, Wilton, (203) 563-9002
Authentic French cuisine is a fine art and few young chefs are up to it. Lional Arnal, who joined veteran French chef Dominique Arrighi to open Bon Appetit in 2006, is—he’d have to be to impress the savvy gourmets who crowd into this tiny café. Like Paris, they say.
CHEF: CUTTING EDGE
PolytechnicON20 Hartford, (860) 722-5161 (ontwenty.com)
When Chef Noel Jones came to town, Hartford put him in a place of honor on the 20th floor of one of the city’s tallest buildings. Here, as the executive chef of ON20, with a techno-dream kitchen at his command, he turns out dishes as dazzling as the breathtaking city views framed by the restaurant¹s dining room windows. His cooking is dynamic, complex and daring. This is a chef who likes to do new things and has the education, training and experience to do so successfully. Hartford, here we come!
Dressing Room, Westport, (203) 226-1114 (dressingroomhomegrown.com)
Locally grown, fresh, healthy food is chef Nischan’s passion. For 30 years, he has been cooking it, serving it in his restaurants, writing cookbooks about it and promoting it in person and on television. Twice a James Beard winner, founder of Dressing Room “A Home-grown Restaurant” in Westport, he is currently CEO of Wholesome Wave, a national foundation whose mission is to increase access to fresh locally grown food.
L’Escale, Greenwich, (203) 661-4600 (lescalerestaurant.com)
Born and raised in Greenwich, Wendy Laurent graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, then hot-footed it to Belgium to work in two 2-star restaurants learning classic French cuisine. But pastry was her passion and it brought her back to the States to cook with pastry chef Jean Noel from Troisgros at La Panetière in Rye and as chef pâtissiere of Gotham Bar & Grill in New York. Back in Greenwich, she created crème de la crème ice cream for La Cremaillère before becoming pastry chef for L’Escale, where her desserts are world-class—not in a blockbuster-hot fudge-sundae sort of way—more like Coco Chanel wearing a simple strand of pearls.
Best of Connecticut 2010: People
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The UConn women’s basketball team will probably have to lose a game in order for someone else to take home this honor. Auriemma’s team won its seventh national championship in its usual impeccable fashion, with hustle, poise and unselfish teamwork (and a ton of talent). In doing so, he has at last broken clear of Pat Summitt of Tennessee and all the other great coaches, past and present. He’s the best ever.
Ouch. It’s hard to imagine a tougher knock than being ousted as host of NBC’s “Tonight Show” a mere six months after you got the gig—in favor of your predecessor. Weep not for “Coco,” however, who’s been down before (remember the early days of “Late Night”?) and who emerged from this latest onslaught of slings and arrows with a sweet severance package, a successful live road tour, two 2010 Emmy nominations and a brand-new TBS talk show, slated to debut in November. All together now: Jay who?
Connecticut’s “Lovable Queen of Mean” is on a winning streak. Her comedy career took off in 2002 after she skewered Chevy Chase at a Friars Club Roast and she never looked back. Her most recent victim: David Hasselhoff—charred to a crisp. Her book Chocolate Please: My Adventures in Food, Fat and Freaks comes out in paperback Sept. 14, she is developing a pilot for a weekly series on HBO with Jim Carrey and Kario Salem, and best of all, after taking a year off from dating, she became engaged to Jimmy BB! Congratulations, Lisa and Jimmy!
Pilobolus Dance Theatre
Washington Depot, (860) 868-0538 (pilobolus.com)
Pilobolus is poetry in motion. But the dance troupe’s innovative choreography raised eyebrows back in 1971 when it got started. The group soon became world-renowned for its physically demanding and imaginative work and 40 years later, it is viewed as a pioneer in its field. This year Matt Kent and Renee Jaworski teamed up with Dan Zanes to develop “Contradance” for families, and in “Hapless Hooligan in ‘Still Moving,’” a love story told in the style of early comics, dancers interact live with Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic artist Art Spiegelman’s drawings.
SPORTS TEAM: MEN'S
Trinity College Men’s Squash
The archives can get a little murky when it comes to this sort of thing, but it now seems very likely that Trinity men’s squash is in the midst of the longest winning streak in the history of intercollegiate varsity sports. The team has won 224 matches in a row and 13 national championships in succession. This is well-known in squash circles, of course, and around the Trinity campus, but, oddly enough, the team probably got its biggest burst of publicity ever only last season after the Bantams’ top player went off against his Yale rival at the end of their match, and then the video of his meltdown went viral. It wasn’t a pretty sight, but it did get squash into the national sports conversation.
SPORTS TEAM: WOMEN'S
UConn Women’s Basketball
It will be hard to dislodge the UConn women from this spot until they stop gathering at the White House every spring for a get-together with the prez. The winning streak now stands at 78 games after the team topped Stanford for its seventh national championship. They’ll go into the 2010-11 season with the UCLA men’s record of 88 straight victories clearly in sight, but they’ll also be facing a very tough early schedule and a coach who doesn’t like to let them look beyond the next game. In any case, they’ve got to find someone on the team who can beat Barack Obama in a game of H-O-R-S-E in case he wants to try that again.
(This article was originally published on a different platform. Some formatting changes may have occurred.)
This article appeared in the September 2010 issue of Connecticut Magazine
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