Entertainment,  Food & Drink

Best & Worst of 2014

Another great year has come and gone. I don’t know about you, but 2014 was a great year for V for Vetrano. I spent most of it working in the music industry, managing artist’s unrealistic expectations, enjoying Nashville’s growing city and fighting to find the balance between professional and personal. Both done quite successfully, in my opinion. I learned a lot about myself this year, which led to the rebranding of my music blog Tragic Kingdom to Listen! It’s Vetrano, officially launching in the new year.

But before I take you too far forward, I have to look back at the year of 2014. I’ve compiled my picks for the best & worst of 2014 below. Please share your thoughts, feedback and your picks in the comments below.

Best New Artist: Betty Who
Betty Who dazzled with her album and EP’s in 2014. Although commercially she didn’t have the breakout year that she should have, a run opening for Katy Perry and a catchy new single (“All Of You”) surely sets the stage for a big 2015.

Album of the Year: 1989, Taylor Swift
It’s no secret that Taylor had a breakout year, releasing the only album to go platinum in 2014. And while my pick may seem predictable, I admit that it absolutely is. Swift released one of the most compelling pop records in years. Check out my full recap of the record here.

Song of the Year: “Fancy,” Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX
If you didn’t hear this song this year, you should get your hearing checked. Iggy Azalea exploded upon the scene this year delivering radio hit after radio hit. But it started with this hip-hop anthem that had people everywhere chanting “I’m so fancy”. It not only launched Azalea into music stardom, but the chorus’ Charli XCX landed a couple of hits following her feature role on the track.

Biggest Disappointment: “Something Bad,” Miranda Lambert & Carrie Underwood
It should have been the biggest single in the country genre this year. Two of the genre’s biggest powerhouse vocalists collaborating in one massive summer single. Unfortunately though it was filled with corny lyrics and failed to inspire radio programmers to put a female (or females) on top of the male-filled chart. The song was indeed… something bad. The only saving grace here was the video, which delivered some breathtaking beauty shots of the duo best watched on mute.

Movie of the Year: Interstellar
Although Joe had to twist my arm to see a movie that includes two of my least favorite things: Matthew McConaughey and space, Interstellar was a brilliant movie masterpiece. With movie prices through the roof I don’t often make it to the theater, but this one was well worth the extra dinero to see on the big screen. And McConaughey delivered his best performance yet. I actually forgot his “alright, alright, alright’s” and saw him in the role he was intended to play. Beautifully done all the way around.

Biggest Waste of Time: Sex Tape
Anything bringing Cameron Diaz and Jason Segal together should be a recipe for comedic genius, right? When previews for Sex Tape came out, I thought “alright, Diaz is back (from that awful disaster The Other Woman), but unfortunately the film was far from entertainment. It lasted so little time in the theater that I missed it and got it when it arrived OnDemand. A little OCD (okay, majorly) having to know how everything ends, interested or not, I couldn’t finish it this movie. Talk about jumping the shark. Hopefully both actors are taking a little hiatus to give us time to forget this epic disaster.

Guiltiest Pleasure on TV: Vanderpump Rules
If you know me – and I’m sorry if you do – you know that Bravo! is permanently playing on my TV. I can’t tear myself away from housewives fighting over #firstworld dramas and terribly trashy reality, but when Beverly Hills’ Lisa Vanderpump debuted her flashy, overly sexed spinoff Vanderpump Rules a few seasons ago, I was hooked. It was this year though that the series moved to the top of my must-watch list, leaving the housewives second in line. Trashy doesn’t even begin to explain it, but I can’t stop and honestly… I don’t want to.

Best Series: The Comeback
When news broke that HBO was rebooting the Lisa Kudrow series The Comeback, no one was more excited than me. The first time around the series got canned due to low ratings, but fans and the cult following the show developed over the 10 year hiatus banned to get Kudrow’s Valerie Cherish back on TV. And it worked. Nervous how the 10-year break would play out and if the magic would still work for the series, I was relieved and the show became my number one obsession in 2014. So not to ruin anything, if this was the final season I feel completely content. If HBO renews it for more, I certainly welcome Cherish’s antics into my living room week after week.

Best New Show: House of Cards
Don’t go ballistic, I know that House of Cards didn’t premiere in 2014 (well, Season 2 did), but it was the first time I got introduced to the drama-filled, political Netflix series. I got knocked out with strep throat earlier this year and finally caved into the Kevin Spacey series. It has everything that a series needs to keep viewers hooked and the Netflix-style binge-a-thon was exactly what I needed. Season 3 is debuting in the new year and I am already on the edge of my seat for more.

Worst New Series: Marry Me
It pains me to say that the new NBC couples comedy Marry Me is a total dud. A mega-fan of Casey Wilson (SNLHappy Endings), I was thrilled to see her in the fall lineup. After a couple of boring and predictable episodes into the series I removed the season pass from my DVR and called it quits. This was one series I was ready to divorce and see splitsville in its future with NBC as well.

Best Concert of the Year: Lana Del Rey 
After my early obsession with Lana Del Rey launched Tragic Kingdom to new heights, I couldn’t wait to see the songstress live. When her tour rolled through Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, it was as if the Heavens had opened up and were calling me home. The show delivered what I had come to expect from Del Rey, but I would have enjoyed a few more songs in the set and less posing for crowd pictures in the pit. After playing to the sold out auditorium, I’m sure she’ll be stopping in Music City again soon.

Music Video of the Year: “I Wish I Could Break Your Heart,” Cassadee Pope
Just watch it. You’ll understand why I named CMT’s Breakthrough Video of Year winner Cassadee Pope’s follow up my pick for the Music Video of the Year.

Best Dish: Wagyu Filet, Kayne Prime
It doesn’t come cheap, but your stomach will sure thank you for this perfectly prepared cut of meat. If you’re ready to splurge, you can’t go wrong with any of the delicious side options that all pair with the main course.

Favorite New Restaurant: Chauhan Ale & Masala House
Celebrity Chef Maneet Chauhan brought her Indian cuisine with a twist to Music City late this year and I couldn’t be more grateful. Having only visited a couple of times before the year’s end, I confidently conclude the restaurant hits all the right notes from the expertly crafted cocktails to the impeccable decor. It’s newly launched happy hour – and with lunch hours beginning in the new year – Chauhan is going to see a lot of V for Vetrano.

Best Dive Bar: 3 Crow
Cheap drinks, great bar food and a potato salad that you’ll crave for weeks to follow, 3 Crow in East Nashville is a great place to spend your happy hour, trivia night or Sunday Funday! The large patio areas are a summer staple for V for Vetrano and if they’re out of the French Dip when you visit, it’s safe to say Amanda and I are partially responsible. We just can’t help ourselves, they’re the best in town.

Favorite New Recipe: Winter Harvest Punch
This punch made a splash when Cassadee brought it my house for dinner a few weeks ago and it’s already ny go-to drink for every holiday party and Sunday night social hang. After you get a taste of this Winter Harvest Punch, it’ll be yours too.

Drink of the Year: Franco Italia, Rolf & Daughters
When Rolf & Daughters rolls out a new drink menu, they always deliver the most inventive cocktails in the city so it was no surprise when their summer selection featured my pick for the best of the year. Carpano Bianco, Suze, lemon, honey, basil, orange bitters and garnished with cracked pepper on the top, this was a recipe for success.

Best Happy Hour: Eastland Café
An unexpected upscale haunt located in East Nashville that offers drink selections under $6 and affordable and filling bar snacks from 4:30pm – 6:30pm. I found this comfortable bar to be one of my new favorite spots to start a nice night out.

Worst Overall Experience: The City Winery Nashville
A new Nashville restaurant/bar/venue that over promises and under delivers. I was excited about this new location after reading about its other locations in Napa and New York City, but from the minute we arrived for happy hour we were greeted with some of the worst service I’ve ever had at a bar or restaurant… and I’ve been to some doozies. The food and wine were both less than desirable, but it was the lazy, uneducated and disrespectful staff that did me in. I’d caution any curious minds about this spot. Skip it.

Trend Most Likely to Succeed: Hot Chicken
When I moved to Nashville I couldn’t wait to try its local cuisine. Unfortunately when I asked what the Music City must-haves were, the responses were mixed. BBQ?… fried chicken? …  Burger Up… No one knew. As the city grew rapidly this year, so did its signature dish: hot chicken. Now a staple on most menus – even Nashville’s Mexican places have introduced their versions (hot chicken tacos, et. al) – and a variety of new “hot” spots opening in the last year, hot chicken seems here to stay.

Trend to End: “Farm to table”
Don’t get me wrong, I love the farm to table concept and its definition. However, this year it seemed whatever new restaurant opened would describe their menu offerings as “farm to table,” which really just became a trendy term for “we serve whatever we want”. In 2015, I’m hoping the city’s new additions have the balls to pick cuisines and stand behind doing it well, even if the ingredients are fresh from farm to table.

Fashion / Shopping
Best Dressed Celebrity: Taylor Swift
When Taylor Swift stepped out this year with the shorter bob cut and crop top dresses on the red carpets, it was clear she was elevating her style to align with her change in musical direction. Her classic, but modern looks were snapped all over her new New York streets and topped with a cherry red lip, she sophisticatedly made the leap from girl to woman flawlessly. It’s no coincidence that one of the strongest tracks from her new album is called “Style,” cause she’s got tons of it.

Fashion Disaster of the Year: Lady Gaga 
It seems to obvious to pick one of our time’s biggest risk takers, Lady Gaga, as the fashion disaster. But really, how could I not? Sure the now infamous Meat Dress may not have been the smartest look from a runway, but it still strangely had style. This year, though, Gaga threw on a cheap black, jheri curl wig and a varietal of bad outfits that stunk worse than the sales of her last album.

Most In Need of a Makeover: Shailene Woodley
Star of Fault In Our Stars and Divergent, Shailene Woodley is Hollywood’s new “it” girl, but her red carpet looks have been missing the mark in almost every way. Rachel Zoe must be going “ba-nanas” to get her hands on this up and comer and we hope she does before the premiere of her next blockbuster hits the press line.

Must Have Looks: Valentine Valentine
Amanda Valentine defined redemption when she rose to the top of Project Runway’s thirteenth season. The Season 11 contestant returned this year and showed significant growth, which landed her in the finale and at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. Those runway looks have been flying out of her online inventory since the show’s finale and her cool, but sophisticated looks keep coming. With offerings for women and men, there’s no reason everyone shouldn’t have at least one Valentine Valentine piece in their collection.

Nashville Retailer of the Year: Imogene + Willie
Every man, whether he admits it or not, likes to look just as good as a women does in a pair of jeans. The best way to accomplish that? Custom fits from Nashville’s Imogene + Willie, who continued to grow in 2014. The retailer continues to get national recognition and their partnership with Warby Parker has encouraged the brand to make a move to Music City.

Best Dining Experience: King + Duke, Atlanta
It’s hard to explain the experience at King + Duke from my 30th birthday trip to Atlanta. Traditionally I would be disappointed to have been sat an hour after our reservation, but when the management and staff took extreme efforts to make up for it with service, I instantly forgot about the wait. Perhaps it was a plan to trick my stomach into enjoying the incredible food that was to come? Because that’s what it was… incredible. I cannot wait to go back.

Biggest Disappointment: W Hotel – Atlanta Midtown
Unfortunately my 30th birthday trip to Atlanta did have one snag: the accommodations. The W Hotel – usually a great option when I travel – in Midtown was such a disappointment. The room was never cleaned, the staff was unhelpful and the communication between various departments was chaotic. It was over Halloween weekend, but come on… the overall stay was down right spooky. If you have recommendations of where I should stay next time I’m in the Midtown Atlanta area, please share in the comments below. I’ve officially checked out at this W Hotel.

Easiest Transportation Tool: Uber Black
Uber is quickly becoming the go-to for zipping around cities, including my own, but it was on a work trip to NYC that I found the wonders of Uber Black. Sure it costs a bit more, but the vehicles are cleaner, easier to find and usually have a shorter wait since demand is lower. Unfamiliar with NYC’s insane street layouts, it was great having knowledgable drivers to get me where I needed to be from meeting to meeting.

Airline of the Year: Southwest
It’s usually not my choice to be cattle called into a steel tube that flies thousands of feet into the air, but Southwest made traveling easy for me this year. Sure, you have to pick your own seat once on the plane, but the cheaper tickets and direct flights make it worthwhile. I should also note that I’ve never been delayed or had a flight cancel on Southwest, which has been notorious on the others as of late.

Favorite City to Explore: New York City
Growing up, New York was a regular place to visit for me and my family. We often went to visit friends, attend weddings or visit the family we have scattered about the state. This year, though was my first (can you believe it?) time staying in NYC proper. Right downtown, in the heart of it all. I was traveling for work, so I only had a few sacred moments to explore its wonders and enjoy a quick bite with my hometown girl, Gretchen. It was so full of life and left me wanted more, way more. Expect some details for my upcoming visit to NYC very soon!

That does it for the Best & Worst of 2014. What a year it was. I can’t wait to see what we get up to in the new year. Let’s get wild, shall we?

Until then, have a safe New Year’s Eve and I’ll see you all in 2015!

V for Vetrano