Friday, December 28, 2018

No Predictions, Only Desires

As 2019 nears,  has now arrived, you'll hear plenty of predictions for this New Year, but not from me.

Predictions for the New Year are basically useless. At the end of the year, the vast majority of predictions will have failed to come to fruition and even those that do are probably due more to luck than any actual ability to predict the future. You would have just as much success by reading tea leaves or the entrails of goats. I know that if I devised my own predictions, they too would probably fail.

We can all hope that 2019 will usher in positive changes to the local food & drink industry. Instead of offering any predictions, I'm going to provide a small list of my desires, those trends, issues and items which I would love to see step forward and take precedence in 2019, though I'm not predicting they will actually come to fruition. However, I think we would all benefit if these desires were fulfilled.

And we have the ability to make these desires come true. They pose valuable opportunities for entrepreneurs and others to step up and make their mark. They are matters we can demand and promote, matters we can hound restaurant owners, legislators and others to pursue. We can make our future become a reality.

Many of these desires are the similar to those I wrote in previous years as those desires did not come to fruition but I still believe they should become more prominent. Maybe 2019 will finally be the year to see at least a couple of my desires come true.

1) More Bread Pudding  
Bread pudding is relatively easy to make and can be inexpensive as it can be made with day old bread. Plus, it is a diverse dish that can be made in a wide variety of flavors, with different sauces, and accompaniments. I've had some superb bread puddings at local restaurants, and would like to see more restaurants offering it on their dessert menus. However, I also think there is a great opportunity for an enterprising baker to open a Bread Pudding Bakery. They exist in other parts of the country so why not in the Boston area? Skip opening another damn cupcake bakery, think outside the box, and opt for a bread pudding bakery instead. I've been pushing for this for a few years and it still hasn't caught on. Why not?

2) More Local Seafood
Something is seriously wrong as the U.S. imports over 90% of their seafood. Where is the love for domestic seafood? There is plenty of sustainable and delicious domestic seafood available and more of it needs to be served at restaurants and eaten at homes. For example, why serve Asian shrimp, especially considering problems such as the Thai slavery scandal, when Gulf shrimp can be just as good? We should support local fishermen and our local economy by buying more local seafood. Local seafood is also more traceable, so you know where it has been counter to imported seafood which can have a much murkier origin. Price alone shouldn't be the reason to opt for imported seafood.

3) More Love For The Country of Georgia 
Earlier this year, I ranted that I was disappointed that we don't have a Georgian restaurant yet in the Boston area. Other U.S. cities have such restaurants and it is time for Boston to do the same. I want Khachapuri, Georgian cheese bread, which comes in over 50 different varieties, with various fillings. I also want Mtsvadi, Georgian barbeque that is made with pork, mutton or veal, often marinated in pomegranate juice and Khinkali, a Georgian dumpling, is often made with mixed pork and beef, though sometimes also with lamb. We need Shkmeruli, a dish of fried chicken in a creamy garlic sauce. I have some hope as I recently spoke to a man at a Georgian business event who indicated he wanted to open a Georgian restaurant in Boston, and I wish him the best of luck.

4) More Sake At Non-Asian Restaurants
In the Boston area, Sake is largely confined to Asian restaurants and there is no reason why that should be the case. Sake pairs well with all sorts of cuisines, from Italian to French, Barbecue to Burgers. I've previously written about The Science of Sake & Food Pairings, explaining reasons why it pairs so well with varied cuisines. For Sake to become more popular and mainstream, we need more restaurants to carry and promote Sake. Tasting Counter is one of the courageous outliers, a non-Asian restaurant with ten Sakes on their menu. In southern Maine, plenty of non-Asian restaurants now carry the locally made Blue Current Sake.

5) More Love & Respect For Older Restaurants
Too much restaurant writing emphasizes the newest restaurants, at the expense of ignoring older, yet still worthy restaurants. As I mentioned earlier this year, there are a number of restaurants that have existed for 15+ years because they have remained consistently excellent, yet few food writers cover them. They need love too, especially in this competitive and tough restaurant industry where good restaurants are forced to close on a regular basis. They need updated reviews, showcasing the reasons for their longevity. We need to ensure these restaurants are not forgotten, and any good food writer can easily find an angle for a story about these worthy places.

6) More Love For Niche Wines
So many excellent wines get largely ignored by the general public, and even by a significant number of wine lovers. I want to see more people willing to expand their palates and explore these niche wines, from Sherry to Georgian wines, from Crémant d'Alsace to Israeli wines, from Port to Greek wines. Why do you restrict your drinking when you could be sampling all of the world's wine bounty? We need more restaurants adding these niche wines to their lists, and then promoting them to their customers. We need more wine bloggers to write about these wines, persuading their readers to check out these niche wines. You'll find so many interesting and delicious wines if you break out of your usual drinking patterns and try something new.

7) More Love & Attention For NECAT
NECAT provides culinary training to students who have had trouble or disadvantages in their past, from ex-convicts to high-school dropouts, from ex-drug addicts to the chronically underemployed. NECAT helps these "students forge a new future, providing them an opportunity for a fulfilling and rewarding career." It is one of my favorite causes and needs much more support and attention so it can continue its great work, helping individuals as well as helping the community. It is another issue which I ranted about this year, and during the past five years, NECAT has graduated 333 students, with 230 currently employed as cooks. I want more food writers to look into NECAT and hopefully write about it, to spread the word about their great work and help them continue to transform lives.

What food & drink trends would you like to see in 2019?

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