Monday, January 4, 2021

Rant: Forget Useless Predictions

It's now 2021 and 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, nearly all of those predictions will have failed to come to fruition and even those that did 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 all hope that 2021, once we get a better handle on battling the pandemic, will usher in positive changes to the local food & drink industry. Instead of offering any predictions, I'm going to provide a list of ten of my desires, those trends, issues and items which I would love to see step forward and take precedence in 2021, though I'm not predicting they will actually come to fruition. Some of these items I've been wanting for many years to happen and they still haven't become a trend. I think we would all benefit if any of these desires were fulfilled.

We possess 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.

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 several years and it still hasn't caught on. Why not?

2) Less Powdered Sugar
Stop using so much powdered sugar, covering pancakes and French toast, adding even more sweetness to sweet desserts. It doesn't make those dishes look more appealing to have a plain white powder on them. In fact, it acts to hide the natural look of the desserts, concealing their true nature. And adding it to sweet desserts is unnecessary as they are already sweet enough. It's overkill. Yet chef after chef still uses it and that needs to stop, especially its use on pancakes and French toast. Find other ways to make your food look better. Find a better way to make your desserts sweeter if that is what you really want to do..   

3) More Breakfast Pizza
A breakfast pizza, such as with potatoes, bacon, cheese and a fried egg, can be absolutely delicious. It isn't a difficult dish to create yet you won't find it available on many menus. Think of all the pizza joints you know and then consider which ones make a breakfast pizza. You might know one or two, at best. So why isn't it more popular and available? It is puzzling to me and it seems such a no-brainer. People love pizza so why wouldn't they also love a breakfast pizza? This too seems to be a missed opportunity for many so I hope more restaurants decide to add these to their menu.

4) More Duck Wings
Chicken wings get all the attention and you can find them in many different restaurants, often as an appetizer. There are even restaurants that specialize in chicken wings. Part of the reason for their ubiquity is likely that they are usually inexpensive. However, duck wings can be so much tastier than chicken wings, yet it is very difficult to find restaurants which offer them. Let's see more restaurant start offering duck wings on their menu, showing their taste and versatility. 

5) More Filipino Restaurants & Dishes
This is another matter I've been ranting about for several years. There is a dearth of Filipino cuisine both locally as well throughout the U.S., though a few regions seem to be opening several new Filipino restaurants. With only a few Filipino restaurants in the Boston area, there is a huge opportunity here for more Filipino spots. Or if even not an entire restaurant, maybe we could see more Filipino inspired dishes on other menus. This is also applicable to a number of other cuisines of which Boston doesn't have enough representation, like Peruvian, Croatian and Georgian. 

6) 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.

7) 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 multiple Sakes on their menu. Sake is not just for Sushi!

8) 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 Croatian 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.

9) More Food Pairings With Bubbly
Sparkling wine actually pairs well with numerous food dishes yet most people drink it only as a celebratory wine or as an aperitif. More people should try pairing sparkling wine with a variety of dishes, to learn how well it can pair with their dinner. We also need restaurants and wine sommeliers to start making recommendations for sparkling wine for various menu items. Whenever I've sought a wine recommendation from a sommelier, only rarely have they have offered a Sparkling wine recommendation. Sparkling wine even pairs well with simple foods, like potato chips! Why not set up a Sparkling Wine tasting with various flavored potato chips. 

10) More Mezcal Bars
There are plenty of Tequila bars in the Boston area, and even those which do not specialize in Tequila often carry a significant selection of Tequilas. However, there are only a handful of Mezcal bars, places which carry at least 20 different Mezcals. Mezcal is the ancestor to Tequila, but Tequila somehow receives most of the attention. With about 100 different bottlings available in Massachusetts, there are plenty of Mezcal options for bars and restaurants to carry. Mezcal is often traditionally produced, can be made from numerous types of agave, and can be complex and delicious, unique and compelling. Mezcal needs far more attention and consumers will embrace it once they realize its wonders.

What food & drink trends would you like to see in 2021?

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