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A dozen Hopes for Local Food Culture in 2012

The Food Dude shares his culinary resolutions for 2012.
by Dave Cathey Published: January 4, 2012

Most New Year's resolutions don't face as much pressure as this year's thanks to the dreaded Mayan calendar.

Sure, they had art, architecture, mathematics and astrology, but despite more than 1,500 years of steadily evolving civilization, the Mayans couldn't fend off a few boatloads of sea-weary Spanish. Inquisitions aside, the Spanish are good at futbol, clay-court tennis and cuisine.

So how accurate can their doomsday calendar be? Assuming we're all still around this time next year to keep score, here, in no particular order, are 12 food-related issues, openings and phenomena I'm looking forward to experiencing, eating, cooking, drinking or helping in 2012.

Local: Chef Ryan Parrott leaves the kitchen at Iguana Mexican Grill — though not completely — to open this ambitious concept in Norman. Local ingredients, seasonal menu and lots of square-footage. Look for it in February.

Chuy's: Here's one I just found out is coming true. I grew up just minutes from the original Chuy's Fine Tex-Mex in Austin, which was a tiny little shack near Zilker Park notable for churched-up Tex-Mex served under hubcaps and papier-mache fish that hung from the ceiling. For $4.99, I could get an order of fajitas served in a sizzling cast-iron skillet and make it back in time for fifth-hour Shop. Now, Chuy's is a Tex-Mex dynasty with locations all across Texas. Chuy's opens in Tulsa this February, and I on Tuesday got word plans for a Norman location at 760 Interstate Drive (the old Santa Fe Cattle Co. site) are set for a spring/summer opening, according to Michael Hatcher, Chuy's vice president of real estate and development. As most of you know, I'm not one who frequents chain restaurants, but I'm confident Chuy's will affect local Mexican restaurants the way Whole Foods affected local grocery stores. Hatcher said more locations are planned for Oklahoma City in the near future, so local purveyors of Tex-Mex are officially on notice.

Local movement moves beyond the true believers: There is a small but passionate group of locavores in Oklahoma City. I'm hoping that by this time next year, it doubles in size and every year after. Thanks to the aforementioned Whole Foods effect, local ingredients are increasingly available. We plan to introduce you to more of them on these pages throughout the year.

Street food growth: The south side of the city has had a large if not healthy street food scene for years. Bobo's Chicken has quietly made a small fortune dominating late-night trailer food for a good while. Groups such as H&8th have tried with some success to start an organized effort to gather and sup after hours. I would love to see some of the young chefs in town ply their wares. But this will take teamwork between city/county officials and vendors. Play nice, and everyone will prosper.

Whole hog: I have the locale to dig the hole. The pig is not too difficult to find, but the time is. This year will be the year. And when I do, there will be public invitations, we promise.

Drop tonnage: Pretty sure I heard a beeping sound while we were doing the moonwalk with Dance Central 2 on Christmas.

Continued improvement in school menus: Edmond schools have set the standard for improving the food they feed children. Here's hoping it becomes the standard and we can forever wipe cheese nachos as an entree off the menu.

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by Dave Cathey
Food Editor
The Oklahoman's food editor, Dave Cathey, keeps his eye on culinary arts and serves up news and reviews from Oklahoma’s booming food scene.
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