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.
Better education at home about food: Following up on the above wish, it all starts at home. If we cook more with fresh ingredients, use far fewer processed foods and boxed meals, we will train the palate of our children. Bad eating habits are born and die at home.
Changes to the liquor laws: I would love to buy wine at the grocery store — on Sunday. But this isn't the only change I'd like to see. I think liquor stores should be able to sell corkscrews, mixers, soft drinks and anything else they want in order to compete. I understand allowing this will have an adverse effect on local liquor stores, particularly the small ones. I have great respect for liquor store owners who have played by the rules and built successful operations. On the other hand, the Internet has cost a lot of jobs for my friends in newspaper, and local radio/
Growth for slow foods: God bless Kerry Norman and Kamala Gamble for this collection of locavores dedicated to sharing the gospel of local artisanal and organic food producers. If you're reading this column, you should be a member of this group. And you should invite at least five friends to join you. Do it at www.slow
Drink more Amarone: While sharing a bottle of a nice Chianti with my favorite wine snob, George Percy of Tallahassee, Fla., he told me that if while perusing a list of Italian wines I should come across anything marked Amarone, I should order it. Amarone is made up of the Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes. As luck would have it, while dining with Michel and Alain Buthion at Bellini's (story Thursday in Mood), Michel had a bottle of Sartori de Varona 2007 Amarone brought to the table. One sip followed by a large gulp later, I knew George was right.
Help Oklahoma develop a signature flavor: I love fried-