Many Phoenix writers are using this issue to forecast coming attractions for the new year. I refuse to predict what restaurants will actually open in 2011. A lot of plans come to nothing. I cannot even predict what kinds of restaurants will open in the next 12 months, although gastropubs with ceilings painted black would be a reasonable guess, based on recent performance. Loud is a pretty good guess, too. I checked this a few time with a decibel meter, and some Boston restaurants are noisier than subway stations when the train is coming in. (And in a restaurant, there is no gap between trains.) Hey mayors, town budgets have been hit hard. How about a decibel tax and a surcharge on "too dark to read the menu"?
The good news for restaurateurs is that my own resolution is to eat less and exercise more between restaurant visits. So I will be walking in hungry. Follow some of my 20 resolutions for restaurateurs below, and I may walk out happy and carry that mood all the way home to the keyboard.
1. RESOLVE TO USE THE "WHOLE FISH" You've been doing the "whole pig" thing and the "whole animal" thing. This year, join a Community Supported Fishery and deal with some whole fish. Think of the possibilities: real fish chowder, based on fish stock, one of the glories of old Yankee cuisine. Monkfish medallions, plus the rich livers. Roe scallops. Codfish fillets, plus soup, plus scalloped cheeks and tongues. Real crab bisque. Pollack in that fancy French form of gefilte fish called quenelles. Fish balls instead of meatballs. That amazing cazuela of squid and skate wings I had in Portugal? You can do it, chefs!
2. TEA I know it got a little political there, but there is no reason not to serve a decent cuppa. Many restaurants delegate tea and coffee service to waitrons. That's okay, just send those waitrons out with some kind of hot water that will stay hot and already has some kind of tea in it. Think about how dumb it looks to have customers ripping tea bags open with their teeth, sticking them in a cup and putting the saucer on top in the vain hope that the water will stay hot enough to brew the tea. (And if you serve iced tea from a mix, and I catch you, there will be no mercy. None.)
3. DECAF It's harder to make than coffee. Caffeine is bitter. (Skip the cocaine for an hour and grind up a no-doz, taste, and you'll see what I mean.) So you have to make decaf fresher and stronger than real coffee or it will taste like dishwater. It burns faster than coffee. I order it a lot. You've been warned.
4. TRIOS It took me several columns to work this one out. You serve a trio of somethings, you imagine you have provided the variety of a buffet. Not me. I imagine you actually tasted all three, and decided to serve the two that weren't as good along with your favorite. Let's see some confidence in your own palate, chef!