As 2003 swiftly comes to a close, I've taken a few minutes out of the holiday madness to ponder things I'd like to see in the coming year.

New Year's Wishes

When planning your New Year's celebrations, don't forget the classic Southern prescription for prosperity in the coming year -- eat greens for paper wealth, cornbread for gold, and black-eyed peas for general financial success and good fortune. As 2003 swiftly comes to a close, I've taken a few minutes out of the holiday madness to ponder things I'd like to see in the coming year. Some of these things are strictly personal, albeit career-related, but the bulk of my New Year's wishes are for individual members of the Austin food scene and the culinary community as a whole. The following is what I'd like to see in 2004. Happy New Year, everyone!

1) A food and wine radio program for Wes Marshall and myself. I think we'd have a blast.

2) The successful completion of the manuscript for the Fonda San Miguel cookbook, which I'm working on with Tom Gilliland and Miguel Ravago.

3) A deal whereby Maria Corbalan gets to keep her fabulous Taco X-Press on the same South Austin property that satisfies her landlord, the Walgreens folks, and the neighborhood association. After all, that property is going to be developed one way or another. At least with the generous Walgreens deal currently on the table, Maria stays in the neighborhood with expanded space and more parking. It could be a great compromise.

4) A year for Sweetish Hill owner Jim Murphy (or any other local artisan bread baker, for that matter) in which he doesn't have to hear about the wonders of the Atkins diet.

5) It would be great to see the Austin Community Development Corporation go forward with their plans for a Food Entrepreneurship Center, complete with commercial kitchen, warehouse, and training spaces. This kind of business incubator could create good new jobs for Austin.

6) I'd also like to see the City Council/Chamber of Commerce/Convention & Visitors Bureau take an active interest in promoting Austin as a food city -- one with good restaurants and a burgeoning food manufacturing community. (Austin-made food products in all promotional corporate gift baskets.)

7) We'll need sold-out shows at all our Eat, Drink, Watch Movies screenings. We're planning to show the Penelope Cruz romantic comedy Woman on Top with Brazilian food and drinks for Valentine's Day and an Indian film fest late in March. Plan to join us.

8) There should be booths selling Austin-made food products (jams, jellies, condiments, salsas, sweets, nuts) at next year's Junior League Christmas Affair, as well as the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. And what about a kiosk or special section in the Bergstrom Airport Gift Shop, too?

9) Distribution of copies of The Waiting Game: The Ultimate Guide to Waiting Tables to all new Austin restaurants, followed by actual training of new waitstaff.

10) Well-deserved success to Jeff Liu with his two-restaurants-in-one space concept in far Southwest Austin. Here's hoping his new Bistro 88/Noodle-ism restaurant combo will be followed by other good restaurants much needed in that underserved area.

11) When the downtown Austin Farmers' Market reopens in the spring, I'd like to see the Sustainable Food Center folks invest time and energy in educating the Austin buying public about just what locally grown produce they can expect to see during each season in Austin and what it means to be a local grower.

12) I hope the increased demand for locally grown produce, meats, cheeses, and dairy products encourages more area growers to participate in markets or create their own farmstands.

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