Food-o-File

Check out foodie wishes for the new year, local foodie fundraisers, and the Year of the Ox

I've never been much good with new year's resolutions, but I do have a wish list for 2009. Here are some things I'd like to see in the coming year: 1) Rain for area farmers. After growing up in the desert, I thought I knew plenty about appreciating rain, but the extreme drought conditions that persist from last year have me looking for more help. In the spirit of living in an attitude of gratitude, my new mantra is, "I will be so grateful for rain." Everybody repeat it with me now, several times a day. 2) More gardens. Unfortunately, there's no place to garden at my house, but I'd really like to see more gardens everywhere else – at public schools, retirement facilities, the lawn of the restored Governor's Mansion, the White House lawn, restaurants, and people's homes. It would be great to see more Americans of all ages reconnecting with the source of their food and eating seasonally while saving money and becoming healthier in the process. 3) More blogging. My blog, Virginia's on the Range (austinchronicle.com/ontherange), got short shrift during the last days of 2008, and I really need to get back to it. I'm also planning to check out more food-related blogs this year, especially the one Boggy Creek Farm co-owner Carol Ann Sayle has been recruited to write for The Atlantic (more on this as it develops). 4) Austin food on the radio. I've yearned to create a food-related local radio program for years, and I'm game to get it started this year just as soon as I can find a venue. 5) Local food at the Texas Book Festival. Austin restaurants and artisan-food producers successfully present great street food at Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park every year, and I see no reason why the Book Fest­ival couldn't be an equally valuable local culinary showcase. 6) Texas food books. And speaking of books, I need to finish my Hill Country culinary guidebook and move on to the next project, a memoir with recipes. I'm also hoping there will be a bigger crop of Texas cookbooks at the 2009 Book Festival. 7) A stable Austin restaurant economy. I know my end-of-the-year predictions were somewhat dire. I hope local restaurant owners are able to weather the financial crisis with smart money management and good value for the dining dollar... The invitations to one of Austin's most creative culinary fundraisers, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, went out last week. There's still time to make a reservation for one of the 19 fascinating dinner parties being thrown to benefit Project Transitions (www.projecttransitions.org). Dinner party themes range from A Night in Spain to Out of Africa and from Loco for Locovores to Remember the Maine: An Eastern Sea­board Sampler – there truly is a menu to appeal to every palate. Guests choose a dinner party, pay $100 per person to Project Transitions, and show up at the designated house at 7pm on Saturday, Feb. 7, for a delightful evening of great food, great company, and perfectly painless community service. At the end of the evening, guests and hosts gather at Nest on West Sixth for a Champagne and dessert reception. Call 454-8646 today to get an invitation or make a reservation. I've chosen Fat Tuesday, Texas Style this year, and I can't wait... The fish departments at Whole Foods Mar­ket are featuring Arctic Char this month. Our Kate Thorn­berry tried some last week, paired with fresh kale from her garden, and enthusiastically described the delicious Char as "less oily than mackerel and a little milder than salmon"... The Chinese New Year is celebrated on the second new moon after the winter solstice, which means this becomes the Year of the Ox 4707 on Monday, Jan. 26. For many years, this paper ran custom cover art designed by the late tattoo artist Rollo Banks to herald the arrival of Chinese New Year. We expect many local Asian restaurants to offer new year's celebrations in the coming weeks, and our "Event Menu" (at left) spotlights the ones we knew about at press time.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

New Year's, Project Transitions, Chinese New Year, Virginia's on the Range, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Whole Foods Market, Arctic Char, Year of the Ox

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