I dine out a lot and I read and write for restaurant magazines, and I watch the Food Network where the stars remind me of the stars of Gilligan's Island. This qualifies me to look into the crystal ball and fearlessly predict:
No shirt, no shoes, no problem. As dress codes are stripped away, all restaurants will begin welcoming flip-flops, tank tops, and short shorts. And that's just on the wait staff.
Tollavores. A restaurant will open where they charge by the number of miles the ingredients traveled to your plate.
Carns & Noble. Book stores were taking a beating from Amazon.com, so they started serving coffee, tea, and biscotti. It has been so successful that Weber Grill will buy out a struggling book chain and take them full service in 2008.
Roachmosines. Those roach coaches that call on construction sites don't want to get left out so they will start climbing upscale by switching to stretch limousines with tables and fully stocked bars inside.
TV Chef Island, The Movie. The laugh-a-minute back-of-the-house life and hijinks of the eccentric stars of the TV Chef Channel starring Bobby as Gilligan, Mario as The Captain, Emeril as Thurston Howell III, Paula as his wife Lovie, Alton as The Professor, Giada as Ginger, and Rachael as Mary Ann. The fun really begins when Gilligan finds nude pictures of Mary Ann on the internet. And you won't believe how they cook the mistletoe. Watch out, they have knives! Rating *1/2
Schmancyburgers. Burgers prices will skyrocket when fast food joints hear what Daniel Boulud (Restaurant Daniel in NYC), Thomas Keller (The French Laundry in Napa Valley), and other high priests of organolepty are getting for their wacky burgers. Boulud sells a nine ounce sirloin burger stuffed with braised short ribs, foie gras, and black truffle served on a parmesan bun for $32. The fries are free.
Molecular gas. The fusion of chemistry, physics, and marketing that they call molecular gastronomy has produced a whole new category of hi-tech restaurants and foods made by lasers and liquid nitrogen. In 2008 Apple Computer will open restaurants in their stores with edible china and silverware and touchscreen holographic waitrons.
One nation under sauce. Not content to ruin good cedar planked salmon with barbecue sauce, a restaurant chain will start putting the sticky stuff on tables along with the salt and pepper so you can use it on vegetables if you want. This may be the year barbecue sauce finally passes salsa as the #1 condiment.
Grey Gatorade. Clear ethanol in fancy frosted bottles like Grey Goose has become hot because it is cheap to make and because it is so much more elegant than taking alcohol intravenously. This year the trend will amp up as bartenders mix energy drinks with vodka to make faster, stronger drunks. Vodka sauce will graduate from popular pasta topping to give barbecue sauce a run for its money, and vodka sales may surpass wine.
Beefication. First it was Kobe beef from Japan, cut from cows weaned on sake and massaged daily to make the meat more tender (no kidding). Then it was Wagyu beef from Texas, and then Bill Kurtis began popularizing grass-fed cattle from Kansas. Hey (hay?), wasn't that the stuff our parents ate? This will be the year that genetically modified irradiated lawn clipping fed beef will debut in the US. From Southern California it will be massaged daily by Kobe Bryant's physical therapist.
Bits & shards. You know those great crunchy bits of breading from the onion rings or drumsticks in the bottom of the bag? And isn't it cool when there is occasionally a French fry shard in the bottom of the bag? Well there's more in the fryolater, and this year they will break out on their own as a side dish.
Dried guppie chips. As more and more fisheries are devoured and sustainable seafood becomes a necessity, a Japanese restaurant chain will open in Water Tower Place serving salted, dehydrated farm-raised guppies. Great with beer.
Blogicide. A famous chef will be arrested for killing a food blogger. She will argue in court that "He was an assassin. It was self defense".
Ban fried chicken. A Chicago alderman will propose banning fried chicken when he learns that raising chickens the way they do is no crueler than the way they raise foie gras. "And besides, fried food is bad for you" he said.
Gordon Ramsey's goose cooked. The chef/star of TV's Hell's Kitchen will be arrested for unfair labor practices, obscenity, and just plain being a bad example to all chefs, managers, parents, and kids. US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald will be quoted saying "This guy is what you get when you cross Jerry Springer and a prison guard. We're asking for life."