By Jonathan Shikes
By Alex Brown
By Cafe Society
By Samantha Alviani
By Lori Midson
By Mark Antonation
By Loren Lorenzo
By Nate Hemmert
What will be the big culinary trends in 2013? As we prepare for a new year in gastronomy, we posed that question to dozens of people in the local food business, everyone from chefs and pastry magicians to restaurant brokers and PR consultants, from brewers and grape gurus to brokers and pig farmers. And while their insights and opinions are all over the map, one thing is clear: Denver's culinary scene is definitely going to be a conversation piece next year, both at home and across the country. Trend lists are like Twitter accounts: Just about everyone has one. But no one has a list as comprehensive as this (and you can read still more on Cafe Society).
On simplicity: I'm putting my vote in for simplification across the board: downscaling of complicated food presentations; more plays on dishes from your childhood, re-imagined in a way so much better than the way Mom might have made; and a steering away from the twenty-minute Very Serious Cocktail. I'm all for the quicker, simpler — and more fun — cocktails that still use the best ingredients, but perhaps with a little more mirth.
On balance: I'm hoping for some balance between craft and hospitality, neighborhood and upscale. This will require some loosening up on our parts, perhaps, plus a little more will on the public's part to get off the vodka cranberry and Moscow Mule trains. And hope upon hope, though I speak of balance and fun and simplification, the trend I'm asking Santa for is to not have to try to constantly be everything to everyone all the time.
On just about everything: Artisan sodas, carbonated fresh fruit juices and infusions; Asian-flavored American comfort foods; local, "zip code" honeys; hearty greens like kale, beet greens, chard, turnip greens and mustard greens; more snacking and minis — mini-shakes, mini-cupcakes, chicken bites, pinwheel sandwiches and more finger foods on bar menus; over-regulation of local and artisan products; flavored popcorn; pickling fresh vegetables; and breakfast all day long.
On farming: We'll see more year-round local greens, thanks to farmers like Peter Volz of Oxford Gardens, who's partnering with Elliott Gardens in north Denver to grow his superb greens during the off-season. At Spuntino, we are now using his delicious greenhouse-grown mizuna, arugula, Lacinato kale and spinach. The drought needs to be factored into any discussion of local agriculture. If we have another low-precipitation year in 2013, like we did last year, all local agriculture is going to be threatened. Remember that 90 percent of Front Range water goes toward agriculture.
On nutrition, food allergies and locality: As consumers become more health-conscious, I think we'll see a move toward making dishes more nutritious and healthy with the same level of flavor that's expected of a restaurant-grade meal. Along those same lines, vegetables will take a more predominant space on menus as people become more aware of the sustainability of seafood and meat, as well as the expected rising cost of meats on a restaurant's profitability. In addition, as an industry, we'll have to be more sensitive to diners' food allergies and intolerances. I also think that local/sustainable will become even more pervasive as more chefs and restaurants are growing and/or producing their own produce, honeys, cheeses, syrups and the like.
On the gluten-free craze: Gluten-free will continue to be a focus, but the intensity will decrease as the shakeout separates those who truly can't consume wheat from those who are just on the bandwagon.
On Amendment 64: The biggest impact of the passage of the pot amendment on the industry will be how to have sober staff. People will inevitably start selling more pot-infused foods, but I don't see it going anywhere. Governor Hickenlooper was prescient in saying what he did — that the money will be in the fast-food world, since that's what pushes people with the munchies.
On sweets: I've noticed that more and more pastry chefs around the country are creating desserts that strongly emphasize classic pastry techniques and formulas with elements of wild creativity for flavoring, sauces and presentation. Rustic or humble desserts that have percolated up into the hands of skilled pastry chefs have been refined and turned into brilliant creations. I'm also thrilled that fine-dining desserts are moving away from overall sweetness, and I believe that one of the reasons is that the use of premium ingredients is now the rule rather than the exception, so it only makes sense to allow those ingredients to be at the forefront and not muddled with too much sweetness.
Robert Thompson, president of Seasoned Development
On beer culture: Beer cocktails are going to continue to grow in popularity, especially in beer-savvy markets like Denver and Portland, and on the business side, I'm hearing rumblings from the food- and beverage-investing communities about funding more microbreweries, which is very cool. We've been seeing — and will continue to see — the growth of our local brewing community. With the pent-up talent we have here in Denver, once investors help unlock these energies, Denver will continue to lead the country in beer innovation — both from a progressive-recipe front and a practical manufacturing perspective.
In Iowa--less emphasis on pork and booze; more emphasis on eating healthy. Pigging out and getting drunk are among the leading pastimes in Iowa.
I predicted last year that Scandinavian cuisine and more low spice/low intensity meals would come back but it didn't happen. Maybe this year.