By Jonathan Shikes
By Alex Brown
By Cafe Society
By Samantha Alviani
By Lori Midson
By Mark Antonation
By Loren Lorenzo
By Nate Hemmert
On meals on wheels: Street food continues its comeuppance with better tacos, better burgers, better salads, better pizzas and especially better sandwiches, and it's a trend that dovetails with "fast-casual" restaurants serving food that's every bit as delicious as it is in fine-dining restaurants. I believe that this segment of the dining market is going to continue to outpace and outperform all other segments because of the ability to cook delicious food, offer exceptional value and be incredibly convenient and easy.
On international cuisines: Ethnic food is starting to get some pretty great treatment from geeked-out chefs who can apply superior cooking methods and better ingredients to ethnic cuisines — just look at Phat Thai and Ace. As far as I'm concerned, this is one of the brightest and most exciting trends that we can look forward to, because there are so many great flavors and ingredients that can cross cultural boundaries and help the continued evolution of our cuisines.
On frigidity: We're going to see ice. Seriously, check out this YouTube video about the ice program at the Aviary: http://youtu.be/MZp3SkO0gjQ.
On liquids: Twelve is looking to pick up a small barrel to pre-mix Manhattans, which is probably our most popular cocktail. We're going to blend the bourbon and sweet vermouth, and then finish it to order with bitters, ice and cherries.
On enough with those overused descriptions: I'm hoping to see fewer trendy words and phrases to describe food — no more "organic," "sustainable" or "farm-to-table" (everyone is farm-to-table, if you think about it). Let's just focus on the best products available, and note that I'd rather get a great tomato from California instead of a mediocre one from Colorado. There are some things that are best produced elsewhere.
On conscious eating: I think the biggest trend for 2013 is going to be responsible dining. More than ever, customers care about what they're eating, where their food comes from, sustainability, and does it support local farmers?
On cooking for kids: I think we're going to see more great restaurants trying to appeal to young, urban couples and families by embracing kids in the dining room and developing more compelling menus for younger diners.
On distilling: I think I might be seeing some of my chef colleagues and bar friends find themselves becoming small-batch distillers, experimenting with various techniques and fermentations to make their own spirits.
On sugar finales: Desserts are going to come into play in the coming year; most restaurants are realizing that crème brûlée, cheesecake and doughnuts just aren't cutting it anymore. The use of unique berries like huckleberries, gooseberries and boysenberries will be popular, while strawberries, blueberries and blackberries move off the list. There are so many new honeys and craft syrups, too, that we can utilize, and I think that a lot of chefs, including me, often overlook desserts as an opportunity to showcase our creativity and generate additional revenue for our restaurants.
On craft projects: I see restaurants moving more toward highlighting handmade, artisanal products, in the way of both food and beverage programs. Plates served in restaurants will feature less frills and more substance as consumers become smarter and more aware of what quality really means. Handmade cheeses and charcuterie will continue to be prevalent on menus, and restaurants will continue to focus on lower price points as people realize that superb quality doesn't mean that a huge price tag has to come with it. The stiff restaurant competition will force all of us to continue to push our quality of standards up, while simultaneously pushing the price point down and finding other, more effective ways to turn a profit for ourselves.
On the crash of craft suds: Craft beer in Colorado is going to take a downturn. There are just too many breweries that opened up in too short of a time frame, and it's really going to make the cream rise to the top, and not everyone will be able to stand up to the competition and make the cut. On the upside, I believe that craft distillers are going to rise up and start taking their place. People are realizing the beauty and simplicity of distillers like Leopold's, and consumers aren't going to be looking for the "consistency" that Jim Beam provides, but a more interesting and higher-quality product with some nuance that people like Todd Leopold believe in. It may not be the exact same bottle every time, but to borrow his words, it keeps its soul. Bombers and cicerones will make an upswing, beer will be viewed as part of a restaurant experience and not something to be enjoyed on its own, and sours and barrel-aged beers are going to be the new IPA. Breweries are frequently judged based on their highest-quality IPA, but while everyone has had a hard-on for the hop bombs, that will shift to yeast strains and cool — and different — ways of aging.
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.