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On fine dining: Fine dining will make a comeback as soon as Duy Pham makes it cool again.
On farming practices: Farming practices are going to be more widely advertised — the better the farm, the more value is added to their product, so get ready to pay. The same thing goes for spices and herbs: name-brand fresh herbs are coming.
On ethnic cuisine: There will continue to be the incorporation of ethnic flavors sneaking into American food and onto American menus, both with regard to fusion — burgers with Asian toppings, for example — and whole dishes, like Korean-style fried chicken replacing fried chicken thighs or sweet-and-sour chicken.
On whimsy: I see chefs continuing to push the envelope with new ingredients and techniques, and I think presentations will become a lot more playful. For example, I'm doing an event next year where we're going to make snow flavors. Just put your head up, open your mouth and catch some crème brûlée snow.
On moving beyond buzzwords: "Local sourcing," "farm-to-table," "building green," "reclaimed materials" and every other buzzword of the past will hopefully move beyond a marketing ploy and just become the norm rather than a trend.
On downtown dining: LoDo will become an even better dining destination as the redevelopment of Union Station and the Central Platte Valley continues. After fifteen years of being in LoDo, it's great to see the dining reputation of our neighborhood at an all-time high.
On niche dining: Recreational eating and drinking, like at Ace, will continue to carve a niche as guests look for alternatives to the traditional dining choices.
Robin Baron, executive chef, Udi's
On airport eats: Denver International Airport will have a lot of local restaurants opening in 2013; there's a desire to put Denver on the map nationally, and this city is beginning to take its airport dining much more seriously.
On the basics: I see a definite trend that will bring us back to the basics, to more simple, straightforward food. This brings a smile to my mug, as I've always been a little on the fence regarding the recent trends of chemical cookery, food-truck saturation and convenience before quality.
On health: We view dietary restrictions as a blossoming challenge with some great possibilities, and we go out of our way to accommodate as many dietary issues as possible, just as many honorable restaurants do. The relevant question, however, is this: Where do restaurants draw the line between being accommodating and allowing the guest to create their own bespoken menu? When you consider the tradeoffs, who really benefits when this happens? The discussion we regularly have is about the relationship between allergens and personal dislikes. It's a very sensitive and personal issue as we become more and more intimate with each guest's individual health needs. This focus will offer very new challenges to commercial kitchens that have many moving parts. For our part, this will be the biggest challenge in the near future, balancing our patron's excitement and surprise with occasional "spinach stubbornness," all while creatively guiding the menu down an ever-narrowing path avoiding honest allergens.
Brad Arguello, co-owner and chef, Über Sausage
On pickling: We're going to see a lot more pickling. Not just pickles, but all sorts of different items. Shit I don't even know about, or know you could pickle — they're gonna pickle it.
On spices: Indian spices may be worked into more menus. Someone is going to open up a cool Indian restaurant here soon. It's a wide-open landscape for this cuisine in Denver.
On atmosphere: We'll see more industrial and sleek designs. Expect designs to be a little more refined, as opposed to the extreme rustic/farmhouse look you see in so many restaurants that opened a few years back. I think we can also expect to see more open kitchens creating theater and giving guests a seat at the counter. More and more people continue to become passionate about cooking and dining out as a hobby. They want a front-row seat so they can take in all the action.
On pop-ups: They're basically a fad, and not really sustainable. You put just as much work into opening a pop-up as you would a long-term restaurant, only to take it all down a short period of time later. It only works best for the buzz factor and artistic expression, but it's not economically viable, as almost every pop-up loses money. Food trucks will withstand the test of time better and can be successful at a much lower cost of entry.
On the obvious: Meatballs!
On stews: I think regional and international peasant/comfort stews are going to make a surge in 2013, and the pressure cooker and crockpots are going to be in. In fact, the pressure cooker should be the new, hot kitchen tool in restaurant kitchens.
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.
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