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 realtors 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...
Keeping reading for our fourth batch of predictions from local tastemakers.
See also: -Trends without end, round one: Simplicity, local greens and pot (maybe) - Trends without end, round two: Beer, beer cocktails and the whole beast - Trends without end, round three: Vegetables, spice and Scandinavia
Max MacKissock, executive chef, Squeaky Bean On stomach restrictions: It's insane how crazy the diet thing has gotten. Ten years ago, I'd never heard of anyone being a celiac, but now at the Bean, we have 30 percent of our customers claiming to be one, so while we don't necessarily change the menu, we do try very hard to educate our employees on what ingredients are in each dish, and how we can change them to accommodate the needs of our customers. And that, it seems, will have to continue.
Todd Thibault, marketing director, Breckenridge Brewery On craft beer: The culture of craft beer will become more relevant around Denver in 2013. Just about every bar, tavern and eatery in this city will have multiple Colorado craft beers available, squeezing out the out-of-state breweries and "crafty" breweries a bit more. Don't get me wrong: The city and state will still be rife with craft beers from across the country, but Colorado will become even more dominant. Three to five significant, exclusive craft beer bars or tap houses will open in 2013, two to three of which will only serve Colorado craft beers, and possibly one or two others will be craft beer-only concepts -- no wine or liquor. And the trend of opening nano-breweries or very small, one- to- seven-barrel neighborhood breweries will heat up even more in 2013, and I look forward to the movement of bringing back the concept of a brewery for every neighborhood. These small breweries will not distribute their beers in 2013 -- just pour across their own bar, for the neighborhood. In addition, the sour-beer category will mature and become a bigger player in the craft beer scene in 2013. I'm not talking crazy, overly sour beers, but mildly sour, well-controlled beers - and watch out for barrel-aged sour beers. Sour beers could be quite the rage for the new -- or infrequent -- craft beer drinker.
Kate Lacroix, president, Dish Publicity On the whole smorgasbord: I think we'll see inventive bar snacks with fruit and chocolate and unusual spices and meat in them (maybe not all at once); the increase of small plates and sides with more of a focus on lesser-known vegetables and cuts of meat; chef-driven cocktails and a return to the humble barman and a backlash against the over-tattooed mixologist; a return to elegance, including formal coat check, maître d', tableside service, jazz bands and the occasional chanteuse; Twitter fatigue from restaurants due to lack of interest on the part of everyone involved; smaller, louder and more packed restaurants, because the recession ain't over, so we all need to cram in and keep up the party; and food-cart fatigue on the part of patrons.
Michael Long, chef and co-host, KEZW's The Main Course On expense-account dining: I think as the economy continues to improve, we'll see a resurgence of fine dining and expense-account dining, but without the side-show trappings of luxury -- just fine dining with regard to the food and beverage aspects.
On farm-to-table fatigue: I think we'll also see the inevitable exhaustion of "farm to table" as a raison d'être for a restaurant theme, but the principles will remain in practice, as they should.
On pot joints: As the roads to marijuana legalization continue to widen, I predict that the hospitality world will find a way to expand with it, and we may start to see pot cafes popping up, just like tap rooms and breweries.
Shannon Duffy, co-owner, Tender Belly On kitchen sharing: I think we'll see a lot of chef collaborations in 2013. We're starting to see more chefs leave their home restaurants to create unique dining experiences in Denver. Frasca Food and Wine, in Boulder, has hosted a handful of great chefs from major food cities like San Francisco, New York and Chicago, which provides an extraordinary learning experience for the young chefs in the kitchen.
On breed: Heritage-breed animals of all sorts will be a big trend in 2013, as more consumers opt out of consuming conventional factory-farmed animals and choose to support small family farmers who protect the biodiversity of the species, including chickens, turkeys, lambs, goats and pigs. We'll also see more whole-animal dinners, along with local artisans -- urban beekeepers, cheesemakers, picklers and fermenters.
Etai Baron, co-CEO/founder, Udi's Foods Local On food sex: Healthier eating is becoming sexier as vegetables move to the center of the plate, and I couldn't be happier about this trend. Everybody is cooking more vegetables and doing a better job with them, but True Food Kitchen has elevated healthy to an entirely new level. The rumor that P.F. Chang's has bought an option in True Food Kitchen is further evidence that healthy is going big-league.
On bread: With the renaissance of Northern European cuisine, led by Noma, we're seeing bakers turn their attention to the fine breads of Northern Europe -- and it's a blessing for us all, because the bread culture of Northern Europe is even more rich and developed than that of France and Italy, the breads of which currently dominate the tables and grocery stores of this country. Chad Robertson of Tartine, Dan Leader of Bread Alone and Craig Ponsford, who owns Ponsford's Place in San Rafael, California, are helping lead this revolution in bread. Another bright spot is that Northern European breads tend to use more whole grains and alternative grains to wheat -- and that translates to better flavor, more variety and more healthfulness.
We'll also see the continued ascension of overall bread quality. A big part of this story is that we're finally digging the grave for Wonder Bread; the other part of this trend is that Starbucks bought Pascal Rigo's La Boulange and the Bay Bread Company. Starbucks has been trying to figure out how to corner the market on quality pastries forever; they did plenty of experimentation all across the country with different delivery methods and suppliers. They finally decided to buy the bakery itself - and Rigo's Bay Bread is one of the country's best bakeries. You can bet that Starbucks has a grand scheme for figuring out how to use Rigo's magic in their stores -- and let's not forget that the La Boulange restaurant brand will soon expand outside of San Francisco. On delis: I think we'll start seeing some Montreal-style delis. Jewish food from Montreal is different from what's considered Jewish food in this country, but it's similar and delicious. Mile End, Rye Deli and Wise Son are some of the leaders out there, and here in Denver, we have Justin Brunson, who will probably prove to be one of the leaders of this cuisine's renaissance.
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 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.
Clint Wangsnes, chef de cuisine, Zengo and al Lado 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?
Troy Guard, owner-executive chef, TAG, TAG/RAW BAR, TAG Burger Bar 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.
Eric Rivera, executive chef, Cafe/Bar 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.
Watch for another installment of "Trends Without End" on January 2.