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Behold our 2011 food trend predictions

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The last time we wrote about 2011 food trend predictions, it was October, and we thought the whole thing was a mite premature.But now that it's December, just about every publication on the planet is jumping on the trend-prediction bandwagon, telling us what's going to be hot in 2011. The consensus is that we're going to be sucking down Korean food, buying local and abandoning cupcakes once and for all, but other than that, the lists run the gamut, from goat belly to food-truck rodeos. And some lists even outright contradict each other: Technomic picks comfort food while Foodchannel.com picks discomfort food.

And as for what's going to replace the unanimously passe dessert? Pie, macaroons and Popsicles are all, apparently, contenders.

That said, we thought we'd join the fun, albeit from a more Denver-centric perspective.

We'd love to see offal and kimchi take off here, and we could totally get behind market-meets-lunch-counter-style food halls, but here's what we think may actually be hot in our fair city come 2011:

1. Beer Beer's flowed like wine for a long time here in the Mile High City, but over the past few years, we've noticed a little change in what's pouring through taplines in many of this town's drinking establishments. Beer halls and microbreweries, like Falling Rock and the Mountain Sun, remain as popular as ever, but in 2010, we also saw a few restaurants get serious about beer, hosting beer-pairing dinners, penning extensive (and expensive) bottle lists and landing rarer, geekier kegs from which to pour pints. Beer's not a huge jump for most diners, and as we all look for something to quench our thirst that isn't wine or a cocktail, beer will likely rise to the challenge. We expect that next year, it'll be as varied, prevalent and pricey as any other alcoholic beverage on a restaurant's list. We're also pulling for beer gardens and liberalized growler-friendly alcohol laws.

2. Pie We're not ready to declare a time of death on cupcakes -- we still see plenty of busy cake shops around town -- but we're definitely noticing a rise in pie, which, besides finding a place on dessert lists and bakery shelves, has also officially landed at least one dedicated shop. So far, though, we've just seen the satisfyingly nostalgic classics begin to resurface, leaving plenty of room for creativity -- which is why we think this dessert staple will grace more menus and take on new forms in 2011.

3. Foraging Foraging is quite the semi-irritating buzzword right now, as chefs around the country search for new ways to set themselves apart now that local sourcing has become the norm. And we expect Colorado will be much the same. When Theo Adley told us about his concept for the recently opened Pinyon in Boulder, he called himself "Jeremiah Johnson with a terrine pan," eager to use ingredients found in the mountains that don't always make it into our food. One restaurant does not a trend make, but Adley definitely spotted a niche in dining that's yet to be filled. And given chef interest in growing food, coupled with whispers that some are learning how to track down mushrooms and wildflowers in the backwoods, we don't think a foraging trend is far-fetched at all.

4. Food-truck gatherings 2010 was the year of the food truck in Denver, and dozens rolled into town to plug the gap in our existing dining scene. Now that they've navigated the rules of the road and felt out the niche, we predict they'll become better organized about meeting up in the same spot -- especially given the crowds the Justice League managed to draw over the succession of parties it threw. In 2011, we're betting we see the trucks hitting the markets again, but we think they'll also come up with land on which to converge on a regular basis, giving rise to permanent seating and a community vibe, a la the famed Portland pods.

5. Pop-up restaurants The seeds were sown for a pop-up restaurant trend this year, as secret supper clubs and collaborative chef dinners picked up steam, and groups like Hush Denver and the Noble Swine Supper Club brought diners to a wide range of venues with the promise of unique experiences. We expect that to evolve next year, with more chefs creating one-night-only dinners using random commercial and private kitchens, testing menus and generating buzz. And we wouldn't be shocked if food trucks decided to get in on the pop-up restaurant trend, too, since a mobile kitchen means the sky is the limit when it comes to where a vendor might be able to host a memorable full-service dinner.

Other predictions? Add them in the comments section below.

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