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 third batch of predictions from local tastemakers.
Noah Stephens, owner/chef, Vert Kitchen On menus: We'll see more prix fixe menus and restaurants that serve a changing menu every day. While traveling this past year, my favorite places all had prix fixe options with a focus on seasonal and local products.
On Scandinavian cuisine and Denver's best new restaurant: I love the Scandinavian restaurants and products, and I think my favorite meal of last year was at the Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis, a Scandinavian restaurant. Locally, the Populist has to be the best addition to the Denver scene in a long time.
Elise Wiggins, executive chef, Panzano On herbivores, farmed fish and filets: I think with the continuous rise of prices of animal proteins, chefs will focus more and more on creating stellar vegetarian dishes that will satisfy the meat eater. I also think that exotic spices like asafoetida will be used more often. Chefs want to be original, so the more the exotic we are, the more desire there is from the guest. Smartly farmed fish that are sustainable with natural feed and low impact on the environment will become more acceptable because our oceans are being over-fished, and we'll also continue to see the practice of nose-to-tail utilization. This way, nothing is wasted and fewer animals are raised to provide just the very popular cuts like -- ahem -- the filet.
Mike Johnston, co-owner, Savory Spice Shop On spices: In the world of spices, it isn't really about new spices as much as it is about how to alter, for the better, the expected flavor of some of our favorites. Smoking spices is something new that we're doing -- and plan to do more of in 2013. This past year, we rolled out smoked Tellicherry peppercorns and a new seasoning called Cape Hatteras Smoked Seafood Seasoning, and next year, we'll be smoking Saigon cinnamon. What we like about smoking spices or seasonings is that by playing with the types of woods or combinations of woods, you can add smokiness while also adding subtle hints of balanced but somewhat unexpected flavors like cherry, apple, maple and more. It is also important to note that the smoke flavor imparted to spices via a natural smoking process doesn't impart an overwhelmingly smoky flavor, but rather a subtle smokiness that can be a nice layered flavor and used to build an incredible-tasting final dish.
Frank Bonanno, owner-chef, Bonanno Concepts On...tap: Denver's only just beginning to see bars with cocktails on tap -- Gaetano's and Ace have just a couple, we have seven at Vesper Lounge -- and I'm sure we'll see more bars embracing that approach. I predict the same thing will happen with wines on tap. Only a few venues around town are pouring juice from kegs, but if you talk to anyone in the sales end of the wine industry, they'll tell you that's the direction accessible wine is headed.
On the upswing of fine dining: Despite what you might hear, fine dining is nowhere near dead. For proof, look at the explosion of venues putting out top-caliber food -- Squeaky Bean and Central Bistro, for example. I think what's happening is that atmospheres are more relaxed and accessible, and the restaurants are popping up in smaller neighborhoods. That's where I see fine dining going -- into neighborhoods. Look for something pretty great to open in the old Venue space, and keep your eyes peeled for what Matt Selby is going to do at Corner House. Oh, and the Populist. Talk about a high-end venue setting up shop in a neighborhood. Fine dining is far from dead.
Hugo Matheson, chef/co-founder, the Kitchen family of restaurants On life without meat: I see vegetables as definitely moving forward. At some point, our culture is going to have to eat less meat; otherwise, I don't know how we can go on producing such inefficient food. Some people think you can't eat a meal without meat, but we need to find a better balance between vegetables and meat. The cultural challenge is how do we make it so that meat isn't the most important food on the plate?
Tim Wanner, wine director, the Kitchen family of restaurants On California rising: This will be the year that California reemerges as an authentic wine region, which is championed by the many up-and-coming passionate young winemakers who understand that wine's place on the table is not as a starring role but as a complement to the food. They are driven not by scores, but by a quest to understand and develop an appreciation for what California wine is. I also predict that the twenty-page, leather-bound, encyclopedic wine list will give way to smaller, more focused lists.
Stefan Beck, beer director, The Kitchen [Upstairs] On beer education: Something I'd like to see in the next few years is better education for beer servers. Restaurants and bars will need to take the basic steps to educate their staff on beer styles, history and service. Pouring beer in clean, appropriate glassware, as well as being able to describe a given beer style, are going to be essential in this burgeoning beer paradise. I think, too, that we're going to continue to see a trend of specialization, both in Colorado's beer scene and nationally. Breweries that focus on barrel-aged beers or beer styles from a specific region or tradition will keep popping up and garnering attention.
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Watch for another installment in "Trends Without End" on Cafe Society.