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 second batch of predictions from local tastemakers.
Jon Emanuel, chef, Project Angel Heart
On beer: As a beer geek, I think we'll see more demand/need for cicerones, although I must say that it's so great to currently have so many brew-educated servers who are really up to speed with beer styles and suggestions, as well as chefs who are so adventurous with their beer lists.
On noodles: Ramen may seem like last year's trend, but I am not really seeing it slow down. I think even non-Japanese/noodle restaurants might be dishing out twists on ramen. It's so much fun to play with, and experimenting with the layering of the flavors in the broth is right up most chefs' alleys, plus you can use a lot of pork, which is still so popular here.
On the nose-to-tail movement: In-house butchery and whole beast cookery isn't slowing, either. The imminent openings of Old Major and Beast + Bottle are testament to that. As a guy who does his fair share of beast breakdowns, that suits me just freaking fine.
Robert Thompson, president of Seasoned Development (including Punch Bowl Social Food & Drink)
On beer culture: Beer cocktails are going to continue to grow in popularity, especially in beer-savvy markets like Denver and Portland, and on the business side, I'm hearing rumblings from the food- and beverage-investing communities about funding more microbreweries, which is very cool. We've been seeing -- and will continue to see -- the growth of our local brewing community. With the pent-up talent we have here in Denver, once investors help unlock these energies, Denver will continue to lead the country in beer innovation -- both from a progressive-recipe front and a practical manufacturing perspective.
On the downswing of fine dining: Fine dining isn't dead, but it's certainly breathing through a straw from the bottom of a river. Coming out of the worst recession we'll ever see, even with economic conditions improving, people don't feel right overspending on dining experiences on a daily basis. That pervasive position makes "daily bread" for fine dining and their related price points a challenge. Moreover, I see the overarching trend being the continued elevation of comfort foods. We now have two gastro-diner efforts here in Denver [Punch Bowl - Social Food & Drink and Tom's Urban 24], with many more examples around the country, including Stephanie Izard's new gastro-diner concept in Chicago and Little Goat Diner, which opens soon. Rather than seeing acclaimed chefs take the next step up to fine-dining concepts, they're making an equally forward-moving step sideways to perfect dining traditions and concepts we've had for generations. Denver will continue to move with this tide, too.
On restaurant designs: It's all about recycled materials, which is as it should be -- and hopefully will be for years to come. We were able to repurpose an entire barn and 200 high-quality but recycled chairs and stools at Punch Bowl Social; nothing bad can come from that. We'll see places with optional moods, sometimes introverted (video games/closed seating), sometimes extroverted -- karaoke and community tables, for example, sometimes solo, sometimes with a crowd. There's alive -- or alive - and always-changing story within these new concepts with adaptive reuse: It's not decor, but a fundamental element of concept. We'll see places that one can call "mine," which only comes from warmth, so no stark color themes or hard edges exist for shock, not rock. Also, blue is the color for 2013.
Noah Heaney, bar manager, Harold's and the Bayonet Room
On T.G.I. Friday's and roving bicycle bars: The emergence of keg wine as a viable way of storing and serving wine will increase in popularity; we'll see craft spirits and cocktails in dive bars and chain restaurant settings. In other words, T.G.I. Friday's will offer a decent Aviation; airport bars will become a place of quality service, cuisine and beverage; economical restaurant lists with good food and drink at reasonable prices will pop up on top restaurant lists like Westword; wine lists will offer better margins on wines by the bottle, encouraging patrons to move past the by-the-glass list; and we'll see the death of roving bicycle bars. I mean, who really wants to work out and drink at the same time?
Tom Coohill, owner-chef, Coohills
On the nitty-gritty: I see the industry having an even larger focus on the actual breed or exact type of food we're eating -- like Berkshire pork or Duroc pork. I'm talking about the actual type of pig and how it's raised, or the exact type of heirloom tomato we're using.
On cocktail culture: Barrel-aged cocktails will take off. We do two barrel-aged cocktails here that are aged in oak for 21 days: the Manhattan Project, a 21-day barrel-aged Manhattan made with Breaking & Entering bourbon, Carpano Antica vermouth and Angostura bitters, served with housemade cherries; and another barrel-aged cocktail with St. George Terroir gin, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, Carpano Antica vermouth and Angostura bitters, served with a lemon peel.
Matt Selby, chef, partner and general manager, Corner House
On food trucks: While the food-truck scene has cooled off a bit, I think that 2013 will be the year of survival of the fittest. The trucks that are providing consistent quality and exceptional service are the ones that are going to make it.
On special-occasion dining: I don't think fine dining will ever die -- there will always be a market for that special-occasion place - but I do think that high-end ingredients will be seen on more mid-market menus, with closer attention paid to the guest experience, all at a more affordable cost compared to fine-dining establishments.
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Watch for a third installment of Trends Without End tomorrow.