AURORA – I like making culinary predictions rather than dietary resolutions on New Year’s Eve.
If you’re wrong in the latter, you just shrug.
If you fail in your resolutions, you feel like a failure.
I, for instance, failed to predict the recent kale boom. I knew the leathery greens were nutritious, I just couldn’t believe that many people would willingly resolve to consume kale chips and kale juice.
Let’s forget about 2012, “The Year The Twinkies Died.”
In 2013 with an improving economy, the pace of change in what we eat and drink, what our kids eat at school, how we cook, what farmers grow, where we dine and pressing matters of sustainability will only accelerate.
Here are my 13 lucky culinary predictions for the next 12 months. Feel free to contact me if they don’t come true at firstname.lastname@example.org. (For the record, my resolution is to eat even more interesting cuisine in ’13 and spend more time
1. Rising food costs: Because of the ongoing drought conditions in the U.S., food prices will go up 5 percent in 2013, and maybe more in the case of meat, according to industry sources. There’s one great way to fight pricey food: learn how to cook. I predict that a boom in the coming year in registrations for cooking, gardening, urban farming and homebrewing classes in the metro area.
2. Health on the menu: Besides the new nutritional information at the drive-up — Who knew one McGriddles was a day’s-worth of calories? — restaurant chains are opening eateries that are openly and specifically healthy and sustainable. Besides independent vegetarian bistros, the Native Foods Cafe chain has opened a store at Boulder’s 29th Street Mall serving vegan fare. True Food Cafe, which serves fare based on Dr. Andrew Weill’s anti-inflammatory diet, is open in Cherry Creek North.
3. Pie on the rise: Cupcakes — with or without bacon, are so 2012 (and 2011 and 2010). Pies — well-made sweet or savory crusted wonders — will take over in 2013. I’ve seen clear evidence of the trend in the metro area with more pie-centric establishments. Honestly, I have been making the same prediction for about 20 years, so call it a pie guy’s lingering hope. Chances are, this will really be the year of the doughnut.
4. The Fermentation Generation: Did you know that fermented foods are the hottest things going in Colorado’s culinary circles. Beverages like kombucha (essentialy drinkable vinegar) and beer, condiments including kimchi, essentials such as bread, yogurt and cheese, and a bevy of pickles are being locally produced. Expect these favorites to reach the mainstream this year because of flavor and the probiotic buzz surrounding many of them.
5. Are Mommy and Daddy “green” enough?: Lunch fare at public and private schools is getting rapidly greener and healthier in the metro area and locally birthed programs to upgrade lunch and to plant gardens are at every school. If you think your kids are irritating now, just wait until they start lunching on greens they grew in the school garden and come home using words like “compost,” “sustainability,” and “citrus-y.” I predict that the tech-driven kids of Generation Z will be demanding more than mac-n-cheese and chicken nuggets, and in the process make their families a little healthier.
6. Colorado’s chain, chain, chain: Colorado is earning an international reputation as popular, successful, local quick casual chains like Smashburger, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Noodles & Co. open locations all over the planet. In 2013 it seems likely that several more locals will make the national leap including Snarf’s Sandwiches and Larkburger.
7. The demise of “paper or plastic”: Prepare to be chastised in 2013 for not bringing cloth shopping bags with you to the supermarket. Already, homegrown natural grocers Vitamin Cottage has a no bag policy. All they offer are cardboard boxes. I predict that a flood of Colorado municipalities will pass rules this year requiring retailers to charge for shopping bags.
8. A new beverage artisan synergy: Folks drawn to brewing, distilling and winemaking love to win awards and proudly display them on websites and such. However, from the early Colorado homebrew and microbrew days of Charlie Papazian, John Hickenlooper and Boulder Beer, Colorado’s craft brewing community has always been much more collaborative than competitive. Every brewer in the state tells tales of how another brewer acted as mentor, or supplies hops or helped set up canning lines. The state’s winemakers and mead-makers have developed in the same, sensible lift-all-boats philosophy and are being joined by more than 20 Colorado distilleries. Now, in a Colorado first, they’ve all joined a sort of commune. Witness the recent formation of the Arkansas Valley Libation Society, a guild of craft brewers, distillers and winemakers from around southwestern Colorado. Expect the same to happen in the metro area in 2013.
9. “I’ll have the performance pasta”: It’s no secret that a significant proportion of the local populace are active athletes, among them many professional runners, bicyclists, rock climbers and swimmers. For them, fueling their athletic performance drives their culinary decisions and it goes way beyond the mythical “carbo-loading” the night before a race. Until now, prescribed fare from nutritionists and trainers has been only found at training facilities or in home kitchens. In the coming year I predict that some Colorado eateries will begin offering dishes or section of menus targeted squarely at the taste buds of serious athletes.
10. Braised beets and chevre at the diner: Just because we love great food doesn’t mean we want to enjoy it in a stuffy environment. Many local restaurateurs have been opening a second downscale eatery near their bistros to offer more affordable fare. In 2013 we’ll see the opening of a new hybrid, the upscale diner. One example is the new always-open Tom’s Urban 24 in Larimer Square which serves truffle deviled eggs, Korean glazed ribs and hoisin duck pizza.
11. Studying the wIne Pad: The web, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, opentable.com and other digital age tools have dramatically changed how consumers have related to restaurants in the past decade. In 2013, the next change will happen inside the eateries as paper menus are steadily replaced by tablet devices. Boulder’s Flagstaff House has already replaced their voluminous wine list with a wireless system using Apple iPads.
12. Burger and a tumbler of pinot grigio: Wine snobs may scrunch up their faces like that Olympic gymnast, but high quality boxed wine is rapidly pushing corked bottles from the top spot in the home wine market. Next up for bulk wine are the restaurants. Award-winning Denver winemaker Infinite Monkey Theorem and others are now selling kegs or casks of wine that reduce waste from all those bottles and corks. In 2013 many metro eateries will look toward bulk wine for one overwhelming reason — it’s cheaper for the restaurant and the consumer.
13. High on the menu: I predict that it will be many, many years before marijuana-infused food will be served at local restaurants for general consumption, despite that fact that Colorado has legalized the weed. As with alcohol, stoned fare entails potential legal quicksand for restaurant owners. What if someone eats your Purple Haze Bouillabaisse and crashes their car on the way home? Besides, as with any other herb, marijuana may not marry well with say, free-range chicken or farmed tilapia.
Read more Nibbles at aurorasentinel.com/colorado-table. Be sure to “like” the Nibbles Facebook page. John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles at 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM, and kgnu.org).