Chef Laura predicts: Hop, skip and go naked in 2014

This past year was a polar opposite year in food trends and Denver certainly participated in the schizophrenia.  With more than 250 new Denver restaurants in 2013, we welcomed any and all food trends with open arms: crazy doughnut stores, more food trucks, whole hog, clean eating and a place to eat real Southern biscuits.

Some of my predictions from 2013 panned out:

  • The standard malted waffle batter got bumped for red velvet waffles, waffles with cheddar cheese and bacon in the batter, and waffles used in place of buns for that sweet-savory cravability.
  • Juice became a verb, as in “I’m juicing”.
  • As if on a predetermined schedule, every other week a new brewery opened in Colorado – even in the ‘burbs like Wheat Ridge, Golden, and yes, Highlands Ranch!  Guess what? Twenty more breweries are scheduled to open in Colorado in 2014.

I figure my 50 percent accuracy rate validates an attempt to predict this year’s trends.  But before we do that, let’s lay to rest the argument over trend vs. fad.

A fad is a flash in the pan, or in this case fryolater, like the Cronut.  Part donut, part croissant, the Cronut became the “in” pastry of 2013.  By the end of the year, this flaky, fried delight will have been forgotten, like twerking or Mayor Rob Ford.

A trend has got some staying power.  Radiant Orchid is predicted to be the trendy color for 2014.  Following a bell curve, a trend will ramp up interest, hit its peak, then slope downward with the next trend hot on its heels.  In other words, your purple toaster will look pretty foolish in 2015.

Bacon is a prime example of a food trend.  Happily, I believe we are experiencing the denouement of cured pork belly bliss.  Cupcakes, too.  And remember all those Cosmos and Appletinis we used to drink?  Even Sochi won’t bring back Carrie Bradshaw’s sexy vodka drinks.

I’m predicting some trads this year; maybe they’re trends, maybe they’re fads, maybe the phrase trad will stick (it probably won’t).

  1.  Beans – Beans, beans they’re good for your heart…and your wallet.  Meat is getting pricy; legumes fill the protein bill on the cheap.  The classic rice ‘n’ beans packs complete proteins on a budget, yet still delivers on taste and satiety.
  2. Breakfast for dinner – Speaking of beans, many Brits enjoy baked beans with breakfast.  Although this may sound strange to us in ‘Merica, savory breakfasts will triumph over last year’s sugary sweet pastries.  Items like shirred eggs baked in tomato sauce, omelets packed with veggies, authentic Huevos Rancheros, and pancake batter studded with cheese and chives are so satisfying, be prepared to see them on dinner menus.
  3. Ploughman’s Lunch – Eating wholesome while on the go can still be fun.  Replace that uninspiring sandwich with a grown up “Lunchable”.  This classic pub grub gets an upscale makeover.  Think a wedge of sharp cheddar, a hunk of artisan bread, and substitute the traditional pickled onions for Kimchi.  Add Surryano Ham (made from pigs whole only eat peanuts), and a sweet/sour chutney.  Finish off with a few slices of a tart Granny Smith apple and a square of 72% Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate.  You’ve hit all the five tastes – including umami – in one simple yet unique meal.
  4. Hop, Skip and Go NakedA ploughman’s lunch pairs nicely with an ale.  But with Colorado brewery openings outpacing Starbucks, standard ales feels a bit “been there, done that.”  In 2014 beer gets fancy.  Brewskis make a great mixer in beertails like Orange Beer (aka Beermosas), Boilermakers, and beer mixed with lemonade, whiskey and grenadine.    
  5. Gin is In – Gin is gender–neutral.  Men have fewer taste buds than women, which accounts for men’s love of deeper bitter smoky liquors: whiskey, tequila, and scotch.  Call it “sensitive” call it “more evolved”, but women’s hightened sense of taste makes those amber drinks unappealing, so their go-to liquor is typically vodka.  Gin bridges that goldilocks gap and is just right.  The juniper berry delivers a crisp piney taste that both men and women can agree on. 
  6. Mustard Greens – I feel obligated to mention something healthy after all that talk of booze. Kale has enjoyed its time in the spotlight; it’s no longer that weird, curly leaf used to dress up the salad bar at OCB.  But it’s time for Kale – chips and all – to pass the torch to another leafy green.  Mustard greens are dark bitter greens that long for a slow cookers touch.  So toss them in with the above mentioned beans, fold them into some eggs for dinner, or sauté them with…
  7. Spelt – Step aside quinoa and let spelt take a turn in the gristmill.  Easier to spell than freekeh, easier to pronounce than sorghum, spelt is the grain du jour that will help you tighten your belt.

I’m pretty stoked for 2014’s trads.  With recreational marijuana now legal in the Centennial State, Coloradans will need to satisfy those munchies, which means Mile High restaurants are poised to do big business this year.  I’ll let you make the final prediction: Where will the first magic brownie bakery in Denver set up shop?    

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