Kicking off a new year with a few trend predictions is always fun, so here are some culinary and cocktail insights from two of Denver’s market halls that are nice options for groups.
At The Source Hotel + Market Hall, Chelsea Little, bar manager for Safta, notes there will be more kitchen influences behind the bar. “It’s super special seeing the gap between back and front of house bridged by the sharing of ingredients. Utilizing what the kitchen would either be throwing away or scrap from recipes they have no use for is a no-brainer, and for that to influence the bartenders is quite awesome. For example, at Safta we use our house labneh incorporated in a clarified milk punch. We make pickles here in-house as well, so for us to reuse some of our cabbage pickling liquid to make cocktail onions for one of our house cocktails was a decision made easy,” she says. “All in all, I think this trend has started some time ago but is taking off like I have never seen before.”
Jessica Nowicki, the restaurant’s chef de cuisine says Safta plans to explore the roots of Israeli cooking by “taking classic dishes and interpreting them in a way that fits our story.” She adds, “We'll be riding our featured Turkish menu until the end of January and then taking some of my personal roots from Poland to expand on the mixing pot of Israeli cuisine. We are not reinventing the wheel but reaching deeper to pull out more flavor and passion into each dish.”
Fusion ‘que also is going to be the rage predicts Chef Bill Espiricueta of The Source Hotel + Market Hall’s Kansas City-style BBQ joint, Smok. “I think we’ll see traditional American barbecue being influenced by authentic ethnic cuisine—think brisket ramen or smoked fish tacos. Mixing Mexican, Asian and Indian flavors with Texas and Kansas City barbeque styles provides new opportunities for the barbeque experts and the eaters who love them. More East-West mash-ups seem likely in the coming year.”
Geoff Wenzel, head brewer for New Belgium at The Source Hotel, is especially interested in beer/wine hybrids. “This is basically beer that gets 49 percent or less of its fermentable sugar from grapes. Grapes could be added to beer as must (crushed grapes and seeds and stems) or as actual grape juice. This is an interesting trend because it adds another level of complexity and flavor to beer. These flavors and aromas could be comparable to wines depending on what your base beer would be.”
At Zeppelin Station, Director of Hospitality Development Justin Anderson, anticipates “approachable bar concepts with more simple, concise and elevated food options.” He explains that it is “a general movement and focus toward the overall accessibility and guest experience within a space, rather than over the top esoteric concepts that can leave many feeling a bit excluded or unwelcome. Unexpected hospitality with warm, caring sensibilities.”
Anthony Bourdain’s suicide brought mental health in the food industry to the forefront, making the taboo subject widely discussed and confronted. Michael Huebner, beverage director of Big Trouble and Kiss + Ride, both bars at Zeppelin Station, anticipates dialogue, stories and support for the health of its workers, whether that is harassment, suicide prevention, substance abuse, or equality and diversity in the workplace.
"The most important trend in the bar industry going forward is the health of our workers. Whether on the mental or physical side, employers are taking steps to provide a positive work environment so that our employees can flourish and feel supported,” he says. “Running a bar program is no longer just about dollars and cents and the next cocktail menu, it's about creating a culture and allowing that culture to support the amazing people you have working long hours every week."