What’s trending for tastebuds during Denver Restaurant Week? Trends trickle into our lives without us even noticing, yet right before our eyes, we watch skinny jeans turn into bell bottoms and minimalist kitchens transform into mid-century modern masterpieces. Less obvious to the wandering eye is the similar, cyclical pattern of trends surrounding the food we eat, the ingredients we consume, and the dishes we order at our favorite restaurants. With Denver Restaurant Week coming up between March 3rd and March 12th, now is the perfect time to take a glimpse at some of the emerging food trends featured in this year’s menus that will likely stick around for 2023.
In: Root Vegetables
Enduring long durations of uncertainty has led people back to the basics for maintaining good health. As we’ve all been told, vegetables are loaded with vitamins that help fight against illness, boost mood, and promote overall wellness, so it’s no surprise that vegetable-heavy dishes are on the rise as a whole. Brussels sprouts had their moment last year, kale had its moment in 2016, but in 2023, chefs seem to be getting really creative with root veggies. This year’s food trends are all about transforming and highlighting the overlooked ingredients, which has evidently thrown infamously less-popular root veggies into their fashionable, trendy era. Expect to find beets, turnips, radishes, carrots, parsnips, celery root, and other root veggies popping up on multiple menus in this year’s Denver Restaurant Week.
The well-loved restaurant Root Down is offering a delicious Roasted Baby Beet Salad and a Carrot & Thai Red Curry Soup on this year’s tasting menu. These root-inspired dishes promise bold, balanced, and earthy flavors that customers won’t forget. In a similar fashion, the Israeli-inspired restaurant Ash’Kara Denver offers Wood Roasted Carrots as one of its highlight dishes, and the iconic Table 6 offers a lamb loin entree with beet gremolata and a flaky roasted cod with celery root puree.
Fennel–the frilly green vegetable that resembles an explosion of dill—is finding its way onto plenty of menus in the Denver dining sphere. Fennel is a part of the carrot family and falls under the root vegetable umbrella, but definitely deserves a section of its own. Fennel is peppery and delicious, but its taste is relatively hard to describe–perhaps this adds to the allure of this mysterious vegetable. Fennel is earthy and nutty with a faint hint of spice; its flavor quite loosely resembles the taste of black licorice or star anise.
Chefs are highlighting new dishes with fennel that showcase the vegetable’s one-of-a-kind flavor, like in the Fall Harvest Farrotto from Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox that has a Fennel Brussels Salad tossed in butternut soubise. Another bold ingredient consistently showing up in restaurants this time of year is winter citrus, which seems to be a popular flavor pairing for fennel. For Denver Restaurant Week, Ash’Kara Denver presents a scrumptious Grilled Verlasso Salmon with a Fennel and Orange Salad, while Bezel Denver offers an eclectic snack plate appetizer with smoked trout, braised leeks, ricotta, blood orange olive oil, and an assortment of fennel citrus olives.
In: Innovative Comfort Food
We live in a world that can be excruciatingly modern, but nostalgia is in. Talented chefs are bringing bittersweet nostalgia into Denver Restaurant Week through innovative comfort food that both nourishes the body and tastes like simpler times. Think lots of meats and starches, like short ribs and potatoes or ragu with parpadelle pasta. Though this year, chefs are finding creative ways to weave more vegetables into classic comfort-food recipes, such as Logan Street Restaurant & Bar’s braised beef short ribs over root veggie mashers, or tropical vegan restaurant Bang Up The Elephant’s smashed plantain and potato patties, or the sunchoke risotto from II Posto. There are endless dishes to discover at Denver Restaurant week that will taste like upgraded, five-star versions of your childhood favorites.
Though an infamous contender to many “most hated foods” lists, mushrooms are being rebranded as trendy and fresh in 2023. Contemporary hotspot Narrative Storied Food & Drink is offering a decadent mushroom bolognese that even the biggest meat-lover will devour. Fruition Restaurant has two delicious mushroom recipes to offer up for Denver Restaurant Week: a buttermilk fried maitake mushroom with a winter citrus salad, as well as steelhead trout served with mushroom risotto. Perhaps the rising popularity of veggie-forward dishes has led to a shift in conversation about mushrooms, and more people are willing to let them be the star of the show. Mushrooms are also packed with nutrients that support a healthy immune system, which is a wonderful plus.
Though the list of participating restaurants in Denver Restaurant Week includes several spots with historic roots and vintage charm, one of the most exciting things about this year is the broad participation of establishments old and new working to bring contemporary, playful, and vibrant menus to the Denver dining scene. Denver Restaurant Week will undoubtedly be an excellent place to find and try the upcoming food trends that will shape the way we eat this year. It goes through March 12. Make your reservations.