You could call it a fresh take on a cocktail party. An underground dinner. Or even a culinary love-fest. Whatever you call the Niche Hospitality Group’s Test Kitchen’s first-ever public tasting event, one thing’s for sure: Executive Chef de Cuisine Neil Rogers and his team wowed guests as they prepared and served their six-course, fixed-price “Nose to Tail” menu in the test kitchen space adjacent to Mezcal Tequila Cantina in downtown Worcester.
More than 25 members of Worcester Foodies, a self-proclaimed group of “wandering consumers of tasty foods” were first to sample the test kitchen’s fresh takes on local favorites. Niche’s team of executive chefs worked face to face with diners, answering questions while guests sampled, mixed and mingled in roving cocktail-party style. Each dish on the “Nose to Tail” menu was inspired by one of their concept restaurants, and all cocktails, wine and beer served were hand-chosen to complement the evening’s featured ingredient, locally sourced pork from Chimney Hill Farm.
Playing with food is business as usual at Niche. Owner Mike Covino, and his executive team of chefs, managers and wine and beverage experts use the test kitchen to develop menu offerings for their eight regional restaurants in Worcester, Leominster, Wellesley and Providence including local favorites Bocado Tapas Wine Bar, Mezcal Tequila Cantina and The People’s Kitchen.
Hosting tasting events like this gives Covino and his crew the opportunity to get feedback from diners first hand. “We have a loyal group of people (in Worcester) who want to dive into our food and restaurants. This is our chance to learn from them,” Covino said. He hopes the test kitchen will be a breeding ground for new talent, too. “We want to put out better food, flavor and texture every year and this is the perfect venue for this.” The test kitchen also serves as a commissary according to Executive Chef de Cuisine Neil Rogers, who hopes to bring more locally sourced products to all of the Niche restaurants.
There are plans to host more events like this for the public at the test kitchen location. Said Covino, “We’re hopeful this will be another boost to the Worcester dining community.”