“Unique.” That is the word that is the essence of my experience at the Niche Test Kitchen. From the format of the evening, to the food itself, unique is what it all was.
I’ve never been to a test kitchen before and I was excited by the layout and the yummy smells wafting through the air. Owner Mike Covino brought out his “A” team for the evening. Chef de Cuisine Neil Rogers and Executive Chef Steve Champagne pulled out all the stops with their “nose to tail” 6 course tasting menu.
Chef Neil Rogers and team created a menu that each dish contained part of a locally sourced pork from Chimney Hill Farm. I found out that the crew even took part in the rendering of the animal to create some succulent dishes for the evening.
I have to say one of my favorite parts of the evening was the layout of the test kitchen. As a participant, we were able to wander around the whole time between engaging with the Chefs as they cooked and then saunter over to the 4 high top tables where we found ourselves moving from one to another to chat with each other and gush about what we were served. This was great because usually we are sitting at a table and often do not get to chat with others if they are at the other end of the table. By far, my most enjoyable Foodies night yet!
Now for the good part. The food! There were 6 courses, but I’ll concentrate on the ones I loved the most.
For the first course, we had a Bratwurst and a Spiced Pork Spread from the People’s Kitchen. Being part German and growing up on some yummy German food, I’m a sucker for Bratwurst. OMG, it’s hard to keep me away if there is bratwurst around. This one was amazing. Succulent and juicy served on brioche with pickled veggies. What more can you ask for? Yum!
The Second course was from the Fix. We were served a Taylors Ham slider along with two different choices of Poutine. A Bloody Mary Poutine and a Bon Mi Poutine. I love me some Taylors Ham. I grew up on Taylors Ham. It is now part of my formative cuisine years. It’s hard to find in New England and have only seen it in a couple of places. It was very exciting to see the Chefs create their own version and put it on a slider. I think this is what separates the Niche Group of Restaurants from many others. They actually create something new and exciting vs. other restaurants who may only serve what their distributors sell them. Niche goes the extra mile to create something worthy of a foodie palette.
The third course was from Rye & Thyme. Oysters on the half shell and the lettuce cups. I have to say that typically I’m not an oyster fan (texture issues) however when I saw the oysters and found out they had house cured pork, uni, quail eggs and a grapefruit mignonette, I had to try it. It was fabulous! I’d actually try it again if it get’s put on the menu at Rye and Thyme. My favorite however, was the Lettuce wraps. With pork belly, crumbly blue cheese dressing and minced shallots, I’m sure it will be a best seller. I went back for thirds.
Next up was Mezcal with Oaxacan Chorizo Tacos and Sopecitos De Carnitas. These two were by far my most favorite of the evening. I love me some spicy foods and the Taco’s delivered. They had saffron corn salsa, creamy adabo, radish and cilantro. A taste bud exsplosion! The Sopa’s (small corn masa bowls) were created with a black beans, avocado salsa, Cotija cheese and habanero oil. The Sopa’s were definitely a hit with almost everyone and I can see these being a regular hit for their menu. I also had second servings on these as well.
Now for Bocado. Niche’s tappas restaurant. We were served Porchetta con pimenton and Paella Grande. Who doesn’t love a Porchetta? This one was amazing. Prepared with pickled onion, shaved carrot salad and crushed marcona almonds, you are feasting on some very juicy pig with a tiny bit of crunch from the almonds and carrots. I can’t say enough about the Paella. This also had a bit of crunch from the sides of the pan. I love this. Large prawns sitting in the giant pan tempted you with the flavor of the sea. The rice was cooked perfectly and seasoned just right. It was fun to watch them cooking it in the large pan. Not something I get to see every day. I’ll definitely be ordering both when we go next. Let’s hope it get’s on the permanent menu.
Last but not least, the final course. Churro bites and Mexican Hot Chocolate Cheesecake. If you are a chocolate lover, these are for you. Churros you can dip into the chocolate and a new dish for me, the Hot Chocolate Cheesecake. OMG, I could just fall into gluttony on that one. With a little bit of ancho chile and salted cashews, my mouth was watering at the description.
All in all, it was one of my absolutely favorite and “Unique” experiences to date. From the amazing food to the Chef’s and their team to the wonderful company of our foodies group, I can honestly say this one will go down in the books as one of my most cherished culinary experiences ever.
Thanks to WorcesterScene.com for arranging this all for us and also to Mike Covino, Chef Neil Rogers, Chef Steve Champagne and the rest of the team for creating this wonderful experience for us all to cherish.