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“Hey Chef Forman, Tell Me a Story…”

Jared Forman is the Executive Chef and co-owner of deadhorse hill in Worcester.

So, you’ve opted for our $85 family style tasting menu with a full beverage pairing. Excellent choice. Tasting menus are about more than buying a bunch of food, calculating the cost to cook it, and slinging it out of the kitchen.

Our “horse feast” is designed to offer guests the chance to give us full control over their experience. We build each menu on the spot, taking into account party size (we have done anywhere from 1-24 people), first-time diners versus repeat tasters, and of course, the freshest and best items we have in-house.

Whenever [Wine Director] Julia [Auger] and I go out to eat, we love to order a whole bunch of things and share them as-they-come, like a meal at a Chinese restaurant – a big table full of food. The Horse Feast sends out five courses like this, offering just enough for a few bites before guests move onto the next thing.

The Feast is broken down into categories:

The first course – raw, fermented, and charcuterie. Today, for example, you would start off with two Maine Belon Oysters (the season just opened), our Tsukemono Pickle Bowl featuring local vegetables prepared in various techniques from around the world, Bluefin Tuna Toro Korean Sashimi Bowl (called hoedoepbap), Smoked Eel from Maine drizzled with brown sugar and soy, and a slice of Foie Gras Terrine and potato chips with ramp jam made from wild ramps that we picked ourselves in the Spring.

Second, comes our pasta and grain course. My Sous Chef, Robin, is always tinkering around with a new shape of pasta or new flavored dough and those test rounds are perfect to find on a tasting menu. If you haven’t dined with us before, we would send you a bowl of crispy mustard spaetzle with house made creme fraiche and summer corn. We might consider fresh fusilli, hot off our extruder with wild Maine blueberry marinara, Florida rock shrimp, and house cured pancetta. Last week we had charred sungold cherry tomatoes with rigatoni, but this week we have wild Hen-of-the-Wood risotto with honeycrisp apples, freshly shucked raw pistachios, and goat cheese.

Our third course comes from the water. Depending on how adventurous you are, there might be a whole fried striped bass head coming your way, with some rice, fish sauce vinaigrette and a pair of chopsticks. Perhaps some steamed spot prawns from the Pacific Northwest, or sauteed razor clams with greens beans and xo sauce, or a giant sea scallop for each person sitting on top of creamed corn and crunchy Japanese rice seasoning called furikake. Or, maybe a softly poached piece of salmon over simmered fairytale eggplant with a local young ginger infused dashi broth poured tableside.

The fourth course would be about land and/or air. I love to drop a big fat dry-aged Vermont Wagyu ribeye with fried local baby artichokes here – so damn delicious – or, if you timed it right, the duck we have been air drying for three weeks might be ready to roll on a night you are here, and the red pears are ripe enough to balance out the spicy and tangy cherry mostarda. Toss in a seasonal and local vegetable side, and now you have a balanced meal.

Finishing with dessert is where we shine. Robin rolls her eyes at me when cases of fresh fruit stack up on her table in the height of harvest season, but she purees and preserves them with the intention of spinning incredible cantaloupe sorbet in the cold of January. Right now, I’m sure you can find space for a sundae of corn ice cream, blueberry sauce and heirloom caramel popcorn, or a rich chocolate cremeaux with port poached cherries and ice cream made with those cherries pits.

Your beverage pairing would be just as fun and playful. Local craft beers in this area are some of the best in the country. Julia opens incredible wines from small vineyards and limited productions that you can’t find anywhere else in Central Mass with grape names you couldn’t hope to pronounce, but make their way into your glass. Sean surely has some concoction set aside for an occasion such as today, like the Blackberry Milk Punch or a Ramos Gin Fizz made with maple from Robin’s grandparents’ sugarhouse. Finishing with a Parlor Cappuccino that Patrick has artistically foamed from our shiny La Marzocco is like divinity.

Our tasting menu isn’t stuffy like traditional ones. It’s not about white glove service. Worcester is a blue-collar town, and I am a blue collar guy. Why can’t we be casual and simultaneously delicious, theatrical, and surprising? I believe we can. We don’t need an expensive fancy kitchen to cook great food. We do it with passionate people and superb quality products. Even the plates you are served have been selected for each dish. Some are vintage pieces we have been collecting for years, and some have been hand made by Julia at a shared pottery studio here in Worcester. I travel many miles searching the room for the perfect plate to serve your pasta in. None of them will be seen twice throughout this entire experience. Our Horse Feast is about having fun – trying something you may not have ordered yourself and falling in love with it. It is about sharing plates of food with people you love and sharing an experience, not just a meal. Some things you eat with a spoon, some with chopsticks, and sometimes you get your hands dirty. We want you to remember having bite after bite of something new that held your interest for the entire time you were with us as a guest in our home. We hope you leave feeling a connection to the people who served and prepared your food and even the farmer or spearfisher who may have had a hand in it as well. This is our chance to show the entire spectrum of skills we have been practicing since we first stepped into a kitchen and all of the things we have been desperately trying to learn since. There will be no bits of shells or popped bellies in your oysters. We will steam, fry, braise, simmer, roast, cure, ferment, boil, sear, poach, and grill your meal tonight. We will coax those starches out of the rice in your risotto with diligence. We will baste your steak with thyme, butter and garlic, until the butter has become nutty and browned and the thyme has crackled and popped.

This is our entire life crunched into a bunch of bowls inside a two hour period. We like to show it off.