Farm-to-table ingredients may seem like a trend more commonly featured at the hippest of urban eateries.
But the owners of The Heritage restaurant are changing that mindset, enticing urban foodies to trek to suburban Forest Park to sample the seasonal menu that changes every six to eight weeks.
Owners Mischa and Jacob DeHart are also thrilled that for the last three years, they’ve been giving locals a restaurant “close to home with a city vibe.”
“[The Heritage] caters to the people in our community with [that same] appreciation for food and atmosphere without having to drive all the way to the city,” Mischa DeHart said.
Menu highlights include trout belly crudo — brined, sliced thinly with citrus and soy vinaigrette and garnished with citrus supremes, radish, cilantro and edible flowers.
The simple richness and luxury of a poached duck egg served with multigrain bread from Publican Quality Bread takes center stage when paired with a tuna aioli prepared with bright lemon, roasted garlic, parsley, tarragon, thyme, chervil and flaked tuna.
Another customer favorite is the half, roasted Spence Farm’s chicken with jus and roasted vegetables. The chicken is brined for six hours with herbs, seared skin side down in a cast iron pan and butchered into boneless half-bird portions that are basted with butter and the bird’s juices.
The desserts are also seasonal, such as the “The Honey Pie,” made with strawberry and rhubarb jam, honey crumble and honey comb. The honey is sourced from beehives maintained on the rooftop of the restaurant.
Executive chef Rick Ohlemacher, who was hired in March, sources his ingredients directly from a network of 60 farmers who are affiliated with Spence Farms in Fairbury, Illinois. He also frequents Green City Market, Seedling Farm and Nichols Farm & Orchard, hoping to “showcase what these farmers work so hard for.”
Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, Ohlemacher would help out in his grandparents’ garden during the summers. The couple would often cook using ingredients they planted.
“That’s what inspires me,” Ohlemacher said of his childhood memories. “The smells and the flavors of the garden are what I try to bring into the kitchen.”
Every month, farmers from downstate visit The Heritage to participate in a Q&A sessions with guests during a special five-course dinner, which includes curated spirit-free (non-alcoholic) pairings or a selection from a small but global wine list. The next farm dinner event is scheduled for June 19. “We love to play up our producers and farmers,” said general manager Salvador Lozano-Alvarado.
Ohlemacher, a former chef de cuisine at Free Rein and Green River, said he enjoys “bringing in a little more global influence” to make his creations “more refined and a little more interesting.”
“There’s cool places to eat outside the borders of the city,” Ohlemacher said.
“Sometimes you might want to get some fresh air, come out to see something new, a little bit slower-paced but [it’s] still a really nice place to eat [with] great service and a nice community atmosphere.”
The Heritage is located at 7403 Madison St., Forest Park. For more information call (708) 435-4937 or visit https://www.theheritageforestpark.com.