Forged is great but not necessary. Check out any of Tim Wright's kitchen knives as examples of superior stock-removal construction. Whatever the construction, look for fit and finish, good blade shapes and balance, no gaps or filler between the bolster and the handles, clean grinding with even bevels. Rock the cutting edge of the chef's knife back and forth on a cutting board and make sure the blade contacts the board throughout the motion. Pick it up and hold it with the different grips you will use when chopping, slicing, peeling etc. Choke up onto the blade for better control of the point. Make sure it feels like an extension of your hand.
IMHO, Wusthof-Trident are the best of the production kitchen knives. The ones to look at are the Classic (with rivets) and the Grand Prix with the rounded grip. Even though you can't see the 'full tang' on the GP they actually have a thicker tang than the Classics and are a little less 'blade-heavy' on the larger knives. The GP handle is also fatter if you have big hands. Otherwise they have identical blade shapes and pricing. Wusthof hot-drop forges all of their blades out of a single piece of Krups Stainless stock. Henckels forges their smaller blades up to 6", after which they are 'scintered' together out of three different steels (way high-tech). Henckels makes an excellent product and I own some of both. I just have a personal preference for Trident. As opposed to being a division of a large investment bank, Wusthof is still family owned and operated.
I believe that 95% of the time you can get by in the kitchen with just a paring knife and a chef's knife. A bread knife is the next one I'd add. If I only could afford one knife though, the Japanese chef's knives with the Granton (vertically hollow-ground) edge are very nearly all-purpose. Send me an e-mail if you would like more info.