Part Five: the Chef & the Farmer
Welcome back exasperated readers to the continuing chronicles of the Pot and Pan Handler’s devious blog. Part five the Chef & the Farmer, of the five part series: The Wife Beater, a Producer, Chef & the Farmer. A series of events led us to the tiny town of Kinston, NC and a name dropping worthy meal in a celebrity chef’s destination restaurant. We attacked that meal with the surgical precision of Meal Team 6. Our gluttony so remarkable it still floats over the town of Kinston in the form of a gaseous, belching cloud, to this day. Read on, sweet readers, if there’s a better meal in NC we’ve never had it. http://potandpanhandler.com/the-wife-beater-a-producer-the-chef-the-farmer-8-29-2017/
The Town Tobacco Built
Unless you are particularly pork obsessed eastern North Carolina is a dreary drive. Only the pork related billboards remind you that there is anything out here besides failed tobacco farms. Fortunately we are pork obsessed. Eventually we get to the tiny town of Kinston, check in and get to the restaurant just in time for our reservations. http://www.vivianhoward.com/chef-the-farmer/
The Chef & the Farmer
It’s always weird to go somewhere that you’ve first seen on TV. Like you are appearing in your own episode only you know that your life is filled with mundane societal rituals. Things you don’t see on TV, like teeth brushing, dish washing and looking both ways before cross the streeting. We step inside and we’re not in North Carolina anymore. Inside, this place is urban hipster. The Chef & the Farmer would be just as comfortable in Miami, Atlanta or London. The requisite amount of reclaimed wood, streamlined stainless steel and ubiquitous open kitchen are all represented. We were greeted a little bit quicker than immediately, taken to our table and left with menus, our Eastern NC journey was about to begin.
We start with Kinston’s own Mother Earth brewery’s Oatmeal Porter and the house made bread. Dark, moderately heavy and a very approachable porter, it’s a pleasant start. The house bread; sweet potato sourdough, tastes pleasantly yeasty and doesn’t come across as too starchy. The texture is pleasant, part biscuit, part corn bread, slightly sweet and all tasty. Served with a fresh, sweet, rich whipped butter, we’re happy.
Surfing & Turfing Play That Beet
We followed that with a perennial favorite Beef Carpaccio. Thinly sliced, the well marbled cured beef rests atop a slightly acidic pillow of Lemon Crème Fraiche that helps cut through the unctuous beef. Garnished with sweet seasonal apple cubes and the southern favorite salty boiled peanuts and finished with the nutty punch of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Chef & the Farmer’s take on carpaccio is a perfectly balanced yin-yang. This dish is simultaneously unctuous, acidic, salty, sweet, soft, toothsome and crunchy perfection. Our only regret is we’ll probably never have it again.
Alongside the elemental carpaccio’s turf we opted for the predictable surf. Newport Oysters, lovingly smoke kissed with a wood roast. Served on a bed of salt Chef & the Farmer’s oysters are topped with luscious, slightly spicy and nutty tabasco, brown butter sauce. Heroically a slice of bacon rests atop the oyster, a promise of the salty, buttery, briny, spicy, slightly smoky goodness soon to come.
Time to dial it back; unless we want to be rolled out of here, it’s an opportunity to eat our vegetables, which is sure to make our grandmas proud. On the small plates menu there’s a Chef & the Farmer’s Apple’s, Beets, & Carrots. The sweet beets, tart apples, and earthy carrots are artful. Balanced in taste and to the eye they make a beautiful counterpoint to the pungent blue cheese and crunchy pecans. Garnished with an herbaceous punch of mint, this dish makes absolute sense both to the eye and to the tongue.
Entrée at your own risk
Chef & the Farmer give a nod to the Sicilian tradition of serving grilled fish with capers. Vermillion Red Snapper served with smoky roasted cauliflower, crunchy smoked pecan and velvety caper butter. Orange and raisin bring a sweet and acidic, citrus element, served all together once again culinary balance is artfully achieved. The smoky, slightly spicy fish, with pungent capers in buttery sauce with citrus notes and crunchy, salty pecans is perfectly fucking balanced.
When pressed as to what she would order if posed to choose between two items: short rib or pork chop? Short Rib, the efficient server replied with the comforting certainty of someone who knows she has chosen correctly. We’ll take it.
The short rib is a mountain of delightfully fatty beefiness. The beef is served with an herbaceous, kick, carrot top chimichurri, sweet and earthy roasted carrots and garlicy, cheesy, and crunchy Gruyere soldiers. (Chef speak for garlic, herb & cheese toast of sourdough.) The bread is a much welcome and useful accompaniment as it helps soak up the swimming pool of unctuous beef juices the dish relaxes in. Savory, fatty, well-seasoned, salty with an herby kick and a juxtaposition of textures with toothy roasted carrots and crispy toast this dish is another win. Chef & the Farmer keep bringing it.
Ingenious, Vivian Howard and Chef and the Farmer have a special on three desserts. Order two desserts, you pay full price. Order three on the other hand and you get a discount. It’s a no brainer, what kind of stupid sucker would pay full price? Stuffed bitches? Not us. We’re primed to eat three desserts. Or kill ourselves in a gluttonous display of shrewd fiscal policies.
Dessert number one: Ten Layer Chocolate cake. Because, duh, everyone knows the optimal number of layers on a cake are officially ten. Nine layers would be frugal, sorry and inadequate. Eleven layers would be entitled gluttony. Not excessively sweet, this cake is what all chocolate cakes should aspire to be. The slightly bitter chocolate is sweetened with a caramel icing. Fudge brings a depth of texture and taste with a toffee crunch playing the role of textural dance partner. This cake is a clever and tasty modern take on the dessert classic.
Dessert number two: Buttermilk Panna Cotta. Light, airy and creamy, slightly acidic, citrusy with grapefruit. Not overpoweringly sweet yet the textural pop of pomegranate seeds add a sweet textural element with just a bit of sour buttermilk tang to remind your mouth to enjoy the sugar. Served with sweet lemon biscotti, the texture of which is softer and much more cake like than any biscotti we’ve had before. These biscotti are lightly sweet with a pleasant hint of citrusy lemon. It’s always refreshing to try homemade versions of factory made, plastic encased, “pastries” found in “coffee shops” throughout the nation.
Dessert number three: Roasted White Chocolate Bread Pudding. The Chef& the Farmer’s take on bread pudding, is not overly sweet, almost savory. Served with a cranberry coulis that brings a bright sour note that counteracts the sugar while cinnamon pecans bring texture, this bread pudding has balance. Topped with a savory sage ice cream, there’s also a beautifully creamy herbaceous component to this dessert. If all places did desserts as superlative as the Chef & the Farmer’s we’d eat far more of them and there would be a lot more of us to feed. We still look forward to one day going back.
Let the name Hhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmm Drrrrop.
We’ve had a lot of legit meals in restaurants staffed by celebrity chefs and or owners including Tom Colicchio, Anthony Bourdain, Brian Malarkey, Paula Deen, Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich and Richard Blais. The meal we had at the Chef & the Farmer was as good as, or better than many of these, one of the better meals of our lives. The next morning we dropped some money at Chef Vivian Howard’s sister’s restaurant. Keep it in the family indeed. There we were privy to a southern salad trilogy plus a cookie that defies reason and could only be conceived by a deviant culinary mind. However dear readers, that is a different post.
We’ll see you there omniscient readers, until then may the odds be ever in your flavor. – The Pot & Pan Handler
The Pot & Pan Handler are all organic, cage free, sinister, spatula wielding, nomadic, restaurant immigrants. Though fans of beef we appreciate the irony of eating a meal sourced entirely in North Carolina that included almost no pork. Maybe next time. No celebrity chefs were harmed in the making of this post.