Is a trip from Raleigh to Kinston for dinner at Chef & the Farmer worth it? YES
We were asking ourselves that question all the way to Kinston. We are more than willing to drive to Chapel Hill and Durham for great food, but Kinston? Inspired by reviews and watching Vivian on her PBS show, A Chef's Life, we set out to taste our way to an answer. Wow - it really is worth the drive for dinner at Chef & Farmer! This food is on par with Triangle favorites Poole's Diner and Mateo. The beef tartare (shiitake convserva, mushroom aioli, with fried pickled green tomatoes and house made saltines) was the perfect combination of delicious beef, savory bits with acid and sweetness (via roasted red peppers). A great complement to the tartare was Jedd's Lettuce salad (pickled blackberry vinaigrette, spice pecans and parmigiano reggiano). The Fried Collards appetizer was delectable (though you do note that they are 'fried'). Do eat with your fingers as it is almost impossible to capture the crispy pieces with a fork. We shared Braised Pork Check and Sausage as our entree. The contrast in taste and texture between cheek and sausage proved another example of the wonder of the 'pig'. For dessert we made the "mistake" of ordering the "Flight of 3", expecting to get smaller versions of the featured desserts. We received 'full size' portions of the Chocolate Mousse Cake (buttermilk/pomegranate sorbet with warm fudge), Gala Apple Crisp (rosemary ice cream, salted carmel) and Key Lime Tart (blueberry coulis, coconut meringue). All were incredible with each having the ability to stand 'alone'. The desserts were comparable to New Orleans delights! We will definitely be looking for excuses to make return visits. Check it out! Vivian's passion for food and hospitality are clearly evident. The staff were also great - attentive and helpful.