Chef and the Farmer
Chef and the Farmer freshens up dining options
BY CAMERON TEANEY ON May 16, 2014
It is no secret that Greenville lacks variety and uniqueness when it comes to restaurant options. It seems that our city has no problem attracting chains like Cheddar’s, Chile’s, etc., but struggles when it comes to drawing in local restaurants (with a few exceptions like Cafe Duo and Starlight Cafe). Although these chains are not bad, there is just something about the charm of a good local restaurant. However, Greenville’s neighbor, the small town of Kinston, does not appear to have this problem. While Kinston isn’t exactly known as the hub of entertainment, it is home to Chef and the Farmer, a local restaurant that has proved to be more than successful since it opened in 2006.
Part of the key to Chef and the Farmer’s success is freshness. The restaurant incorporates organic ingredients produced by local farmers into all aspects of the menu. The use of these fresh ingredients gives the food a richer, more authentic flavor. The creativity displayed throughout many of the dishes is another thing that sets the food apart at Chef and the Farmer. The restaurant’s modern take on southern cuisine is very unique; co-owner Vivian Howard varies the menu options a little each week to complement the seasonal changes and versatility of the locally produced ingredients.
After arriving at Chef and the Farmer, I first ordered a couple of appetizers. I highly recommend getting the salted, flash-fried collards. These crispy strips of collards have a texture similar to potato chips (but are much healthier) and the perfect salty taste leaves you wanting more. I also suggest trying the pork belly skewers. The sweet, juicy, bacon-flavored, slide-off-the-skewer pork pieces are simply delicious and serve as a great way to start your dining experience. For my main course, I enjoyed a striped bass that was seared to perfection. The tender texture of the fish married beautifully with the sweet taste of the miso honey butter sauce and crunch of the tangy spring pickles. Served with rice, which was a great template for the mixing of all those wonderful flavors, this entrée was nothing short of delicious. For dessert, I highly recommend Chef and the Farmer’s fruity options. The gala apple crisp is a dish of cinnamon and salted caramel coated apples topped with a crispy sugary topping, served with rosemary ice cream. While it may seem odd to mix ice cream with an herb, the combination is impeccable. The rosemary does not overpower the ice cream, but rather works with the ice cream to balance the warm flavors of the apple crisp with the cool flavors of the ice cream. The tasty buttermilk lemon pie beautifully complemented by a citrus caramel drizzle and basil ice cream also provided a flawless balance between sweet and sour.
Another thing that makes Chef and the Farmer so great is its rustic, yet fancy feel and welcoming environment. The old building has enough character in of itself, but also provides seating options next to the kitchen window, allowing customers to watch the chefs make the food and next to windows that give a view of quaint downtown Kinston. The friendly and knowledgeable servers also add to the restaurant’s warm atmosphere.
The success of Chef and the Farmer is not limited to the four walls of the restaurant. This past fall, PBS premiered A Chef’s Life, a show that focuses on the restaurant and the food, people and Eastern North Carolina culture that surrounds it. The show is currently shooting its second season.
Overall, I give Chef and the Farmer a ten out of ten. The southern style gives customers the traditional tastes they love, but the food’s modern flare gives customers the opportunity to experience new flavors. So next time you’re looking for a nice place to go out to eat, but want to avoid the monotony of Greenville’s chain restaurants, check out Chef and the Farmer; the 25 minute drive is well worth it.