Chef and the Farmer (Kinston, NC)

I said that my next post would be special, and I don’t think this one will disappoint. After a three month wait for a reservation, my wife and I finally made the trip to Kinston, NC to legendary Chef Vivian Howard’s renowned restaurant, Chef and the Farmer. A little backstory on Vivian Howard for those unfamiliar with her, she started off as a successful Chef in NYC and moved back to her hometown of Deep Run, NC a couple miles from the small town of Kinston, NC to open her own restaurant. Her book Deep Run Roots is a New York Times bestseller and she has a popular show on PBS entitled A Chef’s Life. Vivian Howard has been nominated for many James Beard Awards for her restaurant, show, and book. Now on to the meal!

Starting off my wife and I shared the Guilford Mill Grits, consisting of creamed collards, Tabasco pickled stems, and pork rinds. The distinctive component of this dish is the Tabasco pickled stems. They combine a vinegary taste from being pickled with a spicy taste from the Tabasco sauce. This was an incredible dish to start the evening. My cocktail of choice to start out with was titled Knock, Knock, Knockin’ on Death’s Door. The cocktail combined gin, salerno, lemon, lime, and grapefruit bitters to make a refreshing summer cocktail.

Next I ordered a small plate of Charred Carrots. The Charred Carrots were accompanied with orange yogurt, spicy raisins, salt and butter pecans, and capers. The freshness of the carrots were undeniable and basically melted in your mouth like a nice steak. The dish itself had a very Mediterranean, specifically Greek or Turkish taste to it with the yogurt. My wine of choice tonight was an Indaba Merlot from South Africa.

My “large plate” was the Blueberry BBQ Glazed Brittany Ridge Chicken with onion and squash casserole, country green beans, watercress, pickled jalapeño and squash. The chicken was cooked perfectly and the blueberry BBQ glaze was a unique and flavorful glaze for the chicken. The onion and squash casserole provided a good base for the chicken and the pickled jalapeño and squash added a vinegary and spicy topping to the chicken.

For dessert my wife and I shared the strawberry and blueberry cobble. The fruit in the cobbler was fresh as explected and the dessert was served with a honey vanilla ice cream with hints of basil. I greatly enjoyed the cobbler not only because of its flavors, but because it was not heavy and made a good portion size.

All in all, the trip to Chef and the Farmer was well worth the 3 hour drive and the there month wait. This restaurant easily falls into the top five best restaurant I’ve ever eaten at in my life and will be tough to top with future culinary adventures.

Poole’s Diner (Raleigh, NC)

 

Hello and welcome to the first post in my newly established food blog entitled First Seating. There is no better place to start off my blog than my favorite restaurant and in my opinion the best restaurant in Raleigh, Poole’s Diner.

Poole’s is Raleigh-based, superstar chef and owner, Ashley Christensen’s premier restaurant. For those that don’t know Ashley Christensen, she is the biggest and best thing to ever emerge from the Raleigh food scene. Poole’s in particular is a 2014 winner of a James Beard Award and the award is proudly displayed as you walk into the inconspicuous looking restaurant in downtown Raleigh. I could go on about my love for Ashley Christensen restaurants, but maybe I’ll save that for a later date. I do recommend purchasing her newly released cookbook about Poole’s Diner. I have personally cooked several of the recipes in her book and they are all winners.

First off when eating at Poole’s they do not have any reservations. Best bet, if you don’t want to wait for an hour to get a seat, is to show up right before opening at 5:00 PM. Once giving your name upon entering you take a seat at the diner style bar and enjoy one of the many great drink options. My favorite cocktail at Poole’s is the Cucumber Rickey, a blend of gin, muddled cucumber, lime, sugar, and soda water. I am not a huge fan of cucumbers, but this cocktail really does it for me. Once you are done enjoying a drink at the bar it is time to be seated starting at 5:30 PM.

Once seated, all the menus are located on two chalkboards  at the front and rear of the restaurant. On this particular evening I ordered the Bibb  Lettuces, which is a simple three ingredient salad consisting of Bibb lettuce, grated Parmesan cheese, and vinaigrette. The best part of this salad is its simplicity and freshness. Besides having a great cocktail list, Poole’s also has a respectable wine list. I am in no means a wine expert or connoisseur and rely heavily on my more knowledgeable and experienced wine drinker, my wife, for selections. My choice tonight for wine with dinner was the Bacchus Cabernet Sauvignon.

Next comes the “Mains” that we have all been waiting for. My choice tonight was a special entrée, Porchett’d Pork Belly with Rice Beans, Charred Radicchio, and Marinated Peppers. The pork belly was cooked sous-vide and then flash fried for a tender and flavorful taste, and crispy crust. The vinegar flavor of the marinated peppers and the texture of the rice beans really came out in the dish. The main event of the entire meal though is a shared dish that my wife and I always order and share. Poole’s Macaroni Au Gratin is the best macaroni and cheese I’ve ever had in my life hands-down. The recipe is not an overly complex one and my wife has made it before in her kitchen. The three cheeses in the recipe are grana padano, jarlsberg, and white cheddar. The interesting thing about the macaroni au gratin is that it is best right after cooking because the oils in the cheese have not separated yet. In opinion leftovers of the macaroni au gratin are not as good as the original serving because a lot of the oils sink to the bottom. I recommend always getting the macaroni au gratin as a side to share with a friend and expect to have leftovers to take home because of how filling it is.

Stay tuned for another special place on my next blog post.