Kinston, NC - More than just Chef & The Farmer

Nice article about Kinston. Seems like “if you build it they will come” is happening there!
http://www.saveur.com/kinston-north-carolina-restaurants

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Well I sure hope so, for Kinston’s sake. I just had a very expensive, very “meh” meal at C&F about a week ago. Much better food at lower prices at any number of restaurants in Raleigh and Durham. Not impressed with C&F in the slightest.

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That’s too bad…hopefully you had been out that way rather than a special trip. .What did you have? I’ve been there a half dozen times and have been pleased. A few dishes were exceptional. Their desserts tend to be too sweet for me though.

Last time I poked my head in the oyster bar and it looked promising.

I don’t remember everything we had, but everyone agreed my dish was the weakest. We had a few apps: fried collards, Tom Thumb, $7 bread plate, beef wraps, grits and something or other.

Collards - Didn’t have 'cuz I don’t like them. Our dining partners wouldn’t lay off of me trying them. “I don’t care for collards.” “Because you haven’t had these.” After a few rounds of that game I finally said that I find the smell offensive (true) and that ended that one. But if you like collards, how can you mess this one up?

Tom Thumb - Just fine, nothing brilliant, nothing awful.

Bread Plate - The bread was nothing special at all, just okay bread. It was served with tomato, which can’t miss this time of year, and a corn aioli. I didn’t have the tomato or aioli, but both were well liked. Comment: “The bread is really good.” Response: “No, the bread is just okay. Your tomato sandwich is really good.”

Beef wrap: Again, perfectly fine but not especially memorable. Small serving.

Grits: Well liked, but nothing you can’t get every bit as good at a dozen other places locally.

Mains:
A fish dish with vegetable noodles: The fish was cooked well but the diner barely touched the vegetable noodles. She’s a very health-conscious eater so that was surprising. She said they didn’t taste like much.

Two orders of a mixed seafood stew-like dish: Both guys liked it, but admitted that cumin was the only dominant flavor.

Pork Chop: Major fail. The menu didn’t say, but it had to have been cooked sous vide due to its thickness. It was not seared after cooking so the color was incredibly unappealing. That also meant that the only flavor on the meat was from the brine. There was absolutely no seasoning on the meat. I could barely cut through it with a steak knife - which I was initially not brought. I ate less than half as it was far too difficult to cut and wasn’t worth the bother. It came with a scallion fried rice which was more of a tadig and if it had scallions, I couldn’t find them. The chewiness itself was not a problem but combined with the chewiness of the meat, it made for a bad combination. The watermelon “salsa” was a few cubes of very tasty melon with some sliced jalapeno tossed on top. The melon where the slices were sitting were too hot to eat. There was also some raw, thickly sliced watermelon radish next to it which, while it was a nice verbal pun, had no flavor of its own, added nothing to the dish, and was to thick to really eat. Absolutely nothing on the plate made sense together and it both looked and felt as if someone had just thrown a bunch of random stuff on a plate. The staff asked if I wanted the leftovers boxed up and pointedly didn’t follow up when I gave them a very emphatic, “No!”

Desserts:
Blackberry cobbler/crumble: Excessively buttery, but the filling was nice.

Chocolate chess pie: I didn’t get any filling, but the person who ordered it liked it. The bourbon ice cream tasted like bourbon.

Peach corn cake: Fine, but any semi-decent home cook could have turned out something very similar. The almond ice cream on it was my favorite thing about the whole meal.

Service:
Odd. The bartender was waaaaaay too friendly and I came close to reminding him that we hadn’t come to have dinner with him, but with our friends.

The staff seems to work on the assumption that the customers know absolutely nothing about food, or their food in particular. They do go on a bit. It was especially annoying when the server went on about how Tom Thumb is so special and only available on holidays, etc., etc. I had been at Nahunta at the Farmers’ Market the previous morning and they had a whole refrigerator case just full of the stuff. Granted, it’s a specialty item, but the whole song-and-dance was a crock.

I was only drinking tea but rather than refill my glass, it was replaced every time I got to 3/4 empty. That meant that they used 5 glasses on me for tea and water only. Similarly wasteful was the terry hand towels in the rest room. Why?

With their prices and their hype I expect my world to be rocked at least a few times during the meal. It didn’t even quiver. This was a special trip to Kinston and it isn’t one I need to make again.

In comparison, I ate at The Marshall Free House in Greensboro the next night and had a much more enjoyable experience both food- and atmosphere-wise. Boy, do I wish Jay Pierce were still in the Triangle.

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I ate at The Boiler Room last year and it was really good. I started with pulled pork poutine and had part of a cheeseburger

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold