Two dozen local folks rode a bus last week to dine at Chef and the Farmer at 120 W Gordon Street in Kinston on a trip sponsored by Carteret Local Food Network. CLFN connects the community of local consumers (individuals to restaurants) with local farmers who produce healthy, delicious food.
Vivian Howard is the head chef of Chef and the Farmer, and her husband Ben Knight is the general manager. After working as a chef in New York City, she came home twelve years ago to Lenoir County where she grew up. <http://www.vivianhoward.com/chef-the-farmer/>
UNC-TV screens her show, A Chef’s Life, on Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. For the television show, Vivian Howard has received Peabody, Grammy, and James Beard awards. Each week for five seasons, she introduces viewers to vegetable farmers, hog farmers, fishermen, hunters, winemakers from whom she provisions her kitchen with sweet potatoes, collards, blueberries, shrimp, pork, and beans.
Howard just published a book of stories and recipes and pictures, Deep Run Roots. Howard grew up in Deep Run, fifteen miles from Kinston. The food comes from the Carolina coastal plain, and recipes are organized by ingredients—corn, eggs, turnips, watermelon, oysters, pecans, beans, figs, blueberries, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, sausage, peanuts, okra, collards, peaches, rutabagas, apples, beets, and grapes. She features her mother’s and her grandmother’s recipes and her own innovations, rooted in family and tradition.
Howard writes, “I interpret Southern cooking… as a complete cuisine with abundant variations shaped by terrain, climate, and people. . . . Many of these recipes were considered too mundane to merit writing down. Now they risk being forgotten. . . . My family made their living in tobacco, and when that industry failed we farmed hogs instead. My mom’s parents grew, harvested, and preserved much of their own food.”
Eating at Chef and the Farmer, world-renowned “Farm-to-Fork” restaurant in eastern North Carolina, was Bucket List for most of us, and the chartered bus was great incentive and value. The hour-and-a-half bus ride went by quickly. Conversations on the bus with old friends and new acquaintances were as much fun as the restaurant. Martha Kenworthy reminded me I gave her a puppy, 38 years ago, at the same time she had a new baby.
“The crispy collards and grits were my favorite,” Mary Kevin Welch. She is organizing the Beaufort Woman’s Club fashion show in March.
Libby Steadham, new director of CLFN, said, “We ate a scrumptious meal served in a beautifully restored old downtown building in Kinston. Each dish was carefully selected as most ‘in season’ or cured and stored from a fall crop. The attention to quality of food and detail of preparation highlighted each dish!”
Brenda Benson, managing broker of Sun-Surf Realty in Emerald Isle, said, “Excellent food – great service – loved meeting others on the trip – great price for the trip, well organized.”Catherine Elkins said, “The Diamond Limousine bus picked us up at the Piggly Wiggly parking lot in Beaufort and whisked us to the lovely town of Kinston for a beautiful supper at Chef and the Farmer. They set us up with a wonderful menu.”
Ingredients for the dinner menu were all from local farmers and an Ocracoke seafood company.
As appetizer, we started: Crispy “Flash Fried” collards with sea salt, grits with butter and cheese.
The salad was Jedd’s Lettuce with mixed greens, cranberries, red onions, and poppyseed dressing.
Then homemade bread and butter. Roasted root vegetables & mashed potatoes came from Brother’s Farm. Lane Angus grew the Short Rib. Miso snapper came from Island Trading Company.
The dessert was “Not Carrot Cake”: sweet potato cake topped with cream and candied pecans.
For reservations at Chef and the Farmer, call (252) 208-2433. The restaurant is open every night but Sunday. If you want to visit farm markets and shops in Kinston, or stay in a Kinston motel, consult the website: <http://www.vivianhoward.com/eastern-north-carolina-guide/>.
The next event sponsored by Carteret Local Food Network will be a Meatless Monday Potluck on February 26 at 6 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 1300 Evans Street in Morehead. On March 7, CLFN will co-sponsor the local foods lunch for “Leadership Carteret.”
In 2014, Underground Farm and Learning Center was donated to CLFN to expand educational outreach. On March 11, noon to 5 p.m., there will be a Crop Mob to help at Underground Farm on Highway 101—prep soil, plant seeds, spread fertilizer, turn the compost pile, prune grape vines, and weed-whack ditches. The Farm will host a “Welcome Back to the Garden” potluck on April 15, 5 to 7 p.m.
To provide healthy food, Underground Farm uses non-GM seeds and transplants, organic fertilizers like bone meal, cottonseed meal, compost, and fish fertilizers. Sign-up begins now for the May 1 season for the Spring Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) weekly or bi-weekly deliveries of vegetables from Underground Farm. The first of four “Farms, Food, and Friends” CLFN dinners at local farms will be April 29.