Saturday, April 23, 2016

When you offer a dessert flight

of either three or four selections, I assume that you'll be providing small, maybe a quarter to a half of the normal size, tasting portions of each one.  Consequently, for two to four people to order a flight of four desserts is excessive but not insanely so.

What turns that order into something crazy is when what the restaurant means by a "dessert flight" is full-sized portions of the dishes, as Chef and the Farmer did on my recent trip there.

Click the image to see a larger version.

From the top left, that's crispy pound cake with strawberries and lemon curd, a wonderful strawberry cobbler with basil ice cream, a chocolate chess pie with bourbon ice cream, and one of the best carrot cakes I've ever tasted.

I learned two lessons from this experience:  Chef and the Farmer makes excellent desserts, and never assume what a restaurant means by "flight."

Friday, April 22, 2016


is a movie critics love to hate, as you can tell from its RottenTomatoes rating.  I quite enjoyed it, however, in large part because of the over-the-top performance from Kevin Costner.

The plot apparently struck many critics as hard to follow, but if you've read any SF, I expect you'll find it as simple to track as I did.  Yeah, it's full of dumb pseudo-science, but no more so than most modern SF or nearly SF films.  The notion of implanting memories and the subsequent challenges that poses are topics that SF stories, books, and movies have been exploring for decades.  Criminal makes the process fun largely because Costner makes his character, Jericho Stewart, so entertaining.

The spoilers I don't want to give revolve around Stewart and his behavior, so plan to simply enjoy them.

The other actors were at least adequate, with a scene-chewing Gary Oldman particularly fun and despicable to watch.

I don't think this is worth rushing to the theater for, but I do think it's worth making a matinee run (which is what I did) or picking it up on DVD.  You'll have a fun couple of hours, and you'll want to watch Costner play Stewart again.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince, R.I.P.

Another pop music icon has died.  This has been a rough year for the music scene.  I didn't love or even like all of Prince's music, but his talent was undeniable, and I did love some of his songs.  I remember watching Purple Rain in the theaters and both enjoying the music and wondering what kind of strange being he was.  I kept on doing both for many years.

Give a listen to his music sometime soon.  It's worth the time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Wilber's Barbecue remains an NC treasure

On the drive home from Kinston today, I stopped for lunch at a place I haven't visited in year's, Wilber's Barbecue in Goldsboro.  I remembered Wilber's as the source of a particularly smoky and tasty variety of pulled pork.  When I first ate there so long ago, it was the best North Carolina pulled pork I'd tasted, but I've eaten a lot of pulled pork since that time.

I'm happy to report that though Wilber's continues to be nothing special on the outside, its pulled pork barbecue is, for my taste, the best in the state.

Click an image to see a larger version.

Rich, tangy, smoky, and moist, this meat was as perfect a version of pulled pork as I've ever had.  I'm not much of a slaw fan, but this slaw provided a perfect counterpoint to the slightly spicy meat.  The hush puppies were also exemplars of their type, hot and not greasy but completely delicious.

You also have to love the decor.

Seriously, I felt happier the moment I walked into the place, and I got happier when the server greeted me with classic southern hospitality.

A homemade strawberry shortcake, which featured fresh berries from a nearby farm, was on offer, so of course two of us had to try it.

"Ya'll eat this quick before the Cool Whip melts," the server said, and we did.  As much as I love perfectly flavored whipped cream, I was fine with this dish using Cool Whip.  It just seemed perfect.  Every bite was delicious.

If you're anywhere near Wilber's, make a detour and treat yourself to some amazing pulled pork.

If that shortcake is still on the menu, grab some of it as well.  You can thank me later.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Chef and the Farmer is worth a trip

Outside the walls of Chef and the Farmer, downtown Kinston shimmers with a Southern Gothic vibe.  With decaying buildings and closed businesses lining much of the main drag, as well as an array of southern characters who might have been the decent folks in many a southern story, the city feels like it might fade away at any moment.

Step inside the restaurant, though, and while you'll never forget you're in the South, you're in a wholly better world, where the food is locally sourced and many of the dishes are delicious interpretations of southern classics.

Consider, for example, these two appetizers.

On the left, we have slow-cooked grits, but with turnip run-ups and egg and tomatoes and a pecan pesto.  The combination melded many textures with a wonderful grits base, and it was delightful.  The flatbread showcased asparagus, with small bits of roasted asparagus and an asparagus parmesan cream.  It was also delicious.

All the dishes were at least good, and some were better.  The beef rib was the best I've had outside of Texas, smoky and tender.

The only thing wrong with this dish was its size:  the rib had to contain a solid pound of meat.  I needed many more people to share it and didn't even come close to finishing it--in part because I was determined to sample the desserts.

They proved to be equally good, with the first chocolate chess pie I've really loved--perhaps because it was more a flourless chocolate tart of a pie than a true chess pie.

In my ranking system, Chef and the Farmer did not make it to world-class, but it was absolutely top-drawer.  I do not regret the trip here to try it.  If it was in the Triangle, I'd go regularly.

Given the rest of Kinston, I'm not sure I'll be back here again, but I am glad I came this time.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Country road trip

On the way to my destination today, I passed many signs for a place I clearly had to visit.  So, after quite a number of turns onto well-paved country roads, I arrived at the subject of the signs.

Click an image to see a larger version.

If the signs are telling the truth, the Nahunta Pork Center is home to the country's largest pork display.  Having now walked through it and browsed many, many yards of pork products, I can say with complete confidence that it has the biggest pork display I have ever seen.  From complete heads to both sliced and whole feet, every part of the pig you might want--and many you probably don't care for--are available at the Nahunta Pork Center.

I am already contemplating swinging by there on the way home to pick up some bacon, a little pulled pork, and just maybe a Pork King t-shirt.  Because, of course.

My destination, and where I will be until late Wed. morning, is the odd and somewhat decaying town of Kinston, North Carolina.  I'm here to eat the food of chef Vivian Howard, star of the PBS show, A Chef's Life.  Tomorrow night, I'm going to her main restaurant, Chef and the Farmer, but I arrived today so I could try her more casual establishment, the Boiler Room Oyster Bar.

Tucked down an alley across the street from Chef and the Farmer, the Boiler Room intrigued me with its southern poutine and interesting appetizers.  The southern poutine indeed proved to be the tastiest thing I tried,

a gooey, greasy concoction of barbecue, fries, and cheese.  I'm not saying it's a heart attack on a plate, but it's certainly at least the opening act for one.

Overall, though, the food was good but nothing sufficiently great that if it was in the Triangle, I would frequent the place.

I'm hoping for significantly better from Chef and the Farmer.  More on that tomorrow night.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Midnight Special

barely ran in local theaters and only well after its supposed national opening date, so I considered myself lucky to get to see it.  It's the sort of low-budget SF film that garners minimal local press, appears and disappears quickly, and then shows up in a DVD bargain bin, where you and friends discover it and find out you've lucked into one of the good ones.

The movie starts in media res, explains itself only in ways that fit the story, and follows a relentless plot arc that makes perfect sense at the end--but most folks won't see the end coming.  I strongly encourage you not to seek spoilers on this one; just let it work on you.

The film's cinematography and a lot of its vibe have a very seventies-SF feel, which is just fine; they suit it.

The acting is consistently strong, with Michael Shannon, playing his usual strong, silent, slightly crazed character, and Joel Edgerton, his friend and helper, turning in particularly excellent performances.

I really don't want to ruin it for you, so trust me on this one:  go see Midnight Special.


Blog Archive