When I first walked into Mother Earth Brewing, my first thought was that I was in Seattle or Brooklyn – not in Kinston. The brewery’s bar was naturally sexy, modern and hip, without the pretension. The bar has an eclectic display of artwork created by their staff and plenty of seating and room to roam around while you enjoy your beer. I did not have any beer, so I cannot offer my critique, but I can say that the bar staff allows you to sample their beer to make sure you are satisfied with your selection. The brewery has tours Tuesday-Friday every hour on the hour from 10am-5pm and on Saturdays every hour on the hour from 1pm-8pm. Since our Chef & The Farmer reservation was not until 5:30pm, we took the 4pm tour. Big Shooter, our tour guide, was quite a charmer but was also interactive, entertaining and very knowledgeable about his craft. My favorite part of the tour was going up the stairs to the second floor (that leads to the MEB’s staff offices) and down the slide which takes you back to the first floor to the brewing facility. Although the hour long tour was a small glimpse of Mother Earth Brewery’s operations, I can only imagine the fun and satisfaction the employees feel day-to-day at work. At the end of our tour, Big Shooter let us sample some of their craft Gin. It was unexpectedly smooth with lovely hints of citrus. There is no juice or chaser needed for this gin as it’s smooth and delicious served alone.
Once we concluded the tour, it was dinner time at Chef & the Farmer. Even though it was a gloomy and rainy early evening in Kinston, both venues attracted large crowds from locals to beyond. On our brewery tour, there were several visitors from the Triangle and one couple from Los Angeles.
Around 5:15pm, there was already a large gathering of people waiting for Chef & the Farmer to open. We had a 5:30pm reservation and since we were the first in line, we were promptly seated. The restaurant is modern, has an open kitchen and sophisticated bar, but the venue evokes a warm environment for its guests. Our waitress, Susan, was the epitome of what a waitress should be, knowledgeable about the wine list and the dinner menu from A to Z. With her suggestions, our table ordered three appetizers including the Butternut Squash & Italian Sausage Casserole, which was my favorite. We also ordered the Curried Citrus Marmalade Pork Belly Skewers which were delicious and what I like to call, pork belly lollipops. We also ordered two large baskets of the Daily Bread which included Endless River Kolsch Parmesan bread and sweet potato-onion bread. I do not need to tell you how the bread was since we ordered two baskets.
For my entrée, I ordered the Sage Brined Bone-In Pork Chop, pickled apples, gouda & onion pudding and the braised collard greens. I wanted a substantial meal and I got it. If you want to eat light, this may not be the dish for you. The pork chop coupled with the pickled apples was delicious. I have never had a pickled apple and now I need to search for some recipes to learn to make my own. Dessert was approaching and I was stuffed. However, we had made the almost two-hour drive to Kinston plus the reservation was done three months in advance. I knew I would not have a chance in the near future to try dessert at this restaurant, so I made a sacrifice. Our table ordered a three dessert flight which included: 1) Persimmon Pudding with White Chocolate/Coconut Ice Cream 2) Hazelnut & Mascarpone Tiramisu and 3) Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake. Hands down, the highlight of my evening was the Persimmon Pudding. Coincidentally I had just tried a Fuyu persimmon over the Christmas holidays in Texas. To me, a persimmon has the look and feel of tomato but the flavors remind me of a mash-up between a tomato and nectarine. Although I was not wowed by the persimmon alone, I did fall in love with the flavors of the persimmon pudding. To top it off, the pudding was paired with white chocolate/coconut ice cream, an ice cream flavor I do not come across often. Molly Moon’s in Seattle captivated me one summer with their vegan coconut chocolate chip ice cream and now Chef & the Farmer made me fall in love with their white chocolate/coconut ice cream. I honestly wanted an ice cream cone to go, but I had to behave.
A day trip to Kinston is worth the drive. The only drawback is you must make a reservation ahead of time, to ensure seating. If you are driving a long distance, you want to make sure your plans are solid. That said, you don’t need to head to Kinston for a special occasion, make your reservation for a random day in the coming months to break free from the day-to-day and spice up your palate. There is so much beauty in the state of NC, so explore the hidden treasures. You won’t regret it. The experience will live with you forever.
Endless River Kolsch Parmesan Bread Sweet Potato-Onion Bread.
Lamb & Goat Cheese Wood Fired Pizza, Mint, Kalamata Olives, Spicy Tomato.
Persimmon Pudding with White Chocolate & Coconut Ice Cream.