Exploring the La Grange farm outside Kinston, NC on my birthday
Oh my, how times have changed since my backyard birthday parties growing up. I can vividly recall my pigtailed friends and I shaking each wrapped present and praying for a Barbie, a My Little Pony, maybe even a puzzle – ANYTHING but more clothes! Hard to believe, right?
Well, you may also have a hard time imagining Style Girl choosing to spend her birthday on a farm. Growing up in South Jersey only a short drive from the Cowtown Rodeo, let’s say I’ve seen a farm or two. But, this year’s birthday excursion is not just at any farm. Joel and I booked a room via Airbnb at Warren Brothers’ Farmhouse, whom you may recognize from the PBS show A Chef’s Life, starring Chef Vivian Howard.
Flashback Friday – Birthday Girl
Photo: Focus on the Coast
Vivian and her husband Ben opened their progressive farm-to-table eatery in 2006 after migrating South from New York City to be closer to Vivian’s family. A Chef’s Life is a character-driven documentary and cooking series that premiered nationally on PBS stations in September 2013 and is now in its second season. After meeting Chef Vivian during a fundraiser at Manna, Joel suggested we take a trip to Kinston to try out her restaurant, Chef & the Farmer. We revisited the idea of a Kinston getaway after hearing buzz from friends and commited to my birthday weekend after reading the scoop on the “Kinston Krawl” in the latest issue of Focus on the Coast (click HERE to read the article).
Since Joel had a bartending gig for his new craft cocktail business (Astral Cocktails), we knew we would only be able to get away for a night. Joel looked on Open Table to book our dinner reservation but being that it was a holiday weekend, it was not looking good for us. Already sensing my disappointment, Joel picked up the phone and left a message inquiring about a table for his wife’s birthday. I had to smile when I heard him mention meeting Vivian at manna. Maybe I am rubbing off on him a bit after all?
The manna connection worked and we were given an 8:30pm dinner reservation giving us plenty of time to explore the farm before getting ready for our own take of the Kinston “krawl.” Warren’s wife Jane was away babysitting her grandbabies so Warren greeted Joel, Dakota and I solo by introducing us to his two sweet old dogs and black cat (whom Dakota promptly chased up a tree!) and then handing us each a glass of wine.
Taking in the miles of surrounding lush greenery and scent from the blooming Magnolia tree, we embraced the quiet serenity and let ourselves go. Warren encouraged us to do a little exploring before giving us a lift to the Brothers Farm where Dakota gave chase (once again) to a pen of chickens and made the acquaintance of Jane, the Pig (see photos below) before we walked her back to the farmhouse to release some of her pent-up Style Bear-on-a-farm excitement.
Warren’s official listing photo on Airbnb
Making ourselves comfortable in our room at Warren’s farmhouse
Our room had a private bathroom with an antique clawfoot tub – and a shower room for two!
Trying out my birthday gift from Joel –
a vintage Yashica Mat 124 G medium format camera from Southeastern Camera.
Been on the lookout for one of these ever since I saw the Vivian Maier documentary.
(wearing a vintage dress I fell in love with at Encore! Consignment Boutique)
My very first photo taken on my new vintage medium format film camera.
Jane, the Pig. She was not too keen on that new-to-the-farm fella behind her.
Let’s just say the food and drinks lived up to Vivian’s legendary reputation – and then some! I have a hunch that the Chef & the Farmer staff had gotten the lowdown on Joel’s prowess behind the bar since we were treated so graciously from the moment we walked through the door. The staff’s foodie knowledge and Southern hospitality matched each delectable bite and summer fresh libation.
We took Focus on the Coast’s suggestions and started with the flash fried kale and the pork belly skewers. The night we were there, the skewers were topped with blueberry BBQ sauce which was pretty incredible – and for sale in the wine shop. After the bartender made me a new creation with my favorite St. Germain elderflower liqueur and rose water for my birthday cocktail (on-the-house!), I followed up with the Dry Wit “Hoptail,” made with Mother Earth’s Gin, St. Germain, grapefruit, lemon, and Mother Earth’s Weeping Willow Wit. Cheers to the best meal I’ve had in North Carolina!
Warren (our host) & Chef Vivian
View from our table at Chef & the Farmer
Birthday Smooches + Road Trips for this Gemini
To top off our Kinston adventure, I found another vintage wicker princess
chair to replace the one Joel mistakenly threw out (Homer D’oh moment!)
at a “junk shop” on the outskirts of La Range for $3!
(can you spot it in the backseat?)
Favorite birthday message from Gay Adair
+ Pound Fit (only available with Karson in Wilmington!)
Tuesday 6:35pm and Saturday 10:15am at BFAB Studio
Click above for more details.