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Kinston, NC

Each year my job holds what we call a "Staff Engagement Day." It's a day full of information, snacks, seeing everyone that works in our soon to be 13 locations, and most of all, the day our Staff Association holds the annual basket raffle. It's absolutely the most exciting part of the day. It also is the biggest fundraiser for the association.

What is a basket raffle? Well, each department, location, floor of our system creates a basket. Sometimes we combine forces and it can be a combination of any department or location. Baskets are usually themed. There will always be a "Gamecock" basket chock full of goodies and paraphernalia from our beloved University of South Carolina. There also is usually a money themed basket and almost always an alcohol themed basked. We love our wine!

In my many years of working here, I have won 4 baskets. Two within my first 3 years of working here and the last two years I have been fortunate to win 2 years in a row. I probably won't win for another 10 years and that's fine.

It's a raffle. You buy tickets and place the tickets in the bag designated for the basket you're interested in. At the end of the day, there is a raffle for each basket. The location and/or department with the most tickets collected hails the trophy for a year.

Last year, we had chef extraordinaire Vivian Howard to host a program with the release of her cookbook Deep Run Roots.  One of the baskets was created around her. If you don't know who she is, Google her! So in the basket was sooo much stuff! There was an autographed copy of Deep Run Roots, a one night stay at The Bentley Bed and Breakfast, A $100 gift certificate for Vivan's restaurant, Chef and the Farmer, a $50 gift certificate for her restaurant The Boiler Room, some cash, some paintings from artist Marius Valdes and a slew of other things that I can't exactly remember right now.

Let me tell y'all, I was beyond ecstatic to win this basket! They called my name and I started clapping, not recognizing that I had won. And then I think I went into shock! Until this past weekend, I had never stayed at a Bed and Breakfast. Being completely transparent, I didn't think I was going to be able to stay at this one either.

I first started trying to book this trip in December or January. The owners only book two months windows at a time. It was very difficult to get this thing book, painful even. I eventually called the department that purchased the gift card and asked them to ask for a refund. Yep. It got that bad! Linda, the owner of the Bentley Bed and Breakfast then explained that her husband, Ward, had had several mini strokes and a heart attack. I felt some sympathy and was finally able to book. My plan was for 2 nights, but that didn't work out. I wanted to go before school started back and we finally were able to set a date. 

The drive from Columbia, SC to Kinston, NC was about 4 hours. Have I ever told y'all how much I dislike driving? I'm sure I have. Nevertheless, I hopped in the car equipped with an audiobook, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, and hit the road. The drive wasn't that bad. Schedules didn't align for me to take anyone with me...that's not completely true. I needed a break from everything, so I didn't ask anyone to go with me. Everyone was busy though.

I got in town right around lunch time and was so ready to eat! I found the Boiler Room without any issues. Chef and the Farmer is located right across the street. The Bentley Bed and Breakfast was about 5 traffic lights away. It was perfect. 

I was seated at the bar in between two couples. One of which I struck up a conversation with. They had stopped in on the way to Atlantic Beach and enjoyed the food so much that they stopped again on the way back AND made a reservation for the Chef and the Farmer for later that evening! The Boiler Room is an oyster bar, serving locally sourced food and it was delicious! I had the Oyster Boilerfella, which was oysters topped with smoked fondue, tomato, shallots, bacon, Maytag blue crumbles, fine herbs and ranch or blue cheese. I'm pretty sure I had ranch. Then I ordered the Pineapple Under the Sea, which was a sandwich with fried oysters, fried shrimp and topped with a pineapple salsa. I had to eat it with a fork because I couldn't pick it up to bite it! For dessert I ordered the peach cobbler. It. Was. Yummm. My server, Amber, was friendly and she upsold all of us on that peach cobbler. I have no regrets!

After indulging, I decided to see what the town had to offer. I'll be honest, I didn't find much to do. I did, however, find the Walmart and Super 10. I have a thing for seeing regional selections lol. 

It was then time to head over to the Bentley to get checked in. Just as I was heading there, the rain started. When my GPS told me I had arrived, I was a little confused. You can't see the house from the road in the rain and there isn't a sign announcing it. There is a driveway big enough for one car at a time. It was a beautiful drive up! The rooms are spacious and the bed was comfortable. Ward gave me a tour and told me to meet him at 5 for "Wine Hour." Our hour turned into two! Linda and Ward are still full of so much life. We talked, drank, and laughed so much that I didn't want the conversation to end. Ward doesn't have much short term memory, but he consistently told me how stunning I was so I know he wasn't just gassing me up! We talked about everything from other properties they own, to cupcakes, to previous guests. I'm not sure how much longer they will have the bed and breakfast going, but I hope I can make it back before they decide to retire. 

At my arrival, I was the only one scheduled to stay. With the rain, another guest decided to not chance her drive and ended up staying there as well. She ended up joining me for dinner, since I had made the reservation for 2 anyway. She was lovely company. A retired prison warden who was heading to the beach for the week. Sue, I wish you well.

She almost backed out of dinner because I had planned to dress up a little and she only had beach clothes. I convinced her it would be fine and it was. Dinner was amazing! The next time I go, I'm going to request to sit at the Chef's table. It seems like an experience I need to have. From what I hear, Vivian doesn't cook in these restaurants because the fandamonium got intense and it takes away from the experience. 

The menus change often. I ordered the street corn - which had crumbled pork skins on it and was DIVINE! I also had the Brittany Ridge Pork. The biggest chop I've ever had! It was served with a pecan peach relish, jerk BBQ sauce, marinated butter beans and basil. I could eat it every day! Sue enjoyed the same food. For dessert I had the S'mores sandwich and Sue had a blueberry tart. I only got to taste a little of it before realizing something was laced with coconut and I couldn't eat it. We also had a beautiful bottle of Trig Point Zinfandel. It was the most perfect evening.

Despite my issues with getting booked at the bed and breakfast, I would definitely return. In fact, I'm going to make it my mission to go back and spend a little more time in beloved Kinston, NC. 

After dinner, we had our leftover wine packaged so we could finish it off on the porch of the B&B. It was a peaceful night. I slept like a hibernating bear. Only until about 5:45am though. I don't know why my body refuses to sleep in! Around 7am the smells of bacon began wafting up the stairs. There was a 7am coffee time and breakfast was served at 8:30am. We again enjoyed the company of Ward and Linda. Linda made the most amazing breakfast display. Almost pretty enough for me to not want to eat it. Almost! 

Ward reminded us not to feel special because everyone was treated this way. I just loved him! We parted ways with warm hugs and well wishes. To Kinston, NC, thank you very much! You were just what I needed to reset and recharge! I hope to see you again soon! 

Below are a few pictures I took. The property was beautiful!

A card catalog y'all!

The Bentley Bed and Breakfast
117 W Capitola Ave
Kinston, NC 28501

Travel well and often friends!



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