A party for the posies

Random Acts of Flowers founder Larsen Jay with his wife and partner, Adrian Jay.

Random Acts of Flowers founder Larsen Jay with his wife and partner, Adrian Jay.

Knoxville-based nonprofit Random Acts of Flowers specializes in bringing smiles to the faces of people in health care facilities. On a recent scorcher of a Friday evening, benefactors Hash and Nazzy Hashemian brought smiles to faces of Random Acts of Flowers donors and volunteers by hosting a beautiful fundraising party at their West Knox County home.

As you may know, Random Acts of Flowers was founded in 2008 by Larsen Jay of Knoxville. Following a near-fatal accident, Jay was recovering in the hospital and was cheered up by the dozens of visitors who came to see him and the stunning flower arrangements many of them brought. He thinks these kindnesses actually helped him heal.

When Jay was able to walk around the hospital, he noticed that many of his fellow patients didn’t have any visitors or flowers. So he began “re-gifting” some of his arrangements. He was touched by the smiles the simple act generated. When he got out of the hospital, he formed a nonprofit to recycle and re-purpose flower arrangements to be distributed to folks in hospitals and nursing homes. Continue reading

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Stunning Lonesome Dove eatery opens Friday

Chef Tim Love poses with architect Faris Eid, right and his son, Marwan.

Chef Tim Love poses with architect Faris Eid, right and his son, Marwan.

The long awaited game restaurant, Lonesome Dove, located in the former Patrick Sullivan’s building in Knoxville’s Old City, will open to the public this Friday.

A pre-opening cocktail party last night revealed the beautiful job Chef Tim Love and his team have done remodeling the historic building. The  original bar from Patrick Sullivan’s, which is studded with coins, has been relocated from the ground floor to the third floor, which is now a space for private events.

The crowd at last night’s cocktail soiree seemed to consist mostly of folks involved with the project in some way and of Old City neighbors. The bar served wine — including Love’s own rose — and a signature cucumber jalapeno margarita, which was drawing raves.

Passed hors d’oeuvres featured menu items and were snatched up by the hungry and the curious. Chef Love’s mother, Margaret Love (nicknamed “Queenie”) was on hand, as were his beautiful wife, Emilie, and three children — son, Tannahill, and twins, Ella and Anna. Continue reading

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Clarence Brown in ‘Black and White’

Who is this? Read on!

Who is this? Read on!

The Clarence Brown Theatre this year took the theme for its annual fundraising gala from Truman Capote’s famous 1966 Black and White Ball held at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

This one, however, was held at the Jackson Terminal in downtown Knoxville. Folks here had no hesitation about throwing themselves into the spirit of the evening, many wearing masks, as the original guests did.

Guest of honor was University of Tennessee alumna Paula Pell, a writer for “Saturday Night Live” for more than 20 years and an actress who has guest starred in television’s “30 Rock” and “Parks and Recreation.” She also wrote the 2015 hit movie, “Sisters,” starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

The Clarence Brown Theatre is part of the University of Tennessee’s renowned Department of Theatre, whose broad mission is to provide study for graduate and undergraduate students and to operate a professional theater to foster professional standards for the students to emulate and to provide a top-notch cultural experience for East Tennesseans. We are very lucky to have it in our community. Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Knoxville, Theater | 9 Comments

Museum of Art kicks off summer in style

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, First Lady Crissy Haslam and their daughter, Annie Haslam Colquitt helped the Knoxville Museum of Art kick off the summer season.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, First Lady Crissy Haslam and their daughter, Annie Haslam Colquitt, helped the Knoxville Museum of Art kick off the summer season.

Our friends at the Knoxville Museum of Art have a good recipe for a successful party.

  1. Hire a rocking band.
  2. Get Holly Hambright to cater the food and The Pour Guys to handle the bar.
  3. Invite the governor.

Voila! You’ve got yourself a party — and a good little fundraiser, to boot.

The museum’s “Kickoff to Summer” party was a relaxed good time, even for the governor and his family, by all appearances.

The band, Jessie’s Girls, had everyone on the dance floor as soon as the band took the stage. The vibe was festive. Food and drink were top notch. And, when we left the museum, I really did feel like summer was off to a good start.

Read on to check out the fun times.

Continue reading

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Symphony League dinner: wine, water and wow!

Knoxville Symphony Concertmaster Gabriel Lefkowitz poses with the ladies who were guests at the Moxley Carmichael table. From left, Judy Collins Griess, Phyllis Nichols and Dawn Ford.

Knoxville Symphony Concertmaster Gabriel Lefkowitz poses with the ladies who were guests at the Moxley Carmichael table. From left, Judy Collins Griess, Phyllis Nichols and Dawn Ford.

Wow, it’s great to know someone who owns a vineyard and winery!

The Knoxville Symphony League discovered that very thing when Jenny and Randy Boyd donated four cases of their Serendipity Malbec, produced at their vineyard in Mendoza, Argentina, to be used for a fundraiser for the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra last month. (Jenny is on the board of the Knoxville Symphony.) Continue reading

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Watermelon coolers, raw meat and Swedish women (What a conference, y’all!)

My friends Julia and Gary Bentley on the bus to Blackberry Farm for dinner. Their attendance at the conference was a Christmas present to each other. What a great idea.

My friends Julia and Gary Bentley on the bus to Blackberry Farm for dinner. Their attendance at the conference was a Christmas present to each other. What a great idea.

Yes, dinner at Blackberry Farm is a main attraction of the Southern Food Writing Conference every year. But there’s a whole lot of other good eating and drinking during the two-day food fest.

The goal of the whole thing: put Knoxville on the culinary map. Read on and let me know if you think that mission was accomplished.

Some out of town food got a chance to shine, as well. I, for one, can’t wait to eat at Willa Jean in New Orleans next time I’m there. The French Quarter eatery, partly owned by chef John Besh, provided breakfast on Thursday and Friday of the conference here earlier this month and really knocked it out of the ballpark.

Another interesting part of the conference is the new products attendees get to sample. This year, one of the standouts was a watermelon drink called Tsamma. Julia and Gary, pictured in the first photo, are drinking a signature cocktail made with it. Continue reading

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How to impress a food writer. (And me!)

Mary Celeste Beall welcomed guests to a cocktail party in Blackberry Farm's under construction events center.

Mary Celeste Beall welcomed guests to a cocktail party in Blackberry Farm’s under construction events center.

Of course you heard about the International Biscuit Festival earlier this month, but did you know that scores of journalists and other writers were in town a few days before that for the fifth annual Southern Food Writing Conference?

Yep. Folks were here from The Today Show, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Time, Inc., Garden & Gun, Food & Wine, Huffington Post, National Public Radio, USA Today, The Splendid Table, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Scripps Networks Interactive, along with dozens of assorted bloggers, cookbook authors and public relations folks.The two-day event was jam-packed with speakers, food, a tour of Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams and dinner at Blackberry Farm.

At one point, nearly 100 attendees also were treated to a lunch by Chef Tim Love, who intends to open The Lonesome Dove in the Old City this summer.

Here are some of the conference highlights: Continue reading

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Tar Heel trained, Knoxville’s gain

News Sentinel editorial cartoonist Charlie Daniel with his impression of Ronald Reagan, one of 11 presidents Daniel has drawn in his career.

News Sentinel editorial cartoonist Charlie Daniel with his impression of Ronald Reagan, one of 11 presidents Daniel has drawn in his career.

You wouldn’t think it from reading his editorial cartoons in the News Sentinel, but Charlie Daniel is really a sweet, quiet and unassuming guy. With a wicked sense of humor, of course.

I have known Charlie for more than 30 years — we both worked at the defunct Knoxville Journal — and he still cracks me up, in print and in person.

Charlie and his sweet wife, Patsy, were guests of honor this past weekend at this year’s final installment of the Knoxville Symphony League’s “Elegant Dining” series of fundraisers.

“Cartoonists rarely say anything nice about anybody,” Daniel acknowledged during his after-lunch talk in the lovely Rarity Bay home of Steve and Lin Oglesby. “We mostly ridicule. But we ridicule in hopes that we will improve the quality of people’s lives.”

Daniel, a North Carolina native, got his start at the University of North Carolina’s student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel. Since then, he’s drawn 11 U.S. presidents. “The only thing they had in common was they all said Fidel Castro wouldn’t last!” Daniel deadpanned. Continue reading

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Biscuits bring bevy of bingers

Michelle Silva of B-97.5 offering a sample of her station's contest entry: crispy chicken with chorizo gravy. B-97.5 teamed with Oli Bea for the contest.

Michele Silva of B97.5 offering a sample of her station’s contest entry: crispy chicken biscuit with chorizo gravy. B-97.5 teamed with Oli Bea for the contest.

The biggest crowd ever packed downtown Saturday to gorge themselves with biscuits large and small, savory and sweet. This is according to John Craig, the “biscuit boss” and founder of the International Biscuit Festival that closes several roads and turns Market Street into Biscuit Boulevard for one day each year.

Restaurants (mostly) set up tents and passed out samples of their creations. Other vendors sold biscuit-related (mostly) products. And, of course, there was a biscuit baking competition, an art show, music on a flatbed truck and a Mr. or Miss Biscuit contest.

Matt Sandbank was named grand champion of the baking contest with his caraway biscuits, which beat out 11 other competitors. Click here for a list of all winners.

All the biscuits were divine, but my favorite of all that I got to taste was one made with, of all things, cauliflower and Benton’s bacon. This was offered in the VIP breakfast reception tent. (I’m not a VIP. I was invited because I purchased tickets to the Southern Food Writing Conference that preceded the biscuit festival. The breakfast reception was included.) Continue reading

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UT Gardens honor major donor — and peonies!

The weather gods smiled upon the UT Gardens Gala, thank goodness, as several hundred supporters gathered to raise money and also raise a glass or two to Henry McIlwaine Jr., whose generosity will fund a new pavilion on the Neyland Drive property.

Henry McIlwaine surrounded by his daughters, from left, Gwen Johnson, Mary Kriss McIlwaine and Katherine Waitman.

Henry McIlwaine surrounded by his daughters, from left, Gwen Johnson, Mary Kris McIlwaine and Katherine Waitman. (Photo by Hurley Co. Photography)

“His generous donation will expand opportunities for community outreach and educational classes for years to come,” said Dr. Joe Johnson, UT’s president emeritus who, along with his wife, Pat, was honorary co-chair of the Friday evening event. Continue reading

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