Sweet P’s serves up “sisterly” spread

Guest Ranee Randby enjoying the intermezzo during the six-course chef's table.

Guest Ranee Randby enjoying the intermezzo during the seven-course chef’s table. She looks happy, doesn’t she?

The good folks at Sweet P’s Barbeque and Soul House had another of their occasional chef’s tables last month and we were lucky enough to snag seats. As you may recall from a previous post (click here), owners Christopher and Jonathan Ford started these as a way to allow their chefs, Josh Russell and Eddie Faircloth, to have a break from flat-out barbecue cookery and do something a little more creative.

The (very loose) theme for this meal was “reflections from Knoxville’s sister cities.” Inspiration came from the seven cities with which our fair town has forged a sisterly relationship: Chelm, Poland; Chengdu, People’s Republic of China; Kaohsiung, Taiwan; Larissa, Greece; Muroran, Japan; Neuquen, Argentina; and Yesan County, South Korea.

It was a little easier to stick to the farm-to-table concept this time than it was at Sweet P’s last chef’s table, which was held in the dead of winter. “Eighty percent of this meal was picked yesterday,” Chris Ford said at the start.

My advice is to get on board this train the next time. It will be announced on the Sweet P’s website. All of us guests were just blown away by the caliber of the food. There were great wine pairings, as well, thanks to the folks at Ashe’s Wines & Spirits, to whom Chris took the menu to seek suggestions.  (read more)

Southern Summer’s Night: A blast!

Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr., in west Knoxville earlier this summer.

Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., in West Knoxville earlier this summer.

Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., was nearly destitute. He had been working at a car wash and had only one pair of jeans and one jacket in November 2010 when he and his wife left their hometown of Logan, West Virginia, and headed for New York City, where they stood for more than 12 hours outside the Javits Center to audition for NBC’s America’s Got Talent.

Less than a year later, on Sept. 14, 2011, after a performance of “My Way,” a song popularized by Frank Sinatra, Murphy won the $1 million grand prize and began a headlining act in Las Vegas.

Earlier this summer, he appeared in Knoxville at the historic Middlebrook mansion during a benefit called Southern Summer’s Night, a fundraiser for The Hope Center at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. The Hope Center provides, at no charge, caring support and assistance to all individuals and families living with HIV. Inpatients, outpatients, people relocating to this area or newly diagnosed individuals have a safe, non-stigmatizing place to feel encouraged, valued, and also have a voice.  (read more)

Drum roll begins for 2014 News Sentinel Open

News Sentinel publisher Patrick Birmingham, right, with golfer Ben Bates, who has played in 18 of the Knoxville professional golf tourneys, including the first in 1990.

News Sentinel publisher Patrick Birmingham, right, with golfer Ben Bates, who has played in 18 of the Knoxville professional golf tourneys, including the first in 1990.

If you are in Knoxville today, you surely have started to hear noise about the News Sentinel Open presented by Pilot, a professional golf tournament that will celebrate its 25th year in Knoxville August 11 through 17 at Fox Den Country Club.

The News Sentinel Open is part of the Web.com Tour. Owned by the PGA Tour, it is the way for a professional golfer to earn a membership card that will allow him to play on the “big” PGA Tour. And make a lot of money.

The News Sentinel announced this morning (click here) that Pilot has signed up to be a presenting sponsor of the tournament for two more years after this. This is significant because if Pilot had dropped its sponsorship — and it previously only had committed through this year — the Knoxville Open likely would have died.

Here’s why I care. Sure, watching golf is a fun way to spend a beautiful afternoon. And the hospitality tents on the golf course are fun to visit. And the exposure and spending the tournament generates are good for Knoxville.

(read more)

Cheek and wife partner for perfect green team

Chancellor Jimmy and Ilene Cheek at their west Knox home hosting "Supper in a City Garden."

Chancellor Jimmy and Ilene Cheek at their West Knox County home hosting “Supper in a City Garden.”

The good folks at the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum believe that a garden can bring joy to anyone — whether a city or a country dweller.

To that end, they have organized a series of garden parties in a wide variety of settings. The one we went to this month was smack dab in the middle of suburbia. It was at the home of University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and his wife, Ilene. Their house is on Stratfield Way in a new subdivision off Northshore Drive in deep West Knox County. You would never know from looking at the house from the street that there is a bountiful vegetable garden in the backyard.

The Cheeks have a division of labor, so to speak. Ilene loves flowers and is in charge of all of those in the front and back yards. But the vegetable garden is Jimmy’s. The rain held off on the evening a couple dozen of us gathered there to check out the gardens and enjoy each others’ company.

The event, called “Supper in a City Garden,” was a great contrast to some of the other garden parties we have attended, courtesy of the Knoxville Botanical Garden. But, in my book, almost any garden party is a good one. (read more)

Friday the 13th doesn’t scare us, but those tongues …

Hahaha! This photo will be explained later.

Hahaha! This photo will be explained later. From left, Tim Young, Robin Thomas and Jeff Cupp.

Even though it was an unlucky day, the Downtown Progressive Dinner Club (I just made up that name) was undeterred earlier this month. It was time to have a progressive dinner. We had a couple of targets we were trying to lure into staying in downtown permanently. And, by cracky, we were going to have the dinner.

So, of course, we decided to embrace the fact it was Friday the 13th and make that the theme of our entire evening!

A little information about Friday the 13th. Apparently for quite some time (nobody can say for sure), it has been considered an unlucky day. It seems to be a combination of the belief that Fridays are unlucky days of the week and the number 13 is unlucky. Although many cultures and religions seem to have some squeamishness about Fridays and the number 13, in the Christian tradition, Friday is viewed with disdain because that was the day Christ was crucified. And 13? Well, there were 13 people at the Last Supper. Folklore has it that it is extremely bad luck to have 13 people at a dinner party. It is said that, if you do, one of those people will soon die. As Judas Iscariot did. (read more)

If all the world’s a stage, Bob Cothran sure sets it

UT's Carol Mayo Jenkins, best known for her role in the TV series Fame, presents Bob Cothran with his Artistic Achievement Award.

UT’s Carol Mayo Jenkins, best known for her role in the TV series “Fame,” presents Bob Cothran with his Artistic Achievement Award.

The evening of the 2014 Tony Awards earlier this month, dubbed “Broadway’s Biggest Night,” also was a pretty big night for theater lovers here in Knoxville.

The Clarence Brown Theatre held its annual gala that evening, complete with a red carpet and big screen TVs so we all could watch that fantastic opening number by the Tony Awards’ handsome host, Hugh Jackman. It was an awesome evening at The Standard in downtown Knoxville with massive amounts of victuals provided by Northshore Brasserie and libations by Bob’s Liquor and Wine.

The special honoree of the evening was Bob Cothran, the veteran set designer who spent 26 years in the University of Tennessee’s Department of Theatre teaching a generation of scenic designers and himself creating numerous stunning sets for Clarence Brown Theatre productions. Not only that, (read more)

Leaping lizards, Zoofari delivers again!

Patrick and Melanie Hunt with Brad Moxley, center, the herpetology keeper at the Knoxville Zoo.

Patrick and Melanie Hunt with Brad Moxley, center, the herpetology keeper at the Knoxville Zoo, and Drogo, a baby Komodo dragon. (Photo courtesy of the Knoxville Zoo.)

One of the most successful fundraisers in Knoxville has to be Zoofari, the annual dinner, dance and auction at the Knoxville Zoo. I know I complain a lot about that tired dinner/auction format, but location does matter and you can’t beat the zoo for visual interest. So, even after 27 years, Zoofari is still fun. Thanks so much, zoo friends, for not having your signature event in the overcrowded ballroom of a local country club. (read more)

All eyes on Blount Mansion

Father and son Jim and Alex Hamilton portrayed British soldiers from the War of 1812 at the Blount Mansion party earlier this month.

Father and son Jim and Alex Hamilton portrayed British soldiers from the War of 1812 at the Blount Mansion party earlier this month.

I know it may seem as if we were pretty desperate for an excuse to go to a party earlier this month, but the birthday soiree for the state of Tennessee held at Blount Mansion was only a short walk from our downtown condo. So we just had to go.

Actually, our friend Dorothy Stair is the president of the Blount Mansion Association board of directors, and we wanted to support her and all the others who have worked so hard to see that the oldest museum in Knoxville – and the birthplace of the state of Tennessee — is preserved. William Blount, a North Carolina politician and land speculator, was appointed by President George Washington to be governor of what then was known as the Territory of the United States South of the River Ohio. He governed from Rocky Mount, North Carolina, until the Treaty of the Holston was signed in 1791, promising “peace and friendship” with the Cherokee Nation. After that, Blount announced that he was moving his capital to Knoxville and work on his new home, Blount Mansion, began in 1792. Tennessee became the 16th state on June 1, 1796 — and thus the cause for the late spring party. (read more)

Knoxville is “Tyndall Town” now

Coach Donnie Tyndall and his fiancee, Nikki Young.

Coach Donnie Tyndall and his fiancee, Nikki Young. (Photo by Gary Heatherly)

More than 200 community and business leaders filled a big tent overlooking World’s Fair Park on a patio at the Knoxville Convention Center last week to welcome Donnie Tyndall, UT’s new men’s basketball coach.

The mood was optimistic and the receiving line was full the entire time as everyone munched on strawberries decorated as basketballs and cookies shaped like backboards and talked — what else? — basketball.

In his brief remarks, Tyndall told the joke that he’s been telling since he hit town about how you can tell he is a good recruiter — by looking at his beautiful fiancee. “Look at her and then look at me,” he laughed. “And then tell me if you think I can recruit.” In a serious turn, he said he is extremely proud of his track record in seeing that the seniors on his basketball teams graduate from college. He said 21 of the 22 seniors he’s coached have obtained college degrees. (read more)

Blossoms, biofuels and bearded irises

Alan Carmichael meets the acquaintance of a giant iron insect at a party at UT Gardens.

Alan Carmichael makes the acquaintance of a giant iron grasshopper at a party at UT Gardens.

I pass by the UT Gardens on Neyland Drive several times a week coming and going from downtown Knoxville to parts west. They are mostly a blur to me.

But once a year, we attend a fantastic fundraiser there that really puts us up close to the fascinating things going on in what became last year the official botanical gardens of the state of Tennessee.

The UT Gardens in Knoxville and their sister gardens in Crossville and Jackson function as outdoor laboratories to evaluate the performance and best landscape use of every type of plant from trees and shrubs to annuals and perennials to ornamental grasses and aquatic plants. Ever wonder what the purple part of the garden is as you fly by on Neyland Drive? That’s the kitchen garden. (read more)