UT prez’s secret sauce could be secret weapon

University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro serving guests the best spaghetti this side of Italy.

University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro serving guests the best spaghetti this side of Italy.

The University of Tennessee has a secret weapon for making friends and influencing folks. I think it even would work on members of the Tennessee General Assembly.

What is it? UT President Joe DiPietro’s famous spaghetti with a tantalizing sauce made from a long-held family recipe. I’m serious. This stuff is magical.

At an auction last year benefiting the UT Gardens, Alan and I purchased a spaghetti dinner for six at the home of Dr. Joe and Deb DiPietro. We redeemed it last weekend with four friends.

The relaxed evening at their comfortable Old Kent Drive home was a delight. And that sauce! It’s hard to describe, but it was tomato based and very smooth with a little something-something that was hard to put your finger on.

Dr. Joe said the “secret” had something to do with cloves. But it sure was subtle. And delicious. Even the following morning, I could taste a hint of the enchanting elixir. Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Food, Knoxville | 15 Comments

Take this trip: shop, sightsee and stuff yourself!

From left, Marty Begalla, Dawn Ford and Mickey Mallonee enjoying homemade donuts from Jo's, which sells them from a trailer in the parking lot of Yoder's Country Market in Bulls Gap, TN.

From left, Marty Begalla, Dawn Ford and Mickey Mallonee enjoying made-to-order donuts from Jo’s, which sells them from a trailer in the parking lot of Yoder’s Country Market in Bulls Gap, Tennessee.

It all started with our friend Dawn Ford telling us during a dinner party about some great knives she had found at Yoder’s Country Market in Bulls Gap, Tennessee. She also raved about other items at the (ostensibly) Amish store. “We want to go there!” said Mickey Mallonee, Marty Begalla and I.

So, this past Saturday, off we went on a “field trip” to upper East Tennessee. Since we were so close, we planned also to have lunch at the fabled General Morgan Inn in nearby Greeneville. What a fun trip it was. Just sharing this along with a recommendation that you, too, plan a visit to these interesting, historic and entertaining places. Continue reading

Filed under: Food, Historic preservation, Travel | 17 Comments

Downtown parking makes me peevish

See this sign? They're serious.

See this sign? They’re serious.

Often, folks ask Alan and me what is the best thing about living and working downtown. We tell them, basically, “everything!” We love the fact that downtown is walkable, you see so many folks you know everywhere you go, there’s always something fun going on, and the restaurants are great and getting better.

They also ask what are the worst things about downtown living. That’s easy to answer, too: panhandlers and parking. I will discuss panhandlers later. Let’s talk about parking now.

We are happy to pay to park. We pay $70 per month for a designated parking space in the bottom of the State Street Parking Garage and we love it. That section of the garage is gated, well-lit and feels very safe. Continue reading

Filed under: Business, Downtown, Knoxville | 42 Comments

‘If it comes from a can, it’s not a biscuit!’

Chris Kahn, biscuit maker extraordinaire!

Chris Kahn, biscuit maker extraordinaire!

So says Chris Kahn, who knows a thing or two about the subject. She worked in the White Lily test kitchen for more than a decade and is the chair of the biscuit baking contest during the phenomenally successful International Biscuit Festival here in Knoxville.

Chris spent lunchtime recently teaching how to make the perfect biscuit as part of the Knoxville Symphony League’s Elegant Dining series. The class (including a biscuit lunch) was held in the home of Pat and Alan Rutenberg in the heart of Sequoyah Hills.

I signed up for the event as soon as tickets went on sale. As my guest, I took John McCulley, our senior web developer at Moxley Carmichael. John is going through a divorce and is committed to learning to cook. As you will see, he was an enthusiastic student. Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Food, Knoxville | 20 Comments

Shhh: Dale Dickey ‘might’ be in a Super Bowl ad

Actress Dale Dickey, left, with Mary Pom Claiborne at the Sequoyah Hills home of a Clarence Brown Theatre board member.

Actress Dale Dickey, left, with Mary Pom Claiborne during a cocktail party at the Sequoyah Hills home of a Clarence Brown Theatre board member.

(1/28/17 UPDATE: See bottom of this post for a fun update on this earlier story.)

Knoxville-born actress Dale Dickey was in town from Los Angeles recently to take care of a few issues surrounding the estate of her late mother, Missy Dickey. While she was here, she was guest of honor at a small cocktail party with colleagues and friends of the Clarence Brown Theatre.

Dickey, who is busy working on television shows, films and commercials in California, is a huge supporter of her alma mater, the University of Tennessee, and Clarence Brown Theatre, in particular. She’s starred in Clarence Brown performances of Steel Magnolias and Sweeney Todd, among others. But my favorite role of hers here was a few years ago when she played Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire.

At the cocktail party, Dickey was friendly and approachable, relating stories of parking a car for Jack Nicholson and accidentally setting a garbage can on fire in a hotel conference room while waiting to audition for Sean Penn. She was just trying to be helpful by emptying the overflowing ashtrays that were on the table, not realizing one contained a lit cigarette. “From my years of being a waitress, I just couldn’t stand to see the dirty ashtrays,” she laughed. “I thought I should tidy up the place.” Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Food, Knoxville, Theater | 5 Comments

Happy New Year from ‘the party bunker!’

Richard Bryan, left, and Alan Carmichael pose in front of one of the tanks in the "party bunker."

Richard Bryan, left, and Alan Carmichael pose in front of one of the tanks in the “party bunker.”

Nothing says “Happy New Year” like heavy artillery and stacks of ammunition.

At least that’s how those of us felt who rang in 2017 in Richard and Bette Bryan’s fascinating (and fun!) “party bunker” — dubbed The Bunker Ballroom for the evening — at John H. Daniel. The Bryans hosted the party along with their daughter, Laura Bryan, and son, Benton Bryan and his wife, Brenda.

I have heard for years talk of the Bryans’ collection of vintage weaponry, but I have to say its sheer size surpassed my expectations. The dozens of meticulously restored and detailed tanks, Jeeps, troop carriers and machine guns were artfully lit and displayed in the Central Street warehouse, parts of which were set up to look like a World War II officers’ club.

The Jim O’Connor Combo performed, a dance floor was installed and Rex Bradford Jones catered a full sit-down dinner. Whereas some folks elsewhere were concerned about the safety of being in large holiday crowds on this high-profile evening, we felt as if we were in the safest possible place should World War III or another catastrophe have erupted! Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Food, Knoxville | 11 Comments

Crush of events makes exciting year-end

Russ and Holly Watkins at the Symphony Ball at Cherokee Country Club.

Russ and Holly Watkins at the Symphony Ball at Cherokee Country Club. Russ is the incoming president of the Knoxville Symphony Board.

As 2016 hurtles to its conclusion, holiday and other kinds of special events literally have tumbled on top of one another. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a busier year-end season in Knoxville.

The Knoxville Symphony League threw its annual ball. The East Tennessee Historical Society honored a great East Tennessean. The downtown progressive dinner group opted for a brunch to avoid the crush of competing evening activities. And Congressman Jimmy Duncan and his wife, Lynn, honored an auction item they had donated and welcomed the lucky winners into their festively decorated getaway on Cherokee Lake.

Pour another cup of cocoa and check out some of the celebrations. Continue reading

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Holiday Homes Tour: elegant, inspiring and fun

Museum supporters Steve and Ann Bailey getting in the spirit at the cocktail buffet opening this year's Holiday Homes Tour.

Museum supporters Steve and Ann Bailey getting in the spirit at the cocktail buffet opening this year’s Holiday Homes Tour.

We sure do love looking inside other people’s homes, don’t we?

The smart folks in the Guild of the Knoxville Museum of Art took advantage of that proclivity earlier this month and sold out their 22nd annual Holiday Homes Tour to benefit the museum.

Festivities started at the Sequoyah Hills home of Jim and Melinda Ethier with a candlelight tour and cocktail buffet. That was to get everyone fortified for the next day’s activities — a tour of five homes decorated for the holidays and lunch at Cherokee Country Club.

Some folks opted to start touring the homes at 9 in the morning and ended with the luncheon. My group, however, opted for the more leisurely approach — we started with the lunch and toured the homes in the afternoon. Oh, and we hired a driver to take us on the tour. (I told you it was leisurely!) Continue reading

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Showing ‘big love’ to our mountain neighbors

Here's the Moxley Carmichael team celebrating the holidays in Bullfish, a convivial eatery in Pigeon Forge.

Here’s the Moxley Carmichael team (and some significant others) celebrating the holidays in Bullfish, a convivial eatery in Pigeon Forge.

Every year, Moxley Carmichael’s staff celebrates the holidays (and our year-end bonuses!) with a festive dinner in downtown Knoxville. This year, we had reserved the new private dining room at Babalu on Gay Street, a fun client of ours.

But, being intently focused on the plight of the people of Gatlinburg and Sevier County since the terrible wildfires, we made a change of plans. “The best thing you can do to help us is to keep coming to visit,” one of the officials said during a news conference. We took that to heart. Continue reading

Filed under: Business, Food, Travel | 16 Comments

Cookies, camaraderie mark season’s commencement

Phyllis Nichols, left, and Shaun Fulco seem happy with their haul of cookies. (Photo by Pam Rhoades)

Phyllis Nichols, left, and Shaun Fulco seem happy with their haul of cookies. (Photo by Pam Rhoades)

It’s the craziest thing what a bunch of cookies and a few glasses of wine will do to adult women! After 14 years, I am no longer too surprised by the noise level and the enthusiasm with which my friends throw themselves into the annual rite that is our cookie exchange. But it still impresses me.

I know we say this every year, but I swear the cookies were the best EVER this time! So were the Bloody Marys. I switched from Zing Zang mix to V8 Bloody Mary mix and like it so much better. It’s lighter and easier to drink. (Maybe that’s not such a good thing!) Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Food, Knoxville | 20 Comments