Twilight in the garden of good and evil

Oh, the shame! Flossie McNabb playing the part of Mrs. E.J. Shepard, knocks on a monument to show that it’s hollow! E.J. Shepard, a funeral director in the mid-1800s, insisted on having for his own grave the newfangled metal monument with plaques that could be unscrewed and removed for updating. Little did he know that moonshiners later would discover this unique feature and unscrew the plaques so they could stash their wares in the hollow memorial for their customers to pick up!

The last of Knox Heritage’s fun “Summer Suppers” was one of the year’s best! And it was held in one of the most historic places in Knoxville — Old Gray Cemetery on Broadway.

Established in 1850, Old Gray contains the graves of more than 9,000 people, including those of some of Knoxville’s most influential citizens. “To walk through Old Gray is to travel through 170 years of Knoxville’s history,” said Knox Heritage’s executive director, Kim Trent.

Most of the graves in Old Gray were dug between 1860 and 1910, a time when Knoxville’s marble industry was in its heyday and when the fashion was for elaborate monuments and statuary. This makes Old Gray a fascinating setting for an evening party on a pretty day.

The event for 60 guests sold out quickly — even at $100 per person. Everyone gathered at the gate and proceeded to the empty fountain for appetizers and cocktails. Then, it was on to a twilight stroll and a delicious picnic supper. Some of Old Gray’s inhabitants actually joined the visitors throughout the evening! Come along and see for yourself! Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Historic preservation, Knoxville | 6 Comments

Lin Christenberry: ‘She might have been an angel’

Lin and Chris Christenberry at Cherokee Country Club in November 2014 at a fundraiser for the East Tennessee Historical Society. Jack Hanna was the speaker.

Even after the ushers had lined the aisles of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral with folding chairs, the memorial service for Lin Christenberry was standing room only in downtown Knoxville last night.

You knew the flowers would be beautiful. Lin, an award-winning floral designer, would have loved the lush arrangements of hydrangeas and cream-colored and pink roses on the altar and adorning the processional crucifix.

“Those were Lin’s go-to flowers whenever she was doing an arrangement,” said Martha McClellan, a member of St. John’s Flower Guild and close friend of Lin and her husband, Chris Christenberry. “Lin loved pink roses of every shade.” The Guild is divided into teams, with each team being assigned to arrange flowers every week at the church. “It was a coincidence that Lin’s team happened to be assigned to do the flowers this week,” McClellan said. “It’s safe to say those flowers were arranged with extra love.” They were stunning. Continue reading

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Gwen attracts diverse support (and fun!) at Holly’s

City Council candidate Gwen McKenzie, left, with John and Sandra Butler at her fundraiser on Tuesday.

Last week was a good one for City Council candidate Gwen McKenzie. She had a very successful — and fun! — fundraiser on Tuesday, attracting almost 100 supporters to Holly’s Gourmet’s Market in Bearden and raising more than $4,800.

She also announced that she has been endorsed by seven of her 12 former opponents for the 6th District seat, as well as by Councilman and former Knoxville Mayor Dan Brown, the current incumbent.

If McKenzie is elected to the position Nov. 7, she will be the first African-American female to hold the post in recent history. If she loses, Knoxville will, for the first time in nearly five decades, have an all-white City Council, a fact that disturbs many civic leaders who worry about the effect that would have on business recruitment. Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Food, Knoxville, Politics | 9 Comments

Chef David Bouley: “Living” food makes a long life

Chef David Bouley talking about his philosophy of food and longevity.

Chef David Bouley was blunt as he addressed the 100 or so folks who had shelled out $400 each to have dinner at Bouley Test Kitchen during the New York City Wine and Food Festival earlier this month.

“I am going to your homes with big garbage bags and I’m going to throw away anything in your kitchen that’s processed!” He was only half kidding. He wants Americans to have what he calls “living” pantries.

“Americans have the least living food in their diets,” he said.

Bouley has studied the diets of people who live in places with the longest life spans. Like Okinawa. What do they eat? Garlic, turmeric, coconut oil, Himalayan salt, he said. He’s a huge believer in fermentation. Also spirulina (algae), apple cider vinegar and cod liver oil. Kimchi, pickles, cultured butter, buttermilk and yogurt. And, thankfully, beer and wine. Continue reading

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When the Big Apple beckons — some tips

Our personal tour guide, Ronny Venable, and Sara Rose overlooking sights on the East River. I’m sure you can tell by looking that Ronny is the brother of Sam Venable, the longtime columnist and outdoor reporter for the News Sentinel.

My friends and I know how to maximize an experience.

When Sara Rose and Sheena McCall purchased an auction item at the Clarence Brown Theatre’s annual gala this summer, the offer was two nights in a hotel room for four people along with a walking tour of the city by Ronny Venable (a Clarence Brown alum living in NYC) and a fancy dinner as part of the New York City Wine and Food Festival. Oh, and lunch at Tavern on the Green.

The nights at the InterContinental Times Square, the lunch and the festival dinner were generously donated by Burton Jablin, COO of Scripps Networks Interactive.

But we ramped up the experience to include four nights, three plays, a jazz club and numerous restaurants and shopping stops — in addition to the tour and over-the-top dinner. In short, we maximized it!

Follow along here for our opinions on the good, the bad and the “meh.” And make your reservations! Nothing beats the Big Apple for fun! Continue reading

Filed under: Food, Theater, Travel | 10 Comments

Dinner on the Bridge: A ‘smashing’ success!

Guest Carol Evans runs for the shuttle as torrential winds and rain whip into “Dinner on the Bridge” at about 7 p.m. yesterday.

The “Dinner on the Bridge,” a benefit for the Arts & Culture Alliance which closed the Gay Street Bridge last night, was supposed to end at 8:30. Instead, it came to an abrupt conclusion at 7 p.m. when torrential wind and rain swooped in, turning over tables and sending wine and water glasses crashing to the street.

Nevertheless, it was a big success, raising more than $55,000 and giving about 200 folks an evening of camaraderie, music, dinner and a chance to bid on dozens of pieces of original local art. The only live auction item (thank you for not having dozens of those!) brought $1,100 for a whimsical work by artist Ryan Blair.

I was nervously watching my Dark Sky app on my cellphone, which at first said the bad weather would arrive in 45 minutes. Then 25. Then 3. Then 1. And WHAM, it hit. I was pretty impressed by that app! Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Knoxville | 9 Comments

Even Mother Nature loves Ijams and the Symphony

In the 32-year history of Symphony in the Park, the fun, fun event where the Knoxville Symphony plays at an outdoor fundraiser for Ijams Nature Center at the nature center, there’s never been a rain plan in place. And, although some years have been close, there’s never been a rain-out.

A beautiful night at Ijams Nature Center listening to the Knoxville Symphony.

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Longtime couple tie knot quietly, celebrate out loud

Ted Smith, left, and David Butler were honored with a swell gathering last weekend to celebrate their marriage.

David Butler and Ted Smith have been together as a couple for 20 years. This past Thanksgiving, they decided to get married in a small, quiet ceremony in Connecticut attended only by the couple who first introduced them.

This past Saturday, Caesar and Dorothy Stair and Ann and Steve Bailey hosted a  party at the Stairs’ breathtaking home on Lyons View Pike to honor them and celebrate their legal union. It was neither small nor quiet!

David and Ted seem to be the quintessential evidence that opposites attract. David, the executive director of the Knoxville Museum of Art, is outgoing, gregarious, sardonic and hilarious. Ted, who works for IBM, is quiet and content not to attend every party in town (although he can be pretty sardonic, too!).

Alan and I are proud to count both of them as friends. Congrats, guys!

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‘Evening Under the Stars’ hits all the right notes

Bruce and Tami Hartmann on the dance floor.

Among  our favorite events each year is one called “Evening Under the Stars.” It is held at Sherri Lee’s beautiful waterfront home off Houser Road and it benefits the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, which performs at the annual event.

The food, by Nancy Kendrick’s Creative Catering, is always great. Randy Burleson’s Bistro by the Tracks provides plenty of wine, thankfully including some non-chardonnay options!

The crowd is always in a good mood. And the dance floor always gets crowded. Surprisingly, this year the party went on even though the hostess was in Italy! But, after having done this for more than a decade, the volunteers and professionals who make it happen have it down to a science.

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Filed under: Events, Food, Knoxville, Music | 6 Comments

Gulf gumbo: the good, the bad and the inexplicable

Seafood gumbo at Lulu’s in Gulf Shores. Best gumbo in L.A. (Lower Alabama), if you ask me. The menu says it is made from roux that is stirred “until your arm falls off!”

Just as I think that everyone’s favorite beach is the one they most visited as a child, I feel the same way about gumbo. Gumbo, by its very nature, is something that every cook prepares differently. And you like the one you grew up with.

My mother’s side of the family is from Louisiana and my grandmother, Nanny, was a fabulous cook. My brother and I grew up eating and loving her gumbo.

Nanny’s gumbo was almost always shrimp gumbo. She didn’t put sausage in it. She might throw in some crab meat, if she found some that looked good. Her gumbo was made with a medium to dark roux, but not too dark. And it was relatively thin. A little bit of viscosity was achieved at the end of cooking when she sprinkled in a generous amount of filé powder — ground sassafras leaves. Continue reading

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