Sweet P’s Downtown Dive is open!

Christopher, left, and Jonathan Ford, the owners of the new Sweet P's Barbeque and Downtown Dive on Jackson Avenue.

Christopher, left, and Jonathan Ford. The cousins are owners of the new Sweet P’s Downtown Dive on Jackson Avenue.

Last week, after a “friends and family” night on Wednesday, Sweet P’s Barbeque opened its second location — this one downtown at 410 W. Jackson Ave., next door to The Standard.

It is, in my opinion, a perfect barbecue joint. First of all, it’s very comfortable. I don’t know why, but the space just feels welcoming and familiar. Secondly, it’s quirky. Every chair is different. The booths feature reclaimed church pews. And the decor is 1982 World’s Fair. Where else will you find that combination?

But, of course, the most important thing of all is that the food is fantastic and authentic. The meats are prepared in a smoker behind the building. In fact, you can smell the barbecue from blocks away, which is the best advertising ever.

Disclosure: We are helping Sweet P’s with public relations. Not that they need it. The place has a huge following from its original location at 3725 Maryville Pike. And downtown needed a real barbecue place.

The two locations, by design, each have a different vibe. The original, Sweet P’s Barbeque & Soul House, features live music on a routine basis. Located at Willow Point Marina, it is accessible by water. The new location, called Sweet P’s Downtown Dive, has a garage door on its front wall. It will be raised on nice days, opening the restaurant to the sidewalk — and the railroad yard across the street. Uber cool. And, coming soon, one of the largest beer gardens in downtown Knoxville. (read more)


Heartache at the Heart Gala

Grace, left, and Angie Wilson at the 2015 Heart Gala.

Grace, left, and Angie Wilson at the 2015 Heart Gala.

We at Moxley Carmichael were not in much of a party mood the other day when we headed to Cherokee Country Club for the 30th annual Heart Gala. Although we did get dressed up (and looked pretty darn good, if I do say so myself!) and had a table in the center of the ballroom, we knew the evening would be one of mixed emotions for us. This year’s Heart Gala, which funds the American Heart Association‘s fight against heart disease and stroke, was dedicated to our late friend and co-worker Bob Wilson.

A year ago this month, I answered my cellphone on a Sunday morning and my friend Erin Donovan was on the line. Trained as a reporter, she got straight to the point. “I’ve got some bad news,” she said. “Bob Wilson died last night.”

“What?” I asked, thinking she must be referring to somebody else with the same name. “Bob Wilson? You don’t mean MY Bob Wilson!” (read more)


Strings, scenes and splendor at Blackberry Farm

My favorite outfit of the night? His great number worn by Holly Watkins, whose husband, Russ, is a KSO board member.

My favorite outfit of the night? This great ensemble worn by Holly Watkins, whose husband, Russ, is a KSO board member.

The timing couldn’t have been better. The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra’s annual fundraiser at Blackberry Farm fell on a warm Sunday evening last month — right during a break in the frigid weather. It was so warm, in fact, that guests were able to enjoy the breathtaking view for which Blackberry Farm is famous from a lovely patio outside the dining area.

Unlike in the previous three years of this unique event, dinner was not served in Blackberry’s Barn, which was not available due to Blackberry’s other commitments. It was held in a smaller cottage and only 68 seats were available for sale. But this scarcity only added to the intimacy of the event. Instead of the sounds of the KSO Chamber Orchestra, guests were enthralled by the artisanship of Gabriel Lefkowitz & Friends performing Dvořák’s String Quintet.

“I thought it was even better,” declared Jim Haslam, who always has said this is his favorite fundraising event of the year.

Tickets are $350 each and well worth it when you consider that folks travel from around the world to dine and stay at Blackberry. We are so lucky that it’s in our own backyard. Thanks to Blackberry for its commitment to music and culture in our community by making this experience available to benefit the symphony. I wholeheartedly recommend that you grab some of these seats next year. (read more)


Two lagniappes for you foodies

Lagniappe. In Louisiana, where my mother’s side of the family is from, a “lagniappe” means “a little something extra.”

That’s what this short post is. And that’s what it’s about. A couple of little “something extras” we got from Chef Luciano Parolari at that amazing dinner we wrote about in the last post.

The first is something that anyone can do. I intend to use it as a container for a salad at our next dinner party. It’s a bowl made entirely of parmesan cheese, and it couldn’t be easier to make.

You start by throwing some grated parmesan cheese -- the kind that's aged, Chef Luciano insisted -- into a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Use about 1/4 cup.

You start by throwing some grated parmesan cheese — the kind that’s aged, Chef Parolari insisted — into a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Use about 1/4 cup.

(read more)


The ‘King of Risotto’ comes to town

Chef Luciano Parolari during a recent cooking demonstration in Richard and Bette Bryan's Knoxville kitchen.

Chef Luciano Parolari during a recent cooking demonstration in Richard and Bette Bryan’s Knoxville kitchen.

Richard and Bette Bryan, along with their friends Sharon and Dr. Bill Laing, have been many times to a fabulous resort called Villa d’Este in Lake Como, Italy.

They love the chef there, Luciano Parolari, so much that they just had to share him with their Knoxville friends. So recently, for the second year in a row, they flew Parolari and his wife, Mara, to Knoxville for two nights of cooking classes — and eating — in their beautiful West Knoxville home.

You won’t believe this food.

Chef Parolari, who recently retired after more than four decades at Villa d’Este, is known internationally as the “King of Risotto.” And he proved it once again the other night in Knoxville. For Bette Bryan, Chef Parolari’s “Risotto Milanese” was her “best bite” of the many-coursed dinner. (Mine was the homemade ravioli.) Speaking of courses, while the 10 of us gathered around the Bryans’ huge kitchen island, appetizers were served for three hours. That was followed by a sit-down dinner, dessert and a little something extra. If you can imagine.

I can see why celebrities ranging from Sir Elton John to Madonna, Gianni Versace and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor are Parolari fans. (read more)


Super supper in Seattle (sorta)

Leek tart topped with pecorino and served with hazelnut vinaigrette was the amuse bouche to start the meal.

Leek tart topped with pecorino and served with hazelnut vinaigrette was the amuse-bouche to start the meal.

After work yesterday, Alan and I had dinner in Seattle. But we were back in our downtown Knoxville home by 9 p.m.

Actually, we only went to Bearden. We were at Holly’s in Homberg Place where chef Holly Hambright is offering “a taste bud tour of the world in nine menus.” Last night  happened to be “dinner in  Seattle.” It was the second of these creative themed repasts. We missed the first, Munich, Germany. Still to come: Mendoza, Argentina; Marseille, France; Kyoto, Japan; Barcelona, Spain; Bologna, Italy; Montreal, Quebec; and (ha!) Knoxville, Tennessee.

Each dinner is five courses (six, if you count the amuse-bouche) and you can bring your own wine. Cost is $120 per person. Think that’s a little pricey? Well, you can do what I saw a woman at the next table doing. She brought a cooler filled with plastic ziplock containers. She put at least half of each course in a container to take home. So, if you do that, you can have two $60 meals. And, believe me, the course sizes are plenty large enough to carry out this plan. (read more)


Knoxville Mercury hopes to rise

Jack Neely, executive director of The Knoxville History Project and a force behind The Knoxville Mercury, at a fundraiser for the project last month.

Jack Neely, executive director of The Knoxville History Project and a force behind The Knoxville Mercury, at a fundraiser for the project last month.

The folks at The Knoxville Mercury, the alternative weekly newspaper that will be the successor to Metro Pulse, are getting settled in to their office space in The Walnut Building.

Looking at a mid-March launch, they now have office furniture and Internet service. Their art director, Tricia Bateman, is working on a logo for the paper, and some of their founding writers and editors are busy cranking out Facebook posts and blog posts. (Click here. And here.) They’ve hired a sales staff. And editor Coury Turczyn is sifting through resumes and applications for a staff writer and various freelance help. They are working on their editorial calendar for the first year.

Last month, in the depths of winter, they had a jaunty little fundraiser at The Standard in downtown Knoxville attended by about 100 folks. At $100 per head, well, you do the math. They were quite satisfied with the result. Alan was out of town, but I dropped by just to see who else would be there. Plus, when I heard the food was by Knox Mason, well, there really wasn’t any question about my going. I love that place.

Music, too, was by one of my favorite local bands, Kukuly and the Gypsy Fuego. (read more)


White Lily Flats: THIS is urban living!

Amanda Jennings in one of the apartments in White Lily Flats.

Amanda Jennings in one of the apartments in White Lily Flats. “Where do you put the bed?” I asked. “Anywhere you want,” David Dewhirst replied.

When people talk about “urban living,” I always think the condo where Alan and I live in the Cherokee Building on Church Avenue is a good example of that. It has tons of exposed brick and the drop-ceilings have been removed, meaning you can see all the heating and air conditioning duct work. It’s pretty cool.

But when it comes to urban living, our condo is nothing compared to the newly finished apartments that David Dewhirst and Mark Heinz are offering in the White Lily Flour building at 222 N. Central St., just across the railroad tracks from the heart of Knoxville’s Old City. My colleague, Amanda Shell Jennings, and I went on a tour there sponsored by Urban Land Institute last month. The building is now called White Lily Flats and contains 47 residences with retail space on the ground floor. Folks, this is what “urban living” looks like! (read more)


Booze Traveler makes pit stop in Knoxville

Jack Maxwell, left, with Steve Morse, director of the hospitality and tourism program in the College of Business at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. Previously, Morse taught in the Tourism Institute at the University of Tennessee.

Jack Maxwell, left, with Steve Morse, director of the hospitality and tourism program in the College of Business at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C. Previously, Morse taught in the Tourism Institute at the University of Tennessee.

Our friends at Scripps Networks Interactive summoned a few folks last Friday to happy hour at the tiny Peter Kern Library, the speakeasy off the lobby of The Oliver Hotel in downtown Knoxville. The purpose of the event: to introduce everyone to Jack Maxwell, the star of the new Travel Channel show, “Booze Traveler.”

Maxwell, 51, is an actor and former bartender from South Boston who says he learned in that profession that when you sit down with a stranger over a few drinks, “the whole world opens up.” In his 15-episode series, which airs on Mondays at 10 p.m., Maxwell and his crew travel to various locations around the world, including Armenia, Belize, Lithuania, Mongolia and Nepal. At each stop, Maxwell drinks with locals and learns about the alcohol customs of each country which, as you can imagine, vary widely.

On Friday, guests were treated to two signature cocktails, “High Note,” made of Whisper Creek, Nonino Amaro, Fernet-Branca, root beer bitters and coffee liqueur; and “Aunt Adelaide,” made of Fords gin, Dolin Blanc, Aperol, orange liqueur, lemon juice, orange bitters and muddled strawberry. Folks seemed to be enjoying both, but because I was headed to another event, I stuck to pinot grigio because I was better able to gauge its expected effect on me. (read more)


Blue Streak salutes a ‘full’ inauguration weekend!

Newly sworn in second-term Gov. Bill Haslam and his wife, Crissy, share a first dance to Rascal Flatts' rendition of their hit, "My Wish."

Newly sworn in second-term Gov. Bill Haslam and his wife, Crissy, share a first dance to Rascal Flatts’ rendition of their hit, “My Wish.”

At Moxley Carmichael, we love Gov. Bill Haslam. We worked with him when he was at Pilot more than 20 years ago. We worked on his first mayoral campaign. And we supported him when he ran for governor — both times.

So, of course, when we got the invitation to his second inaugural weekend earlier this month, we were totally on board. After all, we had such a blast at his first one! (Click here and here for that two-part Blue Streak post.)

This year, Moxley Carmichael was represented not only by Alan and me, but by our CFO, Shaun Fulco Hyver, and by our newest account executive, Hannah Parker. Hannah joined our company last year after a four-year stint in the governor’s office — and, prior to that, three years in the office of Bill Haslam when he was Knoxville’s mayor. We knew she knew her way around Nashville, and she wowed us by making all the arrangements for our trip. (Thanks, Hannah!)

We had a blast and saw tons of fellow Knoxvillians there. Although I broke the last inauguration into two Blue Streak posts, I’ll just post all the pictures on one this year. You can stop reading when you get tired!

So, here goes! (read more)