Spring event scores a hat trick

Thank you to Lauren Miller of Moxley Carmichael for writing this guest post for the Blue Streak. -Cynthia Moxley

Everyone was welcomed by this cute sign.

Everyone was welcomed by this cute sign.

Mother Nature smiled on the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum this week. Yesterday, the historic East Knoxville garden hosted the third annual Hats in Bloom luncheon, and the weather for the outdoor springtime event was divine – breezy and cool in shade and warm in the sun.

The nice weather may have wooed attendees to the gardens after a bout of rainy days in Knoxville, but the success of this fundraiser cannot be credited to the forecast alone.

Event chair Jackie Wilson, along with the staff of the Knoxville Botanical Garden, has grown Hats in Bloom from just more than 50 attendees in its first year to about 100 in its second year to a total of 150-plus supporters at this year’s event on April 23.

With three successful years of growth, it’s no surprise that the event has scored a hat trick, you might say. A unique draw for the luncheon are the one-of-a-kind hats for sale by esteemed milliner Patricia Frankum.

(read more)


The sad reality of racism in Knoxville

Our friends Jim and Phyllis Nichols at a Symphony fundraiser at Blackberry Farm recently.

Our friends Jim and Phyllis Nichols at a Symphony fundraiser at Blackberry Farm recently. He is neither a waiter nor a valet nor a musician.

I really thought we in Knoxville were making progress on this racism thing. But Sunday was a wake-up call about how far we still have to go. I have to admit I am disappointed and a little depressed.

It started with the Sunday News Sentinel.

There was a prominent article about two local debutante balls – one produced by the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, the oldest African American women’s organization in the country, and the Dogwood Ball produced by the East Tennessee Presentation Society. Held on the same night in March, one featured all African-American young women and the other featured all white women.

There was one big difference. Rosalyn Tillman, presentation chair of this year’s AKA Ball (and also the dean of Pellissippi State’s Magnolia Avenue campus, by the way), told the reporter that being African American is not a requirement for a young woman to be considered to be one of the AKA debs. (read more)


Chalk it up as a great weekend!

This was just one of the freindly -- and funny -- llamas at World's Fair Park Saturday for the Great Lllama Race. It was a hoot!

This was just one of the friendly — and funny — llamas at World’s Fair Park Saturday for the Great Llama Race. It was a hoot!

Wow, I just hope this coming weekend is as much fun as last weekend was! If you didn’t have a good time in Knoxville last weekend, you just weren’t paying attention.

Not only was there the Rhythm and Blooms Festival, which provided scores of entertainers of many kinds at a wide variety of venues, but country diva Emmylou Harris performed an intimate fundraiser for 150 folks on the stage of the Tennessee Theatre; the Knoxville Symphony Pops Orchestra played the music of Queen to a full house at the Civic Auditorium; Chalk Walk jammed Krutch Park and Market Square; and the Great Llama Race brought hundreds of humans and llamas to World’s Fair Park. It all was phenomenal.

As you know, I love Knoxville all year round. But this time of year is just the tops, when we all are shaking off the winter doldrums and we have the anticipation of all the camaraderie that summer brings literally hanging in the air. Here’s just a glimpse at some of last weekend’s entertainments. (read more)


Eaters ask: Where will Lenn land?

At party called "Cheers &  Beers!" celebrating Chef Joseph Lenn's 10 years at Blackberry Farm. From left, Chef Lenn; another Blackberry alum who is opening a restaurant across the street from 3 Rivers Market; and Matt Gallaher, chef owner of Knox Mason.

At the party called “Cheers & Beers!” celebrating Chef Joseph Lenn’s 10 years at Blackberry Farm were, from left, Chef Lenn; Joe Cunningham, another Blackberry alum who is opening a restaurant across the street from Three Rivers Market; and Matt Gallaher, chef owner of Knox Mason.

The biggest question among Knoxville foodies? Where is Chef Joseph Lenn’s new restaurant going to be?

As you may have seen in the News Sentinel (click here), Chef Lenn, who has been at Blackberry Farm for 10 years and has been executive chef at The Barn there since 2007, announced his resignation about a month ago. His last night was Friday. He will be replaced by Blackberry’s executive sous chef, Cassidee Dabney.

But the most intriguing part of this turn of events is that Chef Lenn also announced he will open a restaurant in the Knoxville area. I happened to be at Blackberry a few weeks ago, and I told him rumors were swirling in Knoxville about where his new eatery might be located. “That’s the most frequently asked question I get,” he laughed. I told him that one story is that it will be in Happy Holler. “Would that be a good thing or a bad thing?” he asked coyly. “I live in downtown Knoxville, so it would be a good thing for me!” I said. But he wasn’t talking.

He also wasn’t talking last Sunday at a party in his honor held at the downtown Knoxville Public House. In fact, he circulated a sign-up sheet asking for folks’ email addresses. Here’s what the sheet said at the top. “Name: To be determined. Location: We’ll let you know. Opening: These things take time…” Ha! He’s playing it for all it’s worth. Good for him. (read more)


Saluting a circle of sisters

Melinda Meador proposing a toast to the women who have become like Knoxville sisters to her.

Melinda Meador proposing a toast to the women who have become like Knoxville sisters to her.

Melinda Meador turned 60 earlier this year and her friend Sheena McCall offered to have a party for her. Sheena was thinking Melinda would like a cocktail party in Sheena’s stunning Cherokee Boulevard home.

But Melinda surprised her. She asked, instead, for a Sunday afternoon tea party. So that’s what Sheena arranged — for about 50 of Melinda’s girlfriends.

The day was beautiful — just what one would want for a tea party. It was one of the first warm spells we had this year, and Sheena loaded the living and dining areas with tons of colorful flower arrangements. All the food was hand prepared by some of the guests. And it was delicious. A piano player provided background music on Sheena’s big baby grand.

After folks had indulged in the repast and taken their fill of tea (and Port wine and sherry), everyone gathered in Sheena’s sunroom for a champagne toast to Melinda. And Melinda responded with one of her own. (read more)


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)