Knox Heritage opens can of beans (even for dessert)!

Melinda and Jim Ethier do a little shopping in the gift shop. Jim, the chairman emeritus of Bush Brothers, is the grandson of the founder, A.J. Bush.

When Alan and I signed up to go to Knox Heritage’s Summer Supper at the Bush Brothers canning plant in Chestnut Hill last weekend, we expected that we’d have beans as part of our dinner. But I never dreamed they would be featured in the dessert! Yep. And we’re here to tell you that pinto bean pie is delicious! (More on that later.)

Bush Brothers traces its history to 1904 when founder A.J. Bush partnered with the Stokely family to open a tomato cannery in Chestnut Hill. The business proved so successful that in 1908, Bush bought out the Stokelys and established his own independent business with the help of his two oldest sons, giving birth to Bush Brothers & Company. All the while, the family continued to operate a general store that Bush had opened in 1897 near the plant.

“My grandfather’s first love was always that store,” confided Jim Ethier, the company’s chairman emeritus, when he addressed the Knox Heritage group on Saturday. “He loved interacting with people.”

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Delectable dinner at the Hazens’ — circa the 1920s

Food historian Patrick Hollis discussed the history of grocers, restaurateurs, diners, ingredients, dishes and practices of the Roaring 20s in Knoxville.

There are several challenges incumbent upon those who try to recreate a meal from times long gone. First of all, the original ingredients might not be available. Secondly, trends and tastes have changed. Thirdly, you never really know exactly what the recipes were because they were written so imprecisely long ago.

Nevertheless, the folks who run Knoxville’s historic Mabry-Hazen House on Dandridge Avenue gave it the old college try last weekend when they invited guests to “dinner at the Hazens’ ” as it would have been served in an affluent Knoxville home in the 1920s. Nine of us guests attended and had a fabulous time — even if we did fudge a little on the details by making a run to buy wine during the middle of the dinner. (Knoxville, like the rest of America, was in the throes of Prohibition in the 1920s. Although illegal liquor often was served before and after dinner, there would not have been wine served with dinner, we were told.)

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Urban League gives kids shoes — and confidence

Jamyah Rhodes loved the pretty new shoes she received.

The weather Saturday was perfect for the Knoxville Area Urban League’s 15th annual Shoes for School event which attracted thousands to Caswell Park in East Knoxville. During this year’s gathering, 1,200 children received new pairs of shoes and as many as 3,000 picked up supplies they needed to start school this week.

“The small gesture of a new pair of shoes has a big impact because that child can now start off the school year with so much more confidence,” said Phyllis Y. Nichols, president and CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League. “This event means that happens more than 1,200 times to more than 1,200 children in one day. This truly is one of the most joyful and exciting days of the year for the Knoxville Area Urban League staff and volunteers.”

In addition to the Urban League, about 50 other organizations were involved as partners. Some, such as Helen Ross McNabb Center and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley, helped by pre-selecting the children to receive the shoes. Others, including Comcast, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, Scripps Networks Interactive and Vulcan Materials Company, set up booths to give away school supplies, operate games and inflatables, and pass out drinks and treats.

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Filed under: Events, Knoxville | 7 Comments

Heat can’t beat Knoxvillians set on a feast!

Genius idea! With the heat index above 100, the hosts of this outdoor dinner passed out frozen washcloths several times during the evening. Alyssa Maddox, left, and Julianna Tullos put them to good use!

It was a scorcher! But the charm of the evening more than made up for it. (And the fans helped!)

The occasion was an Italian feast in the lovely historic home of Jim and Pam Given in Fountain City. It was one of Knox Heritage’s Summer Suppers. The food, prepared by the hosts using many ingredients grown in the Givens’ ample backyard gardens, was out of this world.

Just a word about the Summer Suppers. They are a wonderful way to experience different neighborhoods in East Tennessee and get to know other preservation-minded folks in a fun, casual environment. Four of the remaining Suppers have some tickets left. We would urge you to grab them, if you can.

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John Winemiller puts it in reverse!

John Winemiller, left, and R.J. Hinde get ready to welcome guests as the party gets started with cocktails.

As an attorney, John Winemiller, naturally, has a way with words. But even he outdid himself with this one. He called his birthday party the other night “my reverse quinceanera!”

A quinceanera, you see, is the big celebration that Latin American girls have when they turn 15. John was turning 51! Whatever he wanted to call it, we wouldn’t have missed it.

John lives in a beautifully restored Craftsman-style house in the Island Home neighborhood of South Knoxville. It features a wonderful front porch spanning nearly the length of the house. That’s where caterer Holly Hambright provided a delicious sit-down dinner of John’s favorite foods for about 20 of his closest friends. Although the heat index topped 100, the ceiling fans made the evening comfortable. And the camaraderie was as warm as the evening.

Come along and see the reverse quinceanera. And pass the idea along if you know anyone turning 51. John’s hoping to start a trend.

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Historic preservation with a Polish twist (and pierogies!)

Tom Traylor offers Polish vodka between courses at the Knox Heritage dinner at the Ashes’ home.

Pierogies, borscht, cabbage. Ah, the food of Poland.

And vodka, of course. Potato vodka.

Forty folks shelled out $170 each for these delicacies last week, along with a chance to dine at the Sequoyah Hills home of former Ambassador to Poland Victor Ashe and his wife, Joan.

The evening was lovely. The Ashes have increased their already extensive international art collection and have recently added an art gallery and swimming pool to the historic property, a storybook cottage on Kingston Pike designed by Barber and McMurry in 1921.

The evening was one of Knox Heritage’s Summer Suppers, which benefit the preservation organization.

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Who wins when best downtown bartenders compete?

Zach Gillani of Sapphire won second place for “Power Up,” a drink spicy with ginger that included vodka, tomatillo solution, Rushy Springs Farm Manzanilla pepper shrub, bell pepper oleo saccharum, Reed’s ginger beer and shaved ginger root. Very original. A “shrub” is a vinegar-based syrup; an “oleo saccharum” is citrus peels ground in sugar.

They called it the Tomato Jam and it was a spirited (ha!) event held yesterday to benefit Nourish Knoxville, the non-profit that runs the Market Square Farmers’ Market and other outreach programs designed to make us a healthier community.

The drinks competition pitted eight bartenders from some of downtown’s best-known restaurants and bars against each other in an attempt to make the best tomato-based cocktail from locally grown produce.

Attendees at the event, held at the Mill & Mine, voted on their favorites and here were the winners:

First Place: J.C. Holdway and bartender Micah Talley for a drink called “Don’t Go Bacon My Heart.”

Second Place: Sapphire and bartender Zach Gillani for a drink called “Power Up.”

Third Place: The Drawing Room at the Tennessean Personal Luxury Hotel and bartender Kyle Hagerty for a drink called “The Cherokee Leg Bruise.

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Filed under: Downtown, Events, Food, Knoxville | 8 Comments

Clarence Brown Theatre annual trip to New York City: octopus pastrami, chocolate soup (oh, and plays!)

Alan Carmichael outside “War Paint,” one of the three Broadway plays on the Clarence Brown Theatre’s annual New York trip. We loved it.

Going to New York is always fun, but you can have a particularly good experience if you go with like-minded people. That’s why the Clarence Brown Theater’s annual New York excursion is so special. (That and the food, of course!)

Cal MacLean, the theater’s artistic director, and his super competent staff generally put together a trip you might not be able to pull off by yourself. And Cal has a wonderful knack for selecting plays that will end up with a slew of Tony nominations.

This year, for instance, the three plays were “OSLO,” which garnered seven nominations and won the Tony for Best Play; “Hello, Dolly!” which received 10 Tony nominations and won for Best Musical Revival and Lead Actress in a Musical, which went to Bette Midler; and “War Paint,” which got four nominations and starred stalwarts Patti Lupone and Christine Ebersole. Continue reading

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NouxBarb: Eat here, get gas!

Chef Bruce Bogartz and Glo Klarich at NouxBarb last week.

(UPDATE: Since this item was posted on July 10, Chef Bogartz has exited this project. Click here for a News Sentinel story regarding that decision.)

Ha. That’s the slogan that Glo Klarich, maitre d’ of chef Bruce Bogartz’ newest eating venture, jokingly put forth. It’s pretty funny considering that you actually can do both there.

While several eateries have opened in the location of former gas stations — think Balter Beerworks and Full Service BBQ — this is different because it is a sit-down restaurant with tablecloths and wait staff in a fully functioning gas station. Located at 401 S. Northshore Drive at Moe’s Market & Deli, Bogartz officially started his sit-down dinner service last week.

“My goal is to be the best restaurant in Knoxville – and be in a gas station,” Bogartz said while table-hopping on Thursday.

Bogartz has been running restaurants in Knoxville for more than 20 years. I loved Primo in the Sunsphere when he was there not too long ago. Prior to that, he had a restaurant called Bogartz in Homberg Place and, for a long time, RouXbarb on Northshore across the street from his current location. He calls his new place NouxBarb (New-barb), a hat-tip to his former restaurant. Continue reading

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Betsey Bush: She was “all in”

Betsey Bush, left, and her stepdaughter Sarah Nuckolls at the opening of the Knoxville Symphony Show House in 2012. Sarah spoke at Betsey’s funeral yesterday.

If you had wanted to merge together all the arts organizations in Knoxville, you could have taken a vote on it yesterday at the memorial service for philanthropist and community enthusiast Betsey Bush.

Leaders of all the major institutions were there at Second Presbyterian Church, from the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, the Knoxville Opera and the Knoxville Museum of Art to garden and history lovers of every stripe. Betsey loved and supported them all. Nine musicians from the Knoxville Symphony performed during the hour-long service, as did Brenda Goslee on the magnificent Condon Bush Memorial Organ, which Betsey funded after her late husband, canning magnate Condon Bush, passed away in 2003. Continue reading

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