A perfect Friday: art, friends, caviar & wine

Stevens Koella Hall, left, poses with artist Hunt Slonem.

Stevens Koella Hall, left, poses with artist Hunt Slonem.

As my friend Dawn Ford remarked recently, “It’s great to eat caviar and drink wine in the middle of the afternoon.”

Especially if the day is your birthday and you are at Blackberry Farm with a bunch of nice folks listening to a truly fascinating artist who is in East Tennessee as the guest of the Knoxville Museum of Art.

That was the occasion on Friday, March 2, a birthday I share with Jim Clayton and Dr. Seuss. Dawn and I were attending the Artist’s Luncheon spotlighting painter Hunt Slonem, the featured artist of the KMA’s L’Amour du Vin 2012 weekend, a huge annual fund-raising wine auction. Hunt Slonem is a true character. His primary medium is oil and he describes his technique as “wet on wet.” But it is the subject matter that is so compelling to me: monkeys, birds and rabbits are among his favorite subjects. But he also is obsessed with saints and historical figures. And color, color, color.

“I believe in painting floors, walls and ceilings of a room the same color,” he told the 50 or so folks gathered in the sun terrace of The Barn at Blackberry Farm. “But I won’t paint the trim in a room of an old building. I leave the peeling trim.” Slonem has ample experience with this. He owns three huge historic mansions: two plantations in Louisiana and the Cordts mansion in upstate New York. Click here for a wonderful profile of him by Rita Braver a few years ago on CBS Sunday Morning. Click here for a fun read about him in the New York Times.

Part of what makes Slonem so much fun to listen to is his wholehearted belief in interacting with the supernatural. His stories are full of references to things he has been told by psychics, fortune tellers, healers, mystics, sages, ghosts and dead people including Abraham Lincoln and Rudolph Valentino. Seriously. And his occasionally self-deprecating humor makes his talk and slide-show of his work so much fun. “I’m a firm believer,” he said, “that if you hate something, you should buy a lot of it. I hate depression glass. But I kept seeing it in flea markets and now I have about 100 depression glass candlesticks and they look kind of great!”

Here are a few photos of this wonderful Friday experience. I am afraid I am becoming addicted to Blackberry Farm. When anyone mentions they are having a charitable event there, I practically race to give them my credit card number! This could become a very expensive habit.

Dawn Ford,  left, Melinda Meador and Mike Winchester during the gathering portion of the afternoon. The welcoming libation at 11:30 a.m.: Veuve Clicquot champagne. Very civilized, if you ask me.

Dawn Ford, left, Melinda Meador and Mike Winchester during the gathering portion of the afternoon. The welcoming libation at 11:30 a.m.: Veuve Clicquot champagne. Very civilized, if you ask me.

Baby beets with butter and salt were one of the passed hors d'oeuvres. Very refreshing.

Baby radishes with butter and salt were one of the passed hors d'oeuvres. Very refreshing.

Cathy and Mark Hill great Stephen Wicks, right, curator of the Knoxville Museum or Art.

Cathy and Mark Hill greet Stephen Wicks, right, curator of the Knoxville Museum or Art.

Melissa Sands passes Southern fried dilly beans with buttermilk ranch dip. Delicious.

Melissa Sands passes Southern fried dilly beans with buttermilk ranch dip. Delicious.

The third passed nibble was black-eyed pea hummus on lavash with fried black-eyed peas and mosh.

The third passed nibble was black-eyed pea hummus on lavash with fried black-eyed peas and mosh.

Here's a close-up of that little number!

Here's a close-up of that little number!

The table settings were just sublime, though simple.

The table settings were just sublime, though simple.

I've noticed that Blackberry tends to use the most pared-down centerpieces. But they are beautiful.

I've noticed that Blackberry tends to use the most pared-down centerpieces. But they are beautiful.

Susan Hawthorne and Myron Ely.

Susan Hawthorne and Myron Ely.

Artist John Kelley and Carol Martin

Artist John Kelley and Carol Martin

Bob and Pat Wells were the guests of Lexus of Knoxville, the presenting sponsor of the event. They were the first in Knoxville to purchase a 2013 Lexus GS.

Bob and Pat Wells were the guests of Lexus of Knoxville, the presenting sponsor of the event. They were the first to purchase a 2013 Lexus GS from the dealership.

Lynne Fugate with her boss, James Vavalides, general banking head and Knoxville market executive of CapitalMark Bank & Trust.

Lynne Fugate with her boss, James Vavalides, general banking head and Knoxville market executive of CapitalMark Bank & Trust.

First seated course was a root vegetable salad with American caviar, quail egg, sunchoke chips and hickory gastrique. It was fabulous paired with a 2009 Chardonnay from Edge Hill's Bacigalupi Vineyard in Russion River Valley.

First seated course was a root vegetable salad with American caviar, quail egg, sunchoke chips and hickory gastrique. It was fabulous paired with a 2009 Chardonnay from Edge Hill's Bacigalupi Vineyard in Russian River Valley.

Blackberry Farm proprietor Sam Beall described Edge Hill this way: "As soon as you walk on the Edge Hill property, you are surrounded with positive energy."

Blackberry Farm proprietor Sam Beall described Edge Hill this way: "As soon as you walk on the Edge Hill property, you are surrounded with positive energy."

This is Samantha Rudd, whose family owns Edge Hill and its five-acre vineyard.

This is Samantha Rudd, whose family owns Edge Hill and its five-acre vineyard.

According to Sam Beall, Edge Hill is the second oldest wine vineyard on the North Coast of California. “It’s the Chardonnay that made California Chardonnay famous,” he said. Here is a link to Edge Hill, but the website is quite limited. If you’d like to learn more about it click here for an interesting article about Samantha’s father.

Entree course was grilled squab with fennel puree, roasted fennel and lemon herb gnocchi. The gnocchi knocked us out! This course was paired wtih a 2009 Edge Hill wine called Mixed Blacks from Napa Valley.

Entree course was grilled squab with fennel puree, roasted fennel and lemon herb gnocchi. The gnocchi knocked us out! This course was paired with a 2009 Edge Hill wine called Mixed Blacks from Napa Valley.

Here's what it looked like underneath the garnish.

Here's what it looked like underneath the garnish.

Kreis Beall, left, is Sandy Beall's mother and the person credited with having the original vision for what Blackberry Farm is today. Center is David Butler, executive director of the Knoxville Museum of Art, and artist John Kelley.

Kreis Beall, left, is Sam Beall's mother and the person credited with having the original vision for what Blackberry Farm is today. Center is David Butler, executive director of the Knoxville Museum of Art, and artist John Kelley.

Artist Hunt Slonem and Samantha Rudd

Artist Hunt Slonem and Samantha Rudd

David Butler, standing, with Sylvia and Jan Peters

David Butler, standing, with Sylvia and Jan Peters

Dessert was this over-the-top vanilla bean pot de creme served with housemade shortbread.

Dessert was this over-the-top vanilla bean pot de creme served with housemade shortbread.

Our tablemate Jackie Wilson liked it as much as we did!

Our tablemate Jackie Wilson liked it as much as we did!

Susan Hyde, the KMA's director of development, chatted with us for a few minutes after lunch.

Susan Hyde, the KMA's director of development, chatted with us for a few minutes after lunch.

Mimi Turner took the opportunity to get a signed copy of Slonem's latest book, "The World's of Hunt Slonem."

Mimi Turner took the opportunity to get a signed copy of Slonem's latest book, "The Worlds of Hunt Slonem."

12 Responses to “A perfect Friday: art, friends, caviar & wine”

  1. Looks like great fun. And Mike Winchester is as handsome as ever!

  2. You are right as always. Sounds like the perfect Friday. So glad it was a celebration of your Birthday.

  3. Cynthia you outdone yourself on this one! So glad you were there to celebrate your 29th in style. Aren’t we just lucky to have a neighbor like Blackberry?

  4. Annette: Hahaha .Agree about Mike! Thanks, Mickey. And, David: Can’t wait till your next event there. We are VERY lucky to have them.

  5. Lois and I have been big pals with Hunt for many years. We’ve got some terrific Slonems in the collection. He’s a true original.

  6. Hey, Leigh! Wow, you know him? What a trip he must be in “real life!” I want to see the Slonems you have. I was so thrilled to see your comment. Thanks so much!

  7. OK–next year I’m going whether it’s your birthday or not. Sounds too fabulous to miss.

  8. Happy Birthday and John Kelly looks so handdsome I have four portriats my son and three grandsons that he painted. Looked like a great evening. Wish I could have been there Fay

  9. Wow! I want your life. What a great birthday setting and the food looks delicious. Cynthia: You deserved a great birthday.

  10. Thanks, everyone! Gay, yes, you really need to go next year. You would love it. Fay, John WAS handsome. How lucky you are to have those portraits! And Monique, you practically DO have my life! You moved downtown, love it as much as I do, and have even joined our progressive dinner group. Next year: Blackberry Farm in March!

  11. Samantha Rudd was so down to earth and literally invited everyone to stop by if and when they’re in wine country. I went to the KMA event Saturday evening and I’m still dreaming about the fantastic food and wine pairings.

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