The most unusual dinner in Knoxville

A beautiful table for 20 set up at Willow Creek Gallery.

A beautiful table for 20 set up at Willow Creek Gallery.

Shock chef Anthony Bourdain would be proud of me. When it comes to meat, I usually only eat “normal” stuff — beef, pork and chicken (and the occasional holiday turkey, of course). But Sunday night, not only did I dine on duck breast and braised goat, I actually tasted (I can’t believe I’m typing these words!) beef heart tartare.

It was, by design, an odd occasion.

It was the second official meeting of a group that calls itself Trust Fall Knox. (The group is named after a popular trust-building game often conducted as a group exercise in which a person deliberately allows themselves to fall, relying on the other members of the group to catch him or her.)

According to the group’s “manifesto,” it is Knoxville’s first underground supper club, the brainchild of a handful of diehard foodies who love to eat, drink and meet new people. The idea is to gather a small group of diners — 20 or fewer — from across a variety of social groups to enjoy a gourmet meal prepared by a local chef and served in a clandestine location. “People have been connecting over meals for centuries,” the manifesto notes. “But in the current age, we have too often sacrificed personal connection for convenience and comfort. Trust Fall is an attempt to slow us down, to remind us of what it is like to linger over a wonderful meal that demands your full attention and to share the experience with someone new.”

This banner, bearing the Trust Fall logo, welcomed us.

This banner, bearing the Trust Fall logo, welcomed us.

Part of the Trust Fall experience is placing your trust in the featured chef. So no special dietary requests or preferences are allowed.

It’s kind of a fun cloak-and-dagger experience to get to the dinner. The 20 tickets are sold for $100 each on a first-come, first-served basis. Potential participants receive an email telling them exactly what time the tickets will go on sale. They are snapped up quickly, within an hour. Then you wait until the appointed day, and you are told at 1:15 where your 6:30 p.m. dinner will be. Our email had a link to a Google Map location: 115 East Jackson Ave., in the Old City in downtown Knoxville.

Alan and I decided to participate because we love the chef who was selected to prepare this month’s meal: Matt Gallaher, the chef owner of one of our favorite eateries, Knox Mason on the 100 block of Gay Street. Plus, we thought it would be a romp, which it was.

We showed up at the secret location, which turned out to be Willow Creek Gallery, a business that occupies 20,000 square feet in a historic warehouse and specializes in hand-selected antiques from France and England. It is a very cool space.

When we arrived, we were told we could take pictures and write about the food, the guests and the chefs, but we were not allowed to photograph or reveal the identities of the founders of the group, who would be our wait staff. (I was surprised by some of them, to tell you the truth.)

We fastened ours seat belts, so to speak, and prepared for one of the most original and creative meals we’ve ever had. Nine courses with wine pairings and a signature cocktail served in a quirky, beautiful environment by folks who clearly love what they are doing.

Thanks so much to the team that came up with and executed this unique dining experience. Details on how you can participate are contained later in this blog post.

First things first: a signature cocktail. I was not allowed to show the face of the mixologist muddling our delicious welcoming drink.

First things first: a signature cocktail. I was not allowed to show the face of the mixologist muddling our delicious welcoming drink.

It was a spicy caipirinha, a variation of the official cocktail of Brazil. It contains cacacha, muddled lime and jalapeno, sugar and crushed ice. Delish.

It was a spicy caipirinha, a variation of the official cocktail of Brazil. It contains cacacha, muddled lime and jalapeno, sugar and crushed ice. Delish.

I stepped in the back to say hello to the chefs. Matt Gallaher, center, with Jon Green, left, and Josiah Montgomery.

I stepped in the back to say hello to the chefs. Matt Gallaher, center, with Jon Green, left, and Josiah Montgomery.

“Why would a chef do such a thing,” I asked Matt. He said it’s a treat to have a chance to be truly creative. Clearly, some of the items on this menu would never fly in a working restaurant. He said he appreciated the opportunity to keep honing his skills. We were the lucky beneficiaries.

Guests Holly Hambright and Stanton Webster, too of the biggest foodies around, enjoying their caipirinhas.

Guests Holly Hambright and Stanton Webster, two of the biggest foodies around, enjoying their caipirinhas. Holly is a top-notch caterer here and the owner of Holly’s Eventful Dining. Stanton is manager of Suttree’s on Gay Street.

 

Wayne and Sara Christianson came to Knoxville to work for Whittle Communications in the glory days

Wayne and Sara Christensen came to Knoxville to work for Whittle Communications in the glory days — and never left. Today, he is executive director of Knox Youth Sports. Sara is a graphic designer.

First passed appetizer: Matt's take on tater tots! Potato gnocchi wrapped in Benton's bacon topped with hot pepper aioli.

First passed appetizer: Matt’s take on tater tots! Potato gnocchi wrapped in Benton’s bacon topped with hot pepper aioli. The salty, smoky crunch of the bacon combined with the soft gnocchi and the pop of heat made these practically addictive.

Guests John Craig and Lindsey Collins. John is head of Knoxville's BiscuitFest. Lindsey works at Knox Mason and is Chef Gallaher's girlfriend.

Guests John Craig and Lindsey Collins. John is head of Knoxville’s BiscuitFest. Lindsey works at Knox Mason and is Chef Gallaher’s girlfriend.

 

Some of the interesting items surrounding us.

Some of the interesting items surrounding us.

 

Loved this.

Loved this.

Alysen Wieland and Tommy Smith

Alyse Wieland and Tommy Smith

Here's Matt's version of chips and dip. Prawn crackers with curry comeback sauce for dipping. Those crackers were light as feathers. The curry sauce was delicately flavored. Perfect.

Here’s Matt’s version of chips and dip. Prawn crackers with curry comeback sauce for dipping. Those crackers were light as feathers. The curry sauce was delicately flavored. Perfect.

My hubby, Alan Carmichael, approved.

My hubby, Alan Carmichael, approved.

Wine pairing with this course was a 2012 The Curator chenin blanc blend by A.A. Badenhorst, from Swartland, South Africa.

Brad and Paige Johnson. He is one of the owners of Willow Creek Gallery.

Brad and Paige Johnson. He is one of the owners of Willow Creek Gallery.

Pretty copper pieces.

Pretty copper pieces.

 

Loved this.

Beautiful.

Roy and Susanna Milner. He's the brewery partner at Blackberry Farm.

Roy and Susanna Milner. He’s the brewery partner at Blackberry Farm.

Lots of potential for these pieces.

Lots of potential for these pieces.

 

And these.

And these.

Then it was time to sit down. I loved the wood slices that were the chargers.

Then it was time to sit down. I loved the wood slices that were the chargers.

 

And the sweet centerpieces.

And the sweet centerpieces.

Chef Gallaher said he used some "science-y" molecular gastronomy techniques in some of the evenings offerings, including this one. Asparagus, burrata, Kentucky coppa, mushroom, ramp and marcona almond romesco. He said the burrata, a fresh Italian cheese, was "modified by modern science."

Chef Gallaher said he used some “science-y” molecular gastronomy techniques in some of the evening’s offerings, including this one. Asparagus, burrata, Kentucky coppa, mushroom, ramp and marcona almond romesco. He said the burrata, a fresh Italian cheese, was “modified by modern science.” When you pierced it with a fork, it popped, dispersing a liquid center all over the plate and its contents. Very cool.

Wine was a 2011 Chassagne-Montrachet by Olivier LeFlaive from Cote de Beaune, France.

Beef heart tartare topped with a lightly poached egg yolk, chickpea fries, capers and an anchovy garlic aioli. Yes, I actually tasted it, with some guidance from Stanton on how to prepare it. (Mix the egg and aioli in with the beef.) It was OK. Alan ate all of his!

Beef heart tartare topped with a lightly poached egg yolk, chickpea fries, capers and an anchovy garlic aioli. Yes, I actually tasted it, with some guidance from Stanton on how to prepare it. (Mix the egg and aioli in with the beef.) It was OK. Alan ate all of his!

We had the same Chassagne-Montrachet with this course.

Mariane Whittemore of Scripps Networks considers the beef heart course.

Marianne Whittemore of Scripps Networks considers the beef heart course.

Tom Namey sat beside Alan. He and his wife found out 17 minutes before the dinner that there had been a cancellation and that they could come. They managed to get a babysitter and make it to the Old City in time! Wow. Impressive.

Tom Namey sat beside Alan. He and his wife found out 17 minutes before the dinner that there had been a cancellation and that they could come as substitutes. They managed to get a babysitter and make it to the Old City in time! Wow. Impressive.

Slow roasted trout, castelvetrano and oil cured olives, preserved lemon creme fraiche, bottarga.

Slow roasted trout, castelvetrano and oil cured olives, preserved lemon creme fraiche, bottarga.

With this we had Superior Fino sherry by Sandeman from Jerez, Spain.

Duck breast, foie gras-miso, smoky eggplant, port enriched tare, cracklins.

Duck breast, foie gras-miso, smoky eggplant, port enriched tare, cracklins mixed with wasabi peas.

Wine with the duck was a 2009 E. Guigal Gigondas from Rhone, France.

Braised goat, ember roasted carrots, chevre and cilantro and mint salsa. This was delicious, to my surprise.

Braised goat, ember roasted carrots, chevre and cilantro and mint salsa. This was delicious, to my surprise.

We had the same red wine with this course.

The first dessert course was blis maple panna cotta, buttered popcorn, Benton's bacon crumble and whipped cream served in an egg shell. Spectacular presentation and great flavor combination.

The first dessert course was blis maple panna cotta, buttered popcorn, Benton’s bacon crumble and whipped cream served in an egg shell. Spectacular presentation and great flavor combination.

With the desserts, we were served a delicately sweet sparkling wine: Ruffino Rosatello prima cuvee from Tuscany, Italy.

Finale was dark chocolate cremeux, pistachio, pickled cherries, malted meringe, sea salt and olive oil. Spectacular deep cocoa flavor complimented by all the rest.

Finale was dark chocolate cremeux, pistachio, pickled cherries, malted meringe, sea salt and olive oil. Spectacular deep cocoa flavor complemented by all the rest.

Diners Mike Atkins and Sally Namey

Diners Mike Atkins and Sallie Namey

 

At the end of the meal -- about 10:30 -- they asked us each to sign the back of our chargers.

At the end of the meal — about 10:30 — they asked us each to sign the back of our chargers.

Organizers plan to have these events every four to six weeks, they said. The previous one was held in the basement of O.P. Jenkins furniture store downtown and featured Chef Trevor Stockton of RT Lodge. We’re told the next one will not be downtown.

There are two ways to get on the list to be notified about upcoming Trust Fall events. Follow Trust Fall on Instagram (#trustfallknox) or email them at trustfallknox@gmail.com and ask to be put on the list.

We hope to see you soon at one of these unique culinary adventures. Cheers!

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Food, Knoxville. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to The most unusual dinner in Knoxville

  1. AlanCarmichael, on April 29th, 2014 at 10:51 am said:

    It was a fun crowd and great food. The trout, eggplant and dessert were delicious. Never thought I would eat heart, but there I was.

  2. Tommy Smith, on April 29th, 2014 at 11:27 am said:

    Such a cool experience. And that’s just it. It’s so much more than just a dinner. Oh and it’s Alyse Wieland, not Alysen. 🙂

  3. Marsha Grieve, on April 29th, 2014 at 11:35 am said:

    You guys sure are adventurous….I’d probably only eat the two desserts…they looked awesome!

    Thanks for telling us about this interesting group….Knoxville is becoming so sophisticated….who knew? Only the Bluestreak!

  4. Cynthia Moxley, on April 29th, 2014 at 12:39 pm said:

    Thanks, Tommy. I will change that spelling. I agree about the whole experience.

    Marsha: We forced ourselves to at least try everything. I couldn’t believe that Alan ate all that beef heart!

  5. mcornelius, on April 29th, 2014 at 12:44 pm said:

    I think Alan is a true carnivore.

  6. Karen Ray, on April 29th, 2014 at 2:07 pm said:

    This was so interesting to read I could not stop! The photos were great too. It’s exciting to know we have something like this going on in Knoxville and the meal was so creative, hats off to the chefs. BRAVO!

  7. Cynthia Moxley, on April 29th, 2014 at 10:37 pm said:

    Karen: I feel the same way. I would expect this in New York. Or even Atlanta. But we have it here in K-town! So, so proud.

  8. Gay Lyons, on May 2nd, 2014 at 11:43 am said:

    I’ve got to get on this list. Two desserts? Alan must have been in heaven.

  9. Cynthia Moxley, on May 2nd, 2014 at 11:48 am said:

    Gay: Send your name in. You definitely need to be on this list! I think you would have loved it. Alan couldn’t believe his good fortune when he realized we had two desserts!

  10. eric mcnew, on May 13th, 2014 at 2:04 pm said:

    How does one get more info on this exciting club?
    Eric
    One Social Media @knoxfoodie

  11. Cynthia Moxley, on May 13th, 2014 at 3:18 pm said:

    Eric: See the end of the blog post for info on how to get involved.

  12. Heather, on November 12th, 2014 at 7:36 pm said:

    This sounds heavenly!!!

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