So many hats — and only one head!

Kelly Burchett, Knox County’s First Lady, joined in the fun.

Maybe it was the startlingly beautiful weather last Friday. Or maybe it was the mimosas and Bloody Marys. Or maybe it was just getting a bunch of nice ladies and a bunch of nice hats together in one spot.

Or a combination of all three.

But, whatever it was, something made the 6th annual “Hats in Bloom” luncheon at the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum an absolutely joyous occasion. People could not stop smiling as they tried on hats designed by acclaimed milliner Patricia Frankum prior to a delightful lunch by caterer Rex Bradford Jones.

The noise level rose to a loud roar as more and more women poured into the Dogwood Center located on the 47 acres that comprise the East Knoxville garden. The only misstep of the day was when the champagne ran out during lunch, which was probably for the better! Continue reading

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Symphony ShowHouse goes uptown. (You should, too!)

Nick and Rebecca Cazana. Nick, who was strutting around like a proud father, is the proprietor of The Tennessean Personal Luxury Hotel & Residences. But he prefers to call himself simply “the innkeeper.” (The blue footies, provided on-site, are required for all who take the tour.)

Every year, the Knoxville Symphony League typically selects a brand new 5,500-square-foot home, usually on the water, and invites an assortment of interior designers to decorate its various rooms. Called the Symphony Designer ShowHouse, tours of the home are one of the League’s largest fundraisers of the year.

Folks love to go through the tricked-out home looking for good ideas and shopping in the creative gift shop, which usually is set up in the home’s three-car garage.

But, this year, the ShowHouse has moved in from the suburbs. It is set up in three residences located on the sixth floor of the stunning Tennessean Personal Luxury Hotel & Residences , which is at the corner of Henley Street and  Clinch Avenue across the street from the Knoxville Convention Center and the Sunsphere.

You’ve got to see it. Designers from Laws Interiors, Bennett Galleries, Bill Cox Furniture, Westwood Antique & Design Market, Ethan Allen and Gail Gamble Reed Trends and Traditions have outdone themselves making each residence unique and doing everything possible to showcase the fantastic views afforded of World’s Fair Park, the downtown skyline, the mountains and the University of Tennessee. Continue reading

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Jazz ‘changed everything’ for visiting artist

Vibraphonist Stefon Harris charmed the crowd with his remarks last night. He will perform tonight with the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra at the Bijou Theatre.

The lobby of the historic Arcade Building on Gay Street was the perfect setting last night for a reception honoring patrons of the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra and welcoming guest artist Stefon Harris, who will perform with the KJO tonight.

With noshes provided by Bistro by the Tracks and stunning flower arrangements by Jazz Orchestra board chair Jan Bechtel, the atmosphere was convivial and celebratory as guests and jazz musicians mingled.

Vance Thompson, the leader of the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, introduced Stefon Harris as “one of our most innovative educators in music.” Harris, the associate dean and director of jazz arts at the Manhattan School of Music, also teaches at universities all over the world.

In brief remarks, Harris said he taught himself how to read music and play the piano beginning at age 6 when his parents moved into an apartment that contained a piano with music books in the piano bench. And there was church. “My earliest experience of music was in the black church,” he said. “Our job was to amplify the voice of the people.” Continue reading

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Knox chefs shine at Big Ears

Jesse Newmister, chef owner of Kaizen in downtown Knoxville, loading up the buffet for Sunday’s VIP brunch.

Of course, folks came to the Big Ears Festival, held last weekend in downtown Knoxville, for the music. And, this year in particular, for the films and poetry. But we had another great asset on display, as well: our food and our fantastic chefs. With a wine tasting (covered here), three brunches and an after party, Knoxville’s diverse culinary smorgasbord was on full display.

Chefs Joseph Lenn, Matt Gallaher and Jesse Newmister threw themselves into it as did Shaun and Meg Parrish of Wild Love Bakehouse, folks from Blackberry Farm and the guys at Sweet P’s Downtown Dive.

All the brunches — one hosted by Visit Knoxville for out-of-town journalists and public officials; one for folks who paid $50 to add it onto their weekend passes; and one for folks who bought VIP tickets to the Festival — were held in a huge heated tent erected on The Mill & Mine’s big lawn on Depot Avenue. Continue reading

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The winning wines of Big Ears

Keyboardist John Medeski and a bottle of 2015 Albert Bichot Macon Lugny Les Charmes from Burgundy, France. This is a chardonnay I actually like!

“My name is John Medeski. I play music and I drink wine!”

With that introduction, renowned keyboardist John Medeski, in town this past weekend to perform several times during the Big Ears Festival, proceeded to introduce a few fortunate Big Ears supporters to six of his favorite wines.

“I’ve known John for years, and I’ve been a lucky beneficiary of his knowledge and appreciation of wine,” Big Ears founder Ashley Capps said. “So I suggested the idea to add another fun facet to the Big Ears experience. And he readily agreed.”

The wine tasting was in a perfect, intimate location, J.C. Holdway on Union Avenue. Chef Joseph Lenn and his staff provided his four most popular appetizers for pairings. And the mostly out-of-town crowd was wowed.

“Oh my God, that pimento cheese!” raved a woman from Saint Paul, Minnesota, who sat across the table from me. Continue reading

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‘An Emerald Evening’ rakes in the green!

KSO Music Director Aram Demirjian with his wife, Caraline, right, and Elizabeth Offringa, the chair of this year’s Symphony Ball committee.

Congratulations to the Knoxville Symphony League for hosting its most successful Symphony Ball in recent history! Held this past Saturday at Cherokee Country Club with a St. Paddy’s Day theme, “An Emerald Evening” brought in about $150,000. Of that, about $45,000 was donated by a show of hands straight to the Symphony’s Music and Wellness Program, which provides musicians to play in area hospitals and other health care facilities.

“The Symphony Ball was a huge success this year and the League deserves a big thank you for their tireless efforts to make it a reality,” said Rachel Ford, executive director of the Knoxville Symphony. “Events like the ball are essential for their ability to raise, not only badly needed funds, but also awareness of the things the KSO does outside the concert hall, such as our Music and Wellness Program.” Continue reading

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L’Amour du Vin translates into success!

Mary Celeste Beall, proprietor of Blackberry Farm, welcoming guests. Blackberry has partnered on this event since 2005, preparing the dinner under the direction of a visiting celebrity chef.

If you run into anybody on the board or staff of the Knoxville Museum of Art, please forgive them if they seem a little giddy. They deserve to be because they are coming off the most successful L’Amour du Vin in the 15-year history of the event.

Held in the museum’s Ann and Steve Bailey Hall and in an elegant tent in the museum’s north garden, L’Amour du Vin is a huge gourmet dinner and wine auction to benefit the museum. More than 300 folks attended to sample more than a dozen wines and dine on the cuisine of Chef Nancy Oakes of Boulevard restaurant in San Francisco. Wine pairings at dinner were provided by vintner Darioush Khaledi of Napa. Food was prepared by the staff of Blackberry Farm.

Another guest of honor was artist Darren Waterston of New York, who has work in the Knoxville Museum of Art’s permanent collection. Continue reading

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Notable night with two of Knoxville’s biggest stars: Chris Blue and the tantalizing Tennessee Theatre

Chris Blue, the winner of “The Voice” competition last year, performed Sunday for 130 people on the stage of the Tennessee Theatre.

Of course, Knoxville’s newest star, Chris Blue, is a great draw for a fundraiser — even at $400 per ticket. But another element that made the Stars on Stage event so successful last Sunday was the unique chance to eat dinner on the stage of Knoxville’s treasured Tennessee Theatre. To top it off, dinner was prepared by Trevor Stockton of RT Lodge, a favored culinary destination of locals and visitors alike.

The lovely evening raised about $50,000 to benefit the historic downtown theater, according to the Tennessee Theatre’s executive director, Becky Hancock. She said the proceeds will be used to help fund ongoing preservation of the renovated Gay Street landmark and to underwrite costs of free community programs that welcome everyone into the Tennessee.

“There were so many ‘stars’ on our stage that evening: a stellar and intimate performance by Chris, an elegant and fantastic dinner by Chef Stockton, and the 130 attendees who believe in and support the Tennessee Theatre’s mission,” she said. “It was truly a memorable event.” Continue reading

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‘Puzzled’ about a great weekend getaway? Read on!

The farmhouse at Windy Hill Farm sleeps 10.

Are you looking for a getaway place that seems far from Knoxville, but is really within about 45 minutes of here? A place to go to relax and explore nature? A place where you might could have a small overnight retreat for your executive team? Or, as we did, unwind with a few friends?

It’s Windy Hill Farm and Preserve in Loudon County. We bought a weekend for six there during an auction last year benefiting the Knoxville Museum of Art. But the farmhouse actually can sleep 10. Owned by Steve and Mary Ellen Brewington, our purchase came with a gourmet dinner cooked by Chef Simon Hall. Mary Ellen added to the experience by selecting wines from her own wine cellar to pair with the courses. We arrived Friday evening and left in time to get to Citico’s for brunch on Sunday. Continue reading

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A very ‘Veuve’ venture

The Tennessean’s managing partner, Nick Cazana, with Kristin Grove.

It would be hard to imagine a more appropriate spot in Knoxville than The Tennessean Personal Luxury Hotel to stage a tasting of Veuve Clicquot, everybody’s (it seems) favorite champagne.

The hotel, not even a year old, used the event to introduce guests to three different locations in the venue: the beautiful Drawing Room bar, the elegant Board Room and the curiosity-piquing Governor’s Suite, the stunning hotel room that rents for $3,000 per night.

“My purpose is to make memories,” stated Edmund Amoye, market manager for Tennessee and Kentucky for Veuve’s parent company, ‎Moët Hennessy USA. And that, he did. Guests tasted five different bottles of Veuve Clicquot, learned a little of the legendary brand’s history and soaked in the elegance of The Tennessean. Continue reading

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