Solstice Supper survives soaker

Tom and Anna Ford. Anna is a board member of the Knoxville Botanical Garden and even served as interim executive director while the search was on that resulted in the good decision to hire Jim Richards.

We go to the Solstice Supper at the Knoxville Botanical Garden every year and find the al fresco dining to be magical. But, even though we like eating outside — especially at a dinner celebrating the season — we sure were glad the organizers moved it inside this year.

With whipping winds and rain coming down in intermittent sheets, it would have been a disaster. So the Garden’s beautiful new events venue, Dogwood Center, was a lifesaver. The committee even brought the twinkle lights inside!

Caterer Rex Bradford Jones sourced many of the ingredients for the menu from area farms, with some even coming from the Botanical Garden’s own Center for Urban Agriculture. Started in 2013, the Center for Urban Agriculture was created to prepare local communities to cultivate healthy produce and sustainable lifestyles. Folks from children to seniors can work in the garden and reap the delicious results. Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Food, Knoxville | 10 Comments

Ordinary couple, extraordinary evening

Orin Kennedy, left, and Bernardo Puccio at a cocktail party in their honor in downtown Knoxville last week.

A little bit of old Hollywood glamour came to Knoxville last week as Positively Living, the organization that supports those touched by AIDS, hosted the premiere of the updated version of “An Ordinary Couple” at the Bijou Theatre.

The documentary film tells the story of Orin Kennedy and Bernardo Puccio and their 40-year relationship over a period of time when it was illegal to be gay, when AIDS ravaged the gay community and, finally, when same-sex marriage was legalized.

The original version of the film was produced 11 years ago when the pair, offended that they couldn’t legally marry, decided instead to throw themselves a party in a cemetery and unveil the special monument they had commissioned featuring both their names. That party was even covered by the Los Angeles Times (click here). Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Knoxville, Theater | 10 Comments

A Big Orange welcome for new athletics director

From left, Greg Dunn of Regal Entertainment Group, Dave Miller of First Tennessee Bank, Chancellor Beverly Davenport, Athletics Director John Currie, Mary Lawrence Currie, Jim Haslam of Pilot Flying J and David Hall of the University of Tennessee Medical Center line up for a photo of all the sponsors. (Photo by Charley Sexton)

More than 200 community and business leaders gathered at the Knoxville Convention Center last week to be utterly charmed by the University of Tennessee’s new athletics director, John Currie. For his part, Currie seemed equally enamored with Knoxville. Continue reading

Filed under: Business, Downtown, Events, Food, Knoxville, Uncategorized, UT sports | 10 Comments

Dale Dickey does hometown proud

Actress Dale Dickey was overcome by emotion upon being recognized by the Clarence Brown Theatre.

Actress Dale Dickey is a Knoxville treasure. The Clarence Brown Theatre and her alma mater, the University of Tennessee, recently recognized her as such with the Clarence Brown Theatre Artistic Achievement Award, presented at the theater’s annual gala.

Held at the Jackson Terminal in Knoxville’s Old City, the event featured an “Around the World in 80 Days” theme in salute to the Clarence Brown’s recent season-closing performance of the play. Dickey was visibly moved by the salute presented by actress Carol Mayo Jenkins and Cal MacLean, the Clarence Brown Theatre’s artistic director.

“I owe everything to my family and friends and the Clarence Brown Theatre and the University of Tennessee,” Dickey said in accepting the award. Continue reading

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Fried caper dust and a little night music!

Edie Volk, past president of the Knoxville Symphony League, with former KSO Concertmaster Gabriel Lefkowitz at one of his last performances before his move to Louisville, Kentucky.

Music by the Knoxville Symphony. Wine from Randy and Jenny Boyd’s Argentinian vineyard. Perfect weather on the lake. And food featuring such exotic elements as fried caper dust, house made elk duxelle ravioli and fried squash blossoms.

What could be better? Oh, yeah. Fireworks!

It was that kind of night recently at Tellico Village Yacht Club as Chef Bill Minkert pulled out all the stops to give KSO fans a Sunday night to remember. Symphony Board member Tom Shaw and his wife, Evelyn, sponsored the fireworks show, which we dubbed “Shaw-boom!”

It also was one of our last chances to get up close and personal with Gabe Lefkowitz, the KSO’s popular young concertmaster who is leaving Knoxville after seven years to assume the same position with the Louisville Orchestra in Kentucky, where he will share a music stand with his girlfriend, Julia Noone. Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Food, Music | 13 Comments

Marblegate ’17: A charming Sunday evening

When you sit at a table with Dick Ray, you get to see everybody! Here, Mary Alice Tucker, left, and Barbara Arant stop by to greet him.

I’ll be honest. We have never been to the Marblegate event before. It benefits the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. It is a good cause, and all, but we just can’t go to everything — try as we might. We really bought the tickets for this past Sunday’s Marblegate because we wanted the tours of the renovations at Lakeshore Park that were being offered as part of the purchase price.

But, alas, the tours were canceled because of rain. No matter. With Holly Hambright handling the catering, Jerry Kruse and The Pour Guys pouring libations and a convivial crowd on a Sunday evening, it was a delightful time, anyway. And we realized we scored the best table in the house when we saw our old friends Dick Ray and Carolyn Forster there along with Joe and Becky Swann! They said it was “the Blount County table,” but they let us take our seats there anyway. Continue reading

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Blackberry, Lonesome Dove beckon writers to return

Allan Benton of Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams with freelance writer Jennifer Cole after dinner at Blackberry Farm.

It would be foolish not to believe that a huge part of the draw of the annual Southern Food Writing Conference is the chance to have dinner at acclaimed Blackberry Farm in nearby Walland, Tennessee.

And this is a mutually beneficial arrangement. Blackberry Farm certainly benefits by exposure to writers from magazines and newspapers ranging from Martha Stewart Living and Better Homes & Gardens to The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

Being active in Knoxville’s non-profit and cultural community, we get a chance to eat at Blackberry Farm a few times a year at various fundraisers and events. But, take it from me, the best dinner of all is when the food writers are visiting. The wine pours just seem a little more generous and the stellar service is even more spot on. Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Food, Journalism, Knoxville, Media | 14 Comments

Food writing conference whets visitors’ appetites

Chef Joseph Lenn and cookbook author Ronni Lundy during the dinner at J.C. Holdway to kick off the Southern Food Writing Conference.

The Southern Food Writing Conference always brings a bevy of heavy hitters in the journalism and cookbook writing world to Knoxville and this year’s conference, held here earlier this month, was no exception.

Writers and editors from Better Homes & Gardens, Southern Living, Martha Stewart Living, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Atlanta Magazine, The Charlotte Observer, Epicurious, Charlotte Living and Birmingham Magazine were among the 80 or so conference attendees who met here and, in the process, dined at some of our area’s finest eateries and were fed by some of our best known chefs.

I love how this conference, which starts with an optional Wednesday night dinner, extends through Friday evening and blends seamlessly into the weekend’s International Biscuit Festival. Biscuitfest organizers, also responsible for the writing conference, take advantage of the visiting food biz celebrities by having them judge the various biscuit baking contests that Saturday brings. It’s a match made in foodie heaven. Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Food, Journalism, Knoxville, Media | 10 Comments

My three tips for unbeatable Biscuitfest experience

Chef Jeffrey DeAlejandro from OliBea, the breakfast and lunch spot in the Old City, called his offering “The Dirty Sanchez.” It featured chorizo gravy and carne machaca. Had huge lines.

The 2017 International Biscuit Festival, i.e., Biscuitfest, has come and gone. Saturday’s weather was beautiful, if steamy, and this year’s event featured more vendors and 50 percent more biscuits than last year, according to festival founder and “biscuit boss,” John Craig.

Once again, the footprint expanded to include Market Street, Church Avenue and Clinch Avenue in downtown Knoxville, allowing more room to move around for the teeming hordes of biscuit lovers. In addition to sampling gourmet biscuits, you could listen to live music on the Flatbed Music Stage (literally a flatbed pickup truck parked at the corner of Church Avenue and Gay Street), watch biscuit-making demonstrations, cheer on your favorites in the baking contest, root for the best Mr. or Miss Biscuit in a kooky pageant and purchase any number of biscuit-related items.

This was the eighth annual Biscuitfest and, from our downtown condo at the corner of Market Street and Church Avenue, we can see everything from beginning to end. So, here are three tips I think you should follow next year to have the best Biscuitfest experience ever: Continue reading

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UT Gardens Gala: over-the-top food on a fun Friday

The food at this event is super creative. Here’s the salad course: a wine poached pear sliced and layered with greens, goat cheese and walnuts on a bed of mesclun greens.

We go to a heck of a lot of events every year and sometimes they all kind of blend together. Very few stand out. But the UT Gardens Gala does. I’m not sure why, but there’s just something different about the vibe at this event.

It’s normally held on a Friday, which is a day when we really want to relax. It’s held outside, which is fitting, of course, for an event benefiting a garden. And the food, prepared by culinary students from the University of Tennesse and Pellissippi State Community College, is excellent — and creative. Not your normal fare.

Another plus: the auction items, most of which are garden related, are different from the run-of-the-mill offerings at many other events.

This year was the fifth for the UT Gardens Gala. Sherri Lee, herself a gardener extraordinaire, was the honorary host of the event, which also honored the Knoxville Garden Club, founded in 1923, of which Lee is a member.

Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Food, Knoxville | 5 Comments