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

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Food, Knoxville | 7 Comments

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

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Knoxville’s best neighborhood (at least, for me!)

You don’t see this outside your window in Sequoyah Hills! This is shot from Unit 201 of the J.C. Penney Building at 416 S. Gay St.

No neighborhood in Knoxville has as much variety of residential options as does downtown. That’s why the City People organization has been able to conduct a downtown home tour every year for decades. The 2017 version was this past weekend and featured 11 homes — large, small, rental and owner occupied.

On the tour, we met residents who ranged from students to retirees and working professionals. All were attracted to downtown living by the vibrant vibe and myriad social opportunities that downtown offers.

Alan and I lived in two suburban neighborhoods before purchasing our downtown condo about eight years ago. And they were considered “good” neighborhoods — Concord Hills and Sequoyah Hills. But neither felt as much like a real neighborhood as does downtown Knoxville. Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Historic preservation, Knoxville | 19 Comments

Victuals, veterans and a pinch of politics

Ruth Coughlin was a Navy nurse for five years during World War II.

The garden party this week at Eddie Mannis’ beautifully restored historic home on Kingston Pike was memorable for several reasons:

  • Mannis confirmed that he is running for Knoxville mayor;
  • All the delicious food was prepared, not by a caterer, but by the evening’s hosts;
  • 94-year-old Ruth Coughlin was an absolute delight telling about her trip to Washington on HonorAir Knoxville and her five years as a Navy nurse.

The party was part of the Knoxville Symphony League‘s “Elegant Dining” series of fundraising events. HonorAir, founded in 2007 by Mannis, is a twice-a-year daylong trip to Washington, D.C., to allow East Tennessee veterans of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War to visit the war monuments there. The trip is free for the veterans. Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Food, Historic preservation, Knoxville, Politics | 12 Comments

Imagination soars at library’s three-ring circus

Gov. Bill Haslam with the evening’s honoree, Tennessee First Lady Crissy Haslam.

If ever an event took full advantage of a venue, “Under the Big Top,” a recent fundraiser for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Knox County, did. Held at the Mill & Mine, a new-ish concert and event space at 227 Depot Ave., the circus-themed evening used the facility’s 8,000-square-foot outdoor area, the inside stage and also took advantage of the very high ceilings in the main room to stage an aerial arts show.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Knox County mails one new age-appropriate book each month to any Knox County child from birth until age 5 at no cost to the family.

The evening’s honoree was Tennessee First Lady Crissy Haslam, a longtime advocate of early literacy and parent engagement in education. Due to this astute selection of guest of honor, the festive evening attracted a healthy showing of the Haslam family, including Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, a former Knoxville mayor. Continue reading

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Best way to welcome spring? Hats!

Sheena McCall, left, and Sara Fortune Rose in their fabulous pink hats.

Nothing says springtime like a new hat!

The folks at the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum have recognized that fact and, for the fifth year in a row, have celebrated the fortunate match with a fundraiser featuring hats by beloved milliner, Patricia Frankum.

Called “Hats in Bloom,” the luncheon delights a couple of hundred ladies and gives a reward to those who pay a little extra by letting them in early to get first dibs on hundreds of fashionable and fabulous one-of-a-kind creations by Frankum. Many wear hats purchased in previous years to shop for this year’s treasure.

From Vincennes, Indiana, Frankum waited until after her family was raised to follow her passion of making hats. She learned from other milliners and started out by making custom hats for herself and her friends. Her marketing truly was word of mouth at the beginning. Now, she’s the subject of blogs and news articles. Continue reading

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Air travel needs to be fixed from the ground up

Here's Alan in the Atlanta airport after 8.5 hours. You can imagine how happy he was after 20 hours! (Photo by Cynthia Moxley)

Here’s Alan in the Atlanta airport after 8.5 hours. You can imagine how happy he was after 20 hours! (Photo by Cynthia Moxley)

NOTE: This guest post was written by Alan Carmichael, president of Moxley Carmichael.

The world was shocked when they saw United Airlines forcibly remove a passenger from a recent flight, precipitating a public relations crisis of the worst order, compounded by an incredibly bad company statement about the incident and the need to “re-accommodate these customers.”

In the week before, Cynthia and I were eyewitnesses to how another airline, Delta, handled its own crisis related to multiple delayed and cancelled flights following severe storms in the Southeast. Like United, this incident pointed out lessons in public relations, customer service and the critical need for crisis training and advanced planning – internally as well as externally.

Cynthia and I were among hundreds of passengers stranded in the Atlanta airport overnight April 5-6 due to cancelled flights resulting from the predicted bad weather. It happens, but what we saw and experienced that night should give any airline CEO real incentive to see that the crisis could have, and should have, been handled a lot better on the ground. Continue reading

Filed under: Travel | 17 Comments

All that jazz — and all that fun

Our host, John Trotter, and Phyllis Nichols, CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League and a big jazz fan.

Our host, John Trotter, and Phyllis Nichols, CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League and a big jazz fan.

It was a perfect night for an inside-outside party. In March, it was one of the first evenings that was truly comfortable to be outside. And what a great outside it was!

“An Evening of Jazz” — a fundraiser for the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra — was held at the historic home of John Trotter — formerly the Dulin Gallery of Art — at 3106 Kingston Pike. The original house was built in 1899. John has done an excellent job of updating it. And he is so generous to use it to benefit non-profit organizations.

This night, the Keith Brown Trio (KB3) played and Nancy Kendrick catered and the evening was mellow and relaxing. The views of the Tennessee River were stunning and the camaraderie was warm. At a ticket price of just $65 per person, this was one of the best bargains of the year. Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Knoxville | 8 Comments