‘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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Crowd-pleasing caterer has ‘Super’ tips for home cooks

Patti Harris, left, the homeowner and host on Super Bowl Sunday, with cooking teacher extraordinaire, Barbara Tenney.

It was Super Bowl evening and some folks were surprised that I was going to one of the Knoxville Symphony League’s “Elegant Dining” fundraisers. “Wow, how did sales go for that one?” several people asked incredulously. “Actually, it was a sellout,” I said.

Here’s the reason: Barbara Tenney, cooking teacher, caterer and all around fun person was the main attraction. She whipped up a delicious four-course dinner in a matter of minutes, seemingly effortlessly. And she had us out in time to see the second half of the big game, if we wanted. She’s amazing.

Come along for the meal details, and I’ll share with you some tips Barbara has for us home cooks. Continue reading

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Chancellor to white supremacists: We’re ready for you!

UT-Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport, left, with Angela Pugh, who hosted a Knoxville Symphony League “Elegant Dining” lunch in her home on Wednesday. Davenport was the guest of honor.

University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport has a message for white supremacists planning to come to campus Feb. 17: “We are on it!”

Davenport spoke to about 20 women — and one man — on Wednesday at a luncheon put on by the Knoxville Symphony League in the West Knoxville home of League member Angela Pugh. She covered a wide variety of topics, but one weighed most heavily on her mind, she confided.

“A white supremacist group is coming and we meet every day about this,” she said. “I would like nothing better than to say they can’t come. But they have the First Amendment right to speak. We will control the time, place and manner where their free speech takes place.”

She does not expect a replay of the violence that occurred when a white supremacist group gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year. “Charlottesville was not prepared. We’ve been on this since summer.” Davenport said campus leaders have been coordinating with city of Knoxville and state authorities, as well as with the FBI in preparation for the event. Continue reading

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Cindy McConkey: ‘Playing in the big leagues now’

Cindy posing with HGTV’s “Cousins Undercover” at a 2014 fundraiser for Rebuilding Together Knoxville at Scripps headquarters in West Knoxville. At left is John Colaneri with his cousin, Anthony Carrino.

Cindy McConkey, groundbreaking sportswriter, public relations professional and non-profit manager, passed away at age 58 last month after a four-year battle with biliary liver cancer. An avid athlete and outdoor enthusiast, she commented proudly to her husband just 10 days before her death that she had played tennis against a 30-year-old that day “and kicked her ass!”

Cindy was like that. Fiercely competitive. That fact led broadcaster Hallerin Hilton Hill, who was the emcee at her memorial service at Fellowship Church last Saturday, to observe, “Cindy had cancer. But cancer never had Cindy. Death cannot bench her. She’s playing in the big leagues now.” That made us all smile.

So did this observation by her colleague Larsen Jay. Cindy had revealed on the CaringBridge journal site last month that she was in liver failure and was going into hospice care. She said her doctor gave her more or less two months to live. She died two days later. “It’s the only time she’s ever been early to anything in her entire life,” Jay said. Continue reading

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This party was in the bag!

My shopping buddy, Monique Anderson, checking out the (all good) options.

When you go to a party in the only free-standing Patricia Nash store in the world, you are going to be tempted! Not only by the wide range of beautiful Italian leather offerings on display in the spacious showroom, but also by the not-for-sale samples and not-yet-for-sale offerings from upcoming seasons. One always wants what she can’t have, right?

About 40 folks discovered all this last Thursday at one of the Knoxville Symphony League’s Elegant Dining events held at Patricia Nash Designs located at 1132 N. 6th Ave., near downtown Knoxville. The only disappointment was that Patricia Nash herself was not present, but she did make a video for the occasion.

Some things we learned: Continue reading

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Mozart in the mountains

Andy Chabot, Blackberry’s sommelier and food and beverage director, poses in the open kitchen at The Barn at Blackberry Farm.

Seventy-five Knoxville Symphony supporters gathered Sunday at Blackberry Farm for what I think is one of the best opportunities of the fundraising year. You get to have dinner at our area’s premier dining establishment AND hear an intimate 30-minute performance by some of the Symphony’s best players. And you get a tax write-off in the process!

It’s no wonder this is Jim and Natalie Haslam’s favorite event. So much so that they are happy to lend their names as the honorary chairs of it.

As you will see, the food at this exclusive Relais & Chateaux property is a showstopper in itself. But the “show” was pretty good, too. The Knoxville Symphony’s new music director, Aram Demirjian, in high spirits after two acclaimed performances of a Bohemian Rhapsodies program last week, selected light and amusing pieces including “Sophisticated Lady,” which he dedicated to Natalie Haslam, and Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” — also known as “A Little Night Music.” Continue reading

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Urban League Gala — still one of year’s best parties

Grammy winner Lalah Hathaway’s smooth vibe made us feel like the Knoxville Convention Center was a bluesy nightclub.

Playing catch-up here! The Urban League Gala happened during a flurry of other great events toward the end of last year, and I wanted to be sure it got the attention it deserved.

It’s actually called the Knoxville Area Urban League Equal Opportunity Awards Gala — because of the worthy companies and individuals honored each year. But folks can be forgiven for just calling it the Urban League Gala — because it truly is one of the best straight up parties of the year!

This year, singer Lalah Hathaway — daughter of soul singer Donny Hathaway — brought her five-time Grammy Award-winning talent to the party. She played a full 90-minute set — the exact song list she performed as opening act for Mary J. Blige, with whom she toured last year.

Prior to Hathaway’s performance, this year’s awards were bestowed. Continue reading

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Kitchen 919: A tasty work in progress

Kitchen 919 is in the former location of The Orangery.

Last Friday, Alan and I decided to put an end to our curiosity and visit Kitchen 919, the new Bearden restaurant where the venerable Orangery used to be.  We are glad we did. Our verdict: The food was excellent. We had a great time. We are glad it is open. We think a few tweaks would significantly enhance the dining experience, but we recommend you check it out. You won’t regret it. Let me know if you agree with us.

Here’s our overall assessment. First, the pluses:

Food: Delicious. Our entrees were creative, beautiful and tantalizingly tasty. Alan had misoyaki glazed sea bass, and I had shrimp and a grits cake in andouille sausage cream sauce with a smoked red pepper puree. We loved both of them. And, of course, Alan was crazy about his dessert, red velvet cake, although, as you will see, it was a little unorthodox. Credit for the food goes to Carol Scott, a Cordon Bleu-educated Knoxville private chef known for her appearance on TV’s “Hell’s Kitchen” in 2009. Continue reading

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Michelle Henry: ‘She finished well.’

Michelle at a Moxley Carmichael bowling party in August 2016.

We at Moxley Carmichael said goodbye to a special friend and colleague this past weekend. Michelle Henry, who worked with us as a writer for more than 12 years, finally succumbed to the beast that is cancer after a valiant eight-year battle against it.

The disease began as colorectal cancer, but for more than a year, she was misdiagnosed by a doctor who told her she had irritable bowel syndrome. By the time she was accurately diagnosed, Michelle had stage 4 cancer. Michelle fought it with everything in her. She had radiation, chemotherapy and numerous surgeries. Every time she would beat it down for a while, it would seem to come roaring back in an even stronger state. In the end, she had a tumor the size of a softball on her liver, a tumor on her lymph node so large that it broke her rib, and cancer up and down her spine that paralyzed her legs and lower body.

Through it all, she was cheerful and hopeful. She was an inspiration to everyone she met. Even the nurses at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, where she spent three weeks near the end of her life, found her presence to be uplifting. All of us who visited her there came away amazed that she could laugh and joke and send us away from her hospital room with smiles on our faces. Continue reading

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