Thankful for downtown living, despite a few drawbacks

Downtown resident Roy Cockrum making remarks at Kitchen 919 last year prior to the opening of “Candide” at the Clarence Brown Theatre. He was a major funder of the joint production by the Clarence Brown Theatre and the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.

My friend and client Roy Cockrum won the Tennessee Lottery — and a $153 million lump sum payout — five years ago. So, he literally could live anywhere he wants in the entire world. Guess where he chooses to live? Downtown Knoxville. And I agree with him. It’s the best place to live.

I was thinking over the Thanksgiving weekend about the many things for which I am grateful. And, in addition to my husband, cat, family, friends and business, I also would include living in downtown Knoxville among my life’s blessings. Downtown living is just special.

Over the course of my nearly 40 years residing in Knoxville, I have lived in some terrific neighborhoods, including more than a decade each in Concord Hills and Sequoyah Hills. But, as I often say, downtown Knoxville feels more like a “neighborhood” than either of those. Just by stepping out of your front door, you can see friends and neighbors, exchange pleasantries and news, and issue and receive all kinds of invitations to meals and entertainment options. Continue reading

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Georgiana’s book is like a comfortable chat

Author Georgiana Vines signing a book for her friend Fran Scheidt. Georgiana dedicated the book to “Family and Fran.”

When a seasoned journalist writes a book — especially one who has covered politics for the better part of five decades — you might expect a hard-hitting expose. Or, at least some breaking news.

But, if you sit down to read “East Tennessee Newsmakers” by Georgiana Vines, what you get is something much more gentle. And that’s just what the doctor ordered for these turbulent, tempestuous times, if you ask me.

When I read Georgiana’s book over Thanksgiving weekend, I felt as if I were sitting on a porch having a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with her. I almost could imagine myself saying something like, “Have you heard anything new on Mary Lynn Majors, lately?”

It’s not breaking news, but here are a few fun tidbits I did pick up from the book: Continue reading

Filed under: Business, Downtown, Events, Knoxville | 4 Comments

‘Nobody invites a chef to dinner.’

Chef Joseph Lenn of J.C. Holdway with Gay Lyons at her home last night. In front of them is a tiramisu trifle Gay made.

Hats off to my friend Gay Lyons.

Sometime this summer when Gay and her friend Laura Cole were having dinner at the chef’s counter at the downtown eatery J.C. Holdway, chef owner Joseph Lenn came over to chat with them. Talk turned to a dinner party someone was having and Chef Lenn quipped, “Nobody ever invites a chef to dinner.”

Gay didn’t miss a beat. “Consider yourself invited!” she exclaimed.

That dinner occurred last night. Alan and I were lucky enough to also be invited, as were Laura, who brought the wine; her friend, Jason Drotar, who is a sommelier at Blackberry Farm; and David Butler, executive director of the Knoxville Museum of Art, who made pasta for the dinner.

If I were cooking for a James Beard Award-winning chef, which Joseph Lenn is, I’d be scared to death. Gay was cool as a cucumber. The evening was a blast. Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Food, Knoxville | 16 Comments

Reservations about reservations

Chef owner Joseph Lenn, pictured in the open kitchen of J.C. Holdway, 501 Union Avenue, wishes all customers made reservations.

One of our favorite restaurants, the Bistro at the Bijou, does not take reservations. Another of our favorites, Citico’s, ONLY takes customers by reservations. And a third, Knox Mason, used to not take reservations, but now they do! Same with Tupelo Honey.

What the heck is going on?

Matt Gallaher, chef owner of the newly opened Knox Mason in the Embassy Suites on Gay Street and Emilia on Market Square, another fave of ours, explained it this way. “When we first opened Knox Mason on the 100 block of Gay Street, we were so small and unsure of what the business would be like,” he said recently. “So I talked to other chef owners and they said they lost 15 percent on no-shows when they took reservations. So we didn’t do it.” That was in 2012.

When Gallaher opened Emilia on Market Square in 2016, it was quite a bit larger and accepted reservations through the OpenTable app. Soon, Knox Mason began taking reservations, too.

“I live downtown,” Gallaher said. “But I realized that some folks drive in from Farragut. They need to have a guaranteed spot when they get here. We decided it’s an amenity that our guests really deserve.” Still, he said, “every night we get cancellations and no-shows.” Continue reading

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Iron skillet evangelist: ‘The only pan you’ll ever need.’

Skillet Love author Anne Byrn, left, with Cheryl Barksdale, who won a Lodge cast-iron skillet at the dinner.

A 12-inch Lodge cast-iron skillet was one of the most popular wedding gifts in the United States last year, according to Zola, a wedding planning and registry service. In fact, it was THE most requested wedding gift in seven states (followed by a waffle iron in five).

This is no surprise to Nashville cookbook author Anne Byrn, who was in Knoxville recently as a guest of Union Ave Books to promote her latest tome, Skillet Love. The cookbook features 150 recipes you can make in your cast-iron skillet. To prove the point, Chef Drew McDonald of The Plaid Apron and his staff made eight of the book’s recipes for an appreciative group of diners who paid $80 for the dinner and a copy of the book on a recent Wednesday night.

I have a cast-iron skillet, of course. But I only use it to make cornbread. At least that’s the only use I’ve had for it until now. With this book in hand, I plan to branch out to wilted salads, vegetables, chicken and even dessert. The Mississippi Mud Cake that Chef McDonald turned out from the book ranks among the top five desserts I’ve ever had. Read on to see some of the dishes from this personable New York Times best-selling author. Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Food, Knoxville | 15 Comments

Leadership Knox Class of ’93: still going strong

Carolyn Pearre, left, and Jane Creed were members of the Leadership Knoxville Class of ’93, aka “the best class ever.” Carolyn came from Nashville for the group’s annual party.

Every Leadership Knoxville class is special. But to all of you classes who think you are “the best class ever,” I have one thing to say to you: Call me in 26 years!

That’s how long my Leadership Knoxville class, the class of ’93, has been consistently holding its annual fall party. Without fail. Every. Single. Year.

This year we gathered at the lovely West Knoxville home of class member Jane Creed and her husband, Kenneth. As always, everyone was asked to contribute by bringing either a soup, salad, appetizer or dessert. Plus, wine, of course. And we always pick a non-cook to bring bread.

The Sunday evening weather was marvelous. It was before this cold snap hit, and we were able to make it an indoor-outdoor event. As always, the camaraderie was even warmer than the delicious soups!

Come on, you other classes. If we can do it, you can do it! Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Food, Knoxville | 12 Comments

Cancer Society event raises hope — and lots of money

Amanda Hara, a news anchor on WVLT-TV, was the emcee for the evening. She’s holding an adorable Goldendoodle puppy who attracted big interest in the live auction, ultimately going for $4,500.

For a few festive hours on Friday night, you easily could have felt as if you were in Cuba — without leaving downtown Knoxville!

The Press Room, the beautiful event center at 730 N. Broadway, was transformed through lights, music, food and flowers into a virtual dinner club in Havana, the capital city of the island nation. The occasion? The 2019 Hope Gala, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society’s Knoxville branch. The theme was “Havana Nights.”

The evening also provided a tribute to several local cancer survivors who explained during a touching video how important it is for those diagnosed with cancer to have hope. It is the ultimate goal of the American Cancer Society to one day have “a world free from cancer.”

Here’s hoping! Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Knoxville | 7 Comments

Hallelujah! The new Knox Mason opens Thursday!

Alan Carmichael was in dessert heaven last night as he sampled the delicacy called “Barb’s Snickerdoodle Whoopie Pies” with Muddy Pond sorghum buttercream and cinnamon sugar.

Finally! One of our favorite Knoxville eateries is reopening in a fabulous new location.

As all Knoxville foodies know, chef-owner Matt Gallaher closed his tiny — but awesome — restaurant called Knox Mason located on the 100 block of Gay Street what seems like a million years ago. It actually was closed less than a year, but boy are we glad to have it back!

Knox Mason opens to the public this coming Thursday in the brand new Embassy Suites hotel in the 500 block of Gay Street. The restaurant is holding a soft opening for a few days to train the staff and work out kinks, so we are able to give you a sneak peek here.

The bottom line is that Gallaher, an alum of exclusive Blackberry Farm and a stint cooking for former Gov. Bill Haslam and his wife Crissy in the Tennessee Governor’s Residence, has expanded the limited menu of his former restaurant for the new location which is about twice its size. With a continued focus on Southern staples done with an upscale twist, the new Knox Mason is sure to be another hit for Gallaher, who also owns Emilia, a popular gourmet Italian restaurant on Market Square. Continue reading

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Clinton 12 honored for high school heroism

Members of the Clinton 12 — Jo Ann Crozier Allen Boyce, seated, and Bobby Cain, in purple shirt — receiving the Whitney M. Young Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award at the Urban League Gala at the Knoxville Convention Center.

Another Urban League Equal Opportunity Awards Gala has come and gone. Yes, the music, decorations, camaraderie and dancing were fun. But, the real hit of the evening? The presence of two members of “The Clinton 12,” who received the Whitney M. Young Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Clinton 12 were a group of students who led the integration of Clinton High School in 1956. Prior to 1956, African Americans in Clinton were required to attend a segregated high school in Knoxville, 18 miles away. In 1954, in the historic case, Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregation in schools was unconstitutional, and that African Americans had the right to learn in the same environment as whites.

U.S. District Judge Robert Taylor ordered Clinton High School to desegregate with “all deliberate speed” in the fall of 1956. When the new school year began that year, 12 African Americans went to Clinton High School. The result was protests by locals and outside agitators, one during which a white minister accompanying the Clinton 12 to school was severely beaten. Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Knoxville, Music | 2 Comments

Planners: Think twice about Thursdays!

Maria Cornelius of Moxley Carmichael expertly handles EventCheckKnox, which has a blog with excellent original content that is worth sharing with Blue Streak readers. Thursdays are (still) overbooked as you will read below. Wednesday is wide open. Event planners, please look before you book! -Cynthia

Thinking about holding your event on a Thursday? Think again. The fourth day of the week has become as crowded with events as Friday and even Saturday.

We used the In Any Event blog space to address this issue on April 1, 2015. We weren’t fooling then, and we aren’t fooling now.

The reception for new Lady Vols basketball Coach Kellie Harper was held on a Tuesday – and it was packed. From left, Daryl Johnson of Johnson Architecture, Polly Fisher, Charis Kraski and Art Clancy. (Blue Streak photo)

Continue reading

Filed under: Events | 5 Comments