Osteria Stella: Northern Italy in the Old City

The interior of Osteria Stella.

I’ve noticed that many of our favorite restaurants these days have a sleek, spare feel to their decor. Minimalist, almost. Think Emilia or J.C. Holdway.

Well, Osteria Stella, the new Northern Italian eatery in Knoxville’s Old City, is not like that. Quite the opposite. It is lush and ornate. You really feel like you are in a much more formal setting than Knoxville, Tennessee. And that’s nice, for a change. Continue reading

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Jazzy afternoon raises money and spirits

Don Hough is the leader of the Don Hough Octet.

It wasn’t just the temperature that was hot on a recent Sunday afternoon in West Knoxville! It was the vibe and the excitement as supporters of the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra got together at Maple Grove Estate for a fundraiser for the organization.

The Don Hough Octet threw down for two sweltering hours and, I swear, despite being drenched in sweat, the attendees could not get the silly grins off their faces. It was a combination of being together with friends in a beautiful outdoor location and the delight in some darn fantastic music.

Members of the Jazz Orchestra’s board of directors brought desserts and wine to the event, and I appreciate my friend Tom Shaw going to extra trouble to be sure my favorite libation was available! In addition to Don Hough, other members of the octet include Stewart Cox on trumpet, Will Boyd and Tom Johnson on saxophones, Ben Dockery on piano, Larry Vincent on guitar, Dave Slack on bass and Keith Brown on drums. Kelle Jolly dazzled, as usual, on vocals. Continue reading

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Sweet P’s Uptown Corner fills niche in North Knox

Christopher Ford, who with his cousin, Jonathan Ford, just opened Sweet P’s Uptown Corner in Fountain City.

It has been a pet peeve of mine and my husband for years. There’s a dearth of full-service eateries in North Knoxville. And even fewer if you are seeking one with a full bar. As much as we like it, we can only go to The Chop House so often!

Therefore, I am almost ecstatic that the new Sweet P’s Uptown Corner recently has opened at the visible and accessible corner of Sander’s Drive and Tazewell Pike in the Fountain City neighborhood.

“We noticed that this area is growing rapidly with a lot of younger families making up a good bit of that growth,” said Christopher Ford, who co-owns Sweet P’s with his cousin, Jonathan Ford. “We just thought they’d be attracted to a restaurant with table service and a full bar — but one that still has a casual vibe to it.”

The other Sweet P’s — known as Sweet P’s Downtown Dive — is located at 412 W. Jackson Ave., in downtown Knoxville. It has counter service rather than table service and only beer and a few canned wines as alcohol offerings. (We still love it, though!) So the new concept is quite a departure for the Ford cousins — but it retains the same great barbecue dishes and side dishes. In fact, it even has more food options than the downtown location with the addition of grilled chicken and more salads.

Continue reading

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‘Suttree’s Knoxville’ provides sublime summer evening

The setting at Lakeshore Park for “Suttree’s Knoxville.”

It was a stunningly beautiful evening last week at Lakeshore Park when the Big Ears Festival presented “Suttree’s Knoxville,” a silent film accompanied by live music. The film chronicled Knoxville during the four years in the 1950s which provided the setting of Cormac McCarthy’s novel “Suttree.” Continue reading

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Everyone’s 4th: food, fireworks, dogs, right? Ours, too!

Haha. We had to keep an eye on Mazie, who was keeping an eye on the brisket!

Alan and I took COVID-19 very seriously. Therefore, prior to getting vaccinated, we had a limited number of social engagements — for over a year. Now, it’s funny. But I find myself almost giddy when I am involved in any kind of gathering or celebration.

The Fourth of July is a particularly fun-loving holiday. It’s not long and drawn-out like the Christmas season is. You don’t have to give anything up, as you do during Lent, which precedes Easter. It’s just a fun, social day in the middle of summer. You can debate the politics of it if you choose, but this year, we chose not to. We just enjoyed being with friends, raising a couple of toasts and digging into delicious barbecue and celebratory desserts.

Some of the folks at the gathering were old friends we haven’t seen since before we shut down in March of 2020. Big thanks to Judith and Michael Foltz for pulling the whole thing together.

Was your Independence Day different this year? Continue reading

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Knoxville Museum of Art’s ‘Kickoff to Summer’ still holds title of most fun fundraiser in town: Here’s why!

When I asked these fun folks to pose for a photo, they lined up — but not the way people normally do when you make that request! Front to back, Megan Beidler, Sheryl Linck, Garry Conklin and Frank Beidler.

I have always said that the most fun fundraiser of the year is the Knoxville Museum of Art’s Kickoff to Summer party. It was a little late this year, as many events have been, due to COVID cancellations and the associated uncertainties. Summer was pretty much in full swing by the time it happened recently.

But, here’s why it is so much more fun than many other money-raising “opportunities” with which we are presented: there are no speeches; no emotional videos; no silent auction; and no live auction. You simply pay your entry fee — in this case $125 per person — and then it’s non-stop music, a sumptuous buffet of amazing delectables by Holly Hambright, and open bars throughout the night.

“It’s just a fun par-TAY!” exclaimed my friend Dino Cartwright, who knows a bit about such activities.

When I say non-stop music, I’m serious. The fabulous party band, The Atlanta Showstoppers, is made up of so many musicians that they swap out personnel throughout the evening, making it possible for them to perform for three hours straight without taking a break. Consequently, the dance floor doesn’t take a break either!

Read on and see if you don’t agree that it’s not your normal Knoxville fundraiser. Continue reading

Filed under: Art, Downtown, Events, Knoxville, Music | 7 Comments

Ooh la la! Mardi Growl delights in its 14th year — despite the heat and change of date, venue

Debbie Jones’ dog, Tavis, was dressed as a Frenchman. Turns out, he actually has been to Paris!

Mardi Growl, the annual Mardi Gras-themed fundraiser for Young-Williams Animal Center, was postponed three months this year due to COVID-19. And then it was moved from its usual location on Market Square to bigger, more wide-open space on World’s Fair Park. And the temperature was approaching 90!

But, still, it was so much fun!

“You can’t walk through here without a smile on your face,” observed Joey Creswell, who attended the event on Saturday. And he was absolutely right. Hundreds of dogs and thousands of their people paraded, played, shopped and even got blessed by the clergy from St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral during an afternoon of activities.

Young-Williams Animal Center’s mission is to lead the community to end pet homelessness, promote animal welfare and enhance the human-animal bond. It is the official animal shelter of Knoxville and Knox County.

Continue reading

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Gwen McKenzie kicks off re-election bid with food, fun!

Vice Mayor Gwen McKenzie at her campaign kickoff last Thursday in East Knoxville.

A good-natured and diverse crowd gathered in the sweltering  heat last Thursday to eat, dance, pray and pick up signs at the kickoff of Vice Mayor Gwen McKenzie’s re-election campaign for her 6th District City Council seat.

According to food vendors who collected tickets, more than 300 people attended throughout the two-hour event held at Eternal Life Plaza on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. WJBE “Jammin’ 99.7” provided tunes throughout the event.

This election is important to me, not only because Gwen and her husband, State Rep. Sam McKenzie, are friends of Alan and me, but also because Knoxville’s future will be seriously impacted by the results of Council races this year. We happen to live in the 6th District. McKenzie is opposed by a far-left candidate backed by the City Council Movement and a hard-right candidate supported by the anti-mask, anti-Health Department and anti-government funding Scruffy Little City PAC.

Alan and I believe that, although Knoxville certainly has its problems, it is basically a wonderful place to live and has been moving in the right direction for decades, getting better and better under moderate leaders of both political parties. The Council races are technically non-partisan.

Vice Mayor McKenzie, a lifelong resident of the 6th District, was elected to City Council in 2017 when she faced 12 opponents for the post. Her colleagues on Council chose her to be vice mayor, making her the first African American woman to hold that post in the history of Knoxville. Continue reading

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Ijams cancels ‘Symphony in the Park’ after 35 years; KSO seeks new outdoor partner for September event

KSO Music Director Aram Demirjian conducting “The Star Spangled Banner” to open Symphony in the Park in 2016, his first year with the KSO.

From the “All Good Things Must Come to an End” Department, comes word that Ijams Nature Center is pulling the plug on one of my all-time favorite fundraising events, “Symphony in the Park.”

The fun outdoor evening — which has managed to avoid being rained on every year except one — was held on the first Sunday after Labor Day each year. It featured the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra playing at the Ijams park in South Knoxville and it marked a wonderful way to kick off the KSO’s season.

“We want to showcase new talent,” said Amber Parker, executive director of Ijams Nature Center in explaining the change. “So, no KSO this year.” She said the new event will be called “Twilight at Ijams” and will feature a variety of styles of entertainment centering around outdoor themes.

The cancellation caught the KSO by surprise. “I am disappointed because it’s always been the unofficial start of our season,” KSO Executive Director Rachel Ford said. Continue reading

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Zoofari brings fun — and big bucks! — to Zoo Knoxville

Chelly Clayton co-chaired Zoofari this year with Lucy Schaad. Doesn’t her outfit just scream, “Havana!” Chelly also is chair of the zoo’s board of directors.

Well, the folks at Zoo Knoxville sure made the most of hosting one of the first major in-person fundraisers of the season following more than a year of pandemic shutdown.

Although they made some adjustments — like breaking attendees into pods rather than having everyone under one huge tent as they usually do — the spirit of Zoofari was mostly the same. And — get this! — they raised more than $1 million!

The arrangement was a little hard on a blogger because it was impossible to capture everyone with the venue being so broken up. But, I think it’s safe to say a good time was had by all.

This year’s theme was “Havana Nights” — a tribute to the Cuban crocodile in residence at Zoo Knoxville. Some folks really got into the theme, as you will see! Funds raised from Zoofari — this year was the 34th for the event — support the zoo’s animal care, animal conservation and education programs. Continue reading

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