L’Amour du Vin 2020: Back when we could have fun!

Sharon Pryse and Dino Cartwright were appropriately dressed at L’Amour du Vin. The weekend’s featured artist, Denise Stewart-Sanabria, often paints lush floral pictures. See the previous Blue Streak post for some examples.

It hasn’t been that long — it actually was just earlier this month — but it seems like an eternity ago. The Knoxville Museum of Art hosted what was one of the last big social occasions many Knoxvillians would attend: its annual wine dinner and auction called  L’Amour du Vin. It was a sellout and raised what surely will turn out to be a record amount of money. The museum has not released that figure yet.

“This was a L’Amour du Vin for the books,” said the museum’s executive director, David Butler. “It was memorable not because the world pretty much fell apart right afterwards — and it was, in fact, the last social thing many of us did for a long time — but because it was such a joyous, seamless, beautiful event. Great food, great wine, the auction was crazy. Perfect. What an evening!”

I think that about sums it up! Check out some photos of the awesome evening. Continue reading

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Wine, food and ‘donuts behaving badly!’

Haha. This oil painting is titled “Sloth: Donuts behaving badly.” I love it! It’s a sample of the work of Denise Stewart-Sanabria, this year’s featured artist at the Knoxville Museum of Art’s L’Amour du Vin weekend. She showed her art during a slideshow at Blackberry Farm.

The Knoxville Museum of Art’s hugely successful L’Amour du Vin fundraiser has come and gone (more on that in a later post), but one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend every year is what’s called the “Artist’s Luncheon.”

Always held on the Friday prior to the fundraiser itself, it offers an opportunity to meet the featured artist each year. My friend Dawn Ford and I have made it a tradition to knock off work that day and head to Blackberry Farm for some daytime drinking and a bit of culture. Not to mention the food, of course. Continue reading

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Jason Drotar: a sweet sommelier looking for love

Hello, everybody. I think this is the longest I’ve gone without posting in the 10-plus years of writing the Blue Streak. Sorry about that. The fact is, I still have a more than full-time job in the public relations field and, as you can imagine, it’s been a busy time for all our clients — and thus for us. I hope that you will enjoy the next few posts I put up. They are about events in our community that occurred when we were still allowed to be in close contact with each other. I look forward to getting back to that situation. -Cynthia

Sommelier Jason Drotar holding the massive wine list at The Barn at Blackberry Farm.

Jason Drotar is 44 years old and single. And he’s not that happy about it. “I am so single,” he cracked recently, “that if I stood on the edge of a canyon and shouted, ‘I love you!,’ the echo that came back would say, ‘I just want to be friends!’ ” See, he’s funny, too.

Jason is a sommelier at tony Blackberry Farm in nearby Walland. One perk of working at Blackberry Farm is that four times a year, Jason gets to book dinner for a table of four “on the house.” He only has to pay for alcohol. And, since he is the sommelier, he gets to bring his own wine.

So, what does a seriously single guy do when he’s taking advantage of this awesome perk? He invites three married women to be his guests. Last month, Jason invited Laura Cole, Gay Lyons and me (yay!) to dine with him. Read on and I’ll show you the amazing food and wine we had at Blackberry Farm. And I’ll tell you more about Jason. Maybe if we put our heads together, we can find him a girlfriend! Continue reading

Filed under: Food | 19 Comments

Players dazzle with diverse culinary, musical talents

Principal violinist Mary Ann Fee Fennell arrived with a fantastic chicken and rice dish.

When the Knoxville Symphony performs at one of our beautiful downtown theaters, the musicians seem to effortlessly harmonize and form one cohesive voice. But, actually, the Knoxville Symphony is a very diverse group of individuals. The members hail from nine countries and from states all over America.

That’s why the event called “Symphony Soiree” is so much fun. During this casual fundraiser — which was held earlier this week — the participating musicians bring a covered dish — with many offerings reflecting their ethnic heritages — to a dinner at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral. And then they play a wide variety of music that they personally love — not necessarily in the classical repertoire.

The evening is part of the Knoxville Symphony League’s highly successful series of events called “Elegant Dining.” To me, it is one of the best ones. Tuesday’s affair was a sell-out at $50 per person and 50 guests in attendance. Read on to see — and hear — the highlights! (There’s even a great recipe.) Continue reading

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Opera airs anguish and artistry of Beauford Delaney

Brandon Gibson as artist Beauford Delaney brandishes the paint brush the artist used to keep at bay the schizophrenic voices that tormented him.

The season of Beauford Delaney continues in Knoxville, this time with a gripping locally produced opera performed by the Marble City Opera last Friday and Saturday to a full house at Beck Cultural Exchange Center.

The one-hour world premiere tells the story of Knoxville artist Delaney’s gradual descent into madness toward the end of his life while he lived in Paris and was committed to St. Anne’s Hospital for the Insane. Local bass baritone Brandon Gibson, playing Delaney, left it all on the stage as he seemed to literally inhabit the role of the troubled painter. I almost leapt from my seat to confront the cruel “voices” — played by singers Regan Bisch, Joshua Allen and Breyon Ewing — who tormented the main character throughout the hour.

Huge projections brought the feeling of Delaney’s colorful paintings to the stage. Director Kathryn Frady explained the opera’s title — “ShadowLight” — to the audience prior to the performance. Continue reading

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Witnessing ‘the cleaning ballet’

Chef Joseph Lenn, right, hangs a just washed pot while Thales Craig-Bettis cleans the chimney at J.C. Holdway after dinner service recently.

“It’s the most amazing thing,” raved my friend Gay Lyons. “You’ve just got to see it!”

My friend Laura Cole was incredulous, as well. “You mean you’ve never seen it?” she asked.

What the heck were they talking about? Gay explained. “It’s when Chef Joseph Lenn and his kitchen team at J.C. Holdway clean the restaurant kitchen at the end of each night. It’s unbelievable — it’s like watching an elaborate dance. I call it ‘the cleaning ballet.’ ”

Well, now I’ve seen it. And it is pretty amazing.

My opportunity happened when Laura attended a Women’s Fund event and bought a dinner at J.C. Holdway’s chef’s counter for six guests. She asked Chef Lenn if the dinner could be at the end of the evening — and if the guests could please watch “the cleaning ballet.” And, lucky me — I got to be one of the guests!

But, first, we were served dinner from the eatery’s awesome tasting menu. Continue reading

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‘Scarves are always in style’

Rene Mackley spent a fun evening last week teaching many ways to tie scarves.

That’s what Rene Mackley told a  lucky group of women last week. They were the beneficiaries of Jeannie Dulaney purchasing an auction item entitling six folks to have wine, appetizers and a lesson in scarf tying at Linda’s Hallmark in Farragut. The auction was held to benefit the University of Tennessee College of Nursing.

Using the participants as models, Rene demonstrated how to tie long, square and rectangular scarves in various stylish ways, and she encouraged the women to wear them often. “When you wear a scarf, people always comment on it,” she noted.

One good suggestion: Hang your scarves in your closet around the outfit with which you plan to wear it. “If you stick your scarves in a drawer, you’ll forget about them,” she cautioned.

In addition to the scarf learnings, the other two highlights of the evening were the appetizer made from Captain Rodney’s Original Boucan Glaze, which Linda’s Hallmark sells, and the “wine tour” of the store. The wine — and the 20 percent discount offered to the workshop participants — made for some robust shopping!

Continue reading

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Cuisine to crave! (Don’t read this if you are hungry.)

Blackberry Farm’s co-founder Kreis Beall, left, greets Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon at a fundraiser for the Knoxville Symphony Sunday night. It was an awesome evening.

I may already have had my best meal of 2020 — and it’s only February!

You can’t beat the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra’s annual trek to Blackberry Farm for what many think is the best fundraiser of the year. That occurred this past Sunday and it was, as usual, excellent. I have enjoyed a lot of great meals at Blackberry Farm. But I think this topped them all. Maybe it was because Kreis Beall, the founder of the posh resort, was in the house.

“Nah,” Beall said, brushing off the suggestion. “I’ve been retired two years. They don’t even know me.” Hmm. I’m not so sure about that. Especially with her new book getting rave reviews. (If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, head to Union Ave Books downtown and grab one.)

KSO Music Director Aram Demirjian took the opportunity to remind everyone that the Knoxville Symphony does so much more than just perform on the stages of the Tennessee and Bijou theaters and the Knoxville Civic Auditorium. Continue reading

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‘The most important artist Knoxville ever produced’

Beauford Delaney painted this self-portrait in 1970 while visiting James Baldwin’s villa in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, a medieval town in the south of France. Delaney was thought to have been in a psychological crisis at the time.

We are in full-on Beauford Delaney season here in Knoxville. And that’s a good thing. Because, according to David Butler, executive director of the Knoxville Museum of Art, the late Delaney is “by any standard, the most important artist Knoxville ever produced.”

The museum was packed last week for the preview party for the opening of the exhibit “Beauford Delaney and James Baldwin: Through the Unusual Door,” a reference to something the writer Baldwin once said when visiting Delaney’s Greenwich Village studio.

Delaney was born in Knoxville in 1901, the eighth of 10 siblings. He lived at 815 E. Vine Ave., in East Knoxville with his parents, Delia Johnson Delaney and the Rev. John Samuel Delaney. “He was not just born in Knoxville,” Butler writes in the foreword to the catalogue for the exhibit. “He was, to a large degree, formed here, as a person and as an artist.” Continue reading

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Kreis Beall’s book: bright, brave and brutally honest

Kreis Beall speaking last Wednesday at the launch party at Cherokee Country Club for “The Great Blue Hills of God.”

I don’t know what I expected. But it wasn’t this.

Kreis Beall, who founded tony Blackberry Farm with her ex-husband, Sandy Beall, back in 1976 as a six-room country inn, has taken an unflinching look back at her life in the just-released memoir, “The Great Blue Hills of God.”

She puts it all in the book: the cataclysmic fire that destroyed the Alabama home she and her family cherished; an accident and resulting brain injury that left her 70 percent deaf and depressed; the cheating of her husband with a much younger woman and the heart-crushing divorce after 36 years of marriage; and the devastating death in a skiing accident of her son, Sam, who at the time was the 39-year-old proprietor of Blackberry Farm.

The book, though not overly preachy, is the story of a soul journey and of Beall’s ultimate reaching out for and acceptance of God. Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Knoxville | 14 Comments