Urban League’s ‘Shoes for School’ shatters records

Ana Juan-Pascual and her brand new pair of shoes.

New shoes will be on the feet of 1,270 children when they go back to school this week, thanks to the Knoxville Area Urban League, its sponsors and 300 volunteers.

That’s because the annual “Shoes for School” event was held Saturday at Caswell Park. According to the Knoxville Police Department, 6,400 people showed up to pick up the shoes and school supplies and to visit booths set up by 38 organizations giving away everything from book bags to socks to notebooks and pencils. Some enjoyed hot dogs and snow cones, some got their picture made with a dinosaur, and some played a game against a robot.

The largest sponsor this year was Covenant Health, which brought a photo booth with a green screen, allowing folks to be photographed with a choice of backgrounds, including the dino. Other sponsors included East Tennessee Children’s Hospital and Comcast, among others. Continue reading

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Tomato Jam a smash!

Hahaha! This is Palmer Mason, the proprietor of Craft Accommodations! His drink, called “The Sputino,” took home first place in the People’s Choice Awards. Congrats!

So, the second annual Tomato Jam was this past Sunday and the 10 cocktails I tasted (yep, 10!) were fabulous, as was the VIP brunch by Chef Jeffrey DeAlejandro of OliBea.

The event benefited Nourish Knoxville, the organization that oversees the Market Square Farmers’ Market, and all the cocktails featured produce from local farms.

I thought all the drinks would taste like Bloody Marys, but they really did not. Although they all contained some form of tomatoes, the dominant flavors in some were cucumbers and watermelon. And some had a spicy kick!

Winners of the People’s Choice awards were: Craft Accommodations’ drink called “The Sputino,” first place; The Drawing Room at The Tennessean’s “Vine-a-Min Water,” second place; and J.C. Holdway’s “Mr. Stripey and the ’Mater D’s,” third place. Continue reading

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Coach Pruitt scores with Knox leaders

Dr. Jerry Punch, left, interviews Coach Jeremy Pruitt, center, and Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer on stage at the reception. Punch, a sports broadcaster who was with ESPN for 32 years, lives in Knoxville. (Photo by Pam Rhoades.)

With the University of Tennessee football season starting in about a month, you can feel the excitement growing in the Knoxville air with each passing day. I see more people wearing orange. And I definitely hear more discussion of the team and its prospects. Continue reading

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Jackson Hole: Bison, bingeing and Bill Baxter

From left, Alan Carmichael, Bill Baxter, and our traveling companions, Dawn and Richard Ford.

A fun five-night visit to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, exceeded expectations — especially in terms of scenery, wildlife and food. An extra treat was running in to Knoxville businessman and civic leader Bill Baxter on our second night there. We were enjoying drinks at the Silver Dollar Bar in the historic Wort Hotel, which Baxter owns, when Alan ran into Bill outside the men’s room. Continue reading

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Wine in the Woods: a delicious mystery

An enchanted “mystery dinner” brought together friends and friendly strangers.

A bunch of friends signed up late last month for an exciting culinary excursion organized by Chef Robert Allen and his cohorts at Citico’s restaurant and WindRiver resort in Lenoir City.

Called “Wine in the Woods Mystery Dinner,” here was the plan. Guests signed up and paid a very reasonable $150 per person fee. They then showed up at Citico’s for a special cocktail and were ushered onto a boat by which they were transported to a mystery location on the sprawling Tellico Lake property. A gourmet dinner with wine (and other beverage) pairings ensued. At the conclusion of the magical evening, everyone was ferried back to their cars at Citico’s.

The evening was a success in every sense. First of all, it was a sellout. Then, although some of us were worried about it, the weather ended up cooperating. (There was a rain plan which, thankfully, was not needed.) The company was convivial, the food and wine delicious and the setting beautiful.

Come along! Continue reading

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Best eating on this year’s Clarence Brown trip to NYC

Oh, man! This is the salmon at Butter, the midtown restaurant of celebrity chef Alex Guarnaschelli, one of our favorite new discoveries.

The goal of my friends and me during the Clarence Brown Theatre’s annual New York trip is to make our restaurant selections as exciting as the Clarence Brown’s play selections.

This year we accomplished this by choosing Gabriel Kreuther, Butter, Grand Central Oyster Bar and The Stinger, our “go-to” little bar and eatery in the lobby of our hotel, The InterContinental Times Square. We also stumbled in to the charming, whimsical Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle hotel. And what a treat that was. Continue reading

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New York, new plays – and lots of opinions!

Clarence Brown Artistic Director Cal MacLean, right, with Christopher Tramantana, a Clarence Brown alum working in New York as an actor and coach. This was taken at Playwright Celtic Pub, where the CBT reunion was held.

In the midst of this sticky Knoxville heat wave,  I thought it might be refreshing  to remember back to April when about 40 Knoxvillians trekked to New York City as part of the Clarence Brown Theatre’s annual pilgrimage to see the Big Apple’s latest theatrical offerings. Although April usually brings thoughts of spring, we all packed our winter coats as we headed north — and were glad that we did!

Clarence Brown’s artistic director, Cal MacLean — as he always does — selected plays with an eye to which might take home some Tony Awards and which might stimulate some lively discussion. He did a heck of a job with this, as you will see.

My friends and I tried to do our usual good job of picking equally exciting restaurants to fill the time between scheduled activities. We also succeeded. More on that in a follow-up post. Continue reading

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Clarence Brown Theatre Gala kicks up its boots!

“Kinky Boots” was the theme of this year’s Clarence Brown Theatre Gala. Everyone got a boot-shaped cookie. Here’s Alan Carmichael tearing into his!

One of the best things about the Clarence Brown Theatre’s annual gala fundraiser is getting to see the great theatrical talent that Knoxville produces. Last year, it was thespian  Dale Dickey who received the Clarence Brown’s Artistic Achievement Award at the annual gala. Other recent winners have been actor John Cullum, set designer Bob Cothran and Saturday Night Live writer Paula Pell. All Clarence Brown alums.

This year, the award went to Rusty Mowery, currently working as associate choreographer of the Broadway show “Kinky Boots.” And that little fact gave the gala organizers a chance to use “Kinky Boots” as the theme for the evening. As you will see, it was a really festive idea.

It led to many in the assemblage wearing red and black in an homage to the “Kinky Boots” logo and design elements. Continue reading

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A good ‘thyme’ at the UT Gardens Gala

WBIR news anchor Abby Ham and her boyfriend, Travis May. She was the emcee of the UT Gardens Gala.

Well, it’s officially garden party season in East Tennessee. One of the first and largest of them is the UT Gardens Gala held in the sprawling UT Gardens — yep, the ones you pass on Neyland Drive on your route between downtown and West Knoxville.

This was the sixth year for the event and its theme was “Thyme to Grow.” This is the 35th anniversary of the UT Gardens, which, along with gardens in Jackson and Crossville, make up Tennessee’s official State Botanical Garden. The UT Gardens are unique in that they combine the beauty and openness of a public garden with a hands-on laboratory for studying, conserving and celebrating the environment.

A highlight of this year’s event was Sue Hamilton, director of UT Gardens, being presented with a proclamation by the Tennessee General Assembly congratulating UT Gardens on its 35th anniversary.  She was presented with the proclamation, which was sponsored by Sen. Becky Massey, R-Knoxville, by UT President Joe DiPietro and Chancellor of the UT Institute of Agriculture Tim Cross. Continue reading

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‘Knockouts of Knoxville’ = provocative provisions

Ashley Capps and Birgit Clark were enjoying the cuisine and the conviviality.

What’s a good gourmet meal without a few gonads? In this case, sea urchin gonads, which also are known as uni.

The occasion for this innovation was this past Monday when the “Knockouts of Knoxville” — arguably our town’s four top chefs — joined together at Emilia to replicate a meal they served last month at the famous James Beard House in New York City. Joseph Lenn, Matt Gallaher, Drew McDonald and Jesse Newmister put together the menu which included three appetizers, four other courses and a dessert. Many featured local products (not the gonads, naturally). Every course was perfectly paired with a matching wine.

The evening, which sold out in a matter of hours after tickets were offered for sale online, was an absolute delight. Although each chef owns his own restaurant (or two), Emilia was the chosen site because it is the largest venue. At $125, the tickets were underpriced. They easily could have sold for twice that amount. Continue reading

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