Kim Beets, director of food and beverage at the Knoxville Convention Center, shows off the evening’s signature cocktail, a Mistletoe Martini. It was fabulous with tastes of peppermint and cinnamon.
The swankiest nightclub with the best food in town on Tuesday night was at the Knoxville Convention Center as the center’s staff and vendors hosted an over-the-top holiday party to thank clients and friends.
The theme, “Cocktails and UnCONVENTIONal Carols,” had the facility’s trademark glass atrium aglow in red lighting courtesy of M&M Productions, the Convention Center’s audiovisual service provider. Meanwhile, inside, the Clinch Avenue Concourse was transformed into a classy nightclub with Mike Renna and Mark Kovaly, from Atlanta, playing dueling pianos on a stage featuring a long bar and elegant leather chairs. “I wish they would open this area like this all the time,” one guest commented. Another asked if the look and feel could be duplicated for a wedding reception. The answer is yes.
Chef Chris Moore pulled out all the stops as wave after wave of creative and delicious hors d’oeuvres were passed. Additionally, guests could visit various food stations. My favorite was the one serving New England bouillabaisse — scallops, shrimp, Chilean sea bass, Atlantic king salmon and crab meat simmered in a flavorful saffron broth. Holy cow. My friend Phyllis Nichols was partial to the braised heritage pork belly with green apple gastrique and caramelized apples.
The party was underwritten by nine sponsors: B&T Distributing, US Foodservice, All Convention & ExpoServices, M&M Productions, Sysco, Valley Produce, A&B Distributing, Gordon Foods and Always in Bloom.
The piano players were unbelievable, playing and chatting practically non-stop for three hours, taking audience requests and delivering the goods without the aid of sheet music. In an effort to stump them, I requested “The Unicorn Song,” by the Irish Rovers. Guess what. They knew it. And, in a form of payback, made me get on stage and perform the hand motions that go with the children’s classic. That will teach me, for sure!
Check out the folks — and the food — at this great party. And book your next special event at the Knoxville Convention Center! (Disclosure: the Convention Center is a Moxley Carmichael client.)
The Convention Center’s atrium viewed from the outside. (Photo courtesy of Alan Carmichael)
Here’s the nightclub setup inside.
Before the guest musicians arrived, Rachel Ford, executive director of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, left, and Mary Bogert, general manager of the Convention Center, warmed up one of the pianos with a duet.
Grilled shrimp shots! I told you it was over-the-top!
City Councilman Finbarr Saunders, left, and County Commissioner R. Larry Smith.
Kim Davis, left, and Tammy Ivey of Visit Knoxville.
Israeli couscous with roasted vegetables and tarragon smoked tomato broth.
From left, City Councilman George Wallace, developer Nick Cazana, and City Councilman Duane Grieve.
Craig Liston, left, regional vice president of SMG, the company that manages the Knoxville Convention Center, and Jim York, finance director for the city of Knoxville
Blackened chicken on cornbread rounds with remoulade
Mark Kovaly has a great personality as well as a great talent for piano playing and singing.
Here’s the other “dueler,” Mike Renna.
Making the hand gestures to “The Unicorn Song,” from left, Mary Bogert, me, Mark Kovaly and Mary Rodio. (Embarrassing!)
Mary Bogert with Bob Petrone of B&T Distributing, one of the event sponsors.
Phyllis and Jim Nichols had prime seats at the bar in front of the piano stage.
A view from Phyllis’ seat. Look at that fantastic bouillabaisse!
Craig Liston with City Councilman Dan Brown, center, and County Commissioner Ed Shouse, right.
From left, Councilman Finbarr Saunders, Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch, Gracie Eakin, Councilman Duane Grieve and Christi Branscom, the COO of the city of Knoxville.
Joan and Jim O’Kane
From left, developer John Craig, Rebecca Williams of the Convention Center, Amanda Shell of Moxley Carmichael and Craig Liston of SMG.
From left, David Butler, Ted Smith and Chip Barry
Jeff and Becky Ashin. He runs Young-Williams Animal Center, another great Moxley Carmichael client.
Jason Bourgoyne, director of event services and operations at the Knoxville Convention Center
These lemon sage risotto croquettes were awesome.
Alan Carmichael, right, greets Bob Griffitts from Congressman Jimmy Duncan’s office.
Avice and Gary Reid
Kristy and Brian Bruce
Terry Cowles, center, is flanked by Sandi Swilley, left, and Samantha Edwards, both of Leadership Knoxville.
From left, Elaine Frank, Kyndra Brewer, Kim Bumpas and Judith Foltz. Kim is CEO of Visit Knoxville, the city’s convention and visitors bureau. The others are with the city’s special events office.
Developer Scott Davis, right, and Ashley Burnette of the Home Builders Association of Greater Knoxville.
Here’s that plate of braised pork belly and smoked overnight grits.
Monika Flatford, left, and Kate Jackson, both of the Convention Center staff.
Suzanne and Andy Allen
From left, Wes Mullins, Kate Jackson and Kim Daugherty
Mary Bogert, left, and Lisa Healy, president of Sysco here.
Rebecca Williams of the Convention Center and her husband, WVLT anchor Alan Williams. He’s holding one of those delicious risotto croquettes!
The dessert table featured gourmet Christmas cookies, peppermint pot de creme, assorted truffles, crispy meringues, petit fours and peppermint marshmallows.
Mary Bogert with Nick Cazana, left, and Mark Bauer, the new general manager of the Holiday Inn World’s Fair, which Cazana owns.
When we left, part of the party had moved to the stage. From left, Kathy Butcher, Megan Bradley, Mary Bogert and Wendi Mullins
From left, Kate Jackson, Kim Beets, Kim Daugherty and Mary Rodio. Fun!
Here’s a 15-second video that gives you a feeling for the fun evening.