My favorite outfit of the night? This great ensemble worn by Holly Watkins, whose husband, Russ, is a KSO board member.
The timing couldn’t have been better. The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra’s annual fundraiser at Blackberry Farm fell on a warm Sunday evening last month — right during a break in the frigid weather. It was so warm, in fact, that guests were able to enjoy the breathtaking view for which Blackberry Farm is famous from a lovely patio outside the dining area.
Unlike in the previous three years of this unique event, dinner was not served in Blackberry’s Barn, which was not available due to Blackberry’s other commitments. It was held in a smaller cottage and only 68 seats were available for sale. But this scarcity only added to the intimacy of the event. Instead of the sounds of the KSO Chamber Orchestra, guests were enthralled by the artisanship of Gabriel Lefkowitz & Friends performing Dvořák’s String Quintet.
“I thought it was even better,” declared Jim Haslam, who always has said this is his favorite fundraising event of the year.
Tickets are $350 each and well worth it when you consider that folks travel from around the world to dine and stay at Blackberry. We are so lucky that it’s in our own backyard. Thanks to Blackberry for its commitment to music and culture in our community by making this experience available to benefit the symphony. I wholeheartedly recommend that you grab some of these seats next year.
The new venue this year.
Cocktails on the patio.
Here’s that view.
Anna and Dr. Frank Gray, left, and Natalie and Jim Haslam upon their arrival.
My favorite hors d’oeuvres at Blackberry: the homemade potato chips with creme fraiche and salmon roe.
Enjoying the evening outdoors were, from left, Dawn Ford, Jim Nichols, Phyllis Nichols, Richard Ford, Katie and Blair Kline.
The best pimento cheese in the world!
From left, James and Jane Roberto, Thom Mason and Jennifer MacGillivray.
A Blackberry trademark: little pork belly biscuits with pickles.
From left, Jon and Toni Lawler with Holly and Russ Watkins.
Rachel Ford, the KSO’s executive director, with Alan Carmichael.
Sharon Lord and Larsen Jay.
From left, Betsey Bush, Barbara Arant and Mary Johnson.
Bill Arant and Phyllis Nichols.
Anna and Frank Gray with KSO Board President Rick Johnson, right.
Inside, a quartet from the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra performed. From left, Kai Smith, Samantha Chu, Zachary Jerome and Daniel Hong.
Dick and Ann Ray enjoying the music.
Debbie and David Jones.
From left, Sibylle Mansour, Tracy and Roman Campbell, and Jeff Mansour.
The dining room was beautiful and cozy.
The tables at Blackberry always are simple but elegant.
I loved our window table.
Jim, an avid photographer and technology fan, had to take a selfie before dinner.
Katie and Blair at the table. Blair is a new KSO board member.
First course was a winter kale salad with Singing Brook cheese, olive cornbread crumble and creamy garlic vinaigrette. It was served with a 2010 Levendi chardonnay from Sweeney Ranch in Napa Valley. Even though I’m not a big fan of chardonnay, it was a good match with the salad and dressing. I’m not sure my favorite pinot grigio would have stood up to the salad’s bold flavors.
The terrific second course was guinea confit with potato gnocchi and forest mushrooms — a Blackberry version of chicken and dumplings. It was served with a 2012 Ca’ Nani pinot noir from Sonoma Coast. Another great pairing.
Creekstone beef strip loin was served with buttermilk potato puree, roasted onions, broccolini and king trumpet mushrooms. Wine was a 2010 Mira cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley.
Cathy and Mark Mamantov.
From left, Lindsey Stamey, Sandi Burdick, Tom Boyd and Thomas Boyd.
From left, back row: R.J. Hinde, John Winemiller (a KSO board member), Travis Vickery and Robbie Arrington. Front row, Ernie Hoskins, Todd Cramer, Rob Collignon and Thomas Dillon.
Dessert was cocoa nib parfait with dark chocolate and toasted hazelnuts.
Alan, bottom right corner, enjoys the music. From left, Concertmaster Gabe Lefkowitz, Associate Concertmaster Gordon Tsai, Steve Benne, Kathryn Gawne and Andy Bryenton.
Gabe and Gordon.
Saying farewell after the performance were Sandy and Hank Bertelkamp.
And Mary Sue Greiner and Rachel Ford of the Symphony staff. Great job, ladies.