Chef Ben Willis-Becker checking on the main course.
Fancy parties and galas are nice, but sometimes you just want to kick back and relax a little, enjoying some pretty scenery, fun music, great food and interesting friends.
That’s why Alan and I enjoy going each year to the Summer Solstice Dinner held on the longest day of summer (more or less) at the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum. Our friend Allyn Purvis Schwartz was chair of the event this year and did a bang-up job, as usual. Many of the ingredients for the meal were grown in the Botanical Garden’s Center for Urban Agriculture.
Chef Ben Willis-Becker, the chef owner of the former Harry’s Delicatessen on Gay Street, was in charge of the farm-to-table dinner.
Nothing says, “Have a happy summer,” like sunflowers.
Karen and Jeff Wilkinson during the cocktail hour.
Linda Schmid, left, and Joan Ashe.
What a festive table setting.
With more sunflowers! (I paid a requested donation and took these home! Couldn’t resist.)
Allyn Purvis Schwartz giving Alan Carmichael a much needed fan to use.
One of the appetizers was cherry tomatoes stuffed with herbed quinoa. Creative.
Garden staff members Martha Ashe, left, and Emily Bell.
Helen Porter and Nick Jackson.
Richard and Barbara Kelly.
Spicy cheddar cheese crackers with sweet onion dip also were passed.
Nancy Brennan Strange and the Chic Friends performed.
Here’s Nancy with Allyn.
Alan with our friend Mickey Mallonee.
Lynne and Charlie Harr with Jackie Wilson, right.
Amy Hubbard, left, with Charlotte Tolley.
From left, Nancy Campbell, Paul Campbell, Fran Scheidt and Georgiana Vines.
Gay Lyons with Rick Fox, left, and Ralph Cianelli.
From left, Robert Ford, Katie Ford, Kimberly Ford, Thomas Ford, Tom Ford and Anna Ford. Anna is the acting executive director of the Knoxville Botanical Garden.
Julia and Gary Bentley with Jim Proffitt, right.
Bob Wilson and Annette Anderson.
The mingling was casual and fun.
Here’s Chef Ben Willis-Becker carving our dinner.
The first family style course was cornbread panzanella with kale, roasted mushrooms and bacon sorghum vinaigrette. Yum.
Here’s that main course after it was plated.
The smoked pork was served with blueberry barbecue sauce. Delish.
Green beans with basil and pickled peanuts.
Green garlic potato salad.
Watermelon, tomato and herb salad.
It’s fun to eat at long tables like this.
Over at the food tent, Chef Amy Willis-Becker and Timothy Hodge were putting vanilla wafers into the banana puddings. (Timothy is the son of Robert Hodge, the director of the Center for Urban Agriculture.)
Assistant Chef Jessica Hammonds also pitched in.
Alan was grateful!
Dr. Michael Petty and his wife, Frances, took advantage of a little after dinner dancing.
There was a beautiful sky as the longest day of the year came to a close.