Knoxville Opera’s Maestro Brian Salesky, center, visits with Pilot Flying J’s Ken Parent and his wife, Leslie. Pilot Flying J was the title sponsor of this year’s opera ball.
The Knoxville Opera Guild’s Streamliner Ball once again proved that the folks at Knoxville Opera know how to throw a heck of a party. Sure, there were the usual silent and live auctions and great music, as one would expect. But the opera folks always seem to come up with a “hook” to make their big charity event particularly memorable.
This year, the hook was the food. They enlisted the services of one of Knoxville’s hottest young chefs, Matt Gallaher of Knox Mason and Emilia, to provide the victuals at the event held at the Knoxville Museum of Art. In keeping with the Streamliner theme — honoring the glamorous days of train travel on the great Streamliners, the Super Chief, the 20th Century Limited and the Tennessean — Gallaher based his bill of fare on original dining car menus. The concept was a stunning success.
The whole evening, in fact, was a quick-moving blast. (These things can tend to drag.) Kudos to ball co-chairs Peter Acly and Kim Henry and all the hard-working volunteers and opera supporters who made it happen. All aboard!
This is the best passed appetizer ever! If you’ve been to Blackberry Farm (where Chef Gallaher previously worked), you’ve had these. Sturgeon caviar with creme fraiche, pommes gaufrette and chives. (I consider this to be potato chips with French onion dip taken to its highest level!)
My friend and tablemate Judith Foltz — and hubby Michael Foltz — agreed.
Attorney Jerry Becker, here with his fabulous wife, Susan, does a great job as chair of the board of Knoxville Opera.
Kim Henry, one of the ball co-chairs, right, with Eden McNabb-Bishop. Love the conductor’s hat in keeping with the train theme!
Brooks and Karen Clark with Jeff Pappas, right, the director of the University of Tennessee School of Music.
John Diasmore and Dr. Jan Henley.
Here’s the other passed appetizer: Jambon de Bayonne eclair with fromage maison and fines herbs. (Little cheese stuffed cream puffs!)
I took a quick spin around the silent auction and saw some tempting items.
I adored this beautiful artichoke bowl but resisted because we are trying not to get more “stuff.”
This “belt buckle bracelet” is by Neisha Hickson. Very creative.
I also liked these flower paintings by Isabel Maynard.
Meanwhile, back at the party …
Jacque and Cliff Hawks at our table.
Bill Allen and Jenny Freeman.
Cheri Elliott, left, and Kay Clayton.
Diana Salesky, left, and Patricia Bible.
First course was celeriac remoulade with smoked salmon, apples, fennel and salmon roe. It was unusual and delicious. Perhaps on the trains they had salmon croquettes?
Monique and Bruce Anderson.
Michael and Judith Foltz. (I thought she’d like a picture when she wasn’t eating!)
It was a sellout.
They might have had beef stew on those Streamliner trains, but I doubt they had anything as fantastic as this for their main course! Entrecote of Mitchell Farm beef, root vegetables “Bourguignon,” pommes puree and shaved black truffles. My, my.
After dinner, things were getting frisky! Peter Acly, ball co-chair, with his wife, Ellen Robinson.
Cathy and Mark Hill.
RJ Hinde, left, and John Winemiller.
Cal MacLean, artistic director of the Clarence Brown Theatre, with Diana Salesky.
Natalie Stair with her City Councilman husband, Marshall Stair.
Sol Holcomb and Patricia Bible.
From left, Stephanie and David Northington with Jeff and Joni Pappas.
Sharon Lord and David Butler, executive director of the Knoxville Museum of Art.
Jim and Phyllis Nichols.
Caesar and Dorothy Stair.
Dessert was maple creme caramel with apple confit and almond tuile.
Claire Coolen, one of the stars of the recent Knoxville Opera production of “The Pirates of Penzance,” getting ready for the floor show.
Here’s a snippet of that performance:
When it was auction time, Eden McNabb-Bishop gave an assist to auctioneer Dino Cartwright.
Appropriately, the Streamliners Swing Orchestra cranked up at 9:30.
Fellow “Pirates of Penzance” performer Sean Anderson joined Claire Coolen on the dance floor.
Joni and Jeff Pappas didn’t waste any time getting up there.
In fact, few were shy about getting out of their seats. Here’s proof:
Here’s Chef Matt Gallaher and his girlfriend Caroline Farris at the end of the evening. She’s a manager at Emilia and did a great job helping him get the food out at this event.
As we left, we spotted one of the happiest couples around, Bob Marquis and Townes Osborn.
I like this sweet picture of Cal and Rebecca MacLean at the end of the evening.