UT Gardens Gala: over-the-top food on a fun Friday

The food at this event is super creative. Here’s the salad course: a wine poached pear sliced and layered with greens, goat cheese and walnuts on a bed of mesclun greens.

We go to a heck of a lot of events every year and sometimes they all kind of blend together. Very few stand out. But the UT Gardens Gala does. I’m not sure why, but there’s just something different about the vibe at this event.

It’s normally held on a Friday, which is a day when we really want to relax. It’s held outside, which is fitting, of course, for an event benefiting a garden. And the food, prepared by culinary students from the University of Tennesse and Pellissippi State Community College, is excellent — and creative. Not your normal fare.

Another plus: the auction items, most of which are garden related, are different from the run-of-the-mill offerings at many other events.

This year was the fifth for the UT Gardens Gala. Sherri Lee, herself a gardener extraordinaire, was the honorary host of the event, which also honored the Knoxville Garden Club, founded in 1923, of which Lee is a member.

The UT Gardens, part of the UT Institute of Agriculture, are located in Knoxville, Jackson and Crossville. Together the three sites make up the official State Botanical Garden of Tennessee and combine the beauty and openness of a public garden with a laboratory for studying, conserving and restoring the environment.

Mickey Mallonee, the new estate manager of Villa Collina, with Knoxville Vice Mayor Duane Grieve.

Knoxville City Council members Marshall Stair, left, and George Wallace.

OMG. Homemade tater tots with creme fraiche and caviar. These passed appetizers were fantastic.

Dr. Frank Gray and Natalie Haslam.

Kendall Keller and Victoria Daniel-Cape.

Adorable silent auction item.

Onion marmalade and whipped goat cheese bruschetta.

Mary Anne and Sam Beall.

From left, Bill Pittman, Tina Rolen and Jessyca Williams.

Caprese salad on sticks.

Salt baked red snapper was offered during cocktail hour.

Rappahannock oysters on the raw bar.

Mary Thom Adams, left, with Frances Adams-O’Brien.

From left, Marshall Stair, Anna Ford, Susan Seymour and Victor Ashe.

It’s a great event for mingling.

Can you tell it’s a bunch of extroverts?

Gina and Fred Buffum.

Elisabeth and Bill Rukeyser.

UT President Joe DiPietro with Janet McKinley, center, and Pat Curtis.

Duane Grieve, left, with Stephanie and George Wallace.

Great tunes by the UT Student Faculty Jazz Trio: from left, Carson Young, Jon Paul Hamar and Evan Burnett.

This appetizer was my favorite: creole crawfish with polenta and spicy aioli.

Courtney and Sherri Lee.

Bill and Barbara Arant, left, with Sheryl and Earl Taylor.

Another cool auction item!

The charcuterie table was massive with fresh shaved ham, cured pork belly, smoked sausages, pate, artisan cheeses, house made crackers and spread.

Loved the ice sculpture.

This was a refreshing idea: a variety of flavored waters to help folks stay hydrated. Practical and beautiful.

Soon, it was time to take our seats. Here’s Sue Hamilton, director of the UT Gardens, and Andy Pulte, a professor in the Department of Agriculture.

Shirley Elder and Bear Stephenson, the auctioneer for the evening.

UT President Emeritus Joe and Pat Johnson.

Susie and George Wilson.

UT President Joe and Deb DiPietro.

From left, Ann Reed, Ginger Browning and Ann Bond.

Alan Solomon and Andrea Cartwright.

They called this entree a “modern Beef Wellington!” It was seared beef tenderloin, a puff pastry shot glass filled with roasted mushroom ragout, caramelized Brussels sprouts and Volunteer Duchess Potatoes. (See what I mean about the food?)

Key lime mousse with strawberries was the finish.

Sherri Lee, right, receiving recognition from Sue Hamilton.

What a fun evening.

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6 Responses to UT Gardens Gala: over-the-top food on a fun Friday

  1. Maria Cornelius, on May 18th, 2017 at 2:59 pm said:

    Very impressed by the green T in the key lime mousse. Sweet.

  2. Donna Davis, on May 18th, 2017 at 9:04 pm said:

    It was a fabulous event that you have beautifully profiled in this article. It is wonderful supporters like you that help make the UT Gardens so special.

  3. Cynthia Moxley, on May 19th, 2017 at 4:23 pm said:

    Donna: Thanks for the kind words. I loved it,

    Maria: Good eye!

  4. Hillary Hall, on May 19th, 2017 at 6:26 pm said:

    Looked to be an event enjoyed by many garden lovers and a great way for students to participate –

  5. Georgiana Vines, on May 27th, 2017 at 6:12 pm said:

    Food looked scrumptious!

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