Chef Jenna Baker and Trust Fall attendee Art Carmichael. Chef Baker, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park and a veteran of The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia, now cooks in Knoxville’s Happy Holler. (Notice the background in this photo!)
The Trust Fall dinners are back! We were so lucky to have secured tickets to the latest one, thanks to friends who couldn’t attend. The Trust Fall dinners work this way: you buy tickets and then you trust the planners.
You don’t know the menu; you don’t know the venue. You can’t make special dietary requests. All you know is the chef. In this case it was Jenna Baker, who specializes in healthy cooking and owns Cook to be Well on Irwin Street in Happy Holler.
At about 3 p.m. on the Saturday of the dinner, we received an email with clues about where to go. The event was to start at 6:15. Here is the clue that came our way:
“How does a woman, cook nurse, born of a slave, dropped in the middle of a hostile spot in the Confederacy, ignored and dismissed, become a famed soldier and activist?
“The twenty-dollar secret sister, famous figure, led a railroad of resisters to assist her by being a clever trickster — by being itchy with the trigger. By forty, she’d freed hundreds while hunters missed her.”
Yep, we were headed to Harriet Tubman Street!
First, some mingling and a very special cocktail.
Who knew there was a HUGE warehouse on Harriet Tubman Street in East Knoxville? R&S Logistics owns the facility where more than 220,000 square feet is contained in two buildings. Some of the clients of the warehouse are Amazon Prime; Knoxville Utilities Board, which is testing some new electric meters there; and the Knox Area Rescue Ministries, which stores donated items there before they go to KARM Thrift Stores.
The block where the warehouse is located is unnumbered. The only way we knew we were in the right place was a Trust Fall banner hanging on the highly secured boundaries of the property. A guy in a pickup truck opened the electric gate for us.
Nathan Osborne of Blackberry Farm was making glasses of chamomile collins — a fresh take on a classic Tom Collins.
The ingredients came from PostModern Spirits in the Old City.
Jen Mowrer, one of the Trust Fall organizers, with a chamomile collins.
This kind of sums up the ambience. Very cool.
Todd Sparks passed some appetizers: shiitake with kimchi lettuce wraps. They were delicious.
Alan Carmichael checking out the KUB meter test.
It definitely had that warehouse feel! Ha.
Fellow downtowners, Jim Harness, left, and Rick Kennedy.
Another delicious pre-dinner nibble: roasted beets on buckwheat cakes.
John Craig with baby Clio.
After the introductory cocktail, Drew Miller got everyone’s attention.
He said that Trust Fall dinners are about three things: places, food and people. “There are so many little cool pockets in Knoxville,” he said. “Through food, people and places, we think you will fall even more in love with Knoxville.”
Miller said the organizers select the locations based on “places we think are cool.” Regarding food, he said, “This gives the chefs an opportunity to get out of their comfort zones and for us to get out of our comfort zones.”
And the people part? “We all have our worlds that we live in. It’s rare to share a meal with people we don’t know.” I have to say, it was a very convivial group.
We were asked to line up and we were marched single file through a dark and cold space until we came to this fellow — Matt Mowrer.
Then things got even weirder. We had to put on blindfolds. And march some more — holding a string (like kindergartners do!) and placing a hand on the shoulder of the person in front of us.
When we were allowed to take off the blindfolds, this is what we saw! Wow.
We were in the section of the warehouse used for the KARM Thrift Store storage. In the background of many of the following photos, you’ll see various items stuffed into huge boxes waiting to be delivered to the thrift stores.
We took our seats.
And they brought these: ginger swizzles.
First course: beetroot soup with lemongrass. Unbelievable.
Chef Baker came out between each course to discuss the food.
Katherine and Joe Michalik were sitting across from us. He’s the COO of R&S Logistics, the owners of the warehouse.
Sprout salad with fig vinegar and roasted pumpkin seed oil. “There is an amazing sprout scene in Knoxville,” Chef Baker said. She said the salad was inspired by the traditional dish of buttered rye with radishes.
Loved the pomegranate smash paired with it!
Joe and Kelly Buckley.
This dish was amazing: trumpet mushroom “scallops” on grits and greens. (Those things that look like scallops? Mushrooms!)
This drink would knock you for a loop! It was called “Roots Run Deep.”
Carson Hunter and Jason Cipriani.
Justin and Lacy Jones.
The sorbet made from citron rind was bitter enough to slap you across the face! But it served its purpose of waking up the palate.
Alicea and Paul Wargo from Mountain Roots Farm.
Rick and Leah Braden.
OMG. This dish right here was worth the price of admission, which was $100 per ticket, by the way. Mushroom and butternut squash stew.
It was paired with “Grandma’s Pastry Stout” from Pretentious Beer Company.
Deb and Larry Fauver.
Amanda and Jonnie Buchanan of Crooked Road Farm.
I loved this little angel sticking out of a box behind me. It was like he was looking over my shoulder!
Dessert was milk and chocolate chip cookies. But the milk was cashew milk with turmeric, maple syrup and cinnamon.
And there was Autumn Olive Mead, too.
John Craig and Coral Turner.
Here’s the “kitchen” where the whole dinner was prepared.
The oven. Wow. (I’m not going to complain about my small kitchen anymore!)
Chef Baker said the entire meal was prepared with no animal protein and no dairy. Only exception was the fact that there were two eggs in the entire chocolate chip cookie recipe.
Great job, everybody! Here’s the fabulous crew responsible for the unique evening: from left, Tony Long, Jen Mowrer, Nathan Haun (in back), Matt Mowrer, Nathan Osborne, Drew Miller, Todd Sparks and Ty Pattison.
The next Trust Fall dinner will be in “early 2019,” we were told, and will feature Chef David Rule of The Walnut Kitchen.