Exceptional eating at Eugenia’s extraordinary house

Rachel Sparks of the Trust Fall group pours “popcorn soup” for guest Rick Kennedy.

If there are two kinds of events we love to attend, it is these: the wonderful Summer Suppers to support Knox Heritage and the fascinating Trust Fall dinners whereby you put yourself totally at the discretion of a local chef and “trust” that the food will be delicious.

So, imagine how happy we were when we found out that the folks who organize the Trust Fall dinners had agreed to offer one as part of the Summer Supper series! We signed up as soon as they went on sale.

With the Trust Fall dinners, you don’t know where the event will be held until you receive an email containing clues on the morning it is scheduled. The mail came at 9 a.m. this past Saturday and contained such hints as, “Local knowledge and Google, you might need to leverage/to find a home linked with the great national temperance beverage.” The rhyme also contained phrases such as “thirst knows no season,” “like to teach the world to sing,” and “delicious and refreshing.”

A Google search showed all those were slogans linked to Coca-Cola, which was indeed “the national temperance beverage.” Another reference to a “great wall of spite” led some friends of ours to figure out the location was the Eugenia Williams house on Lyons View Pike. She was the Coca-Cola heiress who built a wall in front of her beautiful riverfront home to keep nosy neighbors from spying on her.

She left the home to the University of Tennessee when she died in 1998 but, because of restrictions she placed on the gift, it has remained empty for more than two decades. It now is being put on the market. So, heads up, Blue Streakers!

The Eugenia Williams house last Saturday.

First things first. Bartender and Trust Fall organizer Drew Miller made Prohibition-era cocktails. In this case, one called “The Last Word.” It contained equal parts green chartreuse, gin, Luxardo and lime juice. It packed a wallop and was delicious. (Chartreuse is made from 130 plants and flowers, Miller said!)

Here’s Drew giving us some directions.

Passed hors d’oeuvres were grilled octopus crostinis.

Other guests included, from left, Steve Drevik, Lee Ann Rogers, Deborah Franklin, Jim Harness and Rick Kennedy. They were gathering for a tour.

Here’s a better picture of my downtown neighbors, Rick and Jim. They are posing with Pandy Anderson, who is making a move downtown herself.

Penny Lynch, left, and Lisa Thomas prior to the tour. Lisa was on Knox Heritage’s host committee for the event.

Three fun girls: from left, Rachel Sparks and Jen Mowrer from Trust Fall and Knox Heritage volunteer Susan Morris.

I knew it was going to be a “tweezer food” kind of evening when I saw Trust Fall’s Matt Mowrer holding a pair of them!

Hosts Mary and Dan Holbrook.

From left, Liz Lyons of VIP Knoxville magazine, Laurens Tullock, Polly Ailor Tullock and Tom Boyd.

My friend Julia Bentley with some pinot grigio for me. I couldn’t believe her sweet hubs, Gary, went and bought me some!

Craig Naill and host Melissa Charles. Craig is Melissa’s go-to design person for her dinners. And, when you see her name on the host committee, you know the dinner is going to be great!

Hosts Chad and Melissa Tindell.

Guests Andrea Bailey Cox, left, with Amber Parker.

Guest Alan Carmichael, left, with host Peter Acly.

Host Jeff Wilke, left, and architect Brian Pittman of Johnson Architecture, who would lead the tour.

Brian said that he has always been obsessed with the house. “I used to ride my bike here when I was a child,” he said. “I’d draw some sketches of it and then go home and build it out of Legos!”

Built in 1941 and designed by renowned Knoxville native John F. Staub, the home contains 10,800 square feet. It is situated on 24 acres and has 1,000 feet of land abutting the Tennessee River.

It was built in the Regency style and this original banister in the entry hall is typical of that style, Pittman said. (Please excuse my glass of wine that made its way into this photo!)

The house is distinct in two ways: it is very symmetrical. This hallway toward the west is matched by a similar one to the east. Also, it is built so that the large rooms feature windows on both the north and south sides, allowing for cross-ventilation.

Detail of one of the original Tennessee pink marble mantels.

Eugenia Williams’ dressing room. Barbara Apking, one of Knoxville’s most successful Realtors, was one of the hosts and helped show the house.

Eugenia loved shoes and had a built-in made just to store them.

Vintage bathroom.

Master bedroom. A little worse for the wear.

There’s a special place in hell for vandals, as far as I’m concerned. They destroy property for no reason. Someone shot through these upstairs windows.

The kitchen was extremely interesting. It seemed very modern for 1941.

The original ice cube trays!

It actually had a dishwasher!

Vintage stove.

Original chandelier in the dining room.

Here is Alan with Gay and Liz Lyons on the once stunning back porch.

Soon, we were called to the dinner tents.

The man of the hour: Chef Brian Runge with Jen Mowrer of the Trust Fall group.

Chef Runge began his career in Athens, Georgia, under Chef Hugh Acheson, opening his flagship restaurant Five & Ten. He was quickly promoted to sous chef working the next three and a half years under Chef Hugh while the restaurant received national acclaim.

He’s cooked in Tampa and in several Chicago restaurants, including Brasserie Ruhlmann, where he was sous chef to Michelin Star-rated French Chef Christian Delouvrier.

The soup bowls contained lime “caviar,” sweet crab and powdered coconut cream.

And then the popcorn soup was poured over.

We were told to stir everything together before eating it. It was fantastic. My favorite bite of the night. And it was paired with a Mai Tai cocktail!

The strawberry salad contained yogurt cubes, whey gel, pistachio granola, vanilla bubbles and honeycomb. Wow. It was paired with a 2018 Elizabeth Spencer rose. Delicious.

The one course I couldn’t eat: fluke tartare with ponzu vinaigrette and dashi gel puffed rice. I just don’t eat raw protein. But I did drink the unfiltered Proper sake Diplomat with which it was paired. (Fluke is baby flounder, by the way.)

This was Alan’s favorite course: pheasant breast with barley fondue, mushrooms duxelles and pine nut butter. Pairing was a 2018 Gerard Bertrand Reserve Speciale chardonnay.

Now, this was interesting. Aerated goat cheese! It was served with apricot mostarda, almond brittle and marcona “snow” to spread on crusty bread. Oh, and a 2012 Noble & Murat LBV porto.

Yet another dessert — and a very appropriate one, at that! Coca-Cola sabayon with chocolate “soil” and bourbon cherries.

It was paired with a Manhattan!

I’m just guessing, but I’d say this dinner party would stack up to any that Eugenia had! Thanks to all involved.

Filed under: Events, Food, Historic preservation, Knoxville. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Exceptional eating at Eugenia’s extraordinary house

  1. Gay Lyons, on June 14th, 2019 at 1:17 pm said:

    What a night! I felt privileged to be there.

  2. Scott Bird, on June 14th, 2019 at 1:26 pm said:

    I missed the tweezer food — always my favorite. Looks awesome!

  3. Melissa Tindell, on June 14th, 2019 at 1:30 pm said:

    Such a fantastic evening!

  4. Melissa Charles, on June 14th, 2019 at 4:30 pm said:

    The evening was magical! Thank you Cynthia for capturing the magic!

  5. Cynthia Moxley, on June 14th, 2019 at 5:07 pm said:

    Gay: Me, too!

    Scott: I thought about you when I saw those tweezers!

    Melissa: You and all the hosts did an outstanding job!

  6. Cynthia Moxley, on June 14th, 2019 at 5:28 pm said:

    Melissa Charles: Thanks for MAKING the magic!

  7. Deborah Sams, on June 14th, 2019 at 6:31 pm said:

    A epicurean extravaganza! That was a lot of work to describe the courses and pairings. I hope that house will be saved some day.

  8. Michelle Jubran, on June 14th, 2019 at 10:38 pm said:

    I’m so jealous! But “Thank you” for sharing with us!!

  9. Beth T, on June 14th, 2019 at 10:42 pm said:

    Major FOMO!

  10. Cynthia Moxley, on June 15th, 2019 at 10:02 am said:

    Deborah: I agree that it needs to be saved. It’s a major fixer-upper. But the property alone is magnificent. The house could be a jewel.

    Michelle and Beth: You both would have loved the evening. And I would have loved seeing you both!

  11. Nancy Sharp Voith, on June 24th, 2019 at 3:09 pm said:

    LOVED reading about this special dinner. Cynthia does such a fabulous job describing any event she attends. Kenneth and I would have been there if we’d been in town. Hated to miss, but completely agree that any event involving Melissa Charles will always be a winner!

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