Alan Carmichael was in dessert heaven last night as he sampled the delicacy called “Barb’s Snickerdoodle Whoopie Pies” with Muddy Pond sorghum buttercream and cinnamon sugar.
Finally! One of our favorite Knoxville eateries is reopening in a fabulous new location.
As all Knoxville foodies know, chef-owner Matt Gallaher closed his tiny — but awesome — restaurant called Knox Mason located on the 100 block of Gay Street what seems like a million years ago. It actually was closed less than a year, but boy are we glad to have it back!
Knox Mason opens to the public this coming Thursday in the brand new Embassy Suites hotel in the 500 block of Gay Street. The restaurant is holding a soft opening for a few days to train the staff and work out kinks, so we are able to give you a sneak peek here.
The bottom line is that Gallaher, an alum of exclusive Blackberry Farm and a stint cooking for former Gov. Bill Haslam and his wife Crissy in the Tennessee Governor’s Residence, has expanded the limited menu of his former restaurant for the new location which is about twice its size. With a continued focus on Southern staples done with an upscale twist, the new Knox Mason is sure to be another hit for Gallaher, who also owns Emilia, a popular gourmet Italian restaurant on Market Square.
Chef-owner Matt Gallaher, left, with Warren Weiss, who was running the kitchen during the “friends and family” soft opening. Weiss will be general manager when Knox Mason officially opens.
Here’s Alan Carmichael in the beautiful lobby of Embassy Suites. Knox Mason is on the hotel’s second floor.
Matt’s mother, Rebecca Williams, and stepfather, WVLT-TV anchor Alan Williams, were helping put the eatery through its paces last night.
I remarked to Rebecca that Matt sure seemed calm for such a big night. “He’s always calm,” she laughed. “Even when he was born, he didn’t cry like other babies do. He was perfectly calm!”
Here’s a standard from the old Knox Mason. Sweetwater Valley Farm pimento cheese with housemade “wicked pickles” and Fanatic beer bread.
It was great seeing Ashley Capps and Birgit Clark there. (I interrupted them while they were sharing a dessert!)
This specialty cocktail is called “Foley.” It was made with Dickel rye and ginger beer with bitters and orange. My friend Scott Bird said it was delicious.
Chefs here are supportive of one another. Here’s chef Trevor Stockton of RT Lodge with his wife, Alex, posing with Matt.
She was trying the specialty cocktail called “Smoky Montagna.” It consisted of el Jimador tequila with Sombra mezcal and lime, cilantro syrup and muddled chile. Interesting, to say the least.
Alan ordered some crayfish and cornmeal fritters with Tennessee Sunshine aioli for the table.
The bar area is very nice. Since Knox Mason is located just across Union Avenue from our office, I’m predicting that we will be regulars there!
It was great seeing Ian Roach, one of our favorite Knoxville bartenders, situated comfortably behind the bar.
Ian’s mom, Diana Murray, stopped by to lend moral support.
And our downtown neighbor Trish Nabers had found a great seat there.
Meanwhile, back at our table, the salads were arriving. Here’s what the fantastic wedge salad looks like.
And the “extra jumbo shrimp” cocktail with cocktail sauce and horseradish sauce.
My colleague Whit Whitmire of Moxley Carmichael ordered the smoky Springer Mountain chicken and Cade’s Cove sausage gumbo. He loved it.
Eric Matheson, the assistant general manager and beverage manager, helped us with our wine choice. He’s also a Blackberry Farm alum and sommelier.
My friend Susan Brown loved the crispy Sunburst Trout fillet she ordered. It was served over Anson Mills farro risotto, with local butternut squash puree and smoked Cruze Farm creme fraiche.
Fun seeing Polly Ailor and Laurens Tullock there.
And Knoxville Vice Mayor Finbarr Saunders and Ellen Bebb.
Two at our place ordered Heritage Farm pork belly served atop Tennessee Sunshine-spiked sweet potato puree and Jack Daniel’s fried apples with Benton’s bacon. My Lord!
Here’s another Knox Mason classic: Springer Mountain Farm chicken breast with a warm panzanella salad of Paysan’s bread, pulled dark meat, young arugula, pecans and raisins in a smoked chicken vinaigrette. Oh, and those smashed Cruze Farm buttermilk red potatoes with fresh herbs were pretty darn good, too!
Here’s what the side dish of macaroni and cheese looks like. Delish.
This is called a “double double chicken sandwich!” It was pickle brined double breaded and double cooked Springer Mountain Farms chicken thigh served on a Paysan’s brioche bun with “wicked” pickles and Tennessee Sunshine aioli.
Downtown Realtor extraordinaire Melinda Grimac, center, with Natalie and Davis Dowling.
At our table, desserts were being served! Michael Higdon enjoyed the local chocolate “pot au creme” with candied pecans and Jack Daniel’s whipped cream.
Moxley Carmichael’s Scott Bird had Tennessee maple pudding with pumpkin cake , whipped cream and Benton’s bacon crumble. (He’s a sucker for bacon.)
Whit also had the maple pudding.
Susan opted for a traditional Knox Mason dessert: banana pudding with ’Nilla wafers, bananas and toasted marshmallow fluff.
And here’s a closeup of Alan’s whoopie pies!
A view of the restaurant facing Union Avenue.
A shot overlooking the hotel lobby. The official name is Embassy Suites by Hilton Knoxville Downtown.
Aren’t these light fixtures interesting?
Ha! Inside the ladies’ room!
The whole hotel is stunning. Here are some orchids in the lobby.
And finally, the whole gang on the outside patio, which seats 16 and will be heated. From left, Scott Bird, Michael HIgdon, Whit Whitmire, Matt Gallaher, Alan Carmichael (sitting) and Susan Brown.
What a great night! Can’t wait to go back. See you there when it opens!