Blackberry Farm’s co-founder Kreis Beall, left, greets Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon at a fundraiser for the Knoxville Symphony Sunday night. It was an awesome evening.
I may already have had my best meal of 2020 — and it’s only February!
You can’t beat the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra’s annual trek to Blackberry Farm for what many think is the best fundraiser of the year. That occurred this past Sunday and it was, as usual, excellent. I have enjoyed a lot of great meals at Blackberry Farm. But I think this topped them all. Maybe it was because Kreis Beall, the founder of the posh resort, was in the house.
“Nah,” Beall said, brushing off the suggestion. “I’ve been retired two years. They don’t even know me.” Hmm. I’m not so sure about that. Especially with her new book getting rave reviews. (If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, head to Union Ave Books downtown and grab one.)
KSO Music Director Aram Demirjian took the opportunity to remind everyone that the Knoxville Symphony does so much more than just perform on the stages of the Tennessee and Bijou theaters and the Knoxville Civic Auditorium.
He said the KSO also reaches 30,000 students each year through the combined efforts of its education programs — the Young People’s Concerts, Very Young People’s Concerts, Youth Orchestra, Story Times, master classes and in-school performances, among others.
Story Time alone — the free program that places musicians in libraries in Knox and 19 other counties and in pre-kindergarten classrooms — reaches around 3,000 people each year. The Youth Orchestra has six ensembles and involves more than 350 students. And — get this — is planning a tour of Europe this summer!
My favorite is the Music & Wellness Program which brings musicians to Covenant Health hospitals and UT Medical Center and reaches about 4,000 people per year. The KSO is just completing a study on the effects of live music on preterm infants. That’s a nationally recognized program which has received multiple awards for its work. The KSO is still one of the only orchestras in the country to employ a music therapist.
So, you see there’s a lot to be proud of and a lot to celebrate. Dinner and a concert at Blackberry Farm was a perfect way to do that.
Korenna Hodge is principal harpist for the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra. She performed beautifully during the cocktail part of the evening.
From left, City Councilman Andrew Roberto with his wife, Sarah; the mayor’s husband, Ben Barton, and Mayor Indya Kincannon.
From left, Joey Creswell, who is married to City Councilwoman Janet Testerman, beside him; KSO Executive Director Rachel Ford; and Scott and Annette Brun.
Guinea hen croquettes with mustard aioli. Darn good passed appetizer.
Bob Lederer and Kay Clayton are at many events that support music.
Dee Dee and Jim Brogan. He’s on the KSO Board.
Jim Nichols, left, chats with KSO board member David Colquitt.
From left, Kenneth Creed, Bill and Donna Cobble and Jane Creed.
From left, Marga and Jay McBride (he’s on the KSO board); immediate past KSO Board President Russ Watkins and his wife, Holly; and Jim Haslam.
Cute pic of these three during cocktails: from left, Kreis Beall, Toni Lawler and Jane Creed.
Mary Ellen Brewington, left, with Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon.
KSO board member Phyllis Nichols, left, with Annie Colquitt.
Pork belly and fennel appetizers were a hit.
Wes and Liz Stowers during cocktail time. (Photo by Rachel Ford.)
These guys enjoyed the mild weather for a few minutes. From left, Tom Dillon, Rob Collignon, R.J. Hinde, KSO President-Elect John Winemiller, Robbie Arrington and Travis Vickery.
Susan Brown with the mayor.
When it was time to sit down, we could not believe the first course! Get this: marinated collard greens with parsnip creme fraiche, pecans and preserved peppers. It was seriously unbelievable. The perfect wine pairing was a 2018 sauvignon blanc from California’s The 75 Wine Co.
Hitting it off at the Moxley Carmichael table were Ben Barton and Phyllis Nichols.
Mintha and Jon Roach joined us, too.
The event was held at Bramble Hall. Isn’t it lovely?
The second course was what I selected as my “best bite” of the night. It was Shelton Farm grits and peekytoe crab with country ham and leek emulsion, pickled celery and chicory.
Here’s what it looked like inside. It truly was an amazing course. Especially when paired with a 2015 Willamette Valley pinot noir from Ken Wright Cellars.
Jim Haslam came over to visit with us.
I decided to table hop, too! Here are Toni and Jon Lawler. He’s a KSO board member.
One thing that always strikes me at Blackberry Farm is the simplicity of the centerpieces. Like these.
Or this little thistle.
Entree was Creekstone beef tenderloin with brown butter basted potatoes, smoked cream, watercress and mushrooms. Holy cow. Wine was a 2017 Chappellet Mountain Cuvee from Napa Valley.
Annette and Scott Brun.
Susan Brown and Craig Shelton.
Mary Ellen and Steve Brewington.
Rudy and Elizabeth Koester, standing, with Dick and Ann Ray. Elizabeth is past president of the Symphony League. (Photo by Rachel Ford.)
Rachel Ford was visiting with Jan and Randy McNally. He’s the lieutenant governor of Tennessee.
Natalie Haslam and Kenneth Creed.
Dessert was just indescribable. It was a deconstructed peanut butter cheesecake with coffee peanut caramel and crispy chocolate. I have no words!
Aram Demirjian, right, visiting with Annie and David Colquitt.
Time for music!
Stacy Nickell and my husband, Alan Carmichael. We will always be grateful to her for coming to play for him when he was in Parkwest Medical Center several years ago for heart bypass surgery.
Stacy and Andy Bryenton with Natalie Haslam after the concert.
I think you will recognize the beautiful last piece of the evening: