Gay Lyons striking a dramatic pose before cutting our dessert cake at her home in The Overlook condos on Main Street.
As a sure sign that we have turned the corner on the pandemic, our downtown progressive dinners have returned! With everyone fully vaccinated, we were for the first time in over a year able to safely visit three downtown homes, enjoying a different course at each stop. The last time we did this was December 2019.
The four couples who now participate in the progressive dinner decided last weekend to invite two special guests — newcomers to Knoxville who also live downtown. Since they moved here during the pandemic, we worried that they didn’t have the full downtown experience and we wanted to help remedy that!
The guests were Jeannette Mills, executive vice president and chief external relations officer of the Tennessee Valley Authority, and Kathie Goldsby, an educator who moved to Knoxville when her husband, Tom, became the Dee and Jimmy Haslam Chair in Logistics and a professor of supply chain management at the University of Tennessee.
We like to have a theme for these evenings and, since we were welcoming newcomers, we made our theme “Knoxville food.”
It was a fun, fun night of traipsing around downtown that started at 5:30 and ended after midnight.
First stop was the lovely home of Cliff and Jacque Hawks in The Elliott on Church Avenue. They’ve done a lot of re-decorating since we last visited over a year ago. Here’s Jacque, right, with Gay.
This was such a creative take on “Knoxville food!” Jacque and Cliff recreated the famous “cheese bings” that used to be served at the Old College Inn on campus!
We also had some local beers — and my favorite pinot grigio. It’s not local, but we usually buy it at Downtown Wine & Spirits, which is super local!
The Hawks also served this delicious sparkling rose.
We had a couple of other fabulous appetizers including this smoked salmon mousse in endive leaves.
And these adorable little takes on BLTs — served in grape tomatoes!
Bill Lyons, left, and my hubs, Alan Carmichael, really enjoyed those!
Peonies are my favorite flower and the Hawks had plenty of them!
Here are some more on the dinner table where we sat to enjoy a salad.
The salad itself wasn’t particularly “Knoxville,” but the dressing is one of Monique Anderson’s specialties.
Here’s the whole gang. From left, Kathie Goldsby, Bill, Jeannette Mills, Jacque, me, Gay, Bruce Anderson, Monique Anderson and Alan. (Thanks to Cliff for taking this picture!)
Soon it was time to move to our place in the JC Penney Building on Gay Street. We got a 30-minute head start to get things ready.
Soon, everyone arrived. From left, Jeannette, Bill and Gay.
Monique, sitting, with Jacque and Kathie.
Thanks to my friend, historian Jack Neely, we knew that hot tamales have a long history in Knoxville. And, he says, the dish called a “Full House” was first heard of in Knoxville. That is simply hot tamales served smothered in chili.
We piled on sour cream, cheese and green onions at the table.
Confession: I didn’t make the tamales, but bought them at Good Golly Tamale and they were great. I made the chili using a Nathalie Dupree recipe. Notice the dogwood-patterned china? I thought that kind of said “Knoxville.” Don’t you agree? Antique dealer Scott Bishop sold me the whole set — more than 80 pieces — for $250 a few years ago. He had seen me admiring it for years.
Next stop was Gay and Bill’s new condo in The Overlook. Here’s the view of the Tennessee River from their back porch (shot through a screen).
We were welcomed with chocolate martinis!
Alan, Bruce and Monique taking a load off in the living room.
Haha. Spotted in the kitchen!
Gay said this strawberry cake, made with fruit from the Farmers’ Market, was such a hassle to make that she named it, “Pain-in-the-Ass Cake!”
Here’s a view of it after it was cut. It was delicious.
As you can probably tell from Alan’s expression!
To add to the “Knoxville” experience, Gay served the cake on these plates with drawings of Knoxville landmarks.
When we noticed it was after midnight, we said goodbye to our friends — and the Lyons’ kitty, Simba — and strolled home.
We’ve been doing downtown progressive dinners since we moved downtown more than a dozen years ago. It’s a fun way to share the cooking burden — and walk off a few calories between courses. And — the beauty of doing it downtown — no driving!