One of our best gifts this season!

Chef Joseph Lenn and his girlfriend, Laura Cole, prior to “Christmas & Cocktails,” a fun dinner he prepared at his parents’ home. Laura is director of the Masters Investment Learning Center at UT’s Haslam College of Business.

Merry, merry everyone!

The Blue Streak hopes you are having a terrific and celebratory day and that, perhaps, you are scrolling on your devices either waiting for the turkey to come out of the oven — or you have stuffed yourself and are scrolling while watching football on TV. In any case, hope you are enjoying your warm Christmas Day — so different from last year’s snowy situation,

Our turkey is still in the oven, so I wanted to share with you one of the best gifts we received this year — an invitation from Jerry and Emily Lenn to have dinner recently at their new house! And, get this: it would be prepared by their son, who just happens to be Chef Joseph Lenn, the James Beard Award-winner who owns one of our favorite restaurants, J.C. Holdway in downtown Knoxville.

We didn’t know it before we arrived, but there was another celebrity, along with Joseph, on the guest list: Allan Benton, proprietor of Benton’s Country Hams in Madisonville, Tennessee. Benton’s products are on the menus of great restaurants across America.

From left, Alan Carmichael, Emily Lenn, Jim and Susan Turner. (That’s Joseph in the background.)

Sharon Benton and Laura during cocktail hour during which we noshed on pistachio and dried cherry pate, smoked fish dip and pimento cheese. (Those last two are on the menu of J.C. Holdway! Highly recommend!)

Jerry Lenn is an expert bartender. And an inventive one! When Joseph took charge of the kitchen and kicked everyone out, Jerry set up his bar in the doorway to the laundry room!

When we sat down, first course was an amazing shrimp and celery root salad with mustard greens and buckwheat, which added just a bit of crunchiness.

Although I am not normally a fan of chardonnay, this one Joseph selected was delicious — and perfect with the shrimp.

Yum. The guy knows his way around a wine cellar!

Loved Emily’s nutcracker napkins!

Next up was an unbelievably creamy and smoky pasta: Benton’s bacon carbonara. Over the top!

Wine: a 2017 Outpost Howell Mountain Grenache from Napa Valley.

After that delicious course, I stepped outside and found Chef Lenn minding a Big Green Egg! I took this as a good sign!

And it was! Entree was grilled tri-tip, potato pave, and Brussels sprouts with smoked onion marmalade! (Joseph said those potatoes had about 25 layers!)

A 2018 Patrina Alban Estate Syrah from Edna Valley was the perfect wine pairing.

Here’s a closer look at that winner! Love the label.

Emily Lenn and I share a passion for beautiful china and crystal. Here’s her lovely Christmas pattern.

Dessert was lemon buttermilk pie with vanilla ice cream and saba. Superb.

After dinner, Jerry poured something I’ve never had before: peanut butter whiskey! By this point, my attitude was: Why not? Loved it.

Here’s a recap of those awesome wines — all from Chef Lenn’s own wine cellar. What a treat! (And I forgot to mention the bubbly!) Photo courtesy of Laura Cole.

To top things off, Jerry sent us home with a bottle of his favorite vodka! He’s trying to wean me off my favorite — Grey Goose! I have to admit, it’s pretty darn good!

All in all, a very special Christmas season memory! Thanks to all involved!

OK, back to the TV, everyone!


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13 Responses to One of our best gifts this season!

  1. Jackie Wilson, on December 25th, 2021 at 2:30 pm said:

    That sounds and looks like an amazing evening. How could it not be with the company, the food and the wine. I also prefer Grey Goose. But it seems Froggy Vodka may be worth a try – it’s from France after all. Merry Christmas.

  2. Wayne Christensen, on December 25th, 2021 at 2:31 pm said:

    Where to begin? Joseph’s work is that of a genius, dare I say! But that’s long been recognized. So inventive: shrimp and celery root, Benton’s carbonara, tri-tip/potato pave/Brussels sprouts, lemon buttermilk pie. Having eaten his food many a time, I’ve no doubt the flavors exceeded the inventiveness of each dish. And who ever heard of a party favor called Froggy vodka?!?! What a perfect holiday celebration with sweet guests and disarmingly wonderful eats . . . .

  3. Cynthia Moxley, on December 25th, 2021 at 2:45 pm said:

    Jackie: Yes, it IS from France! But so is Grey Goose! It’s nice to have two great choices! Merry, merry my Francophile friend!

    Wayne: Love keeping up with you and your culinary adventures on Facebook! I have to say, it was pretty wonderful party favor!! Hope you all are having a great season out West!

  4. Gay Lyons, on December 25th, 2021 at 5:23 pm said:

    Sounds and looks delicious!!!

  5. Alan Carmichael, on December 25th, 2021 at 6:45 pm said:

    Every course was fabulous!

  6. Carol Bradley, on December 26th, 2021 at 10:02 am said:

    Looks fabulous! Fun to see Susan Turner (nee Crowe) in the group. She and I went to high school together in Blountville. She hasn’t aged a bit.

  7. Cynthia Moxley, on December 26th, 2021 at 10:12 am said:

    Carol: Wow, that’s amazing! She is a close friend of Emily and Jerry Lenn, all of them being former educators. Hope you all are having happy holidays out West!

  8. Joseph Lenn, on December 26th, 2021 at 11:31 am said:

    Thank you so much for the kind words. I had so much fun cooking this dinner, and I am so pleased that you enjoyed the chardonnay! Perhaps the acronym will now be ABOC?? (Anything But OAKY Chardonnay). I appreciate Alan’s and your continued support of downtown restaurants and businesses. Cheers!

  9. Emily Lenn, on December 26th, 2021 at 12:06 pm said:

    What fun it was to have all of you here to celebrate the season! Thank you for your wonderful description of the evening, which allowed us to enjoy the memories we made yet again! See you soon!

  10. Georgiana Vines, on December 26th, 2021 at 3:48 pm said:

    Want to try the Chardonnay.

  11. Cynthia Moxley, on December 26th, 2021 at 4:28 pm said:

    Joseph: Thanks a million! You outdid yourself! We had so much fun. And, the chardonnay was delish! You are right. Being unoaked is the key. I’ve always liked chablis, which, I believe is unoaked chardonnay, isn’t it?

    Emily: Thank you so much for including us in the wonderful group of guests! Nice to know that you and I are on the same page with our love for china and crystal!

    Georgiana: Grab that chardonnay, if you can!

  12. Laura Seery Cole, on December 27th, 2021 at 9:39 am said:

    Joseph says you are correct about Chablis; in general it is unoaked chardonnay. We both recall the green jugs of Chablis that were popular when we were growing up. What an enjoyable evening that was, and it was lovely to be able to gather as a small group and share old memories, while also making new ones. Thanks for capturing the highlights!

  13. Diana Salesky, on December 28th, 2021 at 6:38 pm said:

    I may never stop dreaming about that carbonara! Wow!

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