Chef Joseph Lenn delivers the first course of Lobster Roll Night! The chef’s counter is where the action is at J.C. Holdway, located at 501 Union Ave.
I am writing this blog post against my better judgment. I like to share great Knoxville experiences with everyone. But, on the other hand, when those experiences are very limited, I don’t want to create so much demand that I can’t get in on them myself! Selfish, I know!
But, here goes.
Every now and then — like once a month — J.C. Holdway, owned by Knoxville’s only James Beard Award-winning chef, Joseph Lenn, offers a special “chef’s counter” meal. The chef’s counter only seats six people. So, with two seatings — at 5:30 and 7:30 — only 12 people can get in on them each time. Last night, the meal centered around lobster rolls! (Previous ones have featured hamburgers and fried chicken!)
These meals are not for picky eaters. You must order and pay in advance and you cannot have any dietary restrictions. They consist of four courses and a killer bottle of wine selected by sommelier Jason Drotar to complement all the courses.
And, they are not cheap. Each meal costs $269 — and you have to purchase two meals.
But, if you are a good sport and you can snag some seats, you are in for a real treat, with special touches from beginning to end that make the evening memorable, as you will see.
So, how do you get them? Keep your eye on the J.C. Holdway page on the Resy app. They will pop up there and usually are snapped up within 15 minutes. It reminds me of the Trust Fall dinners that used to happen here once in a while.
Anyway, it was a fun, fun way to spend a Wednesday night in Knoxville.
We arrived to find our seats at the chef’s counter. And Red Lobster water glasses! Ha! I asked Chef Lenn where he found them. His answer: eBay!
Since we arrived a little early, I had time for a fantastic martini.
Loved the special napkins!
OMG, the first course! Huge shrimp and delicious cocktail sauce accompanied by oysters topped with caviar that had been smoked with wood from a Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrel! Unbelievable.
Sommelier Jason Drotar selected an absolutely perfect bottle to accompany this meal.
A delicious 2021 French wine called Les Vieux Clos. Read about it here.
This wine was so interesting because it seemed to change tastes when it was decanted and also as it warmed up a little bit. It absolutely filled your mouth with flavors that changed and complemented each course from the first through dessert.
Cute. While our first course was served on a cute crab platter, others got lobster platters. Aren’t they great?
I have a friend who, being from Maryland, is a snob about crab cakes. She judges them based on the amount of “fillers” they contain, such as bread crumbs often used as binders to hold the cakes together. Well, these had NO fillers. They were bound together using shrimp mousse! Served with tomato butter and a corn and watermelon salad, they were fantastic!
And then this happened. Staff members sneaked up behind us and tied on plastic lobster bibs! My husband, Alan Carmichael, looks good in his, don’t you think?
Time for the main event!
Lobster rolls were served with homemade french fries and basil aioli, which was lip-smackingly delicious.
I was pretty full by the time the pear tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream arrived.
But I couldn’t resist. It was delectable.
Part of the fun of this evening is socializing with the other diners. We were seated beside a couple we knew and, at the other end of the table, was someone who is a Facebook friend of mine. Everyone was so friendly — and happy, of course! From left, Alan Carmichael, Dee Dee and Jim Brogan, and Leigh Ann and Matt Garrett.
Here’s a box you like to see in your refrigerator! It contained half a lobster roll that I saved for lunch today!
Thoughtful parting gifts were individual bags of caramel popcorn for everyone! So sweet.
We had to clear out of our seats at the chef’s counter to make way for the next seating, so we moved to the bar for a nightcap.
And in came our friends John Winemiller, left, and R.J. Hinde to claim their spots for Lobster Roll Night!
And soon our pals Maria and Kevin McHale came in and headed for the chef’s counter, as well!
Here’s Alan and Dr. Laura Cole, director of the Masters Investment Learning Center in the Haslam College of Business at UT. She often takes on hosting duties at J.C. Holdway since she is engaged to Chef Lenn. Read a little about her here.
When we said goodbye to John and R.J., they had been “bibbed!”
Since last night was the night of the “super blue moon,” we decided to go look at it. We headed to nearby Blount Mansion, “the birthplace of Tennessee.”
It was cloudy, but I thought it made for a dramatic photo of the super moon over the South Knoxville waterfront.
Blount Mansion was the perfect vantage point.
The walk back home headed north on Gay Street was pretty, too. All in all, a wonderful evening.
UPDATE: Our friends at J.C. Holdway have let us know that they probably will not offer any of these special chef’s counter meals again until January because we are entering a busy time for restaurants: football season and upcoming holidays. Maybe I’ll see you at the chef’s counter next year!