‘Wanderlust at Westwood:’ eating, drinking and partying through four decades in Knoxville!

Gatsby ladies, from left, Jennifer Roche, Kyle Anne Lang and Marilyn Cheek, staffed the refreshment table at the Great Gatsby Garden Party portion of the event. Cute!

It was a sellout at $150 per person a few Saturdays ago when 50 guests partied through time — four different decades to be exact — at Historic Westwood to benefit Knox Heritage.

One of the organization’s popular Summer Suppers, “Wanderlust at Westwood” as it was called, featured food, drink and entertainment from the Gilded Age, the Roaring Twenties, the Nifty Fifties and present day Knoxville — all experienced as it would have been like at the historic Kingston Pike mansion that today houses Knox Heritage.

At a time when the COVID numbers seemed to be waning a little, it was a delight to get out and experience music and camaraderie in the name of a good cause. I pray that people in our community opt to act responsibly and get vaccinated and follow the CDC guidelines so we can continue to have wonderful events and meaningful experiences. (Note that this event, mostly outdoors, was held prior to the CDC recently recommending wearing masks while indoors and practicing social distancing.) Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Historic preservation, Knoxville | 6 Comments

KSO conductor makes Knox debut on cello during magical evening (Plus: a little scoop!)

KSO Music Director Aram Demirjian chats with hostess Ruth Fielden prior to a performance in her living room last week.

From the Better Late than Never Department is a wonderful item to which Alan and I purchased tickets at the Knoxville Symphony Ball — in 2019!

It was Knoxville Symphony Orchestra Music Director Aram Demirjian’s Knoxville debut playing the cello — along with a wonderful dining experience at the fabulously renovated Cherokee Boulevard home of Ruth and Joe Fielden. (She’s a member of the KSO’s board of directors.)

The event was supposed to have been scheduled in 2020, but you know what happened to 2020. We were just happy that circumstances permitted the very special evening to occur last week. 

Most of us know Aram Demirjian as the charismatic young conductor who joined the Knoxville Symphony in 2016 as the KSO’s eighth music director. He has won numerous accolades for his conducting prowess here. Most recently he was the 2020 recipient of The Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award from The Solti Foundation U.S. 

He is in demand nationally as a guest conductor, frequently taking the baton in front of The Philadelphia Orchestra. 

But even before he was a conductor, he was a musician. He played cello both in his high school and at the New England Conservatory Preparatory School. And he still plays — although not publicly. Last week marked his first time for that since coming to Knoxville five years ago. He was joined by Brian Salesky, artistic director of the Knoxville Opera, on piano and by KSO violinist Sean Claire. Continue reading

Filed under: Food, Knoxville, Music | 5 Comments

COVID respite allows for downtown progressive dinner

One of our regular hosts, Bruce Anderson, right, with our guests for the evening, Mark and Cathy Hill, during the first stop of our recent progressive dinner.

It was a couple of weeks ago and it seemed that the COVID numbers had leveled off. All of our regular progressive dinner club members had been vaccinated and so had our friends, Mark and Cathy Hill, who recently joined us as urban dwellers.

We like to have a guest couple for our progressive dinners, and we knew they were good sports and would like to see how other downtowners lived.

We needed a theme and we picked “French” since Bastille Day had recently passed — and we couldn’t think of any better idea. Besides, who can argue with an excuse to drink French wine, anyway?

Fast forward to today when, thanks to half the population that has stubbornly refused to get vaccinated, the COVID numbers are surging again. Pushed on by the highly contagious delta variant, it’s even infecting some who have been vaccinated, although not as severely. Many of us are starting to curtail our public activities again. So, I am particularly grateful that we got to have our progressive dinner when we did. Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Food | 8 Comments

‘Wine & Shine’ — two tasty beverages for a good cause

The widow and daughters of longtime VMC supporter Don Sproles — after whom this fundraiser was named — seemed to know almost everyone in the room. They are, from left, Amanda Thompson, Karen Sproles and Lauren Karnitz.

We knew we would enjoy the camaraderie and the wine and moonshine tastings on a recent Friday night at a fundraiser to benefit the Volunteer Ministry Center. But we didn’t know we’d love the music so much!

The 9th annual Don Sproles Memorial Wine and Shine was held at the Crowne Plaza downtown and, in addition to the tastings, featured a silent auction and a super successful live auction conducted by our friend Bear Stephenson. The emcee was another buddy, News Sentinel columnist Sam Venable.

The invitation had just said “live music to be announced.” It turned out to be a fun old-time string band called the Tennessee Stifflegs. I will include a sample of their performance at the end of this post so you can get a feel for how much fun they are!

The wine tasting was conducted by Dr. Carol Costello, professor emerita in the University of Tennessee’s retail, hospitality and tourism management department, and the moonshine was provided by Sugarlands Distilling Company. Tastemaker Ben Grierson led us through that. Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Knoxville | Leave a comment

Osteria Stella: Northern Italy in the Old City

The interior of Osteria Stella.

I’ve noticed that many of our favorite restaurants these days have a sleek, spare feel to their decor. Minimalist, almost. Think Emilia or J.C. Holdway.

Well, Osteria Stella, the new Northern Italian eatery in Knoxville’s Old City, is not like that. Quite the opposite. It is lush and ornate. You really feel like you are in a much more formal setting than Knoxville, Tennessee. And that’s nice, for a change. Continue reading

Filed under: Food, Knoxville | 3 Comments

Jazzy afternoon raises money and spirits

Don Hough is the leader of the Don Hough Octet.

It wasn’t just the temperature that was hot on a recent Sunday afternoon in West Knoxville! It was the vibe and the excitement as supporters of the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra got together at Maple Grove Estate for a fundraiser for the organization.

The Don Hough Octet threw down for two sweltering hours and, I swear, despite being drenched in sweat, the attendees could not get the silly grins off their faces. It was a combination of being together with friends in a beautiful outdoor location and the delight in some darn fantastic music.

Members of the Jazz Orchestra’s board of directors brought desserts and wine to the event, and I appreciate my friend Tom Shaw going to extra trouble to be sure my favorite libation was available! In addition to Don Hough, other members of the octet include Stewart Cox on trumpet, Will Boyd and Tom Johnson on saxophones, Ben Dockery on piano, Larry Vincent on guitar, Dave Slack on bass and Keith Brown on drums. Kelle Jolly dazzled, as usual, on vocals. Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Music | 3 Comments

Sweet P’s Uptown Corner fills niche in North Knox

Christopher Ford, who with his cousin, Jonathan Ford, just opened Sweet P’s Uptown Corner in Fountain City.

It has been a pet peeve of mine and my husband for years. There’s a dearth of full-service eateries in North Knoxville. And even fewer if you are seeking one with a full bar. As much as we like it, we can only go to The Chop House so often!

Therefore, I am almost ecstatic that the new Sweet P’s Uptown Corner recently has opened at the visible and accessible corner of Sander’s Drive and Tazewell Pike in the Fountain City neighborhood.

“We noticed that this area is growing rapidly with a lot of younger families making up a good bit of that growth,” said Christopher Ford, who co-owns Sweet P’s with his cousin, Jonathan Ford. “We just thought they’d be attracted to a restaurant with table service and a full bar — but one that still has a casual vibe to it.”

The other Sweet P’s — known as Sweet P’s Downtown Dive — is located at 412 W. Jackson Ave., in downtown Knoxville. It has counter service rather than table service and only beer and a few canned wines as alcohol offerings. (We still love it, though!) So the new concept is quite a departure for the Ford cousins — but it retains the same great barbecue dishes and side dishes. In fact, it even has more food options than the downtown location with the addition of grilled chicken and more salads.

Continue reading

Filed under: Business, Food, Knoxville | 11 Comments

‘Suttree’s Knoxville’ provides sublime summer evening

The setting at Lakeshore Park for “Suttree’s Knoxville.”

It was a stunningly beautiful evening last week at Lakeshore Park when the Big Ears Festival presented “Suttree’s Knoxville,” a silent film accompanied by live music. The film chronicled Knoxville during the four years in the 1950s which provided the setting of Cormac McCarthy’s novel “Suttree.” Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Knoxville, Music | 7 Comments

Everyone’s 4th: food, fireworks, dogs, right? Ours, too!

Haha. We had to keep an eye on Mazie, who was keeping an eye on the brisket!

Alan and I took COVID-19 very seriously. Therefore, prior to getting vaccinated, we had a limited number of social engagements — for over a year. Now, it’s funny. But I find myself almost giddy when I am involved in any kind of gathering or celebration.

The Fourth of July is a particularly fun-loving holiday. It’s not long and drawn-out like the Christmas season is. You don’t have to give anything up, as you do during Lent, which precedes Easter. It’s just a fun, social day in the middle of summer. You can debate the politics of it if you choose, but this year, we chose not to. We just enjoyed being with friends, raising a couple of toasts and digging into delicious barbecue and celebratory desserts.

Some of the folks at the gathering were old friends we haven’t seen since before we shut down in March of 2020. Big thanks to Judith and Michael Foltz for pulling the whole thing together.

Was your Independence Day different this year? Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Knoxville | 3 Comments

Knoxville Museum of Art’s ‘Kickoff to Summer’ still holds title of most fun fundraiser in town: Here’s why!

When I asked these fun folks to pose for a photo, they lined up — but not the way people normally do when you make that request! Front to back, Megan Beidler, Sheryl Linck, Garry Conklin and Frank Beidler.

I have always said that the most fun fundraiser of the year is the Knoxville Museum of Art’s Kickoff to Summer party. It was a little late this year, as many events have been, due to COVID cancellations and the associated uncertainties. Summer was pretty much in full swing by the time it happened recently.

But, here’s why it is so much more fun than many other money-raising “opportunities” with which we are presented: there are no speeches; no emotional videos; no silent auction; and no live auction. You simply pay your entry fee — in this case $125 per person — and then it’s non-stop music, a sumptuous buffet of amazing delectables by Holly Hambright, and open bars throughout the night.

“It’s just a fun par-TAY!” exclaimed my friend Dino Cartwright, who knows a bit about such activities.

When I say non-stop music, I’m serious. The fabulous party band, The Atlanta Showstoppers, is made up of so many musicians that they swap out personnel throughout the evening, making it possible for them to perform for three hours straight without taking a break. Consequently, the dance floor doesn’t take a break either!

Read on and see if you don’t agree that it’s not your normal Knoxville fundraiser. Continue reading

Filed under: Art, Downtown, Events, Knoxville, Music | 7 Comments