Kefi: ‘profound passion’ in the Old City

Here’s the sign you are at the right place for fantastic Greek fun! My friend Dawn Ford with her husband, Richard, left, and my husband, Alan Carmichael.

We lived in Farragut a couple of decades ago, fortunately at the same time that one of my all-time favorite restaurants was open there: Kalamata Kitchen. It was a fabulous Greek restaurant operated by Lori and Jim Klonaris. You may recognize those names because they are the couple behind the very popular Cafe Four on Market Square.

Well, after more than 10 years away from Mediterranean cuisine, the Klonarises are back in a big way. They recently opened Kefi, a Greek restaurant at 120 Jackson Ave., in the Old City. I’m here to tell you, it is terrific!

The menu says that the word “kefi” means “profound passion.” And by that, Jim Klonaris says, it means a passion for, not only great food and drinks, but also for the camaraderie that dining together brings.

One unique feature of Kefi is its emphasis on extraordinary craft cocktails — meticulously prepared every day in big batches and served on tap, ensuring not only speed, but consistency. We tried three of them and can honestly say we’ve never had anything exactly like them. Continue reading

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Trust Fall: We were wowed in a warehouse!

Chef Jenna Baker and Trust Fall attendee Art Carmichael. Chef Baker, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park and a veteran of The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia, now cooks in Knoxville’s Happy Holler. (Notice the background in this photo!)

The Trust Fall dinners are back! We were so lucky to have secured tickets to the latest one, thanks to friends who couldn’t attend. The Trust Fall dinners work this way: you buy tickets and then you trust the planners.

You don’t know the menu; you don’t know the venue. You can’t make special dietary requests. All you know is the chef. In this case it was Jenna Baker, who specializes in healthy cooking and owns Cook to be Well on Irwin Street in Happy Holler.

At about 3 p.m. on the Saturday of the dinner, we received an email with clues about where to go. The event was to start at 6:15. Here is the clue that came our way:

“How does a woman, cook nurse, born of a slave, dropped in the middle of a hostile spot in the Confederacy, ignored and dismissed, become a famed soldier and activist?

“The twenty-dollar secret sister, famous figure, led a railroad of resisters to assist her by being a clever trickster — by being itchy with the trigger. By forty, she’d freed hundreds while hunters missed her.”

Yep, we were headed to Harriet Tubman Street! Continue reading

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Natalie Haslam: East Tennessean of the Year

Natalie Haslam accepting the honor of East Tennessean of the Year last week.

The East Tennessee Historical Society honored Natalie Haslam last week with its highest honor. She was named East Tennessean of the Year and feted during a sold-out banquet at Cherokee Country Club. She was surrounded by friends and family members packed snugly into the club’s ballroom. The crowd included her stepson, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.

A native Knoxvillian, Natalie Haslam graduated from the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor of Arts in 1952. She has been an active volunteer and philanthropist in Knoxville.

She was the first woman to be president of the Knoxville Symphony Society and has been president of the East Tennessee Foundation and the East Tennessee Historical Society.

She was a founding board member of the Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and has served on the boards of the Tennessee Arts Commission, Child and Family Services, Zoo Knoxville, Maryville College, Webb School of Knoxville, Wellness Community and Junior League. A graduate of the Leadership Knoxville Class of ’86, she also has been president of The Knoxville Garden Club and the Arts & Culture Alliance of Greater Knoxville.

Continue reading

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Leadership Knox ‘best class ever’ – settled!

Gwen Brown, left, and Jane Creed. Two members of Leadership Knoxville’s best class ever.

It’s a running joke among Leadership Knoxville classes. Every class claims that its class is “the best class ever.” But, I’m here to tell you that the matter has been settled. If you can refute this evidence, let me know.

This past weekend, the Leadership Knoxville Class of ’93 — of which I am a member — held its annual class party. Yep, we’ve had this party for the past 25 years — without fail! I don’t think any other Leadership Knoxville class can say that.

We were always a close class. Despite being a very diverse group  — like all Leadership Knoxville classes are designed to be — we genuinely liked each other. We were Republicans and Democrats, urban dwellers and suburbanites, black and white, business people, educators and community volunteers. But we jelled. We really listened to each other and learned from each other — even those with whom we disagreed. And we became friends. Continue reading

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Long Table: a bracing, bodacious blowout

Brrr. It was brisk — and getting brisker — so the smart folks bundled up for The Long Table Dinner in the 100 block of Central Street.

Dining al fresco when the temperature is dipping into the 40s might not seem like such a good idea, but the alcohol helped.

The occasion was the recent Sunday evening Long Table Dinner set up in the middle of Central Street in Knoxville’s Old City. This semi-annual event benefits a different nonprofit each time. It was a sell-out at $125 per head, benefiting River & Rail Theatre Company, which is raising money to renovate a space at 111 State St., and turn it into the Old City Performing Arts Center.

The Long Table Dinners are a group effort. This one involved chefs Jeff Carter from the now closed Crown & Goose, Blake Sallie of Paysan Bread, Jesse Newmister of Tako Taco, Jeffrey DeAlejandro of OliBea and Paul Sellas of Rebel Kitchen. Additionally, wine was provided by the Old City Wine Bar, beer by Pretentious Beer Company, liquor by PostModern Spirits, coffee by Vienna Coffee Company and music by Jig & Reel. Continue reading

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After 50 years, Urban League lets loose with After 7

Phyllis Nichols, president and CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League, welcoming the crowd.

The Knoxville Area Urban League is 50 years old this year and, to celebrate, the civil rights organization last week brought in popular R&B group After 7 for its annual awards gala. And it recognized its eight previous Whitney M. Young Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award winners.

“Our focus remains on jobs, justice, education, entrepreneurship and housing because these are the things that make our community one that is fully healthy — one where we all can thrive and believe our contributions matter,” said Phyllis Nichols, the fifth president and CEO in the Knoxville Area Urban League’s history. She has held the post since 1999.

Former winners of the Knoxville Area Urban League’s top award are:

  • Gloria Garner, a longtime Urban League employee and community volunteer;
  • Margaret and Felix Gaiter, community volunteers;
  • Robert Booker, former legislator, author and historian;
  • Helen Ashe and Ellen Turner, founders of the Love Kitchen;
  • Dr. Harold A. Middlebrook Sr., a beloved minister and civil rights leader who was a friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.;
  • Rita Geier, a trailblazing attorney who succeeded in desegregating higher education in Tennessee;
  • Theotis Robinson Jr., the first black undergraduate at the University of Tennessee who eventually became a vice president there;
  • Rev. Dr. Gordon and Judy Gibson, longtime community activists. Continue reading
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Alison Krauss tickles Tennessee Theatre fans

Alison Krauss wowing them at the Tennessee Theatre recently.

So, the historic Tennessee Theatre is right in the middle of celebrating its “90 days for 90 years” anniversary extravaganza! There’s a lot of partying yet to be done. But one of the earliest and most festive events was a sold-out fundraising reception and concert featuring the dulcet tones of Alison Krauss, a crowd favorite around these parts.

Food, drinks and a fabulous concert made this one of the best fundraisers ever! Here are some photos of the festivities, but here’s also a list of some upcoming anniversary celebration events that are right around the corner:

  • Nov. 3: 90th anniversary open house.
  • Nov. 4: 90th anniversary silent film: Buster Keaton in “The Cameraman.”
  • Nov. 5: Mighty Musical Monday featuring the Tennessee Theatre’s new official organist, Freddie Brabson, and the Senior Center Singers.
  • Nov. 7: History talk with historian Jack Neely.

Continue reading

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Surprise party hits high note for organist Bill Snyder

Cheers! University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor Emeritus Bill Snyder was feted by a surprise party last night organized by his wife, Margi, and three daughters.

It’s been a big month for Dr. Bill Snyder. On Oct. 1, the former University of Tennessee chancellor and engineering dean, retired from his longtime position as house organist of the historic Tennessee Theatre and was honored with a 90-minute tribute. Continue reading

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Governor Bill Haslam: It’s been the honor of a lifetime.

The First Lady got flowers, but the Governor got a stack of sweet treats in thanks for their appearance last night.

With exactly 100 days left in his term of office (as of today), Gov. Bill Haslam and his wife, Crissy, last night had a casual chat with 100 or so community leaders who are the biggest donors to the United Way of Greater Knoxville.

Held at the Lauricella Center at Neyland Stadium, which is named after Hank Lauricella, the late best friend of the governor’s father, Jim Haslam, the highlight of the event featured the elder Haslam interviewing the governor and First Lady after dinner.

Here are some highlights of the mostly lighthearted exchange:

  • Gov. Haslam said the most satisfying part of being governor has been succeeding in “opening the world of education” to Tennesseans who never thought of themselves as the kind of people who could go to college. This has been accomplished through various programs to make college financially accessible to high schoolers and adults alike.
  • All three Haslams emphasized the need to encourage more people to run for public office — particularly local offices such as school board seats and City Council. “Think small,” Crissy Haslam said. “It’s a huge opportunity to make a difference. And develop a thick skin.” Continue reading
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Cause for Paws ’18: carousing for the critters

Three generations of animal lovers! Brittany Bailey, left, Ann Bailey and little Kennerly.

It was hot. But with the combination of a lovely setting, food by the fabulous Holly Hambright, drink service by The Pour Guys, Americana music by Pistol Creek Catch of the Day and a cause that anybody can get behind, there was nowhere we’d rather have been.

The occasion was Cause for Paws, an annual fundraiser benefiting Young-Williams Animal Center. It was held in the beautiful Sequoyah Hills gardens of Steve and Ann Bailey, the in-laws of Brittany Bailey, a Young-Williams board member who was chair of the event.

Oh, and the silent and live auctions weren’t bad, either!

Last year, Young-Williams Animal Center took in 10,059 animals. Of those, 5,824 were adopted out to forever homes. In addition, others were placed through partner rescue groups, and 1,591 lost pets were reunited with their owners. Also, 1,243 animals went to foster homes for healing, extra growing time or socialization. Young-Williams Animal Center provided low-cost spay/neuter surgeries on 9,894 animals. See what I mean about a good cause? Continue reading

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