Soiree: a delicious downtown development

Chef Cedric Coant peels a turnip while chatting with guests at Soiree.

If you are looking for something really different and fun to do with a group of friends, I’ve got you covered! Have you been to Soiree yet? It’s a combination of a cooking class/private dinner in a charming little spot in the Old City.

Soiree is the creation of Chef Cedric Coant, a Frenchman best known locally for that wonderful little restaurant Le Parigo, which used to be located on Clinch Avenue downtown. It’s not really so much of a cooking “class” as it is a “stand around and watch him cook” experience.

I am a member of a group called “Walking Women.” (No, it’s not athletic! Ha.) It’s just 11 women who live (or used to live) downtown. We formed several years ago with the idea that every month, we would stroll over to the home of one of the members for cocktails, nibbles and fellowship (OK, gossip!). It’s a lot of fun catching up and, since we rotate, it’s not too big a burden on any one person. But there are 11 of us, as I said. And there are 12 months in the year. So, what do we do on the 12th month when everyone already has had their turn hosting?

One of our members, Kim Henry, came up with the idea of going to Soiree. And we are very glad that she did! Continue reading

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Arthur Seymour, Jr.: A friend, a statesman, a gentleman

Arthur and Susan Seymour in May 2013 on the porch of the library of Sir John Templeton during a trip we took with them to Sewanee, Tennessee.

The sanctuary of the strikingly beautiful St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral was standing room only last Friday afternoon — even with folding chairs set up in the main aisle and along the walls to accommodate the crowd of some 600 people. It was the memorial service for Arthur Seymour, Jr., a longtime member of St. John’s and a well-known and well-respected downtown attorney and civic leader.

Alan and I were not only good friends of Arthur and his wife, Susan, but close business associates, as well. For 20 years or so, we would partner with Arthur when a mutual client needed both public relations and legal services. Most of the time, we were successful in achieving the client’s goals. But, more importantly, we had a great time working together. Arthur was smart and creative and truly funny whether we were meeting socially or preparing to go before one of the local governing bodies such as City Council, County Commission or the Metropolitan Planning Commission. We at Moxley Carmichael treasure the time we spent with Arthur and the great work we did together.

He and Susan appeared on the Blue Streak many times over the 10 years I’ve been doing this blog. This post includes some of the photos of them from previous posts. Continue reading

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Dining on pinto beans at Blackberry Farm. No kidding.

Mintha Roach enjoys the beet and ham salad. It was the course before the pinto beans and cabbage!

Blackberry Farm, of course, is the elegantly rustic Relais & Chateaux property located on 4,200 acres in Walland adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A 45-minute drive from downtown Knoxville, it features gourmet dining as well as rooms that rent for thousands of dollars per night.

Most of the time, the food is delicious, refined — and very beautiful. It is what many of us call “tweezer food,” because the presentation is quite literally assembled with tweezers — or at least chop sticks. Every plate is a work of art.

That’s why I was a little surprised to see that one of the courses on the $500-per-plate dinner we had there recently was — wait for it — pinto beans and cabbage! (I do have to admit they were the best darn pinto beans and cabbage I’ve ever put in my mouth!)

All joking aside, the event was the annual Blackberry Farm fundraiser for the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. It’s always on a Sunday and features a cocktail hour with passed appetizers, a four-course dinner and a 30-minute concert by the Knoxville Symphony Chamber Orchestra. It is a true delight and has been dubbed by community leader Jim Haslam as “the best fundraiser of the year.” (Believe me, he’s been to more than his share of fundraisers!) Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Food, Music | 6 Comments

Next Clarence Brown season: varied and ‘plain fun!’

Brian Gligor will play Monty Navarro in the hilarious season closer, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.”

“Going back to Greek times, theater has been trying to do the same thing,” Cal MacLean, producing artistic director of the Clarence Brown Theatre, said on Saturday morning. “Be interesting and entertaining. And make a commentary about the times.”

Judging from the performances scheduled for the Clarence Brown’s 2019-2020 season, unveiled to season ticket holders today over breakfast at The Foundry at World’s Fair Park, that commentary will take the forms of music, farce, satire, classical tragedy, contemporary comedy and, as MacLean said, “just plain fun!”

Actually, the breakfast itself was just plain fun. As has become tradition, various actors popped up in the audience as MacLean announced next season’s productions, delivering a few lines from most of them. Continue reading

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I miss Big Ears! Do you? Maybe this recap will help.

Alan Carmichael poses outside The Mill & Mine, one of the venues for Big Ears 2019.

The streets of downtown Knoxville seemed unusually quiet this Monday after the Big Ears Festival closed Sunday night. The truth is that they weren’t any less crowded than on any other Monday. It’s just that the comparison was stark to the weekend when more than a dozen downtown venues hosted 150 or so events as part of Big Ears.

As has been widely reported, folks flooded in from all over the United States and 21 other countries. They loved our downtown. They loved our historic theaters. They loved our churches and bars. And, most of all, they loved our people. As downtown residents and festival attendees, my husband and I heard over and over praise from the visitors for our city’s hospitality and friendliness.

We have been to several Big Ears festivals and they seem to be getting better and better. The stunningly beautiful ballet, Lucy Negro Redux, was a 2019 highlight. But there were highlights every day. And Knoxville’s reputation will be benefiting for weeks and months to come, truth be told, as media coverage from the dozens of reporters who attended continues to unfold. Already, glowing reviews have appeared in The New York Times and Rolling Stone, among others. Continue reading

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It’s Big Ears time in Tennessee!

This news crew interviewing Big Ears founder Ashley Capps is from local WATE Channel 6. But dozens of other reporters are in town covering it, too.

The Big Ears Festival opened on Thursday and thousands of folks flooded into downtown Knoxville. They came from 48 states — including Alaska and Hawaii — and 21 foreign countries. (The only states not represented: Idaho and Nebraska.)

It was thrilling to walk down Gay Street and hear, not only foreign accents, but also groups of people speaking in foreign languages, some of which I didn’t recognize. At the ballet last night — Lucy Negro Redux presented by the Nashville Ballet — the folks sitting beside us were from Rochester, New York. Those in front of us were from Charlotte. The Rochester people said they were considering moving here. “We want to live somewhere where the people are real,” the woman confided. “Oh, I can assure you we are real!” I laughed.

All in all, including patrons and artists, there will be more than 16,000 visits to this year’s  Big Ears events, with more than 150 concerts, films, panel discussions, installations and surprises through Sunday when the festival shuts down. Many of the offerings are free of charge. Check out the Big Ears website for more info on everything. Or, look for the News Sentinel’s Go Knoxville section, largely devoted today to Big Ears coverage. Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Knoxville, Music | 4 Comments

KMA’s Artist’s Luncheon: a Friday of fabulousness

Cassidee Dabney is the executive chef at The Barn at Blackberry Farm. She has been nominated for a James Beard Award.

While L’Amour du Vin would seem to be about wine, the whole long weekend really is about art. L’Amour du Vin, a wine dinner with a visiting chef, a visiting vintner and a visiting artist, is the single largest fundraiser of the Knoxville Museum of Art each year.

It’s a wonderful whirlwind of activities including, not only the culmination wine dinner at the Knoxville Museum of Art (read about the 2019 version here), but also two other culinary events, both at Blackberry Farm: the Sponsors’ Dinner and the Artist’s Luncheon. My favorite is the Artist’s Luncheon. It’s a little less formal and it’s held at lunchtime on the Friday before the main event, giving all attendees an excuse to knock off work! Hey, it’s for a good cause.

I usually talk my friend Dawn Ford into also taking the day off — it’s not difficult! —  we hire a driver (there is, after all, quite a bit of wine!) and off we go!

This year’s featured artist was Andrew Erdos. The Knoxvile Museum of Art already has one of his pieces. The other was auctioned off at the L’Amour du Vin event’s live auction. Continue reading

Filed under: Art, Events, Food | 2 Comments

L’Amour du Vin 2019: It was love, all right!

Knoxville folks can rock the formal attire when they want to! Here are Allison Burchett and Mike Strickland during the reception and silent auction segment of the evening.

L’Amour du Vin, in its 16th year and held this past weekend at the Knoxville Museum of Art (KMA), is among our community’s most successful fundraisers. Benefiting the museum and aided in a big way by the chefs and staff of Blackberry Farm, it features an artist, a guest chef and a vintner each year. Last year, it raised more than $500,000 for the KMA. Organizers are hoping that this year tops that.

The Saturday soiree is basically a fancy meal with great wine and tons of auction items — primarily wines and dining experiences. (L’amour du vin, after all, means “love of wine” in French.) The silent auction contains scores of options on which to bid. So many, that the offerings are grouped into three sections with staggered closings. The live auction contains 30 items, which makes for an extremely long evening. We normally advise against having so many live auction items, but who can argue with success like this?

In any case, this year’s culinary guest of honor was Steven Satterfield of Miller Union in Atlanta, an award winning chef and co-owner of the farm-to-table eatery in Atlanta’s Westside neighborhood. In 2017, after several previous nominations, Satterfield was named “Best Chef: Southeast” by the James Beard Foundation. He is fiercely committed to seasonal cooking and to supporting local farmers. Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Food, Knoxville | 4 Comments

Susan Packard’s lessons we need to heed

From left, Bill and Susan Packard with former HGTV CEO Ken Lowe and CFO Jim Clayton at a launch party for Susan Packard’s new book last week.

I went to a party last week that was two years in the making. Not because it was so fancy or ornate. Quite the contrary. It was warm and cozy.

But, two years ago, when Mary Ellen Brewington heard that her friend Susan Packard, a co-founder of HGTV, was writing a new book, Mary Ellen said she wanted to host the launch party for it. Continue reading

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Charlie Daniel’s reluctant retirement party

Retired News Sentinel Executive Editor Jack McElroy, left, and editorial cartoonist, Charlie Daniel.

Former News Sentinel editorial cartoonist Charlie Daniel has so many friends that his retirement party on Sunday had to be divided into two shifts! We were in the early shift: 1:30 to 3:30. Another group came from 3:30 to 5:30.

For his part, Charlie was nonplussed, of course. “No speeches,” he said, as folks called for him to make remarks after he was presented with proclamations by U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett and Jane Chedester of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s office.

Burchett got the biggest laugh when he gave Daniel a flag that he said “allegedly” had flown over the Capitol!

“I think they just put cartons of flags on a plane and then the plane flies over the Capitol,” Burchett joked. “That way, all those flags have flown over the Capitol!”

The party was at the new Farragut condo of Steve and Lin Oglesby, longtime friends of Charlie and Patsy Daniel. Unlike many retirement parties, this one was not at all raucous and joyous. It was sedate and almost sad. Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Journalism, Knoxville | 19 Comments