This town knows how to party. Boy did I learn that at a mysterious gathering hosted by a savage couple in Powell. The hostess had the body of a pin-up girl and her husband was an international package-o-fun. The chilly backyard gathering included a humble architect of world renown and his wife, the Goddess. They both spoke perfect German with their son the aspiring filmmaker. I chatted up a physicist, a gaggle of mavens, members of Seal Team Six, and an actor from the Larry Flynt biopic.
Was this a pickin’ party? Maybe: The Johnson Swingtet was tuning up. Their pastiche of standards, Django, and original songs undergirded by a bluesy harmonica is a true Knoxville Sound. The lead singer, Eugene Johnson, kicked it off with “That’s What I Like About the South.”
Scattered tables-for-two seemed more nightclub than community sing. Jars of moonshine black- and blueberries studded the bar. Tommy Higdon’s finest IPA from the Downtown Grill and Brewery was chillaxing in the corner. A framed photo of Queen Elizabeth invited me to don one of the tiaras nested in a punch bowl. A toqued chef from the Culinary Institute at the University of Tennessee said, “Nope, not a fund-raiser” while flipping Madame Cyprès Crepes. (See recipe below—they’re yummy.)
The pin-up girl chirped, “Hey y’all the croquembouche is here!” just as Chef Mike from the Cakery placed the five-foot tall pyramid of profiteroles and spun sugar on a table next to a Civil War-era sword and an epée. Croak-and-what? What do you mean the sword will crack it open later?
A redhead with gold laurel leaves in her hair sat alone at a table, watching the spectacle. I was going to talk to her (bless her heart), until Leo Johnson (the blonde cutie pie guitarist) tore into “Sweet Sue.” Women under 30 swooned. Women over 30 cooed at the harmonica player when Eugene Johnson announced, “He’s all… the way… from Paris…France.”
A tall and hot drink of water, the shy Frenchman said things like, “But of course” softly. When people spoke to him they unwittingly invoked a hillbillyized French accent that was more Pepe Le Pew than Yves Montand.
Nancy (OMG, she’s here?) Brennan Strange elegantly started to sing “La Vie en Rose.” The song was perfect, except no harmonica. Monsieur Tall and Hot had asked the laurel-leafed girl to dance.
Apparently, our redhead was not alone at all.
They danced oblivious to everything but each other. The whole vision was out of time, out of context, and breathtaking. For a moment we were all Bohemians in the Fifth Arrondissement, circa 1937.
Then, Kaboom. The party revealed itself to be a wedding. But of course we were an odd mix; the groom was an artist and the redhead some sort of scientist. Friends and strangers kibitzed while gathering handfuls of sparklers and matches to fire them up. Did I mention the fire-breathers and baton twirlers? Did I mention one was named Scooby? The groom held his beloved in one hand and a Hohner chromatic harmonica with the other. They shyly walked together to the marrying spot made by the crowd of 50 smiles. Underneath my tiara I watched the groom tear up as he said, “Oui.”
The bride had made rose-flavored marshmallows for everyone the night before. Who does that? She discovered them at Le Jules Verne, the restaurant inside the Eiffel Tower. The ethereal pink cubes washed the sting out of dining alone at one of the most coveted tables in the world. Nearly 10 years to the day after tasting her first French dessert, another sweet (all the way from Paris, France) made her a princess bride. Right here in East Tennessee.
The sword whacked the hell out of the croquembouche. As we scrambled to munch on flying profiteroles, I heard the news that Madame and Monsieur were getting married again, in a couple of weeks: All… the way… in Paris…France.
But of course they were. Because this is Wonderville.
The city of light, and hope, and fairy tales.
Madame Cyprès Crepes
(Cyprès sounds like “sea-pray” when you say it aloud)
1.C. Mascarpone cheese
2.1 Jar of Moonshine black and blueberries (recipe at end of crepe directions)
3. Basic French Crepes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Sift together flour, sugar and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, beat eggs and milk together with an electric mixer. Beat in flour mixture until smooth; stir in melted butter.
Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 2 tablespoons for each crepe. Tip and rotate pan to spread batter as thinly as possible. Brown on both sides. When second side is browned smear a tablespoon of mascarpone cheese on the bottom third of the crepe. Then sprinkle a tablespoon of Moonshine black and blueberries over the cheese. Roll up and serve. If you have had a bad day—drink a little of the “juice” from the moonshine jar.
Moonshine Black and Blueberries
One pint of fresh blue berries
One pint of fresh black berries
¼ C white sugar
One jar of white lightning moonshine (procured legally of course)
Pour the moonshine out into a pitcher so that the mason jar is empty.
Put the berries in the empty jar
Pour the sugar over the berries
Pour the moonshine back into the jar – replace the lid
Shake to swirl around the sugar.
Put jar in the fridge and wait three days. The longer they sit the better.