by Gay Lyons
Since their inception in 2004, the Summer Suppers of Knox Heritage have ranked among the most anticipated events of the season. The cover of the handsome black and white booklet that describes the Suppers always includes a vintage snapshot along with a maxim. In 2004, the cover statement â“We are talking now of summer evenings in Knoxville, Tennessee,â” taken from â“Knoxville Summer 1919â” by James Agee, was the perfect prelude to the first Summer Supper at the home of Randall DeFord and Wes Goddard in Fort Sanders, next to Agee Park.
In 2005 and 2006 the booklets advised, â“It is our conviction that these suppers are among the most exciting in Knoxvilleâ” and â“We fervently implore the general public to partake of our festive preparations.â” The 2007 booklet has as its maxim, â“Our commitment to your satisfaction is beyond all reason.â” Part of the fun comes from the fact that these exuberant slogans can be an interesting contrast to the somewhat dour looking persons in the vintage photos. Rest assured, there is no such dourness at the Knox Heritage Summer Suppers. It's all about a good time with good food and drink for a good causeâ"raising funds for Knox Heritage.
If you've been to a Supper before, you know what I'm talking about, and you've probably already started thinking about which events you want to attend. If you haven't been before, this is a great year to start because there are more Suppers at more venues than ever. The Suppers have been successful from the start, but this year, there seems to be special energyâ"perhaps due to the excitement generated by the HGTV Restore America project in Parkridge: Knox Heritage received a grant to restore two George Barber homes on Washington Avenue. The HGTV grant covers part of the restoration, but Knox Heritage must raise the rest of the money, which is why this year's Suppers are more important than ever.
One of the events, â“Burgers at the Barbers: A Progressive Stroll through the George Barber Houses of Parkridge,â” will allow guests to see progress on the Barber houses. In addition to beef and vegetarian burgers, the menu includes appetizers such as melon and prosciutto, bacon-wrapped figs, old-fashioned cheese straws, gazpacho, melon and champagne soup along with side dishes such as coleslaw and potato salad. There's homemade ice cream and strawberry sorbet along with cobblers and pies for dessert.
The â“Secret Supper Downtownâ” returns by popular request. Guests will gather at a starting point downtown and find their way to food and drinks based on clues provided to them along the way. Much about this Supper is mysterious, but there's no question that the food and beverages, provided by Trio CafÃ©, Bistro at the Bijou, Gregg White restaurants, Downtown Grind, Woodruff Brewing Company and Downtown Wine + Spirits, will be excellent.
While the Secret Supper is catered by some of downtown's finest establishments, most Suppers feature food prepared by the host committee. One Supper this year features a superb six-course Italian meal with specially paired wines for 24 guests who'll dine by candlelight on June 30 at Candoro Marble in Vestal. There's a â“Ragin' Cajun Shrimp Boilâ” at Toole's Bend featuring Cajun food and a â“Barn Bash on Brown's Mountainâ” featuring homemade goodies such as barbecue ribs, garlic cheese grits, black-eyed pea salad and banana pudding. A progressive supper in Fourth and Gill features roasted eggplant spread, artichoke pesto on crostini, stuffed Cornish hens and summer tomatoes and mozzarella. A harvest supper at Emory Place in September will include apricot-glazed pork tenderloin, boursin cheese potatoes and corn pudding.
Three events will take place at mid-century modern houses roughly my age, which makes it hard for me to think of them as vintage. The first of these Suppers, in Lakemoor Hills on June 2 at a house inspired by the California Case Study Homes, features chilled salmon, roasted new potatoes, canelli beans with tomatoes and walnuts and fresh corn with sweated onion, lemon and cumin. There's a luau at an award-winning mid-century modern in West Hills featuring roasted pig, volcanic chicken, poi and all kinds of Polynesian delights. There'll be â“A Retro-modern Rockin' Good Timeâ” at a futuristic Lustron house in Sequoyah Hills with a gourmet burger bar sponsored by Northshore Brasserie along with Duck and Cover Potatoes, Atomic Beans and Jane Jetson's Favorite Fruit Cobbler Ã¡ lÃ mode.
The â“Civil War Tour and Supperâ” on June 24 offers not only a great summer picnic (including deviled eggs and tomato pie) but a guided trolley tour of stops associated with Knoxville's Civil War heritage. In September, you can â“Sing for Your Supperâ” at a craftsman style home that is one of the original Westmoreland homes. Along with music, this event offers Southern comfort food: fried chicken, fresh green beans, fried okra, pineapple-cheese casserole and other homemade delicacies.
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