Most of the day Saturday I enjoyed the Market Square Art Fair, allowing time to take a bit of a nap back at the house somewhere in the middle of the day. I’m certain the volunteers and workers had to be exhausted because it completely ran me down just hanging out with those hard-working people. And there was plenty to get worked up about. It was sometimes difficult to know which activities were official and which sprang up in the vicinity simply to take advantage of the huge buzz and foot traffic.
I saw the block of ice prepared for carving at the beginning of the day and intended to get back to see the finished product, but I didn’t make it back within the hour. I walked from the Market Square Stage to the East Tennessee History Center to find the schedule for the Shakespeare activities which Urban Woman and I wound up catching later in the day.
I found the UT Retail Student Association hosting a pop-up boutique in the former Regions Bank building to benefit Habitat for Humanity. The Daylight Building was awash in foot traffic with Re-runs drawing a crowd of shoppers, a book signing in front of Union Avenue Books and Just Ripe was packed all day long. Union Avenue Books later had a talk by Jack Neely about the changing perceptions of Knoxville through the years based on his recent article in Metropulse.
Music floated throughout the area both officially, from the stage, and with various buskers playing singly or in groups. I never grow tired of watching children dance, displaying simple and pure joy. A junior jazz band played on the stage and it was promising to see high school students with a knowledge and appreciation of jazz.
People watching is generally good downtown on a slow day, but when the crowd is this large, you know you’ll see some interesting people. I’m more willing to ask for a photograph than I used to be and I find that almost everyone I ask (I can remember the three exceptions in the last two years) is happy for me to take their picture. I hope some of them later spot their image on the blog.
I really had my first opportunity to slow down a bit and admire the woodwork, glass and other arts and crafts. It may not be high art, but you have to smile when you see spam can stringed instruments. The whimsical metal whirligigs were a big hit on the Gay Street side of Krutch Park. The one pictured here with the rowing frog had a group of admirers all weekend, though at $495 it hadn’t sold the last time I checked.
Who could have guessed the Culinary Arts Tent would be my favorite thing all weekend? With its gorgeous tents, lighting, stone, appliances and formal table cloths it looked like a movie set. I’ve never watched five minutes of a cooking show that I can remember and I’ve never had any ambition to actually cook anything beyond eggs and grits, so why did I spend hours in that tent? I’m not sure.
The deal was that it was all free unless you wanted the wine pairing provided for each dish by Robert Mondavi wines, in which case you had to fork over $2.00 for a wrist band you could use all day. Tupelo Honey chef Brian Sonoskus was first up and prepared “New Pimento Cheese.” I don’t like pimento cheese, so I only ate two servings of his.
Later, Heather Grubb, owner of Cake of Knoxville and previously on TLC’s “Next Great Baker,” which people in the audience seemed to know all about. She made a lemon yogurt cake which was appropriately paired. She helped me realize why I found myself so captivated by this event – besides the great food and wine. It was the passion that she and each of the other chefs bring to what they do. I find it very inspiring to be in the presence of people who are sharing what they truly love.
The wine tasting included five different wines from Robert Mondavi and great details about wine-making in general and his wines in particular. Samples were provided of a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It was all good, but I heard the most raves about the Pinot.
The day ended with Avanti Savoia’s Chef Joseph Lowery and his sous chef Karen preparing Radiatore Pasta con Salsa Fresca. I loved talking to Joseph who introduced himself and told me about some of the stops along the way in his career. He was twice a personal chef, lived and worked as a chef in a number of major cities before retiring to farm in north Knox County. Then he got a call that lead to his current job which mostly involves teaching cooking classes at Avanti Savoia which is primarily a company which focuses on online sales of high quality food products. By this point in the day I had Urban Woman in tow and we both liked his dish so much we stopped at the Avanti Savoia booth to buy ingredients and she made the dish for Sunday dinner.
As we walked from the tent I noticed an ice sculpture of a pineapple and realized my day ended where it started. Pretty perfectly.