Monday, June 10, 2013

Down South Again! Part One - Tennessee - Fascinating History And A Friendly Chef

I have to thank our friends for our wonderful time down south yet again in Tennessee and South Carolina. H(usband) and I would never have explored these parts of the country without having great friends to visit.

On this last trip a couple of weeks ago, H played A LOT of golf and I went out and about to great towns, local museums, shops and restaurants.  Here are some highlights:

In Tennessee to visit M and B, M and I started one day at Fort Loudoun, which was built on Cherokee lands by the British settlers. The fort standing today is an exact replica of what was built in 1757. The British wanted to maintain their alliance with the Cherokee and they used Fort Loudoun as a trading post and also as a defense against the French.

Our past with the Indians is so interesting. In this instance, it seemed to have started out so well with robust trading between the Cherokee in the area and the British settlers. The violent events that followed are described here. (This is actually a history website for kids, but they didn’t leave anything out as they described the subsequent attacks by the British and the Cherokee very calmly, but clearly.) This is the approach to Fort Loudoun. 

What would we find beyond that fence?

Here were the buildings inside the complex with a view of Tellico Lake. 

More than 200 British soldiers and settlers lived at Fort Loudoun before it had to be abandoned.

Some of the rooms looked like this:

Some supplies:


Look at the Chevaux de Frise used to defend the fort against attacks on horseback. Pretty clever. 

We also learned about an amazing Cherokee, Sequoyah, at The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum. So fascinating! He was born in the Cherokee village of Tuskegee near Fort Londoun about 17 years after the fort was destroyed. His father was thought to be a white Virginia fur trader and his mother was the daughter of a Cherokee Chief. 

Without knowing how to read or write any other language, Sequoyah invented the Cherokee alphabet and developed the written Cherokee language. He took every sound in the Cherokee language and gave it a symbol. Incredible! The first bilingual Indian newspaper, The Cherokee Phoenix, was published using his writing system.

A bust of Sequoyah by Griffon Chiles in the Frank McClung Museum on the University of Tennessee campus. 

Perhaps less important, but just as enjoyable, were the vittles we had (and the shopping we did!)

On a visit to Sweetwater (it IS sweet!), we had lunch at Miss Maudy’s. Just the NAME of the place was enough for me. M had a Deluxe Grilled Cheese and I had the Bacon-Basil Tomato Sandwich, which was pretty darned good. They also sold  food items. I bought some paprika (2 kinds) and chocolate covered nuts! If Miss Maudy sold them, how could they be bad?

Miss Maudy's
My Bacon-Basil Tomato Sandwich:

We made a stop at the Sweetwater Flower Shop, which has lots of nifty gifts in addition to flowers. Above it is a stunning restaurant called The Mansion, which was unfortunately closed, but we snuck in to look at it. Really purdy. 


We also spent some time in Knoxville, where a Tupelo Honey Café opened downtown in Market Square.

It has the same menu as the one in Asheville, North Carolina, but it’s so new that the tables weren't sticky. The food is just as awesome.

Same excellent biscuits, just like in Asheville:

Look at my Fried Egg BLT - "Two fresh, free-range eggs prepared over hard (?), two strips of maple peppered bacon, lettuce, tomato and smoked jalapeno aioli on our exclusive sourdough wheat." HOW could that be bad? It wasn't! Can you see the egg peeking out?

There were some excellent shopping opportunities that M and I took advantage of. Specialty olive oil and vinegar shops have been popping up all over the place. The Tree and Vine has an outpost in Knoxville (and Asheville).

What a place! It’s a beautifully designed space with shelf after shelf filled with cans of high quality and imaginatively flavored olive oils and vinegars. 

We had a lovely gal who introduced us to the general layout and then let us try MANY different oils and vinegars. Actually, she didn’t LET us, the shop is very efficiently organized around tasting. Every flavor has a bottle already out that you can taste from. There are canisters of bread cubes on the counter and little tasting cups. You don’t have to ask anyone for anything, you just start tasting! They even have sheets of paper to keep track of what you liked, which becomes really important after the 10th different oil. 

It was amazing how good the Bacon Olive Oil was. And the Blood Orange!



After tasting MANY different flavors, I ended up with what might be considered boring, but I don't think so! Lemon Olive Oil (which I love to drizzle on vichyssoise) Raspberry White Balsamic Vinegar and Honey and Ginger White Balsamic Vinegar. Oh and a Lemon White Balsamic Vinegar, which didn't make it into the picture.

Next up was The Peanut Shop.

Here, too, EVERY flavor and variety could be tasted!  The choice was incredible. I ended with some Wasabi peanuts and various chocolate-covered types of nuts. There were also southern style praline-y things. I could NOT buy those or they wouldn't have lasted even the block back to the car. 

Knoxville is wonderful town for walking around and each time we go I like it even more. Here's one really cute shop we went into:


We had two wonderful dinners out. The first was at Surin of Thailand. I felt immediately at peace when we walked in. It could have had something to do with this giant Buddha:

Or this guy:

Here were some of the great dishes we ordered:

Chicken and Beef Satay:


Pot Stickers

Duck Curry
Mango Ice Cream
Coconut Ice Cream (Divine!)

We also went to what many consider to be the best restaurant in Knoxville right now - Echo Bistro and Wine Bar. (Well, our friends M and B think so and they know good cookin’!) The best part was that Chef Seth Simmerman came out to talk to us and advise us on the menu. I felt very special and I love that he does that often. I’m a sucker for a man in a white chef’s jacket, so I loved the place.  

Chef Seth Simmerman
My Cosmo was yummy and I loved my starter of Grilled Apalachicola Oysters, which were roasted with garlic, shallots and parsley and topped with lemon butter. They were really juicy with so much flavor.


I had the Tennessee Sportsman’s Platter. How could I not? I was in Tennessee! It was a broiled lamb chop, roasted blueberry venison sausage, a breast of Muscovy duck served with braised onions and bleu cheese grits.  

It was a delicious plate of excitingly flavored meats. I ordered the duck medium rare and I said more rare than medium. The chef himself came out to say the duck was a bit more done than I had asked for. He apologized and said he would bring me a new (duck) breast if I wanted. I LOVE chefs anyway and how often do big powerful men say “I’m sorry”??! So I said the duck was fine and, really, it was more than fine.

M’s Dover Sole was really amazing looking (and delicious). It looked like an exotic sailboat on a plate.


We tried two desserts:
Key Lime Pie - 2 thumbs up and...

Crème Brûlée - 2 thumbs IN the custard. It was very tasty.


All in all, Tennessee was fabulous. Thank you so much M and B

Next time...the delights of South Carolina...


lotusmoss said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful visit to Knoxville. Thanks for the shoutout of our Sequoyah bust at the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture. Hope you'll come back and visit us sometime (we have a large permanent exhibit on Southeastern archeology and Native peoples).

Best wishes,

Cat Shteynberg
Assistant Curator, McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture

Sue said...

Hi Cat,
Welcome! I'm always up for a wonderful Sequoyah bust. Actually I took that picture on my SECOND visit to your museum. A visit to the University of Tennessee campus would be incomplete without stopping by the McClung Museum. (Your gift shop is pretty nifty too.)