Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Deli Opens at The Market at Union and Gay

Sign Announcing the Market Deli, Knoxville

The Market at Union and Gay opened just last summer after the closing of General Store in the same spot a few months earlier. It opened as one part convenience store, one part grocery store (which has general groceries and specialty items), one part huge beer selection and one part meat counter.

I was very excited and Urban Woman and I shopped there for almost all our meat, inevitably picking up other items on our way to the door. Then, overnight, the meat disappeared. With that went our primary reason for shopping there since we try to support Just Ripe and minus the meat, there just wasn't the pull to put out the effort to walk there. The meat was spectacular, grass-fed beef, pork chops, chicken, stuffed-peppers, ground meat and seafood. Apparently they could not sell enough of the higher-priced, high-quality meat.

Sign in front of The Market at Union and Gay

Deli window in The Market at Union and Gay, Knoxville

So, the experiment ended quickly. Bacon continued to be stocked - including Benton's which is nothing to sneer at. Promises were made that meat would return, but the months passed without so much as a hamburger patty. Two or three weeks ago that began changing with the appearance of frozen beef from Grainger County. The steaks we've had have been great. But that wasn't what we'd had before.

This week a deli opened in the spot once occupied by the meat. Some things are the same. Hedi, for example, is still the guiding hand and it was nice to see her back. The cases are the same, but the contents have changed. She said they are having trouble finding a vendor for fresh, organic meat.

Meats and cheeses at The Market at Union and Gay, Knoxville

Salads at The Market at Union and Gay, Knoxville

In its place is an array of deli meats and cheeses, as well as confections made from scratch. A wide range of salads are offered and deli sandwiches are built to order for $6.50. Urban Woman had the Market Club on sourdough bread and sang its virtues. I had the Cancun Wrap which is made with chicken and a spicy sauce. With the cheddar cheese I requested, it was extremely good and way more than enough for a meal. Of course, I ate it all.

I also bought a small container of broccoli salad and another of antipasto salad. I enjoyed them both, but I have to say the antipasto salad was awesome. The provolone cheese and salami were absolutely delicious. They have both for sale in their larger forms.

Deli Prices at The Market at Union and Gay, Knoxville

Confections at The Market at Union and Gay, Knoxville

Hedi said they are still looking to stock some fresh meat but, so far, they haven't had any luck. In the meantime, they've got great salads and deli sandwiches. The confections looked delicious and they also carry a list of $4.99 sandwiches which includes Pimento cheese. I've been told their pimento cheese might be the best this particular source had ever tasted.

Answers to your sweet-tooth at The Market at Union and Gay

Cancun Wrap, Broccoli and Antipasto salads (Plate not included)

Drop by and pick up some of the new food. Introduce yourself to Hedi and tell her this strange blogger guy sent you. She'll know who you mean immediately. Mostly, please support the businesses you'd like to keep around. They need your help to continue making our life in the city the wonderful adventure it has become.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tour of New Union Shops, Plus More Tree and Vine

New Union Shops - Pre-Makeover, Union Avenue, Knoxville, February 2012

Yesterday's blog post about the eminent Knoxville advent of The Tree and the Vine certainly stirred up quite a response. I'd e-mailed the owners to let them know I was posting about their business, so I hoped to hear from them and I did. What I didn't anticipate was that I would hear from a person affiliated with the development of the building. Fortunately, everyone was pleased and an offer was extended for me to look around the building and see the plans.

Paul Karlsson, co-owner of The Tree and Vine along with his wife Terri, expanded on their plans and hopes for the new business, saying, "the name is primarily a reference to the Olive Tree and the Grape Vine (balsamics) since balsamic vinegar is made from grape must, which is made from cooked, white, Trebbiano grapes grown in the Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy." Got that? Me either, but I'm hoping to learn all about it personally when Terri and Paul arrive. I'm guessing a trip to their store will be fun and educational as well as delicious.

The store in Asheville, and soon the one in Knoxville will carefully reflect their personal talents and skills as Terri designs the colors and textures while Paul plans the layout and lighting. He actually builds the cabinetry himself and he is "currently in the process of building the cabinetry in our shop," from "natural maple and cherry," which he hopes will set a pleasing atmosphere.

In addition to their Olive Oil, they are very proud of their Balsamic Vinegar. He insists, "after traveling all over Italy and tasting samples at International Fancy Food Shows, we still carry the best tasting aged Traditional Balsamic Vinegar we have ever tasted, regardless of price." Hungry?

Later in the day I met the person who had offered the tour. He requested not to be named or photographed. When we met on the sidewalk he was wearing a fake nose, glasses and mustache . . . not really, but it's a fun image, no? Actually, he was a very nice person who certainly had no reason other than kindness to offer me the tour.

Architectural Rendering of New Union Shops after make-over

He started by showing me the plans for the building and, thankfully, explaining what they meant. In a nutshell the exterior plans call for the entire front of the building to be glass. The bricks wrapping around the southwest corner of the building will be left and all the other frontage will be removed, probably within the next couple of weeks.

Fencing outside Sapphire - something similar for New Union Shops?

Over the large plates of glass will be a new awning, giving shelter to sidewalk traffic. He is also considering the addition of fencing similar to that in front of Sapphire, which, as you can see in the photograph, is very attractive. His thinking is to have it at the very edge of the sidewalk, leaving room between the tree wells to have outdoor seating while still allowing for a flow on the sidewalk.

Inside is pretty much a shell with dirt and gravel floors. While we were there workers were excavating the plumbing lines which had been installed with different plans in mind by the previous owner. They will likely be modified to fit the new plans for the space.

Interior View from the West (portion which will be The Tree and Vine)

And what are those new plans? I'm glad you asked. There is space for five storefronts in the building. One is already taken by Lellyett and Rogers, Printing and Reprographics which, I believe, mostly does printing and reproduction for construction related companies. They will stay in their current address, though their front will be partially altered.

The remaining spaces working from the western (Lellyett and Rogers) end will include The Tree and the Vine next door. Working back toward the Hotel Oliver, it is thought the next space might be a high-end men's hair salon or barbershop. A couple have expressed interest, but nothing has been set.

Interior View of New Union Shops from the rear looking southeast

The next space is available, though they are picturing, perhaps, a food-related vendor, though not necessarily a restaurant. He mentioned that in the same since that The Tree and Vine is food-related with food products and kitchen supplies, there might be something for the next spot which would compliment that.

The final space on the end of the building across the alleyway from the Hotel Oliver is likely to be a restaurant. Whereas the others spaces have from just over 1000 to just over 1400 square feet, this space has over 1800 square feet will have plumbing to support a kitchen in the rear, with an exit into the alley. A large window will also be placed on the alley side at the end to provide additional light for the space.

Interior View of New Union Shops from the rear looking southwest

It is expected that the spaces will be ready for occupancy in June and, hopefully, the entire store-front will be filled this summer providing a very helpful connector to the stores in the Daylight Building on the next block.

It's amazing to think how much Union Avenue has changed in the last two years and  it doesn't seem to be finished. The possibility of a tour of the condos under construction on the upper floors of the Arnstein Building was dangled at the end of our conversation. I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, thanks to Paul for e-mailing me about his new business and thanks to the unnamed person who gave me the tour. Watch for him. He's the guy with the fake glasses, nose and mustache.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Breaking (Big) News: New Business for Union Avenue: The Tree and Vine

Sign outside Asheville Store (photo from

Here's more big news for Market Square: We are getting a great store called The Tree and Vine which currently has a location in Asheville. The Asheville store sells Olive oil and wine, though the Knoxville store will feature the olive oil, vinegar and wine supplies but will not likely sell the actual vino, presumably due to our arcane restrictions and laws, though I'm not certain that is the case. Also, kitchen supplies are likely to be included in the inventory mix.

According to the owner, the store is going to be located near Tuepelo Honey and, though I'm not clear on the precise location, the lease has been signed and they hope to have the store open in June, which is about the same timetable as Tupelo Honey. They were well aware of the pending opening for Tupelo Honey and one has to wonder if this is a ripple effect from the other restaurant announcing their move. If so, it makes the CBID grant look pretty good

Interior of Asheville Store (photo from

The store focuses on buying the best extra virgin olive oil and vinegar possible from multiple suppliers and they are always searching for better products to present to in their store. Customers are encouraged to taste the different oils when they enter the store and after selecting a favorite oil it is placed in a bottle from the large vats and sealed with a cork and wine bottle-type foil.

Terri and Paul Karlsson, owners try to be environmentally conscious, using recycled paper and offering customers a discount on a next purchase for returning a previously purchased bottle for reuse. The couple have each had successful careers in very different occupations and opened their Asheville store in Biltmore village just last summer.

Terri and Paul Karlsson of The Tree and Vine (photo from

Could it be that we are now only a year behind Asheville in the "cool" department? I'm not so sure about that, but I'm very happy to hear that a new set of products will be offered in downtown Knoxville by a store that seems very much to fit the vibe we are building here.

UPDATE: I'll have more tomorrow from the owners and the developer. Stay tuned!***

Now all they have to decide is whether they will sell Olive Oil to Stacey Campfield. I'll let you know if I get a preliminary read on that one.

Special thanks goes out to reader and very good friend, Marti, who passed along the information for this post. Have a tip? I'd love the chance to be the first to write about it, so pass it on to

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Dirty Guv'nahs and Black Cadillacs Warm Up at Preservation Pub

Chris Doody, James Trimble, Will Horton and John Phillips

Take two of my favorite local bands and add my favorite weekly musical hour and you have the recipe for a great time. And it certainly was. WFIV, 105.3 broadcasts Homegrown, their weekly show featuring live local music from Preservation Pub. It has all the parts I love: early starting time, seats up front and great music. This week (is it every week?) fourteen inch pizzas were on sale for $4.50. Life is good.

Dirty Guv'nahs and Black Cadillacs, Preservation Pub, Knoxville

Dirty Guv'nahs and Black Cadillacs, Preservation Pub, Knoxville

The format is that Joe, a DJ from WFIV, interviews the musicians between songs about their latest projects or simply about the music in general. Last night the bands discussed their upcoming recordings. The Black Cadillacs have an album ready which will be released in late spring, which is about two years after their last effort. The Dirty Guv'nahs have an album almost finished and they anticipate a summer release.

James Trimble

Chris Doody and James Trimble of the Dirty Guv'nahs

The show featured a few older songs, a few of the new songs for each band and some very cool covers, mostly as an encore. When the covers for a night include Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Wilco and the Felice Brothers, it is definitely a good night. As a bonus, the Wilco song was actually a Billy Bragg and Wilco song with lyrics by Woody Guthrie, so the bases were all attended to.

Will Horton

Guv'nahs and Cadillacs, Preservation Pub, Knoxville, February 2012

Chris Doody and James Trimble from the Dirty Guv'nahs were joined by Will Horton and John Phillips of the Black Cadillacs and the duos swapped songs back and forth with a little vocal, rhythm, harmonica or guitar help for each other as needed. Technical difficulties necessitated a shuffling of instruments and microphones and nobody seemed to mind. James jumped up once and tried to work on the jack to John's guitar while he and Will were playing a song. It was all very friendly and the guys seem to enjoy working together.

Guv'nahs and Cadillacs, Preservation Pub, Knoxville, February 2012

Guv'nahs and Cadillacs, Preservation Pub, Knoxville, February 2012

The crowd was surprisingly small for a free, acoustic show by two bands who will likely sell out the Bijou for two nights running. The weather may have kept some people away as a steady rain before the show turned into a torrent by the end of the night. I walked to the Old City afterward to hear Ben Maney, but he had canceled his show due to illness and by the time I walked home I was soaked to the bone. I kept my camera dry.

Guv'nahs and Cadillacs, Preservation Pub, Knoxville, February 2012

Speaking of, it didn't give me what I hoped it might, but I think I learned a little from the attempt and I'll be better next time. It's definitely a journey to attain better photographs.

Guv'nahs and Cadillacs, Preservation Pub, Knoxville, February 2012

But the show was great and the shows this weekend promise to be special, as always, when the full bands take the stage. You can get tickets for $21.50 for Friday or Saturday night here. I understand there are tickets left. I'm not sure I'll be able to make this one, but who knows? I've heard each of the bands many times, but if you haven't, let me tell you, you will be happy you spent the money.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Jack Rentfro and the Apocalypso Quartet at Preservation Pub

Jack Rentfro, Preservation Pub,(with Laith Keilany)

A performance by Jack Rentfro and his ace band the Apocalypso Quartet is difficult to articulate to an uninitiated audience. Apparently initially encouraged by the late, beloved Phil Pollard, Jack rips his way through spoken word apocalyptic verses as the front-man for the quartet, which has always included more than four members when I've seen them. On this recent night there were five including Nate Barrett on drums and percussion, Bob Deck on guitar, Mike Murphy on bass, Laith Keilany on various stringed instruments and Cecilia Miller on cello.

Cecilia Miller foreground with Jack Rentfro

I slipped inside Preservation Pub and walked up to the speakeasy about 7:00, only to find they didn't start until 8:00 which, for regular readers of this blog will come as no surprise. Still, not bad. I was able to catch the first set and walk back home before 10:00. As usual, the crowd was smaller than the music called for, but everyone there,which seemed to include some tourists seated near me, enjoyed the show.

Jack Rentfro and the Apocalypso Quartet, Preservation Pub, Knoxville

Jack will never be accused of being an optimist and his poetry is decidedly dark, pessimistic and generally enunciates the coming damnation and ruin. Yes, I'm exaggerating - by a very little bit. It is also hilariously funny and clever, but always intellectually challenging. His recounting of the personal foibles of the various presidents, which he touted as his early nod to Presidents' Day would not likely be included in any official Washington presentation of the day. The man brings a fine intellect, a jaded, slightly skewed view of the world to every piece

Jack Rentfro, Preservation Pub, Knoxville 2012

The musicians behind him are all excellent. Nate Barrett also plays with Hudson K, but seems to find his way to a drum kit behind many local artists - particularly those whose music is just a tad eccentric. Laith Keilany and Cecilia Miller also find their way onto the stage with many different artists. I've seen Laith with Jodie Manross and Cecilia with R.B. Morris among others.

Jack Rentfro and the Apocalypso Quartet, Knoxville, February 2012

The sound is jazzy. Then it's not. It's funk, it's R and B, it's country and rock and roll. It is whatever the poem demands and it amazes me that without the more common structure of a song they are able to find the groove required for each piece and play it in perfect form. If they were casting about for endings or struggling to ride the wave of the words, I couldn't tell.

Jack leans into it, Preservation Pub, Knoxville

Try to find them near wherever you are. I think they are playing the Well soon, if they haven't already and I hope to hear them downtown, again, soon. Next time I hear them it will be with my new camera and here's hoping the pictures are better.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

First Friday, Art and Passing Time in the City

Harpist on Market Square, Knoxville, February 2012

It's hard to believe how quickly the winter has passed. There hasn't really been much of one as far as the weather goes. It was just New Year and now it's almost spring. I've barely gotten used to the winter hours for Just Ripe and they will be changing soon to spring hours.

Jazz in the Art Market, Gay Street, Knoxville, February 2012

In the hurry through February, I realize I never mentioned anything about First Friday this month. I like to throw it out there for your consideration because the art openings that night are generally up for the month at the Emporium and the UT Gallery. We also had a harpist on Market Square, though she came with strings attached. Her compatriots hovering nearby passed out religious tracts to anyone who paused. As always, we enjoyed the jazz in the Art Gallery on Gay Street, so there was a little soundtrack to the night.

Art in the Balcony at the Emporium, Knoxville

I didn't particularly care for the exhibit on the balcony this go around. Somehow it just didn't reach out and grab me. Maybe it will grab you. It's called "Forward" and it is produced by Pellissippi State faculty. The piece pictured here looked like plastic that might have washed up on the banks of a polluted river - with a light illuminating it from behind. I'm sure I'm just not sophisticated enough to appreciate it all and, given the right tutelage, I might realize how incredible it really is.

Jake Livesay, Acrylic at the Emporium

Jake Livesay, Acrylic at the Emporium, Knoxville, 2012

Downstairs, two artists shared the space in a exhibition titled, "If Not Now, When? The emphasis for the artists, apparently is experiencing the moment. Jake Livesay exhibited works in acrylic, many of which featured a seemingly Native American motif. At first I didn't care for it, but the more I studied it, the more it drew me in. It's very geometric in nature, which can cause a work to seem cold or emotionally distant in my view, but that wasn't so much the case with these pieces.

Victor Schmidt, Emporium, Knoxville

Victor Schmidt, Emporium, Knoxville

Victor Schmidt, Emporium, Knoxville

Victor Schmidt exhibited forged works of steel and brass. I enjoyed those quite a bit. I'm sure I didn't gather everything the artist intended, being the rube that I am, but I did like the shapes and contortions and enjoyed imagining what the abstract expressions might represent, if anything more than beautiful steel and brass.

Japanese Art at the UT Downtown Gallery, Knoxville, February 2012

Japanese Art at the UT Downtown Gallery, Knoxville, February 2012

The UT Downtown Gallery is always interesting and this month it is no exception. Japanese artists are featured and particularly a technique of layering paint that I never did really understand. It is, however, beautiful, and impressive. The thing about Japanese art is that it has such a deep soul it bears up well under extended scrutiny. The longer I look, generally, the better I like.

Hopefully you still have another week or so to catch these fine exhibitions before they begin to give way to the First Friday openings for March which, incredibly, are close at hand.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Making Mardi Gras in a Mountain City

Vegetables ready, five pounds shrimp and one pound crab meat in the fridge

We're a long way from the Gulf Coast. Never is that more clear than Mardi Gras week. As an ex-patriot of Mobile, Alabama, Urban Woman and I can tell you that this was the highest of holidays in the city of my childhood. For those of you less educated on the history of the celebration, the oldest Mardi Gras in America is in Mobile, Alabama. It was and is a huge affair. Public schools are closed the day of and the day before Mardi Gras. Of course, when Ash Wednesday hits even school children have to pay for their sins by returning to classes.

Cook that gumbo, Urban Woman!

So, of course, we had to host a little Mardi Gras revelry downtown. Shaft sponsors an irregularly scheduled beverage event throughout the year and February has become the annual celebration of the holiday in downtown Knoxville.

Decorated, but empty

It all starts with the beads and doubloons. Once those are strewn about and the house is ready, it's time to get serious with the gumbo. The roux has to be perfect - extremely dark, but not burned. Vegetables of your choice are added and then the seafood. Crab meat and gumbo is my family tradition. In later years we spiced it up with a little andouille sausage. Be generous with the crab boil and have bottles of Louisiana hot sauce for individual taste.

Now we got it going on!

We had out little gathering on Sunday with about thirty people and I know at least one other home downtown where gumbo was brewing for a family disappointed to miss out on their annual trip to the Mobile Mardi Gras. I met another potential reveler on the street Sunday morning. Her roots are more in the New Orleans direction (they have Mardi Gras there, too). Where our King Cakes were homemade by a good friend, hers was imported from Mandeville, Louisiana, which is across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans.

Let the Good Times Roll

I remember years ago there was an annual Mardi Gras parade in downtown Knoxville. If memory serves correctly, it was somehow a fundraiser for SOCM or some similar organization. Brilliantly dress marchers stand out in my memory, though I can't really recall floats. There was candy and children's games afterwards, I believe. This would have been somewhere around the late 1980s or early 1990s. More recently, I wrote about the Mardi Gras event which broke out at Kendrick Place, hosted by Knox Heritage and headed up by Mobilian Kim Trent.

That idea faded with time and the advent of the darkest years for downtown. In recent years a new Mardi Gras related tradition has arisen: Mardi Growl. It involves festive canines and you'll find last year's posts here and here. This year's event, which benefits Young-Williams Animal Center will be held March 3, which is a bit after people Mardi Gras. It is also an annual work conflict for me, so I'll depend on some of you to take pictures and submit them for inclusion on the blog. Last year Shaft took a raft of photos and Stuck Inside of Knoxville reader and animal chip implanter, Jeannine, also sent in pictures. Just send them to

Every good southern party ends in a duel, no?

In the meantime, Happy Mardi Gras, Ya'll.

And to understand why I'm hard on the floats in the Christmas Parade in Knoxville, take a look at the video below. It shows one parade of many from last year in my hometown. For this year in Mobile, I count around forty parades scattered from January 21 to Fat Tuesday. Now that's what I'm talkin' about!

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