Bay's Travel Blog

I don't travel much any more. Resist!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

My favorite Knoxville restaurants

I recently compiled a list of restaurants I would recommend for a friend. Actually, it was for a friend's friends who are coming to Knoxville soon. This weekend, I think. I will not be here to greet them myself -- and really, they didn't ask for a tour guide. They asked for restaurant recommendations, and I was more than happy to comply.

I worked in downtown Knoxville twenty years ago at an ad agency on Fifth Avenue. Downtown Knoxville was a slum in those days, truly horrifying in more ways than I can count. I really hated working here. Lunches out were confined to a Mexican restaurant in the Old City, a diner on a side street near the agency, a nicer place on the edge of Fountain City, and Chesapeake's, where I always got the crab cakes with cole slaw and applesauce.

That was then. Now downtown Knoxville is a sparkling wonderland filled with beautiful places, parks, restaurants, shops, theatres, historic houses, hotels, boutique hotels, and more. I can get my Hermes scarf dry-cleaned just across the street from my office building. I can get sushi, home cooking, pasta, pizza, quiche, tacos, espresso, or tapas in a short walk. I can go to a biscuit festival in May and a Pride parade in  June.

I love this town. I want to live here. Seriously.

So since I went to all the trouble of writing a list of favorite restaurants for a stranger, I thought, "I should post this on the poor, benighted blog. Next time someone asks for a list, I can just send a link."

Without further ado, here you go: Bay's Knoxville Restaurant Revue

Cru Bistro (141 S. Gay St.): Flatbreads; small plates; great salads, entrees, and desserts. Very good cocktails; cool beer list. One of my favorite places, and it's on the very pretty 100 block of Gay Street. (There's another one out west in Turkey Creek. The one downtown is more to my style; it's more ... mellow.)

Knox Mason (131 S. Gay St.): Small, a little pricey, but right now it's the only restaurant in Knoxville with a chef who was nominated for a James Beard Award. (Soon JC Holdaway will open, and that chef actually *won* a James Beard. But it's not open yet.) Also on the very pretty 100 block of Gay Street.

Stock and Barrel (35 Market Square): Incredible burgers and an extensive bourbon and rye list. Absolutely delicious. Seriously. Duck confit french fries are amazing. Beer-battered onion rings are amazing. All the "ordinary" burgers are amazing; the turkey burger and lamb burger are *also* amazing. This restaurant is very, very, VERY busy and small. Get there at an off-time, or be prepared to wait for a table. 

Bistro at the Bijou (807 S. Gay St.): Historic location next to the historic Bijou Theatre. Great farm-to-table fare, very reliable place. I *highly* recommend the turkey and dressing or the squash casserole if it happens to be the special of the day when you're here. Really, though, I've never had anything except great food at the Bistro.

(Bonus: The owner of the Bistro at the Bijou publicly and loudly banned an obnoxious, ultra-conservative, hatemongering ex-state senator from the restaurant. It made the national news. She gets my business not just because the food rocks, but also because she rocks.)

Nama Sushi (506 S. Gay St.): Best sushi in Knoxville. Very hip. Gets crowded on weekends; much more affordable for lunch. *Love* the miso soup! (Another location in the Bearden neighbhorhood -- the soup is better downtown.) Claire is the best bartender in town, too!

Baja shrimp taco at Shuck with fabulous cole slaw
Shuck (5200 Kingston Pike): Speaking of Bearden, Shuck is the best seafood place in town. I dearly love the fish tacos (135 or Baja, fish or shrimp, grilled or fried, it's all fabulous). I had a wedge salad with a salmon steak that was crazy perfection. Dear Husband loves the oysters. The list goes on and on. If all you want is the best seafood in a land-locked town in the Smokies, then you have to go find Shuck.

Sweet P's Downtown Dive (410 W. Jackson Ave.): If you want barbecue, this is the only locally-owned joint I recommend. There are a few other barbecue places around town; Sweet P's really captures the Knoxville vibe the best. They have a smoker right there. (Another barbecue restaurant trucks its meat in from a commissary somewhere in the suburbs. Phoo.) Sweet P's also has a beer garden, and they call themselves a dive. That just yells "Scruffy City." (It really isn't all that divey.)

Tomato Head Pizza (12 Market Square): Extremely good pizza, good beer list, great sandwiches. Extensive vegan and gluten-free menus. Earliest survivor of the Market Square renaissance -- it's been in business since at least 1992, and it was the first restaurant in Knoxville to ban smoking. Loud ambiance, but ... *pizza*. Yum.

Coolato Gelato (524 S. Gay St.): Quiche, paninis, soups, and salads, and espresso and gelato and pastries. This place is *adorable*, and the food is *so* *good*. I love the lobster bisque if it's available; the chicken toscana soup is divine, too. So many good things to eat! Very grown up, though. Ladies-who-lunch kind of place during the day; very busy at night when people get out of the movie theatre and go to Coolato for the gelato.

Bacon wrapped shrimp at Five
Restaurants that are not locally owned but are very good, anyway:
Babalu Tapas and Tacos - Gay Street
Five - Gay Street
Tupelo Honey - Market Square

Five is more of a special-occasion kind of restaurant, but it's really, really good if you can afford it. Babalu and Tupelo Honey are both kind of expensive. Babalu's food is just divine, though. Service at all three restaurants is top-notch. Seriously. 

Top 4 (tried really hard to make this as short a list as possible)
1. Stock and Barrel
2. Cru
3. Bistro at the Bijou
3. Coolato Gelato

Two restaurants I haven't tried yet but others recommend:
- Balter Beer Works (very new, on Jackson Avenue)
- Dazzo's Pizza (on Gay Street)

One of the associates sometimes brings leftover pizza back from lunch at Dazzo's, and it just about knocks me out every time. It smells like pizza from heaven.

There! I think that just about covers it. If you also dine in Knoxville and have an opinion, please do not hesitate to let me know what you think!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Platter patter

Do y'all have World Market? Do you get the emails? It's Cost Plus World Market out west, I think. Anyway, I love World Market, and I love their email flyers. I look at them every day. It's like eye candy. I hardly ever manage to get over to the actual store because it's in Turkey Creek and that area's traffic is completely insane, but when I do -- mm, mm, mm. So many pretty things.

So yesterday I opened the daily email, and there was a giant coupon. "Flash Sale! 3 Hours Only! Today, 11/20/13, 5 to 8 pm!!!! CERAMIC TURKEY PLATTERS $6.99!!!! (*Limit 2!)"

OK, I added a few exclamation points. But they had two white ceramic platters, one plain, and one with an embossed leaf pattern around the rim. For $6.99. That's seven bucks. I had seven bucks. And I neeeeeeeeed platters. I'm always thinking, "I need to get to Kohl's when the Fiesta's on sale and get some more platters."

I forwarded that World Market flyer to Wesley and said, "Let's stop there after we pick up Doris!"

See, Doris got groomed at Petsmart yesterday. Her appointment was for 1:30, and Woodrow took her there while he was running errands. Doris would not be ready until 5:00 or so, so we were going to be in Turkey Creek (battling the traffic) anyway.

Wesley said yes, and I said yay, and then I just had to wait for the end of the day to roll around. All day, I congratulated myself on being sooooooo smart.

Platter! Woo hoo!

Four-thirty finally arrived, and I left work and went to pick up Wesley. The sun is awful these days when we get off work; I'm driving directly into the setting sun and it's so hard to see anything; it's an absolute hazard. 

[I should probably stop somewhere and have a cocktail and wait until the sun is down... right?  ;)  ] 

We got down the road a little bit -- Middlebrook Pike parallels the interstate -- and the traffic came to standstill. Eek. I inched forward for about fifteen minutes and finally got to the next cross section through the median, and I turned around and went the other way. I took a back road over to Kingston Pike, another artery that parallels the interstate, but on the *other* side of the interstate. As we crossed the interstate, the poor thing looked like a parking lot -- it was a sea of stopped cars. Another eek!

Kingston Pike was fine for about five blocks, and then it, too, stopped.

So -- to clarify -- it should take me twenty minutes to get from my office to Petsmart in West Knoxville if I go straight there on the interstate. If I stop and pick up Wesley, it should take me about 30 to 35 minutes, depending on the traffic on Middlebrook. I left the office at 4:33.

We got to Petsmart at 6:20. Doris looks *great*. Best grooming job ever!!! Her fur looks so perfectly clean and fluffy; it's crazy. Of course, she walked right out of the grooming room and promptly peed on the floor in the middle of the aisle. Doh! We found the Oops! Station and cleaned that puddle right up!

On the way to World Market, a little old lady in a minivan almost hit me because she didn't stop at an intersection and she didn't look to see if anyone was coming. People like that really shouldn't be driving. She never did see me. *I* stopped. It was all very astonishing. And disturbing.

At World Market, Wesley took Doris for a walk while I walked into the store, and the Thanksgiving stuff was set up in a special section to the left. I wandered over there and noticed immediately that there were stacks of the plain white turkey platters as advertised in the email. And... They... Were.... Huge. They were HUGE!!!!! 

I was actually surprised by the surface area of these things. I started fussing about it inside my head. "This stupid platter is huge! I don't have a place to store that thing. It'll be like the giant metal bowl I bought at the restaurant supply place. Sure, it's handy once a year when I have to make fourteen gallons of reindeer food, but then it sits unused the other 11.98 months of the year, taking up space because it's HUUUUUUUGE!!!! Look at that platter! Limit 2?!?! I could park the Prius on that thing! Geeeeeeeeeeeeeez, I do NOT need ONE platter that big, much less LIMIT TWO, I don't care how little they cost! Gah!!! I Am Not Going To Buy That Platter!!!"

Grumpily, I wandered a little over to one side, wondering if they were out of the leaf-embossed platters and thinking, "No wonder they're selling 'em for $6.99; they couldn't unload impractical giant platters from hell any other way!" I looked at a turkey shaped thing. I think it was supposed to be decorative. It was kind of ugly. I was grumpy.

I wandered around the three displays of Thanksgiving things that had been set up, and as I got to the back corner of the last display, I found one lone leaf-embossed giant platter from hell. I stood there blinking at it and thinking, "I am NOT gonna buy that giant disk from Hades! No! I am a reasonable human being!"

I took two steps away from the leaf-embossed platter, and at that very moment, a couple ran in the door. Ran! As if they, too, had been stuck in traffic and had been busting a gusset to try to get to World Market between the magic hours of 5:00 and 8:00 to get a beautimous seven-dollar platter! (Limit 2!) They made a beeline to the stack of plain platters and grabbed one, which the husband clutched to his chest as if he were afraid it might make a run for the door. The wife whirled in a circle and exclaimed, "Where's the other one?! Where's the one with the leaves? Quick, honey, where is the other platter? WHERE IS IT?!"

Spastically -- I swear I am not making this up, they were like the character Jack from "Will and Grace" in their movements -- the wife flailed her arms about with her head thrown back and high-stepped toward the other two Thanksgiving displays, while the husband hugged his plain platter and went the *other* way around the first display. Their heads moved like chickens' heads in the barnyard. Up! Down! Side! Other side! Up! Down!

I... took two steps back, knelt down, picked up the leaf platter, and walked to the check out lane, where two women in front of me were each buying two giant platters (Limit 2!), and a really pretty floor lamp that I am jealous of. I want that lamp. I wonder how much it costs? Probably more than seven bucks.

The enthusiastic shopping couple got in line behind me with two plain platters. When they saw my leaf-embossed platter, the husband yelled, "OH MY GOD! Where did you find that?!" I told him it was on a shelf in the Thanksgiving section, but I'm pretty sure it was the last one.

I now own a platter that could hold a roast pig. Not a suckling pig. A whole, adult hog. If any of you would like to borrow it, I would be happy to lend it out. We just need a truck to carry it to you.  ;)

Above is a photograph of the giant leaf-embossed platter from hell. It is with a Clinchfield platter and a Fiesta platter for scale. I threw in seven dollars to help with perspective. The Fiesta platter is no slouch -- it is a very good-sized Fiesta platter at 13.5" across the long part of the oval. The giant platter from hell (GPH, I guess) is 21.25" across. 

[NOTE: The World Market ad said it was 21" across. This is the first incident of understatement in advertising in the history of the world.]

My sister Amy laughed and laughed when I told her about why I got the platter I didn't want to have to store. She says I am a seagull from "Finding Nemo." MINE! MINE! MINE!!!

She also offered a number of alternate uses for it:
"If it snows, you can use it for sledding."
"You could put legs on it and use it for a table."
"You could paint it with chrome: Voila! A full-length mirror!"

ROFL -- I have a new platter. Strangely, I still want more Fiesta serving pieces, though.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A poem

Lamentation during the Anticipation of a Replacement Android Phone
by Bay

I do feel as if I cannot quite breathe --
As if my spirit hangs in a netherworld between reality and nothingness;
As if I'm screaming and no one can hear me. 
I feel as if the words I type with my thumbs aren't going anywhere 
and won't be read. 
I feel the birds -- are angry,
but I can't knock over pigs for them.

I am.

I am not.

Lost --
Without the map app that tells me where I am at (app?)
or where to go at (app!),
I wander in circles.

Am I?

Am I not?

I must be not.

                          -Oct. 24, 2013

Author's note: Anticipation of the fourth phone, actually. Got one, it died, it was replaced. Killed that one. A replacement was ordered. That one didn't work. Gazelle still hasn't refunded money. Yet another replacement was ordered from a great company that sells useful smart phones. In discussing the shoddy customer service of Gazelle, my sister said, "It's like an iron lung company NOT sending an iron lung." And thus the first line was inspired.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Clinique Aromatics Elixir

I'm slow, but I haven't forgotten. My perfume sample experiment continues, and I'm glad I have taken some time to get to know these lovely things.

Today's perfume is Clinique Aromatics Elixir. I'm a bit amused by the idea that Clinique does perfume, because when I was just a tiny thing, even I knew that Clinique set itself apart by eschewing fragrance in their cosmetics. My mother was a Merle Norman woman; just typing "Merle Norman" brings to mind that heady, deeply powdery, almost musky scent of their foundation. Mmm, mm, nothing says "makeup" like scented foundation!

(Suddenly wondering what all those chemicals did to my pores back in the day...)

Anyway, Clinique introduced Aromatics Elixir in 1975, and I never noticed until this year. A quick check of Fragrantica shows that "patchouli" is a top note for most noses; further reading reveals that many people say, "You either love it or hate it." This is a good sign; my favorite Private Collection is described thusly, itself. A non-insignificant number of critics also blatantly say, "I hate it."

I don't hate it.

It does have an astringent quality to it when it's fresh that reminds me a bit -- just a bit -- of Sea Breeze skin toner from the 1980's.  I don't hate it, but at first, I didn't like it.

That strident stripped-face quality fades pretty quickly. Forty-five minutes later, I smell my wrists and immediately think, "Oh, this reminds me of Private Collection." Ah ha! No wonder Fragrantica readers compare the two.

People who love patchouli love Aromatics Elixir. Me? I still can't pick out exactly which note is patchouli, and I notice that this thing, this beloved patchouli thing, isn't listed as a top note, middle note, or base note of Private Collection. Therefore, I have to point to the greens and the florals that the two fragrances share in common: rose, ylang-ylang, and jasmine. Maybe those common themes are why I like Aromatics Elixir, but not enough to buy a big bottle of it. I'll stick with the darlin' little sample. Maybe when it's gone, I'll start to miss it. Heck, that might be another perfume trial project in and of itself. Which perfumes will I miss enough to purchase? Only time will tell.

Aromatics Elixir is a strong perfume and long-lasting. It survives a day at work and then some.

You can get samples of all the perfumes I'm reviewing this winter by checking out .

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Today's a bit of a sad day. Woodrow's budgie Orlando died this morning. She was not a young budgie, and we knew this day was coming. Still, it's a hard thing to say goodbye. She was the smartest bird in the house, and we told her so repeatedly.

The layout to the left was published in a book of how-to-scrapbook-with-a-sketch layouts. If it hadn't been for assignments, I guess I wouldn't have a scrapbook page to remember Orlando by. Awfully nice of the bird to be the perfect shade of pale yellow, wasn't it?

Sniffling. It's a quieter house today.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Givenchy Ysatis

     Ahh, Christmas. A time for giving. A time for getting. A time for getting really tired and smelling like L'il Smokies in barbecue sauce.

     Thank goodness my darlin' husband listens to me. I asked for Givenchy Ysatis for Christmas, and I got Givenchy Ysatis EDT* for Christmas. Yay for people who stick to wish lists! (I also got some Fiestaware from my husband of almost 26 years, but since this is a perfume review, I figured y'all didn't need to know about the lovely tangerine platter I've added to my growing Fiesta collection.)

     My sister sent me perfume samples; my husband got me a gigantic bottle of Givenchy Ysatis, even though I thought it was so expensive, I warned him, "You can get partly used bottles on eBay for really cheap." He must have found a bargain, because my bottle of Givenchy Ysatis arrived at the office the second day I was wearing Chanel No. 19, and it was a *brand* new bottle. Mint in box!

     The reviews from my family are mixed. My husband likes it. My son likes it. My daughter hates it and says, "Whoa. Strong." Then she makes a face. Hmph.

     Me? I like it a lot. It's a lot more powdery than Chanel No. 19, and not as acidic and terrifying as Private Collection. If you go to and look for "if you like Private Collection, you might like....," then you will not get Givenchy Ysatis as a recommendation. People who like Private Collection generally *don't* think of Ysatis as a replacement scent. Hmm. I like this. I am not part of the crowd.

     On the other hand, both Private Collection and Ysatis are ranked by Fragrantica users as "heavy" and "long-lasting." So they have that in common.

     [Side note: I am new to this fragrance obsession, but I joined and am starting to vote in the polls about whether I love something or not. I figure the more information they have, the more informative the site is.]

     There's a strange thing about it, though: I don't like it when it's fresh. I like the dry-down effect. At first, Ysatis is cloying and moldy to me, then it dries down to a more mellow version of itself. On me. I have no idea what it does on other people.

    And it reminds me, somehow, of Anais Anais, which I have not worn nor smelled in more than 25 years. I had a bottle of it when I was in high school. These two scents share top notes of orange blossom and galbanum, so perhaps that explains the sense memory I get.

     One thing I definitely like is that Ysatis is a strong, long-lasting scent that almost makes it through my entire workday without disappearing. I spritz one stinky, wet spray on in the morning, and by the time I get to work an hour later, it isn't stinky any more. And it smells great all day without overpowering my co-workers or causing clients to cover their faces and run away.

     I'm trying to decide what scent to try next. I have so many samples! I've loved the first two. I think tomorrow I'm going to try a sample that made me say, "Whoa, strong!" And I made a face. Who wants to join me for Arpege?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Chanel No. 19

     It doesn't seem very long ago, but I last seriously shopped for perfume when I was a teenager. I chose my signature fragrance -- Estée Lauder Private Collection -- when I was 16 years old. I was reading lots of fashion magazines in those days, and they said I was supposed to have a signature fragrance. And since I was in the business of attracting boys, I took that advice seriously. I tried on a lot of perfume. And something about Private Collection just spoke to me.

     I remember distinctly the occasion when a real estate agent brought a buyer to my mother's house on Walcon Lane in the winter of 1983, sniffed the air around me, and asked, "Are you getting into your mother's toiletries, dearie?" Apparently she thought the fragrance a bit mature for me.

     Years have passed, and I no longer want to attract boys. However, I do like things that smell good, and I discovered recently that I just wanted something new to smell. Private Collection is great -- it's just not new.

     So I mentioned this to my entire family while I made forays into department stores that aren't necessarily on the way to or from work to smell perfumes. And I realized that I just don't like perfume counters in department stores. They're so crowded. And I complained about the smelliness around the perfume counter. How is one supposed to know what one scent smells like if the air is full of whatever Taylor Swift eau de toilette came out this week?

     On Christmas -- yesterday -- a precious, precious gift arrived from afar. (Really, it arrived from my sister Amy by way of Yay, Amy!)

     Amy sent me several -- I think thirteen -- samples of perfumes. She typed "if you like Private Collection, you may like...." into the search engine, and she just sent me a ton of samples. I had a wonderful time going through them Christmas morning after breakfast, and then I realized -- oh, my goodness, such a great gob of goodies deserves to be savored, one at a time. Especially since I hope to like one or two of them enough to get big bottles of perfume and wear them as I like.

     After smelling each and every sample, I decided to try Chanel No. 19 first. I had read about it in November, and I had read a different review that compared Chanel No. 19 to Private Collection. But the department store I stopped at to search for just that scent was one of the smaller satellite stores, and the perfume counter barely had 20 designer fragrances outside the piles of celebrity-endorsed crap - er, I mean, perfume.

     Furthermore, I do not know exactly how much this elixir costs, and I'm a little afraid of looking. I ran into a very expensive Chanel fragrance that was a bit sour as it ran into its last notes.

     I put on Chanel No. 19 for Christmas day, and then I put it on again this morning.

     I am not an expert perfume blogger; I am a rank newbie to the idea of blogging about fragrance. But I do know that I like things that smell good, and I don't want a scent that is heavy, cloying, or strong enough to offend co-workers.

     Chanel No. 19 is doing quite well, in my honest opinion. It's light to me -- and green and springy. "Galbanum," other reviewers say, is bitter, but I can't detect a bitter note. Maybe I'm handicapped by all these years of wearing Private Collection, which more than one critic has called "toxic, like chemicals that are bad for you."

     I just like this one really, really well.

     I'm looking forward to trying out the other samples -- and I may order more just for me. Today my last Christmas present from my husband arrived -- a big bottle of Ysatis by Givenchy. It smells bitter compared to the light, airy whiff of springtime on my wrists. I can't wait to wash off this Chanel No. 19 and see if I like Ysatis by comparison. The reason Wesley knew to get me this Givenchy scent was because I tried it on at a store, and the next day when the scent was gone, I missed it. I did! I missed it! Let's see if I miss Chanel No. 19 as much.