Seriously, there could be far worse problems than being utterly exhausted from nightly dinners at some of the best restaurants Knoxville has to offer, but I am. I am honestly dragging my feet, struggling to keep my eyes open, in need of an espresso IV drip, dog tired.
Not too tired, however, to share with you my mouth-watering compilation of pictures and recaps for each of my wonderfully fantastic meals!
For all you Knoxvillian’s that may have missed out on this festival of food, fear not. It actually goes through tonight so you may still be able to weasel in a reservation at one of the many restaurants. In case you have not heard of restaurant week, here’s the jist – Several area restaurants create special prix-fix menus offered at either $25 or $35 a plate. $5 from each meal is donated to Second Harvest Food Bank. Everyone is a winner here – patron’s get great meals at reasonable prices, part of the cost goes to charity, and in my case especially, it’s a great excuse to try new restaurants that you may have never been to before.
Let’s start where it all began…
Sunday evening at Chez Liberty
Amuse Bouche: Currant Bread Pudding with Duck Prosciutto (the only picture all week that I failed to take…hey, you can’t win them all)
Starter: Small salad of mixed greens, Chef’s Garden heirloom beets and carrots, hazelnut vinaigrette
Wine pairing 2: Nicholas Weis St. Urbans-Hof 2010 Mosel Riesling
Cheese: Abbaye Sainte Mere
Wine pairing 2: DuMOL 2009 Russian River Valley Chardonnay
- First Course: Scallop, apricot preserve, popcorn shoot
- Second Course: Pan seared Loch Duart wild salmon, (sustainable), ice spinach, currant and walnut couscous. Wine pairing 2: DuMOL 2009 Russian River Pinot Noir
Fig cake, Collier & McKeel whiskey toffee sauce and French pressed coffee
Every single indulgent bite of food I put into my mouth from this selection was phenomenal. We decided to pay a bit extra and get the accompanied wine selections (half of the cost went to charity as well) and they honestly put this meal over the top. My favorite part was a toss up between the scallop and the fig cake – the scallop was perfectly cooked and the cake came atop a sauce that I would have happily enjoyed on its own. These are the kind of meals that I would designate acceptable to lick the plate as it truly was warranted.
Monday Night at The Bistro at the Bijou
Starter: Crostini with Goat Cheese and Green Olives
Entree: Wild Mushroom Stroganoff
Third Course: Cheese Plate
Wine: Bogle Petit Syrah
Bistro was the only $25 meal we went to this week and it was tasty. The crostini with goat cheese was creamy and salty. The stroganoff was a hefty portion of pappardelle pasta, with sliced mushrooms (I think portabello) in a creamy sauce. I only ate half and had the leftovers the following day for lunch. Apparently the dish benefited from a night in the fridge and an additional sprinkling of Parmesan as it was even better the next day. I ended the meal with the cheese plate. Unfortunately our waitress did not tell us what kind of cheeses we had but no worries – I am a lover of all (well most) cheese and dug in. I enjoy my cheeses with honey and/or fruit so I utilized much of the fig paste that accompanied the dish. I tried the mustard and pickles but wasn’t a fan.
Wednesday Night at Le Parigo
Starter: Pan Seared Escargot
Entrée: Duck Breast in a green peppercorn sauce served with gratin dauphinois, french green beans and apples
Dessert: Grand Marnier Creme Brulee
Wine: 2007 Barton & Guestier Vouvray
I was very excited about this meal – not only had I been wanting to go to Le Parigo for years, but I am a huge fan of escargot and I haven’t had it since a high school French trip to Quebec (ie a long time ago). Well they sure didn’t disappoint. The escargot was cooked well, and served over a garlicky herb butter sauce of which I utilized our baguette slices to mop up the last of. I had never had duck before and was so happy that my first experience was here. It was delicious! A crispy skin over a tender meat accompanied with gratin potatoes and perfectly crunchy green beans. The peppercorn sauce was also shamelessly soaked up with what little bread remained. The creme brulee accompanied the meal, the chocolate mousse I also received was not – but it looked too good to pass up – and I’m glad I didn’t. Both were a perfect way to end the savory meal.
Thursday Night at The Orangery
Wine 1: 2009 Franciscan Oakville Sauvignon Blanc
First Course: Amuse Bouche – Potato and white fish salad
Second Course: Baked Oysters – roasted leek double cream, red curry, crispy panko crumb
Third Course: Blue Crab Bisque – sherry, miniature croutons
Wine 2: A Syrah whose name I forgot to get (oops)
Fourth Course: Butternut Squash Ravioli – toasted walnut, Gorgonzola, fried sage, brown butter, grilled radicchio
Fifth Course: Madagascar Vanilla Creme Brulee – pine nut biscotti, berries
I’ve been to the Orangery several times before, and I am a creature of habit (you would be too if you had their lobster crepes) so rarely do I veer off the well beaten path. This was a great chance to try something new and expand my horizons. The baked oysters were quite good and the crab bisque was delightful – creamy with just the right amount of sherry and meat. I have a mild obsession with butternut squash and was glad that this dish did not disappoint. Except when I cleaned my plate, then I was disappointed that it was gone. In the contest between Le Parigo and The Orangery for best creme brulee, Orangery wins (but only by a smidgen) as the drizzle of sweet berry sauce and biscotti took it to the next level.
I left Tuesday night for last as we had good intentions when we headed 31 Bistro in Market Square. I had been there before and very much enjoyed it and it was warm enough out to sit outside (In February!). However, the happy hour specials got the best of us ($2 margaritas? Yes please!) and I scavenged on fish tacos, hummus, and sangria while we enjoyed the weather and the flare that Market Square has to offer (such as trumpet playing balloon artists and jugglers). I would highly recommend heading down there for happy hour – they have some great deals!
Also of note, were the two nights we headed to Peter Kern Library following our meals. Its safe to say that the boy and I are making a significant dent in our goal to try every cocktail on the menu.
Going forward, I feel that Restaurant Week should be treated as a holiday in which I take the week off. Between working, going home, getting gussied up, and then going back out to eat, drink, and be merry, it can really take its toll on you. Too bad that pesky work has to get in the way otherwise I would have been set. Maybe next year…
And as it is Friday, and I did start a Friday Favorite last week, I will divulge my favorite restaurant from this week…Chez Liberty – hands down. The food, the wine, and the service blew me away and I can’t wait to go back.
Cheers everyone, and have a wonderful weekend!