The Tree and Vine – Knoxville, TN

The Tree and VineWhile my wife and I were in downtown Knoxville this past Saturday for the Market Square Art Fair, we made a short side trip to The Tree and Vine. The Tree and Vine is an olive oil and balsamic tasting shop just down Union Avenue from Market Square. Not being a fan of balsamic vinegar and having only used “plain” extra virgin olive oil, I was surprised at the number of infused oils and balsamics available to sample and purchase.

We were invited, even encouraged, to try all of the different olive oils and balsamic vinegars and to even try a combination of a couple. For example, we sampled a combination of their chipotle infused olive oil and blueberry infused aged balsamic. Separately, these two are very good, but combined you get an amazing mixture of heat and sweet. Perfect for a marinade or topping. They also had a sample of brownies (store bought mix) made with their blood orange fused olive oil instead of regular oil. A simple recipe replacement with a completely different result.

As I learned how the different oils and balsamics could be used or combined to enhance the flavors of any food, my biggest treat came with the lemon infused white balsamic. I’m somewhat of a simple kind of guy, so vanilla ice cream has almost always been topped with chocolate syrup. Well, not any more. I have now discovered the absolutely delicious addition of lemon infused white balsamic vinegar to vanilla ice cream. I guess I’m finally growing up.

So, if you are ever in the area, I encourage you to stop by The Tree and Vine at 439 Union Avenue, just off Market Square, in downtown Knoxville.

The Better Bacon Book

If you have an iPad and love bacon, then there’s no reason not to pick up The Better Bacon Book from Open Air Publishing ($4.99 on iTunes). Designed especially for the iPad, this interactive book offers up instructions on how to make your own bacon, build your own smoker, and find the best bacon to order, as well as 31 interactive bacon recipes. In total, there’s over 20 HD videos, 150 photos, and more tastiness than any human can handle at one time.

Bourbon Barrel Foods

Bourbon Barrel Foods is a maker of gourmet food products that reflect the rich heritage of Kentucky’s Bourbon Country, “The Napa Valley of the Bluegrass.” They make a variety of bourbon-infused sauces, spices and rubs that incorporate the rich, sweet and smoky flavor of bourbon. Their smoked paprikas, peppers, salts and sauces like Kentuckyaki are real compliments to great southern food.

Bourbon Barrel Foods also has a large selection of recipes on their web site including a Smoky Red Pepper & Feta Dip, Bourbon Barrel Bison Chili, & Bourbon Pecan Peach Cobbler.

Made in Tennessee – Sweetwater Valley Farm

Sweetwater Valley Farm is located between Philadelphia and Loudon in the heart of southeast Tennessee’s dairy-rich Sweetwater Valley. Sweetwater Valley Farm is one of the few farms in the country producing fine farmstead cheese. Meaning, they control the process from cow to consumer in order to create high quality cheddar cheese. They offer a vast selection of cheddars as well as more than a dozen specialty gourmet cheeses such as Buttermilk, Garden Blend, Jalapeno, Adobo, and Roasted Garlic Pepper.

Sweetwater Valley Farm offers walking tours to educate their visitors about the sequence of events that form the food production chain that they describe as “from cows to cheese”. Tours are offered year round, by appointment, as well as regular walking tours during the spring and summer months Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.. You can also visit The Udder Story exhibit. This houses a little bit of the past, answers the question of what dairy farming is today, and shares the technology of the future. Sweetwater Valley Farm is located at 17988 West Lee Hwy. in Philadelphia, TN and all of their cheeses are Made in Tennessee.

Heat Things Up!

If this summer hasn’t been hot enough for you; here are a couple of unique offerings from the TABASCO Brand to spice up your ordinary summer cookouts with something extraordinary.

TABASCO® Family Reserve – 5 oz.
Every year, a portion of the finest peppers grown on Avery Island, Louisiana are hand-selected by members of the McIlhenny family for their superior color, texture and robustness. These special peppers are mashed with a small amount of Avery Island salt, placed in white oak barrels and aged for approximately three years. From time to time, however, some of this pepper mash is left to age for an extended period – some of it for up to eight years. This Family Reserve pepper mash is then blended with premium white wine vinegar, strained and bottled as a small batch of TABASCO® Pepper Sauce that has traditionally been available only to McIlhenny family members and close family friends. Occasionally, a limited edition of this full-bodied sauce is specially packaged and made available to the public.

Personalized TABASCO® Gallon Jugs
1 Gallon of TABASCO® Sauce in a glass jug. Nothing says “I’m a TABASCO® lover” like one of these sitting on the kitchen counter. Available in all the flavors you love: Original Red, Green, Chipotle, Garlic, Habanero, and SWEET & Spicy. There is no question who this gallon belongs to! With up to twenty (20) characters this personalized gift will be a BIG hit.

Chocri – Customized Chocolate Bars

Chocri is the worlds first company that lets you create your own chocolate bar online by choosing from four bases (dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate or a combination thereof) and over 100 toppings, ranging from chili to candied rose petals and even real gold flakes. That allows for more than 27 billion combinations! Which one is yours?

Chocri is a German startup, founded in Berlin in 2008 by Franz Duge and Michael Bruck. The first customized chocolate bar by chocri was a last minute birthday gift for Franz’s girlfriend, and since then chocri has taken off. They now make many thousands of chocolate bars every month, and are experiencing strong growth. So strong that they decided to expand to the United States in January 2010 with www.createmychocolate.com.

If you are not sure which chocolate bar to create, take a look at their Recommended Chocolate Bar Creations with some of the most popular chocolate bars that make great gifts. Buy chocolate that is unique, fun and delicious!

Just Desserts auction to benefit the Ronald McDonald House

If you live in the East Tennessee area, tune in to Jennifer’s Midday Show on B97.5 next week, November 15-19, for your opportunity to bid on some fantastic desserts generously donated by many of East Tennessee’s best restaurants! Between 10a & 3p, Jennifer will auction off 4 desserts each day to the highest bidder. And ALL the proceeds go to the Ronald McDonald House of Knoxville! So save yourself some time and stress AND help out a worthy cause by bidding on one of these luscious confections.

These businesses graciously donated one of their signature desserts that you can bid on to help out with your holiday meal! The Cupcakery, VG’s Bakery, It’s All so Yummy, Bistro by the Tracks, Aubrey’s, Ye Old Steak House, The Lunch Box, Northshore Brasserie, Sweet Pea’s Barbecue, Kimmie’s, The Kitchen Cupboard Bakery, Abner’s Attic, Sister Heart Sweets, Naples, Jim & Nick’s Barbecue, Seasons, Cheesecakes and Breads by Rick, Rouxbarb, and several others.