Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Birthdays and Anniversaries

Instead of receiving gifts… they give them.
In J.R.R. Tolkein’s now classic fantasy, The Hobbit, there is an interesting custom ascribed to the inhabitants of The Shire.  Birthdays seem to be a pretty big deal to hobbits, but unlike most of us, they celebrate in a rather unusual way.  Instead of the tradition of receiving gifts on their birthdays, they give them.
… Greatly anticipating
Yes, I’m a dedicated fan of all things Middle Earth, having first read the tale some 45 years ago and yes, I am greatly anticipating the release of Peter Jackson’s two new movies which tell the hobbit story.  The two films are currently in production in New Zealand .  The first will be named “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and is scheduled for release on Dec. 14, 2012 .  The sequel “The Hobbit: There and Back Again” is expected to follow on Dec. 13, 2013 .
…we are very thankful to our customers and to our community.
Now, the connection between hobbits, birthdays, and Avanti Savoia is simple.  This month (June 2011) Avanti Savoia Imports is celebrating our 5th anniversary and needless to say, we are very thankful to our customers and to our community.  In true hobbit birthday mode, we “gifted back” our community with presenting sponsorship of the 2011 Dogwood Arts House and Garden Show Cooking School and the third annual Dogwood Arts Chalk Walk.
Chalk Walk Participants
… Dogwood Arts Chalk Walk.
The Dogwood Arts Festival celebrated its 51st anniversary this year.  Dogwood Arts is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help fund arts education in our schools, promote the visual and performing arts, and to preserve and enhance the natural beauty of our region.  In addition to 60 miles of Dogwood trails and open gardens that celebrate our region’s spectacular blooming dogwood trees, the event also offers art exhibitions, musical performances, art studio tours, and the Chalk Walk. 
The Chalk Walk brings artists of all ages and levels together as they chalk their masterpieces on the sidewalks of downtown Knoxville .  During this street painting festival, professional and student artists and their families work side-by-side creating public art for the community to enjoy,” observes Lisa C. Duncan, Executive Director of Dogwood Arts.
the presenting sponsor of the Chalk Walk.
After two very successful years, Avanti Savoia was again delighted to be the presenting sponsor of the Chalk Walk!  During the Chalk Walk, downtown sidewalks become the canvas for professionals, student artists and families.
… “Madonnari”
Thought to have originated in Italy in the 16th century, street painting is a growing event at many community festivals.  Originally, the artwork was of a religious nature, therefore the artists were called “Madonnari”. Vagabond artists would travel throughout Italy between festivals, living solely on the coins tossed onto or next to their drawings as homage to the Madonna or possibly to their abilities.  For centuries, the Madonnari were true folk artist, but suffered a decline after World War II.
a community setting.
The Dogwood Arts Festival once again brought this event to Knoxville as a way to teach and promote the history of this lost art to all ages and levels of artists in a community setting.
 … Free for both participants and attendees.
This year, the Chalk Walk took place on April 30th.  It was a beautiful Saturday with blue skies and bright sunshine.  We think that one of the great things about this event is that it is free for both participants and attendees.  The artists receive a square of sidewalk and free chalk, the chalk courtesy of Jerry’s Artarama.  As an added enhancement for the budding “Madonnari,” the Knoxville Museum of Art presented a 2 ½ hour workshop, conducted by Lee Jones, that focused on the special techniques required to create striking sidewalk art.
… Bragging rights are all well and good.
This year’s event drew over 140 artists, ages ranging from five years old to mature adults.  Amateurs and professional artists alike are all welcomed. They can work in collaboration or individually.  Highly qualified judges are carefully selected from local art educators and artists because bragging rights are all well and good, but this contest offers seriously generous cash prizes. $500 for the Best of Show and $350 for Peoples Choice, as well as monetary awards for all 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners makes the competition fun but also the prizes real and desirable.  2011 Best of Show winners were Laura and Kate Trumble, while People’s Choice went to Jackie Sue Fowler.  For a complete listing of this year’s winners and theirs categories, visit
…"such a cool thing”.
Kathy Slocum is a member of the Dogwood Arts Board of Directors and one of the Chalk Walks dedicated Co-Chairs.  She is committed to the idea that the Chalk Walk is, at heart, a “people” event.  Slocum says, “It’s such a cool thing that the public gets to participate in this event and the selection of The People’s Choice award, not just observing.” The other Co-chair of the event, Jim Dodson comments, “the purpose is to bring fine art out into the community.”
Quality public event.
The organizers are deeply committed to bringing such a quality public event back year after year to Knoxville and Avanti Savoia is proud to do our part.  Maybe next year there may even be more culinary events involved.  I must say that the refreshing Buttermilk Lemon Custard ice cream provided this year by Cruze Farms was as good as ice cream gets!  Check out this video from the 2011 Dogwood Arts Chalk Walk!
… Farm to table just meant eating at my grandparent’s home.
Chef Joseph and Chef Karen teaching a student the basics
A couple of other dates that we are noting this month is the first anniversary of La Cucina; our cooking school at Avanti Savoia; and my 40th year in professional food service.  What an incredible time the last four decades have been to be in American food service.  Indeed there were foodies back in the day, but we didn’t know that word.  I seem to have spent most of my career relying on classic European cooking techniques coupled with regional food stuff and styles.  That approach didn’t have any name 40 years ago and was years in development to what today are familiar foodie terms: new American cuisine, regional fare, locavore, farm to table, etc.   In those days, farm to table just meant eating at my grandparent’s home.  Well, tempus fugit as the saying goes and of course, now and forever – Bon Appetit Y’all.