Friday, April 28, 2023

Our 44th Anniversary Celebration

A week ago we celebrated our 44th wedding anniversary… Photos on this blog site marked our beginnings, some fairly recent travel adventures and concluded with a more recent casual photo of Laurie and myself.  Now its time to share our actual celebration with you...

I thought that I’d start this celebratory story with a selfie that Laurie took of us just before we headed out for our special anniversary dinner…

For our big night out, we chose Bella, a relatively new upscale restaurant in downtown Maryville Tennessee.  Bella leans toward Italian cuisine but with a modern flair.  They refer to it as a “Tuscan Grill Concept.  Reviews to date have been very positive. 

Being a retired old time retailer, I love seeing the reuse/repurposing of old downtown department stores.  The J.C. Penney building was constructed in 1925 but for the last 20 years it housed Sullivan’s Downtown Restaurant.  Pistol Creek Hospitality is behind Bella and the restaurant is managed by Spaces in the City, a company that manages 5 other restaurants in the greater Knoxville Tennessee area.

Here are a few photos of the interior of Bella… We would describe it as a modified and softer version of the popular industrial look that one sees so frequently these days.  Love the lighting, the brick and the stone work!  Whoever first decided to backlight the liquor bottles behind a bar is to be congratulated…very clever and it lights up the room.  The overall color scheme at Bella is subtle but warm and the whole atmosphere is welcoming.  There is plenty of separation between tables, something we really like to see.  We were seated at the booth at the back left against the wall…

We kept the drinks simple.  My Miller Lite came in a chilled glass ($4.00) and Laurie had a glass of the Seasonal Sangria. ($10.00)

What to do for an appetizer or starter?  The Roman style fried artichokes, the calamari fritte and the crispy octopus all sounded tempting…but the Grilled Focaccia Bread Service with a roasted bulb of garlic, basil pesto and goat cheese, caught our eye and our choice was made. ($12.00)

We love quality focaccia bread, we hadn’t had a roasted garlic bulb since we moved from Chicago to East Tennessee…and the pesto with goat cheese just ensured our decision.  Our waitress drizzled olive oil over the top of the warm bread and we promptly devoured 3 of the 5 hunks of bread, all of the goat cheese and most of the pesto and garlic bulb.  Excellent and very, very satisfying.

I was tempted to go for the Prime Sirloin with parmesan truffle fries or the Tuscan Shrimp with penne pasta, but in the end I decided to order the Herb Roasted Chicken. ($24.00) It came with lemon basil butter, green beans and roasted fingerling potatoes.

As you can see, it was half of a chicken… The chicken was not only large and juicy but the herbs and lemon basil butter made it pop.  The roasted fingerling potatoes were very nice…especially after I sprinkled them with parmesan cheese. 

My only disappointment was the vegetable, or lack thereof.  Thanks to my medications, green vegetables are off my menu.  I was really surprised that Bella lacked any options that weren’t green.  I thought that some sliced tomato with a little salad dressing would be a slam dunk…but they weren’t an option.  My only choice was cherry tomatoes…something that I eat for a snack all the time at home.  So I doubled up on the fingerling potatoes.

I was a little surprised when Laurie opted for the Veal Milanese, an herb crusted bone-in veal chop, with lemon-butter, arugula salad and whipped potatoes. ($28.00) I thought for sure that she would order a pasta entrée.

As you can see, it was a great looking veal chop, framed by the arugula and highlighted by the potatoes with gravy.  Laurie thought that her meal was excellent!  She gave me one little bite of her veal chop and I concurred with her evaluation…

The good news with all this food is that we couldn’t really finish it all.  We ended up taking home 2 hunks of that focaccia bread and about 40% of that bulb of roasted garlic.  Our waitress gave us a bit more goat cheese and pesto too.  I took home almost half of my fingerling potatoes as well as the chicken thigh and leg.  In addition, a little of that veal chop remained along with a bit of the whipped potatoes.  Now this is what I call great leftovers!

When we finished our entrees, Crystal, our waitress informed us that because it was our anniversary, we could have a free dessert.  It was the Zeppole/Italian Donuts.  These excellent light pastries came with powdered sugar, pastry cream and chocolate ganache. (Normally $12.00) Trust me…there were no leftovers!

The first photo above shows our celebratory dessert with a little tower and, if you look closely, you can see a bit of smoke rising from the top.  Laurie couldn’t get her camera on and focused before the sparkler burned itself out… The close-up photo though is drool-worthy!

Crystal, our waitress was thoughtful and attentive.  The ambiance and the food were both noteworthy.  It was an anniversary dinner worth remembering.  We would recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting or living in the Maryville/Knoxville area.  Bella is located at 121 West Broadway in Maryville Tennessee.  Phone: 865-205-4111.  Website: 

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave and Laurie

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Food at Home, Out and About and, in the Near Future

We haven’t gotten out and explored much lately.  Health has been a limiting issue but we hope to hit the road soon.  We both miss our back roads adventures but everyone has to deal with life as it confronts them…

So…it’s all about food!

Time for a healthy meal!  A nice salad with mixed greens with cherry tomatoes, olives and balsamic vinaigrette dressing…backed up with grapes and orange slices.  Attractive and good for us!

Of course, I’m not being exactly serious.  First of all, greens don’t agree with my meds.  Secondly, a meal without some protein isn’t a complete meal, at least in my opinion…

This was on my plate…two Klement’s all beef hot dogs, pan grilled on the stove with butter.  The top sliced Pepperidge Farms buns are buttered and shredded cheese was added along with Dijon mustard.  Laurie had to eat that salad so she only had one hot dog… 

Neither of us have ever had a better hot dog than those made by Klement’s, a Wisconsin based company that has over 60 years of experience making top notch sausage products.  Locally, we buy our Klement’s hot dogs from Fresh Market in Farragut Tennessee.  To learn more, check out their website at   

Next in line was a restaurant luncheon one day when we were out and about…

This is the Café by LeeEllen in Loudon Tennessee.  We’ve dined here previously but it’s been awhile so here we go once again.  We love the fact that it is purely a local venture, plus the owner and her staff are so friendly and the food quality is top notch.  The mismatched tables and chairs just add to the downhome atmosphere.

Laurie once again opted for her favorite sandwich at LeeEllen's.  A Curry Chicken Salad Sandwich isn’t something that you find on too many menus, at least in East Tennessee.  The chicken salad is enhanced with grapes, almonds, mayonnaise, and curry sauce.  Better yet, it was served on a croissant!  For a side, Laurie went for cottage cheese.

In my case, I tried something new.  This was the Roasted Chicken, Swiss Cheese and Bacon sandwich.  As you can see, it was just loaded with roasted chicken and plenty of bacon.  My kind of sandwich!  For my side, I made up for all that meat with a fruit cup consisting of sliced grapes. 

We finished our lunch…but we weren’t done!  While we were satiated for the moment, we knew that we’d want some dessert in the evening.  Laurie ordered this luscious looking and tasting coconut cake…moist and wonderful.  She even gave me a taste.  For my part, I brought home a lovely slice of lemon cream pie.  Yum!

The Café by LeeEllen is located at 307 Grove Street in Loudon Tennessee.  Phone: 865-224-9888.  They are closed on Mondays and open from 11 AM to 2 PM on Tuesdays.  Wednesday through Sunday, LeeEllen’s is open from 9 AM to 3 PM…and on those days they do serve breakfast.  Website: 

This is Loudon Tennessee’s old combination passenger and freight depot built by the East Tennessee and Georgia Railway.  The depot was built ca. 1863.  The railroad first came to Loudon in 1855 when a railroad bridge spanned the Tennessee River near here.  At that point the small town was known as Blair’s Ferry.  The old depot was the home of the local Chamber of Commerce for many years and I believe that it is now owned by Southern Railway, which is part of Norfolk Southern Railway.  Trains still rumble by the old depot...

Change has arrived!  The Monkeytown Brewing Company opened a new location in the depot on Thursday, 4/20/23!  Will it hurt The Café by LeeEllen?  It is actually less than a block away…right behind the left side of LeeEllen’s as shown in my first photo in this post.  We hope that all will be well and they will both survive and prosper.  The menus are totally different.  Monkeytown Brewing Company will be open for lunch and dinner Thursdays through Sundays.  Monkeytown Brewing Company is located at 318 Angel Row in Loudon.  Phone: 865-657-3380.  Website:   

Both restaurants are about 3 blocks from the main street (US Hwy 11) through the center of Loudon and they may help each other attract customers.  I would guess that the clientele will overlap some and that may introduce customers to both restaurants.  Time will tell!  We will sample Monkeytown’s menu a couple of weeks from now when the initial confusion and shakeout has settled down…

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Forty-Four Years and Counting!

 Time certainly does fly by!  It's hard for us to believe, but today is our 44th wedding anniversary.  The best part of that fact is that we still love and truly like each other... 

I was living in the St. Louis Missouri area.  Debbie, my former Administrative Assistant, with a retail company long departed, fixed Laurie and I up on a blind date.  The two gals were residents in the same apartment complex...and after Debbie applied enough pressure and  assured Laurie that I was harmless, Laurie agreed to go out with me.  That blind date took place exactly 45 years ago today...and despite me being an 'old guy', we hit it off right away.  This photo was taken on Valentine's Day in 1979...

I'd proposed to Laurie while 'we' were doing laundry in her apartment complex's laundry facilities.  I am such a romantic aren't I?!  In any case, she accepted and exactly one year after our blind date, we tied the knot.

Like most couples that have been married for a long time, we've had our share of ups and downs...but a lot more ups than downs!  In 1981, we moved to Chicago, then to Attleboro Massachusetts, then back to Chicago, all necessitated by my career.  I worked for 5 different companies over the ensuing 30 + years before we retired in 2009.  Along the way, we had some great vacations.  Notably, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, some amazing fishing trips to northern Ontario, and road trips in Scotland, Australia and New Zealand.  We've explored or at least touched on all 50 states in the USA.

Since we've retired and moved to Eastern Tennessee...with its forests, lakes, rivers, rocks and has continued to treat us well.  Road trips are our favorite activity for sure and we continue to explore the USA.  Of course, our most frequent destinations are St. Louis to visit Laurie's sisters and other family members and then Omaha to visit our son and his family.  

We have ventured overseas again as well... The photo above was taken along Loch Leven in Ballachulish Scotland.  On this occasion we were accompanied by Laurie's sister Bonnie and Bonnie's husband, Bill.  The trip had begun with a visit to the sister's family who live in Scotland...  

From Scotland we flew over to Ireland... This happy couple was enjoying the great weather and the fabulous little town of Kinsale on the southern coast of Ireland. (It's referred to as the Irish Riviera) Another great trip enjoyed by all...and we all have Irish ancestral roots too.

Like the rest of the world, we had to navigate and survive that notorious plague that limited movement for the last couple of years...Covid-19.  It really slowed us down, robbing us of a few great road trips.  The good news is that when we caught it ourselves, we were super vaccinated and didn't suffer any serious issues.  I still think that we looked stylish in our lovely masks.  We were glad to put them away!

...and time marches on!  We're ready for whatever adventures life brings our way.  This pair of lovers is looking forward to our 50th anniversary and beyond.  In the meantime, we're ready to hit the road, visit friends and family and explore the back roads of America. 

It's been a great trip so far!

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, David and Laurie

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Yet Another ‘New’ Dining Opportunity…at Least New for Us

Recently we got together with our friends Norm and Linda for dinner.  We decided to try a relatively new restaurant in Alcoa Tennessee that neither couple had dined at previously.

Alcoa is a city of about 11,000 people just a bit south of Knoxville.  It was the site of a large aluminum smelting plant owned and operated by the Alcoa Corporation.  The plant was established in 1911 and the company employed as many as 11,000 workers during World War II.  The successor company now operating in Alcoa is the Arconic Corporation and it employs about 1,000 workers.  Alcoa was initially known as North Maryville but the town was incorporated under its present name in 1919.

Early Alcoa was a classic ‘company town’, with the company maintaining a paternalistic relationship with the city.  As time went on, diversification of the area’s economy and negative feelings toward the Company, caused a reduction in Alcoa’s influence.  The first City Manager that wasn’t employed by the company was hired in 1956 and toward the end of that decade, the company relinquished ownership of the town’s utilities.

…enough history for now.

This is Blue Moose Burgers and Wings in Alcoa.  The original Blue Moose location is in Pigeon Forge Tennessee.  From what I can determine, Blue Moose is owned and operated by Diverse Concepts, a professional restaurant management company.  In addition to Blue Moose, some other restaurants falling under this management umbrella are Bullfish Grill, Carino’s Italian, Harrison’s, Lakeside Tavern, Liberty Park, Mellow Mushroom and Parkside Grill.

As you can see, Blue Moose has televisions mounted everywhere.  With a menu focused on burgers and chicken wings plus those TV’s, it is truly a large sports bar/venue…with casual dining and a semi-industrial décor.  It’s also quite popular even though it has only been open a fairly short time… Booth seating dominates the dining room, something I really don’t care for at my stage and age.

Norm and Linda ordered the Big Breaded Double-Dipped Onion Rings as their starter. ($9.49) They are fried ‘crispy’ and served with a house-made sauce.  I didn’t partake but from what I gathered, Norm thought that the onion rings were OK…but not great.

As our starter, Laurie and I ordered a dozen traditional wings.  For our sauce, we chose the Hot Teriyaki.  The wings weren’t amazing but they were just fine…and the sauces we chose had just a bit of a bite to it.  As usual I started eating before remembering the camera!

What I don’t totally understand is the pricing of chicken wings.  Our 12 ‘traditional’ wings (bone-in) were priced at $17.99 but if we’d ordered ‘boneless’ wings, we would have only been charged $15.99.

The answer is that ‘boneless wings’ are not wings at all.  They are usually formed from breast meat and they’re a spin-off of the breaded chicken nugget.  They are faster to cook but not a succulent as real wings.  About 60% of the chicken ‘wings’ ordered in the USA are bone-in but the boneless ‘wings’ are less expensive for restaurants to purchase.  Basically, if the demand for real chicken wings is high, they are more expensive for restaurants to purchase…

Both Linda and Norm ordered 8 wings as their entrée after the onion rings.  They ordered mild sauces as they aren’t into any spicy heat.  Linda ordered the Boneless ‘wings’ ($11.49) and Norm ordered the bone-in wings. ($12.99) They were content with their meals if not impressed…

Laurie decided against a hamburger, and went for the Wild Ranch Chicken Wrap…”a flour tortilla loaded with grilled chicken, crisp iceberg lettuce, juicy bacon strips, shredded cheddar and jack cheese, plus diced tomatoes and wild ranch dressing. ($11.99) For her side, Laurie picked the French fries over the homemade potato chips.  Two other options were available for a 99 cent upcharge…sweet potato fries and onion rings.

The French fries weren’t great and the chicken wrap lacked any flavor plus the chicken was dry…

Since Blue Moose is all about beer, wings and burgers, I decided to order Moose’s All American burger as my entrée.  It comes with 2 slices of melted American cheese and some lettuce on a grilled bun. ($12.99)

I’d ordered the burger medium rare but it was way overcooked.  The burger itself lacked any flavor despite being on a grilled bun.  I seconded Laurie’s opinion of the French fries.

Service was another issue…and we understand how hard it is to staff any business these days.  We had 3 different waitresses wandering back and forth and 2 of them were just clueless.  As for the food…we won’t be in a rush to return.

Blue Moose Burgers and Wings in Alcoa is open 7 days a week.  This restaurant is located at 334 Fountain View Circle in Alcoa Tennessee.  Phone: 865-233-4667.  Website:

Now onto something more positive!  Laurie’s sister Bonnie forwarded this Easter family gathering Facebook photo of Bonnie and Bill’s grandchildren…hence Laurie’s grand-nieces and grand-nephews.  From the left front there is Elliot Jane, Keaton and Charley Kate.  In the left rear there is Avery Eileen, Collen and Delany Claire.  They are growing so fast…3 teenagers already.  Great looking group though!

…and this is our newest neighbor.  His name is Shrek…mostly Black Labrador.  He is now training his humans, Mike and Sherry, to serve his every need.  He has already learned to ring the bell when he needs…or is it wants…to go outside.  He is constantly ringing the bell!  I’m sure his older ‘sister’, Fiona, a mixed breed, finds him quite entertaining.  FYI, Shrek and Fiona were characters in a major movie, entitled “Shrek”.  It will be interesting to see just how big Shrek will be when he's fully grown...

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, April 14, 2023

Time for a Coffee Break + Change

Laurie and I were out and about in Lenoir City Tennessee…probably for a doctor’s appointment or some other medical need.  In any case, when we were done, it was time to reward ourselves for being up by 8 AM and having completed our required task.

We headed to Master Donut to pick up a well-deserved treat…only to discover that the family that operates Master Donut had gone off on a spring break!  Bummer!  What to do now?  Laurie had a solution for us which could provide some solace…

The sign on this side of the building identifies this as the Ugly Mug Coffee Café.  On the other side, where we parked, another sign proclaims that this is Ramblin’ Joe’s Coffee.  Name or brand clarity didn’t prevail and I’m fairly sure that it used to be just Ugly Mug.  In any case, we’d been here before…Laurie more often than yours truly, and we knew the coffee was good! 

Ugly Mug is not a huge place with a scattering of tables inside, the outside seating shown in the first photo…and of course, they have a drive-up window.  As you can see, they had folks waiting in line for their coffee and accompaniments…

A review of the websites for Ugly Mug and Ramblin’ Joe revealed that they are part of the same company.  Why two names are used is not clear.  As per one of the sites, Ramblin’ Joe works for Ugly Mug Coffee and is their ‘head discovery person’.  He travels across the country and around the world searching for unique coffee flavors and products.

Laurie and I were at Ugly Mug for coffee and of course a treat to boost our morale…or as a reward for doing what we had to do medically.  In addition to a variety of beverages including coffee, smoothies, hot chocolate and even tea, they offer a number of breakfast and lunch options ranging from sweet treats to sandwiches… Decisions, decisions!

Ugly Mug is open 7 days a week…Monday – Saturday from 7 AM to 7 PM, then Sunday from 8 AM until 3 PM.  Please note that the sweets in the display case were fairly depleted as it was around lunch time when we stopped by.

Ugly Mug in Lenoir City has been open for quite some time now…measured in years.  As a testament to the establishment’s popularity, many regular customers keep their own personal mugs here for their frequent visits.  That is quite a collection.

Who in the heck is that old timer with the classic t-shirt, beard and the big mug of coffee?!  Well, when I was 18 I looked like a young Clark Kent…

I should have gone with my Master Donut fantasy with a sweet treat, but instead I ordered a ham and cheese breakfast bagel. ($6.93) It was OK but I was left a bit let down re: my original expectations.  As Laurie would tell me, once again I ordered wrong… The coffee was excellent though!

Ugly Mug is a locally owned, Tennessee based coffee roaster, something that they’ve been doing for 3 generations.  Their coffee beans are sourced directly from the farms and they head roaster ‘crafts’ the beans to coax out the most distinct flavors in an effort to create a product that their customers love…

For her reward/breakfast treat, Laurie chose a Cream Danish. ($3.65) It was good, but what she really raved about was her beverage, the medium size Full Moon Latte with white chocolate expresso. ($5.15) It was quite eye catching too!

Ramblin’s Joe’s Coffee and its sister coffee roaster, Ugly Mug Coffee, were founded in Memphis Tennessee in 2002.  It is a bit strange that the 3 stores are in Memphis, Nashville…and relatively tiny Lenoir City Tennessee.  I think that family might be involved with the latter location.

Ugly Mug Coffee in Lenoir City is located at 108 South ‘B’ Street.  Phone: 865-816-6355.  Website: Lenoir City, TN Cafe – Ugly Mug Coffee Roasters.  The web site for Ramblin’ Joe’s Coffee is found at Ramblin' Joe's Coffee – Ramblin' Joe's Coffee (

We have a new addition to our neighborhood!  Last week, a porta potty sporting the University of Tennessee Volunteers bright orange was dropped off right across the street from our house.  Lovely to look at…but it gave us hope too as the lot had been cleared a year ago and then left to go fallow.  It was pretty ugly.

I wonder how many porta potty companies exist here in the Knoxville metropolitan area… I do know that at least 30 of them are in place within a mile of our home!

As anticipated given the porta potty delivery, this week the heavy equipment moved in to grade, dig the base for the foundation and break up the granite that is everywhere under the homes in our neighborhood!  Hopefully, by Christmas we’ll have a finished home across the street rather than the unkempt lot we’ve experienced for these many months.  Sadly, it’s one more space gone where our local wildlife roam.  Fewer and fewer deer, and turkey are showing up…but our local fox family has dug in and is loving all the little critters our lawns and gardens attract.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave