Good Clean Fun

In addition to the Dogwood Arts Festival being underway on Market Square, the 21st Annual River Rescue is taking place this Saturday, April 10, from 10am – 2pm. This huge clean up effort covers 50 miles of the Tennessee River and is an excellent way to get to know the river as well as other community members who care about protecting the region’s natural resources. For more information, contact Ijams Nature Center 865.577.4717.

And in Maryville, another longstanding tradition for a good cause (several good causes, actually) takes place at the Clayton Center for the Arts at 7pm — April Foolies. The money raised at this annual “talent show” will support local nonprofits such as Success by Six, New Hope Children’s Advocacy Center, and The Gate: Gateway to Independence. Tickets are available at the Clayton Center box office.

So whether you’re taking in the offerings of the Dogwood festival, looking for fuel after the River Rescue, wanting to have a pleasant dinner before the Foolies, or just out and about this Saturday, we hope you’re able to get out and enjoy the day (and night) and we hope to see you at The Tomato Head.

Art in the spirit of spring…

Tomato Head Knoxville features art this month from the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory, presented by Discover Life In America (DLIA) and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP).

The exhibit, on display from April 3rd through May 1st, presents high resolution photographs featuring species from the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory. All are invited to visit Tomato Head and view these captivating illustrations of the beauty and diversity that make our region so unique.

Somewhat ironically, Tomato Head’s Maryville location features the work of Julie Armbruster, an exhibit titled, “Doomed Mammals.” A closing reception will be held at the Maryville location on May 1.

What is Discover Life in America (DLIA)?

DLIA is involved in a quest to identify and understand all the species of life within an 800-square-mile ecosystem in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. DLIA researchers seek knowledge about the components, abundance, and diversity of life, from spiders in the soil to slime molds in the forest canopy. The primary tool of DLIA is the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) which brings scientists from around the world to inventory the estimated 100,000 species of living organisms in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The project develops checklists, reports, maps, databases, and natural history profiles that describe the biology of this rich landscape to a wide audience. DLIA’s mission is to help the ATBI identify and develop resources and partnerships to conduct the inventory and related educational activities.

What is the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI)?
The All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory is one of the world’s biggest and most ambitious science projects, aiming to decipher the mysteries of the Smokies’ intricate ecosystem by finding and cataloging every species of plant, animal and microorganism in the park. Since species collecting began in 1998, the ATBI has uncovered over 900 species new to science, as well as over 6,500 species that are newly documented to exist in the Smokies. The ATBI project involves hundreds of “citizen scientists”, or volunteers, to collect specimens for the scientists to analyze, keeping the project cost-effective.

By completing this comprehensive inventory of species, The National Park Service managers are able to use this basic knowledge in their critical decision-making. The data resulting from this project allows for park management attention to be focused on organisms and habitats with special needs as well as more efficient maintenance of healthy populations of species and their ecological surroundings. It also provides a baseline record for the examination of global factors such as acid rain, climate change, and pollution-knowledge that is essential for this national park’s biodiversity to be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

The ATBI is supported, in part, by funding from The National Park Service through Friends of the Smokies and the Great Smoky Mountains Association.

Tomato Head’s Ham, Scrambled Egg and Roasted Asparagus Sandwich with Artichoke Tapenade

It’s the first Saturday of the month, which means Mahasti will be on WBIR sharing some recipes for the new spring season. Tune in around 8:15am to watch as she prepares Tomato Head’s Ham, Scrambled Egg and Roasted Asparagus Sandwich with Artichoke Tapenade.

Both the Maryville and Knoxville locations will be serving this special on Saturday (while it lasts).

And for those who want to serve this special for an Easter brunch, or to take care of ham leftovers after Easter festivities, here are the recipes. Enjoy!

Tomato Head’s Ham, Scrambled Egg and Roasted Asparagus Sandwiches with Artichoke Tapenade

For the Artichoke Tapenade

2 cups artichoke hearts
½ cup green olive
1 cup pitted kalamata olives
1 – 2 cloves garlic
2 anchovies
¼ cup olive oil

If using a food processor, place everything in the bowl of the food processor and process until smooth. If you do not have a food processor, chop everything finely. Place in a bowl and mix well.

To roast asparagus:

Trim the bottom ends off the asparagus, rinse and cut in half. Place the asparagus in a mixing bowl drizzle with enough vegetable oil to lightly coat the asparagus. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper, toss to coat and place on a cookie sheet. Cook the asparagus in a preheated 450 degree oven for 8 – 10 minutes.

To make 4 sandwiches:

Scramble 4 eggs
4 oz of ham
4 slices of swiss cheese
8 – 10 sprigs of roasted asparagus
4 rolls or 8 slices of bread

If using rolls cut the rolls in half. Spread the bottom piece of bread you are using with artichoke tapenade. Divide the scrambled eggs between the sandwiches. Top with approximately 1 oz of ham per sandwich. Place the roasted asparagus and swiss cheese on the top piece of bread. Place the sandwich in the preheated oven and bake just until the cheese has melted. Remove the sandwiches from the oven. Flip the top piece of bread onto the bottom piece. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve.

Part Two — Big Ears — Personal Selections from Ashley Capps

As promised, here’s the second entry from Ashley Capps covering his tips and selects for enjoying the Big Ears Festival to the fullest.

Ok, it’s me again….with part 2 of my Big Ears overview and personal picks.

First of all, I would like to focus on 3 of our special programs that feature multiple artists and a nice overview of the festival. They could be a great way to stick your toe in the water of the Big Ears experience if you’re hesitant to jump into the deep end.


The Calder Quartet & Andrew W.K.
The Calder Quartet with Iva Bittova / Sam Amidon / Andrew W.K.

Friday, March 26, 5pm, Knoxville Museum of Art
A special introductory show for the Big Ears festival…in addition to a really remarkable “classical” program by the Calder Quartet and violinist/singer Iva Bittova…Sam Amidon will sing a few Appalachian folk songs, and God only knows what Andrew W.K. might do…and there may be others. It’s an inexpensive way to get a taste of the festival, but seating will be very limited.

Dirty Projectors
The Dirty Projectors / DJ/rupture / William Basinski
Saturday afternoon, March 27, 2pm, Tennessee Theatre
The Dirty Projectors somehow combine the classic soul (think Al Green and Marvin Gaye), classic rock (think both Led Zeppelin and Jackson Browne), some hot African pop (like King Sunny Ade), with a complex 2 female/1 male vocal front line, into a wonderfully fun and completely original sound that somehow works beautifully. The show will open with William Basinski’s fascinating forays into decaying sound and the invigorating Third-World grooves of the inimitable DJ/rupture.

Brian Eno’s Music for Airports (performed by Bang On A Can All-Stars) / The Books / Tim Hecker
Sunday afternoon, March 28, 1pm, Tennessee Theatre
This program will feature Brian Eno’s legendary ambient work, as orchestrated for Bang On A Can, in a version thoroughly loved by Eno himself. The program will also feature The Books, rumored to be one of Mr. Eno’s very favorite bands (and one of mine, too!) along with a new master of electronic ambient music, Tim Hecker.


Terry Riley
I can’t say enough about Terry Riley and having him participate in this festival is a dream come true. Having been a fan for 40 years, I kind of have to pinch myself. The word can be overused, but he’s every bit the legend and influence that John Coltrane, Miles Davis, or John Lennon is. Built on pulsating, hypnotic structures, his music literally redirected the music of the latter 20th Century. It was felt everywhere. In classical music, but also in rock. It’s hard to imagine that an album like Dark Side of the Moon would have ever been created without his influence. It would certainly have sounded much different. You should read a bit about him on the Big Ears website if you don’t already know him.

TERRY RILEY QUARTET with Gyan Riley, Tracy Silverman, and Ches Smith
Friday, March 26, 7pm, Bijou Theatre
I saw Terry perform with this group in New York last fall. It was wonderful…very jazzy…almost like an acoustic Mahavishnu Orchestra or even alluding to McCoy Tyner and the great John Coltrane Quartet…but still retaining all of the essential elements of Terry’s greatest work.

Saturday, March 27, 9pm, Cox Auditorium (UT Campus)
This will be momentous. Terry will perform on the incredible Pipe Organ at UT’s Cox Auditorium…performing the program that he was commissioned by the LA Philharmonic to present to christen the amazing Pipe Organ at Disney Hall. This is a first outside of Los Angeles.

TERRY RILEY’S IN C (performed by Bang On A Can All-Stars and others)
Saturday, March 27, Midnight, Tennessee Theatre
This will be an all-star cast of artists from the Big Ears weekend performing Terry’s most famous piece, “one of the true masterpieces of the 20th Century” – In C. You may have read about the triumphant performance at Carnegie Hall back in April. We hope to exceed those lofty heights!

Also, Terry and Bang On A Can will present his new work, “Autodreamographical Tales,” for only the third time ever. It’s a whimsical and often funny work where Terry tells stories based on his dreams.

This is the ultimate midnight show EVER!

TERRY RILEY’S “CADENZA ON THE NIGHT PLAIN” (performed by the Calder Quartet)…Plus

Sunday, March 28, 7pm, Bijou Theatre
Perhaps the most straightforward “classical” presentation of Terry’s work during the weekend, this program will include his beautiful string quartet, “Cadenza on the Night Plain”, which I first experienced at UT Music Hall in the early 1980s, performed by Kronos Quartet. It was one of those moments when time stood still. Stunningly beautiful music. Terry will also perform some of his solo work.

The opportunity to see Terry Riley outside of the West Coast, New York City, or Europe is very rare. I hope you’ll take advantage of it. We’re also helping to celebrate Terry’s 75th Birthday Year during Big Ears. Join us!


Big Ears — Personal Selections from Ashley Capps

You know we’re really excited about the Big Ear Festival coming up. It’s next weekend! We were also very happy to see another email from Ashley Capps about the event, and this time he included some tips and information to help folks navigate all the great performances that are coming to Knoxville. Enjoy…and we’ll be sure to post Part 2 soon.

Hello everyone!

Thanks so much for all of the great feedback to my letter about Big Ears. People seem as excited as I am.

A number of folks asked for more information and even some personal picks or tips about the weekend’s line up of shows. So I’m writing now in response to that.

To keep it manageable, this is Part 1. Part 2 will come tomorrow or the next day.

First, I would like to say this:

If you love great music of any kind, I am certain that you will hear something extraordinary that you will really love at Big Ears. This is not an “avant garde” music festival. Many of the artists performing are among the best-selling artists of the moment. Most of the music is completely accessible – melodic, tuneful, and, in some cases, quite beautiful. Highly enjoyable, inspirational, and fun!

You can purchase tickets for individual concerts. You may also, if you wish, choose from a couple of pass options – the Inner Ear and the Outer Ear. Tickets are available on line and the information about how to purchase is here. You may also purchase tickets through the Tennessee Theatre Box Office by calling 865-684-1200 ext. 2 from 10am – 5pm weekdays.


The National
The National – My favorite rock band of the moment…hands down. And I’m not alone. Their last CD, Boxer, was selected #1 Record of the Year in 2008 in Paste Magazine. The new one, due in May, is expected to be one of the biggest music releases of the year. These guys occupy a musical position not unlike that of the Velvet Underground in NYC in the late 1960s…powerful, direct, gritty, wickedly humorous with subtle but highly sophisticated arrangements. They play on Sunday night. My Brightest Diamond is really great too and she opens the show. This will be a really great show.

Joanna Newsome
Joanna Newsom, the xx, the Dirty Projectors, and St. Vincent are all among the most exciting rock artists of the moment. Joanna’s been everyone recently – with great features in the New York Times Magazine and NPR. She’s totally enchanting.

I would mention Vampire Weekend, who had the #1 record in the country in January, but they are already sold out. Joanna and the xx have only a few tickets remaining.


I hope that you will make an effort to see at least one of Terry Riley’s concerts (each will be very different…more about Terry in the next letter). But of special note:

The Calder Quartet will perform Terry’s stunningly beautiful string quartet, Candenza on the Night Plain, on Sunday afternoon at the Bijou, where Terry will also perform some of his solo music. I saw Cadenza performed at the UT Music Hall back in the early 1980s and it’s still one of my most memorable concerts ever.

I think you might also love the Calder’s collaboration with the dazzling Czech violinist/singer Iva Bittova…they will perform Janacek and a modern piece by Fred Frith at the Knoxville Museum of Art on Friday evening at 5pm…other artists are on that bill too (see below).

Stepping a bit beyond the borders of straight classical music but offering a lot of musical pleasures will be the 802 Tour and Clogs (both at the Bijou on Saturday) as well as the 3 Bang On A Can All-Stars performances during the weekend.


The 802 Tour – I can’t describe this. It’s just wonderful but it makes little sense on paper…classical/opera composer Nico Muhly and viola virtuoso Nadia Sirota join Appalachian folk singer Sam Amidon and the almost whispered songs of Doveman (Thomas Barlett) to create something unworldly in its beauty. Very jaded friends have told me that it is the best show they’ve even seen. They’re too busy on their own to do this very often. This is what Big Ears is all about in one show. At 1pm on Saturday afternoon at the Bijou.

Clogs: The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton
Clogs – One of the highlights of the weekend. They will perform their beautiful new song cycle, The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton, with all of the special guests who sing on the records, including Sufjan Stevens, Matt Berninger (the National), and Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond). Likely the only full performance of the work in the USA. And there are likely to be a few surprises during this show too. Saturday at 4pm.

OK. Part 2…about Terry Riley and a few other special events will come in the next 24 – 48 hours….

Ashley Capps

This Ain’t Your Mama’s Grilled Cheese

April is National Grilled Cheese Month (who knew?) and to honor the occasion Mahasti is making a grilled cheese sandwich the Tomato Head way. Lets just say this ain’t your mama’s grilled cheese.

Tune in to WBIR on Saturday, March 20, around 8:15am to get the step-by-step on how to prepare a grilled cheese sandwich with roasted tomato jam, Benton’s Bacon and smoked turkey. The recipe for the roasted tomato jam will also be provided.

Or, if you’re more of an instant gratification type,  you can order it up on Saturday at either the Knoxville or Maryville location, served on the new Country French Loaf bread.

Why We are So Excited about the Big Ears Festival…

We received this message (see below) from Ashley Capps, president of AC Entertainment, the group responsible for the upcoming Big Ears Festival, and think he captured exactly why we’re so excited about Big Ears and why you should be, too. We hope to see folks come out for the event. It’s another thing that goes on our list of “great things about Knoxville.”
Dear Friends and Neighbors –

Last year, we launched a new and very unique festival concept in Knoxville called Big Ears. It was a relatively small event, but an auspicious beginning…with considerable acclaim from fans, artists, and the press, including the New York Times.

This year, the Big Ears Festival – scheduled for March 26 – 28 – has evolved into something truly extraordinary. I want to tell you more about it and what it can mean for our community. I hope that you will also share this with your friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues who have a passion for creativity and the arts. There’s something here for everyone to experience and enjoy. I’d like to invite everyone in our city to “stick their toe in the water,” take in a show or two, and experience what Big Ears has to offer.

We have some of the most acclaimed and exciting musicians in contemporary rock…Vampire Weekend, the National, Joanna Newsom, the Dirty Projectors…

We also have important young “classical” artists such as Nico Muhly – whose first opera commission from the New York Metropolitan and the English National Opera was just announced…viola virtuoso Nadia Sirota…and the groundbreaking Calder Quartet.

Guitarist/composer Bryce Dessner – who curated much of this year’s Big Ears Festival – embodies the expansive vision that the festival aspires to…in the past month he has just finished recording what is poised to be one of the biggest rock records of 2010 with his band, The National…and he also was a member of the ensemble that recorded classical composer Steve Reich’s 2009 Pulitizer Prize winning Double Sextet. His chamber ensemble, Clogs, just released their most critically acclaimed recording to date, The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton. Their performance of this work at Big Ears will undoubtedly be a festival highlight, when they will be joined by guests Sufjan Stevens, Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), and Matt Berninger and Aaron Dessner from The National.

And there’s Terry Riley, our Artist in Residence for the weekend, simply one of the most influential and visionary artists of our time …and we’re celebrating his 75th Birthday Year with a series of concerts during the festival.

This barely scratches the surface, however…you can see the full schedule and read about all of the great artists at and find videos/links on Facebook.

People from all over are coming to Knoxville. Fans are coming from Europe and Australia as well as throughout the USA. Writers from the New York Times, Time Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press…possibly the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Spin, NPR…as well as from such cutting edge music and culture websites/blogs such as Pitchfork and Stereogum…will be in attendance.

Why Knoxville? Why not Knoxville!!! For years, people have asked why Knoxville doesn’t have a major music and arts festival event, like a Spoleto or a SXSW. We believe the time is now. Knoxville has the perfect infrastructure – a beautiful historic downtown, two world-class historic theatres, a major University, a first-class museum, great clubs, outdoor spaces, and wonderful restaurants – all within an easy walk of one another. The vision of Big Ears was to engage these community resources, find synergies, and create an unforgettable experience. Now…it’s happening!

I’m especially thrilled at the opportunity to work with the great folks at the Knoxville Museum of Art, the University of Tennessee, the Square Room, the Pilot Light, the former Blue Cats/Catalyst and, of course, the Tennessee and Bijou Theatres in bringing Big Ears to fruition. And I must thank Regal Entertainment Group and Toyota of Knoxville for believing in Big Ears and making its growth possible.

The vital role of Art and Culture in fostering dynamic communities that support creativity, entrepreneurship, and economic development is being recognized by successful cities throughout the country. The need to attract, support, and retain the “creative class” has been at the heart of forward thinking economic and business strategies for some time now. I believe that concepts like the Big Ears Festival are an important part of making that vision a reality.

At Big Ears, you will not only hear some of the most imaginative and beautiful music being created today, but you will also be part of our great community taking another step in the realization of its tremendous potential for the future.

I hope to see you!


Batey & Cohen, Exhibit & Reception (Maryville)

Robert Batey and Dana Cohen presented their artwork at The Tomato Head’s Knoxville location throughout February. The month of March brings their work to the Maryville location of The Tomato Head and to the Blount County community.

All are invited to attend a reception, to be held on Sunday, March 14, from 5pm-7pm, to celebrate the exhibits and to meet the artists.

We hope to see you here!

Tomato Head’s Strawberry Brownie Sundae

Mahasti appeared on WBIR this morning (March 6) and introduced how to make a delicious Strawberry Brownie Sundae. Step-by-step below:

Tomato Head’s Strawberry Brownie Sundae

For the brownie:
½ lb butter
6 oz bittersweet chocolate
2 cups sugar
6 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
1.5 cups all purpose flour
¼ cup cocoa powder

Line the bottom of a 8 x 11 baking dish with parchment paper. Grease the sides of the dish with butter.

On a double boiler melt butter and chocolate. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

Sift together the flour and cocoa powder and set aside.

Beat the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand held mixer for 4 – 5 minutes on high speed until pale yellow. Reduce speed to low and add vanilla. Gradually add the melted chocolate. Gradually add the flour and mix just until all the flour is incorporated. Pour the brownie batter into the prepared baking dish.

Bake in a 325 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until the top is shiny and the brownie is puffed up.

Allow brownie to cool for 1 hour. Remove from pan.

To assemble sundaes:

2 cups sliced strawberries
¼ cup sugar
Hershey’s Chocolate syrup
Whipped cream

In a medium bowl toss strawberries with sugar and set aside until the strawberries begin to give off some juice.

Cut 4 pieces out of the brownies you just made. Place each brownie on a plate or in a bowl. Divide the strawberries evenly amongst the brownies. Top with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup. Top with whipped cream and nuts.

© 2016 The Tomato Head Site by: Robin Easter Design