Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Button Bouquets at Blue Skies

Called "one of the best boutiques in Chattanooga" by Southern Living, Blue Skies at 30 Frazier Avenue offers an eclectic selection of handcrafted jewelry and gifts. These one-of-a-kind, vintage buttons have been upcycled as flower bouquets by local artist Phlox Icona and are ready for your Valentine.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Coffee Roasting in Bluff View


Once while crossing the Walnut Street pedestrian bridge, I found the aroma of roasting beans so compelling that it led me to Rembrandt's Coffee House, where Director of Marketing and Sales Michele Kephart would later rendezvous with me for a tour of the operation. "We've had clients ask us to roast during their events here," she said.Lucky are they whose special occasions are perfumed by the sweet, dense depths of a scent like no other, combining notes of caramel, vanilla and chocolate.

In a former glass making studio below the bocce court we are greeted by Chris Anderson, Assistant Food and Beverage Director for Bluff View. When the roasting oven, which resembles a steam locomotive, reaches the required 415 degrees, he pours eighteen pounds of green Mexican beans into the funnel atop the furnace and the temperature promptly drops by half. As it climbs between 280 and 290 degrees, chaff separates from the beans and is blown into a holding tray for later use a garden fertilizer.

The next stage is called 'first crack', because of the rapid popping sounds generated as moisture is released at a temperature between 380 and 390 degrees. In the end, beans will have doubled in volume, but lost sixteen percent of their mass. The resulting fifteen pounds of this particular roast cascade from the chamber in a cloud of smoke and descend into cooling tray. Three arms sweep them round and round while the forced air that once blew away their chaff now bears away the heat.

The roiling, glistening swirl brings a smile to this coffee lover, but Anderson's sharp eye has spotted an errant green bean that somehow never completed the process. While the one might not affect flavor, his pride in a job well done demands its removal, which he does while bagging the lot. Recently roasted beans will continue to emit gasses for two days, so the bags are valved to release them. Optimal serving falls within two to fourteen days hence.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Monday's spring-like weather found the streets of Chattanooga teeming with life. In a nod to winter, neckwear remains a popular accessory and both young ladies' faces shimmered under artfully applied cosmetic frostings. At Two North Shore, this display of locally crafted scarves in the window of Bill Shores Frames and Gallery demanded a closer look.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

United Nations

Brazil, France, Martinique & Chattanooga, USA: Welcome!

Wendy Buckner

The brown color palette chosen by Wendy Buckner for this abstract painting made for a class at Chattanooga State proved a harbinger for her Hot Chocolatier. Photography Professor Mark Wood recently acquired one of her paintings and asked whether she saw the similarities between encaustic painting in pigmented beeswax and color transfers in cocoa butter onto chocolate.

It was a circuitous path that included work in a hospital while her husband earned a graduate degree. An arts background precluded medical studies so Buckner found her métier at The French Pastry School in Chicago.

As the business approaches its first annivesary in the Chamber of Commerce Business Development Center, Buckner is busy dipping pretzels, dried fruits and nuts for Valentine's Day. Truffles must wait for last moment. "That's how I do all my holidays so they''ll be fresh."

Sherry Nickell

Sherry Nickell I
Sherry Nickell II
After earning an undergraduate degree from Washington University and a graduate degree from Witchita State University, Sherry Nickell pursued a career in neon glass bending. Now living in Tennessee, she sculpts myth inspired glass for collectors and creates jewelry. At this bead making demontration Saturday in the River Gallery, Nickell heats glass tubing to 2000 degress Farenheit, rolls the resulting forms in borosilicate for color and texture, then applies decorative flourishes. Each piece requires half an hour of intensive concentration. Her purple tinted glasses both afford protection and cancel the orange flame tint, allowing a critical view of the process.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Bluff View Style

all about somber shades of brown


On the eve of what promised to be a day of holiday feasting to excess, Leigh and I tried Sluggo’s North Vegetarian Café. In the post-industrial landscape at 501 Cherokee Boulevard, little touches like dining room walls rag painted a serene shade of dark green and an eclectic mix of country, blues and MoTown set the mood.
From an abbreviated, soft-opening menu, we were tempted by a spicy, black bean burrito, but chose the “Popeye” bowl of peanut spiced tofu and faux reuben sandwich, “The Berliner”, of seiten, sauerkraut and Russian dressing on Niedlov’s rye. A knife and fork job, this messy, spicy stack delivered real deli satisfaction, even from its bean cheese. A side of barely wilted collards retained their earthy flavor while basking in a soy broth.
Further east, the plentiful tofu cubes absorbed a mildly spiced peanut sauce atop brown rice. Crowned with baby spinach and brightened by notes of onion and crunchy cabbage, it banished hunger pangs without leaving us potted. Even with a Guinness and an Anchor Steam, the total reached a budget pleasing $22.
Three weeks later, a savvy visitor to town suggested meeting for lunch there. By day, venetian blinds cast stripey shadows across the banquets, where we tucked into nachos, the burrito and a “Golden Bowl” of just-grilled portabello slices, which retained their texture amid the more toothsome background. No detail is too small for Terry Johnson and Ashley Krey. Plate garnishes are lovely, hand carved flourishes that promise full expression of each and every ingredient. After all, it was a love of music that brought them together. Now Chattanooga is home to their second restaurant venture and we “presheatecha”.