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April 23, 2024

Tasting A Bit of History—Chocolate Chip Blondies

By Sharon Mellor

Buckhorn Inn afternoon treats are very popular with guests—none more so than our blondies.
The blondie is an American creation. The first recipe for the dense, butterscotch-flavored bar
was published in 1896 by Fannie Farmer. These delicious bar cookies were called “brownies”
after the elfin characters created by Palmer Cox. Chocolate brownies did not become popular
until a decade later when the rapid expansion of chocolate manufacturing made the product
easier for Americans to purchase. And once chocolate brownies became the norm, the cookies
without chocolate became known as blonde brownies, or blondies.

 

Blondies were created before brownies, but named after them. Confused yet? At any rate, blondies are delicious! This recipe,
which yields 12 bars, adds chocolate and walnuts to the rich batter. If you like, coconut also makes a delicious addition.

I made these for our recent Wines and Spines gathering, so rest assured these are book club endorsed!

Chocolate Chip Blondies
1/2 lb unsalted butter at room temperature
1 c light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 c granulated sugar
2 t vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 c flour
1 t baking soda
1 t kosher salt
1 1/2 c chopped walnuts
1 1/4 lb semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease and flour an 8 x 12 x 2” baking pan.
Cream the butter and sugars on high speed until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and the eggs
one at a time. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix the flour mixture into the butter
mixture on low speed. Fold in the walnuts and chocolate.
Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes.  Toothpick will not come out clean.  Cool in pan before cutting into bars.

January 17, 2024

Plein-Air Painting Workshops Held at Buckhorn Inn

For years now Rachael McCampbell has been leading plein-air workshops in the Smokies. Offering Buckhorn Inn as a home base for a painting trip has been a highlight. “I fell in love with the Buckhorn Inn the minute I walked in. The historical charm and beauty of the rooms, the property’s private setting and the views of the mountains really struck me. And of course the stellar food and friendly staff make this time in the mountains a perfect ‘Art-cation’,” she states.

McCampbell has been a professional artist her whole life. After graduating from the University of Georgia, she lived and worked in Italy, England, New York and Los Angeles, moving back to Franklin, TN in 2008. Having been raised on a farm in south Knoxville, the landscape always resonated with her. “We had a lease with the National Park for 10 years in Cades Cove. This was back when you could run cattle and horses there. We had a temporary residence (where the rangers lived) and spent glorious weekends in the mountains playing in streams all day. My love of the Smokies was cemented in my childhood.”

The workshops give artists of all levels the opportunity to enhance their plein-air skills.

Rachael’s art is inspired by the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Plein-Air Painting Inspired by Smoky Mountains

Sharing her love of the mountains and its inherent beauty is what inspires McCampbell to lead these trips each year. She also plans her painting time each year around the scheduled display of the synchronized fireflies in early June. “The magic of sitting in the dark watching the emergence and dance of these unique creatures is incredibly special for my guests. We have been honored to be invited to observe the fireflies and foxfire on a private property that abuts the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”
McCampbell’s workshops are for 7 nights. She takes the group to different locales to paint, gives demonstrations and works with each student almost all day long. They gather before dinner to discuss all aspects of art and McCampbell sometimes does a second demo in the evening or a powerpoint presentation discussing art. “The trip is highly educational and hands-on but also very personal. My prayer is always that the folks who come on my trips become lifelong friends and painter buddies—and they DO!”

For more information, or to register for the 2024 painting workshop, please visit Rachael’s website http://Www.rachaelmccampbell.com

January 3, 2024

Buckhorn Inn Receives “Best Meal” Praise

Dinner at Buckhorn Inn was honored to be named a “best meal” of 2023 by The Grub Scout.  The Grub Scout writes a regular column in the Knoxville News Sentinel.  http://Www.knoxnews.com  The Scout wrapped up the year by recapping some of his/her favorite restaurant outings.  In the December 29 issue, he/she identified the 10 eateries that impressed him/her the most out of the more than 60 restaurants, food trucks, and other vendors he/she visited and reviewed in the previous 12 months.  Here is the Buckhorn Inn review of the meal Chef Frank prepared as it appeared.

Buckhorn Inn

Although I lived in Sevier County for 10 years at one point in my life, I had never been to Buckhorn Inn until The Grub Spouse and I received a gift certificate to the Gatlinburg bed and breakfast.  While there, we sat down to a dinner that turned out to be one of the highlights of our wedding anniversary celebration.  The meal was served at a fixed price of $40 per person, and considering the food itself—five onion soup, rack of pork topped with peach barbecue sauce, duchess potato casserole, steamed broccoli, and a brown-butter almond torte with brandied cherries—not to mention the daytime views of Mount LeConte, adding Buckhorn Inn to be a Favorite 10 (you don’t have to be a guest to dine there) was a no-brainer.

 

Brown-butter almond torte is a delightful way to end a “best meal”.

The article featured a photo of our brown-butter almond torte with brandied cherries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Mentioned Restaurants

The Buckhorn Inn was in excellent company!  The Grub Scout recommended several of our favorite restaurants—and several which we are looking forward to trying.  The Grub Scout also singled out Hong’s Kitchen, Knoxville; Tarik’s North African, South Knoxville; Fire & Salt, Oak Ridge; Seasons Innovative Bar & Grille, Farragut; Foothills Milling Cafe, Maryville; Van Edom’s Wine Bar, Farragut; Elkmont Station, Farragut; Wilder at Windy Hill Farm & Preserve, London County; and Fire & Smoke, Knoxville.

Here’s to another year of delightful dining!

November 25, 2023

Pollinator Gardens Creating a Buzz!

What Buckhorn Inn Is Doing to Protect Pollinators and Their Habitat

By Sharon Mellor

Bees, butterflies, and other pollinators play a key role in moving pollen between flowers.  Scientists estimate that one out of every three bites of our food has been created through the help of pollinators. Imagine a world without our favorite fruits, vegetables, coffee, nuts, and
chocolate!

Unfortunately, pollinators are facing many threats. As native plants are being replaced by nonnative
gardens, roads, lawns, and buildings, pollinators lose the food and nesting sites that are necessary for their survival. For migratory pollinators, long distances between prairies and meadows means that many will die during their journey.

While careful use of pesticides and herbicides can reduce invasive non-native species, improper use can harm wildlife, including pollinators. And finally, climate change can cause some species to starve. As temperatures warm, flowers are blooming earlier. If the blooms die before the insects who feed on those  blooms arrive, many pollinators will die.

Buckhorn Inn is doing its part to protect pollinators and their habitat.

One of our new projects this fall has been to plant milkweed in several patches. Milkweed is essential for the survival of monarch butterflies. The butterflies only lay eggs on milkweed plants and the hatched caterpillars feed exclusively on the leaves of milkweed. We planted common and showy milkweed and butterfly weed this fall so that the cold temperatures and moisture will encourage spring germination. The milkweeds will grow from 2 to 5 feet tall. the star-shaped flowers will attract many pollinators with their yellow, green, purple, pink, and orange flowers. We expect to see native bees, honey bees, hummingbirds, and many types of butterflies. In the fall, the large seed pods will split open and efficiently self-sow.

We also have been experimenting to find a “low mow” schedule that works well for us. By allowing our grass to grow a bit longer and letting weed flowers like dandelions bloom, our
lawns will provide nectar and pollen to help pollinators thrive.

Hand-in-hand with these efforts, we are examining our use of pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides. In particular, widely-used neonicotinoids are absorbed by plants and can be present in pollen and nectar, making them highly toxic to bees. We will never use common brands like Sevin, Orthene, and Raid in an area where bees might feed. When we find we do need to use pesticides, we will follow recommended practice and spray them carefully on still days very early or late in the day to give them time to dry before the bees come to feed. 

We also expanded our plots of native wildflowers over the summer. Our wildflower plots include black-eyed susan, blood root, beebalm, fire pink, iron weed, joe pye weed, cone flower, thistle, wild geranium, and other wildflowers native to eastern Tennessee. Our honeybee hives love them! Mariupol’s hive did produce some honey this year. Unfortunately, we had some rainy days during the prime nectar flow, so the workers hung around inside instead of foraging.  We harvested about seven partial frames which resulted in about a gallon of amber goodness. We did not harvest any honey from Milan’s hive this year, but the bees appear strong going into the winter. We are planning to insulate the hives and provide them winter feed consisting of sugar and pollen patties. 

Please visit us next summer and check out our bee-utiful gardens!

August 29, 2023

Listen Like the Locals! Live Music Abounds

Guests often ask me for recommendations on what the locals do for fun in Gatlinburg.  One of the things that Jack and I enjoy is listening to live music.   Some of the large venues downtown, like Ole Red and Jason Aldean’s, have live country music.  But we, and many locals, prefer the wide range of performers at local haunts like Three Jimmy’s Good Time Eatery and Split Rail Eats.  Let me introduce to three of our favorites.

Mark Meyer

If you attended the Buckhorn Inn’s Riverboat-themed New Years Eve party a few years ago, that was Mark at the piano entertaining us with ragtime and jazz.  Mark studied music at Maryville College and the University of Tennessee.  He plays classic rock, country classics, and original tunes in jazz fusion, rock and other styles.  I especially love Mark’s repertoire of turn of the century ragtime—Scott Joplin, Eubie Blake, Joseph Lamb, and others.  His jazz catalog includes standards by Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, and more!

Split Rail is a great place to eat a yummy tater bowl, have a drink, and listen to live music.

Live music at Split Rail on September 8 will feature Mark and Friends!

Mark has been invited to do ragtime and jazz presentations for the Knoxville Jazz Society and the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra League.  

He sometimes appears with Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter Taylor Brooks, sometimes as part of the Brews Brothers, and sometimes with Kirk Fleta (see below).  

Kirk Fleta

Kirk is a singer, songwriter and guitarist.  We were drawn to him because of his catalog of James Taylor and Neil Young.  But we stayed because of his original songs, like “Bare Bones.”  He sings with palpable passion — and endears himself to the crowd with his boyish charm.  He plays “energetic acoustic rock with delta slide and flamenco overtones” according to his artist biography.  Whatever—we like it!  He comes by his musical talents honestly.  We recently learned his grandfather was a world-famous Spanish tenor and his mother toured the world with her pop music.

Neesee Hurst

If you have read “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”, you are familiar with the pianist Emma Kelly, the “Lady of 6,000 Songs”.  Well, if Ms. Kelly knows 6,000 songs, Neesee Hurst knows at least 24,000!   And she plays by ear!

Originally from South Carolina, Neesee is beloved by the local community.  Not only for her wide selection of music, but for her warm and lovely spirit.  She plays from 3:00 pm on Wednesday through Sunday at Three Jimmy’s.  In the mood for Petula Clark?  Steely Dan?  Johnny Cash? Crash Test Dummies?  Guns and Roses?Neesee plays it all and loves to take requests.  If you are in the mood for a giggle, ask her to play “You Can’t Hide Those Thunder Thighs.”

We hope to see you enjoying local music with us!

June 19, 2023

Buckhorn Inn Uses AI for this Post

As the proud holder of a degree in journalism, I have been particularly interested in the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to compose articles, essays, poems, etc.  So, I used Bing’s creative writing AI as an experiment.  I asked it to write a 300-word blog post promoting a stay at the Buckhorn Inn in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  The following copy is presented exactly as it was generated.

AI Blog Post

# Why You Should Stay at the Buckhorn Inn in Gatlinburg Tennessee

If you are looking for a cozy and charming place to stay in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, you should consider the Buckhorn Inn. This bed and breakfast has been a favorite destination for visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains since 1938. Here are some reasons why you should book your next getaway at the Buckhorn Inn.

## Stunning Views

The Buckhorn Inn offers the grandest Smoky Mountain views of any Gatlinburg bed and breakfast. You can enjoy the ever-changing scenery of the mountains and meadows from your private balcony, patio, or window. The inn is situated less than a mile from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so you can easily access the hiking trails, wildlife, and natural wonders of the area.

## Elegant Rooms

The Buckhorn Inn has a range of accommodations to suit your preferences and budget. You can choose from traditional inn rooms, private cottages, or full guesthouses. All of them are elegantly furnished and decorated with period charm and modern amenities. You can expect to find comfortable beds, air conditioning, flat-screen TVs, kitchenettes, and complimentary toiletries in your room. Some rooms also feature fireplaces, whirlpool tubs, or jacuzzis for extra relaxation.

## Delicious Food

One of the highlights of staying at the Buckhorn Inn is the delicious food. The inn serves a complimentary breakfast every morning, featuring fresh fruit, homemade pastries, eggs, bacon, and more. You can also enjoy a four-course dinner every evening, prepared by the inn’s chef using local ingredients. The menu changes daily and offers a variety of dishes, such as roasted duck, grilled salmon, beef tenderloin, and vegetarian options. You can dine in the elegant dining room or on the terrace overlooking the mountains.

## Friendly Service

The Buckhorn Inn is known for its friendly and attentive service. The innkeepers and staff are always ready to help you with anything you need, from booking tours and activities to providing recommendations and tips. They will make you feel welcome and pampered during your stay. The inn also has a library, a meeting room, a gift shop, and free Wi-Fi for your convenience.

The Buckhorn Inn is more than just a place to sleep. It is a place to experience the beauty, history, and hospitality of Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains. Book your stay today and see for yourself why the Buckhorn Inn is one of the best bed and breakfasts in Tennessee.

 

So, what do you think?  I noted a few things I would not have written:  we don’t regularly serve roasted duck, we do not offer dining on the terrace, and jacuzzis are brand-name whirlpool tubs.  But by and large, I think this is a serviceable blog post.  I did note that it did not score well on readability.  The article contained more passive voice than recommended and we considered difficult to read.  I intend to continue writing the blogs personally, but perhaps AI could be a good tool for research, or for brainstorming blog ideas.

June 12, 2023

Summer Wildflowers in the GSMNP

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) has more kinds of flowering plants than any other North American National Park.  In fact, the GSMNP boasts more than 1,500 varieties of flowers!  

Perhaps the most well-known are the spring ephemerals—so called because they appear in late winter, flower, fruit, and die back within two months.  They emerge beginning in February and are usually gone by the end of June.  Spring wildflower walkers can see lady slippers, fire pinks, columbine, bleeding heart,  jack-in-the-pulpit, little brown jugs, violets and many others.

Summer Wildflowers Are Magnificent

But that doesn’t mean that spring is the only season to view wildflowers.  The display continues with cardinal flowers, pink turtleheads, Turk’s cap lily, small purple-fringed orchids, bee-balm, butterfly weed, black-eyed Susan’s, and jewel weed, among others.

Black-eyed susans are among the most easily recognizable summer wildflowers.

Black-eyed susans bloom during the summer months. Photo by Julie Blake Edison.

Rosebay rhododendron blooms during July in the mid elevations.  In the summer sourwood trees produce their small, bell-shaped white blossoms.  Sourwood honey is prized for its light amber color and flavor of anise and spice.  This tree is only grows in the Eastern mountains.  To connoisseurs, it has a richer and more concentrated flavor than the more common clover or wildflower honey.  Some local eastern Tennessee businesses have sourwood honey for sale.  http://Applebarncidermill.com

Summer wildflower seekers can find beautiful blooms later in the season, well into fall.  Look for goldenrod, sunflowers, iron weed, mountain gentian, monk’s hood, coneflowers, and asters.  Purple Joe-Pye-weed can reach heights of ten feet!  From October through January you can find the yellow blooms of witch-hazel.  The late summer/early fall weather is nice for hiking, and the trails are less crowded after the children have returned to school.

We look forward to seeing you this summer!  And don’t forget that we offer hearty and delicious packed lunches for $12 to fuel you on your wildflower tramp.

April 24, 2023

Spring into Spring with Classic Cream of Asparagus Soup

This classic soup is simple, can be made ahead, and is a great way to celebrate fresh, inseason asparagus. The silky, rich, green soup is beautiful as well as delicious. Just add some
warm sourdough bread and a green salad and you have a beautiful, light supper! Asparagus is
notoriously difficult to pair with wine—it can make the wine taste very vegetal or grassy. The
addition of cream in this recipe makes the soup more wine-friendly. Crisp, sparkling wines like
Champagne, Cava, or Prosecco will pair very nicely with this soup. Other options might be a
refreshing Sauvignon Blanc or an unoaked Chardonnay, like the Mer Soleil Silver we offer as an
Innkeeper’s Special at the Inn.

2 pounds green asparagus
1 large, sweet onion, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice.

Cut the tips from 12 asparagus spears and reserve. Cut all remaining asparagus into 1/2 inch
pieces. Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter over low heat, stirring, until soft. Add cut
asparagus and salt and pepper to taste. Cook and stir for 5 minutes. Add the stock and
simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. The asparagus should be tender.  Add the heavy cream. Use an immersion blender,
or a regular blender, to purée soup. Add the reserved asparagus tips and bring to a boil. Taste
and add salt or pepper if necessary. Once the asparagus tips are tender, whisk in one
tablespoon of butter. Add lemon juice and serve. If making ahead, do not add last tablespoon
of butter and lemon juice until after the soup is reheated. Makes four servings

March 27, 2023

Bubble Has a New Pal . . .Meet Butty!

Have you noticed that our mute swan, Bubble, now has a young pal?  Butty, a nine-month-old male came to us in March all the way from Chicago.  Butty still displays some of the dusky brown-gray feathers of youth.  When he matures, he will be entirely white.

Why is he called Butty?

As many of you know, Bubble’s brother was Squeak.  They were named by Innkeeper John Mellor for the famous British dish, Bubble and Squeak.  And also because the noises they make sound like bubbles and squeaks.  When we lost Squeak to natural causes, we were anxious to get a companion for Bubble.  But what to call him?

A Butty is an informal term for a sandwich in the United Kingdom.  Typically, butties have hot, savory fillings.  The most common are chips (French fries), bacon, sausage, and egg.  Bacon butties were a great favorite of Innkeeper John.  He made them for his children when they were small.  (His recipe was white bread, bacon, and ketchup!)

The first time Jack to me to England, we went to the theater in London’s West End.  We had a light supper afterwards at a nearby restaurant.  The post-theater menu was promoted as Bubble and Butty—champagne and bacon sandwiches!

So the name honors John and brings back a wonderful memory of his homeland.

Fun fact:  I had assumed the Brits named bacon sandwiches after pork butt.  But according to Better Homes and Gardens http://www.bhg.com/chip.butty, the term is actually a shortened form of bread and butter.  

The picture below was taken by our own Eddie—a handy guy with a camera as well as other tools!  We hope you will stop by soon to greet our swans.  Don’t forget to ask for a bag of lettuce in the office to share with them!

Bubble and Butty have become fast friends.

Bubble and Butty explore Buckhorn Inn Pond.

February 12, 2023

Some Easy Hikes in the National Park

Gatlinburg Trail

This relatively 1.9 mile, flat hiking trail starts at the Sugarlands Visitors Center. It  runs through forest along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. There are beautiful views of the river and  the foundations and chimneys of several old homesites. Keep in mind that the Gatlinburg Trail is the only one which allows dogs.

Porters Creek Trail

Located in Greenbrier Cove, Porter’s Creek is an easy and-and-out hike from Buckhorn Inn  You can experience some of the natural communities in the cove hardwood forest. This hiking trail also contains the remnants of settlers who lived in the area before the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established. There was once a community of about 500 people in Porters Flat and Greenbrier Cove, so keep your eyes peeled for evidence of old homesteads, stone fences, stairs and the Ownby cemetery.  This trail is particularly beautiful in the Spring Wildflower Season beginning in late March through early May.

Cataract Falls Trail

If you love waterfalls, enjoy an easy hike along the Cataract Falls Trail.  It is only 3/4 miles roundtrip, making it a perfect destination for families with kids and other family members who have trouble walking long distances! The trail starts off paved but quickly turns to gravel as it travels over Fighting Creek on several well maintained bridges and through a stunning canopy of trees. While the highlight of the Cataract Falls Trail is naturally the 25 foot waterfall, you will also find a unique photo opportunity in an old hollowed out tree!

Grotto Falls Trail

When you want to combine one of the easy hikes in the Smoky Mountains with one of the most enchanting hikes, be sure to check out the Grotto Falls Trail.  While this is an easy hike, note that you should allow up to 3 hours to complete the roundtrip trail that is 2.6 miles in length. Walk through an overgrown forest before experiencing the gorgeous sight of Grotto Falls.  This is one of the only waterfalls that you can actually walk behind, offering one of the most amazing views and photo opportunities in the national park.