Meet Mary, the newest addition to our team. She’s a food addict and fortunately for us, she likes to write about her addiction. In the coming weeks-months-years Mary is going to highlight what’s good in the Knoxville dining scene. Hopefully she’ll cover your favorites and help you discover news places to wet your appetite.
My name is Mary Trotter and I love food! All kinds of food, some that reflect my Southern roots, like fried okra—a favorite now and as I was growing up in Knoxville—and those that show my All-American palate, a delicious cheeseburger. I’m a true “Knoxvillian”, born on the 4th of July. I’ve lived here all my life, first with Mom and Dad and my little sister, Caroline, and now with my other best friend, Charlotte, a full-blooded, fawn boxer.
When I was asked to write about the food scene in Knoxville, I had to ask myself a few questions. What do I think about food? What does dining out mean to me? How did I start writing about food? And, if I had to pick my one “last meal”, what would it be?
Thinking about food, I have to say that, for me at least, the key to my taste in food is experimentation. In one sense, food is like fashion; it changes constantly. But while fads and diets come and go, the variety of food—the cuisines, the ingredients, and the preparations—is really constant and definitely here to stay. I could never pick just one cuisine as my favorite because I like them all! I have always had an adventurous appetite. I have dined at many places and tried many dishes. I will always try something new, and I will even try something a second time if I don’t like it at first. Just because I had one previous bad experience doesn’t mean I won’t like it the next time; it may be a matter of preparation, quality, or the ingredients. Sometimes the food at the same place is better than it is at other times, and sometimes the food at one place is prepared better than the same food at other places. Most of the time, experimentation works to my benefit.
I try to eat out quite a bit, and I am constantly looking for those restaurants that are hidden gems. One of the most important (and overlooked) elements of a great place to eat is a great server. A server can make any meal—breakfast, dinner, or even a late snack—a special experience. There is one “test” I always rely on when I dine; I call it the server test. I always ask my servers what their favorite item is on the menu. If they offer the most expensive items, then I usually write off their recommendations. You shouldn’t have to spend your savings account to enjoy a good meal. Generally, honest servers won’t try to “up-sell” their customers. I know this because I have worked in the restaurant business for over 13 years. I have learned a lot about food and the restaurant industry. The best servers love when their guests truly enjoy themselves when they are out and having a good meal.
I started writing reviews on yelp.com in February of 2009. A friend of mine made me realize how much I enjoyed telling people about good places to eat and good items to try on the menus. He was so right. I started out trying food and writing about it. Now, I never leave a restaurant without a menu or a business card. And I always take pictures with my camera-phone or camera, whichever one I didn’t leave at home. Pictures sometimes can say it all, because there is always a story behind them.
The thing that is most gratifying about writing reviews is having people tell me, “Thank you for telling me about this place.” That is what I hope for you too.
I am here to provide you with insight about food and restaurants. I want you to have a great experience dining out and I will be considerate about your pocket because we all should be. I love going out to eat, usually with good friends, enjoying good food and, of course, some tasty beverages.
Sometimes, I may pass along some tips about great non-food spots in and around Knoxville. I know this town from east to west and north to south, and if there’s a bargain to be had or a great new shop with “just so” items or services, I’ll be there to tell you about it. Often, I will rely on my sister Caroline’s talents as a photographer (see: ohsocaro.blogspot.com). She’s an up and coming Knoxville artist with a great eye for detail that turns the commonplace into the sublime.
I am creative. I am happy. I am inquisitive. I have a big appetite. A friend calls me the “Curvaceous Epicurean.” A standard I live by is: “Age is like weight, a number—a number that really shouldn’t matter.” Or, like Virginia Woolf said, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Growing up in the South, I have had a many opportunities to dine well and to sample the best recipes anywhere to be found. For that, I am grateful to my family, for they are the real reason why I truly appreciate good food.
Oh, and I almost forgot! My final meal would be grilled barbeque chicken—that my Dad gets a great “char” on—and fried okra, broccoli casserole, and macaroni and cheese—all straight from my Mom. My mouth is watering as I write.