[FOOD POST] Venison Pizza, Two Ways

Trust Fall is an organization in Knoxville that has one of the coolest concepts I’ve ever heard of. It’s a secret dinner party. Top secret, even. Ultra exclusive.

But to get in, you needn’t be one of the Knoxville elite or have an in with the local foodies and hipsters (maybe these are the same people, I’m out of touch so I don’t know). No, to attend a Trust Fall event, one only needs to provide their email address on the website.

And you wait.

You wait until there’s an event scheduled at which point they’ll email you to let you know when the event is and when the tickets will go on sale. Frequently the on-sale time is something very specific — like 3:57pm or something — and tickets are frequently between $100-$200 each. Regardless of the price and the oddball sale times, tickets sell out every time, sometimes within seconds.

It’s at this point that I say that I’ve never secured tickets. My real-life knowledge of these events ends here but it’s my understanding that after you secure tickets, you then must figure out where the event is. They won’t tell you, but they’ll send you hints and riddles that indicate where the event will be held. The only concrete information you have is the date and who the chef is. The guest chef is usually from one of Knoxville’s many artisan eateries and for them, these Trust Fall events are a free-for-all. “Here’s your budget — go ham,” and the chef will then design a menu that’s way outside of their usual box and is frequently quite experimental.

On the evening of the event, the lucky diners who were able to secure tickets meet up for dinner and drinks at the secret location — usually the backroom of a restaurant, the courtyard of a local business or even a hidden underground meeting space. The menu is then revealed and it’s set — no substitutions, no special requests allowed. It’s a memorable event for everyone in attendance and definitely a gem among our Scruffy City’s many unique offerings.


A few years ago I had a brilliant plan to do something similar only the menu would be pizza and the location would be my house. No secrets there but the pizza menu would be highly experimental and my guests wouldn’t know the pizza styles until each pie was delivered to the table. I would design and develop as many as seven or eight pizzas and keep my oven hot the night of the event as I deliver each pie and briefly explain to my guests what they were about to eat, where I sourced each ingredient and what inspired me to combine them. I would introduce my guests to pizza toppings they’d never had before and even ingredients that they’d never considered putting on a pizza to begin with.

(After proofing that last paragraph I realize how much I sound like Bob Belcher. I’m not mad about it.)

In those early days, I designed about six unique pies, wrote out the full ingredient list and made each of them. I snapped photos of them and took extensive notes about what worked and what didn’t about each so I could adjust and try again — I needed these pies to be perfect before serving them to a group of friends. I was taking this WAY seriously.

Unfortunately, this party never materialized. I keep it in my back pocket, though, and each time I make a homemade pizza I keep notes about what I’ve made just in case the opportunity ever presents itself again. It won’t be in the near future or anything — I can’t host more than one or two extra people at my townhouse — but when I have the space to entertain, that’s going to be one of the first things I plan for.

With that in mind, let’s talk about this past weekend’s pizza experiment: Venison Pizza.

My dad has been a hunter for as long as I’ve known him. He’s secured a great place to hunt and regularly brings home a couple of deer whose horns get mounted and whose meat goes into the freezer. The problem with that, however, is that mom doesn’t like the gamey flavor of wild deer meat and usually won’t cook it. That’s great for me, though, because I LOVE wild game but I’m not a hunter, myself. So Chuck gets to hunt deer and I get fresh deer meat. Everybody wins!

Over the last year, especially, I’ve gone through pounds and pounds of venison steaks, ground, tenderloin, jerky, roast and chopped.

Last weekend I decided to take some of the steak out of the freezer and in doing so saw that I still had two homemade pizza doughs wrapped up and frozen — I had a brilliant idea.

I took an earthy approach to these pies, each one with nods to pies Cara and I both like but with a venison twist. First of all, there’s this guy:

  • Homemade crust
  • homemade sauce (also batched, portioned and frozen for future use)
  • seared venison steak
  • grilled onions
  • roasted sweet potatoes
  • mozzarella
  • fresh thyme

I didn’t do much to the venison — I sliced in thinly then seared it up in a skillet with a bit of fat. Garlic powder, salt, pepper, done. No marinades, no sauces. Ever. The onions were caramelized in a skillet with some butter and the sweet potatoes were diced and roasted with garlic powder. Thyme can sometimes be overpowering so I kept it light and I feel like I used just the right amount to come through without overpowering and it complimented the flavor of that venison perfectly.

So far I was on a roll. Next came pie two:

  • Homemade crust
  • Homemade sauce
  • seared venison steak
  • grilled wild mushrooms
  • roasted garlic cloves
  • mozzarella
  • shaved parmesan
  • truffle oil

One of mine and Cara’s favorite frozen pizzas is the mushroom-and-truffle flatbread sold by Trader Joe’s. Mushrooms are my favorite pizza topping so I wasn’t about to make two pizzas and not use them! These “wild” mushrooms were an assortment of mushrooms bought at my local Kroger that I fried up in some oil until they were nice and soft. Roasting garlic is somewhat of a new obsession of mine since it’s relatively easy to do and, I mean, who doesn’t love roasted garlic cloves? The shaved parmesan was the perfect consistency — sharp flavor and slightly melty. Finally, the drizzle of truffle oil was the flavor finisher that made this pie shine. It was unanimous, this pizza was the best one of the night.


Now that I’ve shared photos of these pizzas as well as the ingredient list, I don’t guess these will ever be included on my secret pizza party night but if you get an invite, don’t be surprised if I still serve up a venison pizza of some kind because these were so, so, so good!

Shoutout to anyone still reading despite this blog being so quiet lately.

Level Up: I Got a Motorcycle

Figured I’d revive the ol’ blog for the first time all year. Better be something good, yeah?

Well, it is.

Let’s talk.

We’ll go back to when I was but a wee lad. Dickerson street in the Model City. My dad had some kind of Suzuki motorcycle — a cruiser. I don’t remember a lot about it other than it was black and had a seat that was peeling apart. It stayed parked outside, uncovered, and he would often take me for rides on it. I was small enough to sit in front of him and lay my head down on the gas tank — it was THAT long ago.

He had a couple of cousins who each had Kawasaki Ninjas. I’d later learn these were crotch rockets and the muse of energy-drink-chugging, tribal-tatted bros who apparently enjoy being uncomfortable while operating a motor vehicle. While I’d later go on to hate these bikes, I thought they were the shit when I was a kid. Dad and I got to ride one of them in a parade in Hawkins County but I don’t remember why. I just remember it was early in the morning and our motorcycle was turquoise.

It wasn’t long after that my dad got rid of his bike and it was never spoken of again. I always thought they were cool but never had much interest in ever having one. When my dad and I had our falling out, my interest in motorcycles lessened even more — if he had one, I sure as hell didn’t want one. Ever.

As I got a little older, my opinion on the motorcycle didn’t change (yet) but my rule of “if dad did it, I’m not doing it” was broken because other things my dad did include:

  • Growing a beard
  • Wearing tanktops in public
  • Sometimes craving pinto-bean-and-mayo sandwiches

Bet you didn’t know that last part about me but it’s true.

Anyway, when I turned 30 it’s like some weird switch flipped in my mind and suddenly things changed. I yearned for a different lifestyle, a new look and, you guessed it, a motorcycle.

But being an adult is hard so saving up for a motorcycle wasn’t easy and I didn’t exactly have all the support in the world at home at the time.

Oh, boo-hoo.

Fast-forward to age 34. Life looks a lot different now, for better or worse. Things I wasn’t allowed to do for a long time — like owning a drumset or getting skull tattoos — are suddenly possible. So long as I had a plan and was responsible about it, anything was possible.

Fortunately for me, I like following through with plans and I’m a pretty responsible guy.

So on May 22, 2019, I registered for the New Rider Course at Smoky Mountain Harley Davidson. The course wasn’t scheduled until a month later but that would give me plenty of time to buy the necessary gear, research motorcycles and go ahead and stress myself out real well beforehand.

I want to take this time to give a big shoutout to the folks at Smoky Mountain Harley Davidson. I’ve been to several Harley shops around the southeast and most of the time I walk in, look around and walk out without anyone saying a word to me. Not so at Smoky Mountain. They proudly tout how they’re the #1 dealership in the world and they back it up 100% of the time. My main contact, Justin, was patient with me the first day I walked in and he talked to me about bikes, life and life on bikes while I tried out various sporters and Dynas. For 45 minutes he hung out with me, never once made me feel pressured to buy anything and never once made me feel like an idiot for being such a n00b.

When I told him I also wanted to look at gear for my class, he personally walked me over to the retail area, introduced me to one of the specialists who then stood by my side while I considered different jackets and tried on a variety of helmets. She hung out with me, assuring proper fit and reminding me of important things to consider when purchasing it. My custom-ordred helmet was delivered two days later and the dealership promptly alerted me that it was ready for pickup.

On June 24 I arrived at Smoky Mountain Harley Davidson where I was introduced to eight other people who had registered for our class as well as our head instructor, Maggie. Our first night was spent going over some basics, getting to know each other, doing some paperwork, getting a tour of the dealership and beginning our reading assignments. Over the next two days we saddled up on some Harley Street 500s to learn the basics of clutching, gear-shifting, braking, turning and all the other stuff that seems damn-near impossible if you have zero experience on a motorcycle.

By the end of the third day most of us had passed the riding test and written test. I say most because while 10 people had signed up, only nine showed, only eight made it through the riding exercises, only seven passed the riding test. It was like a weird Willy Wonka situation only no one got sucked into a chocolate river (that I’m aware of).

The survivors posed in front of the big fireplace at the dealership, exhausted from riding eight hours in the blazing summer sun but full of pride that we were on our way to becoming licensed motorcycle riders.

It took four attempts and an equal number of weeks at the DMV to get my motorcycle endorsement. By the time I got the endorsement, had my ID updated and had the new “Real ID” star put on my license, I had a collection of personal identification that included everything I’ve ever owned to identify myself save for my college photo IDs, though I’m surprised they didn’t require one of those.

Now a licensed rider, I needed to get a ride. Back to Smoky Mountain Harley!

With a little guidance from some friends and my HD bro Justin, I settled on this little beauty:

She’s a 2013 Harley Davidson XL 1200X Forty-Eight and she’s sexy. as. hell.

Possible names include Rhonda, Teeth Grinder and Adrian.

Shoutout to my Viking Queen Cara for the photos and for driving me to the dealership to pick it up … and for riding behind me to make sure I didn’t die on the way home :-)

Expect more posts this year that are mostly related to this little lady as well as a damn-near 100% Instagram takeover.

[6-6-6] of 2018 Part 3: Top Tracks

It’s that time of year again where I spend three days going over my favorite music from the last 365 days. Just like the many music blogs I follow, you probably won’t agree with this list and also just like those sites I’m not really qualified to recommend anything to anyone … Just like last year, I’m breaking this down into three posts: 6 favorite new releases of 2018, 6 favorite NOT new releases I rocked hard in 2018 and 6 songs I killed my eardrums with — both new and old — in 2018. Because there were a few close calls, I’ve chosen to provide 6 honorable mentions as well.

All three sets are in no particular order.

This is Part 3/3

TOP 6 TRACKS, NEW AND OLD, OF 2018

Mutoid ManBridgeburner
Album: Bleeder — Released: 2015

Everyone has at least one band, one album, one song that has gotten them through a rough time in their life. I’m sure I’ve had several over the last 34 years but in recent memory, none is more important to my well being as Bridgeburner by Mutoid Man. This opening track to the band’s 2015 album Bleeder has everything you want in a good rock song: it’s easy to sing along to, the guitar parts are fast and furious, the bass tone is dirty as SHIT, the drums are pure madness, the outro is both fast AND heavy and the message the song conveys is one that a passionate guy such as myself can easily identify with.

Time to wash our hands of you; time for naivete is through // time to wash your hands of us; bring on the fuss!

It’s heavy like metal, it’s simple like punk and it’s emotional just like you and me.

Power TripExecutioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe)
Album: Nightmare Logic — Released: 2017

I learned about Power Trip a year or two ago from my boss, of all people. It was around this time their album Nightmare Logic was released with its accompanying single Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe). 2017 must’ve been a good year for thrash because that was also the year Gods of Violence was released by Kreator and was one of the best new thrash releases I’d heard. Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe) fits that mold as well.

The dual guitars of Blake Ibanez and Nick Stewart chug-chug-chug along with a heaviness I haven’t heard since middle-aged Anthrax (their song London comes to mind) and mustached lead singer Riley Gale has a voice that’s as unique to the genre as his stage presence (Ice-T even dubbed him Lil Jumpy Mane referring to his high-energy performance). This is definitely a jam you want to crank if you about to go deadlift. Or hit a guy. Two things I’m always ready to do!

RunnyI Don’t Wanna Listen to Trump
Album: Back on Gack — Released: Unreleased

Okay, so this song isn’t truly an original. And it hasn’t been given a proper release. Doesn’t mean it’s not DOPE. While early punk bands like the Dead Kennedys and more recent punkers like Anti-Flag have given us angry punk rock with deep, meaningful lyrics, punk at its core is just fast, hard and simple (the Ramones proved this by having countless hits with merely five or fewer lines per song).

Enter Runny. With album titles like We’ve Come for Your Women (And Some of Your Men) and California Uber Phallus, Runny shows they’re well aware of punk rock’s often tongue-in-cheek sense of humor and with this track they show they know how effective a simple, angry punk song can be. Nearly a direct cover of I Don’t Wanna Listen to YES by The Mighty High, I Don’t Wanna Listen to Trump says everything we’re all thinking. Is it the most well-versed or formal song? No. Is it the most mature or appropriate song? Not even close. Is it a song you’ll want to loop over and over again whilst singing along louder each time?

Hell yes it is.

TurbowolfThe Free Life
Album: The Free Life — Released: 2018

Just like with a lot of other bands I’m unfamiliar with, I learned about Turbowolf when they were linked on MetalSucks. On the day their third major release The Free Life, I checked out their lead single by the same name and immediately fell in love. The intro has so many changes, yet so much energy. The song, itself, has moments that are danceable, yet somehow still hang-banging. And their vocalist Chris Georgiadis provides a stark contrast to their psychedelic/electronic/heavy metal sound.

I would imagine fans of the Darkness and Foxy Shazam would dig these guys. And that’s a good thing because I love both of those bands. Just add Turbowolf to my ever-growing list of bands with annoyingly quirky compound-word names.

Zeal and ArdorBlood in the River
Album: Devil is Fine — Released: 2016

Oh, my god I love this band. And this is easily my favorite song by them. With elements of black metal and negro spirituals, the overall listening experience is already jarring enough. But then …

THE RIVERBED WILL RUN RED WITH THE BLOOD OF THE SAINTS AND THE BLOOD OF THE HOLY

Chanted. Over. And over again.

I’ve found myself cranking this song in my car and belting out the simplistic, yet evil lyrics with hopes of opening up some kind of portal. Hoping I’d be shown some kind of sign that either my nihilistic attitude is correct or that god is actually real. Unfortunately, neither have happened but that doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying.

Frank Carter and the RattlesnakesDevil Inside Me
Album: Blossom — Released: 2015

With a few exceptions, England has always done rock and roll better than us here in the states. They maybe didn’t create metal, but they took it to a higher, heavier level. They maybe didn’t create punk but they made it snottier. They maybe didn’t create ska but they did it the best. And does anyone remember a band called the Beatles?

Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes are a hardcore punk act from Hertfordshire, England, and their song Devil Inside Me encompasses everything I love about the genre: strong vocals, loud guitars playing simple riffs and the devil. Killer workout song, killer driving home on a Monday song — just a killer hardcore punk song all around.

Honorable Mentions: