Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How Hot Is It?

So hot that our three smallest Wanderers, whom I refer to as the two Pampered Princesses and their Pampered Prince, while spending the day lazing in air conditioned splendor, have a decided lack of energy. Even Mr. O.R. Deal has abandoned his Tasmanian Devil tendencies and just lies around the RV. The upside is that he is less likely to be placed in The Bad Kitty Room (our bedroom) for a timeout after having harassed one of the Princesses.

And it is so hot that one wants to get back inside as close to noon as possible, which makes going out for breakfast the most practical idea. And one day while driving down Poplar Avenue, we noticed—actually, it was hard to miss—a small building painted in vibrant if not shocking shades of yellow and blue. This was the Blue Plate Café.

“The original Poplar Avenue location of the Blue Plate Cafe occupies a circa-1950s suburban home built by Holiday Inn founder Kemmons Wilson. With its crisp yellow walls and cheery gingham tablecloths, the Blue Plate Cafe is reminiscent of Grandmother’s house — if Grandma could flip pancakes with one hand, whip omelets with the other, and simultaneously serve bottomless mugs of hot coffee to 100 hungry diners.

“In the early morning hours, the scene at the Blue Plate is daunting, but a legion of sweet Southern waitresses quickly soothes the frenzied rush hour regulars, assuaging them with plates of syrup-drenched waffles, salty country ham, hash browns, and biscuits and gravy that seem to shoot from the kitchen with machine gun accuracy….if you poll the regulars, they’ll sing the praises of the Blue Plate’s breakfast the loudest. So brave the crowd, and point your car west toward this humble holdover of times gone by. Your boss can wait” (localeats.com).

We were seated in a small side room that did have the look of Grandmother’s house with blue plaid booths and oil cloth table covers. But this is not just a café; Blue Plate also serves as an art gallery displaying the works of local artist Debbie Richmond. While she paints a variety of subjects, as she explains: "’I truly enjoy painting still life’s and landscapes, but painting animals is my passion. The greatest joy an artist can receive is to capture the personality, the moment in time, and the facial expressions that only one who loves animals can understand. In a portrait, I find the eyes are the heart and soul into telling an animals' story.

"When a viewer says they felt a connection through a dog's devoted gaze, a deer's startled glance or the penetration of a tiger's glare, I know I have accomplished my mission’” (debbierichmondart.com). Over one booth hung a portrait of “Heinz,” which won Debbie the Ripley Tomato Festival Art Competition.

And we were seated under the appropriately titled “Eye of the Tiger.”

Blue Plate’s breakfast menu offered far more options that did the Arcade Restaurant downtown. I initially looked at the various egg-based selections and debated between: Eggs Benedict—poached eggs and ham on English muffins covered with hollandaise;
Eggs Florentine—spinach and poached eggs on an English muffin and covered in Mornay sauce; Huevos Rancheros—a flour tortilla with sunny side up eggs topped with salsa and served with black beans; and Mexican Roll-Ups—two flour tortillas with scrambled eggs, sausage, cheese, bell peppers, and onions and served with black beans, salsa and sour cream.

But in mid-decision, I veered sharply and looked at the pancake options. I rejected the Apple Cinnamon (buttermilk pancakes with hot apple cinnamon topping) and the Banana with crunchy peanut butter syrup and settled on the Butter Pecan pancakes that the menu described as having a handful of pecans.

The plate contained three cakes that were four to five inches in diameter. As I did at Arcade, I set one aside with the plan to take it home for breakfast the following morning.

The flavor did remind me of butter pecan ice cream—especially when spread with additional butter and covered with warm maple syrup. And the menu may have said that a “handful” of pecans was used. That is true only if Paul Bunyan provided the hand. Every bite was crunchy with these delicious nuts.

Chuck decided on the blueberry waffles. Michael Stern at roadfood.com notes: “Once a bastion of thin, small-tread waffles, the Blue Plate Cafe has gone to Belgians, but…(the) repertoire continues to uphold high, from-scratch standards.”

Rather than the batter containing the berries, the Belgium waffle came with a dish of warm blueberry compote. The compote plus butter and syrup made for a tasty breakfast.

And, of course, we needed to include a shared side of country ham to offset the sweetness of the pancakes and waffles.

We were finished with our 4.0 Addie breakfast in time to make a quick stop at Fresh Market (it’s like a Whole Foods) and get home before noon.

As Chuck was photographing the cafe's sign, he noticed the tiger sculpture. A closer inspection of the work revealed a plaque that read:

1970 "Blue Centurion"
by Debbie Richmond

There was a reference to an event that occurred on the campus of the University of Memphis in the year 1970. Also, he learned that there were 99 other tiger sculptures located around Memphis.

When he reported on his find and showed me this photo (below), I knew he was hooked.

The search was on.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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