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Thursday, October 25, 2007

An Evening at the Palace

Mike and I had a double-treat evening out earlier this week. We went to a fundraiser with so much good food, and it was held at one of our favorite Memphis landmarks – The Pink Palace Museum

The benefit was for cerebral palsy, and it was the 22nd annual Great Chefs’ Tasting. Thirty Memphis restaurants took part. It was grazing heaven. Food, beers, wines – plus the opportunity to visit much of the museum. We’d have lost Rob R. in their new train exhibit which was great fun.

Our favorite food was from Napa Café. They prepared smoked trout on pastry with a light sauce and topped with capers. The scrumptious dessert fave was from Dan McGuiness, a Celtic restaurant. It’s called meilsog and consists of pastry layers with a caramelized something topping, served with a side of ice cream. Be still my beating heart – or is that my cholesterol count?

As we were making steps toward departure, Mike encountered an entertainment writer for the Commercial Appeal who has done stories in the past on Mike’s band. They chatted and, since he was covering the event, he took a photo of us. As soon as he stepped away, another photog popped up and asked to take our photo. He was from RSVP magazine, and I swear he just wanted to photograph us because Don from the big paper had done so. He thought we must be “somebody” and he just didn’t recognize us. Too funny.

The Pink Palace

What a spectacular setting. The three-story mansion was constructed in the early 1920s by Clarence Saunders, who revolutionized the grocery industry. He founded the Piggly Wiggly grocery chain, the first self-serve grocery stores in the nation. Prior to that, the customer handed the grocer a list of needed items, and the grocer fetched the goods, presented them to the customer and totaled the charge. Saunders was the father of modern grocery stores.

Saunders built the mansion, later named for its distinct pink Georgian marble façade, as his family’s home. Unfortunately, they never lived in the grand structure. Saunders went bankrupt and the mansion was eventually turned over to the City of Memphis which transformed it into a museum plus planetarium and Little Theatre. It’s been expanded in more recent years and, although I think the stark architecture of the additions clashes badly with the original mansion, there are many more exhibit areas that are being well utilized.

Attractions include an IMAX theater and exhibits that cover topics ranging from dinosaurs to the Civil War, and from the early Spanish explorers to the evolution of medical research in Memphis.

All of us who grew up in Memphis have special memories about the Pink Palace, but lucky Mike grew up within walking distance. He and sis Judy appeared in productions there at the Children’s Theatre but, more importantly, he and a couple of his buddies could walk up any time they wished. They could hide from each other among the exhibits and never failed to visit the shrunken head. I can’t think of any better playground for a kid.

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