Finding a booth at Fife’s just after its 6:00am opening, I was serenaded by the appetizing sounds of eggs being scrambled, bacon sizzling, and fried potatoes getting pushed around the grill — an audio symphony that broadcasted even more appetizing aromas. All the activity was taking place behind what serves as a cafeteria line later in the day. There’s no breakfast cafeteria for the very good reason that everything served at breakfast is made to order, when ordered. So it’s table service only.
OK, so the biscuits aren’t baked one by one, but the one I got, wrapped around a zesty, firm-fleshed, crackle-skinned smoked sausage, was as fresh as a biscuit can be — a southern classic, soft and buttermilky, and the Right Stuff to accompany any pig meat. Speaking of which, I was flabbergasted by an order of Fife’s cured ham, which is portioned out so generously that it goes beyond side-meat status to become a significant mealtime entity itself. It isn’t only size that makes it memorable. This is some delicious ham — sweeter, juicier, and more tender than typical dry-cured country ham, but packing character all its own.
Knowing I would not be back for lunch that day, I asked the waitress if there was any way they might have some banana pudding for me to taste. She consulted the cooks, who were hard at work making breakfasts, and reported that yes, there was banana pudding. But it was yesterday’s. “At lunch, it’s warm,” she reminded me. The serving I got was indeed chilly. Sitting overnight had caused its cookies, custard, and bananas to become somewhat homogenized. It made me realize how important texture is in great banana pudding — cookies’ crunch, custard’s silky presence, bananas’ just barely al dente oomph, then the leavening airiness of whipped cream or meringue. The flavor of yesterday’s pudding was all there in fine balance, but its texture had been lost.
Thus, it is imperative to return to Fife’s for lunch when the banana pudding will be warm. Not a problem!