Category Archives: Arts Travel & Culture Features
The texture of a morning in South Bend, Indiana is quiet and content with the bright sunshine blazing through the spread out refinement of the Doubletree Suites over looking a locked river that flows by inconspicuously below.
The area is known, of course, for Notre Dame which encompasses everything around it. The incessant rapture of Catholicism wraps itself through every measure of the university’s being. Its determination and discipline is unfettered. In a two-hour tour surrounding the elements of the university, the engaging brotherhood of Brother Sorin resounded loud and clear. The grounds are immaculate and the symmetrical nature of the lines throughout the university shows an engagement of engineering and planning unseen perhaps except in the high echelons. Greek does not exist here…just the penchant of the Irish. The university itself didn’t become co-ed until 1972.
The purpose of revolving through town involved the Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival which encompasses both a professional production this year in “Henry IV” and a downtown performed student performance by The Young Company of “Merry Wives Of Windsor”. While “Henry IV” is still in rehearsals on campus, the young performers braved droplets of rain and an overpowering punk style band on the other side of a combing Arts festival to make their voices heard.
Another angle to be appreciated and known when coming into town or to see Notre Dame is the dichotomy of food options in its direct vicinity.
On the campus, Sorin’s, named aptly for the college’s founder, sits in the new structure of the Morris Inn, dexterous in its fine dining and refined palette. The intention of a brisk turkey and wild rise soup gave way to a healthy Mediterranean panini with cucumber, olives, lettuce and hummus integrated with a light smattering of french fries. The conversation tone an volume is light so it is perfect for a meeting on-campus.
Outside the South Bend downtown area, there lurks a series of brewhouses. One of the more engaging and defined destinations is the Evil Czech Brewery in its echelons of rock. The solid side understood its heartiness in full bloom The sheer heaven of the mushroom truffle mac and cheese was shared for its sheer ability to overwhelm while a small but not overdone caesar salad personified what was to come. Chato’s Torta understood the necessity of fresh blending the essence of shaved ham with pineapple, swiss cheese, avocado, lettuce and mayo while the slightly seasoned fries gave chase without overwhelming.
In the essence of downtown, the space surrounding the Doubletree Suites was sleepy but distinctly fun and chill. The architecture within the super structure of the hotel allows for an interesting inflection of space especially when both a Starbucks and a wedding can exist within the same drift.
For the early morning space, this arena also offers Baker’s for breakfast within an open vaulted ceiling. The breakfast buffet offers much but for the low calorie structure the aspect of an egg white omlette with sundried tomatoes, feta cheese and spinach hit the spot with a light element of fresh wheat toast.
Venturing out into the surrounding blocks, the Madison Oyster Bar offers late night travails with 3 levels of fun. The bottom floor includes a dim bar with a wait staff with the ability to think on the fly. The signature oyster sandwich breaded in its wantonness fills quickly with fries steak emblazoned in their texture.
In comparison for lunch, the Woochi’s Asian Fusion offers a slightly off-putting structure with sushi served at an actual bar and not in front of the sushi chefs. The Alaskan roll and red snapper sushi, enhanced with miso soup, were intrinsic but not overwhelming as the airport called.
South Bend, Indiana knows its balance in both simple pleasures but diversity of pleasure without going outside the comfort zone. While still a college town buoyed obviously by Notre Dame, it is still able to retain its own identity in an essential tug of war.
The Humphrey Bogart Film Festival takes its pistache from the idea of the titular angle of the famous actor and placing it in a location that many people associate with him which is Key Largo. An interesting part of the legend is that the key was actually named Rock Harbour and was changed because the place became so known for the Bogie & Bacall perception.
Founded by Stephen Bogart, the only son of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, it is a way to honor the legend by showing a diverse collection of his films while integrating a certain theme and films that might have a direct correlation to their meaning.
The theme this year was romance and, by extension, the three films seen by this critic reflected a cross section of what within the Bogie and Bacalll romance dictated the connection. The first film, “To Have & Have Not”, based on the Hemingway novel, is set in Martinique, not unlike a key in the Lower Keys. It is the first pairing of the legendary couple and you can see the electricity as they slowly seem to fall in love on screen, not unlike the modern pairing of Warren Beatty and Annette Bening in “Bugsy”. The storytelling here is simple but it allows the characters to breathe. And like many of Bogie’s films, it has to do with boats or a journey. The second is the epitomes “Key Largo” which, while obviously shot in a sound stage in Hollywood, shows a more reserved Bogie and Bacall as they deal with the infamous Paul Mundt as a hurricane bears down on the key. The final shootout on the way to Cuba is simple but as effective as any Scorsese showdown. The final film of the weekend, “Dark Passage” shows a divergence of narrative structure in many ways. Its personification of mystery almost brings to mind “Vertigo”. You don’t see Bogart’s face for the first 40 minutes at least. It is done as point of view with Bacall serving almost as his eyes as he hides away from the cops. The great thing about the picture despite its noir styling is its ability to let its characters be flawed without redemption or primary resolution. That is why the ending works so well because there is a sense of background and guilt to go with it.
One of the cornerstones of the festival is the Bogart Gala which recognizes a young performer connecting the legacy or helping to pass it on to the next generation. Held within the Ballroom of the Key Largo Hilton draped in white silk while an auction of Bogie memorabilia swirls outside, the tone of the night felt right. Heightened by the rich cigars from the Mya Cigar Company, the ode of hanging and discussing film outside mixed with the smoothness of retreating inside for wine and music played well. Olivia Thirlby who is starring in the second film from the resurrected Santana Films entitled “The White Orchid” received the award. The dinner was a family affair with her parents having known Bogie’s son Stephen for many years.
Other events also occupied the weekend including a reception at the Murray Nelson Center before the outdoor screening of “To Have & Have Not” as well as an informal discussion with Stephen Bogart and film historian Leonard Maltin showing some intrinsic film clips, one of which showed a pivotal moment in “The Maltese Falcon” which was then dissected by both Maltin and Bogart.
A closing day Brunch at the Key Largo Hilton brought everyone together in the element which the festival is built on: honoring the legacy of Bogie. The theme of the 2015 festival was reflected to be “The Best Of” with many more additions to come.
On a side note, beyond the element of the film Key Largo. the area does have one other attraction which connects it surreptitiously which is the actual African Queen which was restored and relocated to the canals of the main marina leading out to the Atlantic. The boat takes people for a fee on an hour and half cruise using the same basis of the steam engine that would have been used in the Congo when it was originally created and used. Some of the pictures the captain had within his notebook were some very candid shots from the actual film. Their origin was from the original owner of the boat but how he got them and acquired the boat is still a bit of a mystery.
Another key element with running back and forth in Key Largo is finding food, drink and a place of respite without being completely overcome in the tourist centric element of the key.
The Key West Inn, located on the same Marina Canal, is aptly situated mere blocks away from both the Lions Club and the Murray Nelson Center where the many events are held with adequate food possibilities around. The dual story efficiencies are perfect for 5 or more people with a snorkeling trip taking off simply steps away beneath (although not experienced on this trip). Across the canal lies Sharkey’s, a locals bar that serves food until 10pm. But even when a beer late night is needed, time is made…especially when it is a Key West Southernmost Wheat.
Across the Overseas Highway for breakfast and lunch, Doc’s Diner offers everything to order in an old school way. A simple Mahi Mahi fillet with tartar sauce, newly caught in the past couple days, works with simple accuracy alongside a hearty garden salad topped with balsamic.
However a true gem resides at the fork in the Overseas Highway just a few blocks away at Nami Sushi. With cats hanging around the neighborhood, it is no secret the fish is so good around these parts. Sitting down at the apt sushi bar, the rainbow and tuna rolls mixed with scallions are thick and intense offering the right amount of consumption as miso soup warms the soul. Another interesting element during an early dinner is that two fisherman came in after a day on the Atlantic with fresh tuna asking for the chefs to make into rolls so one of them and his wife could feast on the meat the way it was meant to be served. There is no bigger compliment.
As shown throughout this structure, the Humphrey Bogart Film Festival offers much in parallel with Key Largo insomuch that Bogie itself is indirectly responsible for the name of the place. Rediscovering the films on the big screen and hearing stories from a person personally connect and able to share memories make this homage all the more real.