Michael Sigmon has a vision. The owner of the well-loved Windmill Cafe has launched a food-movie series that invites his guests into the movie and the movie into, well, his guests.
"When they ate the rose petal quail in Like Water For Chocolate, they [the guests] ate it with them," Sigmon explains.
Basically, Sigmon picks a food-centric film and then serves his guests whatever they are eating in the movie—usually at the same time. It's something he says he has always kind of wondered about since he was a child.
"So it's more of a cognitive experience on all levels, you're there, you're watching the movie you get the sound, you get the smells of the food,"said Sigmon.
The most recent and third film in Sigmon's summer food-movie series drew around 18 elegantly clad guests into the intimate dining room of the cafe. The room was set as if for royalty, and that's exactly what Sigmon had hoped to do for a film that documented the sinking of the Titanic:
"Essentially what I'm doing is, there's a couple, and they threw a lavish party for the Captain at the Captain's table. I'm doing a very close re-creation of what they ate. They threw the party in his honor, it's basically the captain's meal, for the last night," Sigmon said.
It was a warm April night (the month the Titanic sank), but there was a chill in the air as the night's movie, A Night to Remember, (1958), began to flicker across the back wall of the cafe.
Directed by Jean Negulesco, the film is an adaptation of Walter Lord's novel of the same name, published in 1955.
"It's as close to a documentary as they could make at the time. And there's a lot more actual character development, so you really get behind the characters," Sigmon said. "Like one of the first people you meet is the fourth mate on the boat, he was the one who survived to give the story of this to the gentleman who wrote the book."
Originally, a few of Sigmon's customers had expressed interest in watching James Cameron's Titanic (the one with Leo and Kate) but he said he couldn't even bring himself to take it out of his backpack.
Thankfully, the guests were enthralled with the black and white scenes of high class tragedy and barely noticed the elegantly-dressed servers and co-owner, Mary Apra, as they flitted in and out of the curtain, bringing course upon course.
In total, Sigmon, who has been cooking since an early age and has worked as a private chef all over the world, served up ten different courses. There were delicately plated quail eggs, artichokes with lobster tail and champagne cream sauce and juicy top sirloin. The whole quail served with white wine, peaches, golden beets and asparagus was to die for (pardon the pun), and was served at the film's crescendo, just as the bulky hull of the Titanic began to plunge into the Atlantic.
The goosebumps were palpable, and one guest, Jessica Smith, said after the movie that she had moments where she felt guilt during the movie.
"I was watching the movie and eating and I actually felt guilty. I had a moment of crisis, here I am eating this amazing food, and watching all of the lower class people trying to survive," Smith said.
But Sigmon's motive wasn't necessarily to instill guilt in his guests.
"I kind of wanted to pay homage to the fact that only 700 people survived and this meal was only eaten for three nights, essentially. So there's something about it where you're just creating something based off an inspiration and how it touched everyone's lives, even now," Sigmon said. "A really great friend of mine is alive because his grandparents didn't come on the boat."
"There are moments in history that we simply can't change," he added.
"It's my way of really just honoring it all. Honoring the meal, and the people that are here to enjoy it," Sigmon said.
The fourth movie in the food movie series is Babette's Feast (1987), and Sigmon plans to serve a feast throughout the entire movie. Babette's Feast plays on May 26 at 7 p.m.
Although Windmill Cafe barely advertises their movie nights, they almost always sell out, so reserve your tickets by friending Windmill Cafe on Facebook and emailing the owners. Click HERE for a full list of their events!