After a bell was tolled to remember the the lives of more than 1,500 people who died on the Titanic, a string quartet played "Nearer, My God, to Thee."
It was a singularly appropriate choice. According to survivors, the hymn was played onboard the ship as it slipped into the sea 100 years ago Sunday.
Saturday night was a happier occasion, as 235 people filled the main dining room of the Toledo Club for a dinner commemorating the centenary of the ship's sinking. The mostly black-tie event served as a fund-raiser for the Maritime Academy of Toledo Foundation.
Although the main draw was probably the nine-course re-creation of the last meal served in the ship's first-class dining room, the fate of those who originally ate it was not far from the minds of some of the attendees.
"I said to my husband, ‘It feels a little like a funeral. I feel like we will be honoring the people who died, in a way,'" said Chris Stockwell. She said she had been watching television specials about the sinking and has been learning "how heroic those people were."
Karen Beebe said eating a Titanic Dinner, as such meals have come to be known, was on her bucket list of things to do before she died.
"I've always been fascinated by it. I've read books, I've seen the movies -- the documentaries. It's just a tragic, tragic event," she said.
She added that she has paid little attention to the fictional cinematic accounts of the sinking, including the 1997 blockbuster film Titanic, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. "I'm not into the love stories," she said.
The chance to experience the height of elegance as it was known a century ago brought out the best in some of the attendees. Several of the women, in particular, wore gowns that would have been appropriate for the era.
"I Googled ‘Titanic Dinner Dress,'" said Beverly Hatcher, who was wearing an elegant green gown that was a replica of a dress worn in the Edwardian era. "eBay had these really reasonable prices."
She also wore a pendant around her neck that was a re-creation of the Heart of the Ocean necklace that plays an important role in the movie Titanic. "I would never, ever, throw it in the ocean," she said.
For the sake of authenticity, an army of chefs exactly re-created a meal of nine of the 11 courses that were originally served that fatal night, from an hors d'oeuvre of garlic and herb-encrusted scallops served on a scallop shell-shaped plate to a dessert of artisanal cheese and fruit. Seven wines were paired with the meal to bring out the best in each dish.
So many plates coming out of the kitchen to serve so many courses to so many people required precise coordination among cooks and servers in a crowded kitchen. Monty Morgan, a senior in the culinary arts program at Career Technology Center at Whitmer High School, said it all came down to a matter of timing.
A battle plan for the evening had been worked out in advance by the Toledo Club's executive chef, Michael Rosendaul, with the timing for each dish worked out to the minute.
The event served as the second annual Admiral's Ball for the Maritime Academy of Toledo Foundation, and Ed Gozdowski, executive chef for the academy, who was also working in the kitchen for this event, said the ball has become the academy's biggest fund-raiser of the year. Mr. Gozdowski offered his own services as a chef to prepare a six-course meal at someone's house as one of the items at the postmeal auction.
Other items being auctioned included art prints, especially ones with maritime themes, a sunset cruise on the Maumee River, and a hand-crafted 11-foot rowboat. All proceeds from the auction went to benefit the maritime academy.
Music for the evening was provided by a string quartet made up of players from the Toledo Symphony. They played light classics from the era, popular arias from operas, occasional ragtime songs by Scott Joplin, and, by request, "My Heart Will Go On," the theme to the movie Titanic.
Contact Daniel Neman at: email@example.com or 419-724-6155.