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‘Play It Again, Sam’ dinner at CCAC planned for Feb. 21

  • Local culinary artist Stewart Dalton stirs up some pasta last year at the Valentine’s Day “Romeo and Juliet” dinner at the Charles City Arts Center. This year the theme of the dinner is “Play It Again, Sam” and will be Friday, Feb. 21. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Charles City residents enjoy some fine dining last year at the Valentine’s Day dinner at the Charles City Arts Center. This year the theme of the dinner is “Play It Again, Sam” and will be Friday, Feb. 21. (Press photo James Grob.)

(Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the fact the the night of the event has been changed to Friday, Feb. 21.)

By James Grob,

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine. Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By.’”

The often-quoted (and misquoted) words of Humphrey Bogart — talking about his long-lost love, played by Ingrid Bergman — in the movie Casablanca are the inspiration for the upcoming post-Valentine’s Day couple’s dinner which will take place in February at the Charles City Arts Center.

The theme for this year’s dinner at the CCAC is “Play It Again, Sam,” to be held on Friday, Feb. 21 starting at 6 p.m. Patrons are encouraged to dress up in their best Bogey or Bergman outfit — although such attire is not required.

CCAC director Emily Kiewel said that the dinner, now in its third year, as become a tradition. It’s an opportunity to take a spouse or date out for some fine dining without leaving town.

“Turnout has been great the last couple years,” Kiewel said. “It’s usually full and the tickets usually sell out.”

All proceeds will go to the CCAC, and reservations can be made by calling 641-228-6284, stopping by the art center or emailing The CCAC was closed for the month of January and will reopen on Feb. 1. Hours are 1-5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

The meal will include a Moroccan-style entree and live piano music, and the movie “Casablanca” will be shown after dinner. The three-course dinner, prepared by local culinary artist Stewart Dalton, will also include salad, chicken and couscous, and a dessert. The guest artist at the CCAC in February will Lori Biwer-Stewart from Osage, and her artwork will help complete the scene.

Dalton, the chef, has lived in Charles City for more than 25 years, but once worked in a number of upscale supper clubs in Wisconsin and Illinois. He studied the culinary arts in Madison, Wisconsin, and learned the finer details of gourmet cooking. He also grew up in a “family of good cooks.”

“They weren’t professionals, but family reunions were culinary feasts,” Dalton said.

Last year, Dalton put together an Italian-themed ensemble of food, there was Renaissance music, and high school speech students performed scenes and speeches from William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” The 2019 dinner raised more than $600 for the CCAC.

The theme this year is a repeat of the 2018 event, which was also called “Play it Again, Sam,” and the dinner was French Moroccan, a nod to the classic movie “Casablanca” — starring Bogart and Bergman. More than 40 people showed up at the CCAC to enjoy the food, sparkling wine and entertainment centered on the many plot lines in the movie.

Kiewel encouraged those interested in attending to make advance reservations. She said that she was expecting about 30 guests, but the CCAC needs to buy food in advance, and will want to have a more precise number.