Saturday, September 24, 2011

#226: Write a Love Note to South Bend

September 24 has been deemed "I Love South Bend Day".
The Beatles claim that love is all you need.  Really?  Is love the solution for South Bend?  Can it fix the issues of the homeless and vacant housing, bring people and businesses back into the city, and improve the public school system?  Why celebrate love when there are so many important problems to address?

No, love for the city will not solve these issues.  Rather, it's an approach to tackling them.  Appreciating it--for both its positives and negatives-- and focusing on what's right while trying to help fix what's wrong is love.  Love should inspire action.

Even a small act of love can go a long way.  Just as hearing "I love you" can ease the weight of a long day, expressing your appreciation for South Bend demonstrates that the town is still very much alive and loved.  And in addition, the act of saying "I love you" requires a positive frame of mind for the speaker as well.

That's the purpose behind this "I<3SB" event, sponsored by DTSB and Sunny 101.5.  There are plenty empty windows downtown, but we shouldn't focus on them, but rather on what we do have.  And the "love notes" that you can fill out at online or at downtown coffee shops will posted in some of the vacant spots.  Write one yourself, or simply walk past the places like the State Theater that display others' reasons why they love this city.
Where: Downtown South Bend
When: September 24 - October 31

Tip: To celebrate "I Love South Bend Day", Wayne Street has been renamed "I Love South Bend" Boulevard (for the day only).  Local businesses downtown are offering specials as well.  Check here for more information.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

#225: Business Expo After Hours 2011

Why go to a business expo?  As an employee in the non-corporate sector, I did not have a ready answer.

To learn something about local businesses? To network? To get free schwag?

If you think these answers are valid (as I do), head downtown to the Century Center today for the 9th Annual Business Expo After Hours.  This event focuses on these aspects, billing itself as "part trade show, part cocktail reception".  More than 140 companies participate, ranging from 1st Source Bank to Ziebart (car detailing).  

You might run into someone who has an answer to that question you had in the back of your mind.  Who can fix my tub?  What classes does that new yoga studio offer?  Where should I get a car loan?  Who can I hire to take care of catering a USC-ND tailgate?  Get the answers to those types of questions by stopping by tonight.  The relaxed atmosphere of an 'after-hours' event takes away the intimidating business-minded attitude of other expos.  Enjoy live music and free food while you mingle and look at new products and solutions.

Where: Century Center, 120 S. St. Joseph Street
When: Today, 4:00 - 7:30 PM
Cost: Free! A business card is all that is needed for admission.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

#224: "Fight Like A Champion"

Many college graduates in the area have left the town and returned, with many accomplishments to their name.  Notre Dame alum Mike Lee is returning this weekend, but he comes back not to boast, but to further his list of success.  After winning Notre Dame's amateur boxing event, Bengal Bouts, for three years in a row, this finance major has made a career of professional boxing.

Tomorrow, in an event titled "Fight Like A Champion", the undefeated Lee will take on Jacob Stiers of Kansas at the Purcell Pavilion on Notre Dame's campus.  This is the first ever professional boxing event held on campus.  All proceeds go to charity, either the Ara Parseghian Foundation or the Robinson Community Learning Center.
Where: Purcell Pavilion (in the Joyce Athletic Convocation Center), Notre Dame
When: 8:00 pm, first bell at 9:00 pm
Tickets: $50, $30 and $15 General Admission for students.  $150 floor seating. Can be purchased  through the Notre Dame Athletics Ticket Office by calling 574-631-7356 or

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

#223: Siam Thai

Tomorrow is the Third Thursday of the month, and as such, it means that certain restaurants in downtown feature special pricing (similar to this summer's Restaurant Week).  Yesterday, we highlighted Ciao's, which is a participant; today features Siam Thai. 
Siam Thai is to Cambodian Thai as what Ciao's is to Rocco's.  Both restaurants are beloved with good reason, but Siam Thai's ambiance, attentive service, and adventurous flavors set it apart.  It has a prime location on Main Street, and fingers crossed, the weather will be nice enough for them to set out their cheery yellow umbrellas and teak dining set.  The food is artfully made, and on my last visit, I tried their tofu curry.  It was mild yet full of flavor.  I also ordered an appetizer from their specials -- green curry ravioli -- and it was an odd juxtaposition but it worked.  Some South Bend Polish/Italian heritage mixed with Thai flavor does a person well, especially when you're overlooking DTSB.

Their menu for Third Thursdays is a great deal and good for lunch ($12) or dinner ($15).   They offer several choices for the appetizer, soup/salad, and entree, which you can pick separately.

Where: 211 North Main St.
When: Lunch: Mon-Fri, 11:00 am - 2:00 pm; Dinner: Mon-Thurs, 5:00pm - 9:00 pm, Fri-Sat 5:00 - 9:30pm
Call: 574.232.4445

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

#222: Ciao's

The summer was spent wandering the cobbled streets of Rome, hearing Italian everywhere I went, and eating copious amounts of pastries and pasta.  As with any travel, it's a bit of an adjustment to return home, and when I returned, I didn't know what I would miss most of those activities.  Happily, there's Ciao's.

Ciao's is situated in an area I would argue is South Bend's "Little Italy".  Competition is stiff among the four Italian restaurants all are located within a half-mile of each other (Carmela's, Sunny Italy Cafe, Rocco's).  Each has an inspiring story about starting up their business, and each offers something special in ways of ambiance, value, and flavor. 

For me, when I want a little taste of Italy, I would head to Ciao's.  It's tucked away near the Madison Center in an over-sized brick building (the old Bistro on the Race spot).  The benefits to the place include spacious parking and seating, but the building does seem to swallow the intimate feel this type of restaurant might otherwise have.  From an table inside by the window, however, the ivy-covered brick does lend a degree of wine cellar charm.

A glass case of pastries greets you -- these were the catalyst for Adele de Rosa Ciao to open up this restaurant -- and make sure you get some for either dessert or a takeaway treat.  They're not to be missed, especially the fruit-based mini tarts.   Entering the restaurant, you might also run into a member of the Ciao family sitting down with some friends for a meal.   The last night I went, I met three generations of the Ciao family, all speaking Italian.

In regard to food, paper (ie. changeable) menus and an extensive wine list are good signs in my Italian foodie mind, and the variety of dishes offered reinforced that.  The complimentary bruschetta served was just as good as anything I remembered from my trips to Italy, and reviewing the menu became a form of armchair travel.  The pheasant and lamb-based pastas made me think of hearty meals in Umbria, and the pasta da nero di seppia recalled a dare made on a visit to Venice.  The latter dish might make you look like you bit off the end of an exploded pen, but the unusual (and deliciously rich) taste of squid ink is to be tried...although perhaps not on a first date. 

I haven't found another restaurant in town that offers such adventurous Italian fare.  The prices are not the lowest found in South Bend, but the quality of ingredients (and proportions) are among the highest.  Ciao's is the optimal option for an upscale authentic Italian.

Where: 501 North Niles Avenue
When: Tuesday-Saturday, 5:00 - 10:00 pm.  Warning: the pasticceria (pastry shop) opens at 10:00 am.  Disclaimer: This information does not hold me liable for any cancelled diet plans.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

#221: Zoo Brew

When you’re a kid, there’s nothing like going to the zoo with playmates. When you’re a grown-up, there’s nothing like going to the bar with some friends. It’s an added bonus if you happen to be sampling a variety of beers with those friends.

Luckily, the Potawatomi Zoological Society’s 3rd Annual “Zoo Brew” has combined those two dream-states tonight from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at the zoo. Unluckily for some, the event is sold out, having generated 750 tickets for thirsty South Benders, Mishawakans, Grangerites and folks from across Michiana.

About 30 local breweries and groups will have stations for samplers to fill small glasses. Some of the breweries featured include Upland, Bell’s, Three Floyd’s, New Holland, New Belgium, and Barley Island. For a visual savoring of this great event, check out the happy promotional video the Zoo put together.

A creative participant will try to find beers that match his or her description. For me, it would be a “hoppy ginger with a hidden complexity and pale coloring.” For others, it would be a “tall, adventurous brown ale with a curious aftertaste of nuts and berries.”

So if it’s tonight or next year, be sure you find your favorite animal from childhood and combine it with your favorite beer from the region. You might leave thinking of an Otter Gumballhead or an Elephant Fat Tire!

-guest post by a resident Golden Lion Tamarin

Where: Potawatomi Zoo, 500 S. Greenlawn

When: Tonight, 7:00 - 10:00 PM

Friday, September 2, 2011

#220: Pow Wow

Potawatomi, Mishawaka, Elkhart, Chippewa... those names all sounded odd when I first moved to the area. Yet I soon grew used to the way they roll off your tongue, and the more I learned about the area, the more I appreciated them: they recall the town's foundations in the Indian tribes that dwelled here.
Keepers of the Fire, the English translation of Potawatomi, is  also the name of the bright orange installation artwork on the river next to  the Century Center
This weekend, a pow wow at St. Patrick's Park brings this heritage to the forefront.  There will be several tribes present, performing music and in dance contests and displaying authentic dress.  Vendors will sell crafts, such as leather- and beadwork, and food.  Check out wigwams and teepees, the fox dance and flint knapping.

Where: Fragomeni Shelter, St. Patrick's Park, 50651 Laurel Road
When: Saturday and Sunday, 11 am - 8 pm; dancing both days at 1:00 pm and at 6:00 pm on Saturday
Cost: $6/adults, includes admission to the state park
Check out the website here or call 231.371.6661 for more information.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

#219: Zombie Walk

While the theme of this month's First Friday celebration is "football", Notre Dame fans won't be the only ones pouring into downtown this weekend.  There will also be a zombie invasion.

That's right, zombies.
She'll never know what hit her...
A quirkier side of this city is the annual Zombie Walk on the first Friday of September.  To those unfamiliar with hundreds of people traipsing around in torn clothes and moaning about how itchy fake blood is, the website defines it quite well.  My favorite line?  "It should be noted that zombie behavior is a hot topic of debate. Purists who draw their definitions from the original Living Dead films will claim that a zombie would never have the ability to call for "brains" and furthermore that a zombie needs only living (or freshly killed) flesh for its sustenance and not the brain in particular."   But don't worry about undead snobs -- first, they're dead, and second, a quick check on the website reveals this event welcomes the "freshly killed" to join in the march.

This is no small matter.  Currently, on Facebook, there are 1,102 signed up to participate.  (If only half were our Facebook fans...)  You can buy a commemorative t-shirt, attend the after party at O'Sullivan's or the all ages costume party at Howard Park, or participate in activities at Howard Park beginning at 3:00pm.  The event is free, but all participants are encouraged to bring nonperishables for The Food Bank of Northern Indiana. 

The official walk starts at 6:00 pm at Howard Park.  Check its website or Facebook event for the route.  For info about the additional activities, check here.