Chocolate Fest 2018

Enjoying the talents of professional  Puppeteer Krist Neumann is part of the fun to be had this weekend at Chocolate Fest in Long Grove!

Enjoying the talents of professional Puppeteer Krist Neumann is part of the fun to be had this weekend at Chocolate Fest in Long Grove!

Festival season has returned to downtown Long Grove, with this weekend’s Chocolate Fest kicking off the fun and entertainment. Yesterday’s comfortable temperatures and calm skies made it a pleasure for those attending, and for the merchants who enjoyed the healthy crowds. It was the perfect evening to relax in the outdoor seating at Broken Earth Winery, share a bottle of merlot and a pizza from Joanie’s, and enjoy the festival people-watching.

With Jodi Smith on the porch of Broken Earth Winery, soaking in the festival ambiance.

With Jodi Smith on the porch of Broken Earth Winery, soaking in the festival ambiance.

Of course, you can’t attend Chocolate Fest and not sample a bit (or a bunch) of chocolate! Among the many tempting options were classics like fresh chocolate dipped strawberries, and clever new combinations like chocolate bourbon espresso ice cream. Yep, I can verify that both are worth the indulgence. And who can resist a signature Long Grove specialty, the apple cider donut, covered in chocolate and placed on a stick for maximum enjoyment and festival portability? Not me!

As far as entertainment goes, there are carnival rides for the kids as well as free children’s activities on Towner Green. The Historical Society once again hosted a show on the back porch of our farmhouse featuring local youths and adults (and puppets!) in the family friendly production, “Chocolate, Chronicled.” Headlining bands round out the festival evenings and the street in front of the main stage at the covered bridge was packed last night with music lovers. Click below to view a snippet. Chocolate Fest continues today, May 20th until 5:00 pm in the historic downtown.

 

How Sweet It Is

Ethel Berger (on the left) and I offered our congratulations to owner Craig Leva on the Grand Opening of the new location of the Long Grove Confectionery.

Ethel Berger (on the right) and I offered our congratulations to owner Craig Leva at the Grand Opening of the newly located Long Grove Confectionery.

Smiles abounded on a perfect springtime evening last Friday for the Grand Opening celebration at the newly renovated Long Grove Confectionery. A year in the making, our town’s namesake sweet spot has happily settled in their new location alongside Towner Green, now offering much more than delicious chocolate creations. Besides locally famous Myrtles (recently named one of “Chicago’s Best” by WGN Channel 9!) you can now also purchase Long Grove Apple Haus favorites like apple cider donuts and Uncle Johnny’s brown bag apple pies. A demonstration kitchen is part of the new retail shop, where customers can watch strawberries and other treats being created and coated in luscious chocolate. The Confectionery expanded to include the next-door Long Grove Coffee Company, which opened this past December. Already a favorite gathering spot with the locals, it features occasional weekend live music and a patio for relaxing in the warmer months to come. A chef is now on staff to create soups and fresh bakery items and coming soon, signature sandwiches.

The party was a lovely celebration of the culmination of 12 months worth of remodeling. It featured a live band, beautiful spread of appetizers, a chocolate fountain (of course!) and my favorite new discovery, apple pie pops. Several hundred people stopped by to offer Confectionery owner Craig Leva and his staff kudos on the beautiful new spaces.

As a former elected official and resident who cares deeply about our Village, it warms my heart to see the investment being made by the Long Grove Confectionery in the future of our downtown. New stores and renovated spaces bring excitement and positive energy to all. And for this chocoholic, having our hometown Confectionery up and running bigger and better than ever makes me very, very happy!

Maureen introduced me to a new  indulgence--apple pie pops. Simply Scrumptious!

Maureen introduced me to a new indulgence–apple pie pops. Simply Scrumptious!

 

Cocoa Crawl

Long Grove residents (L to R): Miles Tyer, Kristen Wojicik, Pam Pasminski, and Katie Tyer are all smiles after completing the Cocoa Crawl held in downtown Long Grove on February 3rd.

Long Grove residents (L to R): Miles Tyer, Kristen Wojicik, Pam Pasminski, and Katie Tyer are all smiles after completing the Cocoa Crawl held in downtown Long Grove on February 3rd.

Like most of Long Grove, I’m taking a “snow day” today by staying inside and off the roads so that the snowplows can dig us out before the next predicted wave of snow hits later this evening. And while a herd of deer are obviously having fun cavorting through the snow drifts in my back yard, I’m choosing to stay indoors and enjoying a cup of hot chocolate while blogging and reading. It’s the perfect opportunity to tell you about the Cocoa Crawl.

Held last Saturday, February 3rd, the Cocoa Crawl was a new idea initiated by the Historic Long Grove Downtown Business Association. On a typically slow winter weekend, residents and visitors were encouraged to come to our village crossroads and explore all the unique shops, restaurants and businesses with the enticement of free chocolate flavored samples at each location. Who does not love free chocolate? Apparently no one, because the event was a hit and downtown Long Grove was literally crawling with hundreds of families out to enjoy the treats, snacks and hometown ambiance. My friend Pam and I had a great time catching up with friends and neighbors that we haven’t seen for months as we hibernate our way through the winter season.

Here are just a few of the goodies we enjoyed: Chocolate Macroons at Within Reach, Hot Chocolate Popcorn at Signature Popcorn, Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar at The Olive Tap, Chocolate Pudding cups topped with Baileys Irish Cream at Unwined, and Hot Chocolate Bark at the Long Grove Confectionery.  We would have had more but mercifully (for our diets) some of the locations had run out of samples by the time we got there due to the large number of attendees to this inaugural event. At the end of our afternoon we stopped back to register for the raffle prize drawing, with 20 of the local businesses donating gift baskets or gift certificates to the festivities. It was great to see so many people enjoying our downtown and becoming acquainted with the newly renovated and opened shops. A tip of my snowman shaped cocoa mug to you, downtown merchants, for an inspired idea!

Taking a break from our crawling, Pam and I enjoyed a short rest under the "chocolate hot tub" outside of the Long Grove Coffee Company.

Taking a break from our crawling, Pam and I enjoyed a short rest under the “chocolate hot tub” outside of the Long Grove Coffee Company.

Covered Bridge Creamery

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The namesake mural at the new Covered Bridge Creamery provided the perfect backdrop for our Historical Society committee meeting this week.

After spending the first several weeks of 2018 in a warmer climate, it was a pleasant surprise for me to return to Long Grove and find two new businesses in our historic downtown. I’m very excited to be able to feature one of them today, Covered Bridge Creamery.

Located in the former location of Beans & Leaves (on Old McHenry Road next to the Chatterbox), this new shop offers a variety of premium ice cream flavors as well as coffee, tea and assorted pastries. New counters and seating complement the classic wood paneling with the addition of a giant mural showcasing our beloved and iconic covered bridge. It provided the perfect spot and perfect inspiration for our recent Covered Bridge Preservation Committee meeting. Our group enjoyed the ambiance and the delicious lattes while also getting some advocacy work underway. Business owner Eric Wallor was gracious enough to sit with us and tell us a bit about his new venture.

Manager Nicholas Modlin and crew member Rachel Temple are two of several friendly faces  waiting to greet you at Covered Bridge Creamery.

Manager Nicholas Modlin and crew member Rachel Temple are two of several employees waiting to make your experience great at Covered Bridge Creamery.

Eric, along with his sister, brother in law and another partner first came to Long Grove this past summer to open Signature Popcorn, which is located next door to the new Creamery. Signature Popcorn started as an online business three years ago, and when the opportunity for a storefront in Long Grove became available they jumped at the chance to add a brick and mortar store to the expanding business. They were very attracted to the history and potential Long Grove provided, so much so that they now own two businesses and are very optimistic about the future of our town. Excited to, “bring our passion for ice cream, coffee and tea and our concept for Covered Bridge Creamery,” to Long Grove, Eric is definitely filling a need. One request that I repeatedly heard from residents during my term as Village President was to bring back a spot to get ice cream treats in our downtown. Thanks to Eric and his team, your wish is now reality. While I can vouch for the tasty hot beverages, I will be returning soon to sample the sweet stuff.

Covered Bridge Creamery is open currently, M-F 6:30 am to 4:30 pm, Saturdays 8:00 am to 4:30 pm and Sundays 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, they will eventually be open later into the evening hours. Stop by and check it out!

Long Grove Coffee Company

Two of the friendly faces that will greet you at the Long Grove Coffee Company are (L to R) Ethel Berger and Ellee Leva.

Two of the friendly faces that will greet you at the new Long Grove Coffee Company are (L to R) Ethel Berger and Ellee Leva.

Ever since my favorite Long Grove coffee shop, the former Beans & Leaves closed this summer, our weekly women’s huddle has been forced to meet elsewhere for caffeine fortification while we solve all of the world’s problems.  Well, life in Long Grove just got a whole lot better for those of us who have been missing our favorite gathering spot with the recent opening of the Long Grove Coffee Company. Located at 126 Old McHenry Road, the new business is part of the renovations being undertaken by the Long Grove Confectionery with their expanded properties near Towner Green. The Confectionery has officially reopened as of last Friday, and is chock full of treats for those Christmas stockings as well as sweet gifts for the holidays.

Right now, the buildings look a bit naked as the old siding was removed this week in anticipation of a new upgraded exterior coming very soon. As I was getting my latte today, I asked barista Ellee Leva what happened to their “skin,” and she told me her Dad (Confectionery owner Craig Leva) wanted the outside to look just as beautiful as the newly renovated interiors of the buildings. The coffee shop features large tables for groups (one of which is a cool vintage treasure from local shop Scout and Forge), smaller tables for meet-ups, and a comfy couch and chairs for casual conversation. I happened to be there when the new couch was delivered so I can vouch for the coziness! Long Grove resident Ethel Berger, who ran Beans & Leaves, has returned to head up the operations at Long Grove Coffee Company and her regulars have already started to settle in to the new location. Plans are underway to add some additional food offerings in the months ahead and to continue the tradition of live music that the community enjoyed at the former location.

As you finish your holiday shopping in our historic downtown, stop by for a warm beverage and piece of chocolate and get acquainted with one of the many new businesses that have opened this year in Long Grove. The new couch awaits you!!

Testing out the brand new couch on December 8th (L to R): Angie Underwood, Marie Roth, and Ethel Berger.

Testing out the brand new couch on December 8th (L to R): Angie Underwood, Marie Roth, and Ethel Berger.

 

More Chocolate to Love

Cathie Olson is shown helping me satisfy another chocolate craving at the new Morkes Chocolates shop  in Long Grove.

Cathie Olson is shown helping me satisfy another chocolate craving at the new Morkes Chocolates shop in Long Grove.

My relationship with chocolate is simple–resistance is futile. As a child, I always tried to give it up for Lent and almost never made it the 40 days. As an adult, I try to cut back from time to time when I need to lose a few pounds. But in my opinion, it’s not really a perfect day if it doesn’t include a little chocolate somewhere. Imagine my delight to discover that we have one more shop in town to satisfy my sweet tooth, Morkes Chocolates!

This week Long Grove welcomed our newest candy store with a celebratory ribbon cutting. Open since August 1st, Morkes is located in the red schoolhouse building on Fountain Square that formerly housed the Long Grove Confectionery. The Morkes family originated in France and started in the candy-making business back in 1920. Further generations continued the family tradition and opened the original Morkes Chocolates in Palatine, Illinois in 1967. Today, the Palatine location also serves as headquarters and production for the company, with additional stores in Huntley and now Long Grove. Current owner Rhonda Dehn is the 3rd generation of the Morkes family to craft delicious chocolate treats here in the northwest suburbs. I have personally sampled many of the mouth-watering choices available (I know, it was a tough job, but doing this blog requires painstaking research!) and my favorites so far are the lemon creams and signature white chocolate pecan “puppets”.  Later this fall Morkes plans to offer classes and private parties in the upper floor of their building. I am intrigued by the prospect of learning how to temper chocolate, dip & decorate, and I really need to know what ingredients are involved with “extreme” fondue!

Morkes joins our two other village candy shops, Ma & Pa’s Candy and the Long Grove Confectionery. The Confectionery has moved to another location in our historic downtown and after a summer of renovations is slated to reopen in October. Is this potentially too much of a good thing? I view having additional chocolate stores the same way as being blessed with another child– more to love!

Ruth Barn to House Historic Pigs

The Long Grove Historical Society's 1840 Ruth Barn will be the new home for the iconic signs from the Country Smokehouse.

The Long Grove Historical Society’s 1840 Ruth Barn will be the new home for the iconic signs from the Country Smokehouse.

Longtime residents in the area remember fondly the combination smokehouse-restaurant-general store that was located on Rt. 83 and Gilmer Road in Long Grove, called the Country Smokehouse. Closed since 1999, the popular spot featured old-fashioned meats smoked in the historic smokehouse on the property (which is still standing), a deli, and a seven table restaurant serving up country breakfasts and hearty lunches daily. Owner of the business, Bernice Ann Tiffany, has passed away, and her daughter Jane recently contacted me to see if the Historical Society would like some donations of pictures, documents, and other antique items from the Smokehouse and Ferry Farms, the dairy farm and creamery that originally stood on the property. We were very excited to receive these items and happily welcomed the “pigs” back home today to live in our 1840 Historic Ruth Barn! We will be able to incorporate the signs into our field trip program for the local 3rd Graders when they visit to spend the day in our one-room schoolhouse and learn about local history and life in the pioneer and early farming days.

Ferry Farms was the home of Ferryhill Dairy in the 1930’s, and the Country Smokehouse was part of the original estate. It featured an original tin ceiling and shelving that dated back more than 50 years, chock-full of grocery items much like an old-time general store. Many of Bernice Tiffany’s regular customers shared their pig-collecting mania with her, resulting in hundreds of cute pink porkers on display in the restaurant along with the old-time memorabilia. We are grateful to Jane and Ken for saving many of these ties to the past, and for sharing them now with the Long Grove community.

Jane Tiffany-Hansen and Ken Hansen of Grayslake, who graciously donated items from the Smokehouse and Ferry Farms to our Historical Society.

Jane Tiffany-Hansen and Ken Hansen of Grayslake, who graciously donated items from the Smokehouse and Ferry Farms to our Historical Society.

Say Hello to Pub 83!

Jimmy, the General Manager of Pub 83 welcomed me to the newly reopened restaurant last night.

Jimmy, the General Manager of Pub 83 welcomed me to the newly reopened restaurant last night.

For many years now the former Gridley Grill restaurant on the corner of Rt. 83 and Gilmer road has remained closed, despite the addition of a new entrance and expansion of the parking lot. That is, until this past Monday, when the doors opened once again to the new Pub 83. The current management has reinvigorated the space to cater to contemporary casual dining, featuring pizza, burgers, sandwiches, wraps and salads. The dining room is family friendly, and the bar has additional large screen T.V.’s for a sports-pub atmosphere. My husband and I enjoyed our recent dinner there, and with only five days in business so far, they were full on a Friday night. Based on all the inquiries I have received over the past few years, I know that we are one of many families who were eagerly awaiting the reopening of this Long Grove dining spot.

However, seeing Pub 83 finally back in business is bittersweet for me since it is the result of the most recent tie that I had to break on the Village Board. On August 23, 2016 owner George Calis came to our meeting to ask the trustees for a class V liquor and video gaming license, which our Board had established by ordinance earlier in the year. He stated that knowing he could have video gaming was the incentive he needed to reopen the long-shuttered establishment. Three of the trustees voted against allowing George his liquor and gaming license, and the remaining three trustees (who will all be leaving the board this month) voted to grant his request. While trying to be responsible for what is ultimately best for the village as a whole, I cast my tie-breaking vote to once again fill the vacant restaurant.

This week, it was great to enjoy a meal again at “Gridleys” surrounded by other residents socializing and having a good time in our village. I am glad to have played a small part to help empower this to happen, and I wish the all best for Pub 83. Stop by and give it a try!

Meals On Wheels

Attending the 2017 Lake County "Champions for Meals" event on Monday, March 20th with (L) Millie Hall, MOW Volunteer from Lake Forest, Angie Underwood, Long Grove Village President, and (R)   Diana O'Kelly, Fremont Township Supervisor.

Attending the 2017 Lake County “Champions for Meals” event on Monday, March 20th with (L) Millie Hall, Meals On Wheels volunteer from Lake Forest, Angie Underwood, Long Grove Village President, and (R) Diana O’Kelly, Fremont Township Supervisor.

I have a long-standing relationship with Meals on Wheels. Early in my career in Nutrition & Dietetics, I worked as a menu planner for a company that produced the meals for a senior delivery program in Cook County. Later as a young mom in 1988, I fastened my baby daughter in her car seat so she could go along for the ride as I delivered meals to home-bound senior citizens in Winfield, Wheaton, and West Chicago in DuPage County. Ten years down the road when we moved to Long Grove I volunteered in Lake County on the routes serving Wauconda, Lake Zurich, and Island Lake. As my kids got older I would schedule my delivery days on school holidays so that they could help physically deliver the meals, and this always earned extra smiles from the recipients. When my three children were student drivers, I made them do the driving on the route with me for extra practice backing up and parking. I reluctantly had to give up volunteering as a driver when I became Village President because of the need to make some room in my schedule for the demands of the Village. But all together I spent a little over 20 years doing my small part in helping needy seniors receive a hot lunch and a friendly check-in.

Many invitations show up in my inbox to attend charity events these days, and as much as I would like to I can’t attend them all. I try to pick the ones that will have the best impact for the Village, and the ones that are the most personally meaningful to me. Meals on Wheels is certainly personal. This past Monday, March 20th I had the opportunity to come together with other elected and government officials in Lake County to be a “Champion for Meals” and help deliver meals to seniors to bring awareness to this worthy program. I was paired with Millie Hall, a volunteer driver from Lake Forest, who helped me remember the joy of serving our fellow senior residents in this way.

The Meals on Wheels “more than just a meal” model addresses three of the biggest threats of aging:  isolation, hunger, and loss of independence. Nationally, 1 in 6 seniors struggle with hunger, and programs such as this deliver the support that keeps seniors in their own homes, where they want to be. This in turn reduces the early need for nursing home and hospital care, saving billions in healthcare costs. In 2016, over 122,400 home delivered meals were provided locally in our county. I was honored last week to help join with others to spotlight this needed program. In Lake County, Meals on Wheels is administered through Catholic Charities and you can find out more by visiting www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org.

Delivering lunch to a Meals on Wheels senior citizen in Lake Zurich.

Delivering lunch to a Meals on Wheels senior citizen in Lake Zurich.

A New Home for the Confectionery

Owner of the Long Grove Confectionery, Craig Leva, is shown here in the middle, with me on the left and Marian Ward, owner of Within Reach, on the right.

Owner of the Long Grove Confectionery, Craig Leva, is shown here in the middle, with me on the left and Marian Ward, owner of Within Reach, on the right.

For the past 42 years, the Long Grove Confectionery has housed it’s flagship retail location in the basement of the little red schoolhouse on Fountain Square. Chocoholics in Long Grove and the Northwestern suburbs have known just where to go to get their sweet fix. But later this year, the Confectionery will debut a new retail store here in our historic downtown, at 128 Old McHenry Road, adjacent to Towner Green. Why the move?

Back in 2013, about a month after I became Village President, the former owner of the Long Grove Confectionery sold the business and the plant in Buffalo Grove to Craig Leva, owner of Arway Confections, based in Chicago. The little retail shop was part of the deal and Craig has gone to a lot of effort to keep the store a part of our local business economy, as well as personally participating with his family in all of our major festivals. But he has been paying rent these past four years to the new owner of the Fountain Square parcel, so this upcoming move gives Craig the opportunity to truly make the Long Grove retail store reflective of his new combined business. I am very excited that the Leva family has decided to further invest in Long Grove and become a property owner in the downtown, and I think this is a positive sign for revitalization. Even more, I can’t wait to see what the newly renovated and updated Confectionery looks like and has to offer in the way of sweet surprises! In the meantime, we can all get our chocolate cravings satisfied during the major festivals this year in Long Grove as the Confectionery still plans to participate.  It just wouldn’t be the same without chocolate covered strawberries and apple cider donuts!