Lights, Camera, Action!

ABC Chanel 7 news reporter Tanja Babich prepares to interview Long Grove Historical Society President, Aaron Underwood on May 4, 2016.

ABC Channel 7 news reporter Tanja Babich prepares to interview Long Grove Historical Society President Aaron Underwood on May 4, 2016.

This week I got to participate in the production of some promotional footage for Long Grove’s upcoming Chocolate Fest to be held on May 20-22. Chicago’s ABC affiliate, Channel 7, sent anchor Tanja Babich to our Village to interview a few merchants and community leaders, for segments that will be interspersed with live footage filmed on Friday the 20th, first day of the festival. Besides learning a little local history from Aaron (pictured above), the crew took outdoor shots of our historic downtown and did interviews featuring merchants at the Long Grove Confectionery, Broken Earth Winery, and Village Tavern. And of course, chocolate, wine, and broasted chicken were savored along the way! It was really great to see members of our downtown community working together in such a professional, positive, and cooperative way to make today’s film shoot and the upcoming festival succeed. This publicity, which will air just prior to and during “Good Morning America” on May 20th is very advantageous, and could really help boost our festival attendance. Here’s hoping that Mother Nature will gift us with some lovely weather this year!

News reporter Tonja Babich (right) interviews Mary Ann Ullrich, owner of the Village Tavern.

News reporter Tonja Babich (right) interviews Mary Ann Ullrich, owner of the Village Tavern.

Welcome Village Pizza & BBQ!

At the ribbon cutting ceremony on April 18th with new owners Rusty Gault (left) and Joanie Shunia-Gault (right).

At the ribbon cutting ceremony on April 18th with new owners Rusty Gault (left) and Joane Shunia-Gault (right).

If you are really hungry right now or trying to stick to a diet, you might not want to read any further on this post. Because just look at the deliciousness of this pizza…..

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Yes, we have a new pizza joint in town and the sauce is a family secret! This Monday marked the grand opening and ribbon-cutting of Village Pizza and BBQ, located by the Mill Pond in the former location of Long Grove Cafe. New owners Rusty and Joane Shunia-Gault have relocated from Michigan and brought along their family recipes for thin, hand-tossed, and Sicilian deep-dish pizza. I’ve had the pleasure of trying several different varieties and flavors so far, and each one is better than the next.

Since the first of the year, not a week has gone by without a resident asking me when the new pizza place was going to open. Over the past few months I’ve gotten to know Joane and Rusty and they are a wonderful new addition to our community. Already they have hosted weekly Rotary Club meetings, Chamber of Commerce Mixers, and a get-acquainted gathering for residents hosted by Long Grove Living magazine. The pizza is getting rave reviews and we all wish the best of success for our newest downtown business. Welcome!!

Joanie serves up a slice for an eager resident at a gathering Tuesday evening.

Joane serves up a slice for an eager resident at a gathering Tuesday evening.

Irish Heritage

Members of the McNulty Irish Dancers get ready to perform today at Paddy's on the Square.

Members of the McNulty Irish Dancers get ready to perform on March 12th at Paddy’s on the Square.

It seems that everyone is a little bit Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. This weekend the Chicago river was once again dyed an emerald shade of green and parades were enjoyed by those of true Irish heritage as well as those who were simply Irish for the day. Here in Long Grove, we hosted a performance of the McNulty Irish Dancers, courtesy of Paddy’s on the Square. The party continued with live music at the Village Tavern and traditional corned beef and cabbage, washed down of course, with green beer. The weather was perfect on Saturday for the dance performance, and their lively routines and colorful costumes really brightened up Fountain Square.

As my maiden name is Killian, you can correctly assume that I love St. Patrick’s Day. In an earlier blog post I talked about my heritage on my mother’s side, including an ancestor who served as Mayor of Bloomington, Illinois. On my Dad’s side I also have many relatives who were and are public servants. Several McLean County, Illinois townships, municipalities, and school boards have been blessed over the years with Killian wit and wisdom. But the trait that I mostly blame on my Irish genes is my curly brown hair and green eyes!

We are lucky to have two Irish shops here in Long Grove, both owned for many years by the same family. They are go-to spots for me when I need something beautiful for a wedding, birthday, or special occasion gift. If you’ve ever traveled to Ireland, one step inside Paddy’s or the Irish Boutique will bring back a flood of vacation memories. Stores like these and the Village Tavern are what make our historical downtown unique, and what makes St. Patrick’s Day special in Long Grove. This week, and every week of the year.

The Apple House is coming back!

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I am happy to share some good news to start your weekend off! Recently, a lease was signed and the former Apple House property will soon be back in business in Long Grove. Members of the Forsythe family (owners of the buildings surrounding Fountain Square) have been working diligently to bring a great tenant to this business, and preliminary plans are set for a May of 2016 opening. Today the Village received an application for a business license from Bell’s Apple Orchard and Bakery, to be located in the building that was once the beloved home of apple cider donuts and brown bag apple pies. I spoke recently with John Bell, the new tenant and proud member of the Bell family who owned and operated Bell’s Apple Orchard for generations in neighboring Lake Zurich. He is very pleased to be bringing the legacy of the family business to our historic downtown, and looking forward to offering apples and apple inspired bakery items to residents and visitors alike. Chocolate Fest is slated for the weekend of May 20-22, and the new business hopes to be up and running by then to take part in the festivities. Speaking for myself, I can’t wait to cut the ribbon and welcome the Bell family to Long Grove. I know that I’m not alone in my wish for this to be a real turning point in a year full of revitalization in our downtown.

Holiday Support for Veterans

Rotarians (L to R) Ross Spencer, Jim Runnfeldt, George Dorner, Karl Riehn, and Robert Mintz prepare to deliver Thanksgiving meals to area Veterans.

Rotarians (L to R) Ross Spencer, Jim Runnfeldt, George Dorner, Karl Riehn, and Robert Mintz prepare to deliver Thanksgiving meals to area Veterans.

Smokin’ T’s in Long Grove is hands-down my favorite place for BBQ. But my love for this restaurant grows even greater this time of year because of what they do for our Veterans.

Chef Tom Gescheidle and his family are the owners of Smokin’ T’s, and since 2008 they have offered the Military Meal Deal Program. Each year the staff spends hundreds of hours preparing over 6,000 pounds of fully cooked holiday meals which are then delivered at Thanksgiving and Christmas to the individual homes of over 150 Lake County veterans. Each meal is completely cooked and ready to feed between 9 and 12 family members.

The restaurant works closely with the Veterans Assistant Program to help those military families most in need of supplemental nutrition. Bringing families together over the holidays with healthy food lets the veterans know others are thinking of them and is a real cause for celebration.

I really like this program not only for the way that it honors our local veterans, but also because it gives customers and local groups the opportunity to give back. Long Grove families like mine have an easy way to directly make a difference by donating meals. Local service groups such as the Rotary Club of Long Grove, Kildeer & Hawthorn Woods and students from Stevenson High School get to thank the veterans themselves while personally delivering the meals on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve. This program is a win-win for everyone involved!

It takes a lot of hard work and organization to make this happen every year, and for the last eight years the Gescheidle family has done a wonderful thing for our community. For this reason I have recently nominated them for a local award. Keep your fingers crossed for this business to be recognized when the winners are announced in a few weeks.

As we all prepare to gather with our families I wish you a holiday table filled with warmth, delicious food, and love!

Apple Fest 2015

The beloved apple cider donuts made a return appearance to Long Grove this past weekend.

The beloved apple cider donuts made a return appearance to Long Grove this past weekend.

For the past three years, I have made a determined effort to eat healthier, and I have tried to avoid the types of bakery items that you see pictured above. However, the Long Grove Confectionery’s locally famous apple cider donuts are only available one time a year, so I allowed myself to have one. Well, maybe more than one (lets just say several) of these cinnamon-sugary balls of deliciousness were consumed, and I was not the only one indulging!

Apple Fest once again graced the historic cross roads of Long Grove this weekend, and it was a perfect excuse to get out and enjoy the beautiful autumn weather. Many others felt the same, based on the large number of festival attendees I saw on Saturday. The Kids Zone on Towner Green was packed with squealing, happy youngsters tossing beanbags, climbing hay bales, and chasing ethereal pieces of whimsy conjured up by the “Bubble Man.” I received a complimentary apple-scented soy candle with the purchase of my pretty new necklace, and who doesn’t just love getting something for free?  Every merchant that I talked with was upbeat and had a smile on their face:  Craig, Tobin, Rachel, Maggie, Pam, Ryan, John, Matt & Meghan–just to name a few. We stayed into the evening to take in some of the great music and an added plus was running into some neighbors and getting the chance to catch up. It was altogether an enjoyable experience.

But let’s get back to the important thing–the food! Besides the aforementioned donuts, apples were consumed in the form of caramel apples, apple martinis, and apple sangria.  And I must say it was worth the splurge. Today I’m back on the healthy eating bandwagon, with gratifying apple-tinged memories to carry me through until next year.

The covered bridge stage featured the band "Infinity" along with the debut of our new festival welcome sign.

The covered bridge stage featured the band “Infinity” along with the debut of our new festival welcome sign.

The Black Unicorn

Long Grove resident and Chicago Bears player Martellus Bennett with two young fans at the Chatterbox.

Long Grove resident and Chicago Bears player Martellus Bennett with two young fans at the Chatterbox.

I have had the opportunity to meet some very fun and unique individuals since becoming Village President, and one of those is Long Grove resident Martellus Bennett, a player for the Chicago Bears. I first met Martellus at one of our local restaurants, the Chatterbox, where he often drops in with his wife and daughter. The self-professed “Black Unicorn” has been collaborating with Chatterbox chef Matt Bassitt over the summer on a signature burger that reflects aspects of his eccentric personality. I was lucky enough to be present this past Friday here in Long Grove for the official launch of The Black Unicorn burger.

Martellus wanted to create a burger so big that most people couldn’t finish it. It features bison meat (big and lean like the athlete he is) and dinosaur kale as a nod to his other nickname “The Orange Dinosaur.” Add to that green tomatoes and Cajun cheddar (in homage to his Southern roots), thick slices of smoked bacon, onion rings, and barbeque sauce made with Crown Royal, a favorite drink. According to chef Bassitt, “Everything on the burger has sweetness, but is still a little spicy. We wanted to show (Bennett’s) two sides. He’s a nice guy, but he has a fire to him.”

I must confess that I could not eat the whole thing, but it was delicious! Only 83 burgers were sold on Friday, in reference to Bennett’s number 83 jersey. The player himself was on hand to greet customers and sign footballs for young fans sampling his latest creation. Personally, it was a fun evening spent with friends and neighbors in one of Long Grove’s best gathering spots. And thanks to The Black Unicorn burger, we have one more great reason to visit!

Residents Charlie Wachs and Aaron Underwood prepare to sample The Black Unicorn burger.

Residents Charlie Wachs and Aaron Underwood prepare to sample The Black Unicorn burger.

 

Long Grove’s Hollywood Moment

Meeting host Anthony Anderson at the filming of "Eating America" in 2014.

Meeting host Anthony Anderson at the filming of “Eating America” in 2014.

Last Friday I attended a meeting of the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus in Chicago, and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel was one of our speakers. I noticed that he travels with a media representative and photographer, which is thankfully not a part of my everyday job! I did, however have a fun opportunity to be filmed last summer during Long Grove’s Strawberry Fest as part of the Food Network show, “Eating America.”

I truly never thought my degree in Foods/Nutrition Dietetics would come in handy in my role as Village President, until I received an email from a Hollywood producer. They were interested in featuring our Strawberry Festival as one of eight unique American food festivals in their new series, to be hosted by actor Anthony Anderson, star of TV’s “Blackish.” Would I be interested in being a judge of the culinary contest? It was a tough job assignment, but I guess somebody needed to do it!

Spending the afternoon with a film crew from Los Angeles was surprisingly easy. They were very complimentary of our Village and the people they had met. I heard time and again that they were delighted that “everyone is so friendly, cooperative, helpful, and most importantly, on time.” I was especially impressed with the camaraderie I saw exhibited by our local chefs and restauranteurs. In a spirit of friendly competition, they really rose to the challenge of creating unique dishes featuring strawberries as a key ingredient. Providing expertise to the judging was the executive chef from the acclaimed Chicago restaurant TRU, and the head of the Chicago Food Bloggers. We were tasked with picking an overall winner in items as diverse as Strawberry Ricotta Ravioli, Strawberry-Watercress Soup, and Strawberry Macaroons. It was a delicious but difficult decision! The trophy for the winning dish went to Adam Ullrich from the Village Tavern for his Shaved Beef Sandwich with Strawberry Salsa.

The series debuted in August of last year, and our Long Grove episode aired in early September. It was a kick to watch and the show really showcased Long Grove in a great way. This kind of media exposure is priceless and was a lucky break for our Village. My screen time amounted to a few seconds here and there, but it created one of the most memorable experiences so far in holding this office. And if the Food Network comes calling again for Apple Fest…I am ready and willing!

 

Beans & Leaves

Ethel Berger, owner of Beans & Leaves

Ethel Berger, owner of Beans & Leaves

In the past year, I have noticed a trend that I find encouraging–Long Grove restaurants being opened or purchased by Long Grove residents. There is something very heartwarming about seeing our own citizens caring about our historic downtown and stepping in to be invested in seeing it succeed. The Chatterbox, Long Grove Café, and Broken Earth Winery are all recent examples of this, as is the new owner of Beans & Leaves, Ethel Berger.

Ethel, along with her husband and two daughters, has lived in Long Grove for about two years. They most recently moved from Buffalo Grove, but Ethel has spent her life in many different places around the globe. She was born in the Philippines and came first to the United States to attend college in Washington D.C. Ethel started her career working for World Bank, and followed with a move to California for a job in the software industry. Eventually deciding that her life needed a new direction, she sold everything she owned and moved to Italy to attend culinary school. Ethel pursued this career as a chef at Club Med resorts, with Fairmont Hotels, and also worked as a personal chef. She moved back to the United States with intentions of returning to Europe, but fate intervened when she met her husband Tim.

Fast forward several years, to a busy Mom dropping off her girls at the Montessori School in Long Grove, and stopping by for a cup of coffee at Beans & Leaves. As a regular customer, Ethel was familiar with the business and when former owner Karen Krahn decided it was time to move on, the timing was just right for Ethel. She anticipates making only minor cosmetic changes for now, while slowly making the business her own. One thing that will continue is the tradition of live music. Supporting musicians is important to Ethel as she serves on the board for Landowska Harpsichord Society in Chicago, which provides a Foundation to encourage new and young musicians.

Please join me in welcoming Ethel as one of our newest Long Grove merchants. Stop by for a cup of coffee or tea on your next drive through the crossroads, and get to know this neighbor who is playing a role in helping our downtown make a comeback.

Chocolate Fest 2015

Our local Lord of Chocolate, Craig Leva, Owner of the Long Grove Confectionary.

Our local Lord of Chocolate, Craig Leva, Owner of the Long Grove Confectionary.

For a chocolate lover like me, having a Chocolate Fest in our downtown every May is a real treat! This past weekend, Long Grove hosted over 15,ooo fellow chocoholics for a three day celebration of the confection. It was possible to enjoy chocolate in many traditional and inventive ways such as chocolate beer, chocolate covered grapes, chocolate martinis…the list seemed endless. I personally sampled and gave a thumbs up to:  chocolate wine, a stuffed poblano pepper with chocolate mole sauce, and chocolate dipped strawberries from the Long Grove Confectionary. This gave me a chance to chat with my friend Craig Leva, owner of the confectionary for the past two years. His business is growing and has recently expanded to include featuring our namesake chocolates in area Jewel grocery stores. The weather really cooperated this year, and helped add to the turnout as did some new changes with the festival. With the help of a new special events firm, the downtown merchants arranged booths primarily up and down Robert Parker Coffin Road, with the main stage at the covered bridge. Popular bands were featured each night and took the celebration into the evening hours, attracting additional attendees. This year efforts were made to work with our favorite local restaurants to offer their specialties in booths as well. And it looks as if the new ideas had a positive effect overall. We will have to wait another year for the next appearance of the Chocolate Fest–thankfully that gives us all plenty of time to work off the excess calories!