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!

Outdoor Dining in Long Grove

(L to R) Georgia Cawley, Barbara English, and Laurie Borawski attend a recent Historical Society luncheon.

(L to R) Georgia Cawley, Barbara English, and Laurie Borawski attend a recent Historical Society luncheon.

This past weekend, we were blessed with several days of perfect weather—sunny skies, comfortable temperatures, low humidity, and a minimum of mosquitoes. After the long winter we all endured, it was a pleasure to spend time out-of-doors, particularly dining alfresco. As we all know, one of the joys of living in Long Grove is the opportunity to enjoy nature and open spaces from our own backyards. But did you know that many of our local restaurants also offer delightful outdoor dining experiences as well?

My husband and I enjoyed a recent lunch on the outdoor deck of the Long Grove Café. While waiting for our food to arrive we were entertained by watching an unusual bird hunt for minnows in the Mill Pond. I snapped him with my cell phone camera, and identified him later as a Green Heron. We had just been admiring his cousin, the Great Blue Heron, earlier in the week as we sat outside Smokin’ T’s with our Bar-B-Que. Did you know you can view a whole rookery from that spot? Last summer, the Long Grove Artist’s Guild sponsored an outdoor program by local artist Marie Roth, who creates American flags out of reclaimed barn wood. A perfect place to view this wonderful presentation was under the umbrellas of the outdoor dining tables at Enzo & Lucia’s. It is such a lovely location to relax, enjoy a meal, and take in the sights and sounds of Fountain Square. We have also been enjoying Long Grove’s newest restaurant, The Chatterbox, which features a charming outside patio area bordered with flowers and plants. This is truly a local gathering spot, as our meal for two quickly became a meal for four when some friends from the Historical Society stopped by to join us. Dining at the table next to us were Long Grove neighbors, as well. Good food, good friends, and a beautiful springtime night in our own Downtown.

Many other area restaurants offer outside dining, but so often these areas overlook a strip mall, parking lot, or busy road. Long Grove dining offers up a choice of attractive places to enjoy nature and the uniqueness of our Village. This season will be gone in the blink of an eye—enjoy it while you can!

Comfy & Cozy on a Cold Winter’s Night

Chatterbox owner Steve Besbeas welcomes me at the door.

Chatterbox owner Steve Besbeas welcomes me at the door.

Faced with another night of sub-zero temps, my husband and I set out to find some comfort food and companionship this evening in Long Grove. Our first stop was the Chatterbox, where we discovered that not only was the parking lot packed, but the restaurant was doing a capacity business. Not a problem, as we continued on down the street to the Village Tavern to snag one of their last remaining tables. We had the added benefit of being entertained with music while we warmed ourselves with good food and atmosphere. On the way back to the car, we stopped by the Chatterbox for the ultimate comfort food on a cold night–the warm and gooey skillet cookie! An extra bonus was running into two couples from Neighbors and Newcomers club who were also out for a night in our hometown to escape the cold. I can’t tell you how great it was to see our restaurants in town doing a healthy business in the dead of winter. Chatterbox owner Steve Besbeas and I talked tonight about the possibility of another Long Grove location opening soon where locals can come together and socialize in our historic downtown. I know that it is hard to be patient, but the tide is turning in our Village. I share the vision of many other residents that we will see a real revitalization in the next few years in our hometown. In the midst of this cold, bitter weather, I see the sparks of hope growing steadily. The next time you are in the mood to socialize, look no further than our own Long Grove establishments. Help us keep the fires burning!

Small Plates of the Small Town Mayor

One of the less embarrassing shots... taken in Ronda , Spain

One of the less embarrassing shots… taken in Ronda , Spain

Those of us who are parents know that our children’s attitude towards us changes as they go through the stages of growing up.  As small children, their love for us is unrestrained.  In the elementary years they depend on us, and as middle school approaches we embarrass them.  We are ignored when they reach high school, and suddenly intelligent once college is over and they are living on their own.

Then, they mock us.

I have recently found out that this new blog I’ve started is not my first.  Apparently, one of my children (who shall remain nameless) created a blog some time ago featuring me.  You see, my husband Aaron and I like to travel, and are “foodies” so we eat at some interesting places.  My husband has been known to take pictures of especially memorable dishes, of which I sometimes show up in, and these get emailed to our “foodie” child.  Who has secretly created a blog entitled, “Small Plates of the Small Town Mayor.”   Yes, I know you are intrigued to see this, but I will NOT be providing a link as most of the pictures are, shall we say, not flattering.  I could be annoyed at my husband for forwarding all those photos unbeknownst to me; I could be angry at my children for making fun of me.  Luckily I grew up with two younger brothers who teased me relentlessly so I have a pretty good sense of humor.  And let me just close with this thought…I am in possession of some pretty embarrassing photos of naked babes in the bathtub and awkward middle school fashion statements.  And I now have my own blog.