Monthly Archives: December 2007

These Things I Have Learned During Our 2007 Naperville Christmas

In reflecting upon my attempt at the Clark Griswald-worthy idyllic plans over the past week leading up to Christmas, I am reminded of those things I will think twice about next year.

First, if I’m looking to take my six year-old for a special dinner and shopping night five days before Christmas in downtown Naperville, I will have my wife drop off a car at a parking space at about 1:00 in the afternoon versus driving around for 45 minutes looking for a parking space in all the usual and not-so-usual places with other fellow parking space hunters angrily honking their horn at others suffering the same plight.  Regretably, it took us another 20 minutes just to get out of downtown having not been succesful in finding a parking space and we settled for the Fox Valley Mall where my little guy was able to witness a shoplifter getting busted before our own eyes for the first time.  The last time we were there for a special night out, we watched and ate ice cream as kids repeatedly stole change from the fountain to play the crane toy grab game. 

Second, next time we end up at Santa’s house and, alas, find ourselves in in the #2 spot in line 45 minutes before Santa’s arrival, we will bring our bathing suits and a cooler of ice-cold beverages to keep cool amidst the “blazing inferno in a box” heating system inside Santa’s ranch house.  After these efforts, my three year-old was terrified when Santa’s door opened and my six year-old played along for my benefit.

Third, the next time I select a newer downtown restaurant which we really enjoyed the first time during the summer only to plan a special family meal after Santa’s house, I will think twice rather than run the risk of again having the worst service I’ve ever enountered not to speak of food that hardly resembled our first experience.

Fourth, I will also think twice before driving my family around trailing one of the downtown trolley’s as it tours the best house light displays throughout Naperville.  Not only did a group of young girls make continual rude gestures at us, I think the driver may have called the police on us for tagging along.  Fa-la-la-la-la-la….. la-la la la.

Instead of these things, I believe I will vow to not try so hard to create magical Christmas memories and, instead, follow the lead of my family and see what happens.  The harder you try to make something special, the worse the karma powers will crack down on you.  After all, holiday memories are about the loved ones around, not your own fairy tailish expectations.  Here’s to Christmas 2008!

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On a side note, I will definitely recommend sharing a nicely chilled bottle of Gosset Grand Millesime alongside some nice cheese pairings with family to put the well-intentioned catastrophes of the holiday season behind to focus on the true meaning of simply being together.  Everyone agreed it was absolutely delightful.  SM

What Are You Grateful For In This Holiday Season?

It’s been a couple of day since my last posting and I’m sitting here this evening with the holiday village glowing brightly with 93.9 the Holiday Lite on the radio staring outside at the deep freeze.  I must confess that I had written a lengthy posting over the weekend, but decided at the last minute to not publish. 

Anyway, with all the dramatic controversy which has been brewing lately within the inner sanctum of Naperville, I thought I would focus this posting on the volume of gratitude that we still have for our cherished community here in this 2007 holiday season.

I look forward to hearing what you are grateful for here in this holiday season in the comment section below.

To get the ball rolling, I have to say that I am grateful for the surplus of blessings my family and I have received in life, health and community.  2007 has been a fascinating year as I’ve met so many amazing people within and outside our community.  I very much look forward to an even brighter 2008, which I predict will usher in a new era for the arts in Naperville.  The World of Naperville has reached the 15,000 visit mark and continues to attract quite a bit of interest.

Finally, I’m most thankful to all of you who have read and participated here in the World of Naperville.  Through my travels around the country this year and many conversations I’ve had with people from all over, I’m now convinced that while Kevin Bacon needs six degrees of seperation to connect to the world, Naperville only needs three. 

Now its your turn, please submt your own thoughts by clicking “comments” below.  SM  

Naperville Independent Film Festival Already Has Me Looking Ahead to 2008

Though the sound of holiday music echoes around our “downtown” illuminated Christmas Village over on the bookshelf, my thoughts this evening are on the brand new Naperville Independent Film Festival which will take place in September of next year (www.naperfilm.org).

Having been involved in the independent film world for a quite a few years now, I naturally have been pretty excited about the developments surrounding the festival.  Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the key organizers, Gary Pradel, at Fontanos for lunch to learn more about the festival’s origin and philosophy.

I’m sure many of you know Gary, but for those who don’t he is yet another glowing example of Naperville’s brightly shinning spirit.  During our conversation, he elaborated on the festival’s vision which is to draw anyone who is interested not only in viewing some great indie films but also to learn more about the filmmaking process and meet others involved in the indie film community.  He draws upon his lifelong interest and love for technology, filmmaking and the arts in wanting others to not only get a first glance at independent film up close but also to get a “hands on” opportunity which hopefully will inspire others to get involved in filmmaking. 

We both agree there is tremendous future potential for bringing the Naperville arts community together in expanding the unique opportunities and resulting economic benefits of the arts.  As I’ve discussed in past postings, the diversification and regular presence of unique arts experiences is a key not only to Naperville’s next great chapter, but also a key driver in local workforce and economic development not to speak of the overall economic impact of arts dollars.

The World of Naperville wants to thank all involved for their vision in bringing this exciting new Naperville event to life.

Festival Committee 
Gary Pradel –
Gary@NaperFilm.org
Edmond Coisson –
Edmond@NaperFilm.org
Glessna Coisson – Glessna@NaperFilm.org
Daniel Nigg – DNIGG@aol.com
Sara Snyder – ssnyder@mcelroyassociates.net
Jocelyn Donkin – Jocelyn@NaperFilm.org
Susan Biggs – sbiggs1765@wowway.com
Mary Jo Brown –
MJBrown@NaperFilm.org

Advisory Committee

Mary Ann Boboski
Jim Healy
Susan Hecht
Ray Kinney
Joe Lichter
Daniel Nigg
Deborah Venezia
Mary Lou Wehrli

Current Sponsors (as of 12/11/07)

Design Resource Center
City Club
Emphasis Entertainment
First National Bank of Naperville
Goldstine, Skrodzki, Russian,
   Nemec, and Hoff, Ltd.

Jilly’s Restaurant
Lenzcap.com
McElroy Associates
Nigg Media
Our Path Productions, Ltd
Wheatland Omnimedia 
  

If you are interested in learning more about the Naperville Independent Film Festival or submitting your work, visit www.naperfilm.org or send an email to info@naperfilm.org .  SM     

The Lesson, the Culprit and True Victim in the Furstenau Saga

I’ve been thinking a great deal about the ongoing saga involving Naperville City Councilman Richard Furstenau and the rapidly expanding cast of players in this sad chapter.  I’ve been reluctant to chime in on this debate because quite frankly the whole situation is truly an embarassment to our community. 

Though, at the end of the day, all of the talk about retaliation, threats, assault, lawsuits, civil rights violations, accusations, hostility, intimidation and other vindictive animosity is really about one thing, and one thing only…. POWER.  Regardless of which side you believe, the reality is this whole story is rooted in the struggle for and over power. 

The problem of power is how to achieve its responsible use rather than its irresponsible and indulgent use…   – Robert F. Kennedy

The fact of the matter is I cannot pass judgment on anyone as there are only a handful of people who know in their hearts and minds the real truth.  Truth is the foundation of trust and integrity.  All public servants, public officials and members of law enforcement alike, are entrusted as tenants of power which is to be used responsibly in upholding the public’s trust.  

Power is corrupted whenever it is used for the purpose of personal indulgence, advantage or to exact revenge for whatever reason which departs even in the slightest from the public’s interest and trust.    

Revenge converts a little right into a great wrong.  – German Proverb

Who is truly the innocent victim here?  Who will lose?  The answer is we are the victims and regardless of the outcome we will lose.  We, being the hard-working, taxpaying residents of Naperville who have placed our trust in our public servants with the only expectation that they would serve with integrity, uphold truth, work in the public’s interest and accept responsibility for the entrusted powers they are granted. 

I once heard that “integrity” is the most important characteristic of leadership because it is the one which ensures all the others.  There has been much talk about people’s integrity being under fire in these proceedings.  I say, now is the time for the ultimate integrity in public service to be shown by those who have used power in one form or another to exploit the public’s trust in assuming responsibility for the truth in placing the greater interest of our community before their own and taking appropriate action.  Otherwise, the community of Naperville as a whole stands to suffer on both a financial and public trust level

Power is both a privilege and an alluring vice which must be handled carefully.  In the end, I believe it is the indulgent vice of power which is truly on trial here.  Let it be a lesson to us all.  SM   

Gosset Champagne – My Pick for the Perfect Champagne for Any Naperville Holiday Gathering

gosset.jpgMy Pick for 2007 – Gosset Grande Millesime Brut 1999

For anyone who read my previous posting regarding the recent Annual Champagne Bash at Binny’s in Naperville may have already drawn the obvious conclusion that I have a deep passion for Champagne.  I’m not a big drinker in general, but when it comes to these amazing wines whose origin can be traced back in history to a mistake made by a humble monk named Dom Perignon, I maintain a small collection and have little problem chilling a bottle for most any occaision, including the periodical mundane weekend evening at home.  Even more, when dining out with others I love to pick a bottle for the table to enjoy, especially those who have never tried truly good champagne.

My earliest memory of champagne can be drawn back to my childhood when my parents would allow the children to have a sip of the sparkling wonder on New Years Eve.  Moving forward in my life, I’ll never forget standing on a frozen third story roof watching fireworks and drinking champagne in Concord, N.H. during a campaign celebration when I worked on 1992 presdential campaign trail.  Upon moving to Chicago, I discovered Pops for Champagne and the rest is history.  Over the past nine years, I’ve lost track of the countless champagne houses and styles I have had the good fortune to enjoy.  I’ve traveled to the Champagne region in France and truly had the pleasure of tasting champagne at the actual cellars of their origin.

Thus, when it comes to recommending what I consider to be the perfect bottle of champagne for a special occaision, such as the holiday season, I like to think that I might be able to share my own experience with others.  While individual tastes and presence vary, I love when I find wines which would most likely suit any pallet.  While I’ve tried many of the most expensive champagnes of many different vintages, the most expensive is not typically what the average person would consider the best tasting champagne.  In fact, many of the very high end champagnes are so complex and bold that it requires a connoisseur to truly enjoy them.

For those who may not understand why champagne tends to be more expensive than regular wine should consider the beauty and artistry of the champagne-making process in and of itself.  First, champagne consists of a blend of the three primary wine grapes:  Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.  The wine is blended and put through a second fermentation process in which sugar and yeast are added.  Great champagnes from the actual region in France are then left to age in the darkness and solitude of very old and often historic sub-terreranian chalk cellars which carry a constant year-round temperature of I believe around 50 degrees Farenheit.  Hand-crafted wines may be aged in oak barrels before being bottled for fermentation and additional aging.  Once bottled, each bottle is turned periodically by one method or another to keep the sugar and yeast from settling.  When their time comes, the necks of the bottles are frozen and the yeast mixture is removed and the bottles sealed with their familiar cork.  The finest of champagnes are often hand-crafted with the process being handled indvidually versus the lower end champagnes which are created through more of a manufacturing process.

Ever wonder what vintage, non-vintage and grand cru mean?  My understanding is the grapes which are used to create champagne are drawn from one or more vineyards within the champagne reigon.  The grapes of a harvest may or may not be considered a vintage year based upon the growing/weather conditions.  Thus, not all years are vintage years.  Even vintage years are rated, hence the expression “it was a great vintage year”.  Predictably, supply and demand helps as well as quality of blend dictate the ultimate price.  The very best grapes of a harvest are referred to as “grand cru” and are reserved for the best wines and carry a slightly higher price. 

A non-vintage champagne, as you might guess, is created from a blend of two or more years, meaning the grapes cannot be traced to a single vintage year.  Sometimes, the best vintage grapes/wines are blended together to create what are often called multi-vintage  or “reserve” champagnes, such as Gosset Grande Reserve.  The main difference between a vintage and non-vintage champagne is quality of grapes and balance in the overall blend. 

I never thought much about these differences until the first time I had a chance to try the non-vintage,vintage and reserve wines side-by-side from a particular champagne house. 

Finally, if you are trying to determine what types of champagnes you might like the best, consider the blend.  In other words, consider the % blend of the chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes.  A champagne consisting of all chardonnay grapes is called a “blanc de blanc” and one which consists of all pinot noir, pinot meunier or a blend of both is called a “blanc de noir”.  If you like sweet wines, go for the extra dry or a demi-sec.  If your preference is wines which are not sweet, consider a brut or extra brut wine.

Beyond the wine-making process is often a deep and sometimes romantic history surrounding the story, culture and tradition of the oldest of champagne houses which have endured tragedy and triumph tracing back as far as the 1500s.  Consider the story of Vueve Clicquot which was actually run by a woman, Madam Clicquot or “La Grande Dame”, in the early 1800s when it was unheard of for women to be engaged in the champagne business.  During World War II and the German occupation of France, Nazi forces took control of the cellars of many champagne houses.  Rather than resist, the champagne houses allowed the soldiers to drink from the cellars freely, knowing that one day after the war ended they would develop a taste for French champagne which would convert them to paying customers.

The amazing thing is when you drink champagne aged for years in the historic cellars of one of these champagne houses, it’s almost as though you are tasting history.  Then you consider the time and passion which goes into the time-honored process and you begin to develop a better understanding for the prices and celebratory romanticism behind this timeless beverage.  Thirsty yet?

Thus brings us to my pick for this year, Gosset Champagne (Ay, France), in particular Gosset’s Grande Millesime Brut 1999.  Though Gosset is considered to be the oldest champagne house in France, founded in 1584, they remain one of the smallest producers of “luxury” champagnes turning out just over 1 million bottles for worldwide consumption each year.  Compare that with the annual production of 26 million bottles produced by Moet & Chandon.  What this means is if you come across a bottle of Gosset here in the Chicago area, especially their vintage offerings, grab it!  According to Gosset’s North American importer, Palm Bay Imports, Gosset is rare in most parts of the country but they devote a good supply to the Chicago marketplace. 

Though Gosset is considered a “luxury” champagne, I find their pricing for the quality of wines they offer, given their small production, to be excellent compared to other perennial brands such as Krug.  The Grande Millesime Brut 1999 is priced in the mid-$70 range for an “outstanding” vintage wine which I found to be extraordinarily smooth, balanced and rich in flavor with a finish that goes on-and-on-and-on.  The “bouquet” or fragrance of the wine will leave you feeling peacefully entranced.  Simply put, this is one of those champagnes that you won’t soon forget.  In general, I find the Gosset wines, including the Gosset Grande Reserve Multi-Vintage, to taste like a much more expensive champagne though they mostly run under the $100 mark.  Share a couple of bottles with loved ones during this holiday season and the memories will not soon be forgotten.  I have mine downstairs ready to go.

If you are looking to spend slightly less, somewhere in the $50-$60 range, I strongly recommend the Gosset Grande Reserve which is a blend of 3 vintage years with a degree of flavor and complexity which will amaze you.  I’ve had the Grande Reserve on a number of occaisions and am never disappointed.  Gosset also makes an even less expensive non-vintage Brut Excellence wine, which is a bit fruitier than it’s more sophisticated siblings.  My recommendation, if you are going to spend the $40+ dollars on a bottle of Gosset Brut Excellence, make the jump in spending just a few more dollars for the Grande Reserve or splurge on the vintage Grande Millesime as, in my estimation, they are substantially better.

 Looking for Gosset in Naperville?  Check Binny’s Beverage Depot of Naperville (790 Royal St. George
Cress Creek Square Shopping Center, 630-717-0100 of www.binnys.com .

How Gosset won my heart?  The reason I love Gosset champagne can be traced to my first experience when my wife and I enjoyed a bottle of their Grande Rose while playing scrabble in an open-air cafe in Reims, France.  We’d been traveling like crazy for over a week and just looking to sit and relax.  I was blown away by Gosset.  To be sure it wasn’t just a fluke, I expanded over the years to trying the Grande Reserve and became even more excited.  When I finally tried the Millesime at the Champagne Bash, I did not hestitate in buying a bottle.  When you add on the top of that the history and tradition of the Gosset Champagne house, you cannot help but fall in love.

Beyond Gosset, if you are wondering what else I have in my make-shift cellar downstairs, here’s what you would find:  Vueve Clicquot Vintage 1998, Krug Grand Cuvee, Bollinger Special Cuvee, Gosset Grande Reserve, Gosset Grande Millesime 1999, Bruno Paillard Premier Cuvee Brut, Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage 2000.

Should the good people from Gosset or Palm Bay Imports happen to read this posting, please help me find a bottle of Gosset Celebris Extra Brut 1998 to add to the collection.  Based on what I’ve read, I’m anxious to try this wine and know it’s rare here in the states.   

So there you have it.  My champagne pick for the perfect memorable holiday gathering.  SM                 

109 Different Bottles of Bubbly Take Center Stage for a Good Cause at Binny’s Annual Champagne Bash

With the blowing ice and snow riding atop the cold frigid winds today, it was hard to not think about the holidays.  The weather today provided a perfect backdrop for one of my favorite holiday season traditions, the annual Champagne Bash at Binny’s Beverage Depot over on Ogden Avenue near Cress Creek. 

In a nutshell, Binny’s brings together importers representing a wide spectrum of the bubbly wonder with a collection of 109 different bottles for a three hour period where everyone from the curious to the afficianado pay $50-$55 to sample to their hearts content.  Meson Sabika provided food as well.  The best part of the event is all proceeds are donated to Little Friends of Naperville. 

This event is always allot of fun and this year was no exception.  Given my great love for champagne and sparkling wine, I always feel like a kid in a candy store at the Bash.  This year, I brought my father-in-law along who I am slowly converting to a fan of the bubbly wonder. 

Here’s an account of my experience.  Feeling a little giddy, I eagerly headed through lane 5 to pay for our admission.  It was easy to tell the gruff women on the other side of the counter really knew how to move a crowd through the line.  Being a Binny’s member, we recieved $5 off regular admission.  As my credit card was being processed, we were given raffle tickets to fill out.  Now, I have to say I have a long history of not winning much of anything when it comes to drawings.  Nontheless, being the eternal optimist that I am, I hastily scribbled down my name and contact information.  I was given a receipt and blue food ticket and finally given the greenlight to remove a rather sturdy champagne flute from a box on the counter.  Additionally, we were given the eight page list detailing all 109 wines as well as special pricing for the day. 

With the wintery weather, the crowd was light at opening time.  My father-in-law followed behind me over toward the wine desk area where all the tables were nicely set.  Now, as you can imagine, there is a little bit of strategy that goes into not only enjoying but also surviving an event of this magnitude.  Anyone who has indulged in this alluring of all beverages knows what I’m talking about.  Undeterred, we dove right into the mix.  Unexpectedly, within five minutes, an announcement came over the intercom informing everyone that Stuart Meyer had been drawn as a winner.  I couldn’t believe, I actually won something… a $25 gift certificate to Cafe Buarno over at 5th Street Station.  After picking up my prize, we were back into the thick of the Bash. 

Now, you really have a wide range of representatives who are pouring and providing you with the details and backstory of the wines you are drinking.  One of my favorite aspects of the Bash is the fact these reps are there to help you learn more about what you are drinking.  At the same time, a few of the reps seemed like it was one of the first times they had opened a bottle of bubbly.  However, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a big thanks to the rep at the table serving the Gosset champagne (Ay, France).  First, she was French and in addition to talking about Gosset (great wines for the money), she really went the extra mile in methodically talking about winemaking as well as the whole champagne culture in France.  She was extremely approachable and friendly to everyone, including my father-in-law who, as I mentioned, is still a bit new to these wondrous wines.  You cannot help but have respect for those who clearly have a true passion for their trade.

Our tasting expedition started out crisp and clear.  The aroma’s of the different variety and blends made distinct and glorious impressions with each and every inhalation from the narrow champagne flute.  We moved from Gosset, Pommery and Louis Roederer to Krug, Bollinger and Perrier Jouet.  In between, we had a wonderful opportunity to explore many lesser known sparklers, which is one of my favorite aspects.  A couple of years ago, my wife and I paid a visit to Reims, France in the heart of the Champagne region and I had a great deal of fun searching for small, lesser-known champagne houses who had no shortage in quality for what they lacked in brand recognition. 

As I was moving around the different tables, I had the pleasure of running into Ray Kinney who also was enjoying the bash.  It was great catching up with him briefly and talking a bit about Richard Greene, the new President/CEO of the Naperville Chamber of Commerce.  On a side note, having read quite a bit about Richard, Naperville is very fortunate to be luring him from the West Coast to help provide his proven brand of business leadership within our community.  After catching up for a few moments, we bid farewell and headed back to bubbly.

As the first hour passed, I notice my father-in-law slowing down a bit and immediately directed him over to the Meson Sabika table where he enjoyed a couple of wonderful stuffed mushrooms.  This isn’t a food event, but it was nice to have some appetizers to put in the stomach. 

After having been satisfied that we had tried all the wines we were interested in trying, it was time for the most important part of the bash…. the phone call to my wonderful wife to come rescue us from our indulgence.  The phone rang a couple of times and when she answered, I simply said repeatedly “S.O.S… S.O.S……S.O.S…..come save us”.  To me, the golden rule of the Bash is “Thou Shalt Not Even Think of Driving Home”.  By the time I had one last tasting of my favorites, I picked up a couple of selections, checked out and awaited the pick-up.

For those who may be interested in my recommendations for the holidays, here are my picks from the day ($ – relatively inexpensive; $$ – moderately expensive; $$$ – expensive; $$$$ – just once before you die)

Gosset Grande Millesime, Vintage 1999 ($$$ purchased) 

Gosset Grande Reserve, NV ($$)

Louis Roederer Brut, Vintage 1999  ($$$)

Krug Grand Cuvee, NV ($$$$)

Drappier Carte d’OR Brut Demi-Sec, NV ($)

Drappier Val des Demoiselles Brut Rose, NV ($)

Bollinger Special Cuvee, NV ($)

Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage, 2000 ($ purchased)

Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame Brut, Vintage 1996 ($$$$)

Perrier-Jouet Fleur de Champagne, Vintage 1998  ($$$)

G.H. Mumm Carte Classique, NV ($)

Laurent-Perrier Brut, NV ($)

Laurent-Perrier Rose, NV ($$$)

Laurent-Perrier, Vintage 1997 ($$)

Vesselle Cuvee Rose, NV ($)

Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve, NV ($$)

Bruno Paillard Premier Cuvee Brut, NV  ($ small production, purchased)

Henriot Brut Souverain, NV ($)

Enjoy… pick up a couple of bottles and share them with special loved ones… as for everyone else, give ’em the Korbel…. count your many blessings and sit back and celebrate another wonderful year.  Thanks for the event Binny’s!  SM