Monthly Archives: April 2009

Countdown to My Old Kentucky Derby Party at My Naperville Home

derby-2009-inviteBeing a Kentucky native, you might imagine how homesick I tend to get this time of year as we approach the rich tradition of the Kentucky Derby, or as Kentuckians refer to it… the first Saturday in May.

Though the actual Kentucky Derby, traditionally the fifth race of the day, lasts only a couple of minutes, Derby Day in Kentucky is the culmination of the month-long Kentucky Derby Festival.  Throughout the month of April, there are countless Kentucky Derby Festival events, including steamboat races, hot-air balloon races, concerts, parades, celebrity galas, formal balls, plenty of fireworks, lots of indulgent Southern food and much more.

Churchill Downs opens its traditional Spring meet the Friday before Derby Day, which is known as Oaks Day, which ends with the running of the Kentucky Oaks.

I am asked all the time how many Kentucky Derbys I’ve attended at Churchill Downs and, as any Kentuckian would understand, it’s only been one.  Let’s just say my job out of college put me at the epicenter of the VIP Kentucky Derby experience.  Nonetheless, most Kentuckians prefer to by-pass the crushing madness of Churchill Downs in exchange for a hosted Derby Party.  Kentucky Derby Parties are legendary and full of tradition. 

I’m excited to be launching a Kentucky Derby Party tradition this year at my Naperville Home.  Wish I could invite everyone, but space is limited at “My Old Naperville Home”.  But “weep not more” my friends as here is some insight into what I have planned for the big day.

First, my guests will begin arriving around post time for the first race of the day, around 12:00 EDT/1:00 CDT.  ESPN is covering breakfast at the Downs as well as all races leading up to the actual Kentucky Derby race. 

The menu will include plenty of Southern Bluegrass Tradition:  Country Ham I’ve shipped in from Keene’s Hams in Bardstown, Kentucky Derby Breakfast Yeast Biscuits, Garlic Cheese Grits, Fried Chicken, Kentucky Beer Cheese, Derby Pie and much more.

Our guests will certainly get in the spirit with a nearly 200 year-old recipe for Mint Juleps, which consists of a minted sugar syrup blended with fresh mint, crushed ice and straight Kentucky bourbon.  Additionally, we will also have a bourbon tasting line-up for 5-10 lesser-known Kentucky-based brands.  

Speaking of bourbon, did you know that 90% of all bourbon whiskey in the world is produced in Kentucky?  There are over 80 Kentucky-based bourbon brands who export their tradition all over the country and world… even Tennessee.  Bourbon is known as the official American Spirit and takes its name from Bourbon County in Kentucky where some of the earliest whiskey was placed into charred oak barrels for transport from which bourbon derives its color and distinctive flavor 

I grew up very close to bourbon country and even as a child I can remember riding past the  Jim Beam distillery on the way to my grandmothers house and smelling the familiar bourbon mash in the air.  Makers Mark  is located just outside of my mother’s hometown of Lebanon. 

If you are interested in the history and tradition of bourbon, you should consider making a trip to Kentucky to cruise the Kentucky Bourbon Trail where you can visit and tour eight distilleries.

As for me, it’s back to the last minute details as Saturday approaches.  SM

Support Your Favorite Local Naperville Restaurant PLUS My Open Offer to Restauranteurs

Looking around town these days, it has become clear that if you have a favorite Naperville restaurant that you love, it’s important to support them in these tough economic times.  Our restaurant community is doing everything it can to help you stretch your dollars further and if we are to continue to enjoy such a vibrant dining scene, we need to reciprocate in helping them keep their doors open through these tough times.

There are plenty of good deals for the taking.  For instance, my family and I headed over to Gematos Wood Pit BBQ tonight for a quick impromptu dinner and discovered a special offer on their world class ribs on Monday and Tuesday nights… $9.99 for a half-slab dinner and $15.99 for a full-slab, both of which include choice of potato as well as cole slaw or beans.  Of course, those wonderful wood pit aromas are always free. 

Now, here’s an open challenge to all Naperville restauranteurs out there from the World of Naperville.  If you are looking for a way to extend special exclusive hunger stimulus offers to Naperville residents I will help you promote them via the World of Naperville for free.  Two catches:

1)  The special deal must be exclusive to World of Naperville readers and be offered for a limited time only. 

2) The restaurant owner or general manager must contact me directly at worldofnaperville@yahoo.com.  In other words, no PR firm representatives or agencies.  This is my offer to you as a restauranteur.

Now get out there everyone and help keep your favorite Naperville restaurants open.  SM    

“Check Please” Naperville – A Review of Pizza Fusion

pizza-fusionI’m sitting here watching what has been one of my favorite shows dating back to my years living in Chicago… WTTW’s “Check Please“.  As suburbanites, we are usually on the receiving end of the joke when it comes to foodie oratory about their favorite haute haunts.  However, I was very proud to see that one of our trademark “Downtown Naperville Welcomes You” signs has made it’s way into the opening sequence of the show.  We’ve officially arrived on the Chicagoland map as a dining destination!  Of course, we Napervillians have known this for a while now. 

Speaking of dining in Naperville, after finishing a late evening baseball practice the other night, we grabbed the family of one of my son’s teammates and headed over to the recently opened Pizza Fusion at the new Whole Foods shopping center at 75th Street near Rt. 59.  We were all feeling a little crazy with hunger and looked forward to some nice post-practice pizza.  Even more, I’m always on the hunt for new types of pizza.

One only needs to see the reserved parking spaces for energy efficient cars to get the hint that Pizza Fusion is all about organic earth friendly food.  Feeling very environmentally aware, our starving caravan streamed through the front door to discover a wonderful aroma amidst the combination of a no frills pizza shop matched by a bar and small dining room.  You can peer right back into the kitchen to see a rather interesting rounded spinning pizza oven.

There is definitely a commitment to organic ingredients ranging from the pizza to the organic brews.  Despite a host of appetizer and salad offerings, this place is about the main event… Pizza!

The thin-crust pies come in an indivdiual (4 oblong pieces) and a large torpedo shaped pizza.  Ingredients range from the usual suspects which will make the kids happy to a little more refined toppings, such as goat cheese and sun-dried tomatos.  Crusts include white, whole-wheat and gluten-free offerings.  Prices for pizzas range from $7 – $18 

I’ll have to say the prices are pushing the envelope just a little for what Pizza Fusion offers.  I was worried the pizzas would be thin and skimpy, thus leaving the natives wanting more.  However, the combination of rich flavors more than made up for their misleading appearance.  The sauce was fresh and sweet combined with a delicous blend of mozzarella and provolone cheeses. 

You are definitely paying for higher quality ingredients; however, if you are looking to fill lots of hungry bellys with pizza on a budget, perhaps you might want to steer your energy efficient vehicle to the always scorching hot-and-ready oven simmered lower grade pizza joints around town.  Of course, don’t forget to pick up some antacids on your way there.   

As for me, I was very satisfied that Naperville now has another excellent pizza option which transcends the standard Chicago thin and deep dish.  If you are craving delicious pizza with environmental purpose, head on over to Pizza Fusion for a new experience.  They are located on W. 75th St. and Beebe Dr. just 1 block east of Route 59.  SM