Category Archives: Naperville Unwrapped

10 Reasons Why I Love Naperville Magazine and You Should Too!

Naperville Magazine_edited-1by Stuart Meyer

I grew up surrounded by the publishing business.  After my father’s early career years in radio, television and working for the local daily newspaper, he began publishing his own monthly shopper newspaper in Elizabethtown, KY which circulated continuously for over 30 years.

My favorite memories were riding around with him to visit his advertisers as they were all one big extended family to us.  As I got older and after spending enough time hanging out in his design/layout office, he taught me ad design layout… the old-fashioned way as he was somewhat of a “purist”.  No computers or desktop publishing… it was all border tape, polaroids, blue lines, matte books of artwork, hot wax, plenty of typeset and manual Royal typewriters.

Given my childhood in the family publishing business, I’ve alwaysNaperville Magazine_June 2013 Cover admired the work of Naperville magazine publisher Leah Rippe in her vision and determination over the years to build and grow a true Naperville-focused monthly magazine.  The magazine’s mantra and slogan is “Your City. Your Magazine” and they are true to their word.

Here’s my top 10 reasons why I love Naperville magazine:

10)  DESIGN worthy of a higher-end lifestyle magazine publication.

9)  Lots of LOCAL CONTRIBUTORS sharing both their talents and Naperville perspectives.

8)  Seemingly endless coverage of the LOCAL CHARITABLE EVENTS AND SOCIAL SCENE IN THE NAPERSCENE SECTION.  Our favorite challenge is to search for that rare event where our friend Ray Kinney isn’t pictured.

7)  Lots and lots of GREAT PHOTOGRAPHY.

6) I learn more about all the INTERESTING PEOPLE WHO LIVE HERE IN NAPERVILLE.

5) Publishing depends on advertising support and I admire the ways in which the magazine blends in BUSINESS STORYTELLING as part of the content.

4) Great FEATURE STORIES and commitment to COMMUNITY NEWS.

3) The magazine is truly presented from a true NAPERVILLE PERSPECTIVE.

2) From restaurant reviews, chef profiles to the Dining Out section, there’s always a strong FOOD FOCUS.

1) Come on… it’s ALL ABOUT NAPERVILLE!  Thanks Leah!

To subscribe to Naperville magazine and event eNewsletter, CLICK HERE

SM

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Recent Visit to Naper Settlement a Reminder that Time Travel is Possible

by Stuart Meyer

Naper Settlement_Schoolhouse_FINAL

The interior of the Copenhagen Schoolhouse at Naper Settlement as it appeared in 1870. While it’s a historically accurate replica, many of the materials used are from the original schoolhouse.

Being both a filmmaker and owner of a Naperville-based production company about to move its operation into Downtown Naperville, every time I visit the grounds of Naper Settlement I continue to construct the storyline for a film which uses the Settlement as the setting.  From a production standpoint, the interiors of each building are nearly film-ready in terms of production design down to the fine details.  With just a bit of Hollywood-style magic, we could transform exteriors to a place which takes us far from the hustle and bustle of Downtown Naperville.  One day I predict we will shoot that film.

For now, anyone who doesn’t believe time travel is possible certainly hasn’t visited Naper Settlement.  Sure, you may have driven by and seen the buildings, but if you haven’t stepped foot into these magical historically-preserved spaces you are truly missing out.  The community, Naperville Heritage Society, the Museum Board and team over at the Settlement continues to do a terrific job preserving these treasures of our past bringing history to life year-round.

To the many of you who have embraced this community treasure over the years, there are many additional ways you can ensure this Naperville Legacy lives long into the future, such as (click on links):

Make a Donation for Become a Sponsor

Become a Member

Other ways to support Naper Settlement

SM

BEHIND RIBFEST – Feature-Length Documentary Film Provides All-Access Behind-the-Scenes Look at Naperville Ribfest

by Stuart Meyer

For the past 26 years, the Naperville Exchange Club has produced Naperville Ribfest as a charitable event which donates 100% of net proceeds toward the prevention of child abuse and domestic violence.  Prepare to be entertained and inspired as you journey behind-the-scenes of the Naperville Ribfest for an exclusive inside look at every aspect of this volunteer-run charitable BBQ and music festival.  Behind Ribfest  is a feature-length documentary film produced by my production company, Social Frequency Media Communications, and after making some rounds at film festivals we’ve decided to release the film online in two parts.  We hope you’ll watch and share this film with others.  Watch the film below or simply click here.

A Review of 10 Reasons to Love Sharko’s BBQ in South Naperville

Sharkos_Restaurant_edited-1by Stuart Meyer

Simply put, BBQ Rules!  My regular readers over the years know that BBQ has been a way of life for me since my childhood growing up in Kentucky.  The continually growing interest in the art of BBQ is beginning to truly benefit us in Naperville as for the first time we are blessed with real deal low-and-slow pit BBQ restaurants which pay tribute to the great BBQ regions of America.

Sharko’s BBQ has opened its family-owned doors in South Naperville (4931 South Route 59 in front of Caputo’s) and after two visits I’m pleased to say I’m hooked to yet another great BBQ joint.  Asking me to name my favorite BBQ place is worse than asking me to name my favorite child, so there will be no comparisons here.  Instead, I thought I’d share my 10 reasons to love Sharko’s BBQ.

10)  The interior walls of the restaurant are boards from an old barn with sheet metal accents.

9)  You can already smell the heavenly smokey hardwood aroma as you walk in from the parking lot which affirms the authenticity.

8) The complimentary self-serve soft-serve ice cream machine in the dining room which all of the kids love… especially us big kids.

7)  You can buy meats, including ribs, by the ounce… a Texas tradition and great way to get just the right amount to satisfy any appetite.

6)  Love beef brisket?  They slice it Texas-style… fresh off a whole brisket before your eyes. Sharkos_Food_edited-1 The brisket has a monster smoke ring, a sweet smokey bark, tender with just the right “tug” in the meat fibers.  During both visits, owner Brian Sharko (hence “Sharko’s BBQ) gave me a couple of free cuts from the brisket point… a personal favorite for me.

5)  The pulled pork is almost a hybrid between Carolina pulled and Georgia chopped yielding a nice moist and subtle smokey flavor.  Speaking of flavor, whether Sharko’s injects their shoulders during the smoking process or adds some type of seasoning or mop sauce after pulling, the meat is so flavorful it would be a crime to add any sauce.

4) The regional BBQ sauces are delicious, but the meat is so flavorful you’ll find little need for the sauce… the measure of true BBQ.  In some places in Texas, sauce is by request only and even then you’ll often get just a little cup.

3)  The ribs… oh, the ribs… just the right amount of tug from the bone which affirms they were cooked correctly.  Slightly a dry rib with a sweet and smokey outer bark and nice big bones from good quality cuts.  A point of education as you might see the ribs pulled from the holding warmer in plastic wrap.  Just about every BBQ restaurant wraps its ribs in this manner to seal in moisture as ribs can dry out fast.  I’ll agree it’s a sight I would prefer to not see as I’m ordering, but I understand the importance.

2)  Everything, including signs, are set up almost like a cafeteria/buffet which is also a tradition in some regions.  It’s great to see how fresh the food is right before your eyes.

1)  Sharko’s BBQ is owned and run by the Sharko family of Naperville.  They have five kids and the family has been in the restaurant and catering business for a very long time.  An interesting point of trivia, Brian’s dad actually won 1st place for Best Sauce at the very first Ribfest over 25 years ago.

Okay, so I capped my overview at 10 reasons, but there are still great features like the saddle stools along the outer wall, thick-cut texas toast bread, the Pig Juice Sauce, the hand washing sink near the dining room, the perennial BBQ dessert standard… Banana Pudding and allot more.

In a nutshell, I give Sharko’s BBQ my full recommendation and look forward to them being a part of the growing Naperville BBQ lineup for many years to come!

SM

It’s All About Food, Community and the Experience at Twisted Olive in Downtown Naperville

Twisted Olive_edited-1by Stuart Meyer

While the concept of gourmet free sample olive oil and balsamic vinegar shops is no longer novel, there is one such place tucked away in Downtown Naperville where they have turned the concept into community through equal ingredients of passion for food, a love for people and a true understanding of the ways in which food connects us.

I first discovered the The Twisted Olive , which is tucked away down the quaint alley off of South Washington Street between Jefferson Ave. and Chicago Ave., shortly after they opened their doors I believe a couple of years ago.  The owner approached my wife and I that day with that fresh and enthusiastic smile you expect in the opening days of a new business.

With the smell of fresh baguettes in the air, I listened to the owner’s vision for Twisted Olive_bottlesthe store which stretched far beyond their gourmet oils and vinegars into classes and events.  From day one, The Twisted Olive aspired to become a community space designed to bring people together using one-of-a-kind foods as the ingredient.  The space itself includes an area with plush chairs designed for planned gatherings, events or a simple reprieve while shopping.  As for their products, the weight of our bag as we exited out to the alley was a testament to the quality.  We’ve returned a number of times since our first visit and our kitchen is regularly stocked with Twisted Olive Oils and Vinegars.  More recently, they’ve also added select wines and craft beers to their experience.

My personal favorites… OLIVE OIL – Fior Fiore EVOO and Truffle; VINEGARS:  25 Year Aged Traditional Balsamic and Lemon White Balsamic.

To those unfamiliar with The Twisted Olive, you are free to sample all of their oils and vinegars to your hearts content, which is always an experience in itself.

Congratulations to the owners and team at The Twisted Olive for your continued growth in popularity and thanks for being part of the World of Naperville!

The Twisted Olive is located at 232 S. Washington Street, Suite 6.  To visit their website, CLICK HERE

SM

4 Ways to Source Locally Grown Foods in Naperville

Naperville CSA_edited-1by Stuart Meyer

As a child growing up in a small Kentucky town, it was easy to understand and appreciate that food did not grow on grocery store shelves.  We always had “community supported agriculture” because we would simply drive out to the family farms where we could buy most everything in season directly from the source, from vegetables to eggs.  All you had to do was pick up what you wanted and either knock on the front door to pay or leave a little money there in the honor-system box.

Nowadays, not only do our kids know less about where our food comes and how it’s produced, often times they miss out on the beauty of how fresh produce and fruit really tastes directly from the source at the point of harvest.  Once you taste fresh foods direct from the source, everything else pales in comparison.  Sure, we can buy watermelons and blueberries in February but the taste is almost always diminished because they were picked at a ripening stage designed for shipment over long distances, which still adds time between harvest and consumption.

Eating fresh locally sourced foods in support of community agriculture and family farms is very much possible in Naperville.  Below are 4 ways to “eat local” here in and around Naperville:

1)  Community Supported Agriculture (CSA):  We’ll start with CSA’s as number one because these local farms are not only a food source, they are anPicking Green Beans incredible source of hands-on education in farming and environmental sustainability.  Here in Naperville, the Green Earth Institute runs a 60 acre CSA farm out on Knoch Knolls Road just around the corner in South Naperville.  They grow 40 different crops and make their fresh harvest available via their CSA farm which the general public can purchase a “share” each Summer.  A share entitles you to either a weekly or bi-weekly portion of the week’s organic harvest which you pick up directly from the CSA farm.  Our family purchased a share last Summer and often times during the season you are allowed to hand-pick a portion.  The kids love the experience and just picking up our share was an education.  However, the  Green Earth Institute doesn’t stop there as they also offer children’s programs and volunteer opportunities.  Click hereto learn more.

2)  Naperville Community Garden Plots and Home Gardening:  From your backyard to Naperville’s backyard, there are terrific opportunities to grow Garden Plant Shoppingyour own fresh harvest.  The City of Naperville, through the Naperville Parks District, sets aside land over on West Street during the Summer months where you can reserve your own community garden plot and grow your own garden.  Of course, with a myriad of garden centers in town, including Keller’s Farmstand, you can always set up a small garden at home either in the ground or using planters on your back deck.

3)  Farmers Markets… with a Caveat: Naperville and many of our surrounding communities offer Farmers Markets weekly during the warmStrawberries weather months.  The Naperville Farmers Markets takes place in season every Saturday at the Fifth Avenue Station and, a newer addition, at Freedom Commons out by I-88.  Wanna find the freshest local products at these markets?  Simply ask the seller whether or not they are the actual grower.  Buying from the actual grower, as opposed to a reseller, means you’re getting it direct for the source and supporting family farmers.

4)  U-Pick Farms:  From the western suburbs to Michigan, there are abundant Blueberry Bucketoptions to take your family out for a fun day of harvesting your own local foods.  Each year, our family heads to South Haven, Michigan to DeGrandchamp Farms to pick 10-20 pounds of fresh blueberries at a time.  Don’t tell anyone, but we may eat one or two during the picking process.  While we eat a ton of fresh blueberries during the Summer, which are as sweet as candy, you can also freeze fresh blueberries for the winter by placing them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, freezing them and then putting into a freezer storage bag.Raspberry Picking

In the Fall, we head just out West to Jonamac Orchard to pick fresh apples right off the trees and enjoy some fresh apple cider doughnuts.  We also stop to pick fresh raspberries along the way from a number u-pick farms.

So there you have it, whether you love to cook, simply love to eat or would like to looking to teach your children that food doesn’t grow on grocery store shelves, there are plenty of ways to experience and support the miracle of locally grown foods in and around Naperville.  SM

A Rare Look At Naperville’s Centennial Beach You Don’t See Often

WoN_Centennial Beach_edited-1

In 1931, during Naperville’s Centennial Celebration, an old quarry was converted into an instant community Summertime treasure.

by Stuart Meyer

Napeville’s Centennial Beach is truly a one-of-a-kind nostalgic treasure and we can thank our community and incredible Naperville Parks District for all their efforts in keeping this tradition alive.

One of our favorite Summer traditions is to pack up a picnic and head out after 5pm on a sweltering weekday with the family when the crowds have dwindled a little.  After that, it’s always fun to make the short walk into downtown for a little ice cream or indulgent cookie dough at Cookie Dough Creations.

Centennial Beach_Then & now

Centennial Beach – Then & Now. (Photos taken from the Naperville Parks District website. http://www.napervilleparks.org)

Of course, the photo above is a different look at this Naperville icon.  As we move toward Spring, I thought everyone would enjoy taking a look at this rare photo of the swimming area I took back in April of 2011 as they were getting ready for the season. SM