By Dame Liz Barrett
More than 75 Chicago Dames and guests gathered at the gorgeous Logan Square home of Dame Stacey Ballis and husband Bill Thurmond on Sunday, Jan. 21 for an evening of excellent company, cuisine and cocktails to celebrate the new year, Escoffier-style.
To start the evening with French flair, Stacey enlisted friend and general manager of acclaimed cocktail hotspot The Violet Hour, Eden Laurin, to create a modern take on Escoffier’s Punch Romaine. The heavenly concoction of aged rum, spiced rum, Aperol, bitters and sparkling wine got the party off to a lively start! Huge thanks to our president, Dame Veronica Hastings who batched gallons of this elixir.
Dame Judith Hines brought to life the icon behind Les Dames d’Escoffier by creating a number of striking tableaux featuring Escoffier books and French copper cookware from Stacey’s own collection.
A selection of fantastic wines also was available, including a beautiful Napa Sauvignon Blanc and Tres Sabores Napa Valley Red Blend, both made by Napa winery owner and winemaker and fellow Dame Julie Johnson.
After President Veronica Hastings welcomed guests and shared details of the upcoming Culinarium gala on April 30, Dame Stacey Ballis shared the menu: red beans and rice made with “VIBs” – very important beans – provided by Heaven on Seven owner Jimmy Bannos, braised collard greens and corn muffins. The recipe for the entrée came from New Orleans friend Pableaux Johnson. It was delicious, hearty and warming – a perfect way to welcome the new year with friends. The sweet finale was Eli’s cheesecake, thanks to Dame Jolene Worthington.
A highlight of the evening was a book exchange. Each guest brought a favorite gift-wrapped book, including a note about why it was a favorite. Books accumulated in a happy, colorful heap, and each Dame then chose one at random. Books ranged from the Alinea cookbook to Jane Austen to Kitchen Creativity to numerous Julia Child books (naturally!)
But wait, there was more! Each guest left with a favor bag (special thanks to Dame Shannon Kinsella for help assembling these beauties) including food and drink recipes from the evening, a custom-made bottle of peach melba syrup from Jo Snow – in honor of August Escoffier’s signature dessert, Peach Melba — as well as a miniature homemade parsnip spice cake made by our “hostess with the mostest,” Stacey Ballis. It was a fun and delicious way to start 2018!