“Gray Skies, Bright Ideas” was the theme of the 31st annual Les Dames d’Escoffier International conference in Seattle, WA but as it turned out, it was bright skies and really bright ideas! With unusually warm and sunny weather, more than 250 Dames from around the world convened upon Seattle to see old friends, make new ones, learn, grow and become inspired.
Each year, attendees from Chicago talk about how stimulating and educational the conference is and how it energizes them to become more active in Les Dames to keep our chapter a leading one in LDEI. Some of the 15 Chicago Dames who attended this year shared their personal highlights from the Conference:
One of Carla Williams’ most memorable moments was the pre-conference excursion, Traditions & Tastes of Seattle’s International Scene. “We visited the Tsue Chong Company to see the production process of their won ton wrappers, Asian egg noodles and rice noodles, and fortune cookies,” said Carla. “This family-owned business only recently switched to more modern mechanics, and much is still done by-hand. I specifically learned that rice noodles start with actual rice – not rice flour. They soak the rice to make a slurry first, and the result is a super smooth noodle.”
Julie Chernoff chose the Pike Place Market Foodie’s Paradise tour: “I took an insider’s tour of Pike Place Market, and it was fascinating. I had no idea that there was such an important social justice component to the market (daycare, low income senior living, a food bank, etc.), nor did I realize how enormous it truly is. The food tour company is a Dame-owned business, which made it even more meaningful.”
Liz Barrett opted for the Rustic & Elegant Countryside Culinary Adventure. “We visited majestic Snoqualmie Falls, one of the area’s most impressive natural wonders, and then on to beautiful Carnation Farms (yes, that Carnation, of the famous coffee creamer) for a tour, capped by a lunch featuring farm-grown food and paired with fabulous Washington wines,” said Liz. “But the highlight of the day was Château Saint Michelle in Woodinville, Washington’s oldest winery. We were treated to the “Sensory Sojourn” blind tasting hosted by Saint Michelle’s head of Wine Education, Dame Linda Chauncey. It was really fun to team up with fellow Dames from all over, working together to identify smells and tastes of so many beautiful wines.”
Portia Belloc- Lowndes’ “pinch me ” moment was not only witnessing her food hero, Marion Nestle, receive the Grande Dame Award but also having a conversation with her about food policy. “Having access to talk with someone like Marion Nestle – whom I’ve always held in such high regard — was just amazing,” said Portia.
Sharon Olson, LDEI Treasurer, was excited about sharing the first annual Les Dames trend report, which everyone received on a clever wine-cork jump drive. If you would like a copy of the full Trend Report, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and it can be emailed to you.
Sharon also fondly recalled “dinner with Chicago Dames and one of our Legacy award winners, which reminds me of why Les Dames inspires us.”
Dining out, of course, is a popular topic, as Karen Levin picked dinner at Seattle hot spot Marjorie with a group of Chicago Dames as one of her highlights.
Veronica Hastings couldn’t decide which seminar was more fascinating. “Oysters: A Taste of Place,” featured Lissa James Monberg, a fifth-generation oyster farmer, and Shina Wysocki, a second generation oyster farmer, who demystified the origin of the oyster and talked about farming techniques and ecological issues. Dame Renee Erickson, chef and owner of Sea Creatures restaurants in Seattle, led the discussion and tasting of four local varieties.” “Each one had distinct flavors and textures,” said Veronica. “Fascinating!”
The “The Evolution of Rosé” seminar included a delightful history of rosé presented by Dame Katherine Cole, author of Rose All Day, and Dame Dawn Smith, sommelier at The Inn at Langley on Whidbey Island. Katherine’s extensive history of rosé coupled with Dawn’s fabulous knowledge of food and wine pairings and commentary during the tasting was a rosé lover’s dream.
And in order to protect the innocent, no names will be mentioned but many Dames raved about the “Cannabis Cuisine” seminar. Washington was the first state to legalize recreational use of marijuana in 2012, and we heard from an entrepreneur who started a popular line of edibles and a scientist studying the effects of marijuana on various conditions, from pain to mental health and brain acuity.
Toria Emas says she always looks forward to renewing friendships from across the pond and North America at conference. “The pre-conference tours are the best way to meet new Dames and learn about the local food scene,” said Toria. “The U.S. West Coast has a vibrant Asian immigrant community, and it was moving and uplifting to see how Seattle’s second- and third-generation Asians honor their elders by carrying on family businesses and traditions while innovating and updating procedures.”
The conference wrapped with an amazing preview of next year’s conference by Dame Sylvia Ganier channeling the inimitable Patsy Cline. Check out her amazing performance below, which will inspire you to plan your trip to Nashville next year, Oct. 24-27, 2019 for Nashville: Rhythm & Roots!