Les Dames d'Escoffier Chicago

Post – North Shore Distillery Tour & Lunch

January 29 – The Dames’ recent Sunday jaunt to North Shore Distillery in Green Oaks was both informative and tasty — the best kind of program! Owner Sonja Kassebaum graciously welcomed us to their new facility, which had previously housed a kitchen design space and warehouse, with coffee and pastries from a local bakery. The non-operative kitchen spaces have been repurposed into a spacious tasting room, complete with expansive wood cocktail bar, cocktail lounge, working demo kitchen and retail store; the warehouse, connected to the tasting rooms by a long hallway, now houses the distillery and packaging operations, overseen by Sonja’s charming husband, Derek, a chemical engineer turned liquor alchemist. NS Distillery is a small-batch distillery, and everything is done by hand, including bottling, labeling and packaging.


The distillery is also home to social media darling Ethel the Still (check out her Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds), a hardworking German import from the Arnold Holstein company. Named both for ethyl alcohol and Sonja’s grandmother, this small-scale still pumps out a lot of product. As we watched and listened, Derek shared stories about the process of making gin, even as he was emptying enormous glass jugs of the clear spirit into a large plastic storage barrel. We had an opportunity to mix a wee bit of our own gin; Derek had set aside some small shot glasses of gin distilled with only juniper berries (that’s what makes a gin a gin, by definition), along with droppers of distilled herbs and spices that they use in their Distiller’s Gin No. 6 (including angelica, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander and lemon). We played at this botanical bingo, each person adding a few drops of what flavors appealed to create our own blend. At 90 proof, and with cocktails and lunch still to come, a sip was the perfect palate cleanser. We also learned that while smaller craft distilleries infuse their alcohol with actual botanicals, high-volume commercial brands use flavoring.


We returned to the tasting rooms, where Sonja awaited, along with a lovely lunch of squash soup, chicken salad and a green salad with blue cheese and candied nuts. Sonja mixed several of their popular cocktails, including an herb-forward Norwegian Spring, made with their Aquavit Private Reserve, simple syrup, fresh lime juice, dill and cucumber. It was refreshing and light, as was the Gin Smash, made with Distiller’s Gin No.11.


It was a lovely afternoon, albeit a bit tipsy! This spot is definitely worth a visit, especially if you’re on the North Shore.


Event Information

Joan Reardon Honored as Alumna of the Year with Alverno Library Special Collection

On Saturday, April 29, 2017, Dame Joan Reardon was honored as Alumna of the Year at her undergraduate alma mater, Alverno College in Milwaukee.  Alverno Library is the site she has selected for her manuscripts, culinary collection, and personal papers, which will have a prominent place in the library’s special collections.

“If only one student is inspired by the collection to take up a pen or a whisk, I will be pleased beyond measure,” Reardon said.


Dames Who Read Discuss The Arrangement at Shaw’s Crab House

By Toria Emas

On April 4, Chicago Dames gathered over oysters and champagne to discuss Ashley Warlick’s The Arrangement, an historical fiction about the legendary food writer M.F.K. Fisher. The Dames dined in the Oyster Hall of Fame room at Shaw’s Crab House, where both M.F.K. Fisher and co-author/editor Dame Joan Reardon were inducted in 1990 and 1997, respectively. Read More

Sam Kass @ Chicago Botanic Garden

Join fellow Dames as we listen to Sam Kass, former White House Chef, speak at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

As chef at the White House, Kass did more than cook for the First Family. He played an integral part in Let’s Move!, the national healthy eating campaign; planted a vegetable garden on the White House’s South Lawn; and served as senior policy adviser on nutrition. He continues to advocate for healthy food choices as the senior food analyst at NBC News.

When: Saturday May 20, 2017, 3 p.m.

Where: Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe

From Dame Karen Levin: Hello all. I was able to reserve 10 seats for this very interesting speaker. He is fantastic and I heard a very moving speech by him in Washington D.C. last year. Because I am a member of the garden I was able to use my 20% discount, so the ticket price will be $20 rather than $25. The first 10 Les Dames members (no room for guests this time) to contact me will get the tickets. Please bring a check made out to Les Dames d’ Escoffier for $20 and I will send them all to Jill our treasurer who reimbursed me when I bought them 2 months ago.

Because the parking at the Garden is $20 per car we will need to meet at my home first and leave some cars here and then car pool over to the garden as I have a sticker on my car and can use my membership card for another car for 5 people each.

I have a feeling the event will be over around 4:30 or 5:00pm. So because we will be so close to my favorite restaurant, Prairie Grass Café I called Sarah and she was sweet enough to reserve a table for dinner for those of you who would like to join me. It will be separate checks Dutch treat!

If you want to attend, please contact Karen right away to reserve your ticket: Kale23@comcast.net.





Dames Who Drink @ National Restaurant Show

Dames traveling to Chicago for the National Restaurant Show are cordially invited to attend the Chicago Chapter’s 18th annual “Dames Who Drink” informal networking party. Guests are welcome as well. This would be a good event for prospective members for the Chicago chapter.

When: Monday, May 22, 2017

Where: Baptiste & Bottle

Conrad Chicago Hotel

101 East Erie Street

Chicago, IL60611


Details: Cocktails in bar area from 5:00 to 6:30 (Cash bar), Dinner at 6:30 (Dutch treat)

Parking: Valet Parking at the hotel is free. Please pull up to the front of Conrad Chicago and they will help you park the car.

Seating for dinner is set for only 12 members and guests. If you are planning to come please email or call Karen Levin and let her know if you will be coming for cocktails only or staying for dinner as well. The first 12 to sign up will be guaranteed a seat for dinner. Email KALE23@comcast.net.