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

Dames Who Roll Recap: A Beautiful Night for Bocce!

By Dame Liz Barrett

More than 20 Dames and their guests gathered in River Forest on a gorgeous summer afternoon (Sunday, July 16), hosted by Dame Gina Voci and her husband Ed, for a spirited round of Bocce and a Mediterranean-themed feast. Read More

Lidia Bastianich Receives LDEI Grande Dame Award

From LDEI:

Les Dames d’Escoffier International’s (LDEI) prestigious Grande Dame Award will be presented to Lidia Bastianich, an Emmy award winning public television host, best-selling cookbook author, restaurateur, and owner of a flourishing food and entertainment business. Bastianich is a member of the New York Chapter of LDEI and believes deeply in the cultural richness and diversity of America and in the concept of food as a recipe for peace. Read More

Meet the 2017 New Dames!

By Stacey Ballis

Here are our new Dames!

Stacey Ballis is an author of culinary fiction (novels with recipes), freelance food writer, cookbook author, and writes a lifestyle blog.   Her 10th novel will be released this summer. Sponsored by Toria Emas and Diane Sokolofski. You can find her on Facebook facebook.com/stacey.ballis, Twitter @staceyballis and Instagram @stacey.ballis and her blog, The Polymath Chronicles.

Liz Barrett recently transitioned from VP Communications at Terlato Wines to her own food & wine PR business, “What’s in That Bottle”. Sponsored by Linda Eatherton and Susan Lamb Parenti. You can find her on Facebook, and on Instagram @lizbchicago, and at her website.

Dobra Bielinski is the owner and baker of Delightful Pastries bakeries. Sponsored by Julie Ratowitz and Ina Pinkney. You can find her on Facebook and her website, or visit the Bakery at 5927 W. Lawrence.

Una Choi is owner of Choi Brands Inc., specializing in chef apparel. Sponsored by Jean True and Donna Hesik.

Amy Collins is a literary agent at Squid Ink Literary, specializing in cookbooks. Sponsored by Chandra Ram and Pat Cobe. Connect with her on Facebook.

Kimberly Keslin is a Wine Sales Director at LD Vin. Sponsored by Debra Crestoni and Gina Voci. You can find her on Facebook and on Instagram @galofthegrape

Yvonne Maffei is a food writer, cookbook author and online retail, My Halal Kitchen. Sponsored by Julie Chernoff and Patty Erd. You can find her on Instagram @myhalalkitchen and on her website.

Caroline Margolis is a Partner in Sweet Chickadees, nutrition communications and catering. Sponsored by Susan Lamb Parenti and Sara Reddington. You can find her on Facebook and of her website.

Margaret McSweeney, Culinary communicator. Host of Kitchen Chat Radio and podcast. Sponsored by Ina Pinkney and Jean True. You can subscribe to her podcast on iTunes at Kitchen Chat with Margaret McSweeney, on Facebook, and on Instagram @margaretmcsweeney and on her website.

Lisa Miller is a Marketing Director at Ornua Foods North America. Sponsored by Roisin Hennerty and Margaret Laport. You can find her on Facebook.

Susan Weller, Hospitality and Brand development, owner of her company SW Strategies. Sponsored by Pat Cobe and Joan Driggs.   You can find her on Facebook and on Instagram @susanweller and at her website.


Recap: Annual Meeting and Dinner

By Stacey Ballis

The LDE Chicago annual meeting and dinner, held June 1 and hosted by Dame Maria Concannon at her restaurant, Don Juan’s, was a spectacular event. The Dames were treated to a cocktail hour with bubbly and margaritas, along with unique nibbles like barbecued duck taquitos with sweet corn cream, little cups of ceviche, and bacon-wrapped shrimp. A family-style meal followed, with Maria’s famous guacamole and jicama salsa as well as traditional Mexican favorites like beef tenderloin in chipotle sauce, pork tenderloin in pasilla chile sauce, and a chicken with six chiles served with rice, black beans and tortillas. The evening was capped off with platters of pastries and a variety of cooling paletas, a perfect summer celebration. Read More

Dame of Distinction: Toria Emas

By Sharon Olson

It is my honor and pleasure to share some thoughts about our newest Dame of Distinction, Toria Emas. This is a lifetime achievement award given to a long time member who has achieved excellence in her career and has made outstanding contributions to our chapter, and Toria is richly deserving of this honor.  Read More