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 Read: The Arrangement by Ashley Warlick

Calling all M.F.K. Fisher fans: Dames Who Read will be reading The Arrangement by Ashley Warlick for our next meeting.  This is a fictionalized accounting of a portion of M.F.K.’s life, primarily at the time she was writing Serve It Forth. Members are encouraged to review this and/or other M.F.K. Fisher’s work, including The Art of Eating and others.

Our very own Joan Reardon, who knew M.F.K. and has written extensively about her, will be in attendance to share her personal thoughts and remembrances – a rare treat for fans of both of these ladies, or a great way to make the acquaintance of them for those not already familiar.

DATE:   Tuesday  April 4

TIME:    6:00 – 8:00 pm

PLACE: Shaw’s Crab House, 21 East Hubbard, Chicago

PRICE:  $40 per person (includes 1 glass of wine and a light, M.F.K.-style dinner). Buy Tickets

Reservations will close at noon on Friday March 31

Breakfast with Ina Screening at Kendall College

Join fellow Dames for a private screening of Dame Ina Pinkney’s Breakfast with Ina documentary, which won the Audience Award for Best Documentary Film at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. The showing will be followed by a reception with light appetizers, wine and soft drinks and a Q&A with Ina.

When: Wednesday, March 29, 6-9 p.m.

Where: Kendall College, 900 N. Branch St., Chicago

Note: this is a private event open to Les Dames Chicago members and their guests only

Fat Tuesday the Polish Way

Join Master Baker Dobra Bielinski at her Jefferson Park shop, Delightful Pastries for a hands on lesson in making Pazcki (doughnuts) and Chrusciki (Angel Wings). Goody Bags for all who participate! All LDE Chicago members and guests are invited, but this event is limited 18 participants.   Read More

Marlena de Blasi’s The Umbrian Thursday Night Supper Club

By Toria Emas

The women in The Umbrian Thursday Night Supper Club (TUTNSC) were strong characters who did not travel too far afield, but were strong forces in their own community. Dames Who Read do travel and brought some lovely ingredients to Diane Sokolofski’s house on a warm February evening. Diane arranged a bountiful kitchen island with all the ingredients that each member provided from a favorite trip or a pantry purge. This became the “Tuesday Night Supper Club” with all members participating in the dinner from cooking, setting the table to washing the dishes.

In the book the author was known as the stranger and at the Dames event Barbara Glunz was the token stranger since she had never participated in the book club. Her contribution of an Italian Aperitivo and wines including a Vin Santo were very much appreciated. Diane took the “local focus” of the book to heart. She prepared Italian Sausage procured from Local on West Willow and made her own Ricotta that Dames used in various forms on the hearty bread made by Stacey Ballis.

Other contributions ranged from Stacey’s chicken and cabbage to Julie Ratowitz’s homemade pomegranate molasses that Mary Kay Gill used on the baked pears with prosciutto. Sharon Olson brought Pecorino that was the most used item in TUTNSC and a pleasant Sicilian Rose’. Carol Haddix made a mouth-watering pasta dish with cream and three types of mushrooms. Jennifer Anderson assembled a green salad with fresh herbs, tomatoes and goodies from her many travels.

Polly Peters whirled the mixer preparing a savory dessert while Judith Himes orchestrated the timing and arrived with a basket of extra ingredients to complement the menu. Both Toria Emas and Priscilla Cretier remembered to bring their own napkins as the TUTNSC required. Toria also brought a 1998 Italian wine that paired perfectly with the meal. Her pistachios garnished the salad and bruschetta as well as the cheese tray. To ease the pressure on Diane, Kathy Ruff provided glassware and took over the dishwashing duty.

As with TUTNSC, Dames Who Read feel that the Book Club is an opportunity to support, sup and share life stories with sister Dames. The next date for Dames Who Read is April 4 at Shaw’s with special guest Joan Reardon discussing The Arrangement by Ashley Warlick.