A Sunday Afternoon at Opus One Winery

A Tasting of Opus One and Overture with Winemaker Michael Silacci 

Opus One is is arguably one of the most heralded and iconic wines in all of Napa Valley and the world. It started as a collaboration between California wine legend Robert Mondavi and French wine legend Baron Philippe de Rothschild. Dame Gina Voci, long-time Central States Division sales manager for Opus One wines, arranged a priceless Opus One experience that you can now enjoy via video link from the comfort of your own couch.

Michael Silacci didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up. So he took a couple of years to travel through Asia and Europe to window-shop for a profession. When he arrived in France, his knowledge of French was limited to “bon voyage”. Someone suggested that if he wanted to eat well, learn to speak French, and earn some francs, he should harvest grapes. Two-hour lunches in the vineyard and fine wine were all it took to lead him to a career in winemaking and a life spent walking among the vines.

On Sunday afternoon, Feb. 28, Michael joined us and talked about what it takes to produce an iconic internationally known wine, the impact of organic and carbon farming, meticulous winemaking, environmental stewardship, legacy and his unique philosophy of team management. Following the discussion and tasting, remain online for a virtual tour of the recently opened Partners’ Room for visitors, featuring a discussion of newly acquired curated works of wine-related art.

To learn more about Opus One, click here

About Michael Silacci: Assuming full responsibility for all aspects of vineyard management and winemaking, Michael was named Winemaker at Opus One in May 2003.  He has been at Opus One since March of 2001, first serving as Director of Viticulture and Enology. He is also currently serving as President of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers association.

Prior to his current appointment, Michael spent six years as winemaker at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, one year as winemaker at King Estate in Oregon, and six years at Beaulieu Vineyard as enologist and viticulturist. He has also made wine in France and Chile. He holds a master’s degree in viticulture from U.C. Davis in addition to under-graduate degrees in enology and viticulture from U.C. Davis and the Université de Bordeaux.

Embracing a holistic vision of winegrowing as the ultimate expression of terroir, Michael ensures that the connection between viticulture and winemaking at Opus One is seamless, reflecting the philosophy of founders Baron Philippe de Rothschild and Robert Mondavi.





What’s Cookin’, Dames?

By Carol Mighton Haddix

If you are like me, you’ve been cooking up a storm during this pandemic. I’m finding I’m cooking batches of things such as chili and stews, and freezing leftovers for later. And I’m getting good about using up the cans of food in the back of the cupboard or the almost-too-old carrots hiding in the crisper drawer. In doing so, I’m stretching out the time between trips to the supermarket as much as possible!

What are other Les Dames members cooking? I decided to find out. Here are six responses filled with useful ideas for all of us.

JeanMarie Brownson, JMB Culinary Consulting:

It’s a rare day when I don’t cook. I enjoy the entire activity, from shopping to dishwashing. I especially relish cooking for others. During the pandemic, this passion involves covered containers and sturdy tote bags, rather than table settings and napkin folding.

Last spring, I made tray bakes such as brownies, blondies, lemon bars, and spice cake. I delivered packages of these goodies to my mother’s assisted-living home to share with caregivers. In June, she passed due to Covid. For comfort, I turned to the foods she lovingly cooked for our family: Oven-fried chicken, split pea soup, spaghetti and meatballs.

In the fall, my husband‘s foraging brought a bounty of maitake mushrooms. We turned the huge, meaty mushrooms into burgers, risotto, and stovetop mushroom lasagna (find it in Food & Wine magazine, October 2020).

More recently, I find pleasure in simmering large kettles of soup. I drop off containers of bean and smoked turkey soup, creamy squash bisque, and chunky vegetable chowders on the porches of family members. My 16-year-old nephew (a good cook in the making) sent me Yotam Ottolenghi’s gorgeous new book, Flavor. As a thank you, I text him photos while I’m cooking. Ottolenghi’s recipe for sweet corn polenta ranks as my favorite polenta ever.

Friends and family tell me they’ve turned their former commuting hours into cooking time. My wish is that they embrace the good value, nutrition and satisfaction that comes with a lifetime of cooking. If not, I’ll welcome them to my table. Soon, I hope, soon.

Madelaine Bullwinkel, owner Chez Madelaine:

In celebration of my son Benton’s 50th birthday recently, I abandoned all health considerations and prepared rakott kumpl (see recipe). He is so much like his Hungarian grandfather, who loved rich, peasant dishes like this. My grandmother did not cook once she immigrated to the States, and my mother’s English heritage made her ill-equipped and not really interested in learning Hungarian cuisine.

Rakott kumpl proved to be a great culinary compromise. It was a sausage casserole my mother could easily master to please my father. I confess to adding a few French touches of my own. I turned the layer of sour cream into a sauce and added bacon lardons and breadcrumbs. To balance the richness and add color to the plate, I also prepared a sorrel puree and a side dish of savoy cabbage cooked in duck fat.

Suzanne Florek, President, Suzanne Florek, Inc.

Covid cooking? More than ever! Our kids moved in for various periods during the last year, including girlfriends and wives. Meals on the weekends became a fun craft for the family. Kombucha has been a weekly event, leftover summer berries made into a simple syrup laced with fresh ginger and lemon – the favorite.

Recipes were dug up from little black books I used to carry in my pocket when I worked at at Spiaggia, downtown. We drank lots of wine and made ravioli, pappardelle and a fabulous grilled chicken salad with pesto and golden raisins, all from those little black books.

Rose Levy Beranbaum’s rosemary focaccia has been perfected as well as Chad Robertson’s basic country bread. My sourdough starter found itself a permanent location on the kitchen counter.

But the true test of Covid cooking was … the pandemic wedding. My Nick was married to his lovely wife Noa during the pandemic! We were never certain the wedding could actually happen but it did, complete with both a shower and a Friday party night before the wedding in a tented back yard.

Food for dozens of people each night, all in individual, Covid-friendly, cellophane bags tied with bright pink and gold twist ties. The shower had a Lollapalooza theme, and  the coup de grâce was an 8-layer tie-dyed cake. A cylinder of money came rolling out of the cake when the topper was removed by the bride. She was surprised, to say the least!

The night before the wedding, the party ate empanadas with romesco sauce, watermelon salad, individual charcuterie plates, rosemary-marinated pork tenderloin sandwiches with cumin mayo, gougères filled with pimiento cheese, whoopie pies, pound cake with blueberry sauce, and cookies. Emotions filled our kitchen with love, energy and chaos. So yes! There has been much more cooking in our home during the pandemic.

Rita Gutekanst, former owner, Limelight Catering:

I’ve been cooking more than anything else in the last year. Mostly vegetarian recipes from the NYT Cooking website. I typically have basic veggies in the fridge, canned beans and tomatoes in the pantry, and lots of spices. The recipes are adaptable to what’s on hand, I can usually find short cuts and the “notes” are helpful. If I have fish or chicken available, I’ll add that for more protein.

A few easy favorites: Indian butter chickpeas by Melissa Clark (see recipe); sweet and spicy tofu with soba noodles by Sarah Copeland; and curried carrot and coconut soup by Mark Bittman.



Eleanor Hansen, retired (but has been known to refer to herself as “consultant emeritus”):

I tend to be a pantry cook, relying on what I have in the cupboard, freezer and fridge. There are a number of must-have ingredients I always have on hand including:

  • Sun-dried tomatoesin seasoned oil (I like the ones in a little jar from Trader Joe’s). Toss them with greens, shards of Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of balsamic for a quick salad. Or I toss sun dried tomatoes with long pasta, defrosted frozen peas and Parm for a quick supper.
  • I’ve also discovered pistachios for cooking, since you now can buy the shelled. Add them, coarsely chopped, to pasta with sun dried tomatoes and Parm. And for an easy side dish for chicken, pork or fish, add pistachios to basmati rice with dried cranberries and orange rind. (I always keep some leftover orange peel in the freezer; it grates easily frozen).
  • We seldom eat bacon, but I consider it an essential indulgence for dishes like shrimp and grits, quiche Lorraine, and this Brussels sprouts recipe:
  • Cut about a pound of Brussels sprouts in half and toss with 1/4 cup olive oil and 3 tablespoons maple syrup. Spread them on a shallow baking sheet, preferably non-stick and top with 3 or 4 slices of bacon cut in small pieces. Roast at 400 degrees about 30 minutes or until the Brussels sprouts are tender and caramelized. You might want to turn them half-way through.

Judith Dunbar Hines, culinary instructor:

I have been cooking three times a day since March. I’m trying to cook from the basket filled with those clippings and notes I’ve saved to “try this someday.” It has kept me in new recipes and kept it interesting.


As some of you know, I worked for Martin Yan for several years in the early ‘90s. He did a recent Zoom class for Chinese New Year and it was great fun to “be in the kitchen with him” again, and to remember all of those many, many demos I arranged for him. He made a pan-seared fish with a miso sauce, which I tried to duplicate that night. It was delicious!

Margaret Laport, Client Insights Consultant (for Conagra), IRI Worldwide:

I have perfected mashed potatoes. It’s a simple recipe, but because of the neuropathy in my hands, it was difficult to peel all the potatoes, so I found an electric peeler, and now I am in business! The recipe is just yellow potatoes, Kerrygold butter, and Maldon salt!



Indian Butter Chickpeas

Yield: 4 to 6 servings; Cooking time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Rita Gutekanst has been cooking this vegetarian riff on Indian butter chicken, spiced with cinnamon, garam masala and fresh ginger. Featured in The New York Times, it’s from The Meat Lover’s Guide To Eating Less Meat.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large onion, minced

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

4 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

2 teaspoons each: ground cumin, sweet paprika, garam masala

1 small cinnamon stick

1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled plum tomatoes

1 (15-ounce) can coconut milk

2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained

Ground cayenne (optional)

Cooked white rice, for serving

½ cup cilantro leaves and tender stems

  1. Melt butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook until golden and browned around the edges, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. (Don’t be tempted to turn the heat up to medium-high; keeping the heat on medium ensures even browning without burning the butter. Stir in garlic and ginger, and cook another 1 minute. Stir in cumin, paprika, garam masala and cinnamon stick, and cook another 30 seconds.
  2. Add tomatoes with their juices. Using a large spoon or flat spatula, break up and smash the tomatoes in the pot (or you can use a pair of kitchen shears to cut the tomatoes while they are still in the can). Stir in coconut milk and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, and continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and continuing to mash up the tomatoes if necessary to help them break down.
  3. Stir in chickpeas and a pinch of cayenne if you like. Bring the pot back up to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 10 minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve spooned over white rice, and topped with cilantro.


Rakott Krumpl

Yield: 6 to 8 servings; Cooking time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Madelaine Bullwinkel served this rustic Hungarian sausage casserole for her son’s recent birthday.

8 ounces thick-sliced, applewood-smoked bacon

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup milk, hot

2 cups sour cream

Sea salt and ground white pepper, to taste

6 yellow potatoes, boiled, peeled, thinly sliced

8 large eggs, boiled, peeled, sliced

1-pound Hungarian smoked sausage (Bende) or Polish kielbasa, sliced

1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons Canola oil or bacon fat

1 clove garlic, peeled, crushed

1⁄2 cup fine breadcrumbs

  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil a deep 4-quart casserole. Slice the bacon strips into 1⁄4″ wide lardons; cook over medium heat in a skillet. Remove pieces just before they brown; drain and reserve. Pour off and reserve all but two tablespoons of the fat.
  2. Add flour to the two tablespoons of fat in the skillet to make a roux. Cook over medium heat, stirring, about 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in the hot milk,. Return to the heat and whisk until the mixture thickens, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in enough sour cream to make an easily spreadable sauce. Season to taste. Reserve.
  3. Alternate layers of sliced potato, egg, and sausage in the prepared dish. Lightly salt the potato layer. Spread a coating of the sour cream over the sausage layer along with a sprinkling of parsley and 1⁄4 of the bacon pieces.
  4. Brown the crushed garlic in a skillet with two tablespoons of reserved bacon fat or vegetable oil. Stir in the breadcrumbs to coat them in the fat; cook until they lightly brown. Sprinkle the crumbs over the top layer of the casserole along with any remaining bacon pieces and parsley. Bake 1 hour. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Zooming Through Farm & Kitchen

By Carol Mighton Haddix

The day was squinting-ly sunny, warm…delightful. But for one group of Dames and guests, the sensory input instead came through a computer screen. We were participating in a Virtual Farm Tour & Cooking Demo on Aug. 9 through the magic of Zoom. Dames Jeanne Nolan, Sarah Stegner, and Portia Belloc Lowndes led the tour and class. A different take on the farm-to-table trend, the event was open to the public, attracting 59 participants, and served as a fundraiser for Green City Market’s Edible Garden Project, which helps feed needy Chicagoans during the pandemic.

Portia kicked off the event by introducing Dame Mary Kay Gill, who gave an overview of Les Dames, and described our local Green Tables initiatives, which includes supporting the Edible Garden at Green City Market. Then we Zoomed straight into Sarah’s kitchen at her Prairie Grass Café in Northbrook. Earlier, participants had the opportunity to pick up prepped ingredients at Prairie Grass Café and cook along with Sara at home. She started with fresh, wild Alaskan cod fillets that she coated with egg, oat flour and bread crumbs before sauteeing.

“It’s all about being instinctual in the kitchen, not just following a recipe,” Sarah said. She fried the fish in clarified butter for added flavor. “Control the temperature in frying,” she cautioned; if the fish is browning too quickly, turn down the heat to give it time to cook through.”

We then zoomed to Jeanne Nolan at her Middlefork Farm in Northfield, where she runs The Organic Gardener, which helps Chicagoans set up and maintain produce gardens. She took us on a tour that included herbs (“I’m really liking the lemon verbena right now,” she said), edible flowers such as nasturtium, plus leeks, fennel, eggplant, corn, and many types of tomatoes (“my favorite is an orange cherry tomato called jaune flame.”)

Around the gardens, Jeanne has planted flowers to help fight insect invasions. “We call it our Border Patrol,” she laughed. The blackberries are coming in now, she showed us, but the orchard’s cherry trees are done for the season. Nearby, an alpaca grazed in a pasture, and the farm’s two cute goats, Chocolate and Olive, came out for a visit.

Kale from the farm starred in the next dish Sarah demonstrated: a wilted kale salad with cherry tomatoes, leeks, corn, and grated cheese that is tossed with a pungently good pecan/herb pesto. “This is the kind of dish that can change with the seasons,” Sarah said. “Use whichever greens, herbs and vegetables are in season.” (See recipe below.)

For the grand finale, Portia mixed up a cooling cucumber Mezcal cocktail, using one of Jeanne’s father’s products, La Luna Mezcal from Mexico. She made a sugar syrup with equal parts sugar and water, and sliced cucumbers, fresh ginger and mint. It’s easily stored in the fridge, she said, for up to a week. She then mixed two ounces of that syrup with two ounces Mezcal in a cocktail glass and topped it off with seltzer water and garnishes of lemon grass, lime and mint. After that colorful vision, we all were ready to Zoom to cocktail hour, cook up some kale — and toast our fabulous tour leaders!

Left: The finished dish, courtesy of Dame Stacey Ballis


Warm kale, leek, tomato, and corn salad with pesto

4-6 servings


2 cups basil, parsley or a mix of herbs

1/2 cup toasted pecans

½ cup grated cheese, such as Pleasant Ridge Reserve or Parmesan

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Freshly ground pepper to taste


2 tablespoons clarified butter or olive oil

2 cups torn kale

1 cup julienned leeks

Salt, pepper to taste

2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half

½ cup fresh corn kernels

2 tablespoons grated cheese, such as Pleasant Ridge Reserve or Parmesan

1.For pesto, place herbs, pecans, cheese, oil, and pepper in food processor or blender. Process until chopped fine. Set aside.

2.For salad, heat olive oil in 10-12-inch sauté pan over medium high heat. Add kale; cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove kale to a bowl; set aside.

3.Add more olive oil to pan if needed. Add leeks; cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes; cook 3-4 minutes. Stir in the corn, kale and pesto. Simmer over low heat until heated through. Sprinkle with cheese.

Curious Kitchen: Thanks for a Super Simple Side

CURIOUS-thanks-2Puzzling over what to serve alongside the Thanksgiving turkey? Sure, figuring out the supporting players is a challenge especially with family “requirements”: Granny’s cornbread stuffing. Uncle Jim’s canned jellied cranberry sauce. Our favorite? A super simple side called Albuquerque Corn from Dame Abby Mandel. It has great flavor and crunch (thanks to jicama) and takes 5 minutes to cook.

It’s part of this Thanksgiving Harvest Feast from “Chicago Cooks: 25 Years of Food History with Menus, Recipes, and Tips from Les Dames d’ Escoffier Chicago” (Surrey Books, 2007). Perhaps you’ll find more culinary inspiration for this holiday season.

— Dame Judy Hevrdejs

Thanksgiving Harvest Feast

Mixed Green Salad with Pine Nuts and Pomegranate Seeds

Brined Turkey

Cranberry Kumquat Conserve with Dried Cherries

Albuquerque Corn

Brussels Sprouts

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Brioche Dinner Rolls

Rustic Pumpkin Tart

Sip: Gewurztraminer or Riesling or Cru Beaujolais or a refined, oak- and bottle aged-red.

Albuquerque Corn

Makes: 6 servingsCURIOUS-thanks-1

Prep time: 15 minutes + Cooking time: 5 minutes

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 large ears of corn, kernels cut off  (about 2 cups)

1/2 jalapeno chile, seeded  and minced

1 small jicama, peeled, chopped (about 2 cups)

8 green onions, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)

1/2 teaspoon each: ground cumin, salt

Heat oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add corn and jalapeno. Cook, stirring often, until corn is hot, about 2 minutes. Add jicama, onions, cumin and salt. Heat thoroughly, stirring occasionally, about 2 more minutes. Adjust seasoning. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Curious Kitchen: Amelia Levin’s Peanut Butter Bites

By Dame Judy Hevrdejs

We’ve have changed from swimsuit to sweater season, but that doesn’t stop the lure of Lake Michigan and the cottages and towns along America’s Third Coast. There’s glorious autumn foliage to be enjoyed on a hike or by cruising the region’s winding roads. When winter delivers its snowy blanket, the trails await cross country skiers.  To sustain yourself and your family, turn to Dame Amelia Levin’s book, “The Lake Michigan Cottage Cookbook” (Storey Publishing) which celebrates the farmers, cheese makers, bakers and chefs with more than 100 recipes from Illinois, Wisconsin,  Michigan and Indiana, from Sheboygan to Saugatuck.

Her book reflects the region’s four seasons, with recipes that: “run richer and heartier, perfect for a colder fall or winter day,” writes Amelia. So consider Swedish Meatballs from  Al Johnson’s Restaurant in Sister Bay. Or Pasties Two Ways from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. There is Prairie Grass Cafe’s Turnip, Squash, and Scallion Vegetable Platter from Dame Sarah Stegner. And Hewn Bakery’s Rolled Oat and Maple Syrup Scones from Dame Ellen King

But the Curious Kitchen, always on the  lookout for recipes with just a few ingredients for its 3-Ingredient Solution, likes the book’s Peanut Butter Bites. Inspired by portable bites Amelia and her husband enjoyed at the La Grange General Store in Whitewater, Wisconsin, they can energize a hike, bike ride, road trip or cross country ski afternoon. We like them plain or rolled in coconut.


Peanut Butter Bites

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Freezing Time:  1 to 2 hours

Makes: 16  (1 1/2-inch) bites

1 1/2 cups peanut butter

1 cup almond meal flour

8 ounces Medjool dates, pitted

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Optional: 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed. For rolling, unsweetened cocoa powder or unsweetened coconut flakes

  1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with waxed paper. Combine peanut butter, almond meal, dates, flaxseed (if using), and cinnamon in a food processor. Process until mixture is well combined and forms a ball.
  2. Roll mixture into 16 1.5-ounce balls (roughly the size of a walnut). Roll balls in unsweetened cocoa powder or unsweetened coconut flakes (if using).
  3. Place bites on wax-paper-lined baking sheet. Freeze 1 to 2 hours. Transfer to a resealable plastic bag for longer storage.