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 Test Their Knowledge on Chicago Food Trivia

Dames met at Eli’s Cheesecake on Monday evening, April 1 to test their knowledge on Chicago food trivia. Dame Chandra Ram and Dame Carol Mighton Haddix, one of the co-editors of The Chicago Food Encyclopedia, led a fascinating presentation featuring many contributors to the book.

Along the way, answers were revealed to a truly challenging quiz developed by Carol.  All of the answers are featured in the book. (Do you know when smelting season starts in Chicago?) Download the quiz here –  and be warned – the answers are on the last page, so don’t peek ahead! Leave a comment and let us know how you fared.

Huge thanks to Eli’s Cheesecake for hosting us and sharing a truly tempting buffet of their delicious cheesecakes, cakes, cookies, brownies and other goodies! It was “dessert for dinner” for many Dames and no one was complaining about that!

Dames Who Read Pick “The Food Explorer” for April 30

A1oCDQZ1TZL._AC_UL872_QL65_When we plan our meals or consider a restaurant menu, we are all now conscious of farm to table and local ingredients. We take things like mushrooms, zucchini, and durum wheat for granted. We may accept things from far away as long as we think they were sustainably raised things like avocado, mango, grapes, raspberries and cashews are all common on our tables.

But where did these first grow and how did they make it to the Chicago market?  From The Food Explorer we learn where these seemingly everyday items originated and the lengths they had to travel before they reached our farms and markets.

David Fairchild was a young, white slave-owning scientist interested in biology in the 1890’s when he was invited to travel to far-away Java to study plants. This is the story of how that first foray led to a lifetime in what would become the USDA as he traveled the globe to search out plants which would provide new products for early American farmers and palates. We learn the lengths he had to go through to get seedlings, cuttings, leaves and spores shipped in mere days — far before DHL overnight air flights – including one shipment of 20 tons of plant material from China!  And how he communicated and fought for these successes  and a few of his failures.

As one of the book’s blurbs says, “Daniel Stone has written an elegant food history, a thrilling tour of a lost world sometimes glamorous, sometimes dangerous and always highly entertaining.”

We will honor his dedication and derring-do to bring us so many now-common fruits and vegetables with a special menu being planned by Chef Tim Graham and Sommelier Rebekah Graham of TWAIN restaurant.  Join us!

DATE:   Tuesday, April 30, 2019
TIME:    6:00- 8:00 pm
LOCATION:  TWAIN restaurant, 2445 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

COST: $40 per person; includes dinner and one beverage of the restaurant’s choosing. Sign up and purchase tickets here.

No Foolin’! Chicago Food Trivia Night is April 1

519PtyfuIXLThink you know everything there is to know about Chicago and its food? Here’s your chance to prove it, when we dive into some of the most fun facts in the pages of The Chicago Food Encyclopedia.

Co-Editor Carol Mighton Haddix and a panel of Dames who contributed to The Chicago Food Encyclopediawill be on-hand to tell us stories about what they learned as they researched the wide world of local food, places and people. You may be surprised at many of the things they uncovered!

And in keeping with the April Fools Day date, we will do our best to fool you with a list of true or false facts! You’ll want to be the winner of that quiz!

Books will be available for purchase and Carol and her co-editors Bruce Kraig and Colleen Sen will be there to personally sign them. And yes, of course, there will be treats from Eli’s Cheesecake too!  This fun and fantastic event is open to Dames and guests. Have a prospective member in mind? Bring them!

  • WHEN: Monday, April 1 from 6:30 – 8 p.m.
  • WHERE: Eli’s Cheesecake Company, 6701 Forest Preserve Drive, Chicago 60634
  • PRICE: $20 per person
  • Purchase tickets and get all the details here

Plenty of free parking available.

“Dames Who Read” Dine & Dish on Southern Comfort Food

“Dames Who Read” organizer Judith Hines gathered a hungry group of Dames around a table laden with Southern comfort food for February’s culinary book club event. The book: The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma’s Table by Rick Bragg. The venue: Ina Mae’s Tavern, one of Chicago’s newest hot spots by acclaimed chef, Brian Jupiter, who brings his southern roots to the menu.

The group dined on cheddar biscuits, Cajun mac-n-cheese, beans, pork chops, deviled eggs, fried okra, sweet potato hash, and fried apple pies as they dished about the book.

In the book, author Rick Bragg introduces his mother, Margaret Bragg, who does not own a single cookbook. She measures in “dabs” and “smidgens” and “tads” and “you know, hon, just some.” She cannot be pinned down on how long to bake corn bread –“about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the mysteries of your oven.” Her notion of farm-to-table is a flatbed truck. Many of her recipes pre-date the Civil War, handed down skillet by skillet, from one generation of Braggs to the next. In this New York Times bestsellerRick Bragg finally preserves his heritage by telling the stories that framed his mother’s cooking and education, from childhood into old age. Because good food always has a good story, and a recipe, writes Bragg, is a story like anything else.

Premiere of “A Fine Line” Documentary to Honor Carrie Nahabedian

Screening Tribute Tour Social Media GraphicWe are pleased to share an advance invitation to the premiere of an exciting new documentary shining a spotlight on women in the restaurant industry – including our own Dame Carrie Nahabedian, chef and co-owner of the critically acclaimed Brindille restaurant!

In this award-winning documentary, entitled “A Fine Line,” filmmaker Joanna James explores why less than 7% of head chefs and restaurant owners are women, presenting candid insights from world-renowned chefs including Carrie Nahabedian, as well as another Dame, Lidia Bastianich, Dominique Crenn, April Bloomfield, Barbara Lynch, Cat Cora, Daniel Humm and many more.  “A Fine Line” grapples with themes sparking national conversations right now, including workplace harassment, equal pay, paid parental leave and career advancement.

This is a great opportunity to honor a fellow Dame and help support women in the restaurant industry.

  • Thursday, March 21 from 6-9 p.m.
  • National Hellenic Museum, 333 S. Halsted St.
  • $45 per person
  • Purchase tickets and get all the details here