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: Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine

June’s Dames Who Read book is EIGHT FLAVORS The Untold Story of American Cuisine by Sarah Lohman.

The United States boasts a culturally and ethnically diverse population that makes for a continually changing culinary landscape. But a young historical gastronomist named Sarah Lohman discovered that American food is united by eight flavors: black pepper, vanilla, curry powder, chili powder, soy sauce, garlic, MSG, and Sriracha. In “a unique and surprising view of American history…richly researched, intriguing, and elegantly written” (The Atlantic), Lohman sets out to explore how these influential ingredients made their way to the American table.

She begins in the archives, searching through economic, scientific, political, religious, and culinary records. She pores over cookbooks and manuscripts, dating back to the eighteenth century, through modern standards like How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. Lohman discovers when each of these eight flavors first appear in American kitchens—then she asks why.

When: Tuesday, June 19, 6 p.m.

Where: The Spice House, 1512 North Wells, Chicago

More details TBD


Chicago Dames Travel to Mexico for Margaritas, Mayan Cooking and More

By Dame Toria Emas

Five Chicago Dames embarked on a Traditional Mayan Adventure with LDEI Flavors of Mexico. Attending were Dames Susan Syzmanski, Susan Weller, Diane Sokolofski, Antoinette Benjamin (Ann Arbor dual member), Toria Emas and her husband,  Bill. Read More

3-Ingredient Solution: Ina’s Potatoes

By Dame Judy Hevrdejs

When life seems to be one big time crunch, great do-ahead recipes are lifesavers. Especially the easy ones.  And definitely the ones made with just three ingredients — except for, say, salt and pepper — that work especially well when you have guests arriving for brunch.

It’s a recipe such as Ina’s Potatoes from Dame Ina Pinkney’s cookbook, “INA’S KITCHEN: Memories and Recipes from the Breakfast Queen” (Agate Publishing). I always loved these when I ate at her restaurant. And I love them now because they are so easy to make.  And while russet, purple and yellow potatoes may grab your attention at the market,  Ina calls for red potatoes, which have thin skins and a waxy character, that work best in this recipe, a perfect, 3-Ingredient Solution. 

Ina’s Potatoes

2 pounds red potatoes, washed, cubed

1/4 cup heavy cream (aka whipping cream)

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons each: kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper

Bring 6 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil. Add potatoes; cook for 10 minutes. Potatoes will be very firm. Drain potatoes. Cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Combine remaining ingredients with potatoes, coating potatoes well. Refrigerate, covered, at least 12 hours. Mix several times while chilling. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Spread potatoes in a single layer on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and tender, about 25 minutes.

— Adapted from a recipe by Dame Ina Pinkney’s INA’S KITCHEN: Memories and Recipes from the Breakfast Queen” (Agate Publishing).

3-Ingredient Solution: Beets

By Dame Judy Hevrdejs

Farmers markets won’t head outdoors for several weeks, but there are lots of indoor farmers markets in the city and suburbs.  At Green City Market, currently inside the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum until May 5, we picked up beets from Nichols Farm & Orchard (nicholsfarm.com) — enough to roast for one meal with a few left for another. We have a couple 3-Ingredient Solutions, of course. Yes, just three ingredients — beyond salt and pepper — can turn beets into a savory side or colorful salad.

Want to take it up a notch with a few more ingredients? Try Dame Joan Nathan’s Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad from her cookbook, “King Solomon’s Table.”

But, you grumble, beets are a pain to prepare. Well, not really. And, we always prepare enough for two different dishes. So give beets a chance.

Prep: Remove leaves and trim stem ends of each beet. Put in a pot that’s big enough to hold the beets plus water to cover them. Over high heat, bring water to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce heat to medium-high and cook 45 minutes to 1 hour. Keep tabs on the cooking and reduce the heat if the liquid starts bubbling a bit too much.

When beets can be pierced easily with a fork, they’re done. Drain off cooking water. Run cold water over them. When cool enough to handle, trim  ends. Skins should slip off easily, but you can help things along with a small knife. Rinse. Beets are ready to eat as is. If you made more than you can use at once, store extra in a food-safe container, refrigerate and use a few days later. A couple options?

3 Ingredient Solution

Roast ’em: Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Cut cooked beets into large chunks. Cut a peeled, trimmed yellow onion into quarters. Arrange beet chunks and onion quarters on the prepped baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Use your fingers or a kitchen brush to help coat the vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees F. until edges begin to brown and crisp, 20-25 minutes. (Got dried herbs? Sprinkle with basil, oregano or thyme before roasting).

Photo by Judy Hevrdejs

Dress ’em: Cube beets, add to a pile of salad greens and drizzle with a favorite vinaigrette. (Got goat cheese? Crumble some atop the salad).

Something special:A few more ingredients  transform those beets into a Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad that Dame Joan Nathan includes in her latest book. Nathan roasts the beets to tenderize them, which you can do, of course. But we used our boiling-water cooked beets with delicious results.

Dame Joan Nathan’s Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad

Makes: 8 to 10 servings

6 to 8 medium beets

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 to 3 navel oranges

Juice of 1 lemon

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste

Salt and freshly ground pepper  to taste

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped green pistachios

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Rinse beets; rub with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Wrap in foil. Put on a baking sheet and roast about 1 hour, until tender when poked with a fork. When cool enough to handle, peel beets. Cut into bite-size pieces.
  2. With a sharp knife, cut off tops and bottoms of oranges. Slice off the peel and white pith. Cut in between the white membranes to extract individual segments.
  3. Mix lemon juice, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Whisk in extra-virgin olive then toss with beets. Let sit a few hours at room temperature. To serve, add orange segments and sprinkle with parsley and pistachios.

Photo by Judy Hevrdejs

Dame Amelia Levin Releases New Book

Dame Amelia Levin’s first of two books, The Lake Michigan Cottage Kitchen come out April 1.

This collection of 118 recipes captures the evocative food experiences of the Lake Michigan region, an ultimate vacation destination with hundreds of miles of shoreline and rich food traditions reflecting the bounty of the area’s farms and the lake’s daily catch. Recipes include Helen Suchy’s Apple Cake from Door County, Homemade Sheboygan-Style Bratwurst, Chicago’s HBFC Original Fried Chicken Sandwich, Beach House Cheesy Potatoes from Northwest Indiana, and The Cook’s House Crispy Skinned Lake Trout from Traverse City. Delightful photographs of cottage life and classic destinations, along with profiles of favorite food purveyors, bring the lakeshore’s flavors and charm to you year-round, wherever you are.

Join Amelia for a book signing at Costco Lincoln Park on Saturday, April 7. Visit the Facebook events page for more details. More book signings in the city are planned for this summer.