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

Dame Julie Chernoff Nominated for an IACP Award

LDE Chicago Past President Julie Chernoff is a finalist in two categories of the International Association of Culinary Professionals’ Food Photography & Styling Awards — for Best Editorial/Personal Food Photograph and Best Food Styling in an Editorial/Personal Food Photograph — for her photo, “Shakshuka Morning,” which was featured on the cover of the May 2017 Dining Issue of Make It Better magazine.

The award winners will be announced during the annual IACP conference in New York, Feb. 23-25. Read the full list of nominees here.

Recap: Post-Holiday Party a Success

By Dame Liz Barrett

More than 75 Chicago Dames and guests gathered at the gorgeous Logan Square home of Dame Stacey Ballis and husband Bill Thurmond on Sunday, Jan. 21 for an evening of excellent company, cuisine and cocktails to celebrate the new year, Escoffier-style.

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Dame Carrie Nahabedian Named a James Beard Semifinalist for Outstanding Chef America

Congratulations to Dame Carrie Nahabedian for being named a semi-finalist for Outstanding Chef America for the 2018 James Beard Awards! (The only other chef named in that category happens to be another Chicago icon, Chef Tony Mantuano). This is Carrie’s fourth nomination (or fifth – she can’t recall) for this illustrious honor.

Carrie is the chef and owner of two of Chicago’s most acclaimed restaurants, Naha and Brindille. She has an impressive track record of Beard nominations, and in 2008, she was named Best Chef Great Lakes. In 2015, her cousin Tom Nahabedian received a Beard Award for Best Restaurant Design for Brindille.

The James Beard Awards are the “Oscars” of the culinary world, recognizing the best of the best in every sector of the restaurant industry, from coast to coast. This year’s Beard Awards Gala  takes place in Chicago, at the Lyric Opera House on Monday, May 7, 2018. See the full list of semi-finalists here. We’ll all be rooting for Carrie to bring home another medal!

Read the elaborate article on Chef Carrie in the Chicago Tribune by Columnist John Kass. on becoming one of the city’s (and country’s) most acclaimed chefs.

Curious Kitchen: Our Cookbook Picks

By Dame Judy Hevrdejs

So you weren’t gifted a great cookbook this past holiday season. Not to worry. There are always new ones to try, maybe Brindisa: The True Food of Spain by Monika Linton, or Valerie’s Home Cooking, by Valerie Bertinelli.

Chicago Dames love cookbooks. Many also write them. Dame Carol Mighton Haddix asked them to share their favorite cookbook. Here’s just a taste:

Nancy Brussat, proprietor of Convito Cafe & Market, cited The Classic Italian Cookbook by Marcella Hazan “to explore in depth one of the recipes I learned from my Italian mentor.”

Nina Barrett, owner of Bookends & Beginnings in Evanston, calls this her “workhorse cookbook,” Williams-Sonoma Soup of the Day: 365 Recipes for Every Day of the Year. Said Barrett: “It never fails to address a lot of my urgent culinary needs.”

Rebecca Wheeler, cooking instructor and food tour guide, mentioned her well-worn copy of an Indian Cookbook, ‘5 Spices, 50 Dishes, by Ruta Kahate, “that I turn to again and again. The flavors are complex and authentic.”

What is your go-to cookbook?

The 3-Ingredient Solution: Smoked Trout Spread with Horseradish

by Dame Judy Hevrdejs

Do recipes with 10-plus ingredients stress you out? I know they can for me. Don’t stress. You need “The 3-Ingredient Solution.” Yes, just 3 ingredients (plus a little salt, freshly ground black pepper and herbs to taste) that’s easy to make and great for parties and potlucks — like this Smoked Trout Spread.

10 ounces smoked trout or 2 smoked trout fillets, about 8 ounces total

1 cup sour cream or creme fraiche

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

Skin trout. Break and flake it into a bowl. Toss out any big bones. Stir in sour cream and horseradish.  Add freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of sea salt, if desired, to taste. Blend well with a fork. Serve with dark bread slices like pumpernickel or sturdy crackers. Makes about 1 3/4 cups. P.S. Go artsy with a sprinkling of chopped, fresh dill.

— Adapted from a recipe by Dame Carol Mighton Haddix “Chicago Cooks” (Agate Press).