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.
What makes a perfect pairing of cheese and wine? How do we take the guess work out of shopping for them when faced with so many choices? Join us as we explore style, flavor, texture, body, aroma, and complexity in an educational forum that will tickle the fancy of the wine and cheese lovers among us!
Uniquely designed to engage members from the New England and Chicago Dames Chapters and guests, we will spend an hour soaking up the knowledge of four talented women. Dame Portia Belloc Lowndes, President of the LDEI Chicago Chapter, will moderate our experts who have paired four distinctive cheese styles with four varietal wines. We will learn how to identify our own personal taste preferences and effectively communicate those preferences with wine and cheese purveyors.
This virtual event is open to Dames ($10) and non-members ($15) with all proceeds going to fundraising efforts of the Chicago and New England Chapters. Purchase of wine and cheese are optional. Our sommeliers have chosen wines that should be easy to procure and the four cheese selections can be purchased online through Jasper Hill, if you have difficulty sourcing them locally. (A “shopping list” will be emailed to participants on April 12.)
You can choose your level of participation, selecting one wine and one cheese or all four pairings. If you feel comfortable you canhost this event in your home, with family and friends to enjoy multiple selections!
Date: Tuesday, April 27,
Time: Chicago Dames: 5:30 PM Central Time,
New England Dames: 6:30 PM Eastern Time
Place: Online (Zoom)
Cost: $10 for LDEI Members, $15 for Non-Members
Register to Purchase Zoom Link here
Panel of Speakers
Dame Susan Fallon Brennan is a certified cheese professional with a background in the culinary and pastry arts. Susan has worked in such high end New York restaurants as Eleven Madison Park and Daniel. Her focus switched to cheese while working for four years at the Kensington Whole Foods in London, England. Once stateside, Susan continued her work in the cheese industry as a sales representative at Seacrest Foods International. She is on the board of the Massachusetts Cheese Guild and became a New England Dame in 2019, currently serving on their Board.
Katie Losito is the Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Jasper Hill Farm—a working dairy farm with an on-site creamery and underground aging facility in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. There, she spends most of her days building and managing a growing sales team while working on pairings—getting the right cheese to the right customer. With 15 years of sales experience across several industries, including television, global transportation, and food and beverage, Katie specializes in sales operations and improving team product knowledge.
Dame Jenni Wagoner is Sommelier and Wine Director for Michelin-starred Sepia and Proxi in West Loop, Chicago. Jenni crafts the wine lists for both restaurants leading to recognition for Sepia as one of “America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants” by Wine Enthusiast magazine. Jenni is a huge supporter of female winemakers and female-owned wineries, featuring a fully women-led list at Proxi.
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.
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.
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:
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
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
We are thrilled to welcome six new Dames into the Class of 2020! Despite the pandemic, we were not about to let these all-star women miss their moment to join the most dynamic and fulfilling organization of women! Get to know them below, and then join us on Monday, Nov. 2 at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom when we’ll introduce them and raise a glass to growing our chapter.
Christine Cikowski is chef and co-owner of Honey Butter Fried Chicken. A graduate of Kendall College culinary school, Christine and business partner Josh Kulp launched Sunday Dinner Club in 2005, at the height of the “underground dining” trend. It was a happy accident at one SDC dinner when fried chicken and honey butter collided in the kitchen and the phenomenon of Honey Butter Chicken was hatched. Christine and Josh have been pioneers in how they operate their business, paying employees a living wage, paid parental leave and health insurance.
Molly Currey is the CMO of What If Syndicate, a growing restaurant group headquartered in Chicago that includes Maple & Ash and etta, and soon, Monarch, Kessaku and Celestina. I run the marketing team that spans all our restaurants. Until recently, I was always on the agency side serving hospitality and restaurant clients. From launching the Elysian Hotel to breaking ground for Nobu, I’ve worked with some amazingly creative people in the service industry. Beyond my day job with the What If Syndicate restaurant group, I own a pop-up/private restaurant space called Saint Emeric in our restored church home. In my spare time, when I’m not chasing down my two teenagers, I enjoy hunting for weird antiques to fill our home. My husband, Jim and I also love taking motorcycle road trips and visiting whatever Atlas Obscura experience/location we can find!
Kristine Holtz is a foodservice professional with more than 25 years of experience. As a former Senior Vice President leading the Menu Inspirations Division at HJ Heinz, CEO of Market Day, and now the CEO of the Cornerstone Foodservice Group (Spring USA, LloydPans, Astra Manufacturing), Kristine has helped develop leading products and solutions across many areas of foodservice. Today, Kristine works alongside and advises leading brands on their foodservice operations and shares industry insights to help organizations create guest-centered and profitable dining experiences.
Lindsay Navama is a cookbook author (“Hungry for Harbor Country”) and creator of Third Coast Kitchen.com, a culinary and lifestyle website. While she juggles her 11-month-old, Stella, Lindsay is also returning to freelance food writing. She started her first business venture, Cookies Couture in Los Angeles, while waitressing to make ends meet. She is also an experienced recipe developer, private chef, and food TV host.
Tigist Reda is chef and owner of Demera Ethiopian Restaurant in Uptown. Tigist was born and raised in Ethiopia and has lived in Chicago for 20+ years. She learned the secrets of traditional Ethiopian cuisine from the elder women in her family. Tigist has a passion for entertaining and sharing her culture with guests, and she opened Demera in 2007.Tigist loves nothing more than introducing people to Ethiopiant fare, which is focused on communal, family meals eaten with hands among family and friends. Demera has been recognized with consistently excellent reviews in Chicago media since it opened.
Jennifer Wagoner is Sommelier and Beverage Director for Sepia and Proxi restaurants. Jenni crafts the wine lists both restaurants (leading to recognition for Sepia as one of “America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants” by Wine Enthusiast magazine). Jenni is a huge supporter of women winmekaers and women-owned wineries, featuring many on the wine lists at both restaurants. Jenni has 17 years in hospitality and restaurants, starting her career in Manhatten, then Miami and finally returning to her Midwestern roots in 2017. She is routinely called on by wine consortiums from around the globe to serve as ambassador and educator, including the Consorzio of Prosecco Superiore DOCG and
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
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.