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.
This past Sunday afternoon, a group of a dozen Dames got together to attend the novel show, Recipe for Disaster, by Rick Bayless, Carl Menninger and Amy Rubenstein, at the Windy City Playhouse. Some of us met at Petterino’s in advance where we enjoyed a glass of wine and shared some truffle fries. The show is an immersive experience, which also provided some beverages and tasting samples. In the show, Boris, a chef posing undercover as a waiter in order to discover the secret pig recipe, sabotages the wild mushroom soup kettle with a whole bottle of Malort. Some of us were foolish enough to taste this, which was indeed a disaster! Much tastier were the second version of the soup, the fresh herb pasta with Maryland crab, lemon and artichokes dish, the dauphinoise potatoes serving and the avocado chocolate mousse dessert! It was a lively farce of a show, fast paced and entertaining, certainly not your average theater experience. We enjoyed it a great deal.
Afterwards, we all headed over to a festive gathering hosted by Dame Portia Bellow-Lowndes where more Dames joined us. Portia provided appetizers, including a lovely charcuterie board and some House of Glunz wines, which were augmented by the additional wines and appetizers brought by Dame members. It was a wonderful feeling to hug each other again and connect in the real world. We hope there will be many more opportunities to do so in our future.
Books were on tap on a recent Thursday evening at Bookends and Beginnings, the independent bookstore in Evanston owned by Dame Nina Barrett. Nina graciously opened her store after hours to Chicago Dames who enjoyed quite an evening.
A gorgeous and oh-so-delicious appetizer buffet was generously provided by Dame Julie Chernoff, alongside a top-notch selection of wines courtesy of Dame Veronica Hastings. Nina, in characteristic form, not only sells stories, she tells stories! One on one, she shared a plethora of interesting anecdotes and updates on her business. To the group, she provided a run-down of her favorite reads of the year including fiction, non-fiction and children’s books. She even gave us a peak at Modernist Pizza, a 3-volume set of all-things-pizza, including over 1,000 recipes, stunning photography and even a red stainless steel case!
Delving deeper into our favorite things – cookbooks – Julie Chernoff gave us a sneak-peak of the soon-to-be-published list (on better.net) of her favorite cookbooks of 2021. Many of the appetizers on her amazing buffet are included in these books … Everything Bagel Rugelach from Jake Cohen’s jew-ish, Smashed Peas with Tahini and Za’atar from Ottolenghi Test Kitchen, and Cacio e Pepe Shortbread from Jesse Szewczyk’s Cookies to name a few. Other faves include Grist by Abra Berens, Black Food by Bryant Terry, Korean Vegan by Joanne Lee Molinaro, Instantly Mediterranean by our own Emily Paster and, of course, the new Dorie Greenspan book, Baking with Dorie.
These two Dames can be quite convincing . . . we spent the remainder of our time shopping the store, filling our bags to the brim with gifts for family, friends, and of course, ourselves! Thank you, Dame Nina Barrett, for making such a wonderful evening at Bookends and Beginnings possible!
– Polly Peters
Towards end of October, we were treated to a magical evening at the home of Jennifer Anderson of Jennifer Anderson Events. Her website reads “From planning to design to professional coordination and management, you are your guests will experience an impeccable and memorable event”. We did indeed have a memorable evening at her lovely Lake Shore Drive home. Jennifer has planned some very spectacular events over the years and she regaled us with stories of how challenging her work can become when trying to meet the highest standards of her clients’ expectations. She told us about the nightmare of having to move an entire wedding event out of a hotel that had lost electricity the day of the wedding along with many other entertaining anecdotes.
Jennifer served us some Covid sensitive individually packaged snacks along with a wonderful hot squash soup with ingenious individual packets of crème fraiche. After her insightful presentation we sat down to a beautifully decorated table with our plates all artfully and individually arranged like a lovely bouquet in cellophane wrap. We had a bounty of items, including beautiful salads layered in individual Mason jars, assorted cheeses from Sophia Solomon’s of TEKLA, quiche, charcuterie, crackers, olives, nuts and fruits, all artfully arranged like a lovely bouquet in cell wrap.
Dame Veronica Hastings supplied some delicious wines to accompany our meal. We enjoyed several desserts; the highlight was her home-made chocolate mousse. Jennifer deflected all questions about where the individual ingredients had been purchased, except for Sophia’s amazing cheeses, of course, until we had completed our meals. She then surprised us with what you could find at places like Aldi and Trader Joes. The conversation turned to some of our favorite culinary ingredients that you could find at these places! We finished with an individual spray tube that delivered a coffee aroma! Beautiful hand made cards served as a parting gift. It was truly a perfect evening. Thank you Dame Jennifer Anderson.
– Patty Erd
Ambrosia, the food of the gods…