LIFESTYLE: Dear Chicago, You are About to be an Even Better "Foodie City"

Chicago, I love you. And not for your beautfiul architecture, your awesome museums, your vibrant neighborhoods, your eclectic personalities or your talented business community.

It's your food.

I learned this hard way when I decided, in my teenage haste to get away from my parents, to go to college in DeKalb, Il. DeKalb is a lovely, rural college town. But the closest I could get to proper Italian food was a Domino's Pizza (which, don't get me wrong, for some college nights, worked out perfectly fine.) There was nowhere to buy any decent, diverse food. I had taken my vibrant city for granted. And it is something I remind my daughter about constantly when we are enjoying what the city has to offer.

The city is alive with food trucks and innovative eating establishments and concepts. It is full of diverse neighborhoods that sell diverese ingredients for diverse palates. And it has some of the best chefs in the country. And working quietly, behind it all to make sure that  the city contnues to garner fresh talent and keep the food scene alive is a wonderful organziation called Les Dames d'Escoffier. The Dames have been around for a very long time, and globally recognized. In fact, Julia Child was one! The Chicago Chapter was founded in 1982 and is comprised of a talented group of professional women in the food, wine and hospitality industries. They work tirelessly to raise funds to help deserving young women get a chance to go to cooking school and follow their dreams, as well as feed the hungry and help with nutritional programs in the city.

And this September, they will be celebrating their 30 year anniversary! To help celebrate it, they are putting on the most amazing Chicago Culinary Insider's Weekend for food and wine enthusiasts everywhere. Multiple events -- including a party in honor of Grand Dame Julia Child, cooking classes, wine seminars, beer tastings, culinary tours, and auctions of fine food and wine -- will be open to the public on a limited basis. The weekend will raise funds for all their worthy programs.

Get you VIP pass today for $250 and includes the Friday night LA GRANDE FÊTE: A FRENCH SALUTE TO JULIA and JOAN, Saturday night DRINK, DINE and DASH: A POP-UP COCKTAIL PARTY and two classes. Seems like a great deal to me. The hardest part will be picking just two classes! There are so many fun things to taste and do.

Here is a link to buy tickets:
And if you wish to stay in a hotel, their are special guest rates.

I am going to give you a quick run down of what events you can sign up for during the weekend as well as details on the big parties that are included with the VIP pass, but to warn you there too many to count. And I know some of you followers are foodies and will want to get in on some of these classes, so don't wait too long. I can't decide myself!



When: Friday, September 7, 7:00 – 10:00 PM

Where:  The French Pastry School | 226 West Jackson Boulevard |Chicago, IL 60606

Celebrate the 100th birthday anniversary of Grande Dame Julia Child with an amazing evening of French food, cheeses, wines and desserts. Alpana Singh, of Public Television’s “Check, Please,” will host and Dame of Distinction Joan Reardon will sign copies of her new book. Bid on an array of unique culinary items at our Food and Wine auction with auctioneer and Dame Leah Hammer. Plus goodie bags from the French Pastry School!


When: Friday, September 7

Where:  The French Pastry School | 226 West Jackson Boulevard | Chicago, IL 60606

3:00 – 4:30 PM
Artisan Bread

• Discover the secrets of artisan French breads with World Baking Champion Pierre Zimmerman.

Artisan Cheeses

• Taste fine artisan cheeses with Dame Sofia Solomon.

5:00 – 6:30 PM

French Wines
• Sip French wines with Dames Alpana Singh and Veronica Hastings.

Champion Pastry
• Tour the winning world of French pastry with National Pastry Champion and Dame Della Gossett and World Pastry Champion and Dame En-Ming Hsu.



When: Saturday, September 8, various times

Where: Various locations

Participants choose from ten unique Culinary Insiders Experiences created by
 Les Dames to showcase Chicago’s vibrant food and wine scene.

A Peek Inside Food Magazine Publishing & Food Photography
When: Saturday, September 8, 9:00 – 11:00 AM

Where: Chris Cassidy Photography Studio | 1147 W Ohio, Suite 403 | Chicago, IL 60642

Learn the secrets to fabulous food photography. Attend a photo shoot for Plate Magazine, a specialty food magazine for chefs. After a studio tour and buffet breakfast, guests will experience the magic of food photography. Editor and Dame Chandra Ram and Design Director and Dame Queenie Burns will discuss the process, while food stylist and Dame Carol Smoler prepares the food. Dame Nancy Cassidy will discuss props, and photographer Chris Cassidy will give pointers for guests to use for their own photography.

Mexico’s Street Food and Chile Tasting 

When:Saturday, September 8, 11:00 AM to 2 PM

Where: Frontera Grill | 445 N. Clark Street | Chicago, IL 60654

 Chiles, fresh and dried, contain more than unbridled heat—they are full of flavor. From the rich, grassy green flavor of a serrano chile to the aromatic tropical-flavored habañero to sultry anchos, chiles inform many classic Mexican dishes. Come join us for a guided chile tasting led by Frontera Foods Culinary Director and Dame JeanMarie Brownson. We’ll taste fresh and dried chiles along with classic salsas that highlight our favorite chile assets. After class, Dame Deann Bayless will be our hostess for a special lunch in the Morales Room at Frontera Grill, featuring some of Mexico’s best-loved street foods.

VIP Green City Market Tour and Lunch

When: Saturday, September 8, 9:30 AM – 1:00 PM

Where: Green City Market | South end of Lincoln Park between Clark & Stockton Drive

Chicago’s Green City Market is a nationally recognized marketplace for distributing, promoting and educating about local sustainably-grown food. Market Director and Dame Dana Benigno will lead a VIP tour of the Green City Market and edible garden. Culinary Insiders will be introduced to the market farmers to learn more about their products. After the tour, there will be time to shop with your new Green City Market tote, followed by a market lunch.

Culinary Insider’s Walk Through Asia – on Argyle Street

When: Saturday, September 8, 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM

Where: Chiu Quon Bakery | 1127 West Argyle Street | Chicago, IL 60640

There’s no better place to experience Chicago’s melting pot than Argyle Street. Here we will learn about Chinese, Vietnamese, Laotian and Thai cuisines. Culinary Insiders will be guided by cooking instructor Dame Rebecca Wheeler and Chicago Office of Tourism’s Director of Culinary Arts and Dame Judith Dunbar Hines. Along the tour, see tofu being made, experience Peking Duck and meet the first Chinese Chef to gain acclaim as a French Pastry maker. Of course, there’ll be plenty of interesting samples and a sumptuous lunch.

The Lure and Lore of Spices

When: Saturday, September 8, 10:00 – 11:30 AM

Where: The Spice House in Old Town | 1512 N Wells | Chicago, IL 60610

Throughout time, man’s destiny has been shaped by the search for the elusive spices coveted by nobility and royalty. The history of the spice trade reveals fascinating tales of piracy, adventures and wars battled to dominate the spice trade routes. Spice merchants Dame Patty Erd and her husband Tom Erd have spent their lives in pursuit of the world’s highest-quality spices. This dynamic duo will share interesting historical facts, anecdotes and entertaining spice tales. They will discuss custom blending so each guest can create a custom four-jar spice gift box to take home. Enjoy spice-infused pastries from a neighborhood bakery along with a special spiced beverage.

Eli’s Pastry Chef Experience
When: Saturday, September 8, 2:00 – 4:00 PM

Where: Eli’s Cheesecake | 6701 W Forest Preserve Drive | Chicago, IL 60634
Live the Eli’s pastry chef experience! Work closely with Eli’s research and development chefs to learn how Eli’s desserts are created for airlines, bakery/delis and quick-service restaurants. You’ll learn about – and sample – Eli’s quality ingredients and see how they are put together to form Chicago’s favorite dessert. All parts of the dessert development process will be covered, from mixing and baking to decorating. Finally, guests will team up to develop an original dessert from a box of mystery ingredients. Each guest will receive an Eli’s gift bag to take home.

A Cup of Chicago’s Finest

When: Saturday, September 8, 2:00 – 4:00 PM

Where: Metropolis Coffee Company | 1039 W Granville Avenue | Chicago, IL 60660

Have you ever wondered how your coffee was roasted? How the roasters choose the coffee? Join Dame Tami Mizrahi and owner Tony Dreyfuss of the Metropolis Coffee Company Roasting Garage for one incredible coffee experience. The process of tasting, evaluation and roasting will come alive on this tour. You will see roasting in action on vintage equipment from the 1930s, then cup fresh seasonal coffees from around the world. Learn to make cappuccino and espresso. Enjoy cappuccini and latte made to order by Tony Dreyfuss accompanied with biscotti and pastries. Then take home a bag of coffee roasted during your tour.

VIP Beer & Cheese Tasting at the House of Glunz

When: Saturday, September 8, 3:00 – 4:30 PM

Where: The House of Glunz in Old Town | 1206 North Wells | Chicago, IL 60610

Artisan beers are the industries’ fastest-growing category. Dame Barbara Glunz will guide Culinary Insiders through a tasting of three flights of artisanal beers from around the world paired with hand-crafted specialty cheeses. The tasting will take place in the Tavern room in the historic House of Glunz, Chicago wine merchants since 1888. Old World elegance and tradition complete with antique oak furnishings, stained glass windows and nineteenth century artifacts will create the perfect atmosphere for an intimate tasting. The Glunz family history in the wine, beer and spirits industry, dating back 124 years in this old Chicago location, will be incorporated into the tasting experience.

Secrets to Chicago’s Great Steaks
When: Saturday, September 8, 2:00 – 4:30 PM

Where: The Chopping Block | 222 Merchandise Mart #107 | Chicago, IL 60654
From the Civil War until the 1920s Chicago was the country's largest meatpacking center. Today, it’s a mecca for fine steak. Kari Underly, a third generation meat cutter and author of  "The Art of Beef Cutting” and Janet Kirker, executive chef at The Chopping Block, will demonstrate butchery and help Culinary Insiders try their hand at beef cutting. They will also guide attendees through a tasting of new steakhouse cuts such as flat iron, ribeye cap, petite tender, hanger steak, along with some exciting sauces, prepared by the Chopping Block team. Attendees will go home with new beef cutting knowledge, recipes, and a professional butcher’s breaker knife.

Sneak Peak into Vosges Chocolate

When: Saturday, September 8, 2:00 – 4:00 PM

Where: Vosges | 951 W Armitage | Chicago, IL 60614

The team at Vosges Haut-Chocolat trusts in the power of chocolate to open minds, spirits and palates. We invite Culinary Insiders to embark on a sensory journey through the medium of high-quality, artisanal chocolate. Join us as we embrace the novel and the quirky, such as the perplexing oddity of curry and chocolate. Founder Katrina Markoff will share her personal story. Inspired, guests will have the chance to make their own truffles. Finally a wine, cheese and chocolate pairing will send Culinary Insiders into the world renewed and energized.

Entertaining Tips and Trends

When: Saturday, September 8, 2:00 – 4:00 PM

Where: Tablescapes Showroom | 1827 W. Hubbard St. | Chicago. IL 60622

Searching for party ideas or creative ways to serve food? Want clever details to make each party unique? Then come for Tea with Chicago’s top event specialists. Dame Wendy Pashman, owner of Entertaining Company and caterer for the toniest parties in town and Dame Kathy Ruff, owner of Tablescapes Party Rentals will dish on the latest party trends. These amazingly creative people will offer plenty of insider tips and ingenious solutions – like how do you chill wine in a small apartment? (in your washing machine, of course!) The Tea will be styled by another top Chicago caterer, the acclaimed Food for Thought.

When: Saturday, September 8, 6:30 – 8:30 PM

Where: To be held at a surprise venue!
 Surprise! Culinary Insiders won’t know the “where” of this party until just hours before, but you can be sure it’ll be a blast. Details about the place will be sent to Culinary Insiders via text message on Saturday afternoon.
On Saturday night, we’ll “pop-up” in an unexpected place for a fabulous party featuring theme-based nibbles from Dame Rita Gutekanst’s esteemed Limelight Catering, local beers and fine wine. A signature cocktail and a “Now & Later” Prize Giveaway featuring items such as dinner for 12 at the House of Glunz, a VIP Champagne and art tour at Tru, a party at the Chopping block and more. Arrive on time for a chance to win dinner reservations for THAT NIGHT at the hottest restaurants in town for a no-holds-barred culinary experience. Or, win a one-of-a-kind food and wine extravaganza at a future date to be determined by you that only the Chicago culinary insiders’ could put together.



When: Sunday, September 9

Where: Ina’s | 1235 West Randolph Street | Chicago, IL 60607

A select few will enjoy brunch at Ina’s Kitchen with Ina, the Breakfast Queen.


When: Sunday, September 9

Where: Various locations

Attendees can choose from a series of tours such as a cupcake crawl and a dim sum dash.



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