Nestled in a beautiful wooded area about an hour north of Milwaukee is a town called Kohler, Wisconsin which is also known as “Destination Kohler“. Each year a four day event full of tastings, seminars, and demonstrations, the Kohler Food and Wine Experience takes place there, and this year I was lucky enough to attend (as you may have noticed if you follow me on Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat-username: Sweetphi).
Before moving to Milwaukee I had only associated the name “Kohler” with high quality kitchen and bathroom wares (like sinks/facets/tubs) but never really anything more. However, over the past years since I’ve lived in the state of Wisconsin, I kept hearing things about this ultra-luxurious resort—The American Club—in a town called Kohler.
Yup, turns out they’re one and the same. Kohler is known as both an innovative design and manufacturing company and is home to the Forbes Five-Star and AAA 5-diamond resort, The American Club where many events take place, one of which is the Kohler Food and Wine Experience. This year I received a last minute invite to attend and just couldn’t pass up such an opportunity…a weekend of food and wine at a luxury resort? A destination I’ve been hearing so much about? Is this for real? Sign me up! Little did I know that it would turn out to be one of the BEST food and wine festivals I have ever been to, so today I’m going to share 13 things I learned from attending the Kohler Food and Wine Experience, and a chicken salad recipe inspired by one of the world renowned chefs that was at the festival: Jacques Pépin!
- If you’re going to a food and wine festival, arrive hungry. When I say arrive hungry, I mean arrive huuuungry, probably don’t eat for a few solid days before hand. I arrived at the festival and immediately rushed to one of the sessions that had just started. It was a session called Cooking “From the Heart” with Jacques and Claudine Pépin where the father – daughter team demonstrated recipes from his recently published 24thbook, Heart & Soul in the Kitchen. There were samples passed out which were incredible. I also attended the same session on the second day, different samples were served and they were equally and delicious. In fact, everywhere and at every session or event, samples were passed out. Considering small bites/plates are my favorite way to enjoy food, I was so incredibly happy by the sheer amount and deliciousness of samples that were passed out. I learned that that is actually a differentiating factor for the Kohler Food & Wine Experience, samples and tastes of what the chefs cook are actually provided.
- If you’re going to a food and wine festival, arrive thirsty. I’m pretty sure I was not ready for the amount of wine samples. With every food sample wine was passed out or poured, and there were separate wine events that taught you about different wines (for example there were sessions called ‘A New Way to Look at Syrahs’, ‘The Willamette Valley: Where Nobel Cool Climate Grapes Reign’ and ‘Discovering the Nuances of Pinot Noir Clones’) I was just sad I couldn’t attend more of the sessions because of the time overlap, BUT different vineyard and wine producers were at events and were offering samples and would then tell you about their wines and gracefully answer any questions one might have. Bottom line: be prepared to have some of the most delectable wines ever.
- If you want to see what your dream bathroom should look like, visit the Kohler Design Center. Having never been to Kohler, I didn’t really know what to expect when I heard that one of the main events which was called “Taste of the Vine: Wirtz Beverage Wisconsin and Kitchen of Kohler proudly present of the Midwest’s premier culinary events. This spectacular evening of exquisite wines, delectable hors d’oeuvers and live music is held against the inspiring backdrop of Kohler Design Center” was going to be held in the Kohler Design Center…as in, there are bathrooms and kitchen sinks on display I thought…well, they clearly know what they are doing, because this event was crazy cool. Imagine a museum of different bathrooms, and then in between said display areas, little stations of food and wine samplings. AND a dessert table and cheese table that could not easily be rivaled. We filled our plates and went walking around the expansive design center looking into all the different bathrooms – if you ever want to see what your dream bathroom should look like, visit the Kohler Design Center!
- Bring a partner in crime to enjoy the festival and sights with. Did you notice I said ‘we’ in my last sentence? I am talking about my wonderful friend, Svetlana, who attending the festival with me. It was so great to have a girlfriend to go to all the different events with. Food and drink are best when shared, right? It was so nice to be able to turn to her and exclaim how good something was or to share a bite of food with. I was also there as part of a group of bloggers, so it was really nice to get a chance to talk to them after some of the events or at dinners (more about that below.) Food really is a community experience, and I love hearing about what brings everyone together or even listening to what kind of foods they like or what they prepare for their families.
- There’s nowhere like Kohler, WI to see beautiful fall leaves I see fall happening around me in the city of Milwaukee and always marvel at the pretty leaves, but let me tell you, it’s nothing compared to Kohler, WI. All around Kohler the leaves were changing colors and were so vibrant, I’ve honestly never seen anything like it! Even though there is this awesome shuttle service that takes you everywhere you want to go (listen, I’ve lived in Chicago and New York where public transportation is a big deal, but never really on time, I was impressed that in Kohler their shuttle service was on point and always on time) most of the time we opted to walk between the different properties just so that we could see the leaves. By walking (and of course there are little pathways everywhere that have sculptures and art along the side walks) we not only could see beautiful nature, but I really had the feeling of ‘experiencing’ fall with the crunchy leaves underfoot as we walked and “ooohed” and “aaahed” over the fall foliage.
- If you want to relax to the max, visit Kohler Waters Spa I’m a huge fan of relaxation time and massages. I have been to some pretty swanky massage spas all across the continental US (gosh does that sound snotty, but I have been to some pretty cool spas in Las Vegas, Chicago, New York, etc.) so I definitely have some pretty high standards when it comes to spas, well, those standards were blown out of the water after visiting the Kohler Waters Spa(pardon the pun). But in all reality, it was amazing. I got to experience a new treatment offering called the Bamboo Bliss where they massage you with warm bamboo rods. I was kind of nervous, but it was like a deep tissue massage, and I’m putting it on my list of coolest experiences ever, totally worth the trip alone! And after your massage you can relax by their relaxing waterfall pool- the water sounds are so soothing and relaxing.
- If you want to take the best shower of your life stay at the Inn on Woodlake. In terms of lodging, we stayed at the Inn on Woodlake which is located on the shore of the beautiful Wood Lake. The hotel boasts boutique style guest rooms, and I knew since it was in Kohler I could expect high quality bathroom fixtures, but I had no idea that the bathroom would have THE MOST AMAZING SHOWER ever. There were like 5 shower heads, all on at once, it was like being embraced by a gentle waterfall. I should have known, because in the description of the Inn it says the rooms include “signature KOHLER shower experience that is nothing short of sensational.” My friend and I were joking that we’d never been so clean because one wanted to take a shower just to take a shower with the amazing water set up; I need to see how I can make that shower a reality at my house, seriously, best showers of my life.
- There’s always time for chocolate. Always, there is always time for chocolate, and it just so happens that right next to the Inn on Woodlake there are shops and dining options. One in particular place caught my eye: Craverie Chocolatier Café. With beautiful marble counters and big display cases, it reminded me of a French café. I stopped to buy some chocolate and was wowed by the high quality chocolate and found out that Craverie is the storefront that sells Kohler Original Recipe Chocolates. The next day and day after we stopped for a piece of chocolate on the way back to our hotel, it reminded me there is always time for chocolate. And since the food and wine festival was going on Craverie had samples of chocolate out (I’m telling you, samples galore!!)
- Breakfast in bed is a wonderful thing. One of the mornings there wasn’t a session starting until later in the afternoon so we decided to just relax in our room and get some breakfast. We walked over to the Craverie Café and got some breakfast sandwiches, but not just any ‘ole breakfast sandwiches, these were next level. On the flakiest of flaky croissants was an egg, applewood smoked bacon and Wisconsin cheddar. We decided to bring the sandwiches back to the hotel and have breakfast in bed – it was glorious – and now I want breakfast in bed every weekend!
- The best lattes and coffee cup insulator at The Greenhouse. Lattes with a view anyone? The Greenhouse is this little coffee shop in The American Club. It has beautiful stained glass windows and has an all-around cozy environment. I ordered a latte which was so so so good and it came in a cup that was pretty neat – the whole entire cup had an outer sleeve that was an insulated coffee cup, it was the perfect amount of insulation but designed so beautifully you didn’t even notice. In fact, I didn’t notice until my hubby pointed out that the cup was insulated when I got home, he said “well look at you with your fancy to-go coffee cup” and I laughed and looked down and noticed it, so cool! I would go back to The Greenhouse for a latte any day!
- If you want to listen to chefs share their secrets, go to the Kohler Food and Wine Experience. There was no shortage of impressive chefs at the Kohler Food and Wine Experience, it was actually the first time I had been to a food festival where all the chefs were so approachable and talking freely. During a meet and greet with Jacques Pépinhe was saying that not every meal needs to be gourmet (amen to that) and that one of his favorite things to make for his granddaughter is a simple recipe where he buys some rotisserie chicken and puts it on a bed of lettuce and then melts some butter, garlic and rosemary and then drizzles it over the chicken. As I was listening a little light bulb went off rotisserie chicken, lettuce, butter, garlic, and rosemary…I looked down at my notes, yup, that’s 5 ingredients, so I HAD to make it and share it for Five Ingredient Friday! He also said something that really resonated with me, that being ‘creative’ in the kitchen doesn’t necessarily mean one has to reinvent the wheel and add crazy ingredients, it simply means making something really well or the act of cooking is creativity.
- If you’re walking through the woods in complete darkness, there’s no better end result than having dinner at the River Wildlife cabin. So imagine pitch blackness and walking through the woods only guided by a few small lights on the side of the path…it was like something out of a movie, I kept thinking something was going to jump out and scare us (it was right before Halloween, ok?) but instead we turned a corner and illuminated was this beautiful little rustic cabin. It was here, at the River Wildlife private dining club that we had a group There was simply no better ending to the evening that the incredible meal at the River Wildlife cabin.
- Book your calendars – save the dates NOW for next years’ activities. The Kohler Food and Wine Experience was just that…an experience. It was the best food festival – everything was perfectly planned and amazingly presented, it is an experience not to be missed. You should “Savor the Date” for the 16th annual Kohler Food & Wine Experience which is set for October 20-23, 2016. And to keep up-to-date on events, special offers and more you can sign up for the resort e-newsletter(you are also automatically entered into a sweepstakes by signing up). Some other events coming up are the Five-Star Dine Around, Dec. 10, 2015, Wisconsin Food Favorites, Jan. 29-31, 2016 and In Celebration of Chocolate, Feb. 19-21, 2016.
And now for the recipe, a chicken salad recipe inspired by Jacques Pépin
Thank you to Destination Kohler for sponsoring this trip. As always all thoughts and opinions are mine alone. Thank you for reading and supporting the brands I partner with, which makes the SweetPhi blog possible.