But I must admit, at first I was a bit puzzled.
After completing four home remodels and choosing luxe Kohler tubs for the last of the two (this girl LOVES her tubs), I obviously knew that Kohler created kitchen sinks, baths and toilets. But there’s a town named Kohler? With a wine and food festival featuring celebrity chefs (Cat Cora and Jacques Pépin) who the average person (me) could get up close and personal with? And a luxury resort that had just been named Condé Nast’s Reader’s Choice Award for Best Resort in the Midwest?
This trip was something I was totally down with experiencing. But I had no idea of the level of me being spoiled that were in store…did I really deserve this foodie’s dream?
This year, the 2014 Kohler Food and Wine Experience is set for October 23-26, with tickets on sale now. And I’m about to tell you why you should really consider hitting the road—or the air—to check it out for yourself, and maybe get a selfie with this year’s celeb chefs like America’s Test Kitchens’ Christopher Kimball or clink wine glasses with Iron Chefs Graham Elliott and Geoffrey Zakarian.
Or be like me and just get spoiled rotten with a weekend of serious R&R and a dose of red, rosé and white.
Stay tuned ‘til the end of the post to enter my Cook Like Cat Cora giveaway.
But first, let’s visit Kohler, WI and see what some famous chefs had to say…
Kohler has come a long way since developing it’s first bathtub more than 130 years ago. A bathtub that was originally a hog scaulder with 4 legs added on and was sold for a cow and 14 chickens.
Now, Kohler is an international company of over 30,000 employees on 6 continents and is the parent to many of my favorite design houses including Ann Sacks Tile (the penny tile that I have in all of my bathrooms), Baker Furniture, and they even manufacture diesel and gas engines.
Originally known as Riverside, WI, the town renamed Kohler was the epicenter of the company’s manufacturing facilities and is still home to its corporate offices. Today, it is also home to the Forbes 5-Star and AAA 5-diamond rated luxury resort, The American Club, that I was lucky enough to call home during my visit to Kohler.
The American Club
Originally built for Kohler’s single male employees in need of affordable housing, The American Club is now distinctly luxe in it’s old-school charm and elegance. The resort drips of class but only in the most understated of the Midwest’s old-money ways.
My bedroom and sitting area of my classicaly tailored room featured Kohler’s lines of Baker and McGuire furnishings and beddings, Kohler bath and sink amenities (natch) and luxe touches like Frette linens, real keys (no key cards here!) and signature embroidered slippers set next to the bed with care at each night’s turn down service as melodic music played on. And don’t forget the nightly piece of chocolate set on my pillow, what a room to come home to.
Knowing I’m a bath girl, with two Kohler Tea for Two tubs in my own home because that’s where I spend every. single. night., the bathroom of The American Club was a spa in itself and included a high-end jetted tub with a cascading, underwater lighting effect (!) and a tub filler that shot down from the ceiling.
The American Club showcases Kohler well.
Not to be outdone, a visit to the Kohler Waters Spa with it’s two floors of warm soaking pools and ice cold plunge pools prepped me for a hydrotherapy water massage that I’ll probably never experience the likes of again. My day was complete (even though it had just started) after my Lavendar Rain treatment, where I received a lavender and eucalyptus exfoliation followed by a warm rinse under a KOHLER® Custom Vichy shower and then a warm stone treatment on my back and feet. Then I had a facial. Heaven, I tell you.
I couldn’t help but wish my husband was there to experience Kohler’s two PGA golf courses, Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straights, with Whistling Straights hosting the 2015 PGA Championships. Even non-golfers can enjoy the courses with a light lunch or afternoon dessert and coffee at Blackwolf Run while watching some of the world’s best shoot the fairways and out of the huge sand traps among grazing sheep imported from Scotland.
The Kohler Design Center
Housing the latest in Kohler products and design alongside a physical timeline of the history of Kohler, the Kohler Design Center was transformed into a gala showcase of the 70 participating spirits and wines and sips and nibbles and eats at Taste of the Vine.
Guests wandered past the Great Wall of China and through lush bathrooms of every style, from Moroccan to Victorian to contemporary sleek while nibbling on sushi, Korean bbq sliders and literally popcorn ceviche appetizers.
The Kohler Design Center is a must see if you have any interest in interior design and history. It’s the perfect mash-up of seeing where today’s every day objects literally got their start.
Dining in Kohler
Dining is at a premium at The American Club. If you never want to leave your room, the room service is called service for a reason, with a flourish of carts, white linens and silver chafing dishes I’ve only seen in movies. And the best scrambled eggs I’ve had in a long time.
For pub eats, the recently redone Horse & Plow delivers fish & chips, shrimp po’ boys, beer battered fried cheese curds (we are in Wisconsin remember!) and mammoth Bloody Marys.
For finer fare, don’t miss out on eating at one of Wisconsin’s premier restaurants, the venerable Immigrant Restaurant, overseen by Chef Matthew Bauer and named for 6 different countries of immigrants that came to Kohler in the early days. The roasted pork tenderloin could very well be the most delicious taste of sow I’ve ever had in my life. And of course, who can shy away from crab cakes and asparagus topped with lobster hollandaise and draped by a perfectly soft cooked egg.
If rustic is more your style, the walk down the lake lined, wooded path to the cabin that houses River Wildlife Lodge is your go to spot. It features fireplaces, intimate, kerosene candle lit tables and a menu of Midwestern specialties like almond crusted Canadian walleye with citrus caper remoulade or cream of pheasant and mushroom soup.
The Shops at Woodlake are the home base for food and wine event, and offer more great eats for lunching while shopping. Cucina offers, you guessed it, classic Italian staples of pizza, bolognese and truffled gnocchi. After going light with a seared salmon salad my sweet tooth beckoned and we were once again back at our favorite haunt right next door.
The Craverie Chocolatier Café is the personal touchstone of Chairman and CEO Herbert Kohler, or as everyone refers to as “Mr. Kohler.” Bearing a striking resemblance to the most interesting man in the world, Mr. Kohler is an imposing figure as seen in the oil painting hanging in the Kohler Design Center. Revered and respected by his staff and employees, he’s also known for his love of chocolate.
As head chocolatier since June of 2011, Anette Righi DeFendi sums up the Kohler philosophy best. “Mr. Kohler wants to be the best of the best, even in chocolate,” she acknowledges. Righi DeFendi works hand in hand with Mr. Kohler to develop flavors like the Raspberry Garden Ganache that was featured on Oprah’s list of Favorite Things, and their signature Terrapins, a cross between a caramel and a turtle. “Everything is made from scratch, the truffles, the Terrapins and the new Platinum line of chocolate.”
Next up, wine tastings and chef creation eatings. I was invigorated and ready.
Kohler Food & Wine Experience
What a treat to experience the Kohler Food & Wine Experience in first class style.
As members of the invited press we were front and center at the celebrity hosted cooking demonstrations where we sampled wine and celeb-chef-created-eats by 11 a.m., learned about the art of beer pairings and toasted a round with master beer sommelier Marc Stroobandt at the Stella Artois Cidré taster’s room and watched and Instagrammed as Chef Michael Feker put my friend Ali of Gimme Some Oven into the middle of his act.
With 28 cookbooks, years of PBS cooking shows and a deep rooted relationship with the doyenne of cooks Ms. Julia Child, Jacque Pépin and his daughter, Claudine Pépin with her trademark sunglasses used as a headband, were definitely one of the highlights of the demos.
“He is the food whisperer. When he says it won’t burn, it won’t,” Claudine shares about her father’s cooking intuition. “When I say it won’t, it does.” The rapid fire but oh-so-sweet banter between the two clearly showed their affection and playfulness toward one another, while keeping it 100% pro-chef-style-cooking.
Following are a few food wisdom’s I took home from Chef Pépin:
On adapting recipes: “React to the food and sue the recipe as a guideline. After you make it three times, you make it your own.”
On raising good eaters: “Have kids eat the same thing their parents eat at the dinner table. If we’re having green beans with almonds, they’re having green beans with almonds.”
On creating flavor: “You don’t have to cook with the best extra virgin olive oil, but always finish the dish off with the best.”
On cooking with butter: “Always put a little oil on top of butter to raise the burn temperature or smoke point.”
On cooking with oil: “Walnut oil and sesame oil with low burn points will go rancid quickly so must be refrigerated.”
On his favorite thing to eat: “My mother’s recipe for deviled eggs.”
The following day we had the chance to see restauranter and the only female Iron Chef Cat Cora in action at the main tent’s demonstration event. But it got even better when we were invited to a personal sit down with Chef Cora where we asked her about cooking, life balance and food trends. We even had the opportunity to teach her how to airdrop photos on the iPhone, which is super handy in a group of food bloggers all angling for the best pic.
Cora’s passion for food and it’s health benefits are at the core of her food mission. Cora speaks with passion and first hand knowledge about the Mediterranean diet and the health benefits of farm to table and organic. And better yet, she lives by her passion. With her new Grecian Delight line of hummus and Greek dips, her new line of cookwear and a new cookbook, this mom of four boys is a busy lady.
Here are a few takeaways from our chat with Cat Cora:
On what shaped her food style: “I grew up in a Greek family in Mississippi. The starter of every dish was garlic and onions. It’s my favorite smell memory. When other kids we’re eating fried okra we were eating stewed artichokes with olive oil and garlic.”
On her latest cookbook and food philosophy: “Food doesn’t have to be super fancy it just has to be good quality.”
On her biggest challenge in the kitchen: “Nuts are my kryptonite because they’re the easiest thing to forget the easiest thing to burn.”
On food trends: “No matter what the trend is, we always come back to the basics, especially in food.”
On changing food diets: “Healthy gourmet will increase in popularity as Vegetables move to the middle of the plate and portions become smaller.”
On getting kids involved in the kitchen: “Start a core family cooking camp and start with soups and stocks the kids can make themselves.”
On sharing the kitchen with her partner: “On our first date she burned three bags of popcorn in a row. That’s why I do the cooking.”
On her foodie guilty pleasures: “Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, the small ones, and BBQ Pop Chips.”
Enter the Giveaway
I want to give you a taste of what I experienced so I have a little giveaway for you. Enter in the rafflecopter widget below. Must be a U.S. resident to win. Giveaway ends September 4, 2014, 11:59 p.m. MST.
Enter to win:
- (1) autographed copy of Cat Cora’s Classics With a Twist cookbook ($30 value)
- (1) Cat Cora Cook ‘n Serve Stainless Steel 1.5 Quart Casserole ($60 value)
- (1) 4 piece package of Kohler Terrapins and the NEW Terrapin Toffee Bark ($20 value)
Attending the Kohler Food and Wine Experience was a weekend I won’t ever forget and I don’t know if I’ll find another wine and food festival that will compare to the service, quality and overall welcoming of fall than this weekend afforded me.
Get your tickets for the 4- day 2014 Kohler Food & Wine Experience here.
See more recaps of the 2013 trip from my fellow bloggers:
- Sommer of A Spicy Perspective, recap here
- Sandy of Reluctant Entertainer, recap here
- Ali of Gimme Some Oven, recap here
- Amanda of Kevin and Amanda, recap here
- Amy of She Wears Many Hats, recap here
- Dara of Cookin’ Canuck, recap here
Best of luck on the giveaway. Cheers!
Thank you to The American Club for sponsoring this trip. As always, thank you for reading and supporting companies I partner with, which allows me to create more unique content and recipes for you. This post may contain affiliate links. As always, all opinions are my own.