Jeffrey Merlot
Mr. and Mrs. M

Taste temptations at the Kohler Wine & Food Experience

By - Oct 30th, 2009 02:55 pm
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What do you get when you put together a Wisconsin resort town, free samples of wine and food, plus heavyweight celebrity chefs?  Blend it all together smartly, surround it with fine fall weather and luminously colorful trees, and you come up with the Kohler Food & Wine Experience.

Eating and action in the Gourmet Marketplace.

Eating and action in the Gourmet Marketplace.

The 9th Kohler Food & Wine Experience, which took place Oct. 21-24, provided a lovely weekend getaway and a few food surprises. It featured multiple venues with food and wine tastings, a demonstration kitchen and stages featuring well-known guest chefs.  Being a huge PBS fan, Mr. M. was beyond himself to learn that his Italian-cuisine idol, Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, was on Wisconsin soil demonstrating some of her delicious Italian dishes, as was another personal hero of his, Jacques Pépin, whose recipes and foundation in French cooking are elegant and amazing (oh the tasty recipes, oh the lovely accents!).

But, for Mr. and Mrs. M., the afternoon was planned with an economical approach; i.e., attending only free, non-ticketed events. Starting with the Gourmet Marketplace, held in a hall at the elegant American Club, we worked our way through the crowds of food fans sampling olive oils, cheeses, chocolates, various dips and spreads.  Most vendors came from home bases in Wisconsin and Illinois, making this a locavore’s delight. The foods presented tended toward the hors d’oeuvre type; the most exotic sampling was a nice foie gras from Pasture to Plate (Cicero, IL). The standout surprises for Mr. M. were the artisan cheeses from Sartori Foods (Plymouth, WI). The character of their Parmesan cheese was amazingly similar to authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano in texture and taste, and naturally, quite delicious. This is a very viable local alternative to the imported cheese for chefs who take the local approach to cooking (why not save a buck or two in this area, and support the local economy at the same time?).

Wine sampling in the Kohler Design Center was a grape success.

Wine sampling in the Kohler Design Center was a grape success.

The next stop for Mr. and Mrs. M. was the Kohler Design Center. The showroom for the eponymous manufacturer had a few tables set up for vendors with their wares, and the rest of the showroom was a fantasyland of home bath and spa ideas. A representative from Wollersheim Winery (Prairie du Sac, WI) offered samples, and we were glad that he did! Wollersheim’s extremely popular Prairie Fumé was a fabulous find. It’s a light, semi-dry white wine with fruity overtones, and for Mrs. M., drinking it conjured up the summertime feeling of lounging in a hammock. Mr. M. compared its quality to genuine French, Loire Valley white (again, why not save a buck or two in this area, and support the local economy at the same time?). It’s widely available in local grocery stores, and with a price of around $10, it’s an all-around pleasant selection when a light white is called for. Sipping tiny cups of wine, we wandered through the Kohler showroom, admiring the luxurious displays and somehow it made sense — all about fine living.

The afternoon was capped off by a stroll through The Shops at Woodlake, which is an upscale strip mall featuring clothing, food and gifts. It’s anchored by the Woodlake Market, a gourmet emporium and supermarket. Much to our dismay, they were sold out of the Prairie Fumé!  However, we found some back home in Milwaukee at Sendik’s.

Cooking demonstrations and ticketed events were also held in The Shops at Woodlake area, and a long line of people had formed, waiting to enter the mainstage tent in the parking lot. Many held complimentary glasses of Stella Artois beer, and a wave of amiable chatter floated in the air. But who were they waiting for? Ah, Jacques Pépin! So close, but so far. Sans tickets, we headed for home. Despite leaving a food festival, Mrs. M. found herself markedly peckish. Skipping lunch, she had hoped to find something more like tapas than small tastings. So off we went, into the golden afternoon sun, with taste buds aroused and in search of a snack.



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