Use GPS to find “romance” and the map leads to Romance, Wisconsin, off Route 56 near South Creek Road in Vernon County.
This unincorporated community, which claims to be the turkey capital of Wisconsin, is probably not the best destination for a Valentine’s Day getaway, unless there are plans to go hunting or hiking in the nearby Romance Prairie State Nature Area.
Couples looking to celebrate love on Valentine’s Day instead might use GPS to navigate to Kohler, Lake Geneva, Door County and Bayfield, all destinations to rekindle romance and spark passion.
Seeking counsel on romantic getaways, WiG turned to the experts at the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. The suggestions …
• Bayfield Bayfield is Wisconsin’s true north. Visitors bundle up and cuddle close in this romantic winter destination. At the Old Rittenhouse Inn, lodgers can book a room with a working fireplace and enjoy a gourmet meal in the dining room of the Queen Anne-style mansion. At Mount Ashwabay, the downhill skiing is outstanding. Bayfield Winery offers wine tastings to toast the spirits and superior winter views of Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands. For the couple that gambles together, a good bet is the Legendary Waters Resort & Casino at Red Cliff.
• Door County Quiet, snow-covered Door County is a great romantic getaway. The Settlement Courtyard Inn & Lavender Spa in Fish Creek is inviting, with fireplaces and in-house spa services. For an intimate dinner, the tourism experts recommend reserving a table at the Inn at Kristofer’s in Sister Bay. For breakfast or lunch, dine at The Cookery in Fish Creek. Art galleries offer an opportunity to fill an afternoon with wandering. And, if the holiday weekend’s skies are clear, take a drive to the 19th-century lighthouses along the shoreline.
• Kohler The American Club in Kohler promises pampering with a massage at the five-star Kohler Waters Spa. Specialty treatments include the Hammam Ritual, an 80-minute hydrotherapy treatment based on the traditions of Turkish Hammam bathhouses. Those who travel to Kohler over Valentine’s Day weekend can attend a wine dinner, chocolate workshop, choc-tail mixer or chocolate and coffee pairings at In Celebration of Chocolate.
• Lake Geneva At Fantasy Hills Ranch in Delavan, couples can go horseback riding across a 70-acre winter wonderland or get cozy under the stars on a moonlit sleigh ride. The Grand Geneva Resort & Spa offers luxury accommodations. This AAA four-diamond resort also offers dining in three restaurants and boasts an indoor waterpark.
Hundreds of union members and their supporters picketed at the gates of the Kohler Co. on Nov. 16 in the first strike at the Wisconsin manufacturer in more than 30 years.
Workers waved signs, cheered at honking cars and in one location clogged an intersection, which at one point backed up traffic for more than a mile on a two-lane country road into town.
“We’re sorry it had to come to this, but we’re standing for what we believe in,” said John Matenaer, who said he has been with the company 30 years.
Workers want higher pay, lower health care costs and an end to a two-tier wage scale that they say unfairly limits many employees with less seniority to about $13 an hour regardless of the type of work they do.
“We’re all one, all united,” said Bob Durfee, who said he has 24 years with Kohler. “We should all have the same pay, pretty much across the board.”
Kohler – which makes kitchen and bath fixtures, small engines and generators, and runs golf and resort destinations – released a statement on its website, saying the company was “very disappointed that our final offer was not accepted by our associates and is concerned that Union officials may have misrepresented what could be achieved in a strike.”
Kohler had called for three raises of 50 cents an hour each year – about 2 percent a year – for most of its workforce. The offer raised health care costs but included a $1,200 bonus that the company said could cover the increase.
Workers, however, say they haven’t had a raise since 2009 and that the proposed pay increases would actually amount to about 8 cents an hour by the end of the three-year contract.
“It’s a billion-dollar company haggling over pennies,” said Joel Mork, who said he has worked for Kohler for 15 years.
Union employees say those in the lower tier wouldn’t earn a living wage or have a legitimate opportunity for advancement, despite working side by side with workers who make significantly more.
Dave Ertel, a bargaining committee member who said he has been with the company 24 years, said union members have been preparing for months for the eventuality of a drawn-out strike.
“We knew this was the way it was going to go,” he said.
The company employs 32,000 people worldwide and has annual revenue approaching $6 billion, according to its website.
Picketing began early on Nov. 16 after workers marched from the union hall to the company gates. United Auto Workers Local 833 has said 94 percent of voting members rejected Kohler’s latest offer, triggering the first strike at the company since 1983. About 1,800 workers attended Sunday’s membership meeting.
Dean Zettler, who has been with the company 22 years, said they will be out there “until it’s done.”
“It’s not up to us; it’s up to them,” Zettler said.
When Wisconsin’s needle-sharp winds start to pierce the parka, it’s time for a midwinter getaway. But if you’re a foodie, don’t head south this January — try looking in a more northerly direction, toward a new culinary event in Kohler, Wisconsin.
In response to the growing farm-to-table movement, The American Club, a luxury spa and resort run by the Kohler Company, is hosting a new event, Wisconsin Food Favorites. The event, to be held Jan. 23-24, will focus on Wisconsin cuisine of all sorts, kicking off with the most elaborate Friday fish fry you’ll probably find anywhere and ending Saturday with a cook-off featuring area brews and Johnsonville brats. Several chefs from the Kohler kitchens, including the famed Immigrant Room, will demonstrate their skills.
According to event organizers, Wisconsin Food Favorites is a spin-off of its popular Food & Wine Experience, now in its 15th year. That event, held in October, attracts nationally known chefs, as well as those from the Midwest ,for an endless variety of food-related events.
“At our newest, culinary-themed event in January, we wanted to start with a much smaller, casual and more focused approach,” says Tricia Rathermal, Kohler Company special events manager. “Our goal was to showcase some of the best things this state has to offer, with food demonstrations geared to products you can pick up at the supermarket.”
While Rathermal acknowledges that most outsiders still associate Wisconsin with beer, brats and cheese, she said that’s only a small part of Wisconsin Food Favorites. The event includes cooking demonstrations, a taste of pure Wisconsin maple syrup, jams, nationally recognized cheeses and a version of the state’s signature drink, the old-fashioned, created by Death’s Door Spirits.
As much a part of the event as the food is the Kohler property itself. Different events will be held throughout the resort, with the Friday fish fry taking place at the Blackwolf Run clubhouse, the Saturday cook-off at Kohler Design Center and venues like the elegant Wisconsin Room and Winery Bar playing host to additional dining and demonstrations.
For many of these businesses, it’s the first time they’ll be featured at a Kohler-sponsored event, thanks to the Wisconsin focus. “We were looking for a way to partner with local businesses — many of which are located in our backyard — that didn’t always ‘fit’ with our other events throughout the year,” Rathermal says. She added that many out-of-state visitors had expressed an interest in trying local foods. “They definitely want to try things that you can only get here,” she noted.
Saturday morning’s event, for instance, will feature Wisconsin-made maple syrup from Meuer Farms, located near Chilton (about a 45-minute drive north of Kohler). As hungry guests gobble up maple-covered pancakes, waffles and French toast, Meuer Farms owners Dave and Leslie Meuer will be on hand to answer questions about the maple sugar-making process. Dave Meuer plans to bring props such as maple tree sap sacks, taps, and a video to accompany his presentation.
At Meuer Farms, maple syrup-making is an old-fashioned, labor-intensive process. Once the sap is gathered from sugar maples, it must be boiled down in a process that requires the constant heat of a wood-burning fire. “During maple-sugaring time, that fire is checked and restocked with wood every 15 minutes,” Dave says.
Later in the afternoon, Bertram’s Jams, Jellies and More will be available for sampling at a tea party. The event combines the sweet and savory, with tea sandwiches served along biscuits and scones topped with the company’s products.
Jayne Bertram-Ries and Randy Ries started selling pepper jelly (using her mom’s recipe) at farmer’s markets in 2010. They were such a hit that the Sheboygan-based business now offers about 40 jams and jellies throughout the year. The “secret” to their success, Bertram-Ries says, is using only the finest ingredients, like tart, award-winning cherries from Door County.
That successful pepper jelly — described by Jayne as a mild mix of sweet and spicy — also will be featured at the tea party. More best-sellers planned include a citrus jelly using locally picked raspberries, Michigan blueberries and oranges, and several wine-infused jams, some featuring wines produced right in Door County.
IF YOU GO
Wisconsin Food Favorites will be held at The American Club, 419 Highland Drive, Kohler. Prices vary by event from $24 to $40 and a full schedule can be found at kohlerathome.com. Visit the website or call 800-344-2838.
For four days beginning Oct. 17, more than 9,000 visitors, a multitude of celebrity chefs and food vendors will descend upon the normally sleepy town of Kohler.
In fact, the Kohler Food & Wine Experience, entering its 13th year at The American Club, has such strong advance sales that organizers expect record-breaking crowds. Big draws this year include: Food Network star Cat Cora (the first female contestant on “Iron Chef” and co-host of “Around the World in 80 Plates” on the Bravo Channel); Fabio Viviani, owner and executive chef of two noted California restaurants and Siena Tavern in Chicago; and the Beekman Boys, stars of a reality TV show on the Cooking Channel in which they are transplanted from New York City to Beekman Farm in upstate New York.
Local and regional chefs also will be well represented. Familiar names include Michael Feker of Milwaukee’s Il Mito, John Coletta of Quartino and Jason Gorman (former chef at Milwaukee’s Iron Horse Hotel and Potawatomi’s Dream Dance) of Chicago’s Terzo Piano, Paul Funk of Milwaukee’s Hinterland, Dan Bonanno of A Pig in a Fur Coat, Tory Miller of L’Etoile (both from Madison) and Lynn Chisholm of The Paddock Club in Elkhart Lake.
Celebrity chefs returning to the event include: Jacques and Claudine Pepin; Christopher Kimball of American’s Test Kitchen; Tony Mantuano, an event favorite from Chicago whose restaurants include Mangia Trattoria in Kenosha; Chef Bart Vandaele, of Bravo’s “Top Chef”; and Stefano Viglietti, owner of Sheboygan County’s Trattoria Steffano.
The event runs Oct. 17–20.
Some sold out
Those who plan to attend the experience should waste no time purchasing tickets. Some of the best-known events were already sold out well in advance, including the fun, informal Taste of the Vine at the Kohler Design Center and the Champions Dinner.
But with more than 100 events to choose from, there still are options available, including complimentary events. Most events require tickets, ranging in price from $15 to $158, and many of the stage demonstrations range from $30 to $40, according to lead event organizer Tricia Rathermel.
“If this is the first time you have been to this event, you may want to purchase just a few tickets,” Rathermel says. “This will allow you some time to enjoy the free demonstrations at the Shops of Woodlake and Kohler Design Center, or even stroll around a sculpture garden enjoying the fall color.”
The goal, according to Rathermel, should not be to squeeze in as many events as possible, but to approach the event with a sense of fun and curiosity.
Although wine retains top billing at the annual event, it is not the only drink featured here. Tempting liqueurs and liquors – as well as beer – also are on tap at some demonstrations. New additions to the event include interactive workshops where experts show participants how to mix craft cocktails. Knife Skills with America’s Test Kitchen provides a hands-on approach to sharpening and using knives.
Culinary events continue non-stop throughout the long weekend. The best chance to mingle with chefs is during book signings. These are usually held right after a chef’s appearance on the main stage. Rathermel says books signed by famous chefs have become popular holiday gifts.
Rooms at The American Club and the Inn at Woodlake are sold out from Thursday through Saturday. But, as of this writing, rooms at both hotels were available on Sunday – although many of the visiting chefs have packed up and are heading home by then. A couple of events are scheduled for Sunday, however, including an elegant variation of the traditional Green Bay Packers tailgate party.
For last-minute lodging, your best bet is to look for accommodations in nearby Sheboygan. The Blue Harbor Resort, a seven-minute drive from the event, has reduced room rates and provides a free shuttle to guests to and from the Kohler events. The resort, located on the shore of Lake Michigan, is a great place to relax and reflect on one’s experiences. If the weather is warm, open your balcony doors and let the gentle lake breeze and sounds of the surf lull you to sleep.
Kenosha-born Dan Bonanno has attended the Kohler event as a visitor, but this year he’s scheduled among the presenters. He will demonstrate the preparation of Tuscan gnocchi with braised oxtail sauce, an occasional menu item at Madison’s A Pig in a Fur Coat. All of his ingredients are locally sourced, he says – even the flour. “That’s what they do in Italy, use what’s available in their area,” he explains.
Since the sauce alone requires eight hours to make, Bonanno is planning to employ some TV show magic. Just as he’s finishing prepping the sauce – voila! Out it will come, ready to serve. One reason he selected this item is that it’s “fun to make” and “is appropriate as a fall-winter dish.”
Bonanno says he feels “honored” to be making his first presentation at the Kohler event. He’s eager to spend time rubbing elbows with other well-known Midwest chefs. Tickets to his presentation are $32.
Chef Paul Funk of Milwaukee’s Hinterland Erie Street Gastropub is making his second appearance at the event. Last year, he made bacon. This year’s presentation will show the “pros and cons” of using meat marinades, rubs and brines. Not surprisingly, Funk also is the butcher at Hinterland. His presentation also costs $32.
Funk says his audience may be surprised to learn that he uses far fewer marinades than rubs or brines in Hinterland’s selection of meats. (The reasons involve tenderizing the meat.)
“I like doing demonstrations at this event, because those who attend are usually up-to-date in terms of cooking trends,” he says. “They want to see what I do, then go home and try it themselves.”
The Food and Wine Experience has grown considerably since its early days. Rathermel credits this trend to the growing number of cooking shows on TV.
“When we started, all you had available was maybe a couple of cooking shows on PBS,” she says. “Now, there are entire channels dedicated to food preparation. Also, we are always working to take this event to a new level every year. We see a lot of repeat guests.”
On the waist (or hips)
The Kohler Food & Wine Experience runs Oct. 17–20 at The American Club. Some events are sold out well in advance. Call 866-243-8548 or visit www.kohlerfoodandwine.net.