By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Mar 07, 2014 at 11:04 AM

The polar vortex took a lot out of us this winter. And, even now, as the days grow slightly warmer, it’s challenging to envision the point in time when we’ll be able to trade snow showers for spring flowers.

But, spring really is right on the horizon. And fortunately, while we’re waiting for the daffodils to bloom, there are some seriously tasty ways to escape from the winter doldrums and enjoy some of the best of Milwaukee.

Here’s a three-step program for getting ahead of your cabin fever.

  1. Seasonal changes can be rough, but make up your mind to stop grumbling. Smile. Bask in the sunshine. And refocus your energy on the positive.
  2. Get yourself out of the house. You’ve spent enough time holed up under that blanket with your DVDs, and it’s about time you replenished your melatonin.
  3. Pick one (or more) of the activities below, and just do it.

If you’re dreaming of days on the beach, indulge your fantasy at Foundation Bar, 196 S. 2nd St., where you can grab a $8 mai tai any day of the week. 

Regardless of the outside temperature, take in some sun in the bright lake-facing environment of Café Calatrava at the Milwaukee Art Museum. The view in the café is lovely and bright, and the menu, which changes with each featured museum exhibit, is sure to lift your spirits. I recommend starting with the fried green tomatoes with chow-chow relish and red pepper coulis ($8).

If Mexico is on your mind, you’ll be happy to note that March is "Mezcal Madness Month" at Cemapzuchi, 1205 E. Brady St., and they have plenty of specials that can instantly transform a dreary, cold Wisconsin day into a more tolerable proposition. For instance, on Tuesdays beginning at 5 p.m., you can enjoy half-price Campesino margaritas made with Del Maguey Vida mescal. Thursdays, get the same deal on all mescal cocktails. Even better, spend your Saturday afternoon (from 2 to 4 p.m.) at Mezcal School. For $12 per person, enjoy appetizers, special deals on mezcal flights and a lesson in what makes Mezcal such a unique spirit.

Treat yourself to some fresh spring vegetables. Rumor has it Hinterland Erie Street Gastropub has morels on the menu, Ardent just harvested its first greens from its restaurant greenhouse, and other local spots are sure to follow. If you’re looking for simple pub fare, the tempura asparagus at Ugly’s Pub, 1125 N. Old World 3rd St. is a perennial favorite that just might do the trick.

Embrace the view. Even on the gloomiest of days, the view at Blu on the 23rd floor of The Pfister Hotel, 424 E. Wisconsin Ave., is sure to take your breath away. Grab a martini and a window seat and forget about winter for a while.

Feeling down? Perk up with fruity antioxidants. Reach for a Refuge smoothie with tropical flavors like pineapple, orange, mango, papaya. You can pick one up at one of two locations -- 763 N. Plankinton Ave. or 2328 N Farwell Ave. 

Escape to the Pacific at Ono Kine Grindz, 7215 W. North Ave., where owners Guy Roeseler and Hawaii native David Lau stock a wide variety of tropical treats like Hawaiian sea salt, Hawaiian shirts, sweets and juices, soy sauce and hot sauces. While you’re there, grab a bite to eat at the café. The bright flavors in the ginger salmon will transport you to warmer climes. And the carrot pineapple slaw will give you a taste of sunshine, even if the day is cloudy.

Spend your Saturday morning at the Milwaukee County Winter Farmer’s Market at the Mitchell Park Domes. Not only are the vendors friendly, but their hoop houses are starting to produce fresh greens. Treat yourself to a walk through the tropical dome for an extra jolt of energy. The market runs every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through April 19.               

Embrace the season by participating in the late winter tradition collecting maple sap and boiling it down into syrup at the Urban Ecology Center in Washington Park, 1859 N. 40th St. Weekly maple sugaring courses include a stroll through Washington Park and samples of the finished maple syrup. Held March 8, 15, 22 and 29 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Adults: $6 (non-members: $9), children: $4 (non-members: $6). For more information, contact Erick Anderson at (414) 344-5460.

Let your taste buds remind you that spring is just around the corner. Explore the fresh flavors and character of some of the many varieties of green tea during an in-depth cupping and tasting session at Discovery World on Wednesday, March 12 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.  Just $20 for members and $25 for non-members. Get more information and buy tickets online.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.