By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Oct 23, 2023 at 11:02 AM Photography: Lori Fredrich

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It’s been a number of years since I’ve attended Kohler Food & Wine, the annual food festival hosted by The American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin. And I was delighted to find that the 22nd year for the festival was a notably upgraded experience. 

Among Food & Wine’s charms is its intimate feel, which allows guests to interact with featured talent and navigate tastings from countless chefs, winemakers and distillers in a relaxed, yet upscale setting during tastings, demonstrations and pairing dinners.  It’s something you absolutely won’t find at most other events of its kind.

In fact, if this year’s Kohler Food & Wine was any indication, there’s every reason to put 2024’s festivities on your must-do list. 

Culinary experiences

This year’s event showcased an all-star line up of chefs including Martha Stewart, Gavin Kaysen, Daniela Soto-Innes, and Eddie Jackson, along with talent from America’s Test Kitchen,  the Bartolotta Restaurants and more. 

Highlights included a culinary demonstration with Daniela Soto-Innes, who offered tips and tricks as she made her recipe for earthy wild mushrooms with white mole.

Daniela Soto-InnesX

A native of Mexico City, Soto-Innes’s career includes opening Cosme and Atla in New York. She was recipient of the Rising Star Chef of the Year Award by the James Beard Association and the youngest chef named World’s Best Female Chef by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Her newest restaurant venture, Rubra, is slated to open in just over a month at W Hotel Punta de Mita in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico.

Mushrooms with white mole
Mushrooms with white mole

Pastry Chef Annelise Linton gave the audience a great show during her apple pie demonstration, which included myriad tips for getting the most flavor out of apples, perfecting pie crust and creating creative toppings (like snickerdoodle and pecan crumble). 

Annelise Linton takes apple pie from the ovenX

In addition to her work with the Bartolotta Restaurants, Linton’s career has included work at Grey Plume in Omaha, Nebraska, Rocket Baby Bakery, Ardent and Belfre Kitchen. She also launched her own business, Spotted Rabbit Bakeshop, during the pandemic.

Mini apple pie, snickerdoodle, three caramel sauces
Mini apple pie, snickerdoodle, three caramel sauces

Taste of the Vine

Maybe among the most legendary gatherings at Kohler Food & Wine is their Taste of the Vine, a remarkable tasting event held at the iconic Kohler Design Center.  The event featured over 90 vintages from 30 award-winning wineries, live music, high end bites and stunning desserts all set against the backdrop of beautiful sinks, fixtures, bathtubs and gorgeous room displays featuring Kohler products.

Stunning desserts at Taste of the VineX

It was a fitting celebration to accompany the 150th anniversary of the Kohler Co., a company led by CEO David Kohler, the fourth generation of family leadership for the company long known for innovation in the kitchen and bath, energy resiliency, luxury hospitality, and golf industries.

Book signings

While I wasn’t lucky enough to get tickets to the culinary presentation or dinner with Martha Stewart, I was honored to meet her in person during her book signing at the Shops at Woodlake. Stewart was gracious as one would expect, even entertaining a chat with me as she signed my copy of her 2011 tome, “Martha’s Entertaining”.

Martha Stewart and Lori FredrichX

I also had a great time visiting with the crew from America’s Test Kitchen, including Bridget Lancaster, Julia Collin Davison, who enjoyed a pizza from Il Ritrovo in Sheboygan during her visit; and Jack Bishop, who shared that he was looking forward to a Sunday trip to Vanguard before heading home on Sunday.

The America's Test Kitchen Crew with Lori FredrichX

Wine & spirits

In addition to chefs, the festival featured winemakers and distillers from across the continent and beyond.

The Food & Wine Village, a beautifully curated outdoor tasting area, offered immersive experiences from curated brands including Belle Glos, DAOU Family Estates, Piper Heidsieck, Aperol, Jack Daniels, Herradura Tequila, Ketel One, Makers  Mark, Monkey Shoulder, Sandeman, Tito’s Vodka and Woodford Reserve, along with Eagle Park Brewing who showcased its line-up of custom brews for Destination Kohler.

Kohler Food & Wine VillageX

Meanwhile, smaller seminars offered intimate tastings with brands like Old Pulteney, who offered a tasting of their 12, 15 and 25 year Scotches alongside Capital Reserve, Sunseekers and Kumamoto oysters.

Scotch and oystersX

Memorable dinners

Nightly dinners showcased the talents of numerous chefs, including featured celebrity chefs and local chefs from Kohler, the Bartolotta Restaurant Group and beyond.

The Friday evening Ashes & Diamonds Wine dinner was a memorable one featuring four delicious courses from Chef Rob Hurrie of the Black Pig in Sheboygan along with wine pairings from Ashes & Diamonds, a relatively new Napa Valley winery which launched in 2017.

Niman Ranch Short Ribs with mushroom demi, brussels sprouts paired with Ashes & Diamonds Rouge No. 5
Niman Ranch Short Ribs with mushroom demi, brussels sprouts paired with Ashes & Diamonds Rouge No. 5

Highlights included fascinating stories and wine commentary from Ashes & Diamonds owner Kashy Khaledi, whose pre-wine making career included years of work for Capitol Records.

Saturday evening's dinner took place at Whistling Straits, the notable Kohler golf course designed by Pete Dye, which spans two miles of Lake Michigan coastline.

Venison Ravioli with butternut squash puree paired with Ken Wright Cellars McCrone Vineyard Pinot Noir
Venison Ravioli with butternut squash puree paired with Ken Wright Cellars McCrone Vineyard Pinot Noir

The dinner featured four courses from Chef Ezekial Fitzgerald plus truly insightful commentary from Wisconsin native Ken Wright of Ken Wright Cellars in Williamette, Oregon. Each course was paired with one of Ken Wright’s esteemed Pinot Noirs and guests were treated to a mini education in terroir's impacts on each wine's flavor profiles.  

Signed bottle from Ken Wright CellarsX

Each guest also went home with a signed bottle of 2022 Ken Wright Cellars Pinot Noir.

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.