By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Jan 10, 2013 at 9:03 AM

Winter is in full force. Less daylight, cold temperatures and more time indoors can lead to a full-blown case of Seasonal Affective Disorder if you’re not careful.  So, it pays to have a plan to beat those blues before they begin.

You could take the traditional route to winter survival – up your exercise, reduce your alcohol consumption, focus on fruits and vegetables, up your vitamin D intake and spend a few dollars on a full-spectrum lamp in the hopes of boosting your mood. 

The fact is, none of these are bad ideas.  But, if you’re looking for a few more creative solutions to the cold and gloom, I’ve got a few suggestions.

  1. Escape to the lakefront. Grab a seat for lunch at the sunniest table you can find at Harbor House. Enjoy the view of the Calatrava, bask in the glare of the sun on the lake, and order up the "The Sailboat" Seafood Tower, a raw bar special featuring two oysters, two clams, two shrimp, lump crab meat and ceviche for $24.  The ceviche alone will transport you to a place where snow is a distant memory.
  2. Try Tequila! I’m not necessarily an advocate for drowning your sorrows. But, a little taste certainly doesn’t hurt.  Join the folks at Cempazuchi Comida Brava on Brady Street on Jan. 24 between 5 and 9 p.m. to sample their brand new barrel of Herradura Double Barrel Reposado, as well as El Jimador, El Mayor and El Tesoro's Paradiso. Attendees will enjoy appetizers, trivia and giveaways for just $15 per person.
  3. Add some heat to your relationship. Sign up for Erotic Food – a cooking class at Antigua on Saturday, Feb. 16 that’s sure to get your blood pumping and your taste buds tingling. Perfect for couples, or friends who just want to have a great time while learning more about delicious combinations of food.  Class takes place from 11:30 a.m-1:30 p.m.  Purchase tickets online.  Cost: $50 per person.
  4. Go Hawaiian. Wauwatosa is only a short drive west, so head over to 72nd Street and North Avenue and grab a seat at Ono Kine Grindz, where you’ll find some of the best in tropical Hawaiian delights. Grab a plate of Huli Huli Chicken or Vegetable LauLau, and for less than $10 you’ll be dancing the hula in no time.
  5. Trade in your beer for rum. Tiki Thursdays at Hue Restaurant and Lounge in Bay View are the perfect time to gather together with a friend or two and enjoy beachy drinks like the Mai Tai, the Daiquiri, or the Royal Hawaiian ($8 each).  Grab an order of spicy crab Rangoon for $7.50 and you’ll be on the road to warmth in no time flat.
  6. Take a seat by the fire. Been to the new Stone Creek Factory Store yet?  If not, now is the perfect time to head over, grab a specialty latte (I’d recommend the Mexican spice), and take a seat by the wood burning fireplace. Read a book or just gaze into the flames.  Rest assured you’ll forget you were ever cold in the first place.
  7. Spice it up. Make a visit to the Spice House at the Milwaukee Public Market to stock up on some of the highest quality spices, herbs and seasonings available. Warm up with a bottle of Vulcan Salt (recently given accolades over at Grab some cinnamon sticks or cocoa powder for a warming wintery drink. Or invest in a bag of hot chili powder for that perfect pot of Sunday night chili.
  8. Put some South in your mouth.  Don’t underestimate the power of Southern comfort food to give your spirits a lift. Maxie’s is the perfect place to begin. Order some fried green tomatoes ($7.50) and dream of summers to come. Or simply sip on a mint julep and envision yourself relaxing on the porch while the cicadas buzz. 
  9. Drown your sorrows in chocolate. On Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 6 p.m., join Steve Wallace, founder of The Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company, for a journey to Ghana, West Africa. Learn how cocoa is grown and processed. Sample cocoa butter and cocoa liquor, see raw and roasted cocoa beans, cocoa cake and powder and learn how a chocolate bar is made. Steve will share details on how he started the company and how he positioned it to help Ghana's economy. The class, which is being offered at Braise Restaurant, includes a 30 minute reception featuring a complimentary cocktail and appetizer. Tickets available through Braise.  Cost: $35 per person.
  10. Transport your tastebuds to New Orleans. Head over to Coquette Café on Tuesday, Feb. 5 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. for a cooking class that will take your tastebuds South. Learn how to make classic dishes like Oysters Rockefeller, chicken and Andouille sausage gumbo, shrimp creole with dirty rice, and Bourbon pecan pie.  Call (414) 291-2655 to make reservations. Cost: $59 per person.

What are your favorite ways to beat the winter blues? Give us your suggestions in the Talkback feature!

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor

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.