The Kohler Food and Wine Experience was a perfect storm for me. I knew several friends were coming up from Milwaukee to the event. Like foodies on their way to Canterbury – they often don’t go a year without missing it. That – mixed with the schedule of powerhouses from around the culinary world – all set in and around the American Club and the uber-cool Kohler design stuff, and I WAS IN. And also, because Arthur told me I had to go…
The Wisconsin Foodie crew couldn’t have been more fortunate to “hang” with the likes of Hung Huynh, Tony Matuano, Ulrich Koberstein, Ilan Hall and Andrea Immer Robinson. And I have to say, they couldn’t be nicer, more forthcoming, funny and generous people. It is clear they love their craft and it is part of them, regardless of what else life brings along. We can relate.
A more personal story that I have to share with you given Milwaukee’s rich immigrant culture. Hung is the perfect American story. First generation American like me, grew up in his parents restaurant, left his home town early, sucked it up for a few years flipping and dicing rice and shrimp at a Bennie Hanna type joint, kept his head down, saved his money, then put his chips into a great culinary school. From there, he paid his dues in New York and while doing that – went to the Top Chef audition as a fluke. Go figure. And while some have said that Hung can be all business, it had to be a persona that was all for the show. So here he is. Never met us before. He finishes his cooking segment in the Kohler Demo Kitchen, and then we say, “Hey, can walk you sans your jacket through the freezing and raining Wisconsin late fall weather to the grocery store and ask you a few questions on camera?” He looks at us as and without pause answers, “Yeah, which way do we go?” He really embraced the show and what we were doing – all of the celebrity chefs did. Watch on Saturday, and you’ll see exactly what I mean. It was magic. Pure Foodie magic.
Here is where my own pilgrimage around Canterbury/Kohler stretches out.
Ulrich Koberstein is the Group Director of Culinary Arts at the Kohler Company. Previously, he had been top dog chef at 4 or 5 Ritz Carlton’s. On any given day this guy and his team could be cooking for the Ambassador from the United Arab Emigrates, or the Rolling Stones. (They are famous for renting out whole floors during a tour.) The good news is he was our guide that day. If there was a square inch Ulrich, the crew and I did not cover at Kohler, I don’t know where it was. We visited two wine cellars, a beer tasting pub, numerous restaurants, a chocolate boutique, half a dozen beyond-well-appointed kitchens, cheese caves and I even think we saw a partridge in a pear tree. It was like going behind-the-scenes at the Met with one of the artists who also painted some of the masterpieces. Not that I am complaining, but we did at least half of this tour with wine glasses in our hands. (I know I know, I can hear the world’s smallest violins rosining up for me now…) Just know that the Wisconsin Foodie crew is willing to do whatever it takes for quality content on the show. That day, I think it was a mid-90s Russian River Valley Pinot.
There is so much more to share with you, but for now, I leave you with one final thought. The whole weekend was an exceptional party – and we captured it in a way that only Wisconsin Foodie could. I am going back next year, and the year after that and after that, and as long as I have an appetite. And while the weekend is all but a distant memory now, Saturday, you can relive it as if you were there. Watch this episode. You won’t regret one minute of it.
Looking for the perfect Thanksgiving wine? Not an easy task given the wide range of flavors from salty and savory to sweet and sour – and all on the same plate! If you want a real challenge this year, try pairing your wine not only to the food, but also to this year’s Thanksgiving host.
The New York Times spends 36 hours in Milwaukee, see what they uncover.
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It’s a long way from Russian language and literature to the world of artisan cheese and sausage that help distinguish Milwaukee’s food scene.
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