Valentines, this is your month. Here are a few ways to pamper yourselves in style.
We have no shortage of luscious chocolates in Wisconsin, but only one chocolatier in Midwest – Anette Righi DeFendi – makes the cut in Dessert Professional magazine’s 2015 list of Top Ten Chocolatiers in North America.
The head chocolatier at Kohler Original Recipe Chocolates and her mentor – Josh Johnson, Destination Kohler executive pastry chef – help create one sweet feast during the annual In Celebration of Chocolate weekend at The American Club and Inn on Woodlake, Feb. 19-21. The event begins with a four-course dinner and wine pairings for $136; it ends with the Chocolate Lovers Brunch for $45. In between are numerous cooking demos, a hands-on chocolate-making class and talks that pair chocolate with mimosa, wine or scotch. Class prices vary, depending upon the topic.
The one-night Sweet Treat hotel package starts at $161 per person and includes one night of lodging, a ticket to Sugar High (jazz, drinks, appetizers and desserts) on Feb. 20 and a four-piece box of chocolate hearts. destinationkohler.com, 855-444-2838
The American Club is Wisconsin’s only five-diamond lodging, as designated by the American Automobile Association, and it gained this rating in 1985.
The annual Death by Chocolate extravaganza in downtown Appleton tempts chocolate lovers to pay $20 to sample many treats from 1-4:30 p.m. Feb. 14 at 17 taverns, coffeeshops, restaurants and other businesses. The multi-stop buffet includes chocolate doughnut holes at Bagelicious, chocolate cinnamon tea at Globally Sound Fair Trade and chocolate whiskey at Olde Town Tavern. appletondowntown.org, 920-954-9112
In Milwaukee, Indulgence Chocolatiers makes room all year for couples and groups of friends to relax with smart pairings of chocolate and wine, beer or cheese. Matches change seasonally; the work begins when the chocolate maker selects a beverage or food, then creates a candy – truffle to praline – that is a perfect pairing. Winter flights with three wines, four beers or four cheeses cost $16. indulgencechocolatiers.com, 414-223-0123
The annual Madison Hotel Week entices travelers this month because overnight room rates at 22 properties drop to $75 to $125 from Feb. 12-21. These are deep discounts for some participants in prime locations, such as independently owned HotelRED, near Camp Randall Stadium and Monroe Street shopping; Graduate Madison, near State Street and the University of Wisconsin campus; Madison Concourse Hotel, near State Street and the State Capitol; and The Edgewater, which faces Lake Mendota.
The promotion includes a discount for dining at the 17 restaurants in the Food Fight group. Book the special lodging rate and find ideas about how to spend a wintry weekend in Madison at visitmadison.com/madison-hotel-week, 800-228-6063.
The Edgewater, 1001 Wisconsin Place, Madison, recently gained a four-diamond rating from AAA. It opened in 1948, got a $100 million overhaul in 2014 and historically is where Madison houses visiting celebrities, Bob Hope to Elton John to the Dalai Lama. theedgewater.com, 608-535-8200
Only nine Wisconsin hotels earn a four-diamond AAA rating. The others are The Delafield Hotel, Delafield; Osthoff Resort, Elkhart Lake; Grand Geneva Resort and Spa, Lake Geneva; Hilton Milwaukee City Center, Milwaukee Marriott Downtown, Iron Horse Hotel and Pfister Hotel, all in Milwaukee; and the new Charmant Hotel, La Crosse.
The riverfront Charmant in downtown La Crosse is a transformed 19th century candy factory with 67 guest rooms. This Mississippi River boutique hotel’s name means “charming” in French but also was a type of chocolate produced when the building made candy. The hotel restaurant serves a tidy menu of “rustic French-inspired cuisine” such as pomme frites, parsnip soup, Nicoise salad, ham and gruyere.
Handmade chocolates at the Sweets Bar and wood-fired pizza at the Rooftop Terrace are other reasons to visit. The hotel is dog-friendly (with a one-time fee of $50), and pet sitting can be arranged. The Date Night special, at $239, includes lodging, parking, breakfast, two welcome drinks and a $25 certificate for dining. thecharmanthotel.com, 608-519-8800
Last: Marcus Hotels and Resorts, based in Milwaukee, offers unique getaways for couples to live it up this month. For example:
The “Lift of Love Package” includes one night at Grand Geneva Resort and Spa, two lift tickets for skiing or snowboarding, equipment rentals, chocolates and two cocktails. Rates start at $219. The “Love at First Bite” package includes lodging, a $100 dining credit, chocolates and a red rose at the Grand Geneva. Rates start at $199. grandgeneva.com, 800-558-3417
At Heidel House, Green Lake, the “Honeymoon Anytime” package starts at $314 for lodging, two 50-minute massages, access to Evensong spa amenities (labyrinth, whirlpool, relaxation area), chocolates, a flower bouquet and two chocolate martinis. heidelhouse.com, 920-294-3344
Sorry to not alert you earlier to the opportunity to stay two nights in a luxury suite at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center, get a private tour of the Harley-Davidson Museum, a limited-edition 2016 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim S and $500 worth of Harley gear for $22,900. The deadline for booking this package was Jan. 25.