Food shows turn eating into an experience

Seems like food isn’t just to be eaten anymore. It is to be experienced.

Two major food events in Wisconsin this fall emphasize specialty foods, gourmet cooking techniques and advice about how to match wine with food.

The second annual Kohler Food & Wine Experience will be Oct. 25-27 in Sheboygan County, at the Shops at Woodlake and near The American Club, the state’s only five-diamond hotel. Some workshops are free; others cost $10 or $20 each.

In Madison, the first Madison Food & Wine Experience will be Nov. 1-3 at the Alliant Energy Center. Admission is $35 in advance, $40 at the door. It’s an extra $10 for wine seminars.

Have a smaller budget? The huge Taste of Home’s Cooking Expo, Oct. 18-19 at the Midwest Express Center in downtown Milwaukee, will have a more mainstream feel. Vendors include Kraft and Campbell Soup. Admission is $9, plus an extra $5 to go to a cooking demo.

The choices are down-home vs. upscale, although each event will contain simple recipes, elegant menu planning and respectable chefs as participants. For example:

Nick Stellino, whose “Family Kitchen” show is on PBS stations, will cook at the Milwaukee event.

Some of the best local restaurant and culinary school chefs will be the headliners in Madison.

Kohler has lured several heavy-hitters. One is Keith Famie, a Food Network host, “Survivor II” TV show contestant and winner of several national awards. Another is Andrea Immer of New York, one of only 10 women worldwide who is a master sommelier (wine steward).

Here are more event comparisons. Wherever you go, pack breath mints and antacids.

Milwaukee: There is no booze. You will get food coupons, recipes and/or samples at some of the 80-plus exhibits. You can buy cookbooks and cooking gadgets at the Expo Marketplace.

Seating is limited at the cooking expos, and it’s a max of one session per person for $5. Topics are “Dazzling Desserts,” “DeLIGHT-ful Dishes” and “Holiday Happenings.” Recipes will include Toffee-Mocha Cream Torte and Pork Chops with Mango Relish.

Bring recipes, for the recipe swap, or enter the Food Gifts Contest (a $200 prize will be given for the most unique and attractively packaged food gift that is no more than 18 inches wide, tall or deep).

Kohler: To make a day (or weekend) of it, plan to drop a few bucks on one or more of the two dozen food and wine seminars. What’s free? Access to the 40 specialty food exhibitors, demos/pairings of food and wine at Woodlake Market, demos of Kohler cooking equipment.

Wine seminar titles include “2000 Vintage Ports” and “Cabernet Blending from Mondavi.” Just hungry? The menu includes “Simple Italian Soups” and “A Mediterranean Feast.”

All tickets to the $65 Gala Wine Tasting and $135 Celebrity Chef’s Dinner have been sold, but $10 will buy your way through the German Food Buffet.

Madison: You may want to book lodging for the night or risk a DWI. Event admission is heftier but includes tastings from more than 90 varietals of wine, cooking demos and food samples. Expect about 125 exhibitors.

Sessions range from the secret of hand dipping chocolate to pairing food and beer. Cooking demo topics include seasonal dishes, recipes with risotto.

Wine seminar admission is an extra $10; pre-registration is suggested. Among the seven choices: “Sparkling Wines from Around the World,” “Pairing Wisconsin Wine & Cheese.”

Event sponsors have solid reputations. Taste of Home magazine, based in Greendale, has a circulation of 4.5 million, making it the nation’s top food magazine.

The more elite Food & Wine magazine is co-sponsoring the Kohler event, which spokeswoman Deb Adamson calls “not a consumer trade show as much as it is an immersion ‘experience’ for the true gourmand and wine aficionado.”

In Madison, event organizer Tom Gavaras has put together the Twin Cities Food & Wine Experience for eight years. It takes up 100,000 square feet at the Minneapolis Convention Center, with about 275 exhibitors. Next year, it’s Jan. 31 to Feb. 2; call (612) 371-5801 for more info. Admission will be $50 in advance, $55 at the door.
For more:

Taste of Home’s Cooking Expo, (800) 784-0518, Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 18, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 19. Location is Fourth Street and Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee. One-day event shuttles are being arranged from as far away as Green Bay and Rockford, Ill.

Kohler Food & Wine Experience, (800) 344-2838, ext. 938, Most events are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 25-27. Kohler is off of Interstate 43, between Milwaukee and Green Bay. Event/lodging packages are available.

Madison Food & Wine Experience, (866) 895-8911 or Hours are 3-9 p.m. Nov. 1, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 2, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 3. The event site is off of Highways 12-18, John Nolen Drive exit. The nearby Holiday Inn Express, (800) 465-4329, has an event rate of $71.10 per night.