October 21, 2012

America's Test Kitchen at Kohler Food & Wine

This weekend was my first time attending the annual Kohler Food & Wine Experience, and I loved it.  More specifically, I loved the America's Test Kitchen cooking demonstration, which is the only event I attended.
There are so many options at the festival, but most events require a ticket and they don't come cheap.  The average price was $40 per one-hour event. 

I arrived early and was surprised to find all three America's Test Kitchen cast members hanging out and chatting.  Sitting in the front row, I was fascinated by their conversation, such as a discussion on the Amazon ranking for their newest book.

Before the demo, a woman who appeared to be about my age and also their biggest fan ever, excitedly asked if she could have her photo taken with Chris Kimball, the host of America's Test Kitchen. She returned to her seat, and said to me "you probably think I'm a huge dork."  I told her I was jealous that she had the courage to do that. 

She then encouraged me to the same, and I completely lucked out that all three cast members were available for a photo at that moment.  I have a huge grin on my face because I was so excited to be there.  Bridget Lancaster, Chris Kimball and Jack Bishop were so personable!

The one-hour event had four components - a beef stew demonstration, a cheese tasting, a wine tasting and a carrot cake demonstration.  Chris Kimball kicked things off by showing us how to make Catalan-style beef stew.

I was sitting in the very first seat, so a large sample was put in front of me before I could say no.  Luckily, the woman sitting next to me really liked it, so she had my portion too.  There are some types of meat that I don't mind the taste of, but beef is definitely not one of them.

Next, Jack Bishop led us through a cheddar cheese tasting.  It was fun participating in something that I've previously only seen him do on TV.  We sampled three artisanal cheddars, which are cheeses that should be eaten straight from the package and are not intended for cooking.           

We voted, and the clear favorite was Prairie Breeze from Milton Creamery, which I also voted for.  The overhead mirror was handy for capturing how the front row voted :)  It turns out that two rounds of starter cultures have a huge influence on flavor.   

The vast majority of people voted for Prairie Breeze, but a decent percentage instead voted for Jasper Hill Cheddar from Cabot Cellars which shocked me because I found it to be revolting, and couldn't swallow my small sample fast enough.

Unrelated to America' Test Kitchen, Maria Ponzi then led us through a wine tasting of Pinot Noir from Ponzi Vineyards in Oregon.  The family moved from California to Oregon in 1970 specifically to make Pinot Noir and in 1974 they produced their first two barrels.

The wine was very good, but the last demonstration was my favorite.  Bridget Lancaster demonstrated how to make a layered carrot cake, which I found interesting because the version she made uses an 18 by 13-inch rimmed baking sheet, so layers don't have to be cut horizontally.

The New York Times recently had a fascinating article on Chris Kimball, called Cooking Isn’t Creative, and It Isn’t Easy.  I'm a big fan of America's Test Kitchen and the related empire (Cook's Illustrated, Cook's Country, their online cooking school, etc), but the article kind of makes Kimball out to be a jerk, so I was pleasantly surprised to find him to be very nice in person. 

After the demo, all three signed books and I was wishing I had brought my copy of the The New Best Recipe, which is my favorite America's Test Kitchen cookbook.  An annual appearance at Kohler seems to be a tradition for America's Test Kitchen, so I plan to bring my book next year.


  1. So glad you had a great time! Next year I'd definitely like to see them in Kohler since it sounds like there event was much longer and a bit more "involved" :)

  2. That carrot cake looks amazing - as does the entire event! I will definitely have to check out that cookbook.