Thursday, May 21, 2015

Weekend at The American Club - Kohler, WI

Recently we spent a weekend in the Sheboygan, Wisconsin area. Our main reason for the trip was to visit the American Club Resort in nearby Kohler (the brewery tour mentioned in our last post was just icing on the cake).

Kohler, Wisconsin is famous because it's where your bath tubs, sinks, toilets, and faucets come from. The town of Kohler was founded after the company of the same name planted its roots there. In 1918 the company built a dormitory for its immigrant workforce within easy walking distance to the factory. Tenants received full board and access to a pub, bowling alley, and on-site barber. The building was named The American Club in hopes to inspire the residents to consider U.S. citizenship. In the early 80's the property re-opened as a hotel and it is still owned by Kohler. We've known of the hotel's reputation for a long time but we finally put the wheels-in-motion to visit after seeing it featured on an episode of myhousewifelife.
Accommodations
The American Club has two separate hotels within walking distance of each other (branded together as Destination Kohler). There's the Inn on Woodlake which is a modern building connected to a high-end strip mall, and there's the original American Club building with its Carriage House attached to the spa and Kohler Design Center. We chose to stay in the American Club main building and lucked into a room upgrade. We received a welcome champagne at check-in and found chocolates in our room with our welcome packet.

The standard room has a king bed, wet bar/mini bar, and Kohler shower with multiple jets and features. Our upgraded room included a sitting area with couch and chairs plus a 2 person jet tub. All the rooms are named after famous people. We stayed in Maude Adams. Unfortunately our room was directly across the street from the Kohler Corporate HQ with its working clock tower.


There are several pleasant public areas in the main building aside from the restaurants and bars. There's a good sized library with lots of seating, a smaller formal room with fireplace, a large courtyard and garden, and a stain glassed enclosed coffee house.


Dining
There are dining options in the main building, the spa, the nearby shopping center, and the Kohler-owned golf courses. Shuttle services linked all the properties. Friday and Saturday we experienced the Horse and Plow pub. Great beer menu here with a lot of options on tap and in bottles.  Many of the items were local and quite a few were dark malty beers (hooray!). We had some snacks for lunch on Saturday including the Honey BBQ Bacon Bites. These were pieces of pork belly smothered in BBQ sauce.


Friday night we took a short shuttle ride over to the Blackwolf Run Golf Course. This was the resort complex's steak house that resided in a log cabin overlooking the course and forest. The weather was pleasant enough to dine outside. We were treated to a great sunset while we had some wonderful specialty cocktails and appetizers of coconut/almond shrimp plus beef/asparagus rolls. For main courses Holly chose the beef filet and Dave the pork chop. Both were great choices.


Saturday's dinner was in The Immigrant restaurant in the basement of the main building. We started off with cocktails in the wine bar before being escorted to our table in the English Room (rooms were named for countries). This was a "jacket required" place where all the servers attending to you addressed you by your last name. At one point a server realized they missed our bread course and bolted to rectify it. Since we did not want to be annoying with flash we did not take good pictures of the food. We had a cucumber gazpacho amuse bouche, shared appetizers of asparagus and barley risotto plus tiger prawns with ricotta cavatelli. For entrees Dave had the filet and Holly the sea bass. Dessert was a chocolate ganache peanut butter and jelly creation accompanied by the best ever pressed-pot Peruvian coffee. Everything was excellent.

Sunday we had the brunch buffet in The Wisconsin Room, which was the Club's original dining hall. Brunch was especially busy that morning since it was Mother's Day. We could not secure a reservation earlier than 1:15, but we checked in early and sat down at our table at 12:45. One nice feature about this buffet was the unlimited mimosas. The variety wasn't as large as we've seen on other buffets but the quality and maintenance certainly was much better. Selections we enjoyed included shrimp, rocky road bread pudding, creme brûlée french toast, bacon, eggs benedict, little pastries, etc. We ate way too much and we're excited to have the 2 hour drive home ahead of us.
Activities
We'll start with a list of what we did not do: We did not take advantage of the resort's nature preserve - it was a drab weekend. We also did not golf on either of the two golf courses. We did take a drive to the resort's Whispering Straits golf course. It took us about twenty minutes to head to the club placed on the shores of Lake Michigan. The main building (do you call it a club house if it's not a club?) looked as if it belonged in Scotland. We enjoyed a beverage in the second floor lounge and learned that this will be the home of the 2015 PGA Championship. Dave's first thought: Where are all those people going to stay? Where do they park because the lot was pretty full this morning?


We visited the Kohler Water Spa. We were excited about this experience because of the hype they placed on their website about all the amenities in the spa like the public area pools, sitting areas, and snacks. If you weren't receiving a treatment (2 treatments other times of the year) the public area use would cost you $40pp.

Photos from the web since taking photos in the spa is highly discouraged
We arrived early and were escorted to our locker rooms. Each had an in-room hot tub, cold plunge, sauna, and steam room. The lockers are connected to a public pool area with a waterfall. There were 8 lounge seats around the pool and snacks of tea, water, apples, and almonds. We made our way to the 4th floor hot tub. No snacks up here.... This area included 6 loungers, some outdoor seating couches, and a bench by the fireplace. We were able to order some champagne while we relaxed before our treatment.
We chose a couple's treatment of combined river bath + massage. The treatment started with us getting a full body exfoliation. The massage technicians used loofah gloves to perform this task. Next, we were led into a very large Kohler bath tub complete with multiple jet settings and lighting sequences. Following a twenty minute soak we were escorted back to our tables for the full body massage. The pressure applied was typical resort spa pressure (not so much). After the treatment we thought about hanging by the main pool, but the area was overflowing with people. They clearly did not have enough seating for all the treatments occurring during the day and people were lingering.

We were a little underwhelmed by the spa. Our treatment was nice, but we expected a lot more spa amenities, especially for the price and service charge if you weren't getting a treatment. They definitely needed more snack offerings and seating in the common areas. The Hotel Hershey's spa was a nicer overall experience.

We browsed the shops at the Inn on Woodlake. Many of the stores were of no interest to us: furniture, clothing, gardening, etc. We did enjoy browsing the chocolate shop, toy shop, Wisconsin shop, and the food market. Any grocery store that drops you into the wine section upon entry wins our vote.
The final activity we took part in was touring the Kohler Design Center. The basement holds the Kohler Museum and the top two floors showcase Kohler products. They had sample applications of their products in dream themed bathrooms. This was fun to walk through, but would have been more fun if we were in the mood to actually remodel a kitchen or bath.


We really enjoyed our weekend at The American Club. We enjoyed the hotel, its amenities, and dining options. We would like to go back (maybe in early fall season) to experience the nature reserve and check out more of Sheboygan. We did not miss the hassle and high cost associated with parking at Chicago hotels. Everything was very relaxed and the staff did their best to take care of the guests. We had enough time over two nights to do everything we wanted to, including the brewery tour in town.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

3 Sheeps Brewing: Sheboygan Wisconsin

We've just returned from a weekend in the Sheboygan, Wisconsin area. Sheboygan is a small city an hour north of Milwaukee along the shores of Lake Michigan. The three things Dave knew about Sheboygan before the trip: 1) it was in Wisconsin 2) John Candy's polka band in Home Alone was from Sheboygan 3) 3 Sheeps Brewing was out of Sheboygan.
We first had 3 Sheeps Baaad Boy Black Wheat last summer at the Drumbar in Chicago. Ever since, it has been in constant rotation at our home thanks to our local grocery store maintaining stock. When we found out tours were offered we decided to add the event to our weekend's itinerary.
This was a little tricky. We read on the 3 Sheeps site that the brewery was somehow attached to the bar Hops Haven. We figured a side door or other kind of separate enterance. Nope, the brewery was inside the bar (that they did not own). We verified with the bartender we were in the right place and proceeded to order a seasonal 3 Sheeps product. The process for joining the tour was to sit at the bar and wait for someone to come get you. Ok.......

Five of us were gathered from the bar and led to the brew room by brewery founder Grant. He skipped the conventional brewery tour norms of the process of how beer is made and turned the half-hour session into a more personal Q&A conversation. We learned about his family's history within the beer industry, 3 Sheep's relationship with the bar owners, and the fact that they are a 5-man operation. Grant also conveyed how their seasonals differ from their year-round offerings in ingredients and alcohol levels. We've always loved their iconic tap handles and found out they were designed by a Sheboygan tattoo artist and each one is hand-painted. Added one to our collection.

The next day we made our way to a local grocery store. We cleaned them out of Hello, My Name is Joe the coffee seasonal we enjoyed during the tour, got one pack of Ewephoria, made with Cocoa nibs and ginger, plus one small batch bottle of Roll Out the Barrel Belgian Ale aged in Chardonnay barrels.

 We had a fun time on the tour and enjoyed the Hops Haven bar.  Both are worth checking out when in Sheboygan.

Friday, May 1, 2015

May Charity of the Month: American Red Cross

Charity of the Month is the way Team Tizzel is helping to support some very worthy organizations. As part of this program, we dedicate a post to a charity that we will sponsor through the month by donating Holly's training run money.

April: We sponsored John Paul II Medical Research Institute to help find breakthroughs in fighting diseases like ALS in honor of one of Dave's friends from college. We will be donating $125 plus a matching gift to JP2MRC through their online link at www.jp2mri.org.

May's Charity:

American Red Cross: Northwest Illinois

http://www.redcross.org/il/freeport

April 9th was a typical Thursday for us. After work we decided to visit our local brewery and get some Chinese food in the nearby town of McHenry (by the yellow arrow above Woodstock). While sipping our beers in Chain O' Lakes Brewery a friend came in telling us about the tornado warning. We were in a stone building (with barely any windows) built in the 1860's so we had no clue what was going on out there. Once the Weather Channel App told us the watch was over we drove to our dining location and entered the restaurant while the warning sirens started whirring. While in there a large hailstorm came through with those golf ball sized nuggets. We ate quickly and took a bunch of leftovers home. The drive home was uneventful save for some great lightning bolts.

Safely home we turned on the storm coverage to find the storm track went through both our hometown and the town we had dinner in. Luckily no visible damage around our area, but unfortunately some communities to the southwest of us did not fair as well. Rochelle and Fairdale suffered a lot of damage. A friend of ours who lives in Rochelle posted this photo to Facebook.

Since we were ignorantly lucky that night we'd like to support Rochelle's local American Red Cross Branch to aid in relief efforts as our May Charity. To donate, use the link below.

Donate to the Red Cross

 

 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Star Wars Overload (It's a Good Thing)

Dear Disney Company: Thank you for buying Lucasfilms and saturating every form of media with Star Wars.

There has been a ton of Star Wars news this week as the annual convention (Celebration) came to a close. We got to see a new trailer for the December release of The Force Awakens, previews of Battlefront (video game), a trailer from season 2 of Star Wars Rebels (animated series), and find out the droid (BB8) from The Force Awakens actually works and will come to the Disney Parks soon. Add to all that the digital release of the six films! This has us excited for our visit to Walt Disney World in May when we will spend some time in Disney's Hollywood Studios at one of the Star Wars Weekends. We've been browsing sites like teepublic.com, tee fury.com and shirts.com to find the perfect wardrobe for the two days we plan to be at the event. Dave already got this Star Wars/Assassin's Creed (video game) mash-up:


Unfortunately this one does not come in adult sizes

 

Here are some videos to help get you excited about the Star Wars frenzy.

 

 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Local Brewery Tour - Spring 2015

In Northern Illinois winter and summer are usually only connected by a few weeks of a spring-like season. This is the period we take advantage of local day-trips that we kept putting off during the winter. So far we have fit in a trip to Chicago (highlights in another post) and visits to three breweries we have never visited before.

Piece in Chicago has been on our radar for years, but because of its location we never made the effort to get there. It's in a nice trendy neighborhood, but the nearby crazy intersection where three major roads intersect makes navigating the area nuts. Our adventures in parking proved once again why we can't go on The Amazing Race together.

Piece is doing many things right. Their bar felt like places we used to frequent in college: comfortable and slightly dilapidated. For some reason they were playing an entire album of Run DMC songs. After settling in we got to look over the beer menu which featured about 6-8 of their own brews on tap, a few guest taps, and many bottles. The house brews are mostly session beers and cover the ranges from hoppy/malty. We enjoyed their stout, kolsch, and dunkelweizen. Our server was great and helped us make the right decision in picking the perfect size and style of pizza.

As much as we are beer and brewery fans, the true star of Piece is the New Haven style of pizza. Being from the East Coast we have a hard time finding pizza we truly enjoy in this part of the country. Tavern style thin crust and pan/deep dish is all the rage in Chicago, but we don't prefer those types to New York (or now New Haven) Style. We choose one small New Haven pie with sausage (no mozzarella, but parmesan and garlic instead)  and a small white pie with mashed potatoes and bacon. Best pizza we have had in a long time. The ingredients were fresh and the crust was chewy with a bit of char. We did not miss the mozzarella on the sausage pie.  Ordering two smalls ensured we had leftovers!

The next brewery on our list was
Scorched Earth in the northwest suburb of Algonquin. Scorched Earth is located in a small industrial park near a creek branching off the Fox River. They don't do food, but invite you to bring in your own. The space they occupy is divided into two sections by a rail separating the brewing area from the tap room. At the time of our visit nobody was working in the brewing section. The taproom decor is a mix of industrial-modern with some natural elements thrown in.  Pleasant!
We started off with flights. We
had 11 beers to choose from. We found anything labeled hoppy was in fact a bit hoppy for our tastes, but still you could tell they were quality-made products. The clear winners here for us were the Hickster, Rugged Coalminer, Der Sommer, and The Bitter Choclatier. While enjoying our beers we got into a long conversation with a father and his 22 yr old son about beers and breweries. Our tastes could not be any farther from each other, which shows that craft beer is truly a diverse industry. Anyone can find a beer they will love.


Bonus: After visiting Scorched Earth we had lunch at Duke's Ale House, a beer-focused pub, in Crystal Lake. Nice beer list (but they needed a few more stouts) including a good selection from Chicagoland. The food was the star here.....Holly had her first burger topped with a fried egg and Dave tried fries topped with cheese and BBQ Pork.
Crystal Lake Brewing was the last stop on this tour. They were a short block away from Duke's so we reccomend parking once and visit both. CLB took over a stand-alone retail location in town, which makes it a bit more accessible to the general public vs. Scorched Earth which is tucked away in a corporate park. The taproom was a large open space with a lot of communal tables and a long bar. While there we noticed a family gathering with 3 or 4 generations in attendance. Food is not available in the taproom, but BYO is welcomed.

Eight beers were on tap that day and we sampled the blonde, hefeweizen, doppelbock, oatmeal stout, and marzen. Nothing really stood out to us. They all seemed very neutral within their styles. We didn't hate them or think they were made poorly, just overall neutral. They do get bonus points for the lifeguard chair inspired tap handles and life preserver flight tray.


The verdict:
  • Piece - Must go back to for the pizza alone. The beer is icing on the cake.
  • Scorched Earth - Would visit if in the area and would choose certain product if available at a local bar.  Too far for a stand-alone trip.
  • Duke's - Would visit again if in the area - best burger we'd had in a while.
  • Crystal Lake - Would visit Duke's down the road before returning to CLB, unless they had an event like a tap takeover.

Monday, April 13, 2015

FREEing Race Chase the Book

As most of our readers know, Holly runs marathons and Dave follows along the course trying to find her as many times as he can. Friends would tell Dave he should write a book on the subject, but he really didn't see a reason to do so until he thought of the charity angle. In 2013 he wrote the e-book Race Chase: Expert Advice on Seeing your Runner on Race Day and donated the proceeds to Avon's Breast Cancer Fund in support of our Disney running team, Team AllEars. We were able to raise a couple of hundred dollars, so all good.....

Race Chase was written for both the spectator and the runner. For spectators we offer tips on navigating a race course, where to look for photo opportunities, and how to use technology on race day. For the runners we give tips on how to plan for destination races and how to coordinate with your runner on race day.

We've kept the e-commerce page, along with dedicated website racechasebook.com, up for a while but feel it's now time to close them down and migrate things to this site. The good news is the book will now be offered as a free download. Go ahead and grab a copy!

Check out the new Race Chase Page here on Team Tizzel, click on the book image in the right side-bar, or use this link to get your copy today.

If you have one of those Little Rascal moments where you enjoy what you see and want to "pay as you exit" please feel free to donate any amount of money to our Charity of The Month listed in the right side-bar.



Monday, April 6, 2015

April Charity of the Month: John Paul II Medical Research Institute

Charity of the Month is the way Team Tizzel is helping to support some very worthy organizations. As part of this program, we dedicate a post to a charity that we will sponsor through the month by donating Holly's training run money.

March: We sponsored Stillbrave to help children that are fighting many form of cancers. We will be donating $125 plus a matching gift to Stillbrave through their online link at www.Stillbrave.org.

April's Charity:


John Paul II Medical Research Institute

jp2mri.org

Remember the excitement surrounding The ALS Association's Ice Bucket Challenge last year? Many people rallied around a worthy cause that raised over $115 million to help those with the disease and hopefully to help find a cure.

When we participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge we were doing so in the name of all people impacted by the disease. At that time we did not personally know anyone with ALS. A couple of days after we filmed our video Dave learned a friend of his from college had ALS. Five months later Dave's friend Bob passed away.

Bob wished that any donations made in his name would go to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute. So to honor Bob we are dedicating April to his charity of choice.

About the institute:
The John Paul II Medical Research Institute is a 501 (c) (3) organization that was founded in 2007 by Dr. Alan Moy. It is a secular organization that is grounded in a pro-life bioethic that respects the dignity of every human life. The Institute has chosen a name honoring the late pontiff, blessed John Paul II, that clearly demonstrates this unwavering commitment to the culture of life. More than 300 institutes and organizations engage in and support human embryonic stem cell research. The John Paul II Medical Research Institute advocates for medical research that recognizes the dignitiy of human life from the moment of conception to natural death. Also, the Institute advocates a new paradigm in research to address deficiencies in medical research and unmet medical needs.

Research Themes

  • Regenerative Medicine-Chronic pulmonary disease.
  • Neurodegenerative disease (e.g. ALS, Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, ADHD, Autsim and other brain diseases). To review progress report of research on Alzheimer's, please download report.
  • Personalized Cancer Therapy Research.