This coming week, in events that get to your heart through your stomach.
Tuesday, December 1
The Ferment local food happy hour returns this month with a seasonal discussion on Wisconsin cranberries. A guest or two from The Cranberry Network will be in attendance to discuss their work, and participants will get to taste a trio of dishes: D'Atil Pepper Cranberry Sauce, Kislaya Kapusta, and a ginger-cranberry sauce. Orpheum Theater's Grand Lobby, 5:30-7:30 p.m., free.
Food writer and Isthmus contributor Terese Allen will be giving a book reading in Verona this evening on her new work The Flavor of Wisconsin: An Informal History of Food and Eating in the Badger State. This book is a revised edition of the classic Wisconsin cookbook by Harva Hatchen, updated by Allen with new recipes and coverage of topics like organic farming and farmers' markets. Verona Library, 500 Silent St., 7 p.m., free. Call 845-7180 for more info.
Wednesday, December 2
One of the longest standing Christmas traditions in Madison is the Tudor Holiday Dinner Concerts series put on by the Wisconsin Union. For three-quarters of a century, this seasonal celebration has joined food and music under a banner of 16th Century English pageantry. Opening with wassail and a presentation of the Boar's Head, the celebration continues with caroling, minstrels and a holiday feast. The menu for this 75th annual gala includes Cornish game hen with raspberry puree, curried veggie paella with asparagus as the vegetarian option, and flaming figgy pudding with hard sauce. The food will be followed by a performance of the Philharmonic Chorus of Madison, directed by Dr. Patrick Gorman. Dinner concerts will also be held from Dec. 3-6 as well as Dec. 8-9. Memorial Union, Great Hall, 800 Langdon St., 5:45 p.m, $39.50/$42 on weekdays for members/non-members and $44.50/$47 for members/nonmembers. Call 262-2201 to purchase tickets.
Culinary History Enthusiasts of Wisconsin is hosting "Meals and Memories", a talk by Traci Nathans-Kelly about a writing workshop conducted by members of the UW-Madison Odyssey Program that produced a cookbook last summer. The talk will focus on "the power of using food and cooking, or the memories thereof, for self-discovery, family storytelling, and building of positive communities." Goodman Community Center, 149 Waubesa St., 7:15 p.m., free. Call 233-5488 for more info.
The great state of Wisconsin is one of the world's premiere beer-producing regions, famous as the longtime center of the American brewing industry and increasingly distinguished by a growing legion of talented craft brewers. The changing business is the focus of Beer Wars, a documentary described as "a no holds barred exploration of the U.S. beer industry that ultimately reveals the truth behind the label of your favorite beer" that's appropriately screening at Brew & View this evening. Pale Young Gentlemen will perform following the movie. Majestic Theatre, 115 King St., 9 p.m., $7. Call 255-0901 for more info.
Thursday, December 3
Iranian international students at UW-Madison will discuss the culture and contemporary issues of their nation at a Taste of Iran, complete with a presentation and tasting of Iranian cuisine. UW Red Gym, 716 Langdon St., 6-8 p.m., free. Call 265-5236 for more info.
Friday, December 4
'Tis the season for indulging in all things theobromatic, the theme of the annual Taste of Chocolate in Janesville. The menu includes a pork chop dinner and a "sumptuous" chocolate buffet, with more treats for sale in a chocolate-themed silent auction. Attendees will also get a preview of the community's Holiday Light Show. Rotary Botanical Gardens, Janesville, 1455 Palmer Dr., 5:30-9:30 p.m., $35. Call 608-752-3885 ext.16 for more info.
A trio of communities in southeast Dane County are kicking off the holidays Bedford Falls-style this weekend with a frenzy of festivities. A celebration of yesteryear's small town holiday season can be found at the annual Cambridge Country Christmas. Opening this evening with a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Village Square and accompanied by hot cocoa and cookies, the merriment continues through the weekend. Activities include horse-drawn hay wagon riders, caroling, a singing Christmas tree and live nativity scene, Madrigal singing troupes, Santa Claus photo-ops, and a cookie walk put on the London Moravian Church. Cambridge, all weekend. Call 608-423-3277 for more info.
More ghosts of Christmas past will come to life one town over at the Stoughton Victorian Holiday Celebration. Likewise opening with a tree-lighting ceremony, this weekend of 19th Century-themed festivities includes the Silent Fire Truck Parade, a Grand Victorian Holiday Ball, a production of The Nutcracker Suite, performances by the Stoughton High School Madrigal Singers and Singers of St. Cecilia, a bake sale and cookie walk, along with roasted chestnuts and plenty of seasonal cheer. Stoughton, all weekend. Call 608-877-4400 for more info.
Revelers will find another Yuletide scene just up the road at McFarland Christmas in the Village. The celebration includes a live radio performance of It's A Wonderful Life, a community pancake breakfast, an indoor farmers' market, a holiday books bazaar and bake sale, and is capped by a bonfire and tree-lighting ceremony. McFarland, Friday and Saturday. Call 608-838-4011 for more info.
Saturday, December 5
Spring Green Country Christmas rounds out the weekend quartet of small town holiday celebrations. The festivities include breakfast with Santa, a bake sale and gingerbread house display, a cookie walk, a luncheon and fashion show, ice carving, and a block party with fireworks synchronized to Christmas music, along with the caroling, horse-drawn carriage rides, and other activities to set the picturesque scene. Spring Green, Saturday and Sunday. Call 608-588-2054 for more info.
Shoppers can take their gift search to an international level at the 13th annual Fair Trade Holiday Festival. Sponsored by Community Action on Latin America and running concurrently with the Winter Dane County Farmers' Market, the festival is billed as the largest fair trade holiday market in the Midwest. There are more then 50 participating vendors and representing nearly as many developing nations, selling handmade crafts, clothing, jewelry, and plenty of artisanal foods, all on a fair trade basis. Monona Terrace, 1 John Nolen Dr., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Call 286-0865 for more info.
Shoppers can continue their quest for ethically-sourced gifts at the Madison Hours Holiday Trade Fair. Put on by the folks behind the Madison Hours local currency system, the fair will feature vendors selling locally-made crafts, jewelry, clothing, foods, and more, which can be paid in part with Hours currency. The local tender will also be accepted towards the purchase of any Ale Asylum beer at the bar. High Noon Saloon 701A E. Washington Ave., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Call 259-1030 for more info.
Take another trip back in time to Elizabethan Britain at Her Majesty's Winter Renaissance Faire, a weekend-long celebration of the Tudor era in a holiday setting. Presented by Time After Time, Inc. and Ravenworks! in a vacant suburban shopping space on the west side that's been transformed into "Her Majesty's Castle," this second annual festival will feature live musicians, dancers, jesters, magicians, swordsmen and siege weapon demonstrations, and a lively population of courtiers, cavaliers, and pirates. Performers include Jane the Phoole, the Weno Gypsy Belly Dancers, Brian the Bard on the harpsichord, Randal the Scot on bagpipes, the Stoughton Madrigal Singers, and many others. Vendors offering holiday eats as well as jewelry, leather goods, weapons, and Renaissance-related goods are also slated for the faire. Her Majesty's High Tea, held in the company of Queen Elizabeth I and her nobles, will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday. The Renaissance menu includes spiced beef, waffles with sharp cheese and honey, and spiced pears in pastry, along with mulled cider and coffee to drink. (A vegetarian entrée is also available.) The $32 ticket includes the feast and plenty of court intrigue, with seating limited to 50 people. Winners of the Renaissance Costume Contest, judged by the Queen and her court, will also be announced that afternoon. Whitney Square Shopping Mall in the former Marshall's location, 676B Whitney Way, 10 a.m.-8 p.m Saturday and Sunday, $7 per day or $5.50 in costume. Call 630-2348 for more info.
Take a Holiday Twilight Tour of the Lincoln-Tallman house in Janesville this evening in a benefit for the Rock County Historical Society. The tour will feature period holiday decorations, a toy and doll exhibit, caroling by members of the Edgerton Chamber Choir and students from Wilson Elementary School, and an appearance by Father Christmas, along with hors d'oeuvres, wine, wassail, cider, and holiday desserts. Helen Jeffris Wood Museum, 426 N. Jackson St., Janesville, 4-7 p.m., $30 with kids 12 and under free. Call 608-756-4509 for more info.
Show support for community television at the Brews for WYOU fundraiser. The party features brews from Furthermore Beer and BluCreek Brewing, along with live grilling by Cooking With Bob and music by The Crest, Axiom, The Sesters, and DJ Polabear. Nottingham Cooperative, 146 Langdon St., 8 p.m., tickets $8 and $10. Call 258-9644 for more info.
Sunday, December 6
The gift shopping weekend continues with the Handmade for the Holidays craft fair in the Vilas neighborhood. Along with a selection of handmade crafts, from jewelry to knitted items to seasonal decorations, the gathering will also feature a bake sale replete with homemade goodies accompanied by coffee, tea, and chai. Arboretum Cohousing, 1137 Erin St., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Call 513-8134 for more info.
Take a culinary trip to the northern edge of Europe with the Scandinavian Holiday Brunch series prepared by Chef Nick Johnson at Restaurant Magnus. The menu opens with a variety of pastries like lefse, krumkake, tea ring, St. Lucia buns, and many other treats, and is followed by two courses. There are six choices for the first, the options including dishes like Norwegian Glogg Poached Apples and Danish Pickled Herring. The second course is heartier, with choices like Norwegian Sour Cream Waffles, Danish Crackling Pork Roast, and Swedish Ryderg. The brunch will also be served on the following two Sundays, Dec. 13 and Dec. 20. Restaurant Magnus, 120 E. Wilson St., 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Call 258-8787 for reservations.
Want more Nordic cuisine? The Finnish American Society of Madison is throwing its annual Pikkujoulu, or "Little Christmas" party this afternoon. The Society is providing salmon, ham, and plenty to drink (coffee, tea, glöggi, and more) for this potluck, with members and guests requested to bring a dish to pass (and their own supplies of wine or beer if desired). Attendees are also requested to bring a Finnish or Christmas item, or baked goods, for a raffle. Kids can look forward to a visit from Joulupukki and his bag of presents. Idun Lodge, 2262 Winnebago St., 2-6 p.m., free. Call 423-1598 for more info.