This coming week, in events that get to your heart through your stomach.
Tuesday, February 2
While Candlemas and Imbolc have their adherents, the primary mid-winter celebration around these parts involves a giant rodent. The annual Sun Prairie Groundhog Day celebrations got started last weekend, but the big moment of truth doesn't arrive until 7 a.m., when Jimmy the Groundhog and his shadow arrive at Cannery Square. Whether or not six more weeks of winter are predicted, the celebrations continue through the day, with special deals at Beans 'n Cream Coffeehouse, the Market Street Diner, and other merchants around the city. Sun Prairie, all day. Call 608-837-4547 for more info along with Jimmy's prediction itself from 7:15-9 a.m. on the big morning.
Chef David Martineau, longtime matre d' at the Admirality Room, is back with his second "What's Cooking?" lesson in two weeks. The class focuses on the preparation of simple and classic dishes with local ingredients, with baked crab cakes with Creole sauce, eggplant stuffed with lamb, and fluffy peach pie on the menu this evening. Recipes will be provided to students to recreate these dishes at home. Willy Street Co-op, 1221 Williamson St., 6-8 p.m., $15 for owners and $25 for others. Call 251-6776 for more info.
Wednesday, February 3
Second Harvest Foodbank volunteers will be offering free, personalized, and confidential FoodShare application assistance this afternoon for persons looking for help in these hard times. Meadowridge Library, 5740 Raymond Rd., 12-3 p.m. Call 1-877-366-3635 to schedule an appointment.
Fromagination is kicking off its first in a series of traditional fondue lunches that will be served every Wednesday in February. The prix fixe menu is centered on Wisconsin Alpine-style cheeses and bread for dipping, which are accompanied by fingerling potatoes, roasted carrots, summer sausage, cornichons, salad, and dessert. Fromagination, 12 S. Carroll St., seatings at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., $22.50. Call 255-2430 for reservations.
Culinary History Enthusiasts of Wisconsin, or CHEW, is holding its regular monthly meeting this evening. The guest speaker is Lisa Jacobson, who is the proprietor of Mermaid Café at Schenk's Corners, is also the manager of the Farm To School Program developed by the REAP Food Group. She will be discussing this grassroots project to "enhance Wisconsin schools' existing meal programs by introducing fresh, nutritious, local and sustainably grown food to children," including its recent "Pork-Off" competition fundraiser, which brought in about $1,000 for the program. Membership in CHEW is open to all, and meeting attendees are encouraged to bring a nonperishable food item for donating to the Goodman Center Food Pantry. Goodman Community Center, 149 Waubesa St., 7:15 p.m., free. Call 233-5488 for more info.
Saturday, February 6
Students with Slow Food UW will be joined by Jonny Hunter of the Underground Food Collective to prepare this morning's Taste of the Market breakfast at the Dane County Farmers' Market. The menu will include: homemade bison pastrami brined in Ela Orchard apple cider, served with a fried egg and tomatillo sauce on Silly Yak bread in a sandwich; salad with Don's mixed greens, homemade Fountain Prairie and Pecatonica Valley bacon, Driftless Organic shaved carrots and sprouted lentils; Butter Mountain roasted smashed potatoes, a vegetarian option with Black Earth smoked oyster mushrooms, Blue Valley wilted spinach, a fried egg, tomatillo sauce, and Hook's cheddar on the sandwich; and, organic fair trade Just Coffee and tea, apple cider, cranberry juice, and milk. The music will also be seasonally appropriate, just over a week before Mardi Gras, with the Cajun Stranger Trio performing traditional Cajun and Creole tunes through the meal. Madison Senior Center, 330 W. Mifflin St., 8 a.m.-noon, $7.50 adults and $3.75 kids. Call 424-3296 for more details about the breakfast and 455-1999 for info about the market.
The frozen surface of Lake Wingra will once again be invaded by a thicket of Weber grills for the annual Grilln4Peace, a mid-winter snow-or-shine cookout fundraiser for the weekly Savory Sunday free meal program. The concept of the event is for participants to create a massive ice-top peace sign by arranging 67 "old school" Weber grills, shoot an overhead photo for posterity, and then cook and consume a meal together in camaraderie. Grillers pay a fee to join the fun, and are also asked to donate a portion of meat, with all proceeds and food going to Savory Sunday. Coffee and hot chocolate will be served by EVP Coffee, and each participant will receive a solidified ethanol FlameDisk to assist with cooking sans charcoal, a t-shirt and peace button, and the chance to enter a raffle for $5. Prizes include multiple sets of Madison Mallards tickets, a Weber one-touch Platinum Charcoal Grill, and a Weber Performer Charcoal Grill. Though the weather was "less than ideal" last year, as described by organizers, the event raised enough money to serve meals for about 200 people for six weeks. "Not bad for a fun afternoon grilling on a frozen lake." Vilas Beach, 1339 Vilas Park Dr., 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., $35. Call 233-6967 for more info.
Join Wisconsin folklore historian Michael Edmonds today for a brunch and book signing in celebration of his new book Out of the Northwoods, an examination of the cultural origins of the Paul Bunyan legend. The author explains the background of the book in a recent Isthmus article, and will share more of his thoughts on this quintessentially larger-than-life character during a lumberjack brunch. The menu includes hearty helpings of blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs, sour cream hash browns, and fruit. Wisconsin Historical Society, 810 State St., 11 a.m.-1 p.m., $15 for adults and $11 for kids. Call 244-6400 for more info.
Organized competitive eating comes to Madison this weekend with the USquare National Food Court Eating Championships at the food court on the second floor of University Square. This gluttonous spectacle organized by All Pro Eating will pit "Food Warriors" against one another for the title of "America's Food Court King or Queen" and a prize of $2,000. The competition should be furious, with several experienced and decorated competitive eaters registered for the contest. The one to beat will be Virginia native Ian "The Invader" Hickman, a national and world eating title holder in zucchini, vanilla custard, pulled pork sandwiches, and pierogies, as well as a former world record holder who consumed 10.2 lbs. of chili in five minutes. Meanwhile, Madison will be represented by Matt "The Mad City Masticator" Allen, a world champ in eating frog legs. The pros won't be alone in stuffing their gullets in this "picnic-style" contest, though, as students will be competing in the Wisconsin Collegiate Eating Championship. Hopefuls looking to test the strength of their stomachs can register for the collegiate and professional competitions. Contestants and spectators are asked to make a money and/or non-perishable food donation to The River Food Pantry in support of its post-holiday efforts to replenish bare shelves. University Square Food Court, 365 E. Campus Mall, 1 p.m., free. Call 442-5044 for more info.
Get into the spirit of Super Bowl weekend and support local families in need with Souper Bowl XIV, a fundraiser organized by UW-Madison Habitat for Humanity. Held for more than a dozen years on the Saturday before the Super Bowl, this annual gathering is a celebration of food and art, in which participants get to select and take home a handcrafted ceramic bowl. The group partners with high school art students and professional potters who create bowls for the fundraiser, with their larger and more ornately decorated creations reserved for the "Pro Bowl" silent auction. The soup is served in a separate bowl, though, and will be accompanied by salad, bread, and dessert. Fundamentally Sound, a UW-Madison men's a cappella group, will perform during the event which will also include a raffle and appearances by local celebrities. The fundraiser will also be running concurrently with the Culver's Camp Randall Hockey Classic, and fans attending the UW men's and women's hockey games that afternoon are encouraged to attend the Bowl to extend the wintertime fun. More than 1,800 people attended the Bowl last year, bringing in more than $30,000. The chapter is raising money this year to support the construction of its ninth student-built house in the Madison area. West High School, 30 Ash St., 3-8 p.m., $15 per person or $35 for a family of four. Call 890-2882 for more info.
Sunday, February 7
The Humanist Union of Madison is holding a potluck lunch and discussion today in anticipation of Darwin Day on February 12. Following the meal, UW-Madison anthropology professor John Hawkes will give an illustrated presentation on "Ardipithecus and Human Origins," a look at a recently discovered human ancestor that lived some 4.4 million years ago. Guests are asked to bring a dish to share. Prairie Unitarian Universalist Society, 2010 Whenona Dr., 11:45 a.m.-1:30 p.m., free. Call 273-8775 for more info.
Harvest, its owner and wine director Tami Lax, and Chef Derek Rowe have been invited by the James Beard Foundation to host a special Farm to Table dinner in New York City on April 6. This is the second time the restaurant has been honored with an such an invitation, and as was the case for its first trip, the entire Harvest staff will be traveling to take part in this meal at the James Beard House. The restaurant is holding a fundraiser dinner this evening, the first in a series of five that will defray the expenses of travel, lodging, and food for the staff, as well as for the meal itself. Chef Rowe, who has been nominated by the foundation in 2008 and 2009 as among the top 20 chefs in the Midwest, is preparing a three-course prix fixe meal similar in format and price to those served during the recent Restaurant Week. The menu options include: first course choices of escarole walnut and Pecorino salad or tomato lentil soup; entrée choices of pork "osso bucco" Orzo Milanese, chicken alla cacciatore, or Moroccan spiced vegetable quinoa pilaf; and dessert choices of panna cotta with balsamic vinegar, apricot almond cake, or caramel gelato. Four more fundraiser dinners follow, with 100% of the food sales from each going to the staff fund for the trip. Harvest, 21 N. Pinckney St., 5 p.m., $25. Call 255-6075 for reservations.
Super Bowl Sunday is the third and perhaps most gluttonous of the big winter holidays dedicated to feasting, a gut-busting blowout to send out the season. Bars will be buzzing all day with talk of football, but there are also a few restaurants planning special gatherings for the game. New Orleans Saints fans can gather in friendly confines at parties hosted by Liliana's and The Bayou, for starters, while Indianapolis Colts fans may find solidarity at a party thrown by Quaker Steak & Lube. Of course, most people will be gathering with family and friends on couches and easy chairs, eating a vast array of pre-packaged snacks and homemade creations. Somewhere in front of a TV, all afternoon and evening.
Monday, February 8
Friends of Fitchburg Library is holding a benefit dinner at Liliana's this evening. The group is raising money to support the development of children's programming for a proposed public library at the corner of Lacy Road and Research Park Drive near the Fitchburg City Hall. Chef David Heide will be preparing the meal, a buffet that will include vegetarian, seafood-free, and gluten-free options. Liliana's Restaurant, 2951 Triverton Pike, 5-8 p.m., $30 adults and $15 kids. Call 334-0193 for tickets.
Kids ages 10 and up are invited to a Valentine's season craft session this afternoon to make cards and candy sushi. Paper, glitter, stickers, sparkles, and plenty of sweet treats will be provided at the event. Make a one-of-a-kind card with glitter, stickers and sparkles and create some sweet candy sushi for someone special. All supplies provided. Sequoya Library, 4340 Tokay Blvd., 4 p.m., free. Call 266-6385 to RSVP.
Susan Nitzke, professor of Nutritional Sciences at UW-Madison, is the first speaker of the year in the ongoing Ethical Eats lecture series at the First Unitarian Society of Madison. Her talk, titled "Nutrition Facts, Opinions & Personal Choices," will address the "current myths, fads, and confusing information" that consumers face when it comes to determining what kinds of food are best for their personal health. First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Dr., 7 p.m., $5. Call 233-9774 for more info.
Upcoming eats event
It's worth knowing about some events that require reservations farther in advance.
Sunday, February 28
The Underground Food Collective welcomes Hapa Kitchen of New York to town for a special guest edition of the the Glass House Supper Club, series of farm-to-table meals held about every six weeks at Bradbury's creperie a block of the Capitol Square. This particular dinner will consist of a six-course meal that "whimsically integrates Asian flavors and dining traditions with seasonal and local cooking," both inspired and prepared by the guest crew of chefs. Bradbury's, 127 N. Hamilton St., 7-10 p.m., $40. Tickets can be purchased online.