This coming week, in events that get to your heart through your stomach.
Tuesday, March 16
Cheesemakers and buttermakers from around the world are gathering in Madison this week for the 2010 edition of the World Championship Cheese Contest, a prodigious biennial celebration of dairy excellence organized and hosted by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. An international panel of 30 judges, working in teams of two, will taste and evaluate more than 2,300 entries from 30 U.S. States and 20 nations in some 80 cheese and butter categories, and determine a gold medal selection in each. The entire panel of judges will re-examine all gold medalists and award a World Champion cheese along with first and second runners up during the championship round on Thursday. Selected cheeses entered into the contest will be available for tasting throughout the contest. Monona Terrace, 1 John Nolen Dr., 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday and 9-11:30 a.m. on Thursday, free. Call 828-4550 for more info.
Spirits of Madison owner Nathan Greenawalt is opening up his southeast side distillery for free tours both today and Thursday. Guests will find him busy at his custom-made copper still working on the latest batch of Old Sugar Factory Honey Liqueur, a clear and dry 80-proof spirit made with premium dark brown beet sugar and Wisconsin honey and aged in small oak barrels. Bottles of the liqueur and t-shirts can be purchased at the open house. Spirits of Madison, 6001 Femrite Dr., Unit 6 South, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Contact the distillery via Facebook for more info.
The Sauk City-born fast food chain Culver's and its rapid expansion around the Midwest and beyond is the focus of the Wisconsin's Best: Frozen Custard and Butter Burgers lecture that will be given this afternoon by company CEO and co-founder Craig Culver. As noted in the title, the focus will be on the role eggs and butter play in the restaurant's signature dishes. This talk is part of a series organized by the UW College of Agriculture and Life Sciences that focuses on the food business in Wisconsin. A complimentary sample of Culver's will be served following the presentation. Ebling Symposium Center, UW Microbial Sciences Bldg., 1550 Linden Dr., 4:45 p.m., free but online registration is requested. Call 829-2999 for more info.
The Wisconsin DNR is holding a deer management unit informational meeting this evening about its work in Dane, Lafayette, and Green counties. The event opens with a short 15-minute video hosted by UW wildlife ecology professor Scott Craven, which will be followed with a roundtable discussion about deer harvest patterns, management projects, and hunter feedback. The session will also cover deer population estimates, the development of the 2010 hunting season, and the status of CWD in the region. This is one in a series of public meetings across the state this month focused on maintaining a healthy, sustainable deer herd. Both hunters and non-hunters are encouraged to attend the meeting. Fitchburg Community Center, 5510 Lacy Rd., Fitchburg, 5:30 p.m. Call 275-3250 for more info.
Whole Foods invites both vendors and customers to its first Local Producers Forum this evening to learn about how it integrates locally-sourced products into its inventory. The grocery store's Midwest Local Product Forager, department heads, and several vendors will be on hand to discuss and answer questions about its approach to local foraging. Whole Foods Market, 3313 University Ave., 6-8 p.m., free. Call 233-9566 to register.
Wednesday, March 17
The Food for Haiti earthquake relief drive wraps up today in anticipation of sending a shipping container full of essential items to the Caribbean nation via Health Ministries for Haiti. The campaign seeks donations of bottled water (two-gallon jugs or individual bottles), powdered milk, baby formula, and canned food that does not need cooking (such as fruit or tuna) and preferably has easy-open lids. Items given by the case are preferred for packing purposes, but any size donation is appreciated. Financial donations are also accepted, and will go towards the cost of shipping. Collection points include James Madison Memorial High School, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church at 5701 Raymond Rd., Good Shepherd Lutheran Church at the corner of 9 Mound Rd. and Highway PD, Habitat Restore at 208 Cottage Grove Rd., and Basics Cooperative at 1711 Lodge Dr. in Janesville. Call 658-1772 for more info.
St. Patrick's Day is a holiday dedicated to liquid nourishment like none other, but can also be an opportunity to partake in Irish eats. While plenty of restaurants around town will be serving corned beef and cabbage specials this evening, many other dishes and a steady supply of Guinness will be found in snug settings at Brocach Irish Pub and The Coopers Tavern in downtown Madison, Erin's Snug Irish Pub on the east side, and Claddagh Irish Pub in Middleton. Sláinte!
Thursday, March 18
The Worthington Park Neighborhood Association is holding its next workshop on urban farming in support of a Darbo Community Garden at the Salvation Army Community Center. This particular session will focus on the lack of a grocery store in the area following the closing of a Kohl's on the site of the now-defunct Union Corners development, the broader issues of poverty and hunger around the east side of Madison, and the opportunities urban agriculture provides to low income families. Hawthrone Library, 2707 E. Washington Ave., 6 p.m., free. Call 332-1493 for more info.
A pair of cheesemakers from Uplands Cheese will be sharing their products and attending a traditional fondue dinner at Fromagination is once again hosting a traditional fondue dinner with cheesemakers from Uplands Cheese of Dodgeville. The menu includes the fondue and bread for dipping, fingerling potatoes and other root veggies, cornichons, salad, and dessert. Most seats are taken, so call quickly to reserve space. Fromagination, 12 S. Carroll St., 6 p.m., $35. Call 255-2430 for reservations.
Friday, March 19
The Immigrant Workers Union is holding its inaugural fundraiser banquet this evening in support of its mission of labor rights and empowerment. The meal will feature "street food" provided by Underground Catering, and will be accompanied by a keynote address by journalist and union organizer Jorge Mujica, live music by Sonido Suave, and a local art silent auction. Goodman Community Center, 149 Waubesa St., 7 p.m., $25 and $10 kids. Tickets can be purchased online. Call 866-476-0884 for more info.
Saturday, March 20
Only a few weeks remain of this season's Taste of the Market breakfast at the Dane County Farmers' Market before the big spring opening of the outdoor season on Capitol Square. Madison Senior Center, 330 W. Mifflin St., 8 a.m.-noon, $7.50 adults and $3.75 kids. Call 455-1999 for more info about the market.
Free slices of cake will be served at a kick-off party for Carl's Cake Club. The baker and cater, based out of the Market Street Diner, offers a variety of round and sheet cakes available in a variety of classic and custom flavors, not to mention cupcakes and made-to-order creations for special occasions. Club members can get more free cake on their birthdays, and need only to present an ID and purchase two entrees at the diner to join. Market Street Diner and Bakery, 110 Market St., Sun Prairie, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Call 825-3377 for more info.
Sherman Avenue United Methodist Church is holding its second annual March Madness Chili Fest this evening. This all you can eat meal will include three kinds of chili complete with a variety of toppings, as well as chili dogs and brownies. Sherman Avenue United Methodist Church, 3705 N. Sherman Ave., 5 p.m., $7 adults and $4 for kids 10 and under. Call 244-0868 for more info.
The spring 2010 season of the Orange Tree Imports Cooking School is approaching, and its more than two dozen classes offer everything from kitchen basics to culinary tours of regional cuisines to sessions with chefs at prominent Madison restaurants. Prospective students are advised to submit a registration form by 5:30 p.m. today in order to get into their preferred classes. Orange Tree Imports, 1721 Monroe St. Call 255-8211 for more info.
Sunday, March 21
A strong show of support is the goal of a medical benefit for Laurie Gomoll-Koch, a Middleton salon owner who has been recovering from a life-threatening bout of meningitis since getting diagnosed with the illness late last year. The event includes a spaghetti dinner, live music by Petty Things and PlayGround of Sound, casino games, raffles, and a live auction. Hawthorn's Dining, 1150 Park St., Oregon, 1-9 p.m., $10. Call 291-2256 for more info.
Playgrounds for Palestine-Madison and the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project invites supporters to Building Hope for the Children, a fundraiser for its work in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Along with a vegetarian dinner provided by Lulu's Deli and Restaurant, the event will feature a silent auction and presentation featuring the writings of Rachel Corrie and poetry by Mahmoud Darwish. All proceeds will go to help provide a new playground for children in Beit Sahour, West Bank and a water purification system in Rafah, Gaza through Maia Project organized by the Middle East Children's Alliance. First United Methodist Church, 203 Wisconsin Ave., 4:30-9 p.m., $15 for adults and $10 for kids 12 and under. Call 235-7870 for more info.
Harvest is holding its final fundraiser dinner this evening in support of its staff trip to New York City for a special Farm to Table dinner on April 6. Owner and wine director Tammy Lax and Chef Derek Row have been invited for a second time by the James Beard Foundation to prepare and serve a meal, and in order to defray travel expenses, they have offered a series of five three-course prix-fixe dinners over the last several weeks. The menu options tonight include: first course choices of Caesar salad or black bean soup with sour cream garlic chips; entrée choices of chicken fricassee with mushrooms and potato pureee, grilled hanger steak with smothered onions and cornbread, or braised swiss chard and spinach with polenta and ricotta salad; and, dessert choices of banana upside-down cake with house-made vanilla ice cream, chocolate pudding with shortbread, and house-made buttermilk ice cream with almond biscotto. All proceeds from the food sales at this and the preceding four dinners are going to the trip. Harvest, 21 N. Pinckney St., 5 p.m., $25. Call 255-6075 for reservations.
Author Madeline Scherb will be discussing her book A Taste of Heaven during a Trappist beer dinner she helped organize at The Haze American + Asian Bar-B-Que. The menu will feature: a savory tart of goat cheese and fennel paired with Achel Blond, seafood cioppino with coriander and house-made lardoons paired with Westmalle Tripel, house-smoked ham on a lavash cracker with fat-poached egg and pear-onion slaw paired with Orval, smoked beef brisket cabbage roll with sauce gribiche and fried leeks paired with Rochefort 8, and sticky toffee pudding with beer caramel and a molasses sponge cake paired with Rochefort 6. The Haze, 106 King St., 5 p.m., $65. Call 260-2680 for reservations.
Monday, March 22
"Local mommy" Tara Verma is holding another session of her First Tastes: The Adventures of Baby Food Making class at Whole Foods, teaching parents how to make fresh and affordable meals for their infants in their own kitchens. The lesson will include the basics of preparation, storage, and serving, along with info on good choices for fruits and vegetables and some recipes for them. Whole Foods Market, 3313 University Ave., 6-7:30 p.m., $15. Call 233-9566 for more info.
Chef Sabi will explore the possibilities of Luscious Lamb in his next cooking class exploring the cuisine of the Mediterranean. Patty Reedy and Andy Wersal of Rainbow Fleece Farm will be joining the lesson to discuss the grass-fed lamb and wool products that they produce. The menu for the class will feature lamb and sun-dried apricot tagine, lamb brat (sausage) paella, and lamb grape leaves. Willy Street Co-op, 1221 Williamson St., 6-8 p.m., $15 for owners and $25 for all others. Call 251-6776 for more info.