This coming week, in events that get to your heart through your stomach.
Tuesday, January 5
Take a brief escape from winter and indulge in the marvels of a timeless ambrosia at the Chocolate: The Bitter and the Sweet exhibit in the Bolz Conservatory at Olbrich Gardens. Centered on a cacao tree, this self-guided tour explores the cultivation and processing of chocolate through history, and the current growth of sustainable and fair trade practices among producers. A pair of events accompany the exhibition, starting with a presentation by UW-Madison horticulture professor James Nienhus titled Theobroma cacao: Food of the Gods on Saturday, January 30 (6:30-8 p.m., $12 members/$15 public, register by January 21), and followed by a screening of the award-winning Chocolate Country documentary about the Loma Guacanejo cooperative in the Dominican Republic and paired with presentation by Northwest Earth Institute educator Lynn Handler on Saturday, February 6 (6:30-8 p.m., $9 members/$11 public, register by January 28). Opening on Monday, January 4, the exhibit runs through Sunday, March 21. Olbrich Gardens, 3330 Atwood Ave., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily and to 5 p.m. on Sundays, free for members and $1 for the public. Call 246-4500 for more info.
Thursday, January 7
The Madison Nordic Ski Club is holding a dinner and square dance fundraiser this evening to support its high school and middle school teams, which practice and compete at Elver Park and other parks around Dane County. The evening, billed as an opportunity for skiers to get in shape for the Birkie this February, features food from Po' Boys BBQ and square dancing set to tunes by the Old Gray Cats. Lessons will be provided for those who have forgotten any moves learned in their elementary school PE classes. VFW Post 7591, 301 Cottage Grove Rd., 6 p.m., $15/person or $40/family. Call 843-8451 for more info.
Saturday, January 9
The Dane County Farmers' Market returns this morning for the second half of its winter run. This opening Saturday of the season features a locavore-friendly breakfast prepared by Willy Street Co-op chef Josh Perkins and music by Brian Schewellinger & Paul Martens. Madison Senior Center, 330 W. Mifflin St., 8 a.m.-noon, call 261-4000 for more info.
Sunday, January 10
The monthly Madison Hours Pancake Breakfast returns for the new year with its menu of organic vegan flapjacks (available with fruits and or nuts), oven-roasted potatoes, organic fair trade coffee, and orange juice. Wil-Mar Center, 953 Jenifer St., 8:30-11 a.m., $8.50. Call 259-9050 for more info.
Dig pig? Fans won't want to miss the Pork Off! contest put on by the REAP Food Group as a "porkalicious fundraiser" for its Farm to School program. Nearly a dozen Madison chefs -- who hone their skills at the Weary Traveler, Magnus, Natt Spil, Alchemy, Mermaid Cafe, and the Underground Food Collective -- will compete to create a porcine dish for the ages. Weary Traveler, 1201 Williamson St., 4-6 p.m., $10. Email email@example.com for more info.
Monday, January 11
The Madison local food happy hour Ferment returns this evening for its first gathering of the new year with a discussion on summer sausage. A variety of meats that are made into this classic Midwestern treat, including beef from Fountain Prairie Farms, bison from Cherokee Bison Farms, and Wisconsin game, paired with samples of cheeses from Hook's. Nic Bruns of Hamann Charcuterie will also attending, and Chef Greg from Bon Appetit will serve a special appetizer menu along with beer and wine. Bon Appetit Cafe, 805 Williamson St., 5:30-7:30 p.m., free. RSVP here.
Beer Monks & Maidens returns with its first monthly meeting and membership drive of the year, complete with robes and thoughtful quaffing. Babes Grill & Bar, 5614 Schroeder Rd., 7:30 p.m. Call 628-9806 for more info.