By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer Published Dec 02, 2013 at 11:01 AM Photography: shutterstock.com

Even if you're paying close attention, it's sometimes difficult to keep up with the latest in food news here in Milwaukee. So here's a taste of what's new and notable – including Marcus Restaurants’ fifth annual cookie contest, a free performance of "A Christmas Carol" at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, a champagne tasting at Bavette, "A Christmas Carol" dinners at The Pabst Mansion, and newsy bits from the Ruby Tap in Wauwatosa.

Got a great cookie recipe?
Do your friends and family beg you each year to whip up a batch of your signature holiday cookies? If so, you could win big, thanks to the Marcus Restaurants.

Submit your favorite cookie recipe now through Monday, Dec. 9, at 11:59 p.m. at the Marcus Restaurants Facebook page by clicking on the tab labeled "Cookie Contest" and entering to win. Marcus Restaurants’ culinary experts will sift through the entries, considering overall impression, uniqueness, creativity, and consumer appeal, and crown one recipe as Milwaukee's Favorite Cookie 2013.

The winning baker will receive a special one-on-one baking lesson with Pfister Pastry Chef Jennifer Carlson, an overnight hotel stay and dinner for two at The Pfister HotelInterContinental Milwaukee, or Hilton Milwaukee City Center, and a $150 Pick ’n Save gift card.

But, that’s not all. The Marcus culinary team will bake up 500 of the the winning cookies and donate 500 of the tasty treats just in time for the holidays to Hope House, a local emergency and transitional living facility. This is the third year Hope House has received the cookie donation.

The winning cookie also will be featured during the month of January 2014 in Marcus’ Milwaukee restaurants: Mason Street Grill, Kil@wat, and Milwaukee ChopHouse.

Free Performance of "A Christmas Carol" at Michael Fields
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute is teaming up with Walking the Dog Theater to offer a unique public performance of Charles Dickens' beloved classic "A Christmas Carol" free of charge at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, at the west edge of East Troy just south of the Main Street and Townline Road, on Dece. 14 at 7 p.m.

This local performance is part of a special project that will offer about 10 free performances of this story to communities in New York, Wisconsin and Massachusetts. The Christmas Carol Project is a first step in an even larger vision to develop more consciously the foundation for a free cultural life. Throughout WTD Theater's 16-year history, the theater has been dedicated to making arts experiences accessible to everyone.

The Christmas Carol Project has an overall travel and production cost of $4,000 for these 10 performances. We are seeking to raise this money through a combination of grants and donations. If you share with us the vision of offering this beautiful Christmas story to communities in New York, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts and would like to make a contribution to this project, you can do so by visiting wtdtheater.org and clicking on the "donate" button at the top left.

Champagne Tasting at Bavette
Ever wonder why Champagne is so special? Or what's the difference between French Champagne and other bubbly wines? Mywineschool.com has teamed up with Bavette La Boucherie to give you answers to these questions, and more!

On Dec. 17 beginning at 6:30 p.m at Bavette, 330 E. Menomonee St., you will have the opportunity to taste several sparkling wines from around the world, including Champagne from France, Prosecco from Italy and Cava from Spain, among others, while enjoying bites of Wisconsin's best artisanal cheeses and homemade sausages.

Tickets are $49 per person and can be purchased online.

"A Christmas Carol" Dinners at The Pabst Mansion
This December, experience the magic of the season with an unforgettable evening at The Pabst Mansion based on the classic tale, "A Christmas Carol."

Enjoy holiday beverages, passed appetizers and a three-course meal including apple and pear salad, prime rib, and traditional English trifle from Bartolotta’s catering while enjoying readings from "Charles Dickens" and holiday tunes from carolers dressed in period costumes.

Dinners will take place on Dec. 6, 7, 12, 14, 15, 18, 19, 21 and 22 with seatings at 5:15 and 7:30 p.m.  

Tickets are $90 for adults and $45 for children 12 and under. For reservations: (414) 727-6980 or geinfo@bartolottas.com.

New hours and fried chicken at Ruby Tap
Beginning Dec. 1, The Ruby Tap, 1341 Wauwatosa Ave., will close Sundays and open Mondays from 3 to 10 p.m.

On Mondays, from 5 to 7 p.m., guests will have the option to enjoy a new special, Bubbles and Fried Chicken, which pairs sparkling wine with the crisp, nutty, saltiness of fried chicken. On Mondays only, enjoy $1 off all splits or no corkage fee for full bottles. Pair either with fried chicken for just $5!

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer

Lori Fredrich (Lo) is an eater, writer, wonderer, bon vivante, traveler, cook, gardener and girlwonder. Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, she has tried to leave many times, but seems to be drawn to this quirky city that smells of beer and alewives.

Some might say that she is a little obsessed with food. Lo would say she is A LOT obsessed with food. After all, she has been cooking, eating and enjoying food for decades and has no plans to retire anytime soon. 

Lo's recipes and writing have been featured in a variety of publications including GO: Airtran Inflight Magazine, Cheese Connoisseur, Cooking Light, Edible Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as well as on the blog Go Bold with Butter, the web site Wisconsin Cheese Talk, and in the quarterly online magazine Grate. Pair. Share.