By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Sep 02, 2013 at 11:01 AM

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 a French themed event at Great Lakes Distillery, the Milwaukee Eat Local Challenge, an afternoon wine tasting at Meritage and Tomatomania!

S'amuser avec Française at Great Lakes Distillery
On Friday, Sept. 13 from 5 to 9 p.m. join Great Lakes Distillery and L’Alliance Française de Milwaukee for a free evening experiencing French culture with a twist!

Great Lakes will provide free samples of their hand-crafted Amerique 1912 Absinthe Verte and Rouge, made in the traditional style with anise, grande wormwood and fennel as well as a proprietary blend of specially selected botanicals. The absinthe will be presented from a traditional absinthe fountain; staff will be on hand to share information about drinking absinthe and explain why it was the drink of choice for Parisian artists and writers for nearly a century.

Meanwhile, guests can tickle their tastebuds with delicious spirit-infused French hors d’oeuvres from Cafe Perrin, samples of Purple Door absinthe ice cream, and absinthe chocolate tastings from Indulgence Chocolatiers. A cash bar will feature special French inspired cocktails.

Glass-blowers will be on site hand-blowing classic absinthe glassware, the Alliance Française will be offering free mini-French language lessons, and there will be raffles for free French lessons, art, and more!

Founded in 1918, Alliance Française was established after World War 1 to raise money to help French war orphans, and soon became the only language school in Wisconsin dedicated to teaching the French language. The Alliance offers immersion-style French classes for every age group and language level, including the Vocabulaire au Restaurant class, a mini-course pairing French language learning with delicious food at Lake Park Bistro.

Fall sessions begin September 15. Anyone who registers for courses before September 6 will receive an early bird discount on classes. For more information, visit or call (414) 964-3855

Celebrate Summer: Take the Eat Local Challenge
The summer harvest season is in full swing, so what better time is there to make the most of what’s local and delicious? Participate in Milwaukee’s Eat Local Challenge, Sept. 1-15, sponsored by Eat Local Milwaukee, a collaboration between the Urban Ecology Center and Outpost Natural Foods with the help of MKEfoodies and Slow Food WiSE.

During the Eat Local Challenge, Milwaukeeans are encouraged to make a few changes – small or large – to explore eating more local foods. Everyone creates their own local eating "rules;" but the goal is to consume more local food than you might ordinarily. For instance, you might decide to try to go 100% local during the challenge, with the exception of coffee or wine. Or maybe you’ll challenge yourself to try one local vegetable from the farmer’s market each week.

If you have kids, maybe you’d like to use some time during the challenge to visit a local farm, make homemade ice cream, or throw a local pizza party featuring all local foods. No matter what you decide to do, the goal is to eat more mindfully and consider your impact on the local food scene and the environment.

Why bother? Here are three good reasons.

  • Purchasing locally grown and manufactured foods supports the local economy, because more money stays in the region.
  • Efforts like buying from the farmer’s market help to reconnect individuals to food producers, while helping to support family farms.
  • Eating more local foods helps to protect the environment by reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Eating local foods means you’re getting the freshest, most nutritious food possible.

For more resources, visit and visit the Outpost web site for a helpful local food buying guide and a list of local vendors.

Afternoon Delight: Wine tasting at Meritage
Wine lovers, mark your calendars for Saturday, Sept. 7 from 1 to 3 p.m., when Meritage, 5921 W. Vliet St., will be debuting its first afternoon wine tasting. The event will feature 25 wines plus French style ciders with light hors d'oeuvres for $25 per person. For those interested in purchasing featured wines, half and full case discounts will be offered at the event.

Get your tomato on at Tomatomania 2013
Love tomatoes? Then you’ll love Tomatomania, an annual celebration of summer’s favorite fruit. The event takes place on Saturday, Sept. 7 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Milaeger’s Racine store at 4838 Douglas Ave.

The event, which is free and open to the public, features a free blind taste test of approximately 115 different tomatoes, including heirloom varieties, in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors, including yellow, orange, green and "black." Guests are encouraged to vote for their favorites, an activity which assists the local greenhouse in determining which tomato plant varieties they will offer in the coming year.

Almost 40 varieties of peppers will also be available for sampling, including the famous "Wisconsin Wonder" sweet bell pepper and the world’s hottest "Carolina Reaper." Tomatoes and peppers will also be available for purchase. Gardeners looking to establish late summer plantings for fall harvest will have the opportunity to purchase fresh young plants including broccoli, Swiss chard, greens, kale, lettuce and spinach varieties, along with herbs like arugula, basil, cilantro, and parsley. Master Gardener volunteers from the University of Wisconsin-Extension Horticultural Program will be on hand to answer garden questions of all kinds.

In addition to the free tomato and pepper tasting, guests can experience wine, tequila and bloody Mary samples, and beer samples from Wisconsin’s Esser’s Cross Plains Brew Company, which will be debuting their 150th Anniversary Ale at Tomatomania! In addition, Bald Eagle Foods, also a Wisconsin company, will be sampling their salsas and famous gourmet sausages.

Guests who purchase special food tickets also have the option to enjoy the Tomatomania "Salsa Center" featuring a wide variety of salsa and pico de gallo creations, tomato and pepper infused guacamole and caprese bruschetta. Beer, wine, bloody Marys and margaritas will also be available for purchase. The Java Garden Café will be serving its regular menu plus specials including brats with a homemade tomato jam.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.