By Damien Jaques Senior Contributing Editor Published Aug 02, 2011 at 8:20 AM

The SURG Restaurant Group has a busy two months planned.

On Saturday, Ryan Braun's Graffito will sell small plate samplings of its menu at the inaugural Taste of the Ward in the Historic Third Ward. The event is affiliated with the Summer Sizzle neighborhood festival that has returned to the ward this year.

Ryan Braun's Graffito will host the Limelite Knockout Bash, an after-party at the conclusion of the mixed martial arts competition at the Bradley Center Aug. 14. Admission to the party, scheduled for 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., is $20 and will include a SURG raffle ticket, Krome vodka specials, appearances by the Limelite fusion drink promotional models, beverage sampling, product giveaways and Chicago DJ Effekt. VIP table reservations can be made by emailing

The SURG Group is holding a free block party in the 700 block of N. Milwaukee St. from 4 to 8 p.m. Aug. 28. All of the SURG restaurants will sell tastes of their menus, and a music stage will feature several DJs and local bands. The event will also include chef demonstrations, raffle prizes and other attractions.

Distil will host two special dinners next month. The Alcoholmanac, featuring a three-course dinner of barbecued brisket, shrimp and watermelon salad, and strawberry lemonade dessert, will be served at 7 p.m. Sept. 1. Priced at $45, it will also include cocktails with spirits from Rehorst, Buffalo Trace and St. Germaine.

A Mangalitsa pig dinner is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 9, and it will feature a five-course meal with a picnic theme created by Distil executive chef Matt Haase and Carnevor executive chef Jarvis Williams. The food will be paired with Goose Island beers.

The dinner is $60. Reservations for both Distil events can be made by calling (414) 220-9411.

Finally, SURG will sell small plate offerings from its restaurants at the Rock the Green music festival at Veteran's Park Sept. 18.

The SURG Restaurant Group consists of Distil, Carnevor, Ryan Braun's Graffito, Mi-keys, Umami Moto, Nuovo Centanni and Charro Downtown and Brookfield.

Damien Jaques Senior Contributing Editor

Damien has been around so long, he was at Summerfest the night George Carlin was arrested for speaking the seven dirty words you can't say on TV. He was also at the Uptown Theatre the night Bruce Springsteen's first Milwaukee concert was interrupted for three hours by a bomb scare. Damien was reviewing the concert for the Milwaukee Journal. He wrote for the Journal and Journal Sentinel for 37 years, the last 29 as theater critic.

During those years, Damien served two terms on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, a term on the board of the association's foundation, and he studied the Latinization of American culture in a University of Southern California fellowship program. Damien also hosted his own arts radio program, "Milwaukee Presents with Damien Jaques," on WHAD for eight years.

Travel, books and, not surprisingly, theater top the list of Damien's interests. A news junkie, he is particularly plugged into politics and international affairs, but he also closely follows the Brewers, Packers and Marquette baskeball. Damien lives downtown, within easy walking distance of most of the theaters he attends.