Upcoming Events: Speed Bartending and Valentine-Making

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Pondicheri's second monthly charity breakfast is planned for tomorrow from 7:30 a.m. to noon. Half of the proceeds from all sales will go to benefit Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, so dig in.

The following Monday, January 16, Valentines for Soldiers will take over the Saint Arnold brewery from 6 to 9 p.m. Come out and help create Valentine's Day greetings for our soldiers in Afghanistan, pack boxes with goodies or just buy some treats for yourself at the bake sale. The pay-what-you-can bake sale will feature goods from Fluff Bake Bar and many more wonderful bakeries, all of whom are donating their pies, cupcakes, cookies and truffles to help cover the costs of shipping all the Valentine's Day boxes abroad. Saint Arnold will also be donating $5 each of its brewery tour ticket sales to the cause. Food trucks H-Town StrEATs and the Eatsie Boys will be on site to serve food, with a portion of their sales also going to the fund.

The second annual TEDxManhattan "Changing the Way We Eat" event is being held in New York City on Saturday, January 21, which means most Houstonians - even the ones who care passionately about the future of food - won't be able to make it. And it's a shame, too: The event plans to explore the issues, the impacts and innovations happening as Americans increasingly move to a more sustainable way of eating and farming. The good news is that there will be a free viewing party for the event right here in Houston. The official viewing party will start at 9 a.m. at Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church on 1900 Bering Drive. Although the watch party is free, you do have to make reservations.

The next day, January 22, head out to Gallery MSquared, where the fiercest lady bartenders in town will be competing in the Speed Rack challenge to see who can make the best cocktails in timed challenges. The event runs from 5 to 8 p.m. and costs $25, which goes to benefit breast cancer research and prevention through LUPEC Houston. Among the bartenders competing will be familiar faces such as Mindy Kucan and Alba Huerta.

Warm up in February with a tequila dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, TQLA. The nuevo Tex-Mex joint - which was named one of the Top 10 New Restaurants of 2011 - is hosting a tequila dinner on Wednesday, February 15. Resident tequiler Scott Lindsey and chef Tommy Birdwell will partner with Riazul to create a four-course dinner for tequila aficionados, starting with a butternut squash soup topped with green chile apple chutney and Mexican crema. Tickets are $55 a person, which is a low cost considering the amount of food, tequila and knowledge you'll consume during the evening. Call 281-501-3237 to make your reservations.

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