Wisconsin – Kettle Moraine Forest

We’re back, after an unexplained 13 week absence. During that time we had the pleasure of enduring work, more work, a visit with a self-described crypt-keeper-leprechaun, some more work, and we fought a dragon. Now we’re back to mindlessly telling stories and share the breadth of humanity’s experiences. Because it’s what we do. Side note: don’t ever fight a dragon. This was a bad choice.

Anyways, as part of their desire to endlessly prove their incompetence, I ended up in Milwaukee again for work a whole day early. Rather than tool around downtown again I decided to venture out away from the concrete. So I planned a hike through Kettle Moraine Forest, Lapham Peak Unit. It’s about a half hour drive west of Milwaukee via I-94.

I hiked the Moraine Ridge trail which they clock at 6.6 miles. I broke with my usual practice and didn’t carry any weight. I even left the boots aside and just used my running shoes. I was just too tired to get crazy with anything.

I saw something new in that all the trails are actually made for cross country skiing. In most places the paths are cut through the woods with a very wide diameter. It’s weird. Though they probably don’t have any choice for skiing.

When I was there it was still the end of winter, only the very barest of green saplings were beginning to appear.

The various trails constantly cross each other at multiple points.  Accordingly, the park unit labels each intersection and provides an updated map.  Beyond that they don’t really label the trails at all.  I had to check multiple times to ensure I didn’t take a wrong turn.  Even so, I did actually take the wrong way once and had to backtrack.

Dude is glad winter is ending.

There were many other folks on the trails, but I would not call them crowded.  Like a dummy I dropped my gloves and had to go back and get them at one point.  A couple put them where I could see them after finding them on the ground.  I passed them later and they were happy to see I’d found them.  I thanked them, though was a bit embarrassed.  I was a nice human moment.  I think they were Quebecois.

According to the trail marker, the Native Americans that used to inhabit the park grounds bent these trees on purpose as their own markers.  This one marked the way to a water source.  Here is another example.

Note the difference between the trees just emerging from winter, and the pine trees who laugh at winter.

I didn’t time myself, I stopped here and there.  Again, I was tired to begin with so it didn’t matter.  But I had a great time.  It was a good release from paperwork and all the stuff that doesn’t actually matter.  So nature did it’s job.  Hail nature.

oh, no

I’ve connected through Houston Bush before, but that was years ago.  So I deplane and as soon as I get out the gate I notice there’s a bunch of small screens everywhere.  The normal waiting areas with rows of chairs were apparently replaced with tables.  Each individual seat had a tablet in front of it.

I didn’t think much of it at first.  I had a quick hour to grab food before the next flight.  I ended up at a place called Bam Bam for Vietnamese.  I sit down at the bar, and I’m face-to-face with another tablet.

Oh, no.

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It’s the future.  Today!

It took me about five minutes to realize no bartender was coming to see me.  I figured out on my own that to get a beer or order food I had to use the tablet.  Then I had to swipe my credit card right on the spot.

Even after you’re done ordering, there’s this still that evil screen right in front of you.  They continuously bombard you with ads, proposed money games, and whatever else.  You can’t turn the damn thing off, at least not that I could figure out.

The beer was local Texas good, they had a great banh-mi, and a so-so salad.  But I couldn’t get over the darn screen.  I want a quiet beer and meal.  And maybe to watch sports behind the bar.  Not get ads shoved in my face.  Note the company logos on the shot above from the many, many usual suspects of the Giant Octopi.  I should have put a napkin over the thing.

I’m an introvert.  So you better believe it’s a legit problem when I say I actually genuinely missed ordering my food and drink from a real live person.  To actually engage in conversation with a fellow human.

I eventually figured out the screen thing, but almost nobody else did.  Other folks coming in were exasperated with trying to work it out.  And they got frustrated as the one poor waiter had to walk them through it.

Business consultants told Bam Bam and Houston Bush that there would be friction during the “initiation period”.  But that eventually customers will get used to using this technology on a regular basis to order.  Then they can save 47% on restaurant personnel costs once all orders are handled in this electronic manner.

This is the future.  Every single moment of your time is one giant opportunity for somebody to shove ads in your face.  Everyone notice the new gas pumps?  Where they throw ads at you in the 49 seconds it takes to pump your gas?

Machines probably won’t totally take over every job.  You won’t see a full blown robot bartender.  Instead you’ll see various aspects of humanity removed from the equation.  Technology will destroy jobs on the margins.  Instead of six waiters a restaurant will have two.  What are the other four newly unemployed humans supposed to do?

If you believe the wizards of the future, technology will free those four people to go become artists, or learn a new trade like plumbing, or whatever.  What I suspect will happen instead is that society will generally continue to become poorer and more unequal.

When traveling, I don’t think I’ll do this again.  If I see a screen like this again, I’m walking away.  I’ll take my cash to a business that employs humans.  And if every bar stool on the planet has a screen one day?  I don’t know what I’ll do, but that’ll be a sad, sad day.

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The future can kiss my ass.

Mount Fuji, Part Two – Fuji stick

You’re supposed to bring home at least one item from every country if you can, or at least every trip.  How does one do this though if you’re constrained to one backpack?  For this reason and many others, I don’t really have too many corporeal possessions from my travels.

But sometimes you pick up an item that you find a way home any darn way you can.  I think I shipped my Fuji stick home via 1912 British Imperial tramp steamer.  I made it happen.  It cost me 13 pounds, 6 shillings, and a bottle of my finest barley swill.

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If you ascend Fuji, you have the option to take the wooden Fuji stick.  Not everybody does so.  Those who’ve been up multiple times have no need.  Some folks consider it a vicious tourist trap kind of thing.  But I just think it’s too cool.

The idea is you start out with this bare piece of wood.  At various way stations on your journey up, they use a hot brand to burn logos into the stick.  Here’s a shot of mine of a local carrying one up where he’s taken the flag off.

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Of note, whereas I left my Japanese flag on my stick, see how the local has taken his off.  I attribute this to the difference in patriotism between your average Japanese and say an American.

For example, my Parents have always had the Stars & Stripes flying outside their front door.  Always.  You would not see this type of behavior from almost any normal Japanese family.  Patriotism is a very different mindset between the two countries.

The Fuji stick takes this concept into overdrive as the flag that adorns it is not just any flag, but the older Rising Sun Flag of Imperial Japan.  I don’t know why Fuji chooses this over the modern and less controversial single red circle?  But anyways, a lot of locals took their flags off their stick.  Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t matter to me either way, I just find the concept interesting.

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Here’s a close up of one of the stamps.  A torii gate with the year I climbed, 2005.  Man, I’m getting freaking old.

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A few more stamps, one with 3,400 for 3,400 meters.  Then, above it again the year 2005, and 11,000 feet.  Note feet, not meters.  I think that guy must have had two stamps.  One that did meters, and one that did 11,000 feet for the gaijin.

My Fuji stick sits right next to my home desk, always.  You can actually catch it in the background of an old shot I had for a previous post where I talked about beer.  Win.

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Mount Fuji – only once?

It is said that a wise person will climb Fuji once, but only a fool will do it twice.  Well, what if you’re not wise to begin with?  And what do you do when you climb it the first time, and it’s a fog filled mess?

I think the answer is you have to climb it again.  Even if that throws my soul out of alignment and curses me.  Then I’d need to enlist the services of Shōki The Demon Queller to cleanse my spirit.  But I’m down with that.

Shōki only takes payment in fine sake.  So he and I can get ripped on it after he’s done slaying the cursed demon that’s bugging my dogs while they troll around the basement looking for crickets.

So I’ll be climbing Fuji again someday.  Just to do it again.  And because I couldn’t see anything when I reached the summit because of all the fog.

Besides, when climbing Fuji I constantly got passed by folks who were probably 73 years old.  They were kicking my ass.  I’m betting (other than the fact that these people are awesome) that this was not their first dance with Fuji.  If they can do it multiple times, so can I.

IMG_1018This shot is actually in the early afternoon at the end of my climb.  It’s the only decent shot I have of Fuji that day.  Note the clouds that still owned the summit.

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Nobody should climb Fuji unless they’re in decent shape.  There are no training wheels.  You get a stick, you get the assist lines, and that’s it.  In some cases the path is a total mess.  You’re walking directly on volcanic rock.  I loved it.

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The climb is a series of switchbacks.  At the choke points it can get a bit crowded, but I suppose there is room to slide by if you’re in a hurry or are timing yourself.

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Foooggg.  I did somehwat regret the fog, but honestly, since I know I’m going up again it was actually a lot of fun.  It added to the mystery of Fuji.  It’s like walking on a mystical moon.

Looking Up4Unrelated photo of climbers who are better than I.

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I don’t have any shots of the summit.  There some shops and such.  But we couldn’t see anything up there.  Here is a shot right below the summit upon beginning descent.

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Descent is just as much a challenge as ascent.  You’re using different muscles and the switchbacks are over different ground which is looser.  Note in this shot the slow descent from volcanic wasteland until it’s ultimately the greenery of lower altitudes.

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Nature begins to return with some green here and there.

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One of my ubiquitous random forest shots at the end of the descent.  I’ll also go back to hike the forests around Fuji itself.  They’re beautiful, and a sharp delightful change from the overwhelming concrete of urban Japan.

 

 

three mushroom pappardelle

When you throw three different kinds of mushroom into a dish, the only question that comes to my mind afterwards is why didn’t I use four?

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three mushroom pappardelle

2 cups chicken stock

dried porcini mushroom pack

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 pound hot Italian sausage, diced

4 shallots, minced

1 sweet onion, chopped

1 Tbsp brown sugar

12 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced

6 oz shitake mushrooms, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

pinch nutmeg, rosemary, thyme, crushed red pepper, cayenne, garlic powder, salt & pepper

1/2 cup dry sherry

1 lemon, juiced

1/4 cup pickled jalapenos, chopped

1 Tbsp pickled jalapeno liquid

1 spinach bag

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 pound pappardelle pasta

parmesan reggiano, grated

in a pot, warm the chicken stock, add the dried porcini & soak for 20 minutes, strain & chop porcini, reserve the stock

in a stainless steel pan warm 1 Tbsp olive oil over high heat, add the sausage & brown, use a slotted spoon to remove the sausage, set aside

stir in shallots & onion, saute until softened, then add brown sugar & caramelize onions over low heat

increase heat to medium, add the baby bella, shitake, garlic, and the spices to your taste and cook until they begin to stick to the pan, then add dry sherry, scrape pan and reduce until all brown bits are absorbed and most moisture is gone

add reserved chicken stock and reduce until all liquid is gone

add lemon juice, jalapenos, and jalapeno liquid, cook for a few minutes, then stir in the spinach and wilt it

add chopped porcini and heavy cream and simmer until a thick sauce is created, return sausage

separately cook pasta, in a large serving bowl add pasta, then add sauce, mix until combined but don’t aggressively stir

serve in bowls with grated parmesan reggiano

 

Let’s begin!

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Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in the chicken broth, then strain and chop them after about 20 minutes of hanging out.  Keep the chicken broth, we’ll use it’s mushroom infused tastiness later.

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Sausage improves any dish.  I shall duel anybody who claims otherwise.  But honestly, this is just extra credit.  The dish will do just fine without the sausage if you want to go the meatless route.

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Whoever discovered the concept of slowly caramelizing onions should have been appointed Emperor of All Humanity for at least one day.

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After you’ve added the other mushrooms, garlic, and the spices, you really want them to get a nice golden brown look throughout.  As they start to stick to the pan, this will help give it a nice deeper flavor.

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Then we use the dry sherry to deglaze the pan and start the sauce.  You can use white wine instead of sherry if you want, but really you should go with sherry if you can get it.  It gives the dish a unique flavor.  And if you take the trouble to buy it, try and get the better sherry that is like $20 a bottle.  It’s remarkably better than the $10 bottle.

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While you’re cooking the pasta, slowly reduce the cream until you’ve got a nice, deep sauce.  The recipe calls for pappardelle, but any long pasta of your choice will work great.

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You can eat this by itself or serve with a side salad.  Either way works, but most people would like to have the salad with it too, as the dish can be a bit heavy for some folks.

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Most of my recipes come straight from my silly brain.  But where I am inspired to steal the ideas of others, I shall always try and give credit where credit is due.

In it’s original form, years ago, it was based on this decent Giada De Laurentiis recipe.

But it evolved after I had the Pappardelle con Funghi e Capesante at Vigiluccis in Coronado.  Work made me go there with the bosses, the food made up for the otherwise weird evening.  It was one of those moments where you eat something, and you’re like, “I wonder if I could do that?”  So I did.  But theirs is much, much better than mine.

controlled dreams

I remember few concrete things from the wacky Jetsons cartoon.  But certain things remain sharp.  They had robot football, this angered me.  They also had a machine that could control dreams.  You got to dream about whatever you wanted.  How cool would that be?

I find the older I get the more garbage my dreams are.  It’s a mess of bad nonsense.  I can barely remember a thing.  I think a pet dinosaur stole my television.  Whatever.

But Japan is there quite often in a way nowhere else is.  I have no idea why.  I haven’t been to Japan in ten years.  Money and time keep getting in my way.

I think it’s because I lived there.  I suppose I equally dream about places I lived growing up and just think nothing of it.  Japan’s different because it’s the outlier.

I’m usually like scaling mountains, or somewhere near the water, and always roto-sushi.  I’m always wandering around crowded streets trying to find a place to eat roto-sushi.  If I was a billionaire I’d first open my own brewery.  Then I’d open my own roto-sushi place so I could visit it forever.

I don’t know what all this means.  Don’t really care.  So whatever, here’s a shot of Fugi in the fog I took back then.  This seems dream-like.  Win.

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spiced crab cakes with lime cream

We break several cultural rules by melding a variety of the planet’s tastiest spices into your usual crab cake.  The crab thus becomes happy.  Which will make you happy.  Which will make everybody happy.

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spiced crab cakes with lime cream

crab cakes

1 pound crab

1/4 cup roasted red pepper, small diced

1 celery rib, small diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 cup panko bread crumbs

2 Tbsp harissa

1/2 lime, juiced

salt & pepper

1 Tbsp Old Bay

1 Tsp cumin

1 Tsp cardamom

1 egg

lime cream

1/2 cup sour cream

zest of 1 lime

1/2 lime, juiced

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp Old Bay

cooking

1 Tbsp olive oil

bread or buns

1 tomato, sliced

greens

Combine all the crab cake ingredients in a large bowl. Form eight patties, place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Combine all the lime cream ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator with the crab cakes.

Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the patties for about four to five minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Or, grease a baking pan, and bake the crab cakes in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until light brown.

Serve on toasted bread or buns, with tomato, greens, and the lime cream.

dsc00627Let’s begin!

dsc00629Throw all the crab cake ingredients into the bowl and mix with a spoon.  Don’t stir too hard or too much.  You want the mixture to stay a little loose.  Too much moisture is not your friend here.  It using canned crab like I do, make sure you drain out the excess liquid.

We use the necessary awesome Old Bay, but also add harissa, cumin, and cardamom for an extra special taste.  Harissa is a Moroccan chili paste that you can make yourself very easily.  But more and more I see it in the grocery store which is a win for all humanity.  Crab cake enthusiasts or Moroccan traditionalists probably might not agree with this combination of spice.  But to me, breaking the rules is fun.

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Make eight balls with your hands.  Don’t pack them too tight, you want to leave some of the air inside the cake.  If the balls are too wet, you can add more bread crumbs.  If they won’t stay together you could add a second egg and remix it.  Put them into the fridge for at least an hour so they can set.  You can use plastic wrap to cover or (blasphemy) since it’s only an hour you can just leave the plate as is like I do.

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The lime cream ingredients are just put into a bowl and stirred using a fork until it’s all combined.  It’ll be loose at first, but after an hour in the fridge it’ll make a nice and easy spread.

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A little olive oil and a nonstick skillet is all you need for less than ten minutes of cooking.  Use a spoon and spatula when turning over the cakes to keep them together as they should be a little loose.

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A slightly healthier and easier way is to just bake them for a half hour.  You’ll get a lighter brown color, but it’s less work and the cake will stay together easier.  I use both methods, but usually prefer the skillet.  Try both, and see what works best for you.

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You can eat the cakes with the cream on their own.  But I usually toast some bread and add tomato and some greens.

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Enjoy life!