Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Tank to Top

There is at least one more embarrassing situation in my life than the lost & found Kylie ticket: I've used a tank to climb a volcano.

In summer 1993, I made a discovery journey to Kamchatka*, which consisted mainly of river rafting with an Aeroflot life-raft and volcano trekking. One volcano, which we tried to climb, was Mutnovsky in the South of the peninsula. Two vachtovkas** brought us in a seven hour ride to the base of the volcano. Early on the next morning, we made our first attempt for the crater. Unfortunately, we did not succeed due to various reasons:
  • we were surrounded by fog
  • we did not have any maps nor navigation means
  • our local guide was big-mouth but did not strike at all
  • the other guides insisted on cooking a soup for lunch with fire wood they brought along (this takes at least 2.5 hours at that altitude)
Back in the base camp, a worker from the nearby construction site for a steam power plant came along and offered his tank for $ 50 including driver. It looked like an infantry fighting vehicle without weapons but with a huge hook for dragging heavy stuff through this mars like environment.

First, the offer was out of question for all of us. But right in then, the fog disappeared and the volcano showed its true beauty. Within an hour everyone gave in.

Both the rides up and down took about 1.5 hours and it felt like being trapped in a blender. Luckily, I don't get motion sickness, but this also restricted me from the only hatch. It was a ride in darkness.

But It was worth both trouble and embarrassment. The crater is magnificent. See the pictures of another party.

* A brief summary for all those who had a place next to the window in geography: Kamchatka Peninsula is a 1,250-kilometer-long peninsula in the Russian Far East, with an area of 472,300 km². It lies between the Pacific Ocean (to the east) and the Sea of Okhotsk (to the west). The central valley and the Kamchatka River are flanked by large volcanic ranges, containing around 160 volcanoes, 29 of them still active.

** six-wheel-drive truck with passenger cabin (picture).

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Xtreme Lost & Found

This is a follow up of No Kylie - Screwed by Amazon and Ultimate Seduction.

On the eve of Kylie's Fever concert in Zürich I realised that I had no idea where the ticket was. Usually, I put them under my vintage telephone (one that still looks and sounds like one). But there was nothing at all. Four hours later, I had moved all furniture at least once, had been through the waste paper three times and had emptied and put in order all drawers. Still no sign of the ticket. Depressive feelings and self-pity had taken control over my usually quite stable personality hours ago. My fingers were trembling when I wrote a panic SMS to Jeanpi, who supposed to go with me to the concert.

At noon on the day of the concert, Jeanpi entered my apartment and found the ticket within 30 seconds in a cupboard in the bath. I have still no idea why and when I put it there.

How the concert turned out can be read in No Kylie - Screwed by Amazon

Friday, November 26, 2004

Grands Crus

My swimming mate Antonio works for wine magazine Vinum. He has sent me a back issue with the title story Grands Crus From The Apple Tree by acclaimed wine journalist Thomas Vaterlaus. Extensive research in Europe's leading cider regions had led Vaterlaus to:
I am going to write about some of Vaterlaus' findings in following blogs. However, I highly recommend to order this back issue as long as it is still available. It can be ordered in German (Switzerland), German (Germany), French or Spanish.


Ultimate Seduction

La Minogue requests the honour of our company: April 1st, 2005, Basel. Be there & be ready for the ultimate enchantment in one of Europe's oldest intellectual centers. I Should Be So Lucky...

Thursday, November 25, 2004

The Forbidden Fruit

My recommendation for pre-Xmas is De Verboden Vrucht (Dutch) or Le Fruit Défendu (French) ['the forbidden fruit' for the ones who do not speak either language]. It's a strong Belgian ale (8.8%). But let's listen to the experts:
Dark red-brown in colour with a loose, bubbly head, this well-known strong ale from Hoegaarden (now owned by Interbrew) has a delicate, fruity, malty nose with lots of red berries present, along with estery pear-drop aromas and a touch of sherbet. In the mouth it is initially lively and malty, but the malt soon develops more complex fruity notes, again with red berries predominant, although there is only a little sweetness. It is also worth noting that the strength is exceptionally well disguised, even for a Belgian ale. Finish becomes chocolatey and warming, though, leaving a chocolatey, fruity aftertaste. A stunning beer, somewhere near the dubbel style, but difficult to categorise comfortably. Fruity and complex, with a hidden kick. (Source: The Oxford Bottled Beer Database)
De Verboden Vrucht Cheers


Some information on the origin of the apple:
  • Apple is the fruit (pome) of the genus Malus belonging to the family Rosaceae, and is one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits.
  • Table apples are of the species M. domestica or hybrids of it.
  • The wild ancestor of Malus domestica is Malus sieversii (which has no common name), a tree still found wild in the Tian Shan mountains of central Asia in southern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Xinjiang Province, China. M. sieversii resists many diseases and pests that affect domestic apples, and research with it to develop new disease-resistant apples is continuing.
  • Almaty means "Father of Apples". Alamty (Алматы; formerly known as Alma-Ata) is a city in Kazakhstan, with a population of 1,168,000.
So far, I've been three times to this area:

Riding a Kazakhien Ibex

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Apple Tiramisù

Due to a strange dizziness on Monday, I missed Anigna's birthday party and therefore a delicious Apple Tiramisù as I've been told.

Serves 6 to 8

Apple Rings
- 75 g sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 3 drops lemon juice
Mix all together in a wide pan and bring to a boil without stirring. Reduce heat and let boil until it takes the colour of Caramel. Remove pan from stove.
- 50 g butter in small pieces
Add butter to the mixture.
- 4 apples (approx. 600 g), peeled & cored, cut into 5 mm thick rings
- juice of one lemon
Mix apple rings with lemon juice and add to the mixture. Parboil for 10 minutes. Let apple rings cool down.

Mascarpone Mixture
- 225 g mascarpone
- 180 g sour milk
- 75 g sugar
- 1 apple, peeled, cut in small cubes
Whisk mascarpone in a bowl. Add sour milk and sugar. Mix well and add apple cubes. Cover the bowl an put in a cool place.
- 3 tablespoons warm water
- 3 tablespoons caramel liquid from the apple ring procedure
- 2 tablespoons Calvados or Thurgados
Mix all together.
- 150 g spoon biscuits
Fill a bowl in layers from the bottom:
1) biscuits with the sugared side down.
2) let liquid drip on the biscuits.
3) apple rings
4) mascarpone mixture
5) biscuits (dipped in liquid)
6) liquid
7) apple rings
8) mascarpone mixture

Store in a cool place for at least two hours. Enjoy with family and friends


Lonely Planet for Cider India

This is a follow up of Cider India.
If you want to travel to Cider India, then choose May when the apple trees are in blossom. If you insist on doing it in autumn, then visit Bosch's Wystübli in Boltshausen (+41 71 622 44 27).

Unfortunately, the big cider producers in the area, Thuralla and Moehl, produce only cider for the mass market. Therefore, cider can not be the only reason for a trip to Cider India. My father still makes his own cider, but you have to like vinegar to really enjoy it. It's strong stuff, though.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Cider India Ribbon

This is a follow up of The Chopstick Challenge.
At least the linoleum print did work on the waitor's "ninja" ribbon.
ribbon Picture by Phon

The Chopstick Challenge

This is a follow up of Cider Creme For The Masses and Cider India - on Carla's request.
Of course, a theme like "East of Cider India" asks for chopsticks and chopsticks have prints. The challenge was to get the theme printed on the chopstick which turned out to be more difficult than we'd expected.

The first approach, which I'd brought in, was a linoleum print. Luckily, it had been turned down by Carla's father who's an acclaimed sculptor. In hindsight, I have to admit, he was right. It would not have worked.

Carla then contacted Speckert+Klein to order a stamp and stamp colour, which had to be non-toxic and oil and water resistant (one has to eat with it, though). They found egg colour, which fulfilled all our requirements and is normally used to stamp the date onto eggs.

Carla did work for the Swiss Post for some years, and therefore, is kind of an expert in how to stamp properly. But she failed with the first set of chopstick (more than 100) which she had bought at IKEA. The colour run into the wood. It was a blur not a stamp.

In the afternoon one day prior to the event, she finally found varnished chopsticks which were stampable at Cash+Carry.

chopstick Picture by Phon

Cider India

This is a follow up of Cider Creme For The Masses.
We have chosen the theme "East of Cider India" for the dinner a fortnight ago, because the east of Thurgau is called Cider India (Mostindien) due the many apple trees in that area. For a lot of Swiss, Switzerland ends about 10 km west of Thurgau. They seem to have a mental border and don't realise that there is some more (a least a lovely area - the people have quite traditional views and values). Hence, a bit cheek in tongue was involved in the selection of the theme.

A local cider producer even advertises with an Indian who speaks the local vernacular:

Cider Indian

Monday, November 22, 2004

Mass Cooking

This is a follow up of Cider Creme For The Masses.
Tina was again involved in a mass cooking. Last weekend, she produced 80 liters of pumpkin soup concentrate. Which was the basis for 150 liters of pumpkin soup to be sold at a fair in Diessenhofen (Swiss don't use pumpkins just for decoration as ms.mac does suppose).

Talking about fairs: Sirpa, also involved in the East of Cider India cooking, will be working at Uschter-Märt on November, 25 & 26. Pay her a visit at the Ox stand.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Cider Creme - For The Masses

This is a follow up of Cider Creme - Basics & Reframed.
On May Day, Carla, Schwafli, Chilli & I cooked for a wedding dinner. It was hard work, but every thing went quite well. We only messed up the Cider Creme. I mean, we failed completely - not just admirably. The bloody creme burnt on its way from the stove to the sieve. As I warned in the basics blog, this is the tricky part in preparing this delicious dish.

A fortnight ago, Carla & I with another team, were cooking again. This time for the approx. 110 participants of a conference of the Swiss Guide & Scout Movement. We'd chosen the theme "East of Cider India" (more about this theme in another blog later on) and set Cider Creme on the menu for dessert.

Our friend Tina has warned us & we have made a bad experience ones. But success is getting onto your feet once more than you have fallen. Hence, we did it again. Just for the record, the ingredients:
  • 600 g cornflour
  • 18 litres cider
  • 60 eggs
  • 15 lemons
  • 1 litre Thurgados
  • 5 litres whipped cream.
The big difference this time was that we did the cooking in 20 portions. Topo & I were whisking for almost three hours but the approach worked perfectly. The Cider Creme was the proper completion of a great meal.

cider creme cooling Picture by Sirpa
The Cider Creme while cooling down.

Bloody Nose

Yesterday, a certain Lars, who has written a brilliant essay on Pedro Almodóvar's Hable Con Ella, got a bloody nose because he got messed up with fellow student Carla's earring while kissing her neck.

Note: It might not be obvious, why this gossip shows up in a cider creme thread. But belief me, Carla plays an essential part in it (I'm still supposing that I'm able to build up some suspense).

Cider Creme - Reframed

This is a follow up of Cider Creme - Basics and Reframing.
I have to swerve a bit to get to the reframed cider creme. Sorry, but it's really necessary:
  • 1st Swerve: Another thing I've learned from Tom is to discuss my current projects with as many different people as possible. This is an unsurpassed source for the reframing process [Sub swerve: yes, I steal -- wherever I can. I was brought up in Thurgau. Malicious gossip says that people from Thurgau walk around the house first thing in the morning to see if all stolen goods are still there].
  • 2nd Swerve: Tiptopf is a brilliant book. It's almost fail-safe. All the basics required for cooking are described in detail. On the other hand, the book contains only basic recipes. Reframing is essential to turn them from solid and good to brilliant and breath taking.
The decisive input for the reframing of Tiptopf's cider creme came from my colleague Martin. He brought me the recipe of a Norman cider creme (the Normandy is a great cider region - more on that in another follow-up). The tiny but essential difference is that the Norman recipe uses less lemon juice and adds 1 dl of Calvados in the last stage. Of course, as a Thurgauer, I suggest to use Thurgados instead of Calvados.


Tom Peters has a bit fallen from grace but I still think he's right by saying:


"The world of WOW Projects rests on but one word: REFRAMING. That is . . . every "assignment"/"task"/"job" is merely a starting point. Your real "job": Turn that--often apparently mundane--task / job / assignment into something cool/memorable/WOW!"


Source: Tom Peters (1999). The Project 50: or, Fifty Ways to Transform Every "Task" into a Project that Matters! New York: Knopf, p. 25.
I've never failed, applying this recommendation and I often did, ignoring it. Failing means in this case, producing something forgettable, predictable, risk-avers, boss-driven & tune less.

Note: this is just another piece in the big cider puzzle.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Cider Creme - Basics

This is the basic recipe for Cider Cream from the Swiss school cooking bible Tiptopf:

Put 2 tablespoons of cornflour in a pan and mix it with 6 dl of cider (the unfermented version). Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 eggs and mix well. Put on the heat and keep stirring with a whisk while bringing to a boil. As soon as the mixture boils, sift it into a dish. At this point you have to be fast or the creme burns. Let the creme cool, which requires several hours. Prior to serving, add the juice of half a lemon and 1-2 dl of whipped cream. Serves 4.

More about the reason for this blog will follow in due course (I try to put some suspense into my blog, though).

Friday, November 19, 2004

Never in Rose

Blogger promises that it takes only 3 easy steps to create a new blog. That's right - but they don't tell you that a lot of decision making is involved. One is to choose a template that reflects the personality & style of the blogger. At least one thing was clear for me from the beginning. My colour option will never be set to Rose!

As a small boy, I had a nightmare, which I will never forget. My mother had got one of this handy all purpose kitchen chopper from Zyliss with sharp blades. In my dream there were 5 m tall, upright-walking cats, which had those kind of blades in stead of pads on the front legs. They were rose from head to tail and wherever they walked, the ground caved in a rose swamp. The cats used the blades to catch people and chop them into tiny pieces. I woke up when they got hold of my grandmother.

Zyliss Chopper

Two weeks ago, I bought one of those choppers. So far I did not have any nightmares. It looks like I don't have to waste money on therapy.

No Kylie - Screwed by Amazon

If back in Stock Aitken Waterman days somebody would have told me that I would ever go to a Kylie concert, this would have ended in a tough fight - no doubt. But then appeared Nick Cave's unforgettable duet with Kylie on "Where the Wild Roses Grow". The world was never as before. In 2002, she definitely enchanted me by giving this fantastic Fever Tour. This show sent me on a five day high like freshly fallen in love (I've enjoyed better concerts music-wise, but no other has had a similar emotional impact). Ever since, the Kylie calendar is on the Xmas shopping list. If you get it from me it's a sign of deep friendship. I think, I've drawn the picture.

Swiss shop's are expensive but not necessarily the best stocked in the world. Hence, I have to get it from overseas. After last year's disaster (I could not get hold of them before end of January 2004), I made my shopping early in September on amazon.co.uk.

Now, after two and a half months of waiting I did receive the following line from them: "We are sorry to inform you that we have been unable to obtain the (...) "Official Kylie Minogue Calendar 2005" This item has now been cancelled from your order..."

Thursday, November 18, 2004

First Experience

experience, living through events and the impression on a person or animal of events. In epistemology, distinction is made between things known inductively, from experience, and those known deductively or theoretically, from a priori principles. The ancients, under the influence of Plato and of Euclidean geometry, tended to prize deductive or theoretical knowledge above that gained through experience. Their influence was dominant through the Renaissance. With the rise of modern empirical science the preference was reversed. Immanuel Kant's critical epistemology, however, emphasized the dependence of all experience on the mediation of the intelligence. Modern thought has tended to agree with Kant; accordingly, discussion has centered on what, if anything, can be said to be immediately experience, and how this experience may be conditioned by social factors affecting the social milieu or by perceptual processes themselves. ...says The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia.

Let's see what my experiences in the blogging world will be...