Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Saturday, October 27, 2012

John Steinbeck on Wisconsin

It is possible, even probable, to be told a truth about a place, to accept it, to know it and at the same time to not know anything about it.  I had never been to Wisconsin, but all my life I had heard about it, had eaten its cheeses, some of them as good as any in the world.  And I must have seen pictures.  Everyone must have.  Why then was I unprepared for the beauty of this region, for its variety of field and hill, forest, lake?  I think now I must have considered it one big level cow pasture because of the state's enormous yield of milk products.  I never saw a country that changed so rapidly, and because  I had not expected it everything I saw brought a delight.  I don't know how it is in other seasons, the summers may reek and rock with hear, the winters may groan with dismal cold, but when I saw it for the first and only time in early October, the air was rich with butter-colored sunlight, not fuzzy but crisp and clear so that every frost-gay tree was set off, the rising hills were not compounded, but alone and separate.  There was a penetration of the light into the solid substance so that I seemed to see into things, deep in, and I've seen that kind of light elsewhere only in Greece.  I remembered not that I had been told Wisconsin is a lovely state, but the telling had not prepared me.  It was a magic day.  The land dripped with richness, the fat cows and pigs gleaming against green, and, in the smaller holdings, corn standing in little tents as corn should, and pumpkins all about.

I don't know whether or not Wisconsin has a cheese-tasting festival, but I who am a lover of cheese believe it should.  Cheese was everywhere, cheese centers, cheese cooperatives, cheese stores and stands, perhaps even cheese ice cream.  I can believe anything, since I saw a score of signs advertising Swiss Cheese Candy.  It is sad that I didn't stop to sample Swiss Cheese Candy.  Now I can't persuade anyone that is exists, that I did not make it up.

Beside the road I saw a very large establishment, the greatest distributor of sea shells in the world--and this in Wisconsin, which hasn't known a sea since pre-Cambrian time.  But Wisconsin is loaded with surprises.  I had heard of the Wisconsin Dells but was not prepared for the weird country sculpted by the Ice Age, a strange, gleaming country of water and carved rock, black and green.  To awaken here might make one believe it a dream of some other planet, for it has a non-earthly quality, or else the engraved record of a time when the world was much younger and much different.  Clinging to the sides of the dream-like waterways was the litter of out times, the motels, the hotdog stands, the merchants of the cheap and mediocre and tawdy so loved by summer tourists, but these incrustations were locked and boarded against the winter and, even open, I doubt that they could dispel the enchantment of the Wisconsin Dells.

-John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley (1962)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Haunted Wisconsin: Jeffrey Dahmer

[WARNING: This post has extremely graphic descriptions of gore and violence.]

Dahmer.  The name alone sends shivers up the spine of anyone even remotely familiar with his crimes.  There is a debate as to whether Ed Gein or Jeffrey Dahmer is a more notorious killer in Wisconsin, but the unfathomable darkness in Dahmer's actions and their relatively recent dates make Dahmer the most reviled man in Wisconsin.
Jeffrey Dahmer in high school.
Photo: Wikipedia
Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer was born in West Allis in May of 1960 and moved to Bath, Ohio when he was eight.  According to the excellent graphic novel My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf, Dahmer was always considered an odd boy and rarely fit in with his peers at school but instead became somewhat of a mascot due to his strange and erratic behavior.  It was at this time that he started collecting roadkill and other dead animals to dissect in his backyard.  An unbalanced life at home combined with an isolated social life lead Dahmer to developing alcoholism months before even graduating.  After his parents divorced in 1977, and the summer after high school was when Dahmer began his sinister activities.  Just two weeks after graduation while his family was out of town, Dahmer picked up a hitchhiker, Stephen Hicks, and brought him back to his house for some beer.  Dahmer made sexual advances and Hicks attempted to leave the house before Dahmer bludgeoned hims over the head with a 10lbs. dumb bell.  Dahmer buried the body in their backyard and was never suspected of the crime.  It would be another nine years before he killed again.
Dahmer's first victim Stephen Hicks
Dahmer was accepted to Ohio State University, only to drop out during his first semester.  His father enlisted him in the army but again was discharged due to his alcoholism.  After a brief time in Florida "to escape the cold," Dahmer moved in with his grandmother in West Allis in 1982.  Living there for six months, his behavior grew even more strange.  His grandmother found a fully dressed mannequin in Dahmer's closet and reported strange smells coming from her basement, which were later revealed to be squirrels that Dahmer dissolved in acid.  He was arrested twice for indecent exposure (once for masturbating in front of two young boys).  And then in September of 1987, Dahmer picked up the 26-year-old Steve Toumi at a bar, only to later kill him that night--a crime that Dahmer claimed he had no recollection of.  It wasn't long after that that his grandmother coincidentally asked him to move out.  He found an apartment closer to his job at the Ambrosia Chocolate Factory and was left all alone.
The one that almost escaped, Konerak Sinthasomphone

With his new freedom (some say isolation) Dahmer's blood lust only increased.  Not after a week of living on his own, he was arrested for molesting a 13-year-old boy.  He was sentenced to probation and community service and registered as a sex offender.  But this did little to slow him down.  In the next three years, he killed ten more men after bringing them home for a one-night stand.  It wasn't until May of 1991 that Dahmer had bee caught--but in a painfully heart wrenching twist Dahmer evaded capture to kill again.

Konerak Sinthasomphone, the younger brother of the boy that Dahmer had molested three years previous, was found staggering down the street in a panic.  He was naked, heavily drugged, and bleeding from his anus. Two neighbors found the 14-year-old boy and called 911.  Dahmer caught up with Sinthasomphone and tried to take him back to his apartment but the women refused.  Two officers arrived on the scene where Dahmer convinced them that Sinthasomphone was his 19-year-old lover and they had an argument after a long night of drinking.  The two women, who knew Sinthasomphone, pleaded to the officers not to listen to Dahmers lies.  They briefly scolded Dahmer for the disturbance and went on their way.  The officers, one of which later became president of the Milwaukee Police Association, noticed a strange smell coming from Dahmer's apartment, but did not investigate.  Little did they know that it was the rotting body of Dahmer's previous victim Tony Hughes.  Sinthasomphone was killed and dismembered later that night in Dahmer's kitchen.

Dahmer's downfall, Tracy Edwards
By that summer Dahmer was slaying one man a week.  He killed Matt Turner on June 30, Jeremiah Weinberger on July 5, Oliver Lacy on July 12, and finally Joseph Brandehoft on July 19.  He was convinced that he could turn the men into his sex zombie.  He would drill a hole into their skulls and pour hydrochloic acid and boiling water into their frontal lobes...all while they were still alive and conscious.  On July 22nd, 1991 Dahmer repeated his tested method.  He lured Tracy Edwards back to his apartment and attempted to handcuff him.  Unfortunately for Dahmer, Edwards put up more of a fight that his previous victims and escaped the psychopath's clutches.  Dahmer tried to corner him in his bedroom with a butcher knife, but Edwards delivered a powerful haymaker, sending Dahmer reeling.  Edwards escaped and luckily flagged down officers on patrol.

Officers Robert Rauth and Rolf Mueller were greeted by a pleasant and cheerful Jeffrey Dahmer, but upon entering his home, they quickly made their arrest.  Inside, the mortified men found a 55-gallon drum filled with corrosive acid, photos of dismembered men hanging on the walls of Dahmer's bedroom, and a refrigerator containing four human heads, multiple hands and penises, and other body parts.  Later, as police worked to gather evidence in the apartment, an altar of human bones was found in the closet, multiple shoe boxes containing photos of dismembered men, seven more skulls, and a heart in his freezer.

The barrel Dahmer used to dissolve his victims corpses.  Photo:
Dahmer was charged with 17 counts of murder, which was later reduced to 15.  His trial began in January of 1992 and was over in two weeks.  He plead not guilty by reason of insanity but was found sane and sentenced to 15 life sentences, the maximum possible in Wisconsin.  He was later extradited to Ohio for the trial of Stephen Hicks, of which he was also found guilty.  Dahmer served his time at Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage.  In July of 1994, a fellow inmate unsuccessfully attempted to slash Dahmer's throat with a razor blade.  That November, Dahmer was beaten to death with a broom handle in the prison's gym.
Dahmer's capture in 1991.  Photo:

Dahmer's apartment building was purchased by nearby Marquette University and razed.  The University intends on leaving the lot empty to deter memorials or shrines to the hideous crimes committed there.  Most of Dahmer's family still resides in Ohio, except for his youngest brother David, who has changed his last name to live in anonymity.  Dahmer's estate was awarded to 11 of the victim's families who intended to auction it off.  The group Milwaukee Civic Pride raised over $500,000 to purchase the entire estate and destroy it.

He claimed that he never enjoyed the act of killing, that it was just a means to an end.  What Dahmer was after was the sexual charge of controlling somebody.  Consuming their flesh, attempting to make them into living zombies was just another way to be the one in charge.  

The name Dahmer will always be in the deep recesses of the state's psycheHe will always be part of Milwaukee lore and forever one of the darkest figures haunting Wisconsin.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Haunted Wisconsin: Julian Carlton

[WARNING: This post has extremely graphic descriptions of gore and violence.]

Frank Lloyd Wright c. 1914.  Photo: Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
Frank Lloyd Wright is one of Wisconsin's biggest points of pride.  His genius and influence is seen throughout the world.  But Lloyd Wright was known to be a hard taskmaster and his mistress Martha "Mamah" Borthwick was known to be just as demanding.  Enter Julian Carlton.

Wright's personal home, Taliesin, was completed in Spring Green in 1911.  Wright and Mamah moved that Christmas and began settling in, planning to wed once their respective divorces became final.  The couple loved the home and Mamah hired help to keep it running smoothly.  Julian Carlton, and his wife Gertrude, were brought into Taliesin in June of 1914.  Born in 1884 in Barbados, Julian was a hard worker but was often chided over fellow manservants.  Arguments between Julian and residents of Taliesin flared up, sometimes racially fueled, and Mamah asked Julian and his wife to leave.  At the beginning of August, 1914, Julian tendered his two-week notice and planned for his departure....

Martha "Mamah" Borthwick shortly before her death.
Photo: New York Times

August 15th was a seasonably warm and pleasant day so Mamah and her children opted to take their lunch outside.  This meant that his victims would be separated.  Julian prepared the deeds by dousing the rugs around the house with gasoline and locking the doors of the dining room, where the other workers were having lunch.  Lloyd Wright was in Chicago working on Midway Gardens and Mamah was having lunch in the screened-in porch with her children John and Martha.  Julian placed the soup bowls in front of the family, and as Mamah bowed her head over her lunch, Julian raised his axe and cleaved his way through her neck.  Mamah collapsed as blood poured from her neck into the broth in front of her.  Julian must have worked fast, because 12-year-old John was also found dead in his chair but the 9-year-old Martha rose to escape, sadly not fast enough.  Julian caught her outside and finished the job with a series of bladed blows to her delicate frame.

Inside, Taliesin foreman, Thomas Brunker, carpenter Billy Weston and his 13-year-old son Ernest, draftsmen Herbert Fritz and Emil Brodelle, and landscape designer David Lindblom were eating their lunch.  Upon hearing the screams outside, they curiously rose from their table to investigate only to find that the doors had been locked from the outside.  Working quickly, Julian lit fires he had prepared under the doors of the dining room.  Panic quickly set in and Fritz broke a window to escape, breaking his arm in the process.  Julian and his axe were waiting patiently for them outside, doing the devil's work one them one-by-one.  Fritz, engulfed in flames and screaming for his life, rolled down the hill and was presumed dead by Julian.  Weston was the next one to emerge from the window and was hit twice by the axe until Brunker climbed out and Julian moved to kill him.  He was found with a large wedge taken out of the top of his skull.  The young Ernest Weston was next, cold-heartedly killed as he watched his father burn at the bottom of the hill.  Finally, Brodelle was last out of the house and into the clutches of Julian and his axe, butchered like a steer in a slaughterhouse.
Julian Carlton after his arrest.  Photo: BBC

Despite the grisly scene, Weston and Fritz managed to escape slaughter as the fire department and Spring Green residents arrived to investigate.  They were greeted with the smouldering remains of the Taliesin, the stench of charred human flesh and blood flowing through the immaculate landscaping.  Julian himself was not on the scene, but hiding in a basement furnace room at Taliesin swallowing hydrochloric acid in an attempt to evade capture.  The townspeople were roaring to lynch him but authorities took him to the jail in Dodgeville.  Despite repeated interrogations Julian said little about the murders.  The hydrochloric acid Julian swallowed scarred his esophagus and he was unable to swallow.  It took him seven weeks of starvation to die in prison..

Frank Lloyd Wright received a telegram that day stating simply, "Taliesin destroyed by fire."  He arrived on the scene around midnight and later recalled how the building was "swept down and away in a madman's nightmare of flame and murder.... The great stone and tall on the hillside, their fireplaces now gaping holes."  Later he identified the "charred and axed remains of the victims" draped with white sheets as they lay in his aunt's home in Spring Green.

Aftermath.  Photo:

Wright eventually rebuilt the house as Taliesin II.  He spoke little of the tragedy for the rest of his life, but the murders that took place on that warm summer day have rocked the foundation of the small town of Spring Green and been a fixture of Wisconsin folklore for decades.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Horseradish roots

The horseradish flower
--> Despite its clumsy name and sinus-clearing properties, Horseradish is a root well established on Wisconsin menus and in Wisconsin kitchens. The first time one tries horseradish is, in my opinion, unpleasant. The bitter taste and mild pain associated with the plant can be shocking. However, slowly but surely, you’ll find yourself eating a piece of beef or a fried cheese curd, and you’ll realize that this treat would be so much better with a pinch of this mysterious accompaniment. This slow process of beginning to enjoy horseradish can quickly spiral into a love affair, if left unchecked.

Horseradish flavored items are common on Wisconsin menus, often paired with steak or roast beef per the German tradition. It is common in mayonnaise based dipping sauces (ie “aioli” for those of us who won’t call mayonnaise what it is). One of my favorites is The Old Fashioned's "Tiger Blue" sauce: a mix of blue cheese and horseradish-perfect for the fried cheese curds mentioned above. There are also numerous horseradish flavored cheeses that balance the punch of horseradish with the creamy Wisconsin mild cheddar or Monterey jack--I'd recommend the horseradish cheddar made by Great Midwest

Interestingly, while most of the world’s horseradish is grown in the southern Midwest around the St. Louis region, the single largest horseradish farm is operated near Eau Claire, Wisconsin and owned by Silver Spring, a mustard and condiment company. 

In my own home, I discovered my family’s unrecognized but ever-present love of horseradish. See our range of horseradish products below, and our delicious dinner of steak and jalapeno/bacon infused greens perfectly enhanced with some hearty horseradish sauce.

Left: standard horseradish, mixed with vinegar, Center: horseradish infused mustard, Right: Horseradish sauce, creamy, smooth and spicy all at once.

I chose the creamy horseradish sauce for this plate--FYI, the serving size above was not enough for this horseradish lover.
 As winter settles slowly but determinedly on the Wisconsin landscape, one will be sure to find the warming horseradish, in many forms, on plates around the state.


1. My parent’s house

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pumpkin Patches

 The dry summer has taken a toll on the fall apple crop in Wisconsin, but pumpkins are bigger and better than usual! I took a short drive south of Madison to the Eplegaarden Apple Orchard in Fitchburg, WI. They had one of the most impressive pumpkin crops I've seen in a long time.
Pick your own apple signage at Eplegaarden.
The raspberry patch and one section of the apple orchard.
In this barn, you can purchase apples and excellent, fresh-pressed apple cider.
The orchard is presently owned by Vern and Betty Forest, but the Epleaarden started out as an old norweigan farm. When you visit the orchard, you can take a look at the Wisconsin Sesquicentennial Barn that commemorates the state's 150th year of statehood.

The highlight of our trip to the Eplegaarden was definitely scouting out MONSTROUS gourds in the pumpkin patch. Because the pumpkin crop was so good this year, the orchard has an awesome deal where if you buy two pumpkins, your third one is free! I bought three pumpkins (totaling over 125lbs!!!) and it cost less than $40. I'm really pumped to carve these guys in another week or so!
 The orchard also has a fleet of weathered Radio Flyers that patrons can use to haul their spoils in from the field. The pumpkin patch has plenty of orange pumpkins, cool-looking warty green pumpkins, and big white "ghost" pumpkins. Happy carving!

The Eplegaarden is located at:
2227 Fitchburg Road
Fitchburg, Wisconsin

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Better Know A Town: Wisconsin Dells

H.H. Bennett's 1880's photo that brought the
beauty of the Dells to a worldwide audience.
Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Historical Society.
The Dells.

These two simple words can conjure up both happy childhood memories of water slides and pancake breakfasts while at the same time sending shivers to kitsch and tourist traps to the part of the brain that is responsible for shame in one's homeland.  But More Than Curds is here for you!  We know that the Dells will be forever linked with cheesy attractions (and not the good kind), but that doesn't mean that we can't try our best to but the Dells in good light.  So, MTC would like to inventive you to better know this town.

Wisconsin Dells is named after a series of geographical landmarks of the same name along the Wisconsin River.  These are narrow sandstone gorges that are unique to this area of Wisconsin.  The area has been inhabited for thousands of years and was settled by European peoples in the 1850's.  Originally named Kilbourn City, Wisconsin Dells was a lumber town until a railroad bridge that cross the Wisconsin River was erected.  As tourists trickled in to see the natural landscape of the Dells, the town eventually renamed to Wisconsin Dells in 1931 to be more closely equated with the tourist attraction that brought in so much money to the town.  Around that same time (1927), the man-made Lake Delton was constructed and the town of the same name was founded. Now, because of the seamless proximity of Lake Delton and Wisconsin Dells, the two towns are usually grouped together as simply "The Dells".

Since the 1950's, the Dells has been a family vacation hotspot.  After WWII, amphibious military landing craft, known as "Ducks", were used to give tours of the natual beauty of the area.  Soon tourist traps such as the Wonder Spot, Storybook Gardens, and Tommy Bartlett's Thrill Show brought in vacationers from across the Upper Midwest.  The 1970's saw the first of many waterparks open in the Dells, and more recently the town has been home to casinos and outlet malls.

To experience a non-kitschy Dells excursion, we took an easy 45-minute drive north from Madison and stopped for lunch at Moosejaw Pizza & Dells Brewing Co.  Since 2002, Moosejaw has been making "The Best Pizza In Town" and Dells Brewing Co. has been making an impressive 20 brews to wash it all down.  While we did not order the pizza (it was a Friday--we got the fish fry) we did get a sampler of the beer.  While most were ho-hum, the Raspberry Creme Ale and Coffee Stout were surprising.  Compared to New Glarus Brewery's Raspberry Tart, this one was great!  I'm not even a fruit-beer fan, I thought this was delicious.  Raspberry flavor came through well without being sugary, syrupy, or too tart.  This would make a great summer session beer.  And the coffee stout was the best I've every had.  On the nose and flavor, dark roasted coffee beans dominated this malt-forward brew.  Rich flavor with a full body that would be welcome all winter long.  Fun fact: Dells Brewing Co.'s Jamie Martin is the only female brewer in the state!

After getting our fill, we went to the Originals Duck Tours (the ones from the 1950's).  We had planned to go on one of the boat tours (which I personally think are better because of their route through the Upper Dells) but time and money constraints directed us to the Ducks.  It proved to be a fun and scenic way to spend an afternoon.  This one-hour tour will take you through the woods before plunging into the Wisconsin River, up to Lake Delton, then back through the forest.  The drivers have some pretty hilarious jokes (read: one-line groaners), and they're usually college-aged kids just trying to earn money for tuition.  Be sure to drop a buck or two in their tip jar at the end of the trip.  It is difficult to capture the gorgeous scene of the Dells, but check out some photos of the trip.

We learned three lessons today:
1) The Dells can be fun without being a parody of itself--don't fear piling into the station wagon next summer
2) The Dells may be even more beautiful in the autumn.
3) If worse comes to worse, at least they got a brewery!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Haunted Wisconsin: Ed Gein

Wisconsin is a beautiful place and as much as we love all the great things about this state, there is a darker side.  So in the spirit of Halloween let’s delve into the more macabre side of Wisconsin.  More Than Curds presents Wisconsin’s grisly horrors.

[WARNING: This post has extremely graphic descriptions of gore and violence.]

Ed Gein

Photo: Onion A.V. Club

Ed Gein is one of the most prolific and culturally influential killers on the planet.  His crimes have been the basis for countless films and horror stories and his name runs through Wisconsin’s cultural psyche like a bad dream.

Edward Theodore Gein was born on August 27th, 1906 in La Crosse.  His childhood was not an easy one; little Edward and his brother Henry suffered through the abuses of their alcoholic father and religiously-fanatical mother.  Despite the family’s hatred of the father, George, Edward's mother Augusta did not divorce due to religious conviction.  She instead opted to move the family to a secluded farm outside of Plainfield to shelter her two young sons from the world.  She had a way of reading the ‘best’ parts of the Old Testament to her sons every afternoon and preached that all women (herself excluded) were whores and workers of the devil.  Ed was bullied throughout his childhood due to a droopy left eye and an effeminate demeanor.  When Ed did in fact to find companionship his mother was quick to chastise the new friendship to the point of Ed isolating himself physically and emotionally from the outside world.

Ed and Henry’s father George died in 1940, leaving the two sons to support the now three-person family.  Henry would work as a handyman around town while Ed earned money as a babysitter.  While Ed found that he enjoyed the company of children more than adults Henry made connections with the community and grew to reject his mother’s strict worldview.  Eventually Henry and Augusta were arguing openly which only grew to hurt and confuse the younger Ed even more.  In 1944, this all changed.

The two boys were working to clear a marsh on their property through a controlled burn.  But, as accidents happen, the fire grew wild and Ed went to fetch the fire department.  After the commotion of the fire it was discovered that Henry did not return to the house that night.  A search party was assembled and Ed, who had previously claimed no knowledge of Henry’s whereabouts, found Henry rather quickly.  Face down.  With head injuries.  Although the official cause of death was listed as asphyxiation some believe that this was the first in Ed’s series of murders.

Now Ed and his mother were living together alone in the house.  But the solitude would be interrupted in less than two yeas when Augusta died from a series of strokes in 1945.  The obsessively devoted son boarded up rooms used by his mother and lived in a room off the kitchen.  Ed was now left alone to his own devices.

Ed seemed to be a quiet shut-in until November 16th, 1957.  That day, Bernice Worden, a local store clerk, was declared missing.  Ed had gone to visit her to ask her on a date to the roller rink.  Dismissing Ed's advances, she was shot in the head and dragged out the back door.  A recipt found at the store proved that Ed was the last one to visit her shop that night.  The police drove out to his farm to investigate.  What they found shocked the nation.

In Ed’s shed was the body of Bernice, decapitated and hanged upside-down.  Her body was split open from collar to groin and emptied like a field-dressed deer.  And that was just the most recent.  Ed had been prowling local cemeteries for years, exhuming corpses and collecting souvenirs.  Among some souvenirs that authorities collect from Ed’s house were four noses, nine skin masks, skull caps used as soup bowls, a human heart in a saucepan on the stove, ten scalped female heads, chairs upholstered with skin, nine vulvae, a belt stitched from nipples, socks made from skin, four skulls on each of Ed’s bedposts, and one lampshade made from a human face.  These were all photographed for evidence but were quickly destroyed to protect human decency.  [MTC note: A few photographs of the crime scene remain which were intentionally omitted from this post.]

When questioned about his hobbies Ed claimed that he only dug up recently deceased females that resembled his mother.  Apparently this had been going on since 1947 immediately following Augusta’s death.  He used these bodies to make ‘female suits’ to live out transvestite fantasies.  Ed was also found to be responsible for the murder of Mary Hogan, a bartender, by shooting her in 1954.  Her head was found in a burlap sack in Gein’s home.

During the first interrogation of Ed, Waushara County Sheriff Art Schley repeatedly slammed Ed’s head against the brick wall of his holding cell after hearing Ed calmly describe the horrors of his work.  The Sheriff’s interrogation of Ed was thus ruled inadmissible as evidence and the officer died less than a month after Ed’s trial.  Many close to him say that Ed’s crimes haunted the Sherriff the rest of his life and left him traumatized and despondent.

The trial of Ed Gein began in November of 1957, but Ed was found unfit to stand trial due to insanity.  After spending 10 years at Mendota Mental Health Institute, Ed was deemed sane enough to stand trial in 1968.  His trail was only one week and he was found guilty of one count of murder.  Because he was still declared legally insane he spent the rest of his life back at Mendota.  He died in 1984 at the age of 77 due to natural causes.

Ed’s property was to be auctioned away on March 30th, 1957, but the house burned down on March 27th.  Local authorities did little to investigate the cause of the blaze and the property lot stands vacant to this day.

Ed Gein is the basis for horrific characters such as Norman Bates from Psycho, Jame Gumb from Silence of the Lambs, and Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Greg's Easy Pumpkin Soup

One of my favorite recipes to make at home also happens to be one of the easiest!  I thought I would share with you how to make some very simple, but very delicious, pumpkin soup.  Here's what you'll need:

~2lbs. Pumpkin (yes, it's canned and yes, that's all right)
1 medium onion
Handful of bay leaves
1/4 cup flour
3 cups chicken stock
Fresh grated ginger (powdered will do in a pinch)
Cooking oil
Salt and pepper

Chop up your onion and heat up some oil over medium heat in your pot. 
Cook the onions until they are soft and brown.

Bring down the heat and add your chicken stock, flour, pumpkin,
ginger, bay leaves, salt and pepper.

Bring the pot back to a boil (be careful not to have it bubble everywhere!)
If you want a bit of heat, throw in some hot sauce.  I like the Rooster, personally.

And then it's ready to serve!  A little garnish is nice, like pumpkin seed oil, sour cream, or maple syrup.

See, wasn't that easy?

Credit goes to Mom for emailing me the recipe when I was homesick in Ireland 5 years ago!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

An Autumn Weekend

The fall color came in a bit earlier than usual this year, giving us explosive scenes about two weeks ahead of schedule.  Fortunately for me, this past weekend I had some very good friends come in to visit from Minnesota and the autumn leaves were in full bloom.  We decided to make the most of it and have the best autumn weekend possible.

Because of the unseasonably warm weather a picnic was most definitely in the cards.  We assembled the Four B's (basket, blanket, bites, and beverages), and found a spot in the Arboretum.  This is one of my favorite places to go at any point of the year, but during the fall the Arboretum is especially beautiful.  Covering half of the shoreline of Lake Wingra, the Arboretum is great for hiking, biking, or just soaking up some outdoor bliss.  We assembled a meal of potato spinach quiche, fennel walnut bread, honey crisp apples, cider, and a selection of Wisconsin cheese (Pleasant Ridge Reserve and Bleu Mont Cheddar).  A high of 78°, good food, and the gleaming foliage from across the lake made this one of the best meals I've had in awhile.  But there was still more to do and we only had one weekend to get it all done!

For dessert, we needed to get the best.  We needed something seasonally delicious that would satiate our yearning for autumn goodness.  Appleberry Farm had just what we needed. 

A quick half hour drive outside of Madison, this beautiful orchard features cider, doughnuts, brats, pumpkins, and, of course, apples!  Unfortunately, due to the drought this summer, there was no Pick-Your-Own this year, but apples were available for sale and as a silver lining the warm weather made them extra sweet and delicious!  The farm itself is perched on top of a hill overlooking Cross Plains and Verona.  Keep your eyes open for the orange cat wandering the orchard.  It's very friendly and if you pay attention it'll lead you to one or two stray apples on the trees (which we indulged in), but I'm glad we also brought home a bag of baking apples for a later-day pie.  And a quick note to you homebrewers out there: Appleberry's cider is unpasteurized!

After playing on the tire swing and wandering aimlessly through the rows of apple trees, we detoured to Mt. Horeb for a glass of wine at Fisher King before heading back into Madison for dinner at the hot new restaurant A Pig In A Fur Coat.  This place features small-plate dining and they do it well.  Lamb Carpaccio, Duck Egg and Ricotta Raviolo, Pork Belly with Eggplant, Clam and Mussels Orzo, and Tripe with Chorizo and Garbanzos - just a few items that we loved at this place.  Recently named Madison's Favorite New Restaurant, MTC would highly recommend this as a place to bring friends that love to share or for date night!  Our favorite?  This Duck Fat Fries!  Comes with a dish of house-made aioli and is the perfect sidekick to any of the Wisconsin beers they sell.

Dan Carey, brewmeister at New Glarus, serves up his Oktoberfest Märzenbier Staghorn
Finally, at the end of the night we picked up MTC co-author Sam and her boyfriend and drove into New Glarus for Oktoberfest!  Yes, the town is Swiss, but what good brewery doesn't throw an Oktoberfest party?  During the day there is fondue and German bands playing traditional music in a family-friendly atmosphere, but when they sun goes down the party picks up!  Music was by Boogie And The Yo-Yo'z and they really rocked the tent.  When we first came in we thought a DJ was playing records but it turned out this live band was playing pitch-perfect covers ranging from LMFAO to Michael Jackson to the soundtrack of Grease.  Couple that with a steady stream to New Glarus Brewery's Oktoberfest beer Staghorn, and you've got one incredible party.  It was decided that this is most definitely going to be an annual MTC tradition.

And that was just day one.

Waking up at the crack of noon we decided to confront our headaches with a solid breakfast. One of my favorite spots for a good morning meal is Sophia's Bakery and Cafe.  Sophia's is only open on the weekends from 8am-2pm.  Little more than a kitchen with a small dining room attached, Sophia's consistently makes one of the best omelets and croissants on the Isthmus.  If you do stop in for a bite I'd recomment ordering your breakfast to go (don't forget the cinnamon roll!) and walk down to James Madison Park to eat along the lake.  Delicious food tastes even better with a beautiful view!

Rush Creek Reserve maturing the the caves.
Finally, our weekend ended with a visit to Uplands Cheese just north of Dodgeville.  Uplands is home to one of the greatest cheeses to come out of Wisconsin: Pleasant Ridge Reserve.  Made using only unpasteurized summertime grass-fed milk from a 150-head herd of Alpine cow breeds, Pleasant Ridge Reserve (a Beaufort cheese--similar to Gruyere) is only of the most decorated and beloved cheeses in the Dairy State and is putting our farmstead cheese industry on the map.

For the past two years Uplands has also made Rush Creek Reserve.  This cheese is a Vacherin Mont d'Or, a Swiss Alpine cheese that has a soft, washed-rind bound together with rings of Spruce bark.  Typically the top of the rind is peeled back and the cheese is scooped out of the center like custard.

We were guided around the farm by Kiley, one of the cheesemakers at Uplands.  They have four caves that they age their cheese in and each cheese has to be washed in a brine solution and turned over every single day!  This means eight hours of work every day just to make sure the cheese is aging properly.

The Pleasant Ridge Reserve has a rich and nutty flavor that changes throughout the year depending on what the cows are grazing on in the pasture.  It melts evenly, so it's great for cooking (read: fondue!).  The Rush Creek Reserve is an excellent appetizer or after-dinner cheese course feature.  Both can be found at specialty cheese shops across the country.

From Dodgeville my friends departed back to Minnesota.  I hope that they brought home with them some of the love I have for Wisconsin.  It was a whirlwind of a tour but there is just too many great things to do in this state.  I'm hoping I can convince them to come back again next year!