finagling favorites.

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I’m home. Home! It’s been since last Christmas, and I couldn’t be happier to be, finally, at home. I imagined this as a working vacation, where I would hole up in my parents’ house and write my papers. But it’s far too luxurious to be home – there are a million things that I’d rather be doing, so I have done them. And not worked so much. Unfortunately I arrived home still sick, so I haven’t been able to do some of the hikes I had imagined, either – no Moosilauke, no Presidentials. But there have been beautiful quiet moments on the hill behind my house, at the Skiway and Pinnacle, and out at Trout Pond (above), where I took my friend Rosalie for the first time. My aged Australian shepherd, Bravo, found his short little legs again and was running joyfully back and forth ahead of us. Rosalie laughed at his bobbed tail bouncing up and down as he bounded along. I love, so much, being home.

I was worried that I would arrive after the best of fall had already said goodbye, but apparently it has been an unusually temperate autumn here in New England. So there are still some beautiful leaves, and some warm sunny days that retreat into freezing clear nights. The full moon loomed over the hills during that first week. I picked pumpkins at a pumpkin patch and marveled at beautiful apples. I wished my friend Sean luck as he headed out to his tree stand in his very first season of bow-hunting; I commiserated with my friend Tim when he ended up chest-deep in the muck of Little Hosmer Pond while retrieving a duck. When Bravo and I go for a walk, he wears a bright orange vest that he comically despises. The horses are getting shaggy and unkempt as they begin to grow their winter coats.

It is fall.

One night I wanted to make dessert for my parents, even though we’re all eating less these days and often eschew the treat. I settled on an apple and pecan tart recipe from Florence Fabricant. In a more rotund world, I’d make an apple pie one night and a pecan pie another night, but we don’t need that at this point. Instead, the recipe combines the two, along with a lot of maple syrup. God, I have missed maple syrup. The tart turned out to be incredibly tasty and an extremely classy way to combine two favorites. As always, Flofab is right. We ate half the darn thing the first night.

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Apple Pecan Tart

adapted from Florence Fabricant / New York Times

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

1 large egg yolk + 2 large eggs

4 tablespoons ice water

2 medium tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

2/3 cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the crust: preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease a 10-inch fluted tart pan. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl and mix until blended. Add 8 tablespoons of the butter, cut into cubes, and mix with your fingers until the pieces of butter and dough are the size of peas. Add the egg yolk to the ice water and then pour the liquid into the butter mixture, stirring slightly. The dough does not need to form a ball, just come together in a shaggy falling-apart mass. Turn it out onto a floured surface and roll. Place the crust in the tart pan and weigh it down with pie weights or dried beans. Bake ten minutes, then remove weights and prick the crust with a fork a few times. Put back in the oven for 20 more minutes.

While baking, make the filling: place the apples in a saucepan with the remaining two tablespoons of butter, and cook just a bit until they begin to soften up. Add the brown sugar and pecans and cook two more minutes. This should make a syrupy, sticky, delicious coating for everything. In a separate bowl, combine the 2 eggs, maple syrup, and vanilla.

Assemble the pie: When the crust is getting golden, pull it out of the over. Spread the apple and pecan mixture in the tart shell, then pour the egg and maple syrup filling on top. Put everything in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 350 degrees and bake 25 more minutes. Be careful that the pecans on top do not burn.

Especially delicious with vanilla ice cream on top!

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discovering westpark.

This weekend I was sick. It was a real bummer. Daniel and Andres went to Switzerland to visit our friend Reto, and they stayed in a mountain hut, and there was so much snow I could have skied. They played games and got in snowball fights and made fondue. I am dying that I couldn’t go, but I’m trying to manage my long-term health.

So, I stayed here, hibernating in my room, watching TV shows and movies and reading an entire book. I also made sure to go for a walk each day, in case fresh air made me feel better. Luckily, there is a beautiful park nearby: Westpark. I’m excited to make it my jogging destination and might even try rollerskiing there (although only about 1/4 of the paths are paved and in no predictable pattern). Here are a few shots from the weekend.

fest.

munich

And so I left Davos. It was sad. But I was broken, a little bit: used up, run out of steam, bottom of the tank. My summer in Davos was one of the best summers of my entire life – I am pretty confident saying that – but three straight months of adventuring and hiking and running and working in the mountains really takes it out of you. I went a long time without taking a day completely off: even my off-days had fieldwork, which was a fair bit of walking up high. By the last week, I wanted to keep going into the mountains, but I could barely drag up the energy to do so.

(Don’t worry: there were a few last spectacular trips. I won’t make you jealous by posting about them.)

I arrived in Munich just in time for Oktoberfest. My buddy Daniel met me at the train station, helped me haul my bags to my new place, and then went to work for a few hours while I unpacked. Then, we met up again, with our other best bud Andres, and hit up the festival.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was different, and better, than I could have imagined. It wasn’t as rowdy or as dirty as I had been led to believe. Make no mistake, it’s the biggest party you’ll ever go to: they sold something like 7 million liters of beer. But it’s a party run with German efficiency. Everyone in the tents is completely wasted, standing on top of their benches in their lederhosen and singing at the top of their lungs. But they still get the beer and food they order in a timely fashion. They don’t puke all over the tables. They don’t fight with each other or break shit.

(Perhaps this is an argument against the silly American drinking age of 21: Oktoberfest has way more beer than any college party I’ve been to, but was incredibly less destructive both to health and property. I know it’s not a fair comparison, but seriously: picture an American college kid here. They would die.)

The other thing I definitely wasn’t expecting was that it was also a fair. Like, the kind with rides and games. Who combines beer and rides? That gives new meaning to the phrase “vomit comet,” except that here, it didn’t seem to. The centerpiece, I would say, was a rollercoaster that featured the Olympic rings: five complete tight loops going upside down. I didn’t try it, but I did admire it. There were more rollercoasters and rides, funhouses, shoot-em-up games, and everything else you can imagine. We didn’t sample too extensively but we did do bumper cars several times over the course of an increasingly intoxicated evening, and IT. WAS. AWESOME.

The entire thing takes a month to set up (and, we wondered, how long to take down?). It’s not just the rides that are trucked in, but the buildings, too. People call them beer tents, but that’s not fair. Only the roof is a tent. The rest of the structure is wood, in many cases elaborately built in the Bavarian style. They use the same structures over and over again: in one restroom building, I could see that each panel was numbered so that the small shedlike-building could be put up in the exact same way next year. Each of the Munich breweries has one of these giant halls, most of which also feature a stage with a band that plays old music like “Country Roads,” apparently the most popular song of the festival.

I arrived on a Tuesday and the last day of Oktoberfest was that Sunday. We went three times. The first time, we underestimated the potency of German beer. Both Daniel and I ended up with horrible hangovers (Andres somehow escaped unscathed), which made my trip to get registered as a resident of the city quite a bit less pleasant. The second two times I was a bit more cautious. Our last evening ended with a lovely stint on a beautifully-painted old carousel, where a bar had been installed in the middle. You could sit along the edges and be spun, very slowly, through the view of the festival. It was nice.

Most of all, though, it was great to see Andres and Daniel again. They are two of my closest friends in my masters program, and I couldn’t be more excited that they are here in Munich with me. The three musketeers ride again! Minus, of course, a few other essential members of the team. But hey, our cohort is particularly fractured right now between not two, but now five different universities. If three people are all we can have, then, well, this is an awesome group of three. It’s making my departure from the Alps much less of a tragedy.