Sicilian Sausage with Fennel Seed

We got inspired by’s impressive array of recipes and had better-than-expected results with the first two attempts. We particularly liked the Sicilian one with the hint of nutmeg and lemon zest contrasting nicely with the underlying tangy bitterness from the red wine. But it distinctly lacked fennel, and also seemed unnecessarily salty (perhaps owing to the real Romano cheese we used this time instead of faking it with Grana Padano, like we usually do).

While whipping up another batch this morning, Sarah hit upon the idea of throwing in some fennel, too. Here’s our recipe, adapted from and scaled down.

1.9kg (4 lbs, 3 oz) pork shoulder (including skin and fat; discard the skin, but keep the fat)
1 1/3 cups grated Romano cheese
2/3 (158 ml) cups cold red wine
1 big clove of garlic, minced (a medium-sized clove is probably plenty for normal people)
1 tbsp salt — maybe even just 2 tsp
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 tsp dried nutmeg or 1/2 tsp freshly grated (love my Microplane nutmeg grater!)
3/4 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
1 tbsp whole fennel seed

Get your butcher to separate the skin from your pork shoulder, but make sure to retain the fat!. Ask for a coarse grind, or take it home and skin it and grind it yourself if your butcher won’t do it for you (for whatever reason…and then seek out a new (old!) butcher).

Keep everything as cold as possible: the bowl, the meat, and the utensils you will use to mix the ingredients. You might find it helpful to mix all the dry ingredients and lemon zest together first in small bowl and then introduce that into the cold pork mass. Really mix it in there well: an uneven distribution means some diners get flavor bursts and others are bored. Fry up a golf-ball-sized lump to check for taste.

Then, make patties or fill up your hog casing, grill or fry, and enjoy. We knew in advance what shape of bread we’d serve them with, so we sized the links accordingly. For 13 adults, these 15 links were just barely enough. Next time we plan to make a little extra to freeze for later, too.

WEBMU 2011 In Pictures

Thank you, thank you, thank you, to our illustrious hosts for a great weekend of culture, gastronomy, history, and — most importantly, in my book — general merriment. This was the 4th annual WEBMU event we’ve attended, and every year it’s such a pleasure to chat and laugh with those faces and voices we otherwise only get to read.

To everyone who couldn’t make it this year: here’s hoping next year works out for you. This was a blast.

Shanghai’s Oktoberfest, or as I like to call it…

…the Chinese’n.*

Just when I thought I’d gotten all the Oktoberfest stuff out of my system for the year, I packed a bag, finished up a presentation and waited for the airport shuttle to pick me up and take me to Emirates‘ Lounge for Lesser Deities. I was off to Shanghai for a week to do some training to the people I support in the region (meaning all over Asia and the South Pacific). I had a lot of room left in my suitcase, as compared to my NAFTA trip, where my suitcase scooted in at just one pound under the weight limit, and I had no idea I should have packed my Trachten (Lederhosen, traditional shirt, suspenders, Haferlschuhe, wooly socks) along with my biz cazh.

I overnighted it on the plane, which you can do on an Emirates plane in business class to a realistic degree of comfort. I woke up in Dubai to a fantastic airport and an enormous business class lounge there. I waited about four hours and continued on to Shanghai to the Sheraton Hongkou hotel — a rather new and classy place to stay not far from my company’s office building. The taxi trip to the office was an eye-opener. All that stuff you’ve heard about roads in China: absolutely true.

I found the people there in the office very welcoming and friendly and helpful. My first night there, they took me out to a great restaurant for dinner and gave me a glimpse of the Bund — the waterfront area famous in Shanghai for 90 years already.

But during the training, when I was trying to encourage open discussion and group participation in the exercises I had planned for them (with a few exceptions), they weren’t helping me at all. I felt abandoned and confused, flipping through my slides at light speed and amazing myself at our pace. My training presentation went off without a hitch, content-wise and concept-wise, in Mexico and the U.S., but clearly something was different here. No one was willing to talk. No volunteers. No shared experience. Almost no questions. Certainly no cross-functional discussion. I still have a thing or two to learn about business culture in Asia.

I thought these people must be crazy uptight at first. And then I watched them cut loose at the Holiday Inn Oktoberfest.

Some had been to Germany before. Some had even been to the real Oktoberfest before — though surprisingly, none of the actual Germans present in our party (there were three, and one from Bavaria even!). My main contact knew what she wanted and made it herself after the waitress couldn’t bring her one — a Radler. As the party progressed, I grew more and more astounded how these reserved, conservative, shy, self-conscious colleagues of mine from the day before really tied one on to the beat of all your traditional and non-traditional Oktoberfest favorites: YMCA, Dancing Queen, Das ist so ein Schöner Tag, Cowboys und Indianer. One notable exception: the Chicken Dance!? And I have to admit: I was missing Country Roads. Enjoy the video.

Bad news for expats buying wedding gifts from U.S. registries…

Our German credit card is generally no-muss, no-fuss. It has a nice, low balance and allows us to make big purchases (appliances, plane tickets, etc.) with little hassle. Until today, that is. My card was mysteriously declined as I tried to purchase a gift from a Bed, Bath & Beyond registry.

Whatever could be the problem? I went over the possibilities:
-I’ve purchased from them before; they had my information on file,
-I just paid off the card last month and
-the card is backed by a large, solvent German bank.

The nice customer service agent at BB&B assured me that my order number would remain in system for at least 24 hours, allowing me time to get to the bottom of this. So I called up BigBackingBank for some answers.

The man that helped me simply explained that BigBackingBank no longer clears purchases from BB&B.


This is bad. Out of the last 10 weddings with registries in the U.S. to which I’ve been invited, ALL of the brides and grooms had registered at BB&B. It’s often the registry with the widest variety of items at the most affordable prices. This is REAL bad.

Anybody have any idea what BB&B might have done to cheese off my BigBackingBank? Do they have a history of not playing nice with returns or refunds?

Auf der Wiesn with Democrats Abroad

Democrats Abroad raised funds again this year by hosting a visit to the Wiesn, as it’s known. We had a swell time with the Zurikas last year, and were immediately keen to reserve some spots for us this time around too…and we had the pleasure of the company of some pals from Heidelberg, too.

We departed Regensburg bright and early on Sunday morning to beautiful weather. Our reservation was not guaranteed for arrival after 11:00, and we had to pick up our tickets between 09:00 and 10:00 in the Munich Hauptbahnhof — which meant a departure from Regensburg at 07:44. Ugh — but it’s all in the name of a party, and proved to be worth it in the end.

When we arrived at the Theresienwiese around 10:00, we found the main thoroughfares not quite hopping yet with people. But when we made our way to the Schottenhamel tent closer to 11:00, we found out why — they were all getting their sunny outdoor beer tent patio buzz on, or else queued up a hundred yards long. Lots of excellent flanking maneuvers for position in typical German crowd style. If you’ve ever waited in line for anything in Germany with locals present, you know what I mean.

After we got our fill (and believe me, we were voll), our local expert Scott led us to the Teufelsrad tent. Lots of Oktoberfest carnival stuff makes kind of a weird impression on me (did you spot the Mack Truck / Geordi LaForge / windsurfing montage on the bumper cars display above?), but it’s usually a concept not completely foreign to me. The Teufelsrad was something completely new for us. Here’s the gist:

  1. The announcer calls groups of kids, teens, adults, families, whatever to pile on to a disc-shaped platform.
  2. The effects of inertia are applied, and augmented as necessary by the staff.
  3. Merriment ensues.

With the Damen und Herren gemischt, a slightly saucier sense of humor began to emerge. First some hulahooping (reminiscent of the old Wheel-of-Fortune prize carousel) to “Mambo No. 5.” And then after instructing the men to lay prone, heads toward the middle, the advice to the women was (loosely translated)

Ladies, pick out an available butt and have a seat. Don’t worry — in this position, men are completely harmless.

A final word of caution for the men:

Gentlemen, please do not turn over; this is not the company picnic.

Man Butt Rodeo from Cliff 1976 on Vimeo.

And then the announcer chose a couple of scrappy little guys to bob and weave while we cheered them on.

It was a nice way to spend a sunny afternoon with friends. I am looking forward to next year already.

the home stretch to WEBMU 2011 in Cologne

As noted on, there are just three weeks left until WEBMU 2011 in Cologne is officially underway. (Unofficially, it gets started with a side trip to Aachen one day earlier.)

Our knowledgeable hosts have designed a stimulating agenda, made accommodation recommendations and even summarized the local Kölner ÖPNV* system for you — all on our discussion board over at Sign up there today, if you haven’t already, to get the full scoop. Any expatriate in Germany blogging in English is most welcome!

*I love how some concepts, like “mass transit” are expressed in English sometimes with just a few syllables, but have huge German counterparts, like Öffentlicher Personennahverkehr. But they retain that reputation for efficiency, deservedly or not, for compacting those ten syllables down to just four in everyday usage. Similar examples:

English German (full) German (shortened)
Trainee Auszubildende(r) Azubi
Public broadcasting fee collection agency Gebühreneinzugszentrale GEZ
Technical Inspection Association Technischer Überwachungs-Verein TÜV
Terms & Conditions Allgemeine Geschäftsbedingungen AGB