On a beautiful afternoon in mid-August, I departed from the Black Canyon of the Gunnison with a good friend from Hamburg with a destination in Durango, Colorado where I was eager to meet Justin, with whom I have a deep friendship and who I very much admire for his generosity, serendipity, and earnest love of life. I was in good company, awaiting a very happy visit, and on the cusp of some of Western Colorado’s best landscapes.
After passing through the farmlands and many small towns in need of reparation in the midst of an involved conversation about welfare, we only subconsciously registered the beginnings of the Rockies closing in around us until we drove right into Ouray where the beauty and awe of the San Juans engulfed us.
Ouray is a place where my soul resides. An understated town with a single main street and a few tourist shops compressed by walls of pine-floored mountains brimming with waterfalls, geodes, volcanic hot springs, aspens, and bright primary colors of earth. Rain had just visited and gone before us, and as we stepped out the air seemed unaffected by the humanity within it in its pristine, crisp clarity. This is the town called the Switzerland of Colorado, but it is far more remote, less lushly green, and more intensely, starkly of the Colorado Rockies, which is why it is a place that is deeply buried in my heart; a place near where my grandfather wants his ashes scattered; a place where my mother and brothers find a calling; a place that means not Switzerland but the earth and kin of home.
We stepped back into the car, and as we mounted the switchbacks the sun began to descend in the slow way of summer, releasing soft gold streaks on the mountain sides. The gold lit the red earth of Red and Sun Cloud peaks to flames and filled the cavities from mountain top to mountain top. Through my window streamed thin, sweet Colorado air with enough chill to make me feel alive. We cantered down the Million Dollar Highway, ending at the plateau of Ft. Lewis College in Durango with Justin, where we watched the last neon clouds lose their colors to dusk.
It was one of those days that you know will characterize future perfect days. Funny, I have a lot of such days that are rooted in Ouray, Durango, and the stretch between.
Today, I made a drink that reminded me of this day. When we were in Durango, we stopped at my favorite shop, Mouse's Chocolates and Coffee. They have a drink there called Himalayan Fog that combines all of my favorite things into one potent cup. Their menu description of it goes something like this: “6 shots of espresso, cayenne pepper, and dark chocolate topped with whipped cream. Something that can even cut through Himalayan fog”. I ordered a half order, and even that charged me for the whole night.
This afternoon I recreated it, but in my own way.
These products were what made this great:
· The Agape Roasting Project’s Ethiopian Gedeo espresso – the most amazing coffee roasters ever, with a precise ability to make ease out each subtle flavor from each coffee. And hey! They’re a nonprofit that donates EVERY net profit to a different deserving cause each quarter. Plus the owners are coffee-, beer-, and Colorado-loving people like myself.
· Amazona Chocolate’s Bellavista Gran Pajatén 73% organic chocolate. I bought this chocolate in Lima, and it is excellent. It is a smooth, fruity, and complex chocolate made from cacao beans grown by the Acopagro Cooperative in San Martin, Peru. I’m not sure if it’s available in the states, but it is worth ordering if you find it online.
· My friend Divya’s homemade ceramic cups. She doesn’t sell them, but they are certainly pretty enough to do so!
Here is the recipe. It is wholly up to you how spicy or creamy you want to make it. And FYI, if you do not like things that are on the bitter side like very dark chocolate or unsweetened coffee, perhaps this is not the recipe for you. But if you DO like these things...this may just turn into your favorite drink ever ;) The quality of the goods is key here though because of the lack of sugar - if you use a bad chocolate and a dark-roasted bitter coffee, then it will not turn out as well as mine did.
You may quadruple the recipe so as to emulate the original 6-shot Himalayan Fog if you are daring enough.
· 0.5 oz dark chocolate (please use quality, fruity chocolate of 73% cacao or higher)
· 1.5 shots espresso (or more or less depending on how strong you want it. Please use a light roast and a quality, fruity coffee)
· 1/16th tsp cayenne pepper (again, depends on how spicy you like it)
· 2 Tbs half-and-half or heavy cream (also more or less to your liking)
· Prepare espresso in an espresso machine or Aeropress.
· Break up or chop chocolate into small pieces and put into a small coffee cup. Add cayenne pepper.
· Pour hot espresso over the chocolate. Let sit for around 30 seconds, then stir to dissolve the chocolate.
· Pour in the half-and-half or cream and stir.
· Optional but extra delicious: top generously with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cayenne. Be prepared to be extra awake!