japanese potato salad seared duck breast with morels and asparagus braised rhubarb salted butter chocolate chunk shortbread cookies

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archive for September 7th, 2010


Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Recipe: chocolate espresso crème brûlée

I got up before sunrise and tip-toed around the house this morning. We dipped below freezing overnight. Sticking my nose to the open window, I took several shallow sniffs then one deep inhale. No smoke. Scanning to the east I saw clear skies. The absolute best news? Calm winds. This in contrast to yesterday morning’s hostile 60 mph gusts that slapped our aspens around like rag dolls, ripping leaves off the branches. We found some wood siding from our house had been torn off by the winds as well. At noon, Manisha emailed to ask if we were all right. There was a fire near Boulder Canyon.

It’s September. In parts of the American West, this is synonymous with fire season: the driest (we had 4% humidity yesterday) and sometimes hottest time of year. Toss strong winds and bone dry vegetation in, and you are primed for a fire. We are no strangers to fire season having lived at the boundary of the Angeles National Forest in Southern California. The price one pays to live in Awesome. I hopped on Twitter and the stream of information was flowing fast. Boulder is a good place to be on Twitter. Those crazy winds whipped the wildfire into a nightmare starting in Four-Mile Canyon. It quickly spread in almost all directions and we followed news of evacuations and road closures. Good citizens updated maps in real-time or tweeted updates from the police scanner. When the reverse 911 system failed, authorities asked people on Twitter spread the word that they were going door to door to evacuate.

Smaller fires popped up around the area, but were quickly put out. It was the big one, now called the Emerson Gulch Fire, that was consuming homes and whole neighborhoods. If you look at the satellite imagery of the area, the houses are not next door to each other – they are scattered about, in the woods and canyons/mountains. It’s rough and rugged terrain (people are not on municipal services there – they have giant propane tanks for heating… which explode in wildfires). If someone dropped you into that scenario where several fronts are threatened, how do you go about deciding what to save, what to defend? It’s heartbreaking. That firestorm was so bad, the only thing authorities could focus on was evacuation. Photographs, video, descriptions and links to more information poured in on the hashtag #boulderfire. We watched as the evacuation zone expanded, inching closer to our home.

smoke from the fire was the only cloud in all of colorado (taken at dusk looking east)

When the zone was within 6 miles of our house and authorities closed Boulder Canyon, we began to gather our things. Things are just things. As I packed up letters from and photos of my sister, I realized that the only “things” I could not do without are Jeremy and Kaweah. The rest – even those cherished items that I had of Kris – I could let go of. But while we had the time, we packed what we might need if we had to evacuate and if ultimately the house was lost. [For those of you with an invested digital existence, it’s a handy thing to have an external drive (updated daily) to unplug and grab.] Without a doubt, my mind turned to Ivory Hut who just last week lost all of her worldly possessions to a fire. Thankfully, the winds had calmed considerably since the morning and tankers were finally able to fly in the waning light before nightfall grounded them.

the plume of smoke rising into the evening sky

By last night, the evacuation zone had extended again – to within 2 miles of our home. Evac zone and fire are not the same things, mind you, but we were ready. Here is an incredible time-lapse shot from Flagstaff Mountain last night. Right now Boulder lies choking under a blanket of smoke from the fire. I’m trying to reconcile those images with the clear, sunny day we are experiencing just west of the fire. Our hope is for containment. Thank you for all of your concerned and caring tweets, FB messages and comments, and emails. We are sending good juju to the victims of the fire and the incredible rescue, firefighting, and relief personnel.

Life goes on. My dear friend, Andrew, is leaving today to travel the world for a year, or two, or six. Boulder will miss you, Andrew. We will miss you. Thanks for spending an evening with us on Sunday. Thanks for being such a Force of Good in the community. Safe and remarkable travels, friend. Come back to us any time.

andrew on the terrace at the flagstaff house

perusing the wine list (the guys got cocktails instead)

crab- and salmon-stuffed squash blossoms with caviar (zomgdelicious!)

Well now, there is a recipe after all. This one dates back to my pre-blog days when I had a static website. I have a little sticky note (the virtual kind, not a paper sticky) on my desktop telling me to transfer some of those old recipes over. I think it might be one of Jeremy’s favorites.

chocolate, of course

espresso powder and cream

Chocolate espresso crème brûlée. The chocolate and espresso are enough to win most folks over, but crème brûlée will surely round up the rest of the holdouts. Crème brûlée is one of the more annoying things to have to type out, so I’m glad the fabulosity of the dessert itself far outweighs any inconvenience experienced in writing about it.

add chopped chocolate to the hot cream

whisking egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla

**Jump for more butter**