We’ve spent the last few days in the picturesque little town of Dillon, which is quaintly nestled between the larger ski resorts high in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. It isn’t itself a ski town, though, its claim to fame is the sapphire lake on the shores of which it is built. Lake Dillon is absolutely beautiful, filling the deep valley between two snow-covered mountain peaks. The town is built on the north side of the lake with many little houses, log cabins and a few hotels actually lying below the dam in the arms of the mountainside. As we drove across the top of the dam I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to them should the dam one day break and the water pour down the mountainside.
In the summer, the lake is alive with fishermen, boaters and water sports enthusiasts, but in winter it’s a frozen sheet of glass, peaceful and still. We spent a quiet morning on its shore listening to the sounds of the ice heave and groan below the surface. If you’ve never stood on the shores of a frozen lake and listened to the haunting moans of the shifting ice, you must do it at least once. It’s an experience like none other! I could almost believe the mysterious sounds were those of a sleeping dragon, snoring heavily in a cave somewhere nearby.
But neither the lake, nor the ski resorts were the reason for our visit. We were there because just next to the lake, in the town park, they’ve built an elaborate ice castle. It’s one of only five or six ice castles in North America, and is a maze of frozen passageways, secret rooms, huge ice slides, frosted turrets and even a fountain in the central courtyard (which, amazingly, is the only thing that isn’t frozen)! The walls are embedded with icebound colored lights, shifting through the colors of the rainbow, illuminating the castle from within. It’s all very magical, like a scene from Narnia or Frozen, or something from a winter wonderland fairytale. When I read an article about it opening in the newspaper last week, I knew we had to take the kids. So last Sunday we made a last-minute decision (which, by the way, is how we make almost all of our decisions these days) and made a reservation at the only hotel in the whole town with any rooms available.
As I drove home this morning, as often happens when I’m behind the wheel, my mind began wandering into the kitchen. If I can’t be there physically, at least I can be there in spirit. I imagined the fruit bowl on the counter and wondered what would still be good when we got home. There were apples, of course, and a mango that would probably be too soft to cut, and bananas – bananas that would be very ripe and spotted. Perfect for banana bread on Saturday morning. But of course, I’m a little impatient, and when I have a craving for something, I usually find a way to satisfy it. So, the moment we walked through the door I sliced a banana and made a simple brown sugar syrup. It is Friday, after all, and we always have a cocktail on Friday afternoon. With the syrup I made this Banana Bread Hot Buttered Rum. A little something to hold us over until Saturday morning and to warm our still frozen bones.
Banana Bread Hot Buttered Rum
This drink is made with an easy, homemade banana syrup and all the spices you’d find in banana bread.
for two drinks
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 ripe banana, sliced
3 oz dark spiced rum
3 TBSP butter, room temperature
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
a pinch of cinnamon
1 cup boiling water
a pinch of French grey salt
In a 2-cup glass measuring cup or similar, microwave-safe bowl, mix the brown sugar and water. Heat in the microwave until the mixture comes to a full boil. Add the banana slices and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, being careful not to break up the bananas as you’ll be removing them later. Allow the bananas to steep in the mixture until it’s cooled completely. Once cool, continue making the drink in the same measuring cup. (The syrup can alternately be stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.)
To the banana syrup add the butter, rum, vanilla and almond extracts, and cinnamon. Slowly pour over a cup of boiling water and stir until the butter is melted. Remove the banana slices and pour into two mugs. Top each with a pinch of French grey salt and garnish with a cinnamon stick, if desired.