Sunday, November 30, 2008

Los Cabos--Delicious Peruvian Buffet

Since there isn't much open for lunch downtown, we wandered into uncharted territory today. I'm happy we did because we stumbled on Los Cabos.

Los Cabos is a friendly and delicious introduction to Peruvian food. They had a buffet with a wide variety of items to try. The food ranged from white fish with red, white and yellow sauces to cebeche to carne seca. Normally I shy away from seafood in buffets, but they were busy enough to keep it fresh. The waiter was friendly and even brought us a couple of beef skewers to try something off of the buffet.

The atmosphere was comfortable. The stuffed animal alpaca was a fun touch.

If I had to complain about anything, I would say the price was a little steep at $15 and the non-buffet item we ordered was a little slow. To be fair, the weekday buffet is only $8.95 and it was main attraction.

All in all, I recommend Los Cabos as a fine introduction to Peruvian food. If you go, don't miss the carne seca. It was my favorite.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Garbage Disposal

It's 4:30pm on Thanksgiving, guests arriving any minute for 5:00pm dinner and our friend Rob 's torso is buried in the sink cabinet, playing Operation with the pipes.

We averted an absolute disaster because we're lucky (and because Rob is handy). I shouldn't say "we," I should say "I." What caused the sink to back-up? I put sweet potato peels in the garbage disposal.

Which raises the question of what can and can't be put in the garbage disposal? And from our research, there are differing answers. One web site states that peels are ok but egg shells are not, while a fellow blogger sites the reverse.

There are some items I wouldn't dream of putting in the disposal (anything that gets larger when put in water, like rice). Are there rules for what should (and shouldn't) put in a disposal?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Scoring Contraband

We've found a resource for raw goat's milk and it's less than 30 minutes from home! Our "contribution" supports a youngster's 4-H efforts, as she learns how to manage a profitable business.

As I write, we're pressing off the whey and turning it into goat milk cheddar. The recipe recommends aging it for 4-12 weeks. Patience, grasshopper.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Clean Plater by Ogden Nash (mmm.. food poetry)

The Clean Plater

Some singers sing of ladies' eyes,
And some of ladies lips,
Refined ones praise their ladylike ways,
And course ones hymn their hips.
The Oxford Book of English Verse
Is lush with lyrics tender;
A poet, I guess, is more or less
Preoccupied with gender.
Yet I, though custom call me crude,
Prefer to sing in praise of food.
Yes, food,
Just any old kind of food.

Pheasant is pleasant, of course,
And terrapin, too, is tasty,
Lobster I freely endorse,
In pate or patty or pasty.
But there's nothing the matter with butter,
And nothing the matter with jam,
And the warmest greetings I utter
To the ham and the yam and the clam.
For they're food,
All food,
And I think very fondly of food.
Through I'm broody at times
When bothered by rhymes,
I brood
On food.

Some painters paint the sapphire sea,
And some the gathering storm.
Others portray young lambs at play,
But most, the female form.
“Twas trite in that primeval dawn
When painting got its start,
That a lady with her garments on
Is Life, but is she Art?
By undraped nymphs
I am not wooed;
I'd rather painters painted food.
Just food,
Just any old kind of food.

Go purloin a sirloin, my pet,
If you'd win a devotion incredible;
And asparagus tips vinaigrette,
Or anything else that is edible.
Bring salad or sausage or scrapple,
A berry or even a beet.
Bring an oyster, an egg, or an apple,
As long as it's something to eat.
If it's food,
It's food;
Never mind what kind of food.
When I ponder my mind
I consistently find
It is glued
On food.

Ogden Nash

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ketsup, Catsup, Ketchup, Ketsup

Not only it's spelling a source of confusion, but catsup is also seriously questioned as a legitimate sauce: I have a European-born friend that denounces this smooth, soothing sauce as being, "stereotypically American" and tasting vile. Jason finds it generally unnecessary and sometimes disgusting. Why the conflict?

For me, it enhances the experience of eating many of my favorite foods, including eggs and cheeseburgers. It's cool, smooth, and juxtaposed to the texture of many of the foods it's eaten with. When something is dry, it lends a tasty and moist remedy.

And for me (Jason here), I think that too many people have suffered through meals prepared by bad cooks and have a knee jerk reaction to smother everything in "old red". Ketchup has it's place, but save it for your Aunt Edna's tasteless boiled chicken.

What's your opinion?

Thursday, September 4, 2008


What do you do with three enormous zuccinis? Make ratatouille.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Spent Grain Beer Bread

Being ambitious means making the most of your resources. So what about using the spent grains from a batch of home brew? When you get into intermediate or advanced home brewing, you will be using barley to either create the malt you'll ferment or to add flavor to a malt extract. The problem is what to do with the extra.

I usually put it in the compost bin. But that is a thing of the past. Last weekend, we made a porter and we used the grains to make some beer bread.

Here are a few links for beer bread recipes.

Steve Morrisey's Spent Grain Bread
Ofortuna's Bread (scroll down a bit)
Mill Rat's Bread

We tried Steve's and Rat's breads and both were delicious. I think next time we'll try to use it for pizza dough.

The Big Four Oh

That's right. After all of these years on Earth, I've finally reached that point. I didn't think it would ever happen, but that day has come. Monday, Labor Day, is it. It is the day that I'm having a party with forty guests. That's right, four-oh!

Now, you could argue that this is not big deal. Everyone has had parties before. This one is different than the parties of youth. A keg of cheap beer and a massive quantity of stale nachos are not going to suffice.

So as I host my first adult party, with a spread of killer B's: Beer, Brats, Burgers, and BBQ Brisket, the real question is how much do we need? You don't want to be in the unenviable position of not having enough, but having burgers for leftovers for two or three weeks is absurd.

The internet, the wild west of information sources, has proved to be very helpful in this case. The best article I found suggested the following:

Hors D'oeuvres

  • 6 bites when preceding a meal.
  • 4 - 6 bites per hour when hors d'oeuvres are the meal.
  • The longer your party and the larger your guest list, the greater the number of selections you should offer.

The Main Meal

  • Poultry, meat or fish - 6 ounces when you have one main dish, 8 ounces when you offer two or more main courses.
  • Rice, grains - 1.5 ounces as a side dish, 2 ounces in a main dish such as risotto
  • Potatoes - 5 ounces
  • Vegetables - 4 ounces
  • Beans - 2 ounces as a side dish
  • Pasta - 2 ounces for a side dish, 3 ounces for a first course, 4 ounces for a main dish
  • Green Salad - 1 ounce undressed weight


  • 1 slice cake, tart or pastry
  • 4 ounces creamy dessert such as pudding or mousse
  • 5 ounces ice cream
  • When serving two of the above, reduce each by a little less than half.

This is great. This makes the calculation fairly easy. So let's go through the exercise of estimating how much we need for 40 guests.

Appetizers: 6 bites x 40 people = 240 Bites
(This one I'm cheating on since we're just going to buy chips and salsa and veggies and dip.)

Main meals: Meat 8 oz x 40 people = 320 oz or 20 lbs.
This should be easy. I'm smoking a 6 lbs brisket so I'll need 7lbs of burgers and brats, each.

Potato Salad: 5 oz x 40 people = 200 oz or 12.5 lbs

Beans: 2 oz x 40 people = 80 oz or 5 lbs

I'm cheating on dessert. My sister has decided to bring a cake, so she's in charge. We're providing the ice cream to go along with it, but that should be enough.

The only thing left is to estimate beverages. Unfortunately, there isn't as much information on the internet about that. Any suggestions?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Watermelon and Peach Wine

It rained for nearly two days one weekend in September. Being drawn indoors gave us the perfect excuse to try some food and beverage experiments we'd been meaning to get to this summer.

We found this recipe, and began prepping. We chose to prepare a 3-gallon batch, so we tripled the quantities in the original recipe.

And, it's a much messier process than we thought, beginning with cutting the watermelon. Slice the watermelon in half, and then cut the rind off. We recommend cutting the melon in half (horizontally) and placing the flat end on the cutting board to slice off the rind.

We used a strainer to drain the liquid from the watermelon and peaches, applying pressure with a potato masher. Caution: make certain the drainer is large enough to fit in your pot without the sides slipping down (we learned that tip the hard way).

The fermentation process was one of the most interesting we've ever seen. Despite our straining efforts, some pulp from the watermelon and peaches ended up in the carboy. And did it bubble! It looked a bit like a science experiment, but the real question is: how will it taste? I guess we'll find out in a few weeks.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The zen of Mac and Cheese

As you know, Theresa and I each entered the Tillamook Mac and Cheese contest with two recipes. To do this, we studies the past contest winners to get at the essense of Mac and Cheese for a base. Then we each added our own flourish.

Mac and cheese can be divided into four parts:

1) the mac
2) the sauce
3) the cheese
4) the flourish

The Mac
This is the boring part. Buy macaroni, prepare according to package directions.

The sauce
This is a fairly straight forward part of the recipe. You make a basic white sauce with 2 T each of butter and flour along with 1 cup of milk. Melt the butter, mix in the flour until the lumps are gone, then add the milk. Simmer until thick.

You can vary this with the type of milk. Also, you can add spices, but that really falls under flourish.

The cheese
Once you've made the sauce, add in the cheese you desire. Some cheeses melt better than others. You can really be creative in the types and amounts of cheese you add. Cheddar is my favorite. Gruyere never hurt anyone. Mix your cheese into the sauce slowly melting it until you have a delicious cheese sauce.

The flourish
This is your shot. Go for the gold. Everything from apples to lobster, herbs to ham; mix and match 'til your heart's content.

Check out this recipe to see if you can identify the four steps.

Mac and Cheese Mania

We decided to show our ambition last weekend. We entered the Tillamook Macaroni and Cheese recipe contest. This contest features a grand price of $5000 AND 25 lbs of cheese. (I hope they pay the cheese on the installment plan.)

Theresa and I got together this weekend and had a little Mac and Cheese throwdown. We each prepared two, two serving portion of a potential Mac and Cheese entry to the Tillamook contest. We had to follow all of the rules of the contest and present them to our panel of judges. (My poor family of guinea pigs.)

The list of contenders:

Team Theresa
Denver Omelette Mac and Cheese
Green Apples Mac and Cheese

Team Jason
Ham and Cheese Mac and Cheese
Cajun Shrimp Mac and Cheese

The tastes of my family varied so there was no consensus winner. We tweaked all of our recipes and submitted our entries Sunday night.

Photos and commentary to come.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Crying Over Sanitized Milk

Each July, I'm reminded of the carefree feeling I experienced in youth: the sheer delight of summer. My sister and I would spend one part of our summer vacation tormenting each other, and the other part feeding calves on my grandfather's dairy farm. There were countless trips to the barn to fill precious gallons with the silky white, luxurious milk.

At the time, I didn't celebrate the beauty of milk for the rich taste of a cool glassful, much less as an ingredient in some of my favorite foods. Instead of relishing raw, non-homogenized milk directly from the cow, I chose skim milk from the grocery store.

And then came my interest in making cheese. I live over 1,500 miles from the one place I know I might be able to exchange fresh-from-the cow, non-pasteurized, enzymatically wonderful milk for a six-pack of Coors Light. Unfortunately, that's what you need to make really yummy cheese. Most people probably don't care that in the US, it is illegal (in nearly every state) to sell milk that has not been pasteurized, but for ambitious foodies, it's appalling!

There are a few solutions...but you'll need to open your wallet:

Solutions 1: Bring Back the Bacteria Incorporate a live bacteria solution that allows you to create the reactions necessary. Cost $4 for 3.5 ounces of BioK + cost of milk Available at natural food stores.

Solution 2: Join a Farm Co-op One of the benefits is typically a gallon of "raw" milk. Costs approximately $8 per gallon + annual "maintenance" fee Solution 3: Pet Food I've heard raw milk can be purchased for pets. You might try this site for local information.

Do you have another solution to share? Where's all ears!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I had some friends over this weekend for a midsummer Paella. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to write my first post for Ambitious Foodie.

Since it varies a lot with my mood, I’m going to post a flexible recipe for paella:

2 C of Arborio rice (short grain)
3 C of water +/-
3 C of stock
Saffron to taste (you don’t need much)
Veggies and beans
Meats (Chicken and Meatballs are my standards)
Olive oil

Cook the meats you have selected and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a pan, then add the raw rice. Stir the rice constantly until it becomes opaque.
Add the stock and vegetables, and cook uncovered adding water as necessary.
Before adding the last cup of water add the meat back in.
It is finished when 1) the rice is no longer crunchy, and 2) a little bit of the rice is getting browned to the bottom of the pan.

What were the variations?

For vegetables I included sliced red and yellow peppers, green beans, and Lima beans. I never get to fancy here.

For meats, I like to have a theme of some sort. Once I made a paella with three different types of meat prepared in the style of three Mediterranean styles. This time I went themeless: I made chicken and meat balls. The chicken was a sliced fryer that I marinated in harissa. The meatballs were made from Alton Brown's recipe. We made a double batch of meatballs on accident, intending to have some left over. They were so popular that their were only a few left at the end of the night.

For appetizers, we had empanadas brought by Jennifer, and we prepared a gazpacho using a recipe I found at Culinary Colorado.

For dessert, we had ice cream with dulce de leche.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ambitious Foodie?

So why name a website Ambitious Foodie?

Foodie is a new slangy word for a gourmet, which is a person who likes and is a judge of fine foods and drinks (aka an epicure).

Ambition means showing great effort or aspiring.

Put these two together and what we have is a person who will aspire to and show great effort to enjoy fine foods and drinks. Whats more, we will go to great lengths to make great food and drinks. We will strive for the best that is possible.

Sometimes the best will be the quest to find the best ingredients, use all of the tools at our disposal, and take all the time is necessary to make a meal. For example, buying a fresh cut of tenderloin from the best butcher in town; researching the best seasonings and buying them fresh; and cooking the steak to perfection using the broiler or charcoal grill.

Other times, the best will mean to find the most cost effective ingredients necessary to make a delicious meal. Focusing on buying quality ingredients and getting the best value for the ingredient buck. We might give ourselves a budget of $25 to prepare a delicious meal for four, forcing us to economize on ingredients and pay for the best value, instead of the best quality.

A third possibility is making the most effective use of our time. How do we cook the best meal possible in a limited amount of time using what we have on hand. Delicious AND fast food, both!

And finally, the best could mean making the most efficient use of calories. Sometimes we want something delicious but not filled with calories. This is where Ambitious Foodie can help. We may try to economize on calories to get the most taste out of our meals.

One last point, as an Ambitious Foodie we are not limited to food. We will look at and enjoy drinks as well. We will look at wine making and homebrewing. We will make fine cocktails and enjoy the best we can find.

So if you are interested in the best possible food and drinks. If you want to maximize quality, value, or time. Continue reading, send us your comments, and for the love of god, enjoy your food.