Gran Maestria

Man, am I a lucky girl. Last week I was studying upstairs when my roommate sent me a picture message of a package at the front door saying, “ANOTHER ONE?!”.

I have school books coming from all over the world and my paycheck has been going straight to Amazon (free Prime!) due to unnecessary browsing. This leads to a disgusting amount of brown boxes arriving daily at the Tara HQ. However, I wasn’t expecting one last Thursday. I ran down the stairs and let out an audible gasp when I saw the Nespresso logo on the box.

It couldn’t be…but was it? The box was heavy, but I hauled it up three flights of stairs with ease; it must be all the strength workouts I’ve been handling (read: five squats a week if lucky).

Ta-da! My very own Nespresso Gran Maestria machine! Isn’t she gorgeous? To be honest, it took me a day or two to take it out and display it because it looked so nice in the box and I didn’t want to touch it. Now, it is definitely one of my new favorite kitchen equipments. I even set up a little table display for her, she deserves the best.

The folks at Nespresso saw my blog post about the Grand Chef Rendezvous event I was invited to and wanted to thank me for writing it, but really, I should be the one thanking them! I do not mean to sound so sponsored, but they are one of the best companies I have worked with. They also did not ask me to write a review or even publish this post but I seriously wanted to share my excitement and how much I have been loving this beautiful piece of machinery, but they did send me a bonus Burr grinder for my troubles, which I thought was really sweet of them.

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All the machines come with a tasting of the different coffee flavors Nespresso has to offer. Some of them are for espressos, others for lungos and even three decaf options for people that already have that inner built-up energy.

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My roommates and I set up the machine earlier in the week and had a mini mid-day coffee commencement to welcome the Gran Maestria to our house.

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Nespresso has many different models at a wide price range and each machine can do different tasks. Mine can make espressos, cappuccinos and latte macchiatos. It also comes with a milk frother and espresso cup warmer!

Our first test run was a regular espresso, please excuse the shot glass. We did not have espresso cups in advance so we had to make do with what was already in the kitchen. It kind of works though, no?

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All of us took a sip with our pinkies up and thought it was quite good, tut tut. Since we work best with baby steps, we then attempted to make a cappuccino.

Step one…

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Listo!

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By the end of this tasting, all of us had the foamy upper lip going on. Real classy, if you must say.

I don’t even know what to call this one but it was delicious. I am going to start working on my foam art and showcase it at the next big art exhibition in San Francisco. 😉 Requests, anyone?

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An Americano for the Americans.

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Lastly, because everyone already had (at minimum) the amount of two espresso shots, we made a Latte macchiato.

We definitely need to improve on our technique, or at least our glass equipment.

Helpful hint: shot glasses do not pour with finesse.

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But the end product came out amazing! I’m sure with a few more trials, I can put any coffee house baristas to shame.

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Now, lets talk pros and cons.

PROS:

  • The machine works very fast, I made one espresso and one latte (including heating up the milk) this morning in less then 3 minutes. This is really important to me because saving time when you have to get out the house before seven in the morning is optimal.
  • I love the built in frother. I know some machines make it really complicated but I just choose which setting I want (out of four) and push a button and I get warm foam or heated milk whenever I please.
  • It definitely classes up my kitchen, the platinum finish is stunning in person. Also, the two knobs in the center reminds me of eyes and makes the machine look like a coffee robot. Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto…
  • Cleaning up is a breeze with the use of pods (which also falls into the maybe-con category, read on). No more grinding, dripping, washing every little piece of machinery. The pods fall into a little storage area and you just need to empty the water and container disposal.
  • The options are endless. I went on their website and they have so many recipes to try including deserts!! I am so pumped to experiment with my new baby.

CONS:

  • The cup warmer only fits an espresso cup. Although, this makes sense since it is an espresso machine.
  • I like to be as environmentally friendly as possible, meaning using glass bottles instead of plastic and reusing things as much as possible. I was a little weary of the coffee pods because they seem wasteful, but this is one of those situations where you compromise and factor in the convenience issue. I did a little bit of research and found out that Nespresso actually has an awesome recycling program where you can bring the used pods into their Boutiques or affiliated stores
  • It is a little pricey, but you have to think of it as an investment piece like a Vitamix or Kitchenaid. There are also many budget friendly options like the Pixie or U!

The ultimate con is that this machine makes me never want to buy another cup of coffee again! Drats! A latte at a coffee shop can easily round up to five dollars and I can make one at home for 70 cents. I can also put in exactly the kind of milk I want and I have so many different flavor and intensity options to my disposal.

Speaking of milk, I tried using almond milk and it didn’t froth well. My roommate, who used to work at a coffee shop, said that almond milk just isn’t the best to make foam and to use cows milk or soy milk. I read online people have had success with almond milk. Any suggestions?

Thank you Nespresso!

**Nespresso sent me the machine as a gift but did not ask me to publish this post or review the machine. All opinions are (always) proudly my own.

Now on to food! I have been eating out a lot lately. This also has it’s pros and cons (last list, I promise).

Pros: Everything I consume is delicious. I do not have to wash any dishes. I have something to look forward to after a long day out.

Cons: My wallet is not happy with me. Neither is my waistline. Or my produce that is slowly spoiling in my fridge.

The only cool thing I have made at home this week is green beans and prosciutto, tomato & cream cheese open faced sandwiches.

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I also get my greens in other ways, such as salads and chicken (with broccoli/bok choy/swiss chard), but who wants to hear bout those boring things when we can talk about Patxi’s pizza?

It is tradition for me to eat a salad before pizza. That way I don’t feel bad about eating 2-3 slices more than I need to. It’s the little things, right guys?

Arugula salad with shaved Grana Padano, EVOOO and lemon. It was so simple and sometimes that’s all you really need.

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Patxi’s is known for their deep dish, but I really wanted a thin crust pizza. We ordered the Picante, with Zoe’s spicy salami, hot coppa, mozzarella, tomato sauce and chopped pepperoncini.

It reminded me of my favorite pizza from Beretta, which I like to lovingly call the fancy pants meat lovers. Too delicious. For more product reviews check out Comparoid.

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Favorite kind of coffee (espresso, macchiatos, lattes, iced)? Can you spot the Arrested Development reference?

A Little Bit Of Everything

Fridays take so long to come but Sunday finishes before I finish blinking, does anyone else agree?

I’m so excited for this month to wrap up! Chi and I are going to SoCal in early June to visit his family and I have some school stuff to attend to in LA. It’s going to feel so good to get out of San Francisco for a little bit. After that will be my month long trip to Asia, followed by a wedding in upstate New York! It’s going to be a veeeery busy summer.

My friend and I ate lunch on Wednesday near Chi’s restaurant in the Marina. We went to Blackwood, which is a Thai-American fusion type of restaurant. Asian fusion is really popular in SF, is it trendy in other cities as well?

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We shared the Cucumber Salad Spicy Seaweed since she’s vegetarian. Great food presentation if you ask me!

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I ordered the ‘East Feeds West’: Crispy pork shank slow cooked in Asian five pieces, Indian vanilla stick, served w/ broccolini and coconut sticky rice. How do you not order that when you read it from the menu?

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To follow the Asian vibe I had going on this week, Chi and I ate at a Vietnamese fusion restaurant last night. I went with him to run errands before dinner and couldn’t help taking pictures of the new LED lights they put on the Bay Bridge. I’m going to miss the old bridge whenever they tear it down, no matter how cool the new bridge will be!

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We ate in the Potrero Hill/Dogpatch district, which is one of the top neighborhoods I would love to live in. Residential but not too suburbian (as suburbian that SF can get!). I love trees with rounded up lights, poor tree toward the end didn’t get to flaunt his lights like his friends.

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We ate at Sunflower restaurant and shared the garlic noodles (bomb!) and BBQ Lemongrass Beef (also bomb!).

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Look at this view, I can imagine walking home from work to this view every night.

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I also wanted to share some of my must-have natural cleansing and personal products. I really encourage everyone to take a look at the ingredient lists on their beauty and health products and really try googling some of the stuff in it. A lot of us pick out organic fruit or vegetables at the grocery store, but don’t really incorporate those things into products we put on our body.

I’m slowly trying to weed out the ‘bad’ bottles in my bathroom and vanity (trust me, I have a bunch), but I do feel better knowing I’m making a conscientious effort to be more aware. With that, I’ll start off with listing some of my favorites that I have tested.

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1. Dr. Bronner’s Organic Pure Castile Liquid Soap, Baby Mild Unscented

I tried the Peppermint one, which I really liked but my skin is really sensitive and I find the Baby Unscented works really well for me. It also smells pretty good for something that’s unscented, according to Chi. For those with better skin, they have great smelling flavors like almond, rose, lavender, tea tree, etc. The body soap is purely vegetable oil-based (castile) and can be used 18 different ways. Some examples include cleaning counters, brushing teeth, laundry, etc!

This is a great FAQ for those interested.

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2. Andalou Citrus Kombucha Cleansing Gel

My skin is naturally very oily (thanks mom!) and this is the only gel cleanser I have found that really controls the oil production. It’s gluten free and vegan (if that matters to you), but the main reason I love it is it doesn’t break me out like a lot of other products do and it’s completely affordable. Of course, there is other good things like skin friendly probiotics and natural skin treaters i.e. willow bark and aloe vera.

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3. Dr. Bronner’s Organic Lip Balm, Peppermint

Now if any of these products are an unsung hero, this is it. I can’t leave the house without my favorite peppermint chapstick. This product doesn’t use petroleum as it’s main ingredient, which some of you may know actually causes dryness of the lips. It keeps my lips soft for the whole day if I manage to leave it in my car and can’t reapply and it’s great to apply before lipstick.

I feel like a walking advertisement but I was not sponsored by any of these companies! I just wanted to share the joy that is natural products. I’m also in the market for a good chem-free lotion. Any ideas?

What are your favorite beauty and hygienic products? Any plans this weekend?