I’m Crazy For Trying

When multiple people tell me that they have found the best charcuterie in San Francisco, I am there faster than (insert witty metaphor here).

Many of you know that I think charcuterie is a modern day ambrosia. It is also:

1. My favorite type of meat preparation.

2. My favorite word to say (along with jorts). It just rolls off your tongue.

Trou Normand is the place to eat this summer and I am going to tell you why their meats are hand-on-knee amazing without trying to sound incredibly pretentious. The only pork they use comes from the Mangalitsa, which is an exotic, expensive, European pig that is not often used on American charcuterie boards.

(if you took the time to click the link and look at the pictures of the pig, you will see that it is fluffy and has hair! how cute is that?!)

Anyway, this results in eating the “Kobe beef” of pigs with its creamier texture that just melts in your mouth.

I really wanted to try this place out for lunch but also did not want to drive downtown. My love for cured meats defeated my hatred for spending $17 on garages, so I took one for the team and made my way down to Trou Normand for a late lunch with my school partner in crime, Kristina.

The L-shaped space is completely airy with a nice mix of modern and traditional interior. This naked lady keeps an eye on the bar patrons and ensures that everyone is having a good time. Luckily for us, we missed the lunch rush and had almost the whole place to ourselves. I hear it gets extremely loud when it is all filled up and I did not feel like having a 80 decibel conversation. Since it was the middle of the day, we did not imbibe on any of their famous cocktails and I will have to go back to try one.

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Instead, we hydrated with this new-age cola ($4) that is fermented with ginger! It tasted nothing like a Coca-Cola but it hit the soda craving perfectly.

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With over 25 charcuterie options, we were conflicted on what to get and our waitress gave us a few recommendations based on our preferences. For the meats, we picked a rosemary salami ($6) made with white wine and garlic, ciccioli ($7) with black pepper and oregano, and a salami cotto ($6) with anise, chili and garlic. Everything was incredible and I was honestly sad that I do not have two stomachs to try more charcuterie. Next time I am choosing the guanciale and porcini salami along with the chefs selection.

We took all the cheeses they had ($11/each) and I cannot remember exactly what they are but I know from top to bottom it is a sheep milk bleu, camembert and the third is unknown.

Also, can we just take a minute and admire how beautiful this plate is? Salvatore Cracco does an amazing job putting everything together.

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Kristina is actually in Chile now with her husband but when we ate here about two weeks ago, she just came back from Peru doing volunteer work and even witnessed a live birth! She also had to be on an 72-hour IV after eating contaminated food but she is fully recovered and now has a story to tell in the future. 🙂

On a completely unrelated note, the backdrop is actually how I want my future home to be with exposed brick walls and a tufted leather sofa. We had an incredibly beautiful jade green sofa in my childhood home that looked similar to the one that is pictured below.

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Since we are future dietitians, we thought that this butter lettuce salad ($8) with croutons and buttermilk dressing would make up for all the saturated fat and sodium we were consuming. 😉 I can never complain about ordering a salad to make myself feel better.

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We also had a hankering for the pork ragu ($14) made with fresh tagliatelle and parmesan. It was soul soothing to have a big bowl of pasta and I ate pretty much 80% of it myself. Unlike Kristina, I have no idea what portion control means.

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We finished our perfect date with a Mission Pie ($8) slice a la mode and a cup of espresso. Mmm…the only thing that would have made it better was if there was enough for three days worth of left overs.

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Also, the title refers to a Patsy Cline song I was listening to in the beginning of this post. I am just too uncreative to think of another one for now. 🙂

Sir Kensington’s

A few weeks ago, I was offered the opportunity to enjoy a meal on behalf of Sir Kensington’s to test out their ketchup, sriracha seasoning sticks and report back to you. After doing my due diligence, I found out that their ingredient list is pretty impressive with no signs of HFCS or products made from concentrate. They boast a non-GMO project verified logo on their labels and have 50% less sugar compared to other national brands.

These are things that I can get behind. I have known V since 7th grade and already had plans to take her out for a belated birthday dinner. Timing just worked out, so she was my guest of honor. 🙂

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Our appetizer was an oak roasted bone marrow ($17) topped with a white shrimp escabeche, hearts of palm and tomato “jam”. I was thrilled when V suggested we pick this as our first course because not many people can tongue the texture of marrow. Me? A personal favorite. I love to dip my crusty bread in the goop-like gelatin that can only begin to be described as rich and buttery.

It is actually funny to me how people (including myself) are willing to pay so much money for what was considered back then as “poor people” cuts of meat like oxtail and bone marrow. They were usually the cheapest at butchers and considered scraps for dogs and now are used as components of gourmet dishes. It is similar to how lobster was considered a mark for poverty (“rodents of the sea”) and now it is not rare to see it priced higher than a good cut of steak.

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Since Waterbar is known for their oysters, it only felt right to try one. I did not feel like I could put my body through one again but V said she is indifferent and tried the Beausoleil ($4.05) from New Brunswick. Our waitress told us it was the perfect starter oyster. V approved and explained that it had a slight acidic taste and was firm without being too slimy.

PS: If I do ever eat an oyster again, it will be Grand Central Oyster Bar. My friend just came back from NYC and said they were ah-mazing. She also overhypes everything so time will tell.

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Here she is posing before slurping. I wanted to show you the cool view of this cylindrical fish tank I had from my seat. It felt right since we were eating right along the Bay.

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Her Wood Oven Roasted Alaskan Halibut ($38) accompanied by spring onion piperade, black mussels, fresh chickpeas and topped with Espelette chili looked incredibly mouth watering. So much so that I snuck a bite off her dish and found the fish really tender and moist. I loved eating the mussels with a dipped piece of crusty bread topped with the chili sauce.

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I was in a mood for a steak, so I ordered the Spring Onion Crusted Ribeye Steak ($39) served with crisp Kennebec potato, haircots certs and a black truffle aïoli. The ribeye was a little hard to cut through although I ordered it medium rare and the star of the plate was the potatoes. Mmm…I loved the aïoli so much I wish I could bottle it and take it home with me.

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Our VIP guest this evening was the Parmesan French Fries ($7) with the famous Sir Kensington’s ketchup. These crunchy fries were a great side with my steak and I was not disappointed in the ketchup. It tasted less sugary than other ketchups I have tried and I really admire that. I also noticed that it was thick and great for dipping.

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To have a meal without a vegetable side dish is tragic and that is where these artichokes (not on menu anymore) came into play. I was surprised at how much of a kick these had! I am all over anything spicy but I had to drink of water after a few bites.

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We ended the night with a delicious Rhubarb Gâteau Basque ($10) with strawberries, vanilla bean chantilly and a red wine reduction. Rhubarb is one of my favorite components to a dessert and the fancy whip cream was heavenly.
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An espresso was essential after a long night of eating and their staff was nice enough to bring out a post-meal amuse bouche of sea salt caramel chocolate bites.
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Thank you Sir Kensington’s for a fantastic dinner. I am now a fan and will pick up a jar the next time I am grocery shopping. Their product line includes more than just ketchup! Think spicy ketchup (mmm…chipotle), mayo and fancy mustard. They are available at grocery stores for all price ranges. Check their website to find a store near you.

Sir Kensington’s company compensated this meal and all my opinions are always proudly my own.

Oh, New York

I am currently flying back to San Francisco and was given complimentary WiFi (thank you!), so I wanted to pop in and type up a list of this-and-thats from the first half of my whirlwind week.

New York City was good to me, I must admit. A big part of it due to having friends nice enough to let me be in their presence and take over their apartment. 🙂

Aside from doing a million things in a day, the trip overall was very relaxing. I spent a lot of time walking around and exploring different neighborhoods, enjoying museums and eating everything in site. Is that not a good formula for a great vacation?

To save you from a ‘Dear Diary’ type of post, I will recap my thoughts in dash form.

-Blogger meet-up

I had the pleasure of meeting the famous and beautiful Ameena for coffee on Saturday! After getting in from a red-eye, I was so exhausted that I took a lengthy nap at my friend’s house and was afraid I was going to miss this occasion. Luckily, everything worked out and we met at Maison Kayser for an espresso by Pound Coffee (me), sparkling water (her) and delicious dark chocolate cookie (us, but mostly me).

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It was raining my first day there and there was even snow on the ground! Or do you just consider that ice? Whatever it was, Central Park was gloomy and it seemed as if my good friend Karl has followed me across the country.

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Notice that the pond is frozen. At first I was amazed because A. when does that ever happen in California and B. there was a small squirrel ice skating near me. I was worried for his safety.

Then, C. the rain started coming down and I got out of there before the French family next to me could even blink.

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Laziness will cause you to eat dinner at Bouchon, not that there is much to complain about there. Tomato soup for the first course and a lovely roasted chicken with braised Tuscan kale, white beans, crispy sunchokes, heirloom carrots and sauce Charcuterie.

PS: A lot of the photos in this post are going to be little collages. Usually I am against them, but if I did not group pictures together, then your hand will get carpel-tunnel from scrolling for so long.

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-Museum crawl

Can you call it a museum crawl if you only went to two? Especially if they were on two different days? I do not know and frankly can not think of another name besides ‘museums’ or ’two museums’.

Sunday was spent at the Met and holy anxiety when I walked in and saw the Egyptian exhibit. Of course this museum has a fine collection of Picassos and Van Goghs, but so does many other museums I have had the delight of visiting. I have never seen an Egyptian exhibition as large as the one I saw on Sunday; being impressed is an understatement. I was also very fond of their Magritte collection as well.

No Treachery of Images though, listen to this. I googled that night where it was on tour in NYC and found out that the MoMA’s last day of hosting the Magritte tour was that same day. If that is not sad, then I do not know what is. I missed it by a few hours.

With that note, I still had an amazing time at the Met and could have probably stayed there all day.

I visited the American Museum of Natural History on Monday and had an okay time. While there is no way I can seriously knock anything educational, there was a slight diorama overload and the way the exhibits are set up are a bit confusing. I had three people come up to me to ask me questions about the map that I could not answer because I was lost as well. The floor with the dinosaurs was really interesting, I do not think I have seen anything like it in my lifetime.

I also have a yearning to watch Night At The Museum again.

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-An Italian evening

I spent one night dining with my Italian friend. We ate an Italian dinner and then took a trip to Eataly after to see what a modern day Italian heaven looks like. I did not realize how amusing this was until I was sitting on my host’s couch at home. That is the short version.

The long version includes me squinting my eyes and zooming in Lightroom for ten minutes trying to figure out the name of the restaurant. As pretty as aperture makes a photo, it also makes it hard to remember where I have eaten when my memory is slightly forgetful. Does anyone recognize these plates? I will give you amor in exchange.

What is this restaurant called? A helpful hint for you is that it is part of a hotel and somewhere near the Flatiron building (which is pretty bad ass).

Starting at the upper left corner, you will find a divine cheese plate. I am pretty sure the harder one is a Pecorino, while the softer cheese is a cousin of Taleggio and the bottom is an ash-veined goat cheese that is milder than it looks. Forgive me if these are not correct, I am trying to go off memory and cheese is not one of my strong points (as delicious as it is).

As a reader, you should know about my endless love for charcuterie. Sometimes I wish I lived with a garde manger so I can have a plate waiting for me when I get home from a long day. Our two selections was a Soprressata Picante and Finocchiona (from SF!). Fantastic. Or as the Italians would say, fantastico. 😉

I originally ordered an ox-tail ragu, but we did a switch-a-roo and I ended up consuming the suckling pig and arugula served on top of malfatti pasta. They both were amazing and I wish you were there to try.

Last on the menu was a budino with hazelnut ice cream. This was the best meal out of my whole trip to the East Coast.

Looking back at all these pictures, it looks like we did it right. I am a lucky girl.

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Obligatory pictures of Central Park

One thing I like about New York is that you can take a picture from the same place during different times of the year and they will all turn out different. In California, the weather is pretty much consistent all year, besides May Showers in San Francisco and June Gloom in SoCal.

I have a picture of this lake back when I came for Jacq’s wedding and the contrast is remarkable. I remember in the summer that there were children racing little sailboats and now the water is frozen. It is just the little things, you know?

You are probably expecting a comparison shot but I cannot find it. Sometimes I wonder why you even put up with me, ha.

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I should squeeze in the fact that I tried Lauderée‘s macaroons for the first time. We did not have to wait very long, I heard the line goes out the door very easily. Chewy on the inside but still retained it’s texture overall, how a macaroon should be.

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What time is it?!

While having a meal with a cutie, I was informed of a certain performance act that makes all NYers subway riders invoke a panic attack. As much as these buskers can wear you down after a long day, I really wanted to see one. It would have been my ultimate tourist moment. I YouTubed ‘showtime nyc subway’ went I got home and spent an embarrassing amount of time looking through all the street performers and parodies. Can we talk about how their moves would make the raunchiest stripper jealous?

While I didn’t get any Showtime boys, the next day I did have (1) a quartet of Mariachi and (2) what I thought was an accordion player playing for money actually turn out to be an accordion player practicing his lessons while going to his teacher’s house. Luckily I only had to ride three stops for that one.

You keep me on my toes, New York. However, at least your subway performers do not attack people. Naked. (Do not click that link unless you want to see a naked acrobat attacking people on Bart, this is your warning).

-Lunch in the UWS

We randomly walked into a huge restaurant before she had to go to work on Monday and devoured this beautiful tomato soup with a side of grilled cheese.

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I also wandered into an Italian ceramic store by accident and walked out with two handmade espresso cups and saucers. I will just consider it a souvenir for myself. 🙂

-It is indeed a small world after all

I spent my last night walking The High Line in Chelsea and bumped into one of my first best friends from elementary school!! We have not talked or seen each other in years. If that is not a coincidence I do not know what is. We stood in the cold, catching up for fifteen minutes before realizing that dinner in a warm and cozy restaurant sounded much better. She took me to Pure Thai in Hell’s Kitchen and it was exactly what I needed. I have not had rice for about five days at this point and was starting to go stir crazy. They are known for their spiciness and house made noodles, the actual shop is pretty skinny so I do not recommend going with a big group but I thought the food was great!

Also realize that I was tired of lugging my camera around at this point and just had no aspiration to bring it out…cue the iPhone photography.

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-265 Riverside Drive

A family member of mind saw that I was in NY through Facebook and gave me the address of where my dad grew up. On my last day there, I took the subway there so I can see it in person. Definitely worth the trip, I love seeing little nuggets of my family history. Next time I go out there, I will have to look up my grandfather’s designs in the NY Public Library record archives.

I did not realize how creepy my eyes looked until I e-mailed it to myself. It was as far away as I could get in the picture, while still seeing the front of the building, without crossing a fence. Writing this entry made me realize that it is actually the only picture I took of myself the whole trip, so cheers! 🙂

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-Closing statements

1. The two things I was stressed about before coming was the weather and getting a cab. It happened to be (relatively) warm and I conquered my irrational fear of hailing one. In San Francisco, no problem, I can do it anywhere and anytime. New York is just a little more intimidating but I did it! My poor cab driver poured his heart out to me about his love life. I tried my best to console this crestfallen stranger.

2. I am upset at the passenger sitting in 13E for eating a tuna sandwich in the middle of their flight. 🙁 It is like they went to the terminal deli and ordered the most obnoxious thing to eat in an enclosed cabin with recycled oxygen.

Flying to Denver to see my sister on Thursday, it will be legen-wait for it….

Did you recently travel or traveling anytime soon? Tell me where so I can be jealous. +1 if it is out of the country.

What kind of activities do you enjoy doing when you travel?

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?