Hodgepodge

Hi. I want to know everyone’s Thanksgiving plans this year. What are you making? Is there an original family dish that you must have every year or something unique that I might not have thought of?

My family is small and scattered throughout the West coast, so I have not done a traditional Thanksgiving in a long time. It will be only a few people at the Lisbon House and I want to keep things nice and easy. Perhaps I will make Brussels sprouts and order the #2 at Popeyes. If only that was possible.

The weekend was far from eventful. There was a lot of lazying around the house, research on Pink Slime (remind me to never eat a burger again) and taking naps while trying to watch Donnie Darko for the first time. I am going to get through it one day, I promise.

While working on Saturday, Taylor texted me and told me that she wanted to go eat ramen. Since it was less than five blocks away from my job, I happily agreed and walked over after work.

I had to make the hard decision of choosing between my classic habanero ramen or a new spicy sesame cold ramen. I really wanted to try the latter but knew I would miss the habanero if I did not order. Next time, I promise myself I will let my hair down and order a new kind.

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In la noche, the whole gang went to Dear Mom, a cool hipster bar in the Mission, to celebrate a roommate’s birthday. Yes, there are a lot of November birthdays at our house, we are all Valentine’s babies. 🙂

Taylor and I had a fail of a Photo Booth session.

Picture 1: Okay, let’s do a smile pose. 1, 2, 3…oh shit. I’m not looking up.

Picture 2: Kiss me on the cheek. 1, 2, 3…dude you’re hover kissing me. Okay, my turn to show you how it is done.

Picture 3: 1, 2, 3…um. Whoops, sorry. I was not ready yet.

Picture 4: We get four pictures? Okay…do the hand glasses. 1, 2…what’s the hand glasses? Ahhh 3.

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Sunday morning was nice and relaxing. I tried to do an artistic shot but clearly it did not come out correct.

Just wanted to show that you need to put on your rose colored glasses sometimes when blogging.

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The bread looks like ordinary white raisin bread but it came from a Chinese bakery. Anyone who has had Chinese bread knows that it is 20% soft, 20% buttery and 60% delicious. My vanilla cappuccino was awesome, although it started to settle in the picture below.

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After breakfast, I headed to the Farmer’s Market to pick up delicious Bolani, hummus from The Hummus Guy and various fruits and veggies for the week to come.

Taylor and I always crack jokes about each other because we will bring home a ton of produce only to be counterproductive and get Chipotle for lunch. You can not mess with tradition, right?

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Just like Underground Ramen, I have to get the same thing every time. White rice, a tiny amount of black beans, fajita veggies, 1/2 chicken, 1/2 steak, hot sauce and lettuce.

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After the smallest bit of homework was completed, we set out to bake a surprise brownie cake for Sarath. My floor does not have an oven so we baked our little hearts out on the second floor.

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Sarath came home from a long Sunday Funday and made a wish for the new year.

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Ghiradelli brownie cake, vanilla bean ice cream and fresh Farmer’s Market strawberries. 🙂

I feel kind of bad because we made her serve her own cake. Happy birthday Sarath, we love you! xxx

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Also, in the midst of all this extreme baking, I busted my lip open and now I look like a football playing hooligan. 🙁

What do you get at Chipotle and is it the same thing every time?

Who else does not care for the word ‘hodge podge’?

Flying Sucks

When I came back from my Asia trip, I vowed to stay away from planes for at least a year. Within a three-week period, I spent over fifty hours on seven flights. Some comfortable and others extremely sketchy. By the time I was finally flying home, I was so over the stuffy cabins and having to sit for hours on end.

I broke my pledge a week later by going cross country to New York for a wedding. On that flight back home, I was completely sure I did not want to fly for a looong time.

Now I am sitting here with two flight itineraries waiting for me in January. How did this happen?!

Well, my sister has been living in Denver for around ten years now and I have only visited her once in middle school. It was her first Thanksgiving out of California and I had what must of been the most expensive mash potatoes of all time. I’m sure Lauren will chime in the comments section if you are in for a real hum-dinging story.

We see each other every year for Puerto Rican Thanksgiving (more on that later) but I am so excited to finally hang out with her in her hood!

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This is my all-time favorite picture of her and I had to stalk her Facebook to find it. I think she is somewhere in NYC eating dim sum, but the red diner-booths confuse me. Hopefully she is as excited to see me as she was to grub down on chow mein and potstickers.

PS: Speaking of my amazing Jie Jie (what I have called her since forever), she has her own personal training business for almost a decade now in the big CO and worked on the show ‘The Doctors’ along with some seriously motivating weight loss stories. If you have any questions at all regarding anything, such as her love of spaghetti squash or how to properly do x, y, z, please e-mail me and I will have her compile a post! She is one of the best writers I know and I am slowly trying to convince her to start blogging.

Do we look alike? We are both unfortunately unphotogenic, so this is one of the few pictures we have where one person does not resemble Sloth from The Goonies.

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Segwaying with the NYC anecdote, that is where my second flight is going. SFO -> JFK. Virgin had a deal I couldn’t pass up so I am all locked in for mid-January. I am actually really nervous about the weather because I think it snowed for only 3 minutes one time in San Francisco history but hopefully everything will work out well. I am excited!

The sucky part (cue title) is that I will be in NYC from Saturday-Tuesday, stay in San Francisco for a day on Wednesday and then fly to Denver from Thursday-Sunday. It is hard to complain when I have such a fabulous week lined up for me.

My sister told me she would punch me in the throat if I came to Denver with a list of Yelp recommended restaurants. She loves food just as much as I do. It is a Condell thing.

However, I do need recommendations for NYC! Fancy, street food, hole in the walls, pastries, local dives, everything and anything would be nice.

This week has been so hard for me guys. I have not eaten out at one restaurant the whole week. I forgot what it feels like to be a functioning member of society. With that, I thought it would be nice to round up a few different eats I have remembered to take pictures of.

I have been going through hummus like a crackhead in the Tenderloin. To be honest, this container was almost finished in one sitting. I was both impressed and kind of disgusted with myself at the same time.

When this one was finished the next day, I cracked open a new one from The Hummus Guy I purchased at the Farmer’s Market on Sunday. That container is lucky I ran out of pita chips or the poor dip would not of even had a chance.

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This is kind of cheating because I just posted this on Wednesday, but I ate Sriracha broccoli with chicken and yams on Tuesday. Desert was a glass of two-buck Chuck and sweet red grapes.

Potstickers for lunch during a horrible study session. Nothing close to the real deal, but good enough for hard times.

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Can’t forget about the multiple espresso shots for the days I wake up when it is still dark outside. I do not remember life without my Gran Maestria.

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I said earlier I was going to make my jalapeno green bean stir fry, but I forgot to pick up a jalapeño and got really lazy after school. Instead, I seasoned with herbs de provence, garlic, oregano and paprika. Do not forget the crushed peanuts for texture!

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And to finish off with the saddest picture of kale chips, lighting on the second floor suuuucks.

To make up for it, I sneaked in a festive Halloween oven mitt.

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Nothing really planned for the weekend, all I want to do is get started on a new book and go to bed at 9 PM. Anyone with me?

What is the best meal you made this week? Can you recommend me a favorite book you finished lately?

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?

Nespresso Grand Chef Rendezvous

When I started this blog eight months ago, it was far from my wildest dreams that it would open up the opportunities that presented itself to me on Friday. I have to say I’m still in a daze.

Let me back track a bit. I was sitting on the subway in New York, heading to JFK so I can catch a flight back home when I opened my e-mail and saw that I was being asked to attend an intimate dinner hosted by the CEO and President of Nespresso USA. The event would feature a six-course meal created by a collection of the world’s top chefs.

Um, yes please! I replied back and we spent the next few weeks getting everything together.

I got in the car a little bit after seven and made it just in time to snag a few hors d’oeuvres before dinner started.

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The reception was held in the outside foyer of San Francisco’s historic Ferry Building. It was the perfect place to host the event because Nespresso is actually a partner of America’s Cup and the official sponsor of Emirates Team New Zealand.

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This is where I started to learn a little more about Nespresso and I gathered some fun facts I wanted to share with you!

They started the company over 25 years ago in Switzerland and has grown to become one of the most well known manufactures in the world. Their goal was to create the perfect cup of Espresso coffee by using a combination of quality Grands Crus coffee, stylish machines and exceptional customer service.

I can’t remember what each of the appetizers were exactly, but just know that they were amazing and really made me eager to start the dinner cooked by the chefs.

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And then my life changed. I got to meet Chef Thomas Keller of French Laundry, Per Se, ad hoc and Bouchon Bistro and Bakery. He is every foodie’s idol and the only American chef to obtain 2 three-Michelin-stars simultaneously (I’ll toot his horn for him).

I asked him if he would hate me forever if we took a picture together and he was incredibly charming about it. Swoon.

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Still floating on clouds, I headed up to the main hall where the dinner was being held. Nespresso did an amazing job arranging the night and I appreciated the meticulous attention they placed to each and every little detail. It was something out of a movie, seriously.

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My heart also sings to our live entertainment! They did an amazing job throughout the night playing live jazz and set the mood perfectly.

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The night began with an introduction about Nespresso and the event.

The host opened with a great saying, “Without a story, a shark remains a fish. Without a story, Nespresso remains a good coffee”. The chefs combined hold 11 Michelin stars and took part of the ‘Nespresso Chef Academy’, where they mastered the subtleties of each Grand Cru (coffee) and learn about the continued quest for excellence that Nespresso is defined by.

Each chef used coffee some way in their recipes and it was fun trying to pinpoint where the taste was coming from in each dish.

Before we dive into each course, I also wanted to give a great thanks to our Master Sommelier, Andrea Robinson (winner of three James Beard Awards!). Her pairings were so perfect and I couldn’t imagine sipping anything else with the flawless food. Also, she managed to have all the wine come from Napa Valley. So proud to be a Californian!

1. Our first plate was prepared by Chef Marc Forgione of Marc Forgione. He is an Iron Chef and the youngest American Chef/Owner to win consecutive Michelin stars.

Alex’s Swordfish

with Fennel Kraut, Grain Mustard, Nespresso Rosabaya de Columbia, Wild Juniper Smoke

paired with Domaine Carneros Cuvee de la Pompadour Brut Rose Sparkling, Napa Valley NV

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Throughout each course, the chefs took a stand and explained their thought process behind each dish.

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His inspiration came while he was eating pastrami on rye in NYC. I thought it was interesting because that’s where my mind took me when I bit into the kraut. The Brut brought out the coffee grinds that were in the swordfish’s crust.

Chef Forgione mentioned he loved being apart of Nespresso‘s team because he often uses coffee while cooking.

(**I also wanted to say sorry for the quality of the pictures! The lighting in the room, as intimate as it was, was not the best for taking pictures. I tried to get official pictures e-mailed to me before my post went up but it doesn’t look like it will happen! I will try to update if I can get them in the next few days!) 🙂

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As you guys may know, I am not the biggest fan of seafood. However, the swordfish was absolutely phenomenal. If all seafood tasted like this I would have to change sides!

2. Next up was a treat from Josh Emett of Rata in New Zealand. Chef Emett is a MasterChef NZ judge and worked many years alongside Gordon Ramsay.

Seared Venison Loin

with Black Grapes with Nespresso Arpeggio, Celariac, Enoki Mushroom

paired with Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon ‘SLV’, Napa Valley 1993

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Chef Emett served the venison in a carpaccio style. With his restaurant in New Zealand and Nespresso being the official sponsor of NZ’s team, it only came naturally that he chose venison as his dish for the evening. The grapes were cooked with the Arpeggio coffee that had a certain sweetness then dry taste, which created the perfect earthly palate.

3. The third dish came was designed by Chef Yannick All´eno who runs the kitchen at Le 1947. His mission for the past 25 years has been to reinvent traditional dishes in surprising ways.

Butternut Squash

Flavored with Vanilla and Nespresso Indriya from India, Rye Bread Mousse

paired with Grgich Hills Paris Cuvee Chardonnay, Napa Valley, 2010

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This dish was a nice sweet intermission from the savory flavors of the first two dishes. He says this dish reminds him of a female, light but complex.

4. Coming in fourth was Thomas Keller, the owner/chef of French Laundry, Per Se, ad hoc and Bouchon Bistro and Bakery. He is the only American-born chef to hold more than one three star ratings by the Michelin Guide. He was also designated a Chevalier of The French Legion of honor in recognition of his lifelong commitment to the traditions of French cuisine and his role in elevating cooking in America.

Sweet Butter-Poached Maine Lobsters

with Black Mission Figs, Cipollini Onions and Nespresso Rosabaya de Colombia Chocolate Sauce

paired with Saintsbury Brown Ranch Pinot Noir, Los Carneros-Napa Valley 2005

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Chef Keller was extremely humbling, he expressed huge gratitude for the chefs and sous chefs downstairs. The coffee in the chocolate sauce balanced the acidity and the fruit blended well with the figs.

I never thought I would eat lobster and chocolate at the same time, but it worked so well together. He mentioned that this was originally a recipe at The French Laundry many years ago.

5. The penultimate course was prepared by Chef Mauro Colagreco of Mirazur. His restaurant is located in the French riviera and he’s known for his creative gastronomic cuisines that blend with the best of Mediterranean cooking.

Slow-Cooked Pigeon

with Nespresso Crealto Limited Edition Polenta and Coconut Sauce

paired with Trefethen Family Vineyards Cabernet Franc, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley 2010

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This dish was quite the chatter of the night. They raised over 200 hundred pigeons in Northern California for this event and it had to be prepared in such a way that it was brought to the table at the perfect temperate. Magnifique!

6. Last but not least was Chef Michelle Bernstein of Michys. She serves haute cuisine with Latin touches.

Chocolate Chorizo Cremeux

with Cherry-Pedro Ximenez- Nespresso Decaffeinato Intenso Sauce and TCHO Cocoa Nib-Nespresso Ristretto Streusel

paired with Prager Family Royal Escort ‘Port’, Napa Valley 2009

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This desert was INCREDIBLE. If I thought lobster and chocolate was unique, then chorizo and chocolate mousse is another category. The chorizo was based on he Latina side and the sauce was derived from fresh pluots grown here in San Francisco. If Chef Bernstein intended the night to finish with a bang, she should give herself a pat on the back because that’s exactly what happened! I couldn’t get enough.

With the dinner ending after midnight, the chefs all came together for a round of applause. It was surreal to be surrounded by so much talent.

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The after party offered coffee for all the guests and Nespresso even organized a light show with the Bay Bridge! How cool is that? I managed to take a picture on my way home at a red light.

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Breaking Bad is about to come on, so I wanted to give Nespresso another big big thank you for this wonderful opportunity! I hold it close to my heart.

Already have my eye on the Gran Maestra, time to start pinching pennies. 🙂

**Nespreso provided me the dinner, all opinions are proudly my own.

Which dish would you be the most excited to try? Do you have a Nespresso machine? What did you think about Breaking Bad last night?