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.

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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.

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

Out-Of-Towners

I’ve been feeling like the days are getting shorter since my summer started. The days quickly come into a end before I feel like I’ve done anything productive. It might be the new Arrested Development episodes that I have been sneaking in throughout the day, or the catch-up naps from the extremely long days from last semester.

This week zoomed by, I couldn’t believe that it was already time to write my Friday post when I opened up Ecto this morning. Chi and I had friends visiting from Alaska (no, not these Alaskans), so it’s been fun taking them around San Francisco and catching up with them. Every time we have guests in town and show them around, I feel so humble to live in SF and try not to take it for granted. It is truly a beautiful place to live and I’m so lucky I got the opportunity to grow up and do so.

Last night, a group of us went to Cha Cha Chas and had the ultimate feast. So much delicious sauce and bread, even though there was so much food I was still hungry when we left!

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It inspired me to write today’s Friday Five: The 5 Places To Bring Out-Of-Town Guests In San Francisco.

With over 5,000+ places to eat in San Francisco, it’s really hard to pick one restaurant to bring your guests when you come to this little city. I even have trouble picking somewhere to eat for brunch because I have so many options. I read an article in Huffington Post that explains why San Francisco is the best place to live; also how SF blows any city out the ballpark regarding restaurants per capita!

1. Cha Cha Cha

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Cha Cha Cha is a tapas bar that is great for medium to big groups. I have brought so many people here and nobody has ever complained, no matter how picky or food critic-y they are! The Sangria is some of the best and I could honestly eat here once a week. It never gets old!

Make sure to get the: Cajun Shrimp, Sauteed Mushrooms, Mussels and Chicken Paillard

My post about Cha Cha Chas here.

2. Beretta

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Beretta is a contemporary Italian restaurant that serves some of the best thin crust SF pizza. They also have many fun and original cocktails and great appetizers.

Make sure to get the: Gnocchi, Beef Carpaccio, Broccolini and Hot Salami Pizza

My post about Beretta here.

3. Patxi’s Pizza

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If thin crust is not your thing, then Patxi’s deep dish might just do it for you! I’ve never been a fan of thick crusts but Patxis is my exception. They have a few locations across the city for easy access and a great selection of specials if you’re feeling stuck on how to order!

Make sure to get the: Meatballs, Chopped Salad and Special/Spinach Pesto Pizza

My post about Patxi’s here.

4. Toma

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Shameless plug, but what would a San Francisco visitors guide be without a Mexican restaurant? Stop by Toma in the Marina before or after hitting the bar scene for fresh, authentic Mexican food.

Make sure to get the: Steak and Mushroom Tacos, Fajita Burrito or the Tara Burrito (not really on the menu, but chicken and steak with avocado, pinto beans, rice, cilantro and onion with Rico’s sauce on the side)

My post about Toma here.

5. Mamas

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Mamas is thee absolute must place you have to take your guests, or even yourself for brunch. There is a reason this small, cozy restaurant tops almost every must-eat list in San Francisco. The only thing I have to say besides try it is to be prepared to wait 2 hours+ during peak hours (read: almost every hour that it’s open). The line is crazy, but there must be a reason people will stand for this food. I haven’t been here for over a year, but I always keep a sweet memory in the back of my mind for this place. Maybe I will go back soon, since I have so much time on my hands now.

Make sure to get the: Prosciutto and Grilled Tomato Benedict, Northern Italian Omelette and Kugelhopf

Photo credit here.

There you have it! All these restaurants are awesome and great to bring guests to share and experiment. There’s tons of other restaurants in SF that are just as great, but you’ll need to live here for a few months to get a real taste of our food scene!

If you have any particular cuisine you would like to try, please e-mail me or leave a comment and I will give you a few recommendations.

Last weeks Friday Five: 5 Things To Get At Toma Restaurant

Where would you bring guests in your city? Is anyone else craving french toast after seeing that picture?

Chicago Comes To San Francisco

A few weeks ago, Chi and I went to Noe Valley for a date night. I was really excited to post about our deep dish pizza, but came home and saw that my pizza pictures were just not cutting it. So, I put them in the archives to let them cool off until we ate at Patxi’s again. I was leaving lab yesterday and had a huge craving for pizza, so I ordered one to go, and brought it home.

Patxi’s Pizza is a Bay Area based, Chicago deep dish specializing restaurant. They have a few locations scattered across SF, but Noe Valley is the closest to mine.

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They also offer a great deal of a pizza slice, salad and soda as a lunch combo for only $9.99! I haven’t had the pleasure to eat here for lunch, but I will have to snag them on their offer one day.

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Since the pizza is cooked to order, it takes around 35-40 minutes to wait for it to bake. The restaurant is jam packed on the weekends, so we usually order a pizza while we’re waiting, and then go to the bar next door and grab a drink.

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We ran into our friends at the bar (surprisingly, har har), and all shared a pitcher of Blue Moon. Ironically enough, it was placed in a Gordon Biersch pitcher.

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After we caught up with everyone, we closed our tab and headed back to Patxi’s. Our table was almost ready, and I happened to see this adorable card on their wall. Pizza makes me happy too, Minna. (Mima? Any guesses to what the name can be?)

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Our chopped salad included herbed chicken, spicy salami, mozzarella, veggies, kidney beans and roasted garlic vinaigrette. I really liked this salad and I’m going to try to recreate it at home with avocado.

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Now this is where I cut you back into this week, and show you how amazing this pizza looks.

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Drumroll please…

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Ta da! Look how high the pizza sits in the crust! I have always been a thin crust girl, but I think I’m finally coming around to deep dish. I picked up ‘The Special’, which is garlic-fennel sausage, mushrooms, green bell peppers and substituted banana peppers.

Now off to study for a Microbiology lab exam, I’m already drained just thinking about it. See you on Friday!

Do you prefer thin crust or deep dish?