Nespresso

Nespresso. Have you heard of it yet? It’s like espresso, but with an “n”. It’s a Swiss brand of single-serve coffee makers that markets to high-end clientele. Starbucks has gotten on the single-serve bandwagon, but, come on, they’re not Nespresso.

I was invited to the grand opening of Nespresso’s newest flagship boutique in Union Square in SF a few months ago. When I showed up, the place was still sorely under construction. I later found out that I was somehow not on the list when they told everyone about the cancellation of the event. I was sad. They sent me a $200 Nespresso machine and probably another $50 worth of accompanying paraphernalia. Apology accepted.

My very own Nespresso U machine

My very own Nespresso U machine

I recently went to the real Grand Opening Event which went quite a bit better than the first one. Indeed, it was most certainly one of the best media events I’ve yet experienced. Let’s discuss.

The sched:

5.30 – 6.30: Press Preview & Executive Remarks

6.30 – 9pm: Evening Event

Based on this description, I had no idea what to expect. I had no idea that there would literally be a red carpet out front. That they would be renting a cable car (the kind on wheels) decorated in Nespresso banners to be parked out front of the store as a photo op spot and gift bag storage location. That they would have wine, roving photographers and videographers, demonstrations, and a huge spread of food. I was woefully unprepared and pleasantly surprised all at once.

Upon check-in at the red carpet, I received a pre-printed, magnetic, uber-plush name tag. There were only a handful of them; the “Press Preview” was apparently relatively exclusive. The woman informed me that I should come by to receive my gift bag at the end, and to fill out this form to receive my very own Nespresso machine. My first mistake: painfully detrimental honesty. “Oh, I already have a Nespresso machine! You guys sent me one.” Smart, Angie, very smart. You can’t just accept a free thing and give it to one of your deserving friends? No, your first instinct is to be honest, barring all consequences. Like an idiot. Good work. Empty handed, I proceeded into the boutique for the event.

Do excuse this exquisitely awful photo, I let my phone do the photographs this time. Never again.

Do excuse this exquisitely awful photo, I let my phone do the photographs this time. Never again.

As I walk thorough the front doors, a series of waiters holding trays awaits to my left. I take a champagne flute from one tray, the next server pours a bit of raspberry liquor in the flute, the next champagne. The final server puts a finishing raspberry in my glass, and now I have a super fancy cocktail served by no less than four people. There are more employees and PR people than guests. I would estimate there were probably 30 staff total in a room the size of about two large Starbucks cafes. It was ridiculous.

The staff were all dressed up. Hair, makeup, ties. Nametags. Smiles. They would approach me and offer to show me things. “Shall we step downstairs to the boutique? Our President will give you a tour of the store.” Except they most certainly had a fancier name for the store, I just don’t remember it. They had flown in Nespresso higher-ups from Switzerland and a PR team from New York for this event. I received a private tour of the extremely swanky purchasing room from the President of Nespresso USA. In showing me how the place worked (super techy-rad — self-refilling shelving, check out stands that automatically detect what items are in your bag, super speedy digital self-check out), he let me pick out a half dozen boxes of Nespresso capsules which he then bought for me and let me take. It was kind of amazing.

High-tech self check out area at the Nespresso SF boutique

High-tech self check out area at the Nespresso SF boutique

There were then three short speeches by the president, head of marketing, and the president of the America’s Cup, of which Nespresso is a sponsor this year, followed by a few brief and unintentionally fumbly tours of the products. I had been there for an hour thus far and was already pretty overwhelmed.

Then it was time for the real party to start; 300 people were expected for the “Evening Event”. People started pouring in the front door. Everyone is dressed to the nines. There is complimentary valet. I feel like I’m at some sort of movie screening. I’m wearing slip-on shoes and my North Face fleece; I came straight from work. And I have no one to talk to because I had a bit of a plus-one snafu. So I started to feel kinda awkward. And hungry.

The food was coming out, but it was getting so crowded that I couldn’t move anywhere. I wished I had been better prepared (dressed nicer, brought friends, had somewhere to put my jacket, handbag, and Nespresso bag), and decided to head toward my gift bag instead. Since I was leaving as most people were arriving, I had to ask about the gift bag, which is always a classy move. “Can I have my free things now? Remember, I’m the one who turned down the free machine, but now wants other free things. Gimme!”

The newest Nespresso machine, debuting in the US later this year. Yeah, we got a preview.

The newest Nespresso machine, debuting in the US later this year. Yeah, we got a preview.

I was given a gift bag that literally came up to mid-thigh if you set it on the ground. It wasn’t full or anything, it was just giant. I suppose they expected me to stow it gracefully in the ample trunk of my valeted vehicle. They likely did not expect me to be walking 25 minutes home with it in tow, trying hard not to let it scrape on the ground the whole way. Why do I seem to always have the privilege of feeling like a goon even when things are supposed to be nice?

Regardless, the event was relatively amazing. It was well-executed, professionally done, and totally gave off the high-end, fancy swank vibe they were going for. And all the people who looked totally prepared for it seemed to be having a great time. The only thing I want from that event is a do-over.

Either way, now we can have a Nespresso party at my place. I have all the flavors. Booya.

Stacks

“My mom and sister are coming to the city for breakfast, where should we go?”

“Stacks.”

Excellent. One question, one answer. No fuss. No reservation. It was a Monday (New Year’s Eve), so none of the hip brunch-y places in North Beach near my place were going to be open. And, apparently, my knowledge of City breakfast places outside my brunch neighborhood is slim. So, Stacks it was.

Bloody Mary with bacon. Mother was pleased.

Bloody Mary with bacon. Mother was pleased.

Stacks is bigger than your average SF restaurant. Which means the turnover is greater. Which seems to mean the wait is less. Booya. After 15 minutes, free coffee outside the front door, and one oddly-timed power outage (I think it was just a flipped breaker), we were seated in the lushly decorated establishment right in the heart of super cute Hayes Valley. There was even (metered) street parking. Imagine such bliss.

The menu is immense. It’s like a Cheesecake Factory but not shitty. Crepes. Omelettes. Scrambles. Pancakes. Waffles. Fritattas. They even had lunch available as well: sandwiches, salads, burgers, panini, savory* crepes. The selection is intense. And the food does not disappoint. Also, the hash-brown-ish potatoes are amazing.

Behold, food:

Eggs Louis. Like an Eggs Benedict except with crab instead of ham. yummmm.

Eggs Louis. Like an Eggs Benedict except with crab instead of ham. Yummmm.

Chorizo Scramble for Mom. Mom loves scrambles.

Chorizo Scramble for Mom. Mom loves scrambles.

Sister had a Mighty Meat Crepe. Mom voted it the winner of the three of our dishes. I did not try it.

Sister had a Mighty Meat Crepe. Mom voted it the winner of the three of our dishes. I did not try it.

Also, their mimosas look like this, which is adorable:

Mimosa!

Mimosa!

And lastly, all the miscellaneous stuff on our table looked like this, and I liked it:

Stuff on table!

Stuff on table!

*My mom does not understand the definition of the word “savory”, with respect to food. I have described it as “not sweet” or perhaps “salty”, and used examples such as a “ham and cheese crepe”. The internet did not readily help with an all-inclusive definition (via a 30 second Google search). If you have any thoughts, please do comment.

Stacks Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Colombian New Year’s Feast

For NYE this year, I had the privilege of enjoying a Colombian feast cooked by my favorite Colombian friend, Natalia. She claims to be a mediocre cook, but I’ve seen no evidence of this mediocrity. The food we had last night was awesome. So awesome that I was too busy eating to properly photo-document the experience. But, this was the end result:

Colombian Feast

Colombian Feast

Item 1: Arepas

This is Natalia’s specialty. She’s made them for us before and they’re fun and yummy. Have you had a pupusa? It’s like that. A small, corn flour patty that is pan grilled (the way Natalia makes them) and then eaten by cutting in half and stuffing with veggies, cheese, and/or meats like a pita.

Arepas fresh out of the pan

Arepas fresh out of the pan

Natalia made “sweaty chicken” (don’t ask me, I don’t eat chicken), mushrooms, grilled peppers and onions, corn with string cheese*, with guac and a butternut squash/sun-dried tomato/goat cheese spread. It was all really, really good.

Item 2: Cheese Balls (aka bunuelos)

These little gems are deep fried balls of corn flour, egg, and grated queso fresco. Nick (Natalia’s husband) describes them as cheese donuts, which is relatively accurate. They’re fluffy and delicious. Mmmm… fried things.

Bunuelos = cheesy donut balls

Bunuelos = cheesy donut balls

Item 3: Fried Plantains

This dish is genius. I did not take enough photos, but read the directions carefully; it’s so easy and they’re so good:

  1. Take unripe plantain (the greener the better), peel, and slice into about 2″ long pieces. 
  2. Place plantain pieces in boiling pan of oil until they’re cooked all the way through. This will take maybe 15 minutes or so.
  3. Take the plantains out of the oil and while still hot, mash each slice into a flat piece with a couple rolls of a rolling pin (or coffee mug). Don’t roll so much that they fall apart.
  4. Set aside to cool. Don’t stack them ‘cuz they’ll stick together. Also, put some salt on them.
  5. Using that same pan of oil, fry the flattened plantain slices until they’re golden brown.
  6. Take them out and serve to your friends. Accept compliments.
Plantain slices fried once and squashed, ready for the second frying

Plantain slices fried once and squashed, ready for the second frying

These are SO GOOD. They are good by themselves, or with a splash of goat cheese, or covered in guac, or with all the same fixins as were on your arepa. Amazing. And easy, too.

So that was our New Year Colombian feast. Not a bad way to end 2012. Happy 2013!! Also, this was us after we were fed and happy:

Happy feasters. Or, Mala and her friends. Chef Natalia is on the left.

Happy feasters. Or, Mala and her friends. Chef Natalia is on the left.

*Corn with string cheese. By far the most unsuspecting part of the meal. It was amazing. Cut corn off the cob, put it in a pan with some butter. Then slowly stir in an egg so that it coats all the corn and stays light and fluffy. Then string some string cheese and melt that in with the corn. Ridiculously good.