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Monday
Nov012010

Italian Prize - Sant' Eustachio Coffee



I'm back! Did you miss me? Don't answer that.

Marmo and I had a fantastic time in Italy eating and drinking pretty much everything. The beverage I drank the most of (aside from wine) was cappuccino. I couldn't get enough. Those Romans know what they're doing with coffee.

After my fifth cup of this magical beverage one lovely day, I thought - HEY! I should bring some of this stuff home for the Italian Mystery Prize! Even in the midst of the caffeine-induced manic episode I was having, I realized I couldn't bring you all back a cappuccino. That's ridiculous. BUT! I did bring you back some coffee from one of Rome's finest coffee roasting establishments, Sant' Eustachio - located near the Pantheon and the Piazza Navona.



Sant' Eustachio was founded in 1938, and I imagine looks and behaves much like it did during the 30's. It's a well-oiled machine of Italians and tourists alike flowing in and out of the shop like a caffeinated assembly line, stopping just long enough to down a coffee at the walk-up bar, and then stumble happily back into the world again, eyes WIIIIIIIDE open.

The process goes like this: you walk in and veer towards the right, where a very serious-looking cashier has you pay for your order (before you order it). You try and do this as quickly as possible, conscious of the long line of impatient/sleepy/or otherwise coffee-needy individuals behind you in the very long line. The cashier hands you a receipt, and you amble towards the coffee baristas and coffee bar on the left side of the store.

At this point, you jockey for a position at the bar, because you won't be served until you are right up against it. Otherwise, where would you put your coffee? Balance it on your neighbor's back? There are no to-go cups. This isn't Starbucks, people. Marmo and I were waiting in line behind the teeny-tiniest of little old Italian ladies. I mean, like miniature. And ancient. The female versions of these guys. I almost took one of them home for your prize, but they were so cute together, it would have been a shame to separate them. The tiny Italian ladies downed their espressos like champs, gave us the thumbs-up (hilarious), and made way for us at the bar.

That is when I received this glorious cup of cappuccino:



It was fantastico! And before I stumbled back into the world, I picked up a bag of ground coffee for you! As you may recall, the rules of the contest were simple: leave a comment on the blog from when I announced the give-away, until now and you are magically entered into the pool of possible winners. I am giving you one more day. You have until midnight tonight to post a comment and be entered to win. So GO!



As a side note, you should know that there will be more Italian prizes and giveaways. I brought home extra stuff. But this is the only coffee prize.
Sunday
Oct312010

Happy Halloween!



Happy Halloween from John and I and these guys I found hanging around in Orvieto. Hope your day is filled with more treats than tricks. And speaking of treats, I'll be announcing the first Italian prize tomorrow on the blog, so stay tuned.

Now go get yourselves some candy!
Friday
Oct292010

Bathroom of the Month - October 2010 - West End Station



We would like to congratulate West End Station in Hoboken, New Jersey for snagging the Bathroom of the Month award this month. They really went all out with this bathroom. Our favorite part is the farmhouse sink. Just look at that contrasting dark-colored wood table it sits on! The subway tiles in slightly varying shades of light gray and white are also a nice touch. Fantastic attention to detail.
Friday
Oct292010

Top 10 Pizza Tools



Here is a non-comprehensive, un-exhaustive list of mostly-useful stuff for making pizza. I will take it from the top:

10. Vino!!!! It helps you think you're making the BEST PIZZA EVER! Plus, with all our help from Astor Wines, you've got plenty of good matches to pick from.

9. The Scizza! Pizza scissors. I don't own a pair, but I want to. I think they're pretty cool.

8. FRESH Mozzarella cheese. We like to stress fresh ingredients. It truly helps.

7. A food processor/mixer. I love my Cuisinart one.

6. San Marzano crushed tomatoes: tastes so good, you don't even have to add anything to them. Except love. That always helps.

5. FRESH basil. Is there an echo in here?

4. Truffle Oil (or salt): We all know I can't get enough. Keste's Del Re Pizza was my first experience and I've been in love ever since.

3. 00 Bread Flour: super fine and fancy stuff.

2. Semolina flour: to put on your pizza peel and make it easy to ease your uncooked dough onto the pizza stone.

1. Pizza Stone and Peel: these have to go together.

And, in case of emergency (put on these) and dial your local pizzeria (thanks to Kelvin Slush for suggesting the telephone as a top pizza tool).
Thursday
Oct282010

Lock the Door, it's Domino's (A review of Domino's Pizza)



Yup,  That's right.  We reviewed a Domino's Pizza this past week.  We are officially losing our minds.  But, I have to admit...Domino's had piqued my interest as of late with their aggressive media campaign, bragging of a revamped recipe.  I mean, I knew it was going to be awful going in, but I wanted to know just how awful it would be.  I walk over to Elana's spot to flush my 3 mile jog down the toilet.

Service is prompt - the pizza arrives in literally 29 minutes after Elana places the call.  Opening the box yields a wildly uninspiring surprise; cookie cutter like, dry, flat-out ugly looking slices.  Luckily, I'm so hungry that I'll eat just about anything.

You know how certain smells and music bring you back in time?  Well, it turns out that tastes do too.  Last time I had a Domino's pizza was in college.  It wasn't out of the ordinary for a pie or two to find its way to the fraternity house after guzzling a few thousand beers on a weekend evening.  In Lewisburg, desperate times would call for desperate measures.  As I bite into the "new and improved" Domino's pie... not much has changed.  The tomato sauce still packs that harsh, stinging punch.  The cheese is dry, and cheap tasting.  The crust - well, to be fair, the crust is, actually, different.  It is injected with noticeable doses of garlic, butter and herbs.  I'm not sure if this is an improvement or not but, to Domino's credit, it is indeed different.  Some of my bites actually tasted like buttered popcorn from a movie theater.

Admittedly, myself and Elana ate 7/8ths of the pie.  I mean, it is just cheese, tomatoes and bread.... so don't think THAT much less of us.  But it pretty much sucked.  And there was an awkward feeling in the air after it was all said and done.   Maybe it was the grease that sat in our stomach.  Maybe it was the fact that our dinner had just been wasted by this harsh tasting frisbee in a box.  I think, however, it was disappointment.

See, i'm an optimistic fella.  I still held out for closure during the final moments of (the runaway trainwreck known as) Lost, despite the countless warning signs to the contrary throughout that dreadful last season.  I see the "light brown" in my occasional gray hairs.  And I'd watch the CEO of Domino's on these commercials and think, perhaps, maybe this guy was right.  Maybe Domino's could be edible after all.  Like Rocky's message to the Russians, change was indeed possible!

But this was one instance where my optimism was powerless.  The pizza sucked.  I wished sis a good night, and sprinted home in tears.  'Til next time, I guess.