Sipping Espresso Got An Award!!

Our first award!  I’m excited, honored and flattered.  I would like to thank all the little people… namely Julia because she’s pretty little.

The Liebster Award was given to us by our good friend and fellow blogger, Michel.  You’ll notice that his blog, Our House in Provence is one that I follow.  I imagine if you spend just a few minutes reading some of his posts, you’ll be an avid reader as well.  His attention to detail and plethora of knowledge about his subjects puts my posts to shame.  Michel and his wife Shirley live in a beautiful home in wine country, California.  Michel’s passions include food (he owns a restaurant near his hometown, Bistro des Copains), wine (he is an expert in French and California wine), his family (he has two beautiful daughters and four bright grandchildren) and of course France; the subject of his blog (he owns a beautiful stone village house in Provence).

Michel and Shirley

Michel received his Liebster Award from another blogger I follow, Sara in Le Petit Village.  Sara is very plugged into the blogging community and has transformed her life in France into a successful digital collection of written word.  Her blog is one I admire very much.

The Liebster Award [in a nutshell] is one that is given among peers within the blogging community.  I found a blogger that spent hours researching the history of the award.  She had done all the heavy lifting and all it took me was scrolling half-way down page one of my google search.  My kind of effort.  If you’re interested in the origin of the award, click HERE.  The award comes with very specific rules and criteria, which I got from Michel’s post after he had completed all his hard work researching (I told you he was thorough).  So, I did not need to spend much time looking around for information about the award since I luck-boxed my way into everything I need to know.

Here are the rules, as explained by Michel and copied from his website (permission to do so was herein implied when nominated for the award.  Any questions about the validity of this claim can be forwarded to my attorney).

THE RULES
1. Thank and link back to the blogger who presented you with the award.  CHECK – Meech, youdaman!
2. List 11 random facts about yourself.  SEE BELOW.
3. Answer the 11 questions you were asked. KEEP SCROLLING LOWER STILL.
4. Present/nomiate a Liebster blog award to 3-5 other bloggers. EVEN LOWER.
5. Write 11 questions for your nominees.  YOU GUESSED IT… KEEP GOING.

11 RANDOM FACTS ABOUT ME

1) This is not my first blog.  My first blog attempt was an unsuccessful one.  I believe I still have the domain name – foodpaparazzi (now my twitter handle).  I had a fortunate culinary upbringing and was exposed to many different types of food very early on (when asked in 3rd grade what my favorite foods were, I answered “caviar, lobster and McDonalds”).  When I moved to DC in 2008 I was exposed to a whole new world of dining and embarked on an entirely new culinary voyage.  At the time, I fancied the idea of blogging about it – but my plan lacked implementation.  I got as far as laying out about 20% of the blog and taking pictures of 2 meals.  Then I gave up.
2) I have been to five of the seven continents in the world (North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia).  For those keeping track, that leaves a gap in Africa and Antarctica.  I know with 100% certainty that I will make it to Africa someday.  My father-in-law was born in Ethiopia and I would love to go back to his hometown with him.  There are also many other parts of Africa I would like to see.  I don’t have many regrets in life, but one glaring experience sticks out.  When Jennifer and I were on our honeymoon, we sailed around Cape Horn – the southernmost point in South America.  We had the opportunity to take a short flight to Antarctica for the day – a decision I wrestled with for quite some time.  It was prohibitively expensive and so we didn’t do it, but I will always regret not throwing caution (and fiscal responsibility) to the wind.

The moment we sailed around Cape Horn
Our honeymoon – dinner with a view
3) I married my first love, my first girlfriend and my best friend.  Many people can get one or two of those – but I nailed the hat trick.  Jen and I met in middle school and I love to tell people [truthfully] that she had a major crush on yours truly that lasted nearly a decade.  We progressed through middle, high school and the same college together.  It wasn’t until a couple years after college that I finally woke up and smelled the roses.  I was lucky she was still on the market!

On my 30th birthday

4) I fashion myself to be better than I really am.  What does that mean?  Well, I am very practical.  I know my limits.  I know that I am a decent skier, have a little knowledge about food and wine and enjoy writing.  But in my mind, I envision being able to heli-ski the Alps, differentiate between a Rosso di Montalcino and a Rosso di Monetlpuciano solely on taste and publish a book after reaching new heights in the blogoshpere.  In reality – I’m far too out of shape for heli-sking, my palate will never be advanced enough to be a sommelier and my grammatical errors and awful metaphors will stifle my writing career like Yoko Ono suffocated the Beatles.  It’s good to dream… but even better to be practical.  It keeps me working hard at things I love, but without any disappointment.

Ski trip from ’05 – I honestly miss that sweet yellow jacket

5) I am proud to say that I’m a “Harley-Man”.  I know, I know… more the “suburban-poser, weekend rider” than the “hardcore, grizzly Hell’s Angel” type… but I’m comfortable with who I am.  I do absolutely love being on my bike – a Harley Davidson, VRSC Nightrod Special.  I bought the bike because I was working for a side business that brought me to motorcycle rallies across the country.  I leveraged that part-time vocation into a convincing sales pitch to Jen that I needed a bike.  I need to believe in what I’m selling!  I don’t know too many pregnant wives that are cool enough to let their husbands buy their first motorcycle a few months before expecting – but I got one of the good ones.  She didn’t exactly say “yes” but she didn’t say “no” either – and going for the assumtive close has worked for me more often than not.  She has yet to ride on the back with me – but I envision a cross-country trip after kid number II is in grade school.

My third love
This kids a Harley baby!
She loves the feel of the wind in her hair like daddy!

6) I love Ethiopian food – it’s one of my absolute favorites.  Jen’s father was born in Ethiopia and spent his formative years eating the unique cuisine – he introduced me to this delectable ethnic fare years ago.  The DC metro area has one of the largest Ethiopian populations in the States and so we are fortunate enough to have access to great, authentic cooking.  My favorite dishes include tibs in a spicy awaze sauce and kitfo (raw beef, much like steak tar-tar).  I once saw an Anthony Bourdain special where he visited an Ethiopian restaurant in Northern Virginia, which was unique for serving cubed chunks of raw beef (not like the minced and treated kitfo).  Dom (Jen’s father) and I made a special trip to pop cubes of raw meat in our mouth.  I cannot say that I loved it.

Traditional Ethiopian dish with kitfo in the center

7) I got a $100 parking ticket on my wedding day.  We were married at the St. Regis in Washington DC in front of our family and friends.  The presenter of my Liebster Aweard, Michel was the one who married us.  He did an incredible job and set the stage for one of the best days of my life.  I received the ticket when I pulled up and parked my car out front of the hotel for a few minutes (to drop some things off) well before the ceremony started.  I am happy to report that I went to traffic court and the officer didn’t show up – so I got off!

I’m grinning because I know I’m going to beat that ticket!

8) I have eaten pig brains (delicious), calf brains (not delicious), liver of just about every animal, beef tongue (one of my grandmother’s favorites), lamb and calf glands (sweetbreads – delicious), pig and chicken feet (good in a dim-sum restaurant), frog legs, pig ears and crab poop (just a bit of the yellow mustard is great – Maryland people you know what I’m talking about) .  I stop at the heart, eyes and stomach of just about any animal – Andrew Zimmern, your job is safe.  I have also eaten shark, snake, alligator, crickets, kangaroo, ostrich, emu, horse, elk, deer, boar, bison, rabbit, duck, pheasant, squab, quail and snails.  I have not tried bear or camel and I draw the line at dog and cat.  (*after this originial posting, I can add pigeon to the list).  This may all sound like a tall tale, but I assure you that it is 100% accurate.

9) My standard meal at McDonalds is a super-sized filet of fish meal (includes a large fries and large Sprite), two double-cheesburgers, a McChicken sandwich, a four piece chicken nugget and an Oreo McFlurry.  My standard meal at Five Guys is two regular cheeseburgers (fried onions, fried mushrooms, lettuce, mayonnaise, A-1 and hot peppers), a large fry (“hey buddy, please fill that bag up with fries”), a grilled cheese sandwich (which I eat in the car as an appetizer) and a root beer.  My standard Chipotle meal is a steak burrito (usually so stuffed they have to wrap it with two tortillas), two orders of chips/guacamole and a sweet tea.  Once, I ate two steak burritos and chips/guacamole in one sitting.  In college I regularly ate two 12″ sub sandwiches with chips – I do not recommend attempting either of those two meals.  The other meals are fine to try at home.

10) I passed a Professional Sales course in college with an “A” and never took the final exam.  Each semester, the professor would allow one student from each of his 3 different classes (roughly 300 students in total) to skip the exam if they could “close” him in a private sales presentation.  We each met him in his office and extended him the opportunity to “buy” whatever it was we were selling.  He announced the 3 winners on the day of the exam, so we were still supposed to study.  I had a really good feeling I nailed the sale so I didn’t study too hard.  It paid off.

“Always…be…closing!”

11) Until I moved to Italy, I have consistently held a job since I was 14.  My first job was caddying, I did a few freelance valet gigs, worked in a bagel shop most of high school and then worked in the student center at Virginia Tech.  After graduation I moved on to Ryan Homes then NVHomes (new home sales and then sales management), M-Brace (medical manufacturing sales and management) and then briefly sold new homes again before this trip.  The five months I have lived here have been the most peculiar five months of my life, with my only job keeping my wife happy and baby entertained.  While I have loved every minute, I am anxious to start working again.

11 Questions Asked of Me

1. If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, alive or dead, real or fictional, who would it be and why?
I’ll give you a hint… long orange pony tail.  Bright orange crocks.  Big, boisterous personality.  Have you guessed yet?  Mario Batali would be my first choice.  The choice seems fairly obvious to me.  I believe that many of the more popular choices (and many of the people I admire) would be nice to get to know… but a bit stuffy.  I can imagine Mario coming over, with an armful of food and wine and helping me and Jen in the kitchen.  He’d entertain us with tall tales of happenings I could only imagine.  He’d be the center of attention, but yet kind enough to gracefully share the spotlight.  And then of course, we’d become fast friends and I would be the recipient of a brick oven pizza one day, just like another of his friends, Michael Symon (who was also be allowed to attend the dinner if he wished).

How much fun does he look like he’d bring?!

2. Describe the circumstances under which you met your spouse or the significant person in your life?

In 1992, I glanced through a sea of pimply-faced tweens, flanked on each side by lime green lockers in Ridgeview Middle School.  I had an eye out for new ladies, having already dated all those immature Darnestown Elementary School girls.  And then I saw her.  Big, feathered bangs.  Hot pink body suit beneath her rockin jean jacket.  Who was this ravashing beauty?  I smoothed my purple silk shirt and set down my Sony Diskman, pausing Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.  I strolled over and dropped a casual, “hey – did you see last night’s episode of 90210?”  The rest is history.

Lucky for me Brandon wasn’t available

3. Name your very favorite restaurant, in what city/town/village is it located and what kind of food do they serve? I am always looking for recommendations for restaurants to try.

Jeez, Meech.  Could you make this one any harder?  OK – when I am faced with a task seemingly too monumental to finish, I break it down.  How do you eat an elephant… one bite at a time (and medium rare).  I’ll list a few places where we regularly eat, in some of our favorite cities (this may not include some of my best meals – but to be a favorite restaurant, I think it’s important you dine there regularly).  In our hometown of Washington, DC – it would be Braserie Beck.  Robert Wiedmaier’s contemporary Belgian-style brasserie sits on the corner adjacent to our building.  Their food is always delicious (try the mussels), the service wonderful, the outdoor patio is divine in the spring and the beer selection is among the best in the city.  My favorite steakhouse is in one of my favorite cities – N9ne Steakhouse in the Palms Casino, Las Vegas.  The ultra modern furnishing is set off perfectly with the club-music playing just loud enough to create a fun and hip atmosphere.  Order the seafood tower (some of the best seafood… in the middle of the desert!) and settle in with a cucumber martini while you wait for your bone-in filet (rare).  Amazing.  Living in Italy, we discovered Osteria Belvedere Montalbano in our neighboring lake town of Lecco.  The restaurant is the among the most unique I’ve encountered.  The journey to get there is half the adventure (the small, rustic restaurant sits high atop a mountain with access via a virtually non-existent road).  The menu is seasonal and determined by the chef, Fabio – so I can’t tell you what to order.  Just sit back and enjoy the most authentic of Italian experiences.

We had Julia’s christening at Brasserie Beck
Antipasti we had set on the table
The family in a room behind the wine cellar

4. What is your favorite dinner meal or “comfort food?”

Michel, I can see we’re very like-minded, I’m sensing a food-theme here…  This is almost as difficult as the previous question – but I promise to be a bit more concise.  My favorite meals – From my mom (and my most often requested birthday dinner) – egg salad, caviar and artichokes to start.  Then a caesar salad made table side.  Next, a standing rib roast with sides of roasted potatoes and asparagus.  Finished off with a mint chocolate chip cake.  From Jen – a starter of salami, prosciutto and cheese.  A first course of pasta with a simple pomodoro sugo and then veal Milanese with a side of potatoes and her cannelloni bean salad.  Finished with a fennel salad and then pastries from our bakery next door.  Finally, my favorite comfort food – if we’re feeling lazy and in a “snuggly” mood – Chinese take out (and large quantities with lots of variety) always hits the spot (add a Coke Zero and a good action movie and you’ve got one of my favorite nights in).

Mom preparing the Caesar table side
My mom and Jen’s mom digging in to the roast
Proof I like this meal every year – this is the following year’s birthday

5. Who is your favorite author?

I’ve got to go with the classic American novelists… Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck and Faulkner.  Nah, I’m just kidding.  I would probably say, Stephen King – the best to keep you lying awake with a cold sweat.  Also, Ben Mezrich who has written some fascinating non-fictional novels about Ivy-League kids experiencing meteoric rises of financial wealth in their early 20’s.  Finally, Mario Puzo is quite literally the Godfather of the organized crime story.  I’m a bit embarrassed I can’t name some obscure, but really deep author that no one else has heard of.  I suppose I’m just a bit more mainstream.

6. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be? 

I suppose that living in Como, Italy would definitely top the list.  I would also love to live in Sydney, Australia and Shanghai, China.

7. What is your favorite movie of all time?

COME ON!  I can’t just answer with one (again)!  I suppose the top, top, top all-time is going to be Braveheart.  I have probably seen the movie 100 times from beginning to end (I re-watch it a couple times a year).  The film has the right amount of action, history, love and drama.  Some close seconds are Kill Bill, Inglorious Bastards, The Princess Bride, Godfather I and II, Seven, Django Unchained, Heat, The Big Lebowski, American Psycho and City of God.  I have heard that I need to see Oldboy – a Korean Gangster movie (too bad Netflix won’t work here).

“They can take our lives… but they can never take away… my LiebsterAward!”

8. Tea or coffee?

Finally, a softball.  Coffee!  Although, we’re becoming more partial to the Italian way of drinking it – cappuccino in the morning and espresso throughout the day.  The one habit from the States we kept was a big cup of American coffee in the morning (to extend the morning coffee-drinking ritual) but it’s starting to taste a bit weak in comparison to the espresso used to make cappuccino.

Even Julia prefers coffee

9. What is your guilty pleasure?

Getting an obscene amount of food (see any of the above junk meals from McDonalds, Five Guys, Chipotle or a Chinese restaurant) and settling in for a new movie release on TV.  I have loved doing this with Jen since college when I would get the food from our dining halls (on Jen’s meal plan – mine would be empty) and watch movies on VHS (as opposed to today’s more convenient, On Demand).

10. Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Not sure I fall into either of these categories.  I don’t like to get up incredibly early and I don’t like to stay up too late.  However, I’d have to lean more towards morning – I just seem to be a bit more productive before 10:00am.

11. What would be your dream job?

I would like to work for an Italian company that has operations in the US and would need me to manage their US branch.  This would allow me to keep ties with Italy and live in the US.  Additionally, I would like to develop residential and commercial properties and start a management company to oversee the real estate portfolio.  Taking applications for business partners now…

Now Presenting the Liebster to…

B and J have a wonderful blog, Two DC that revolves around their life exploring a new city.  The blog has a heavy food focus but also highlights many wonderful activities that they encounter in DC.  They moved to DC in 2007 but I have to say…. I can’t comment on the future of the blog since they have just  completed a cross country trip to their new home in the Bay Area.  Hopefully there will be a Two Cali coming soon.

Our friend Amy has a great blog, One Preppy Cookie where she blogs about her life and her cookie business. Be warned – her pictures will make you hungry for dessert!

Elaine McCardel lives in Michigan but cooks wonderful Italian food, featured on The Italian Dish.  Her images and recipes are both awe-inspiring to us.  Can you say, blog-envy??

And Their Questions Are…

1) Are you a fan of social media and if so, do you prefer Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, FourSquare, Linkedin, Tumbler, Instagram, etc?
2) What accomplishment are you most proud of?
3) What’s your favorite thing to cook?
4) Pick your favorite company – large or small, profit or non-profit and explain why.
5) What is your all-time favorite TV show?
6) What is the longest stint you’ve ever spent awake and why?
7) Where is your favorite beach?
8) Detail your dream vacation.
9) What is something that surprised you recently?
10) Mac or PC?  iPhone or Galaxy?
11) Name your superpower – ability to fly, invisibility, immortality, telepathy, super speed or something else.
Tornado Touches Down in Italy
Edward and Bella - We're Here!

5 thoughts on “Sipping Espresso Got An Award!!”

  1. I learned so much about you that I didn’t know. I thought I had learned pretty much everything there is to know when I met with you and Jen before your wedding. You are a very good and entertaining writer and I enjoy reading your posts very much. Thanks for joining in the Liebster Award fun. See you soon.

  2. Good answers Greg, except for the fast food such as MacDonald, really Greg? I loved your sense of humor as well. May your wishes come true except moving to Australia. We could not live without our Julia.

  3. BY THE WAY Greg I thought that the top Michelin rated restaurant in Vegas would have made your list of favorites. The food was excellent but our entrance shadowed everything else. But, that is ok, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

  4. I don’t know what it is about junk food Mimmo… I just love it! And Joel Robuchon at the MGM will always stand as one of my best meals (and most memorable) – but I don’t know if I can call it a favorite restaurant as I doubt I’ll be going back anytime soon!

Please let me know your thoughts!