let’s talk about crema

Last Christmas Eve, after a helluva busy few weeks, I was so looking forward to staying in slippers all day. My mother-in-law was here, my parents in the air on their way. It was snowing, the tree lit.


Andy began readying like he was going somewhere, which I didn’t approve of, unless we were out of half and half or gin. He said he had some shopping to do. I immediately knew it was for me so I assured him I would happily trade a gift for his presence on that day. He was driven, I was frustrated. He said he’d only be an hour, his mom joined him.

On Christmas morning, we took turns opening gifts, taking pause for monkey bread and mimosas. Our friends joined us. We sledded. Opened a few more gifts. Well into the gift-opening, Andy proudly passed his gift my way. I opened it and….it was a water filter! The Brita pitcher kind. The kind I gave to Goodwill two summers ago because we didn’t use it anymore. I smiled. He leaned in, raised his brow. I said thanks honey. His mom joked way to go Drew. We all laughed. Andy was shocked. He was CERTAIN I’d wanted one. He was positive I’d been mentioning that I craved a water filter pitcher many times. He’d driven to three box stores on Christmas Eve just to find one! I said I hadn’t wanted one and that I was appreciative.

We moved on, the water pitcher remaining the butt of many jokes. Every time we made eye contact, he lip synch REALLY?! and I’d nod REALLY. At the end of opening, Andy left and returned with one last gift. He entered the room with a giant, heavy box and set it in front of me. He pressed his lips together in a straight smile that means this is good. He had the same grin when he surprised me with a trip to New York City for my birthday and when he got down on one knee.

I opened the box and about fell over. It was the espresso machine we’ve wanted for a decade. The one I’ve written to dozens of online retailers about, asking for in trade for blog sponsorship. It was in my living room. The Rancillio Silva.

Weird fact: I got those big trays at a thrift store. They are from the Montana State Prison dining room.

We like coffee a whole lot around here. And, as we’ve aged, we’ve buried ourselves deeper in our coffee snobbery. We buy our beans, roasted that day, from Black Coffee Roasters. Last year, Andy’s mom bought us a burr grinder so our beans could be appropriately crushed instead of broken (it really does make a huge difference). We know the best little coffee shops in every town we’ve ever been to. We have a collection of handmade mugs. We bring beans, our grinder and our stovetop Italian espresso maker wherever we go. It’s real.


“And now you know why you got a filter,” he beamed. Well played, foxy husband. His mom didn’t even know and she had been with him the day before, hunting for Britas at ShopKo thinking WTF?.


We pulled that sexy beast out of the box, Andy sensing my surprise and wonder. He explained it had, quite literally, fallen into his arms the week prior when he told our friends who own the coffee roastery that he didn’t have a gift for me yet and that he wished he could splurge on the Rancillio. Jim’s eyes got big and he said dude, you’ve got to be kidding me. He went on to explain another customer had purchased one two weeks prior and used it a handful of times while he waited for his machine to be repaired. He had just that day dropped it off at the roastery for Jim to sell. Andy got a screamin’ deal. This machine was made for our home.

It’s been so fun learning to use it well. It’s been fun drinking the rich, smooth passion. It’s been fun sharing it with friends. This is true: I can, in my own kitchen, pull a shot of espresso that rivals the best coffee house you’ve ever been in. It feels very extravagent. And very fun.


Are you wondering what I gifted Andy? I didn’t disappoint. I got to thinking that (other than a super fancy coffee maker) we don’t need anything, Andy doesn’t need anything. I wanted to give him the gift of time, doing something he loves. Last fall, I emailed all the wives of his friends (the group of men that have been bffs since grade school) and hammered out a five-day stretch that worked for all of our families. I phoned Andy’s boss and arranged for him to have time off. And surprised my man with a little ski holiday, coming up in a few weeks.

holy crema. check out my hot barista.

:: :: ::

In this week’s mamalode column: I took my girls swimming where I saw another mama cradling a newborn and toddler. We exchanged glances, each in our reality with a little bit of want for the other’s reality. Click to read mama digs: different depths, same need.

44 Responses to let’s talk about crema

  1. Sara says:

    Oh Nici, what a dreamboat you have for a hubby, and what a dreamy wife you are!

  2. Sara says:

    Oh Nici, what a dreamboat of a hubby you have, and what a dreamy wife you are!

  3. Emilie says:

    So happy for you! We love our little stovetop espresso maker too :) but this one is a beauty!

  4. Lisa says:

    Coffee snob all the way here – know the baristas locally that make coffee to my liking – have even been known to walk out of a cafe if they are not working that day. That coffee in your pics looks good , can almost smell it – seriously craving now. Our coffee machine not up to that standard – might need to head out for a good brew this morning.

  5. nicole says:

    Man! I want a good espresso machine BAD! We have an amateur one but it doesn’t make great expresso. I think it desperately needs to be cleaned and I desperately need to be taught how to use it right!

  6. Tanya says:

    That is fantastic! I love the way he gifted it to you in stages, just to keep you on your toes :) Foxy husband indeed! Our love of coffee is equally consuming at our place, and we’ve been eyeing burr grinders too – do you like the one you have?

  7. sarahkeith says:

    No way! That is so super cool. Awesome present, and awesome happy coincidence.

  8. anne says:

    damn, can you guys manifest crazy nice kitchen appliances or what?

  9. Wendy says:

    Now THAT is awesome! Also, you have the best damn coffee mug collection ever.

  10. Brandi says:

    Sweet machine!!! Looking at all those thick cups of coffee totally makes me want to sit down and sip some myself.
    I’m intrigued by the stovetop Italian espresso maker. Any recommendations on a brand/model?

    • dig dig says:

      The one I linked to is a nice one. But there are many great ones, I don’t really think you can go wrong! Some are attached to aluminum and others are attached to stainless steel. Ours is stainless because of aluminum leeching into food. But the aluminum diehards claim that’s the way to go. They make really great coffee! We’ve used ours for years, only replacing the rubber gaskets every so often (they cost like 40 cents each).

  11. Daniele says:

    Omg your coffee pics have me salivating. And the mamalode column was so beautifully written! It made me feel good, as I also see my girls need me less and less in some tangible ways….yet they need me more in many other ways as they grow.

  12. Cathy R says:

    Nice! Love your mugs too! When you guys are ready to up your coffee nerdiness check out Sweet Maria’s. We order green coffee from them and my hubby roasts it about once a week in an air popcorn popper in our garage. Ya we do these thing to keep our kids guessing :). 21 yr old kid#3 came home and said “Really? You pop your coffee?” Priceless.

  13. Kristi says:

    Okay, I don’t usually post comments on your blog… or any blog for that matter… BUT, I. Love. Coffee. And I just wanted you to know this is one of my favorite posts of yours. I love coffee, and I also love surprises. Fabulous!!! Loving this exchange of surprises. Your lovely sister-in-law was just telling me how she surprised her spouse with a trip to NY. I just love that kind of thought and care. So fun!

  14. Ariel says:

    Oh man, I think I love your husband. This is fabulous!

  15. Kelsie says:

    Imagine what kind of stories have been told over those trays…now replace them with good coffee chit chat :) Nothing beats the coffee you can make at your own home.

  16. AMY says:

    well played, Andy. well played.

  17. Perfect! I’ll be right over. I’ll even bring extra half-n-half and gin :)

  18. Jorie says:

    Awesome gifts to each other! Love thoughtful gifts the best!
    And we’ve been making monkey bread since we were kids!!! My cousin, sisters and I try to make it whenever we are all together.

  19. finny says:



    Yes. Same goes in our house. While I’m not a coffee gal (but a total tea snob), *my* Andy TOTALLY is. We have the burr grinder and the fabulous coffee roaster (Cafe Roma in SF – you MUST go there when you’re here next) and the fabulous beans (Sicilian Roast – to die for), but we don’t yet have the espresso machine.

    Maybe you just gave me a really good idea for Christmas 2013…

    Do enjoy that beauty :)

  20. Dang lady! He gave you an amazing gift and I’d say you definitely returned the sentiment!

  21. Caroline says:

    Well, you ALMOST bring it wherever you go…. (You know I’ll never let you live that one down!) BTW, nice shirt, Drew. ;D

  22. sian says:

    You guys are so sweet and thoughtful xxx

  23. Martha says:

    Super sweet that he and his mom went into retail hell for the last piece to the gift – great job, dude!

  24. You are such a fun storyteller!

  25. Trbholt says:

    I can attest to the wonder of the “black magic” that come out of this machine….: Deeeelicious!!


  26. Kellie says:

    Still craving one of those fabulous mugs from Audrey… Emailed her yesterday after I read this post and was reminded of it.

  27. elizabeth says:

    That espresso looks perfect. We’ve been using a bialetti stovetop and a capresso milk foamer. The bialetti works well, but I’m not getting any crema, maybe I’m not using it properly? Sounds like you’ve used a bialetti in the past, any tips? I’m definitely going to put that Silvia on my wish list!

  28. Caroline says:

    Well, maybe you don’t always bring your coffee pot EVERYWHERE you go… (You know I’m never going to let you live that down… ;D ha!)
    I thought I posted this yesterday; I ddin’t see it so I thought I’d have another go – once again the “post”option has disappeared. Is this because of the ribbing about the coffee? ;D

    • dig dig says:

      Hilarious. I meant the stovetop coffee maker! Oh man, one of these days…I am going to plan a remote camping trip with you and ship out a generator and the machine and you’ll be BLOWN AWAY.

      And no, of course I didn’t delete your comment!

  29. oh how I do LOVE coffee! Im super jealous of your new expresso machine! also love your collection of mugs :)
    wonderful post, this is the first time I have come across your blog, I will now be checking back often!

  30. Annie says:

    Fantastic story! What a way to present your present 😉

  31. MinnesotaGal says:

    Oh crema – how I love crema!! I spent a summer in Italy during undergrad and promptly headed directly from the airport to our best kitchen store. Slaped down more money than I could sanely afford and paid off the loan on that machine for years. Worth. every. penny! I still have that Solis espresso machine. Still makes crema an inch thick. Mmmm! Bitter and sweet, oily and creamy. Oh the flavors and textures! And all gone in one shot! Thanks for the memories – enjoy yours!

  32. Hi there Nici:

    I found your blog through Kelle Hampton’s and it has skyrocketed to the top of the list of favorite blogs to visit. I love your voice. Even though I’m not a Mom, I find a lot that I relate to. Particularly this ode to a good cup of coffee. I just posted about a marvelous cup of coffee I recently drank while visiting Winnipeg, Canada that made me want to start saving for a real espresso machine. Keep up your great sharing, it is wonderful. Here’s my post: http://ourwaytoeat.com/2013/02/13/a-winnipeg-weekend/

  33. Tina says:

    I loved reading this, it’s such an awesome little story. You guys are adorable and so good for eachother.

  34. Jennifer says:

    My brother has that machine and I have to say, holy crap – holy crap, Andy played you (embarrassingly well), nailed the gift, and got the bargain (again) of a lifetime. My brother spent a day taking a professional barista class just because. And he said it was the best gift he gave to himself.

    I get the whole coffee snob thing. Right there with you. That and great chocolate makes our world turn daily.