hi and welcome to CS lightouse_am,
i think thats a common enough question that pops up now and then. best to do a search on CS about it.
anyways just my opinion. assuming that you dont have a grinder, itd be best to buy a grinder and an espresso machine. without a good grinder you wont get good coffee.
i started with a gaggia classic with modded rancilio silvia steam wand to make silky smooth milk. then on to a diadema junior HX 2nd hand for just under $1k. upgraded grinders too in the process. id say most machines have a good enough steaming capability, but in the end its a lot about technique and practice.
id suggest to look around the sponsors on the left side of the page. maybe look for a Rancilio Silvia and a decent grinder. for under $1k pair it with the Breville Smart Grinder. if you go over theres plenty of choices, like Compak K3T or the Rancilio Rocky.
good luck choosing the right one for your hubby. and tell him hes a lucky guy :)