Gourmet Station back to home
the main top image deilcious deestinations

Welcome to Delicious Destinations, a GourmetStation blog. Through the character of T. Alexander and occasional real-life guests, our aim is to share with you light-hearted fun ideas about food, gift giving, entertaining and culture. At the same time we would enjoy hearing from you. Please share your experiences from home or abroad.

The Butcher and The Bicycles

Posted: March 26, 2013
by: Dave, Edie & Simonetta

It was just another day in Chianti.  Or, so we thought.  The sky, a deep, rich blue, was dotted with an occasional cloud.  The sun was bright and warm.  The hillsides were covered with vineyards interrupted by olive groves.  The air was fresh with the crisp scent of early fall.  Narrow roads snaked their way up, down and around the hills. Here and there, a hilltop was graced with a medieval castle rising majestically upwards. It was peaceful.  It was Tuscany.


Our plan for the day was to enjoy a picturesque ride through the tranquil country side and stop in Panzano for a visit to Antica Macelleria Cecchini.  Dario Cecchini is known to some as the “singing butcher”, due to his inclination to break into an operatic aria as he works behind the counters of his shop.  We had learned about Dario through a television show, "David Rocco’s Dolce Vita."

As we travelled the dips and curves on Chianti's back roads, I could not help but get the feeling I was driving in the Gran Premio d'Italia (Italian Grand Prix).  With a downshift here and there, a few quick bursts of speed coming out of the curves and up the hills my exhilaration intensified as my acceleration increased.  My driving adventure had just begun when I was snapped back into reality. Looking in my rearview mirror, I saw a peloton-like group of cyclists following us.  As we rounded a corner, there were more cyclists in front of us.  None of the passengers in our car had an answer to the obvious question, “Who are these guys?”

Suddenly surrounded by cyclists, we quickly developed a feeling of being one of the “spare parts cars” in the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy).  We continued our drive, being careful as we passed more cyclists.  The peloton continued to follow us.  Was everybody going to Panzano?  Evidently they were
because as we approached town, traffic slowed to a crawl.

Luckily, as we neared the centro storico, we found a parking place close to the main piazza.  It was filled with people in a festive mood.  Every town has a weekly market day featuring vendors of crafts and clothing, fresh produce, cheeses and meats, plants, flowers, kitchenware, leather goods and works of art.  We wandered around admiring scarves, smelling handmade soaps and bought several spoons and other utensils of olive wood that were made by the man who sold them.

While strolling through the mercato we heard the sound of a horn and a man’s voice shouting “ciao ragazzi”.  Around the corner, we saw the man with the horn.


Decked out in red and white striped pants, a white shirt and an apron, he enthusiastically welcomed the arrival of the cyclists.  To avoid the crunch of the crowd we stepped backwards onto a step, our eyes taking in the spectacle in front of us.

We noticed the cyclists were wearing old-style woolen uniforms which identified them as members of various cycle teams. We moved a bit to the side to avoid blocking the entrance to a shop.  A man approaching us offered us wine.  With that, he produced glasses and proceeded to pour Chianti for us.  He invited us into the shop for a sampling of bruschetta.  As we entered we could not help but notice refrigerated display cases containing a variety of meats including the famous bistecca chianina.  It was then we realized we had found Antica Macelleria Cecchini.  

The man wearing the striped pants just happened to be Dario.  He followed us into the shop and stepped behind the display cases.  Wielding a large knife as an artist would his brush, he began slicing a variety of sausages, cheeses and fruits.  He was preparing a delicious snack for the cyclists, to replenish their energy for the rest of their ride in L’Eroica (The Heroic),  a race designed to test cyclists' ability and stamina as they pedal along the beautiful roads of Chianti.  Not only was the riders' attire retro in style, their bicycles were also vintage, meeting such requirements as being built before 1987 and of steel frame construction.  Gear shifts were housed on the "down tube" and brake cables had to be on the outside of the handlebars.

The cyclists gathered eagerly under the food filled tent in front of the shop, exchanging stories with comrades old and new.  It seems Italians have a way of enjoying life to the fullest.


Although we enjoyed this wonderful outpouring of Dario's hospitality, it was time for us to move on.  As we left town, working our way through the crowds of people and past the cyclists, we agreed the adventure in Panzano was beyond our wildest imagination. 

Beef Wellington Christmas Dinner Delivered from GourmetStation

Posted: December 13, 2012
by: T.Alexander

Many thanks to Mark Vogel at www.foodreference.com for his detailed account of how beef Wellington came about. Below is an excerpt written by Mark describing the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo by British Field Marshall Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, and the birth of beef Wellington. Enjoy the narrative. If you are seeking an authentic beef Wellington Christmas dinner delivered, consider GourmetStation….four delicious courses delivered in complimentary gift packaging ready to heat and serve in about 30 minutes.

Beef Wellington from GourmetStation

"It was Sunday June 18th 1815, about a mile south of the small village of Waterloo in what is now modern day Belgium. Approximately 190,000 men fought one of the most epic battles of the modern era. Napoleon Bonaparte had been defeated the year prior. Abdicating his throne he was exiled to the island of Elba. In March of 1815 he returned to Paris and reclaimed his crown for a period known as the “hundred days.” His previous enemies were determined to nip Napoleon redux in the bud. The seventh coalition, an amalgamation of numerous European countries and states amassed their armies. Gebhard von Blucher commanded the Prussian forces while Field Marshall Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, presided over a British army and its Anglo allies. It was not Napoleon’s finest hour. In fact, historians agree that he failed to display the tactical brilliance which highlighted his previous reign. When all was said and done nearly 50,000 men were dead or wounded, the French army was in tatters, and Napoleon was once again forced into exile, this time for the rest of his life.

Wellesley was awarded the title Duke of Wellington in 1814 after Napoleon’s first dethroning. After Waterloo came more accolades and advancement including the Prime Ministership. Even the culinary world sought to immortalize him with the classic dish that would bare his name: Beef Wellington.

Beef Wellington is a beef tenderloin encased in a pastry crust and cooked. Like so many classic recipes, where and when the dish was first created is a quagmire. France, England, Ireland, and even Africa have been sited as possible birthplaces. My vote goes to France. Wrapping meat in pastry was certainly not a novel idea in 1815. The French already had such a dish in their culinary repertoire known as “filet de boeuf en croûte.” Someone, somewhere merely rechristened it “beef Wellington” in honor of Wellesley.
Even the exact ingredients are up for debate. It appears that this recipe started off as nothing more than the beef wrapped in a simple dough, inevitably just flour and water. At some point puff pastry was substituted for the basic dough. Puff pastry is very labor-intensive. It involves distributing cold butter between layers of dough, then folding the dough over and rolling it out. This process is repeated numerous times until a multi-stratified dough of flour and butter is produced. When baked, the melting butter releases steam and “puffs” the pastry by separating the numerous flaky layers. Most home cooks eschew the drudgery of making puffed pastry from scratch and opt for the frozen, pre-made counterpart." By: Mark Vogel

Other Christmas dinners delivered from GourmetStation include a holiday turkey dinner, lamb dinners and fillet mignon steak dinner for two. Bon appétit!

Christmas dinners delivered from GourmetStation.


Thanksgiving Dinner from GourmetStation - Tradition, Convenience & Good Food

Posted: November 15, 2012
by: T.Alexander

Thanksgiving Day is the biggest day of the year for wine consumption – who would have thought! Reds and whites alike are enjoyed, including Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel. Tawny Port, Tokaji and sweet Sherry always compliment desserts.

I wonder what the original Pilgrims might think about modern day Thanksgiving? Microwave ovens, foot ball events, cell phones and people living at the far ends of a huge country...sometimes preventing families from being together on holidays. What would they think about a service that lets these families connect through food gifts sent via a national delivery service. The future is here and the service is GourmetStation.
If a friend or family member lives far away and you can’t share the holiday, send a Thanksgiving dinner delivered right to their door. Tradition, convenience and good food come together with our turkey dinner delivered.

Thanksgiving Table With turkey

From One Meal To The Next: Chapter 5: A Bridge, A Reunion and Dinner At La Bottega di Cuoco

Posted: November 14, 2012
by: Dave, Edie & Simonetta

A short drive south of Bagni di Lucca, tucked in between the mountains and the Serchio River lies the small community of Borgo a Mozzano, home to one of the great marvels of medieval engineering, the Ponte della Maddalena.  As we approached the Borgo, our eyes focused on this most spectacular sight.  The bridge curves toward the sky, supported by several arches whose reflections formed perfect circles in the waters below.

1.Ponte della Maddalena.jpg

Historically, the bridge is believed to have been commissioned by Countess Matilda around the year 1100, so that pilgrims, travelling the Via Francigena from northern Europe would be able to cross the Serchio on their way to Rome, the destination for those on a medieval pilgrimage.  

Folklore enthusiasts know the bridge by another name, the Ponte del Diavolo or The Devil's Bridge.  Their story, handed down through the years, is that a master builder was hired by the citizens of the Borgo to build a bridge over the river to facilitate crossing.  With the construction deadline approaching the builder realized he would not be able to complete the bridge on time.  As the story goes, he was approached by the devil who guaranteed that the bridge would be completed on
time if the devil could have the first soul to cross the bridge.  In a panic the builder agreed!  Realizing later what he had done, the builder sought the advice of a holy man and worked out a solution to the dilemma..  The bridge was completed on time and the devil waited for the master builder to cross the bridge, thinking he could claim his soul.  However, in accordance with the plan between the builder and the holy man, the builder released a pig to cross the bridge first.  The devil, realizing that he had been tricked, hurled himself into the depths of the Serchio River, never to be seen again. While this tale is an interesting story, it seems that the historical account
is a bit more believable.  You decide.

We continued south past the beautiful walled city of Lucca and then on to Vicopisano

2.Vicopisano .jpg

where we had a light lunch and took a quick walk through the village.  Then we turned our sights o Casa Bellavista and a much anticipated reunion with our  friends Simonetta and Guido.  What a joyous reunion it was!  After abbracci e baci all around and the official greeting of Dante, Casa Bellavista's furry four-footed concierge, we unpacked  our car and settled in.  We had arrived late in the day so it wasn't long before we began dinner preparations around the large marble table in Simonetta's cucina italiana. 

From our experience there seems to be no such thing as a "light dinner" in the Tuscan way of life.  We enjoyed an apperitivo of freshly sliced tomatoes, ricotta cheese,  bresaola (thinly sliced cured beef), prosciutto and wine.

3. Casa Bellavists.jpg

While we visited and caught up on the events that had happened since last year's visit, Simonetta prepared a pesto pasta dish which was thoroughly enjoyed with another glass of wine.  This was followed by an insalata of fresh vegetables.  A cup of espresso brought the dinner to a proper close.  

One of our great joys is driving along the meandering roads of the Tuscan countryside through small medieval villages, working our way up and down hills, past the fields of sheep and the stately cypress trees.  On this particular Sunday afternoon the Tuscan sun, surrounded by the deepest blue sky imaginable, cast its warmth over the vineyards, olive groves and sunflower fields awaiting their harvest.  It was a great afternoon for what we would call back home a Sunday drive.  But today's drive would not be through the Litchfield Hills or the Berkshires.  It was a day for a drive through the Crete Senesi, the area of Tuscany that provides its visitors with a view of rolling hills  of green in the spring, golden waves of grain just before harvest or a light beige soil awaiting planting. 

4.Crete Senesi.jpg

The areas of the Crete Senesi that are not part of grain growing caused us to think of what it might have looked like through the windows of Apollo Thirteen as it landed on the moon. 

5.Crete Senesi.jpg

Remember when you were a child...the anticipation and excitement you had on Christmas Eve?  You helped your mom get the cookies and milk ready for Santa.  You could almost hear Rudolph's hooves touch down on your roof as he guided Santa's sleigh.  Such excitement and anticipation has not been known since then!  That is to say, until now.  While the wheels on our red rent-a-car (were we possibly in the jolly man's sleigh) guided us to Monte San Savino and our meeting with destiny at La
Bottega di Cuoco, our anticipation increased.   Guido and Simonetta had told us that La Bottega was not a typical Tuscan trattoria and that we were in for a special experience.

We entered Monte San Savino through the Porta Fiorentina, built by the Medici, their family crest firmly embedded in the arch.  The narrow medieval streets, lined with a variety of shops, led us past a bar where guests were enjoying glasses of wine along with a sampling of tasty-looking apperitivi.  Children were laughing and talking as they enjoyed their gelato. 

After a short walk past the piazza, we arrived at La Bottega di Cuoco ("The
Cook's Workshop")

6. Bottegga.jpg

and knew immediately that we were in for a dining adventure.  Inside to the left was a long counter, a gentleman standing behind it.  To the right was a cupboard with open shelves and dishes.  Straight ahead was a large oval table with about a dozen chairs placed around it.  Above the table hung a single light which cast a warm and inviting glow.  As we entered the gentleman offered us seats.  He placed a bottle of prosecco on the table along with an apperitivo which included salume, prosciutto, liver pate`, cheese, bread, cold garlic mashed potatoes, grilled pumpkin slices with marjoram and oil and an olive pate`.  It was to be a night of adventurous eating.  There was no menu.  We would eat whatever the cook prepared.  Serving ourselves from the platters of food placed before us was family style eating at its best.

The primo piatto consisted of homemade tagliatelle  in a ragu of sausage and beef, accompanied with a bottle of wine for our enjoyment.  At this point some new arrivals were seated
and joined in the meal. 

The secundo piatto , a spezzatino (stew), was served in a beautiful large copper pot, still hot from the stove, and another bottle of wine.  Consisting of pieces of pork roast, sausage, apple and white fennel flowers, its flavor was incredible and that copper pot was passed around the table several times as we enjoyed our dinner.

Then came time for the dolce, a delicious crème caramel. As luck would have it one of the other guests was celebrating his birthday.  His wife had brought a delicious torta di cioccolata which they shared with us.  What a wonderful dining adventure...an evening of much spirited and happy
conversation around a table of good food, good wine and good friends.  Certainly, it was an evening when la dolce vita came alive.


From One Meal To The Next: Chapter 4

Posted: August 18, 2012
by: Dave, Edie & Simonetta

The Bridge and the Mushrooms

We awoke after a pleasant night's rest at the Hotel Corona in Bagni di Lucca knowing that this day was our day of reckoning.  It was a day to learn if we really had nerves of steel!  We had visited the Ponte Sospeso (located in the Comune di San Marcello Pistoiese) on a previous trip, only to find that it was closed for repairs.  Disappointed at the time, we vowed to return and test our courage by walking across this footbridge which traverses the Lima River.  The suspension  bridge, built in 1923, spans a distance of 744 feet,  is 118 feet above the river, measures 4 feet wide and is the longest pedestrian bridge in Europe.  It is built of steel cables, wire mesh sides and steel grate panels for the floor of the bridge.
Originally built by the owner of a limestone quarry and processing plant so his employees could cross the river more easily and arrive at work in less time (than walking a distance to a town where a bridge crossed the river and then back up the other side to work) the bridge today welcomes travelers and "thru hikers" from all parts of our world. 

Pic. 1.jpg

After a short walk from the car park we arrived at the "point of no return".  To cross or not to cross, that was the question (apologies to William Shakespeare).  After a brief moment of contemplation, perhaps just enough to summon up our courage, we took our first step onto the bridge. One step followed another and before we realized it we were a third of the way across the bridge.  At this point we could feel the bridge swing back and forth in the wind and shake with each step we took.  As we walked, we looked down through the floor grates to the river below.  A chill ran up our spine but we summoned   our courage and throwing caution to the wind, ventured forth with renewed determination to cross the bridge and create a story we could share with our grandchildren.  We made it, turned around to see the sight of our victorious walk and then realized we had to make a return trip.  No problem for us, we were experienced bridge crossers!  So off we went on the return trip, excited and confident.

After we crossed the Ponte Sospeso with  heartbeats returning  to normal and our nerves calmed down, we realized the adventure we had.  Now it was time to relax.   And so it was off to village of Cutigliano and the Trattoria da Fagiolino for lunch.  Cutigliano is a village of steep streets and baskets and window boxes full of beautiful flowers.  The streets wind their way up the side of the mountain .  The village plays host to skiers in the winter and hikers in the summer.  High above Cutigliano (a three kilometer cable car ride) is the ski area of Doganaccia.   As we walked our way through the ins and outs of the village's narrow streets and past its many shops, we came upon the Town Hall with its unique exterior decor...the coats of arms of all the ruling families in the town's history. 

Pic. 2.jpg


The Trattoria da Fagiolino is well known for its fresh porcini mushrooms.  As luck would have it, we were there during the month of October, right in the middle of the fall porcini season.  As we entered the Trattoria, we walked past large windows which allowed us a view of the kitchen and the chef-owner preparing various lunch orders. 

Decorated in light, cheerful colors, Trattoria da Fagiolino creates a relaxed environment in which to enjoy Tuscan cooking at its finest. 

Pic. 3.jpg

While sipping some "house white" we made our choices for an all porcini lunch.  We decided to maximize our tasting experience by ordering a few selections from the menu and sharing them.  The first was risotto con porcini.  The risotto was delightfully creamy, the porcini adding a remarkable flavor.  Next, we shared the gnoccetti con porcini, served with a fresh marjoram sauce, an unusual but delicious combination.   Our final choice was gran fritto di funghi, porcini mushrooms dipped in light batter and deep fried. Unbelievable!

Pic. 4.jpg

During our lunch the chef-owner visited the dining room and stopped at our table.  Our visit was enjoyable as we talked about how he prepared the fresh porcini mushroom dishes we enjoyed.  We certainly appreciated his willingness to share some cooking tips with us.  Our dining experience at Trattoria da Fagiolino was exceptional in every way...the service...the meal...the atmosphere.  Wonderfully Tuscan!

After a pleasant ride back through the mountains to Bagni di Lucca we arrived at our hotel for a much needed riposo. Our next day's travels would take us to our favorite Tuscan bed and breakfast, Casa Bellavista, and many more adventures including dinner at Bottega di Cuoco in Monte San Savino.  A world of culinary delights lie ahead.  Let the adventure continue!

Dave and Edie www.fototoscana.com

Simonetta  www.casabellavista.it



Southward Bound On The California Coast…

Posted: June 28, 2012
by: Mark Stine

Departing from Sausalito on a recent weekend trip, my traveling friend Colleen and I headed down the coast towards the beautiful Big Sur coastline.  Passing the infamous Nepenthe, a famed coastal dining spot dating from 1949, it is renowned for it’s sunset dining.  Nepenthe Restaurant serves lunch every day of the year from 11:30 - 4:30. They also serve dinner from 5:00 - 10:00 every day except Thanksgiving & Christmas.


Nepenthe Menu

The whole focus of the restaurant is hospitality and is based on the vision of its founders Lolly and Bill Fassett. True to their founding tradition, the family has maintained a commitment to exceptional caring service in a relaxed atmosphere. Visit Nepenthe here.  

Sunset 1

A Nepenthe Sunset…nature’s artistry..

Nepenthe sunsets are not to be missed, but on this day we were pushing further down the coast to the Post Ranch Inn. Post Ranch, is the epitome of coastal Big Sur isolation and a tranquility experience. Room rates are …how shall we say…challenging for the 99%ers, but with a little budgeting or the right stock trade, it is entirely doable for mere mortals. The key to Post Ranch Inn is to make it a lunch stop if nightly rates are not in your comfort zone. The atmosphere is wonderful…the views at its restaurant, Sierra Mar are, incomparable and the food and wine were congenial to excellent.


Dining Bluff Side

You dine 1200 ft above the crashing surf of the Pacific…and we were doubly treated in that a migrating grey whale breached not once but twice and then spouted as it continued its journey back north to the traditional feeding ground for summer. What an experience…


A Hot tub with a view…

Dodging outside, I was able to slip into the private hot tub area which is an infinity pool perched right at the edge of the cliff…soothing and relaxing with the vast expanse of the Pacific and the rhythmic sounds of the crashing waves crashing below. Visit the Post Ranch Inn website.

When you stop for lunch…make sure you have dessert… all of the selections were worth the caloric intake.


And the lodging views well…are equally outstanding!  Take a look at the website…it should motivate you to make Post Ranch Inn Resort and Spa and the Sierra Mar restaurant stop in your future.

Headed further down the coast, an afternoon was spent at the Hearst Castle…again more great views and a lunch the next day in Cayucos….a wonderful coastal California Beach town. Any number of spots along the beach are the perfect place to while away an afternoon.  


Lodging that night was spent at Bacara

Bacara..a Santa Barbara Spa tradition (photo courtesy of the Bacara website)

Haven eaten that large lunch earlier in the day in Cayucos, we opted for bar dining, but for a special treat try the bluff side dining at their premiere restaurant Miro’. As noted on their site…



On a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Miró is named for the Spanish abstract impressionist, Joan Miró (1893-1983). In this four-star restaurant, the interior reflects the vibrant colors and imagination of this acclaimed artist. Adjoining is a spacious terrace with panoramic Pacific views. Miró offers innovative New American Cuisine, with an evolving style of cooking built on classical techniques with a focus on regional ingredients. New American cuisine puts an ethnic twist on old world dishes by utilizing the finest ingredients and incorporating influences from Asia, Latin America, the Mediterranean, molecular gastronomy and fusion cuisine. The restaurant also features an artful bar and lounge area offering specialty drinks and small plates.


Bacara’s bluffside coastal sunset

You won’t be disappointed if you make Bacara a romantic getaway…rooms are spa-like luxurious and just like Nepenthe…great sunsets. We met a romantic couple on the bluff…and in just a few minutes we were snapping pictures of James and his lovely girlfriend. 


Young love!!!  Learn more about Bacara.

Before heading back to Las Vegas the next morning...it was a short drive down to Montecito and then breakfast at Jeanine’s…which I have written about before on delicious destinations as a favorite of myself and Barb( Rhubarb Barb- for Delicious Destination readers)s followers.  It has become a favorite of Colleen’s now too… Jeanine’s ….An American Bakery…check out their breakfast menu and well…tough to make a choice!  http://jeannines.com/breakfast.html


Colleen enjoys a Montecito kind of morning at  Jeanine’s

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee

Posted: May 29, 2012
by: Robert Jackson

HM Queen Elizabeth celebrates sixty glorious years on the throne of England next month, and we are all so very excited to be a part of this historic and momentous event.


For many of us, we have known her for all of our lives. The young Princess Elizabeth was crowned Queen in Westminster Abbey on June 2nd 1953, one year before my birth. So she has always figured in my life - a "constant" in this ever changing, rapidly developing world that we live in. From my very earliest memories, I have always been fascinated by her enigmatic personality and faultless dedication to duty. We are all so very, very proud of her.

For those of us lucky enough to live in Great Britain, we can look forward to a host of celebrations planned to take place over the extended national holiday weekend of 2nd to 5th June. Details of all the events can be found at the official website of The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Celebration.

So for my tribute to mark this remarkable occasion, I would like to share with you twenty amazing facts about Her Majesty that you may not be aware of. This will then be followed first by the original very famous recipe created by chef Rosemary Hume, for the Queen's coronation banquet in 1953 - Coronation Chicken. Then in case you would like a simpler and quicker recipe, that will be followed by "the cheat's version" by Felicity Cloake, food journalist of The Guardian newspaper.



1. Queen Victoria was the last and to date the only British Monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee.


The current Queen, who was aged 85 on Accession Day in 2012, is the oldest monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee. Queen Victoria was 77 when she celebrated hers in 1897.

2.The Queen is the second longest serving monarch. Only five other kings and queens in British history have reigned for 50 years or more. They are:

Victoria (63 years)
George III (59 years)
Henry III (56 years)
Edward III (50 years)
James VI of Scotland (James I of England) (58 years)

3. Over the reign, Her Majesty has given regular audiences to 12 Prime Ministers. They are:

Winston Churchill 1951-55
Sir Anthony Eden 1955-57
Harold Macmillan 1957-63
Sir Alec Douglas-Home 1963-64
Harold Wilson 1964-70 and 1974-76
Edward Heath 1970-74
James Callaghan 1976-79
Margaret Thatcher 1979-90
John Major 1990-97
Tony Blair 1997-2007
Gordon Brown 2007-2010
David Cameron 2010 - present

4. The Queen has answered around three and a half million items of correspondence.

5. Unusual live gifts given to The Queen on foreign tours include: two tortoises given to The Queen in the Seychelles in 1972; a seven-year-old bull elephant called "Jumbo" given to Her Majesty by the President of Cameroon in 1972 to mark The Queen's Silver Wedding, and two black beavers given to The Queen after a Royal visit to Canada.

6. In an average year, The Queen will host more than 50,000 people at banquets, lunches, dinners, receptions and Garden Parties at Buckingham Palace.

7. Over the course of the reign, almost one and a half million people have attended garden parties at Buckingham Palace or the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Scotland.

8. The Queen launched the British Monarchy's official website in 1997. In 2007 the official British Monarchy YouTube channel was unveiled, swiftly followed by a Royal Twitter site (2009), Flickr page (2010) and Facebook page (also 2010).

9. The Queen's real birthday is on 21st April, but it is celebrated officially in June.

10. The Queen has 30 godchildren.

11. The Queen has owned more than 30 corgis during her reign, starting with Susan who was a present for her 18th birthday in 1944. A good proportion of these have been direct descendants from Susan. Her Majesty currently has three corgis - Monty, Willow and Holly.

12. As part of the main celebration for the Queen's Golden Jubilee in June 2002 the spectacular fireworks display which took place from the roof of Buckingham Palace required 2.5 tons of fireworks, with some rising as high as 800 ft into the night sky. The light and sound display also involved 50 searchlights on the Palace, and fountains of water over nine metres high and a sound track.


13. The Gold State Coach was used twice during the Golden Jubilee, making its first appearance since the Silver Jubilee in 1977. The first time was at "All the Queen's Horses" equestrian spectacular and the second in the procession to St Paul's Cathedral on Jubilee Day, 4th June.

14. The Empire State Building shone purple and gold on the evening of Tuesday, 4 June 2002 in honour of The Queen's Golden Jubilee.

15. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh have sent approximately 45,000 Christmas cards during The Queen’s reign.

16. The Queen has given out approximately 90,000 Christmas puddings to staff continuing the custom of King George V and King George VI.

17. The Queen has launched 21 ships during her reign.

18. The Queen has sat for 129 portraits during her reign.

19. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh have been married for 64 years. They were married on 20th November, 1947 in Westminster Abbey. The Queen's wedding dress was designed by Norman Hartnell and was woven at Winterthur Silks Limited in Dunfermline, Scotland, using silk that had come from Chinese silkworms at Lullingstone Castle.


20. The Queen was born at 17 Bruton St, London W1 on the 21st April, 1926, was christened on the 29th May, 1926 in the Private Chapel at Buckingham Palace and was confirmed on the 28th March, 1942 in the Private Chapel at Windsor Castle.

The original famous Coronation Chicken recipe was created by Rosemary Hume, founder of Le Cordon Bleu cookery school, for the Queen's coronation banquet in 1953. Originally called "Poulet Reine Elizabeth", the dish was designed to be a compromise between exotic spices and inexpensive ingredients. It is excellent eaten with a rice salad or served as a filling in sandwiches.

The original recipe by Rosemary Hume
Serves 8


2 medium chickens
1 carrot
Thyme, bay leaf, parsley and 4 peppercorns to flavour
1 dessertspoon curry powder
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp tomato purée
1 glass red wine
Juice of ½ lemon
450ml mayonnaise
1-2 tbsp apricot purée (made from soaked and boiled tried apricots)
2-3 tbsp whipped cream


Poach two chickens for 40 minutes in water with the carrot, a splash of wine, thyme, bay leaf, parsley and four peppercorns. Cool in the liquid then remove the meat from the bones.

To make the sauce, heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and add two tablespoons of chopped onion. Cook gently for three minutes then add a dessertspoon of curry powder. Cook for a further two minutes. Add one teaspoon of tomato purée, a glass of red wine, ¾ wineglass of water, one bay leaf, and bring to the boil. Then add a pinch each of salt, sugar and pepper, the juice of ½ a lemon and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Strain and cool.

Slowly add the cooled sauce to 450ml mayonnaise, then stir in 1-2 tablespoons of apricot purée. Season again - the sauce must not be too sweet. Finish by adding 2-3 tablespoons of whipped cream. Add only enough sauce to coat the chicken lightly.


....or for those in a hurry....

The "cheat's version" by Felicity Cloake

Her previous attempts at coronation chicken have always involved Sunday's leftovers, so she's back on familiar ground using cold cooked chicken.

The dressing is simplicity itself:

2 tbsp "good spicy fruit chutney" (she uses mango, in keeping with the Anglo-Indian theme), mixed with 1 tbsp "good Madras curry powder" and equal parts Greek yoghurt and mayonnaise and tossed through the chicken, which is then left to marinate for a couple of hours. This is then finally garnished with toasted almonds and chopped coriander.

If you are planning a celebration to mark this very special occasion, you may want to check my suggested menus for:

Tea Party







From One Meal To The Next: Chapter 3

Posted: May 22, 2012
by: Dave, Edie & Simonetta

Viareggio to Bagni di Lucca

The Tuscan sun was up early casting its warming glow over the seaside city of Viareggio.  From the balcony of our hotel room we enjoyed a view over the city and up to the mountains of the Garfagnana which were soon to become part of our day's trip as we travelled "from one meal to the next".  First however, it was time for breakfast and a final review of our travel plans for the day; an adventurous ride across the mountains of the Garfagnana, lunch in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, a visit to the two tiered aqueduct in Barga and completing our day's travel at the Albergo Corona in Bagni di Lucca.

As we departed Viareggio our route took us through side streets of the city and past a number of marble works whose yards contained some of the most enormous pieces of marble we have ever seen.  Beyond these huge blocks of marble, rising to the sky, stood our challenge, the mountains of the Garfagnana .  Slowly, the road narrowed and soon we realized that there was no more straight road.  We were headed into a section of mountain roads filled with "S-turns" and "switchbacks".  Coming out of one of the turns, we looked up to the mountain peak and were treated to a magnificent view of a wide swath of white cascading down the mountainside.  Our first reaction was, "Oh wow, were going over a snow covered mountain!"  A few more "S turns" closer and we realized, the "cascading white" was a vein of marble


which was being quarried.  How the quarry workers were able to move all the cranes and cutting equipment to the top of the mountain is something we still have not figured out.  Nor, have we been able to figure out how they get the marble down off of the mountain!

As we approached the top of the mountain we entered a tunnel.  One and a half kilometers later, we came out the other side of the mountain and began our descent to the village of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, our chosen place for lunch.  Just to the left of the main gate of the village, we located L'Aio di Piero, a delicatessen of sorts.  Once inside the shop we were treated to a visual feast


of meats, cheeses, sauces, preserves and pastas


To the left side of the shop was a small room with stone walls, wooden beams and small rustic tables and chairs.  There was a pleasant excitement about the room as people visited and shared the joy of good food and wine.  We were seated at one of the last remaining tables and after ordering a carafe of the "house red" we began to study the menu.  In short order, we decided to order a platter of prodotti tipici.  Soon, we were enjoying a feast fit for a king, including: caprino, scamorza and pecorino fresco (all tasty cheeses), salumi, prosciutto, capicola, bresaola (cured Tuscan beef), slivered radicchio, olivi, pickled cipolla rossa, calamari wrapped anchovi, bruschetta with red pepper pesto, stuffed peppers, fried fiori  di zucca con ricotta (squash blossoms with ricotta) and fried zucchini.


Following a relaxed time over lunch, we enjoyed a walk through the narrow medieval streets of this beautiful little walled village.   Our next stop...the village of Barga and a search for a Roman aqueduct.  Arriving in Barga, we stopped for an espresso and a visit to the tourist office for a map and some help with directions.  With their help, we were able to locate a bit of Roman history without difficulty. 


Marveling that it still stands today, we could not help but think what a proud testament it is to Roman engineering. 

As the sun began to set, we headed to Bagni di Lucca and the Albergo Corona, our home for the next two nights.  Settling in for the evening, we could not help but to begin to anticipate the next eating adventure.  Suffice it to say, it involves wild mushrooms and a visit to the Ponte Sospeso.

Dave and Edie www.fototoscana.com

Simonetta  www.casabellavista.it

Business Travel - Tips from Hollywood

Posted: May 22, 2012
by: T.Alexander

Has anyone ever written a book on business travel? Maybe Business Travel for Dummies? Perhaps Hollywood can help us out here. If you’re in the mood for some tips (funny ones I might ad), check out this article on The 10 Best Movie Scenes About Business Travel. From hilarious Bill Murray in Groundhog Day and Lost in Translation to George Clooney racking up travel points in Up in the Air, there’s a tip or two for us all. And if you don’t find a tip, you’re guaranteed a good laugh!

Pâtisseries délicieuses …

Posted: May 14, 2012
by: Mark Stine

Scoping through magazine articles awhile back, I am came across one with a pastry challenge…for anyone visiting Paris and I immediately thought of my friend Colleen, who authors this week’s blog.


Colleen Watson- Guest Blogger

She was headed off to Paris and I didn’t know if this Pastry challenge would be of interest, but she immediately was excited about the opportunity and the result….well read and find out…as Colleen accepts the Paris patisseries challenge. Take it away Colleen.....

Pâtisseries délicieuses …
Stepping off the plane to unseasonably cool weather for a June in Paris, I’m already craving those items I think of as being the best of French food. A freshly-baked baguette, wonderfully rich and creamy cheese accompanied by a glass of Bordeaux.

I could be happy sitting in a café all day watching the Paris world pass by with only my drink order changing from café crème to a vin rouge.

But this trip, my good friend and frequent traveling companion, Mark Stine (yes, the very same blogger who generally graces this space) sent me a list of several of the top pâtisseries in Paris. I decided I was up for the challenge.

So, on one of the warmer days toward the end of my trip, I set out with my traveling companions to begin the adventure. From where we were staying near the Tour Eiffel, we decide to go to the furthest away and work our way back. We took the metro, conveniently located a couple of doors down from our hotel to the Métro République. We followed our Paris map a couple of short blocks south of the Pl. de la République off of the busy Bd du Temple to Jacques Genin.

For years, Jacques Genin, self-taught pastry chef, sold his chocolates and caramels to high-end Paris restaurants and hotels, but finally opened his own space in the hip northern edge of the Marais at the end of 2008. And thus, his delicious goods were made available directly to the public.

His beautiful establishment is warm and welcoming, a combination chocolaterie, pâtisserie and tea salon, with its beautifully designed white walls, extraordinarily lovely orchids well placed by the entrance, and its pristine hard wood floors begging us to take the few steps down into the heart of the shop. Awaiting us were deliciously appealing pastries and glass cases filled with delicate freshly made chocolates.

Standing behind the glass cases, Arthur Dieupart motioned us over and gave us our first taste of the best chocolates in my memory. Smooth and creamy ganaches, we purchased several of the small lovely boxes, each holding nine squares of the most interesting flavors with herbs and spices (jasmine, ginger, mint, tea) and others equally interesting (grapefruit, rose). Even the more typical kind was not of a typical taste.


But, we did come for the pastries!

Jacques Genin has a delightfully inviting tea room on the other side of the circular stairs that lead to the loft kitchen where all the pastries, chocolates, jellys and caramels are made fresh each day … and throughout the day to replenish what has been sold. We decided on the Saint-Honoré, a surprise from the typical that featured a delectable, flaky pastry topped with vanilla whipped cream alongside three cream puffs of chocolate, caramel and vanilla. It was a perfect selection with the café crème (oh, and more chocolates).


jacque genin, fondeur en chocolat - paris
133, rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris
Tél +33(0)1 45 77 29 01

Pulling ourselves away from the inviting ambience, friendly staff and delicious smells, we left to walk to the next shop on our list, Pâtisserie Pain de Sucre.

Located on rue Rambuteau, also in the Marais, just three blocks northeast of the Centre Pompidou, this shop is owned by Nathalie Robert and Didier Mathray. These two met each other at Pierre Gagnaire's three-Michelin-starred restaurant in the pastry kitchen, of course. They opened Pain de Sucre together and continue to work as a team, creating wonderfully fabulous confections.

The bright, well-appointed space is just what you’d imagine when thinking pâtisserie. As we enter the shop, the first things we notice are the cases filled with inviting pastries and macaroons. We quickly notice the ornate and amazingly fairy-tale ceiling perfectly suited to the space. The shop is busy with customers unable to make decisions because everything is so well presented and looks so inviting, concoctions so well appointed they looked like artwork. Even the marshmallows are tempting!
We decide on their tarte au citron, which is apparently pretty famous. We leave the pâtisserie and stroll down to a café for an afternoon espresso. The tart is all we anticipated, delightfully creamy with a hint of lime. Definitely a winner!


Pain du Sucre
14 rue Rambuteau, 75003 Paris
Tél +33(0)1 45 74 68 92

We move on toward our final stop of the day, La Pâtisserie des Rêves located in the posh 7th arrondisement and created by chefs Angelo Musa—a winner of the Pastry World Cup and a Meilleur Ouvrier de France—and Philippe Conticini, partnering with hotelier Thierry Teyssier. (They have another shop in the 16th arrondissement, 10-minutes from the Palais de Chaillot, which includes a salon de thé and an atelier des choux.)

We step into a small space crowded with late afternoon shoppers clearly picking up pastries for after dinner pleasures. Everything in the shop is artfully designed, from the color-coordinated walls, fixtures and packaging, to the interesting glass domes under which contain deliciously appealing delicacies.

If you are looking for only one treat, the word in this "Pastry Shop of Dreams" is to try the Paris-Brest, for which it has won raves, and rightly so. The original Paris-Brest was created in 1891 to commemorate the Paris-Brest-Paris bicycle race and was popular with riders because of its energy-rich calorie content and its circular shape, which was easy to eat on the ride.

True to their creativity, Phillipe Conticini’s Paris-Brest is different than most, with six small puffs of pastry (choux) nestled together in a circle, each containing rich chocolate-praline. The addition of the chocolate adds a wonderful flavor to the smooth crème and goes way beyond the typical. Definitely one to try!


La Pâtisserie des Rêves par Philippe Conticini
93, rue du Bac, 75007 Paris
telephone: +33 (0)1 42 84 00 82

And so, with a sugar over load and a desire for some substantive food, we walked back to our “neighborhood” and stopped at a corner bistro that offered us our customary glass of Bordeaux and the special of the evening, a fresh fish in … wait for it … puff pastry!

We woke up the next morning, our last day in Paris, and decided we couldn’t go home without at least a dozen more boxes of chocolates from Jacque Genin. We made our way over to the shop, which, on this day, was teaming with customers. By the end of it, we (and all the others) had nearly wiped them out. We met Jacques, a most sincere, warm and charming host, and had another pastry and café crème. This time, the lime … divine!!

......And so the Paris patisseries challenge was met by Colleen and her bonvivant friends…I however was a lucky recipient of one of the boxes of chocolates from Jacque Genin…two words...tres’ magnifique! I am not ashamed to say…I ate all of the chocolates in one afternoon...I did however recycle the cute chocolate tin and filled it with a necklace that I gave to my daughter. If you can’t make it to Paris anytime soon..may I recommend the internet..make a list of all of the pastry shops in your area..and spend an afternoon in Pastry pursuit! Bon appetit!