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Welcome to delicious Destinations, a GourmetStation blog. Through the charater 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 love you hear from you. Please share your experiences from home or abroad.
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Living The French Fantasy
Posted: August 29, 2005
My favorite wine is Bordeaux. My favorite dish for breakfast or brunch is quiche Lorraine. My favorite cheese is Brie. My favorite architectural icon is the Eiffel Tower. Was I born French? No. Where did all this come from?
At best I believe I am not alone. If you examine the contributions the French have made to the culinary arts and winemaking, well, need I say more? I'm sharing a few resources to help you bring a little French elegance into your life, if you so desire.
If you wish to experiment with some recipes such as Pate de Lapin (rabbit pate) visit The French Food and Cook. For less complicated recipes consider Haricots verts a la provencale - green beans with tomatos. Tour the wine regions of France from Alsace to Vallee du Rhone at French Wines & Food. This informative voyage will help you understand varieties and the effects of soil and climate on the annual wine production.
A must read is Cheryl MacLachlan's Bringing Home France. Cheryl has written several books on European culture and traditions and Bringing Home France is my favorite. You will really enjoy the chapter on designing a kitchen with "no secrets" - sous la main - in plain view and right at the fingertips. This can all be accomplished with beauty and simplistic design. Bon appetit!
Remember GourmetStation's collection of Parisian style cuisine for your next dinner party or for a gourmet food gift for someone special.
Posted: August 28, 2005
Our identification with food and wine far exceeds sensual pleasure. The relationships often identify ourselves. Ever thought about it? So it is with Miles (Paul Giamatti) in Sideways. Winner of six Independent Spirit Awards including Best Feature and Best Director, Sideways chronicles a snippet of two middle-aged men’s lives as they take a road trip in California wine country prior to Jack (Thomas Haden Church) getting married. Middle aged men in crisis, wine, and more crisis is just the tip of the iceberg for this comedy drama.
Now back to identifying with wine. Miles sees himself as a failure in life but he has found a glimmer of joy and self-confidence in his relationship with wine. In a heart- warming conversation with friend Maya (Virginia Madsen) Miles describes his favorite wine, Pinot Noir. When Maya asked why he was obsessed with Pinot, Miles responds by describing Pinot as a hard grape to grow / thin-skinned / tempermental / not a survivor like Cabernet that can thrive with neglect. Only the most patient can take the time to understand the grape and coax it on to full potential argued Miles.
Miles got it! I’ll bet you can find similar parallels in your life. Consciously or unconsciously I guess we really are “what we eat (drink).”
Posted: August 28, 2005
Chefs that are skilled in preparing delicious meals without meat are true masters. Some of the most exquisite cuisine I've ever enjoyed was vegetarian and vegan. If you are inclined to learn more, I recommend you master the definitions first.
But first did you know that these famous celebs are vegan...Bryan Adams (Canadian rock star), Gillian Anderson (best known as FBI Agent Scully from the X-Files), Drew Barrymore, Linda Blair, Woody Harrelson, and kd lang. Athletes include track and field star Carl Lewis and recently Scott Jurek. Scott won the Badwater Ultramatharon, a grueling 135 miles through 115 degree desert heat from the lowest point in the US to one of the highest, Mount Whitney. Impressive. Read on.
Vegan (pronounced VEE-gun) is someone who chooses to avoid using or consuming animal products. While vegetarians choose not to use flesh foods, vegans also avoid dairy, fish and eggs.
Vegetarianism includes veganism and is defined as the practice of not eating meat, poultry or fish or their by-products, with or without the use of dairy productds or eggs.
Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian is the same is vegan, but these folks also eat eggs and milk products. This is the most popular form of vegetarianism.
Lacto Vegetarian is the the same as vegan, but also consumes milk products.
Veggie is a nick name for vegetarian and often includes vegan.
Strick vegetarians were originally vegans, but now can mean vegan or vegetarian.
So there you have it. If your boss comes to dinner and you're warned first that his wife is lacto vegetarian what kind of dish might you serve? A beautiful salad with simple oil & vinegar dressing is always appreciated by the vegetarian. For this guest I would recommend a pasta, perhaps cheese tortellini topped with a cream based sauce like sundried tomato alfredo sauce. GourmetStation might have the answer for you in their vegetarian gourmet food gift collection.
Versatile Summer Wines
Posted: August 25, 2005
Susan Andersen, Wine Consultant Superiore, is back with suggestions for wines to go with picnics and casual summer dining including Tuscan style dining. Susan shows us that even dining al fresco can be chic and elegant...with the right wine of course. Welcome back Susan. Cheers!
With temperatures hovering in the 90's I'll bet you're looking for a way to cool down. Personally, I need something light, crisp, thirst quenching and most of all, chilled! Above all the wine needs to be refreshing, so a good summer wine must have ample acidity and be light-bodied or low in alcohol. A low alcohol wine won't slow you down, so I suggest a wine that ranges around 11 to 12 percent. Their lighter character makes them a great match for many different food types.
Riesling is a perfect summertime white. It comes in many different styles from bone dry to very sweet, so a Riesling is available for any taste. I like a dryer Riesling from Alsace, but a German Kabinett or a late-harvest Riesling from Washington state would work well for dining on the patio or a picnic. Shrimp is a great match for Riesling.
Sauvignon Blanc with its fresh crisp style makes it one of the most "food friendly" wines. Traditionally made in a lighter high-acid style, it can easily match the acid in a vinaigrette dressing or a cool gazpacho. Besides working well with uncooked foods, it is also enjoyable with a grill of chicken or seafood. It works especially well with goat cheese.
Rose is a top-notch choice for grilled foods, but is flexible and pairs nicely with salads and even a slightly spicy based dish. The freshness of rose wines with their strawberry, cherry, raspberry, cranberry and watermelon flavors are particularily enjoyable in the spring and summer. I like rose with smoked meats or spinach salads with strawberries or a raspberry vinaigrette.
Muscat is the hero of a picnic. It's elegant, very low in alcohol with a floral bouquet of white fruits and spice and if from Asti, a touch of creaminess or a little bubbly. It's like a ripe fruit salad in a glass. A wine that's hard not to like.
If red is still your choice, I would suggest a Beaujolais or Pinot Noir slightly chilled. The chill brings the fruit flavors forward in both wines. Just make sure that the temperature of the wine isn't as high as the temperature outside!
Fantasy Entertaining - Tuscan Style
Posted: August 24, 2005
We all harbor fantasies about extreme entertaining. My favorite fantasy is entertaining with authentic Tuscan style food, decor and atmosphere. The attraction for me is simplicity and focus on family...the outdoor breezy portico, picnic table made of aged lumber, focaccia bread, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and Chianti. Can you feel it?
I've found numerous resources to help achieve the fantasy. Try thte Art of Cookery web site where you can access authentic and traditional Florentine, Tuscan and Italian recipes and wine suggestions. There's even a glossary where you can learn the lingo. Ever hear the term finocchiona? It refers to Tuscan style cold cured pork; usually spicy and flavored with fennel seeds. A nice thought for your next dinner party appetizer. They even talk about the three essentials of Tuscan style cooking - bread, olive oil and wine. Much like the holy trinity in Cajun cuisine.
Now if you're ready to take Tuscan lifestyle to another level, a must read is Cheryl MacLachlan's Bringing Italy Home. Cheryl makes decor suggestions all the way from the living room to the dining room. She explains the differences in regional flavors from Tuscany to Umbria to Venice and Milan. My favorite chapter deals with designing a warm kitchen using terra-cotta directly from the hands of the artisans. You'll really enjoy "Don't Cut The Spaghetti!" a special feature on making and eating pasta properly.
If you're looking for a gourmet food gift and you wish to send the warmth of Italy, remember GourmetStation's collection of Tuscan style prepared cuisine. From four course dinners featuring Chicken Saltimboca to the soup collection featuring Italian Wedding Soup to hand made appetizers featuring Tomato Bruchetta, it's not just food in a box - it's an experience; Tuscan style.
Salmon - The Fish For All Seasons
Posted: August 24, 2005
I just found out that my precious salmon is a cousin of the trout. Why does that bother me so? These creatures are as unique as the recipes we turn them into. Did you know that Pacific salmon die soon after spawning while the Atlantic salmon spawn several times in their lives?
You may purchase salmon as a whole fish and prepare to serve it as such. What an impressive presentation for your next dinner party. Salmon steaks are a vertical cut from the body of the fish, are usually thick and make a nice presentation as well. Salmon fillets are best for delicate applications such as pan-frying, steaming or poaching. I recommend Fish4Fun if you're looking for unique recipes such as toppings like Honey-Macadamia with Pineapple Relish. Don't forget GourmetStation's salmon and seafood collection if you are seeking a gourmet gift or treat for yourself.
Know Your Pasta
Posted: August 23, 2005
Pasta enthusiasts, you must study Pasta Shapes 101. We can all identify angel hair pasta, but do you know that another name for angel hair pasta is "capellini", Italian for "fine hairs." Macaroni is one of the first words we speak, but do you know about ditalini (little thimbles)? Ditalini is extremely versatile and can be used for soups, salads and stir-fry entrees. Kids spend hours arranging wagon wheel (ruote) pasta on their plates, but do you know about radiatore (radiator) pasta with it's ruffled, ridged shape?
As far as history is concerned there seems to be an international debate as to who developed the first pasta. Was it the Italians, Greeks or Chinese who invented the stuff? Never mind. Never mind those carbs either. When you're in the mood for pasta, go for it. Remember to moderate in moderation.
GourmetStation has a lovely pasta collection, for your next dinner party or a gourmet gift for a pasta lover.
Setting The Table - Your Way
Posted: August 22, 2005
I've enjoyed delicious food in a minimalist setting. It worked. I've enjoyed mediocre food in an elaborate setting. It worked. Well a little. The big idea is to be sure to serve delicious food in an unforgettable setting. That's the secret of the ultimate entertainer.
The Art of Cookery provides plenty of unique ideas from making sure glasses are clear to show off the color of the wine - - to where your bread plate should be placed. The devil is in the details.
If you're a do-it-yourselfer you might enjoy HGTV's web page where you can create elegance on a budget. Customize napkins with iron-on decals. Or create flower-cake centerpieces using multi-color carnations. Create drama with a mono-chromatic color scheme. Use a large green pepper as a cup for dips. The list goes on.
I recently discovered Design Sponge, a fantastic destination for the design enthusiast. The blog led me to the Moma Store where I found hundreds of accessories for the dining area including a modular jigsaw puzzle shaped wine rack. My last bit of advice as you become king or queen of the dinner party - be bold / have fun.
A correct table setting must be followed by great cuisine. GourmetStation has something to offer here with their gourmet dinner offerings. You can be the Star Chef without a lot of work.
All About Cheesecake
Posted: August 21, 2005
I'm not sure who decided it was best to serve desserts at the end of dinner. A disciplinarian I suppose who wanted to make a point about patience. If I were making up the rules, desserts would always be served first.
What's your favorite dessert? Mine is cheesecake - usually some variation of chocolate because we all know that chocolate works. The perfection of the cheesecake was most likely a top priority for Adam & Eve, but first recorded history is not until 776 B.C. when athletes were served cheesecake during the Olympic Games.
These days there are hundreds of cheesecake recipes. Cream cheese, Neufchatel, cottage cheese or ricotta are the essential ingredients and determine the final quality. Here's what Linda Stradley with What's Cooking America has to say about the New York Cheesecake. "The New York cheesecake is the pure, undulated cheesecake with no fancy ingredients added either to the cheesecake or placed on top of it. It is made with pure cream cheese, cream, eggs and sugar. Everybody has a certain image of New York style cheesecake. According to New Yorkers,only the great cheesecake makers are located in New York, and the great cheesecake connoisseurs are also in New York. In the 1900's cheesecakes were very popular in New York and New Yorkers say that cheesecake wasn't really cheesecake until was cheesecake in New York."
Whether you're a minimalist favoring New York style or a flamboyant seeking Cappuccino Chocolate, you'll find a wonderful selection of desserts at GourmetStation to satisfy your gourmet food gift shoping list.
History of Tea
Posted: August 21, 2005
Tea's history is as interesting and complex as the drink is seductive. Shen Nung was an early emperor of China. He was also a skilled ruler, scientist and a patron of the arts. As a hygienic precaution he required that all drinking water be boiled. While visiting a distant region of his empire on a hot summer day, he and his court stopped to rest. As the servants began to boil water for drinking, some dried leaves from a nearby bush fell into the boiling water making a distinctive golden brown liquid. The scientific side of the Emperor emerged and he was driven to experiment with the new liquid. He drank it and found it quite refreshing. And so tea was created. Serendipity at it's best - wouldn't you agree?
If you're looking for soothing organic teas for yourself or a gourmet tea gift for someone special, remember GourmetStation's tea collection.