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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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Gourmet Foods 101 - Great Resource For Gourmet Meals Delivered Plus More
Posted: July 30, 2006
The web is a culinary wonderland for foodies. Now I have a new resource to share with you - GourmetFoods101. This site does not beat around the bush. They know what they are about and communicate their purpose and resources directly. First they start out describing the gourmet - do you relate?
"The Meaning of Gourmet - A gourmet is a person devoted to the sensuous enjoyment of delicious food of any kind. If you are a gourmet food lover, this site was meant for you!"
There is a glossary that I enjoy referring to from time to time. You'll also get a chuckle out of the helpful hints. Here's one.
"Did you know? Most hot sauces are healthy for you because they are made with hardly any carbohydrates"
Figs…Enjoying Summer’s Bounty
Posted: July 24, 2006
As summer reaches its peak, its fun to enjoy the bounty of summer. In the next series of columns we will look at what can be grown and enjoyed simply and tastefully. For it’s from natural gardens that so much of our quality food experiences emanate.
Figs are one of those culinary wonders that come on suddenly and provide a unique accent item for cooking and as a fresh fruit garnish. Figs are most often associated with the Mediterranean region, having migrated from Asia, as people traded plant starts as their food value was realized. Highly adapted to mild temperate zones of Europe, they are even grown in tubs or cleverly protected in places like New York City, to provide some of the “Old World” flavor.
I, like many of my peers in the Midwest in the 50’s and 60’s, only knew of figs from eating “Fig Newtons” that crumbly cookie like covering wrapped around that sticky sweet granular interior. Not exactly a culinary delight…but great when you are a kid with a glass of milk.
Fortunately as my interest in gardening blossomed, I discovered what real figs were about. There are a wide variety of fig cultivars, sizes, flavors, texture and as plant innovators discovered, some hardy cultivars that extended the zone for growing fresh figs.
Reaching tree size form as far north as the Jersey Shore barrier Islands, the large sized leaves of the fig tree can give an exotic Mediterranean look to gardens, especially if grown against houses or stucco walls.
Before my move to Las Vegas, which comedian actress Sandra Bernhard referred to in her performance as “The Cultural Center of America”, I was always an adventuresome gardener. I researched and discovered a hardy cultivar, “Chicago Hardy” that remains root hardy to around zero degrees. I donated one to my family in southern Ohio and while generally freezing back each year, the warm humid and wet southern Ohio summer allowed the tree to flourish and reach six to eight feet every year. Figs would ripen sometimes just ahead of the frost because of the northerly latitude and the effort that the tree had to put forth in new above ground growth each year, which delayed fruit production.
I think my Dad enjoyed the novelty of growing them in Ohio and my brother Dan reminded me how he ate figs off the tree into October one year. One exceptionally mild fall in southern Ohio, my dad was able to pick some figs just before Thanksgiving and bring them to Myrtle Beach, where we had Turkey and figs on the beach. It’s nice to look back and have those memories.
While the trees make an excellent garden accent in milder climates, it is the fresh fruit that really makes the tree worthwhile. My courtyard garden in Las Vegas has a Brown Turkey variety. The tree can reach substantial size and mine in only three short years is 12 feet high. I was rewarded this June with a great crop of tasty figs. They make great breakfast fruits, picked warmed from the morning’s sun, their purplish exterior signaling their readiness. And many varieties provide two crops a year, early in summer and then again in the fall…doubling your opportunity to enjoy the sweet earthy flavor.
They also make a nice accent fruit with a variety of summer dishes and alfresco dining.
I even used them with humble pepperoni and the juxtaposition of the flavors was great for a weekend lunch snack...and a nice glass of Pinot Grigio.
Chicken Saltimbocca, with creamed Peppercorn sauce. As a garnish on the side, the fresh figs can make your gourmetstation presentation perfect!
So dive in and enjoy the wonders of fresh figs…It’s Not Your Father’s Fig Newton….
The Great British Picnic
Posted: July 21, 2006
So far this year, we have enjoyed a beautiful summer here in England. And with the fine weather, inevitably we are drawn to eat outdoors, and once again can enjoy that great British tradition - the picnic!
Here in the UK, we will picnic for almost any social occasion! From the simple sandwiches and a flask of tea to a multi- course gourmet meal served by a butler out of the boot of a Rolls-Royce - all are to be enjoyed in the glorious English countryside (weather permitting ofcourse - this is Great Britain after all!). And picnics are "de rigueur" for our much renowned social season. It is at such events as Royal Ascot, the Chelsea Flower Show or the Henley Royal Regatta that the true art of elegant, stylish picnicking can be witnessed.
These days ofcourse, most of us will employ the services of a well trusted purveyor of fine foods or perhaps the local deli or supermarket to supply most of the food, pre-prepared. In Victorian times however, it was a very different affair!
The much revered Victorian Cookery Writer Mrs. Beeton, advised her readers in the 1850’s that the appropriate bill of fare for a picnic for forty demanded 'a joint of cold roast beef, a joint of cold boiled beef, 2 ribs of lamb, 2 shoulders of lamb, 4 roast fowls, 2 roast ducks, 1 ham, 1 tongue, 2 veal and ham pies, 2 pigeon pies, 6 medium lobsters, 1 piece of collard calf’s head, 18 lettuces, 6 baskets of salad, 6 cucumbers.
And in case this wasn’t enough, it was crucial not to forget: 'Stewed fruit well sweetened, and put into glass bottles well corked; 3 or 4 dozen plain pastry biscuits to eat with the stewed fruit, 2 dozen fruit turnovers, 4 dozen cheesecakes, 2 cold cabinet puddings in moulds, 2 blancmanges in moulds, a few jam puffs,' and much more, including 'a tin of mixed biscuits and 1/2 lb. of tea.'
Personally, I adopt a rather more relaxed approach to entertaining - it is meant to be fun after all! A little careful planning and a well chosen menu are the keys to a successful picnic. So here are my top tips for enjoying good food and excellent company…….outdoors:
Planning a Formal Picnic
When planning a formal picnic choose flamboyant food on which to feast the eyes as well as the palate but make sure the food is easy to eat and serve.
Plan the menu with the same care as you would plan a dinner party. Fresh fruit starters, such as melon with Parma ham are ideal as they can be packed and transported successfully, then served and eaten easily.
Raised Veal and Ham Pie, Stuffed Roast Chicken or a Whole Poached Salmon are all classic choices for picnics. Remember though to pack a strong, sharp knife for cutting a pie or carving the chicken or salmon and a good cutting board too. Think about how you are going to present and serve the food and make sure to take appropriate platters and bowls.
Taking creamy dressed salads on a picnic can be a mistake as they do not always look as appetizing after a long journey as when first tossed. It is better to pack a good mixture of prepared mixed leaves with a separate container of excellent oil and vinegar dressing, and then combine them in a large bowl just before they are to be eaten. Similarly, tiny new potatoes cooked in their own skins are an excellent option, with a dressing to pour over as soon as the picnic is unpacked.
Fresh fruit makes a practical dessert (select varieties that are easy to eat rather than a messy fruit which is best tackled at the table). A moulded dessert such as Summer Pudding can be turned out just before it is eaten. Tarts and flans are ideal as long as the filling is not too runny or, in the case of flans, below the rim of the dish to allow for easy packing
Anyone for Drinks?
Classically, a choice of fruited Pimms or well chilled Champagne are always most acceptable (just remember though that after transportation, champagne can be VERY lively - so open with caution!).
Tableware, Cutlery and Glassware
Ultimately, this will always depend upon the formality of the occasion as well as practicality. Brightly colored disposable tableware is most acceptable in many (less formal) events but may be a little inappropriate where style and elegance demand otherwise. Should the latter be the case then I would always compromise with good quality, but not expensive tableware so that if something does get broken (and it invariably does!), then it’s no great loss.
Finally, a word on safety………..
Temperature control is more important than ever when eating outdoors……
Keep the food refrigerated right until the moment you plan to leave for the picnic.
Find a cool and well shaded spot to set out your picnic.
It is important to keep perishable foods cool. Chiller bags may not be as attractive as baskets but they are more practical in terms of food safety. Cooked poultry, fish or meat, mayonnaise, cheese, butter and creamy items are just some examples of foods that must be kept cool. Remember to replace such perishable foods in the chiller bag once individual portions have been removed.
Avoid leaving the food out to become warm and attract flies.
Observe the two-hour rule. This is the longest time that vulnerable food can survive unrefrigerated - though really warm weather will reduce this limit to one hour.
If in doubt, throw it out. Should you have any worries about the safety of food, do not serve it. Far better that your picnic guests miss a course than give them all an upset stomach!
Summer Wine Guide
Posted: July 18, 2006
As the Porgy and Bess classic goes, “Summertime and the livin’ is easy……”
As the temperature heats up your palate tends to desire something crisp, light, and refreshing. Complicated, rich, oaky and full-bodied wines probably won’t satisfy you, but chances are you’ll feel a lot warmer.
For white wines, I’m thinking a little off the beaten path, lets try Albarino, Verdicchio, and Viognier. To preserve the freshness and purity of these grape varieties, they are normally not aged in wood.
Albarino is from the Spanish region of Rias Baixas in the province of Galicia. Rias Baixas is a white wine region and ninety percent of the wine from the area is made from Albarino. Beautifully aromatic with a bouquet of peach, honey, kiwi, vanilla and citrus notes. Similar flavors are found on the palate with hints of almond, spice and mineral. It is crisp, dry and sometimes shows a creamy or supple texture. It is considered to be one of the best matches with seafood very simply prepared. Martin Codax Burgans, Bodegas Nora and Vionta are excellent choices.
Verdicchio, one of Central Italy’s classic white wines. Grown in two DOC zones in Marche: Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi near the Adriatic Sea and Verdicchio di Matelica, further inland and near Umbria. Introduced about forty years ago in the US most Americans know it as the Italian white wine in the tall curvaceous, amphora shaped green bottle. It is dry, medium-to-full bodied, crisp with mineral and green apple notes, a touch of exotic fruits, lemon and a little almond on the finish. It has come a long way in forty years and is one of central Italy’s most interesting wines. Verdicchio matches well with fish, shellfish, chicken, light creamy pasta dishes and sushi. Try Fazi Battaglia Classico or Umani Ronchi Casal di Serra Classico Superiore.
Viognier, is the traditional white grape of Condrieu in the northern Rhone and blended with red Rhone varietals to soften the wine and add bouquet. Chardonnay’s precocious sister, shows off with lush flavors and exotic, perfumed aromas, but if it doesn’t go through barrel fermentation or have too high a percentage of alcohol it can be a great transition in the summer for Chardonnay drinkers. Grilled fish or chicken with fruit salsas and Asian Cuisine are wonderful paired with Viognier. The following wines are in a pure, delicate style, Circus by L’ostal Cazes, and Jean Luc Colombo from the south of France. From California, I would suggest trying Jewel perfect for warm weather or Pine Ridge Viognier-Chenin Blanc lean elegance with low alcohol.
Roses are a good choice if you want the fruit and spice flavors of red grapes and a great partner for food. A variety of red grapes are used such as Grenache, Mourvedre, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Tempranillo and Pinot Noir. The flavors are as different as the grapes used. Rose may be bone dry, slightly fruity or sweet.
There are three ways to produce Rose. The first method is called maceration. Maceration involves crushing red skinned grapes and allowing the skin to remain in contact with the juice in a stainless steel vat. After the desired color is achieved the grapes are pressed and the skins discarded. The second method saignee or bleeding involves crushing the grapes and leaving them in a vat for several hours. The juice is then drawn off or “bled” and fermented into rose. The third method involves blending red and white wines together. This is how mass produced blush wines are made. Blending is also the way Rose Champagne is sometimes made
Rose should be chilled and served with a variety of foods such as roasted or marinated vegetables, smoked salmon, cold meats, sausage or ham and seared tuna. I would suggest trying Chateau d’Aqueria Tavel from France, the value priced roses from Spain such as Protocolo, Borsao or Condeza de Leganza and for a special splurge Robert Sinskey, Iron Horse and Saintsbury of California all make roses from Pinot Noir.
For the reds, lets put a little chill on all of them and try some wines from Italy such as Barbera and Valpolicella and Beaujolais from France. Typically, in the summer we grill outdoors and red wines that are served with barbecued or grilled foods should be fruity.
Barbera is the most abundant grape variety in the Piedmonte and is produced by the same winemakers that make Barbaresco and Barolo. Barberas have brilliant acidity, lush fruit with leather, vanilla and spice notes and low tannin making them a great counterpoint to food with a versatility to work with tomato based pasta dishes or a grilled steak. For a reasonably priced but satisfying Barbera try Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti Le Orme.
Given their climate in the Veneto region, the Venetians figured out long ago how to make a summertime red. Valpolicella is made mainly from corvina, with rondinella, molinara and sometimes negrara grapes. It’s a red wine of substance with dried cherry and red currant flavors complemented by notes of smoke, spice and anise. Some of the top producers of Valpolicella are Allegrini, Masi, Zenato and Tommasi.
Last but not least, Beaujolais is a straight-forward soft, fruity wine made from the Gamay grape. Flavors of black cherry and black raspberry are followed by a peppery spiciness on the finish. The wine is customarily chilled in the region and with about fifteen to thirty minutes in the refrigerator the chill will intensify the fruit and spice. Beaujolais is reasonably priced and readily available. I would suggest the Beaujolais Villages wines which are generally a blend of grapes from several villages and are of better quality than Beaujolais or better still a Cru Beaujolais from one of ten special villages. The Duboeuf Fleurie Domaine des Quatre Vents is always a treat.
It’s summertime, make your wine picks easy too.
GourmetStation - Woman’s World Summer Picnic Sweepstakes
Posted: July 18, 2006
This press release is hot off the press. Don't forget to go out & buy your July 25th issue of Woman's World and enter the summer picnic contest!
GourmetStation, the leading national merchant for gourmet dinners and upscale prepared meals delivered and Woman’s World, The Woman’s Weekly national magazine, announced a summer picnic sweepstakes.
Ten lucky readers of Woman’s World, The Woman’s Weekly national magazine, will win a chef-inspired GourmetStation picnic for two. Details to enter are in the July 25, 2006 issue of Woman’s World. Winners may select from romantic menus like Parisian, Tuscan, Cajun or Fusion. Each GourmetStation picnic for two is valued at $100 and includes artisan bread, savory soups, delicious entrees, Euro blend coffee and a floating candle with matches. The deadline to enter is 5:00 PM EST on September 25, 2006. Those entering must be 18 or older and no purchsae is necessary.
"We are thrilled to team up with Woman's World for this summer picnic give away" says founder & President, Donna Lynes-Miller. "Woman's World is a fun and informative national magazine and we believe their readers will enjoy participating in the give away."
Exceptional Bed & Breakfast - Florence South Carolina
Posted: July 16, 2006
Delicious Destinations has explored French wineries, Tuscan inns, Asian dining traditions & Cajun secret recipes. I think it’s about time to share some U.S. culture – specifically southern culture from the beautiful state of South Carolina.
Welcome to the quaint town of Florence, South Carolina where there was one and only one bed and breakfast in Florence South Carolina. That was all I required to provide my overnight respite. What was presented to me however was much more than I bargained for.
Welcome to Ambrias Garden Manor Bed & Breakfast located near the downtown area of Florence South Carolina. Welcome to the southern hospitality provided by owners Ella & David Frazier. Built in 1920 the “Old Holden House” is reminiscing of the Victoria ear with columns, arches and multiple fireplaces. Details galore from the house and Ella’s décor provide constant stimulation for the senses. And we haven’t even mentioned the sixty plus Camellia shrubs in the side and back yards.
I stayed in the Rose Room facing Kuker Street. The richly furnished room had a very comfortable bed that provided “good sleeping” during a summer afternoon thunderstorm. Some of the glass pans were original to the 1920’s construction and provided a wavy view of the neighborhood like looking into a child’s fantasy. The original blinds had been artfully restored and for a moment I felt as if I was in my childhood bedroom, safe and secure.
The real experience from Ambrias Garden Manor comes directly from Ella and David who are naturally gifted hostess and host. Their sense of family is demonstrated in the name, Ambrias, which stands for their two granddaughters, Amber & Brias. Ella and David retired from New York several years ago and decided to move back “home” to South Carolina. Their stay in New York certainly did not diminish their southern hospitality. While looking for a location for a dress boutique, they came upon the old Holden House. The notion of a bed and breakfast came about and the rest is history.
What makes Ambrias Garden Manor exceptional is Ella and David’s attention to detail. Sheets are perfectly ironed. Coffee is from a silver server. Napkins are cloth. China is oh so fine. No corners were cut. But even without these exquisite details Ambrias Garden Manor is most favorite bed and breakfast of all times. Why? Because of the delightful people and their genuine care and concern for their patrons. Congratulations Ella & David!
Dinner Of The Month – The Story of Leroy & Marguerite Howard
Posted: July 14, 2006
We introduced our dinner of the month offering about a year ago and have been delighted at how many people have purchased the program for a dinner gift to be enjoyed throughout the year.
The stories behind these purchases are amazing and with the permission of our patrons, we are pleased to share one story with you. Meet Leroy & Marguerite Howard from Bellaire, Texas. We are privileged to talk monthly to those patrons that choose to order via phone and we knew when we spoke the first time with Marguerite (nicknamed Pete) that we would have a delightful monthly experience discussing cuisine in general and the GourmetStation menus.
Let’s back up the story for a minute to how Leroy & Marguerite received a 12 month Dinner of the Month gift. Marguerite shared with us that their son was looking for a unique gift while she & her husband were stationery. Travel was one of their passions, but health issues had kept them at home more these days. What could be better than having an international gourmet dinner for two delivered right to their door every month for a year!
So far Leroy & Marguerite have enjoyed seven of their twelve dinners. They’ve taken a figurative trot around the world at home by sampling four course dinners for two from the Parisian, Tuscan, Cajun & Fusion menu lines. Marguerite said that since they were unable to travel as much lately, the gourmet dinner experiences from GourmetStation gave them a way to travel through food. “Food tastes different from place to place,” said Marguerite, “and the dinners allow us to travel through food and still stay at home.”
Marguerite said that she & Leroy are usually able to get four meals from each dinner for two and she really enjoys not having to cook for a couple of days. In addition to travel, Marguerite enjoys gardening and baking. We were a little nervous about our desserts passing Marguerite’s test from an experienced baker’s perspective. So far it looks like we’re passing the test. Thank you Leroy & Marguerite for being such fantastic patrons and for granting this interview!
Pork Char Sui - Prepared Meal Delivered
Posted: July 12, 2006
GourmetStation has a brand new Fusion gourmet meal for your summer delight – Pork Char Siu. Fusion is an exotic mixing and matching of traditional center of the plate proteins, like a lean pork chop for example, with Asian style sauces. This dish weds a closely trimmed, western style pork chop with char siu sauce, traditional Chinese barbecue sauce.
Now we can’t give away the GourmetStation recipe for char siu or the menu creators would not be happy with me. But I can tell you a little about char siu. This site gives you the basic ingredients in case you want to create your own: hoisin sauce, soy sauce, dry sherry & honey (both a must), and a tad of sugar. The great folks at About.com have an interesting recipe as well.
If you’re as busy as I am this summer, it might be best to let GourmetStation do the work for you. Check out their menu for Fusion gourmet meals delivered. If you don’t have a birthday or anniversary to celebrate, try celebrating “you”. Take a weekend & treat yourself. You deserve it!
A Little Deruta With Your Tuscan Gourmet Meal
Posted: July 8, 2006
Deruta is a walled city in Italy famous for production of colorful hand painted ceramics. Predominant colors are yellow, green, aqua - yes, food colors. When casually arranged ceramics are filled with fresh cuisine, the result is akin to a Renaissance still life.
My favorite pieces from Deruta are tiny espresso cups artfully signed fima deruta italy. Matching bud vases create an intimate conversation area especially when I use a slightly tattered white & yellow starched tablecloth my mother acquired in Italy in the early 1950's.
Visit this site and see Deruta through Carol's eyes. Christmas trees are decorated with ceramic ornaments. Storefronts are adorned with ceramics. It's sensory overload.
If you wish to purchase a few pieces to get started and you don't wish to invest a lot, try Replacements.com. A matched set is certainly not required. As a matter of fact, a mixing and matching of china from several Deruta factories will produce a more interesting table setting. Another Source is CeramicaDirect.com.
If you are thinking about giving a meal gift from GourmetStation from the Tuscan menu, you might consider also ordering a single piece of china from Deruta as a keepsake. Who knows? It could be the beginning of an extensive collection!
Birthday Gourmet Meal - Parisian Style
Posted: July 5, 2006
Birthdays roll around fast and the older we get, the faster we deplete our reservoir of unique birthday gift ideas. Don’t fret – I’ve got the answers. Birthdays are about celebration and who ever heard of a celebration without delicious food. For your next birthday dinner celebration I recommend letting GourmetStation do the work for your. Their wide selection of gourmet meals delivered takes the pressure off planning, preparing and serving. You can relax, enjoy the moment & be the stellar host or hostess that you are. You may select birthday dinners from our Tuscan, Cajun or Fusion menus. This year, however, I’m recommending Parisian and a good French wine to compliment the experience. Go ahead – order a Parisian gourmet meal delivered, seek out your perfect French wine and let the world stop for a moment while you honor that special someone.
Chevillon-Chezeaux – Nuits-Saint-Georges (Excerpt from TopFrenchWine.com)
This French family have been growing vines here for 4 generations (9 hectares). The working and winemaking methods have remained traditional, with grapes picked by hand, long vatting and maturing in oak barrels for 18 to 24 months. A good Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru Les Saint-Georges – good colour, complex bouquet with aromas of ripe red fruit and liquorice, makes a good impression on the palate, ideal served with game. Excellent Nuits les Porêts combining roundness and power in the mouth, complex and subtle at the same time, rich and nicely balanced, with great ageing potential. The same goes for the Nuits Premier Cru Aux Champs Perdrix, very traditional, well structured with firm tannins. Older vintages are still available. Remarkable character and value for money.