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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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Musings from Casa Fagiano…

Posted: October 29, 2006
by: Dave, Edie & Simonetta

It was a quintessential October day in the rolling hills of Northwestern Connecticut.  The autumn colors were magnificent…the sky was almost the blue of the Tuscan sky…the air was crisp and a soft breeze was blowing out of the southwest.  It was a perfect day to begin preparations for the anticipated New England winter soon to follow.

And so, after a day of dealing with leaves, shutting down the outside water, changing from screens to storm windows and a few other miscellaneous tasks, it was time to relax, enjoy the sunset, a glass of wine and dinner.  As I entered the house, having put the leaf blower away, delicious aromas greeted my sense of smell.  I knew instantly that dinner was going to be great.

In addition to being an avid gardener, my wife Edie is a “creative cook”.  She delights in augmenting existing recipes with added ingredients she feels will enhance the taste or in creating new recipes especially if what she uses comes from her garden.  This year’s garden included some great tasting zucchini squash, superb eggplant and a bumper crop of tomatoes.  She was using these ingredients to form the basis of two delightfully tasteful dishes. Picture1

The fresh cherry tomatoes had been sliced in half and were marinating in a dish along with fresh basil (from the herb garden), salt, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and Gorgonzola cheese.  In addition, small cubes of eggplant and diced pieces of pepper (both from her garden) had been sautéed and added to the tomatoes.  On the stove, a pot of water was being brought to a boil for the pasta. 

Also on the stove was a cast iron fry pan in which she had sautéed squash and sliced onion.  They had been topped with Parmesan cheese.  Picture2_1

When the pasta was al dente, Edie drained it and added it to the sauce, which was marinating in the dish.   A light tossing blended the pasta with the sauce and melted the Gorgonzola combining all the ingredients into a wonderful bouquet of flavors.


Served along with a glass of red wine, this dinner was the perfect ending to a beautiful autumn day in southern New England.



Turkey Wine! - Wine Suggestions For Thanksgiving Dinner

Posted: October 27, 2006
by: Susan Anderson

Choosing a wine for Thanksgiving dinner can be mind boggling, given the great variety and all the different flavors of food on the plate. Lean white meat or rich dark meat. Sweet potato soufflé, buttery mashed potatoes or rice with gravy. Stuffing made with sausage, chestnuts, oysters or lots of savory herbs and raisins. Green beans or green bean casserole. And let’s not forget cranberry sauce and spiced peaches. Thanksgiving_table_with_turkey_2

The idea of finding a single wine becomes a daunting task. A good approach is to serve a white and a red allowing each guest to pick the wine they prefer or having two glasses at each place setting and tasting a little of each with the food served. I prefer serving lighter, livelier, less complex and less alcoholic wines as I believe they go better with the turkey and fixings rather than richer, heavier more complicated ones. Remember, Thanksgiving is a food lover’s holiday and you want to taste the food instead of just the wine. (After all, you want to be awake for the football games!)

Here is a rundown of wine ideas to help inspire you.

A traditional turkey wine and the best seller is the seasonal Beaujolais Nouveau. It’s fresh, fruity and approachable for any level of wine drinker and just happens to be released a week before Thanksgiving. If you prefer something a little richer with more finish try Noveau’s older brother a cru Beaujolais or Beajolais Villages.

Red wine has long been the classic choice for Thanksgiving because its light berry acidic fruit contrast well with such a big range of flavors. Just as cranberry sauce contrast with the flavors of meat, butter, herbs and spices so does red wine. Pinot Noir, Syrah/Shiraz or Zinfandel will all fit the bill, but remember to stay away from the heavier more alcoholic ones, you want soft, brilliant fruit and balancing acidity.

Some of us just prefer white wine. The standby Chardonnay is fine if you choose an un-oaked or lightly oaked Californian or maybe a French Burgundy. Almost any Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris will work especially if you are using a lot of herbs in your dishes.   A Riesling or Gewurztraminer has ripe fruit flavors and round texture to match the richness of the dishes, but a nice dry finish to cleanse the palate.  Or complement the meal with a full-bodied wine with a lush creamy mouth feel and intense floral aroma by serving an American Viognier.

Of all the world’s wines, sparkling wine is unquestionably the best-known beverage associated with festivity and gaiety.  Sparkling wine makes any event more lively and special. Serve a flute or two as a starter or with an appetizer. And with dinner they are the best of all, when you have a plate full of a lot of different flavors and textures, it seems to work with everything.

On to dessert. Pumpkin, pecan, mincemeat, or apple pie or cheesecake would all be accentuated by a little tawny port. With its dried white fruit, nutty vanilla character and rich texture it can stand up to any of these dessert’s and complement them beautifully.

And lastly, to make your Thanksgiving delicious and stress-free order your Thanksgiving dinner or your Thanksgiving food gift from GourmetStation and use one of the ‘Turkey Wine’ suggestions above. Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Susan Anderson

Fall Dinner Party Ideas

Posted: October 26, 2006
by: Robert Jackson

It’s that time of the year again! The weather is starting to cool, the leaves are falling and the days grow ever shorter. And suddenly once again, we are more inclined to the idea of having fiends over for dinner. This is the perfect season for fall dinner parties!Leaves_with_shadows_1

So here I want to share with you my tips and suggestions that will help to take the stress out of entertaining, and leave you free to enjoy the occasion. After all, isn’t that what dinner parties are all about?

Planning a fall dinner party menu is as simple as A - B - C!


Balance, and

Cooking methods


First and foremost, I always try to work some seasonal produce into my dinner party menu. Even just a hint of the season is better than none - perhaps a fresh asparagus first course, or beautiful, sweet summer fruits in the dessert. But whatever you do, don't fight the seasons - a rich Game Casserole in the heat of summer, or a Spring Vegetable Consommé in the dead of winter will not impress your guests!

Try to use fresh, natural produce wherever possible. You just can't compare the flavor of a freshly roasted free-range chicken with that of a frozen or pre-packed bird off the supermarket shelf! And experiment with organic foods, especially organic vegetables which are so much more flavorsome.

Where a recipe calls for a specialty gourmet food ingredient that isn't available in your area, try shopping online. There are many excellent online gourmet food stores who will deliver right to your door. Buying just one or two small luxury items from gourmet specialty stores will add a real touch of elegance to your dinner party menu.

But whatever you choose to cook, don't get stressed if you can't locate the exact ingredients or produce. Instead, simply choose another dish!


Think CONTRAST.........

Try to combine different colors, textures and flavors. Smooth followed by chunky, sweet complemented by sour, fish followed by meat........

Choose lighter dishes at the beginning of the menu, saving the heavier and more substantial for main course. A rich dessert to finish off the dinner party is fine as long as you serve only a SMALL portion.......!

Don't serve a strongly flavored first course followed by a lightly flavored main course. If you do, the delicate flavors of the main dish will be totally lost.....

Don't over use any single ingredient. Cheese for example is perfect in any course, but over-kill if it turns up in every course......!


Choose a dinner party menu that allows you to incorporate a number of different cooking methods, for example.....


Try to avoid main course recipes that call for last minute complex, or time consuming preparations. The trick is to have as much of the menu pre-prepared as possible, with only the finishing to do at the last minute. This puts less pressure on your time when you want to be with your guests.

Special Preferences and Diets

I always try to check with my guests before the party to find out if any of them have any specific dietary requirements that must be included in the dinner party menu. Finding out on the night for example that someone is Vegetarian, is not allowed to eat pork, or can't abide fish will only cause you unnecessary stress!

Simplicity Rules - ok?

Restrict the menu to a minimum of two and a maximum of four courses.

Don't attempt any dish that you are not confident with.

Don't try to incorporate too many different flavors in any one dish. Let the simple, fresh, uncluttered flavors shine through.

Try to keep a single theme throughout the menu, for example Eastern, European or Classic American cuisine.

Don't be tempted into extravagance or excess PURELY to impress. Use expensive, specialty foods sparingly. These days, "less is more"!   

Don't get carried away with over the top, extravagant garnishes and decorations. Let the quality and presentation of the food speak for itself.

Practical Limitations

Consider your kitchen space and equipment. Have you got enough cooking pans, and of the right size?

Do you have enough china, serving dishes/platters, cutlery and glassware without having to wash up between courses?

Is your dining table big enough for the number of guests? Take account of the extra space needed for placing serving bowls and platters on the table.

Consider your time availability and flexibility. If you try to be over ambitious then at the very least you will tire yourself out, get yourself stressed and you won't enjoy the dinner party.....or at the very worst, it will all end in disaster!

Cheat a Little!

If time is tight be prepared to compromise.

Buy in some prepared food for delivery to your door. There are so many excellent quality products which you can simply and quickly buy online…..…Gourmet Station for example offers an excellent range of a la carte appetizers, main courses and desserts Buy in just one course, or two, and leave yourself more time to concentrate on the other dishes.

Or if the budget will allow it, consider hiring a Personal Chef for the evening. You can even have one of these Chefs come into your kitchen before the dinner party, prepare several dishes and chill them. The dinner party menu then only needs you to do the reheating and then to serve it with a little touch of style and flair.

No-one ever needs to know your little secret!

Robert Jackson
Gourmet Food Revolution

Bye-Bye Summer, Hello Fall (Wine Recommendations)

Posted: October 22, 2006
by: Susan Anderson

If any of you are beginning to think about wine for Thanksgiving Dinner, remember, that turkey has the most delicate flavor of anything on the plate, especially if your a white meat fan. You are for the most part matching the wine with the other food on the plate. If you want a wine to go with the turkey think soft, light and delicate. Like Riesling, Beaujolais, Chenin Blanc. So, on my next post I'll give some suggestions on what to serve with Thanksgiving dinner.

As the leaves change color and fall to the ground, pumpkins hit the doorstep, and weekends are all about football and fall festivals, we find ourselves wanting heartier foods and soft, spicy red wines. Here are some great choices for tailgating, your grandmother’s beef pot roast or a Halloween party where three bean chili or shepherds pie is the entrée of choice. So, if you are looking for a hearty, spicy, soft red, look no further and try one of these.

Agricola de Borja Borsao 2005 - Borsao is a blend of 80% Garnacha and 20% Tempranillo. This wine is stainless steel fermented to allow the intense aromas of fresh sweet berries and pepper to flow out of the glass. Medium body with a silky texture, wonderful ripeness of fruit and a note of tobacco on the finish.  Excellent quality at a great price.

Candido Salice Salentino 2001 - A wine from Puglia that has a nose of red and black cherries and fresh tobacco. It is a lighter blend of 80% Negroamaro and 15% Malvasia Nero. With a fresh flavor of dried red fruits and Mediterranean herbs and a touch of anise on the soft, smooth finish. Named by Decanter Magazine as on of the top 100 Wines of Italy, October 2006.

Jaboulet Cotes du Rhone  - ‘Parallele 45’ Rouge 2003 Aroma of red fruits, especially raspberry, pepper and herbs. Full-bodied, soft and smooth with flavors of plum, raspberries, cocoa and spice. Good balancing acidity with a touch of wood spice on the finish. Very balanced. A blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Grenache.

Jacob’s Creek Shiraz Reserve 2003 - Cherry and blackberry fruit with fragrant cooking spice and ground pepper notes and a little toasty oak on the nose. Silky texture with blackberry, licorice, cooking spice and ground black pepper flavors with smoky oak finish. Hope you have the grill going at the tailgate party.

Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red, Lot 40 - A proprietary red table wine primarily composed of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Carignan with small amounts of Cabernet and Syrah added to the blend with various Italian varietals rounding out the lot. (Now that’s a blend.) Inviting ripe blackberry, black pepper and spice nose with a touch of oak. Very mouth filling with rich black and red berry fruit flavors and a little subtle oak on the long finish.

Tapena Tempranillo Tierra de Castilla 2005 - Deep purple wine with flavors and aromas of luscious red cherry fruit, with a touch of earthiness and anise. The finish is long with a hint of spicy mocha. Produced by the Ferrer family of Spain. If you are into cooking you’ll love the painted bottle and the versatility of this wine.  Tapena is also available in the Garnacha varietal and both wines are very food friendly.

Susan Anderson


Thanksgiving Dinner Delivered by GourmetStation

Posted: October 20, 2006
by: T.Alexander

We thought you might enjoy this "hot off the press" release about our new Thanksgiving dinner menu. If you wish to connect with loved ones you cannot be with this Thanksgiving, connect with our dinner gifts. Or if you want to take a break from all the preparation and cooking, try our Thanksgiving dinner for two for yourself. Bon appetit!Thanksgiving_table_with_turkey_1

GourmetStation, Provider Of Upscale Gourmet Food Gifts, Announces Thanksgiving 2006 Menu

GourmetStation, the leading national merchant for gourmet dinners, upscale prepared meals and fine gourmet food gifts delivered nationally, announced the introduction of a new Thanksgiving four-course dinner for two.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, GourmetStation announced they are accepting reservations for Thanksgiving dinners delivered. The menu has been designed with quality and convenience in mind. With about thirty minutes preparation time any turkey lover can enjoy a full blown Thanksgiving dinner for two. To sweeten the offer GourmetStation is offering free 2 day shipping in addition four complimentary gifts.

The menu for two consists of sourdough bread, creamy mushroom and sherry wine soup, traditional turkey on a bed of rosemary sage dressing with broccoli gratin, and pumpkin praline cheesecake. Euro blend coffee and after-dinner candy round out the Thanksgiving dinner with a complimentary table prayer, fall leaf floating candle, extra dessert and organic tea. The menu for two with complimentary gifts is priced at $89.99 plus free 2 day shipping.

“We are extremely pleased with this year’s Thanksgiving menu,” says Donna Lynes-Miller, founder and President of GourmetStation, “Not only is the cuisine gourmet, but the element of convenience allows our patrons to enjoy Thanksgiving day without all the preparation and fuss.”  Lynes-Miller went on to comment, “in 2005 we found that our Thanksgiving food gifts were used by families who wanted to connect with other family members in another part of the country. It is heart-warming to help people connect with our gourmet food gifts.”

About GourmetStation:
GourmetStation delivers a delicious in-home dining experience complete with the flavor of travel to an exciting cultural destination. The online retailer offers the unique opportunity to give or receive a unique gourmet food gift to mark a life-cycle occasion or just to take a night off from cooking. GourmetStation offers multiple regional menu options including Parisian, Tuscan, Cajun, Fusion as well a Romance menu and seasonal menus like Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. The wide variety of destination themed food gifts is designed to spark the imagination of both the giver and receiver. Each chef-inspired dinner is intended to provide a dining experience similar to that of its regional inspiration.

Internationally themed three and four course gourmet meals are delivered anywhere in the United States. Deep-chilled gourmet dinners require only 30 minutes preparation include European blend coffee or organic tea, after-dinner candy, floating candle and matches. Prices for multi-course dinners for two range from $69.99 to $89.99. Gourmet gift certificates, including Dinner of the Month certificates, are ideal for birthdays and anniversaries. For more information, visit GourmetStation.com or call 1-888-944-9794.

Vegetarian Friends….Vegetarian Chefs

Posted: October 18, 2006
by: Mark Stine

A business trip took me to Denver for a mini conference….afterward I had the good fortune to visit my brother’s vacation home in the mountains near Westcliffe, Colorado.  With my boss Colleen in tow…we headed off through the mountain passes from Denver and then hit several large valleys with incredible vistas, before arriving in Westcliffe.

The beauty of the Westcliffe Valley is accented by the 12-13,000 foot peaks that the Valley faces. While it was late August and the height of summer when we visited, we were treated to a dusting of snow on the highest peaks one morning, after a rainfall. When the clouds lifted that morning, the upper portion of the whole range of mountains, running north and south was frosted with a decent layer of snow. Vegetarianshot

My brother, traditionally a fisherman and grilling man, who prefers rare steaks, was going to be, I feared, challenged when I told him my boss was a vegetarian.  Not missing a beat though, when we arrived, dinner that first night was one of the best vegetarian meals that I had eaten.

Dinner was also accented by some great wines, primarily Shiraz and Merlot, Australian and Chilean in origin, with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains as a backdrop to the meal setting. Not bad….and not a bad way to spend a long weekend, hiking and visiting a wolf rescue facility in the area.

I highly recommend the Westcliffe area for a mountain get-away. There is a great bed and breakfast located in town and wonderful hiking and trout fishing, along with horse back riding throughout the area. White water rafting is another option as well for the more adventuresome types. Try a Google search for more information on activities and accommodations in the area.

If you can’t make it to Westcliffe, you can try this wonderful vegetarian styled Mexican lasagna to spice up your night wherever you might be eating.

No Meat-Vegetarian Style Mexican Lasagna

1 10 oz enchilada sauce

14.5 oz can cut, peeled and drained tomatoes

1 16 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained

9 large lasagna noodles

2 cups low fat cottage cheese

3 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine the enchilada sauce, tomatoes and tomato paste, and blend well, adding in the beans.

Layer 1/3 of the mixture onto the bottom of a 12 x 8 inch rectangular cooking pan/bowl,

and then cover with three of the lasagna noodles. Spread your cup of cottage cheese and sprinkle with one cup of cheddar cheese. Then spoon on half of the remaining tomato sauce mixture.

Add another layer of noodles and another cup of cheddar cheese sprinkled across the top. Then add the remaining three noodles, sauce and cheddar cheese. Cover with foil tightly and bake 45-60 minutes.

Let stand and set for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Mark Stine

Quick & Simple Contest – Win Food Gifts From GourmetStation

Posted: October 17, 2006
by: T.Alexander

Pick up your October 31, 2006 issue of Quick & Simple and get in on the fun. On page 32 you will find a great contest Quick & Simple is sponsoring and the prizes are a dinner of the month program from GourmetStation.

Here’s how the contest works.

SHARE YOUR AMAZING MAC ‘N CHEESE RECIPE! You could win a GourmetStation dinner of the month club program.

What to do? If you think you make the best mac ‘n cheese in the world, now you have a chance to prove it. Send Quick & Simple your recipe. The details are in the article.

What you can win? GourmetStation gourmet meals delivered for a year! In other words a 12 month dinner of the month program that allows you to select a 4 course dinner for two from our Parisian, Tuscan, Cajun or Fusion menus. These food gifts off the opportunity to treat yourself one night every month for a year.

Due Date? Hurry – it’s November 7, 2006. Pick up the October 31, 2006 issue of Quick & Simple and follow their simple instructions.  Good luck!

Pappa al Pomodoro - New Recipe From Casa Bellavista

Posted: October 14, 2006
by: Dave, Edie & Simonetta

It has been busy summer at Casa Bellavista.  We have many guests visit and many dinners to prepare.  Now that Tuscan summer is going, I have a little time to write story for GourmetStation.  This summer was Prima Communione for my son Filippo.  And so we had big family festa to celebrate.  We did much cooking. 

Every few days a frutta e`vedure truck comes to Casa Bellavista from farm in Calabria.  They have much to buy and I always am looking for many discounts so I discuss to contract the best price I can. Sometimes I have to buy much to get good price.  Tomatoes

They came two days before festa for Filippo and I bought many pomadori.  Maybe too many…I bought 15 kilos of tomatoes from the men on the truck

And so, with so many pomadori I had to make old Tuscan recipe named “Pappa al Pomodoro”.   I am happy my friends Dave and Edie from US were here to help cut all the pomodori.  This is good recipe for the Primi Piatti of Italian dinner.  Here is recipe:

-         gr. 350 dried bread

-         gr.500 ripe tomatoes or pealed tomatoes

-         2  cloves of garlic                                        

-         basil                                                       

-         one liter (34 oz.) of broth

-         extra virgin olive oil

-         salt and pepper

Place a some olive oil in a pot and add garlic.  When garlic turns golden brown add the tomatoes which have been cut to small pieces and add basil to your liking.  Salt and pepper to taste and cook for about 15 minutes.  Pour in the broth and bring to boil.  Add the bread which has been cut into pieces.  Cook for about 10 minutes, mixing well and turn off heat.

Leave “Pappa” in the pot for 15 to 20 minutes and serve warm, adding drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top along with grinding of fresh pepper to taste.Img_0135

This is very nice traditional Tuscan recipe.  Now I must work some more.



Casa Bellavista

Arezzo, Italy

Thanksgiving Dinner

Posted: October 13, 2006
by: T.Alexander

It's not too early to think about Thanksgiving - it's just around the corner. The culinary team at GourmetStation has been hard at work to develop a gourmet food gift that they will never forget. This Thanksgiving dinner gift will be one Grandmother would even approve of.Thanksgivingtablestockpro

So what's the difference between a GourmetStation Thanksgiving dinner gift and similar food gifts offered by our competitors. First of all our gourmet dinners are configured for two and all the preparation has been done for you. The gift recipient only needs to heat the gourmet soup on the stove top & heat the turkey & dressing entrees in the oven for about 30 minutes. Preparation and portioning into elegant gift packaging is a distinguishing mark of GourmetStation food gifts. At Thanksgiving our competitors usually mail order a whole turkey that may require heating and large sides that also require work. Our goal is convenience and quality.

Now who orders these delicious turkey dinners delivered? For the last couple of years we have noticed that our customers that are away from family and can't travel to be with one another send their love with a turkey gourmet food gift from GourmetStation. Many times aging parents don't want the fuss of preparing. GourmetStation Thanksgiving dinners delivered fit the bill.

The Thanksgiving dinner order page will be posted on October 20th, but I've been given the OK to give you a special preview of the Thanksgiving dinner menu. Check out the pumpkin praline cheesecake. Bon appetit!

Seasoned Spice Sheets - No More Spice Cabinet?

Posted: October 10, 2006
by: T.Alexander

My spice cabinet is filled with spices that are in and out of shelf life. I'm really never sure which is which. You know, the ones we don't use very often. Maybe this idea will solve my problem. This is 3 of 3 innovative ideas brought to us by Money from this year's Fancy Food Show.

Real Chef (Spicy Seasoning (Cooking) Sheets) Spicy_seasoning_sheets_1

The idea: Plastic sheets placed beneath meat - containing preblended spice mixes that soak in before cooking - have been used in the food service industry for years. But it took former restaurateur Alan Segel, president of Real Chef, to bring them to the consumer market. A trial run on QVC gave him a database of buyers. It also taught him a key ingredient to sales: Customers need to see a sheet in action to really get the concept.

The debut: The company is already selling sheets on its website ($6 for a box of 12) and is in talks with several national retailers. It estimates 2007 sales of $1.2 million.

Steinke's verdict: The product has the potential to resonate with home cooks, she says, "but in-store demos will be necessary."