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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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Travels to CasaBellavista… Insalata di Carciofo

Posted: July 28, 2007
by: Dave, Edie & Simonetta

As we looked out the airplane window, the sunrise gave us a warm welcome to Leonardo di Vinci Airport.  Approaching our “touchdown”, we delighted in the quilt like patterns created by lush fields of grain, flocks of sheep grazing in their pastures and the varied shades and shapes of olive groves and vineyards.  The sight was pure pleasure for our eyes.  Once again we were on our way to visit our friends Simonetta and Guido at Casa Bellavista.

Traveling northeast on the Via Aurelia, we soon came upon an aqueduct, a sign of historic Roman culture.


As we followed this winding road, carved through tuffa rock, we could not help but be awed by the belief that Roman soldiers had driven their chariots over this route.

Our plan called for us to stay in Tuscania and take daytrips to Lago Bolsena, the Parco Archelogico in Vulci and the relaxing thermal waterfalls south of Saturnia.


Then we would head north to Bagno Vigoni, stopping at the hill town of Radicoffoni on the way.  Using Bagno Vigoni as our next base, we planned on day trips to hill towns of the Val d’ Orcia, including Pienza and Montepulciano.  On the final days travel to Casa Bellavista, we stopped at the Abbazia Monte di Olivetti Majorie for a viewing of the frescos depicting the life and times of St. Benedict.

Upon arriving at Casa Bellavista, we could not help but breath in the sweet smell of jasmine and roses.  The spirit of family and friendship consumed us as we visited with Simonetta and her parents along with Antonio, the farmer who grows such beautiful fields of sunflowers.


After we settled into “La camera die Fagiani”, Guido arrived home from his office at Castello di Spaltenna and it was time to open a celebratory bottle of EST EST EST, a refreshing white wine somewhat similar to Orvietto Classico.  It was great renewing our friendship over wine and cheese.  By then, it was time to prepare dinner.

The insalata for the evening was to be an artichoke salad (Insalata di Carciofo) garnished with chilled, rolled hare and pancetta.


We began preparing the insalata by removing the outer parts of the artichoke until the more tender interior parts of the artichoke were revealed.  The artichokes were then sliced very thinly lengthwise and thoroughly mixed in a dressing of extra virgin olive oil; freshly squeezed lemon juice and chopped parsley.  Salt and pepper were added to taste.

Earlier in the day, Simonetta had prepared a garnish of hare and pancetta for the insalata.  The garnish was made by rolling out pieces of hare until they were thin.  She then applied a rub of fresh garlic, sage, rosemary, thyme and extra virgin olive oil.  This was then covered with fresh, thin slices of pancetta, rolled and baked.  After baking, it was placed in the refrigerator until cooled.  When it was time to serve the insalata, the hare and pancetta roll was sliced into thin pieces and used to garnish the salad.

After a wonderful dinner and after the dishes were done, we closed out our first evening at Casa Bellavista with a café corretto and good conversation…the joy of friendship.


Edie and Dave

Spicy Gazpacho & Creamy Vichyssoise – Soup Gifts

Posted: July 19, 2007
by: T.Alexander

Soup never fails to hit the spot but when it’s 90 degrees outside, the thought of hot soup just doesn’t work. So how do we keep our soup appetites satisfied in summer? With cold summer gourmet soups, of course.

I’ve chosen two cold gourmet soups to bring to your attention…gazpacho & vichyssoise. Vichyssoise is a cold French style soup made of potatoes, leaks, & scallions and is usually cream based. StarChefs.com is nice enough to share this recipe for vichyssoise from Julia Child. Some versions of vichyssoise are pureed but I actually like the chunks of potato – especially when thoroughly chilled / they have a nice bite.

About.com gives us this nice gazpacho soup recipe – you can see all the garden fresh veggies & that is why, no doubt, it is hailed to have antioxidant benefits. My favorite part of gazpacho soup is the cucumbers and cilantro topping. Oh so fresh.

Now there’s a lot of shopping, chopping and preparing in these recipes before you can enjoy these two cold summer soups. So I recommend you consider GourmetStation’s cold summer soup sampler. The sampler includes 3 servings of gazpacho, 3 servings of vichyssoise, six mini baguettes and six bake-your-own chocolate caramel cookies. Six cool refreshing meals for only $59.99. If your purchase is for a soup gift, remember we ship nationally and all food gifts are delivered in elegant gift packaging. We even includes free ceramic soup spoons. This gourmet food gift will really get their attention this summer. Bon appetit!


Romance & Anniversary Dinners Delivered

Posted: July 14, 2007
by: T.Alexander

It’s July and hot in the south. Some might say, “not very romantic.” Gone are the red roses from Valentines Day and here we are in the dog days of summer. So how do we put a little zip into these days – a little romance and intrigue, so to speak.

I have an idea…..of course, it relates to food. Maybe you’ve having an anniversary this month and you’re thinking about anniversary dinner ideas. Or maybe you just want to show love and appreciation for no reason at all. Try planning a small intimate dinner party for two for your significant other. Make it a surprise if you wish and pull out all the bells and whistles. If it’s not too warm outside, consider dining out doors. If you can find flowers growing naturally in your yard or area, consider these flowers instead of pricey arrangements from the florist. Don’t forget a nice wine – if you need help in this category, check out wine consultant Susan Anderson’s suggestions.

Now for the menu. Let GourmetStation do the work for you with their gourmet dinner delivery. All you need to do is heat & serve and the cuisine is extraordinary. For a romantic occasion or an anniversary dinner idea, I recommend the Parisian anniversary dinner delivered – or the Tuscan Romance meal delivered. I recommend lamb shank and salmon en Croute from the Parisian menu and chicken Saltimboca and baked salmon with sundried tomato alfredo sauce from the Tuscan menu.  Priced at $110 for two including shipping, you won’t be able to shop, chop and serve cuisine of this quality and beat the price. Both menus are delightful and give you the time off to relax and get on with the romance of your evening. Good luck.

For a food gift they will long remember, bookmark GourmetStation.


Asian Soups & Soup Gifts

Posted: July 6, 2007
by: T.Alexander

According to our friends at Wikipedia, Asian soups are generally categorized as savoury or sweet with the quality of a savoury soup being determined by its fragrance or umani. Umani (旨み、旨味、うまみ) is Japanese and is one of 5 basic senses of the tongue. Many soups in Asia are eaten or drunk for flavor, health benefits and revitalization effects.

Since many Asian soups are eaten as one of the main dishes particular attention is paid to the soups' stocks. In the case of some soups, the stock ingredients become part of the soup.  Chinese use 3 basic kinds of stock: white (lightly blanched pork bones), shandong (ham) or chicken. Japanese use kelp, skipjack tuna, or a combination of both for their soup base.

GourmetStation has it’s version of Asian soups now in a soup gift that includes 6 portions of gourmet soup, 6 baguettes and 6 bake your own gourmet cookies. Essentially the soup gift is six light meals to be enjoyed throughout the week. The Asian Fusion soup gift includes 3 Spicy Thai Vegetable Soup portions, 3 Coconut Curried Chicken, baguettes and cookies. Although dairy products are not usually used in Asian soups, the coconut curried soup uses a small amount of skim milk giving the coconut enhanced texture akin to silk. Delicious. Try it yourself or give as a unique food gift.


Birthday Dinners Delivered – An Ideal Food Gift

Posted: July 1, 2007
by: T.Alexander

I recently had a friend move to the Northeast – from the South. Now we won’t hold that against her – sometimes a gal has to do what a gal has to do. My problem is that I miss her and would like to take her to dinner. Her birthday is just around the corner and I’d really enjoy taking her out for a special birthday dinner and catching up on her life. I’m here / she’s there. Does anyone have a birthday dinner idea?

I’m fortunate because I know about GourmetStation and the fine gourmet gifts they provide. I’m also lucky because I’m in the know about their 20% sale going on right now for their Tuscan occasion dinners delivered, including birthday dinners. Problem solved! UPS will deliver the gourmet dinners in beautiful gift packaging and they will leave the package without a signature which is convenient because my friend works away from home. Then comes the fun part – a four course dinner with only 30 minutes preparation time. I can anticipate the rest. She’ll have a wonderful evening with the Tuscan dinners and a nice bottle of Italian wine and the next day she’ll call to say “thanks” – then we can catch up on all the good stuff. Thanks GourmetStation!