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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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Christmas Dinner Delivered by GourmetStation


Posted: November 24, 2007
by: T.Alexander

It’s that time of year again! Families are scattered in our very large country and the annual question pops up. How do I show them I care? How do I make sure they have a delicious Christmas dinner? That’s where GourmetStation comes in.

This year we have two delicious Christmas dinner delivered selections. First, at the request of our loyal patrons we’ve brought back the Ole English Christmas Dinner featuring beef Wellington. Look at this dinner gift menu – don’t you agree it’s elegant, robust yet affordable? The menu theme is medieval England starting with a rosemary boule for two, creamy tomato basil soup, beef Wellington with demi glace sauce & creamy spinach. To top off the event, we’ve included a new cheesecake, chocolate truffle….exquisite. St. Ives gourmet coffee & after dinner candy conclude the dinner along with some warm conversation.

Wellington

There’s a new Christmas menu this year. Based on the success of our 2007 Americana menu launch we’ve developed an Americana Christmas Dinner delivered featuring prime rib, creamy garlic mashed potatoes and New York cheesecake. Delicious! Both the Ole English Christmas dinner and the Americana Christmas dinner feature 50% of 2nd day shipping and that’s to any ZIP in the US.

Prime_rib

Let us solve your shopping dilemma for the hard to please friends or family that can’t be at your dinner table this Christmas. Send them a Christmas dinner delivered from GourmetStation. Happy holidays and bon appetit!

Escape to Banner Elk and Black Mountain


Posted: November 13, 2007
by: Mark Stine

Sometimes the pressure of work and everyday living forces you to look at your life and realize you need a break and a well planned retreat can be just the answer. Well North Carolina and specifically Banner Elk, tucked into the “High Country,” has been just such a refuge for me for the last 20 years.

There is something about the gentle peacefulness in the mountains that lowers the blood pressure and puts things in perspective.  Breathing the cool mountain air amidst lush rhododendron and hiking up trails, knowing your hard work will be rewarded at the end of the day with a nice glass of Merlot is a satisfying experience.


So… on a recent trip, an invitation was extended to two friends, Colleen and Kim, both in need of some mountain time, to spend a week exploring Asheville, Black Mountain and the environs around Banner Elk and Sugar Mountain.

Weight_world

When you feel you have the weight of the world bearing down on you….escape!

Asheville has been receiving a lot of press as a new boomtown for retirees and a growing eclectic force of artists, new age proponents and real estate investors and developers has swooped in to make that a living reality and driven up the prices for retiree wannabes.

Asheville has its finer points, a well preserved downtown, the stunningly beautiful Biltmore estate on the near outskirts of town and some decent eateries. But…it lacked something in spite of all the hype and my traveling friend Kim agreed. Not exactly what we were looking for.  Perhaps a little too touristy…pleasant and all….made for a nice afternoon, but it wasn’t until we ambled up the road a piece, headed back towards Banner Elk that we felt we had hit the right spot. And that would be Black Mountain.

Just a little more real and unreal at the same time, this small community traces its roots back to the Black Mountain College, which gives the community the right influx of intellect, new age-ers, real estate growth, retirees and a semblance of balance we found lacking in Asheville. The shops were just a little more friendly too, as was the entire town. 

Now for those in need of a Chakra adjustment, some sound-energy work, including singing Himalayan bowls then I suggest you check Black Mountain out. We treated ourselves to a number of approaches and left feeling energized!  For appointments or more information, check out the web site RayneMaker.com and touch base with Calen. An additional treat was listening to native American flute music and meeting the musical genius, Marina Raye-“ the feminine voice of the native flute”, behind itA serene, calm woman described by my traveling friend Colleen as a “Goddess,” her serenity permeated the surroundings and we each purchased a cd (www.marinaraye.com) which has provided me with soothing moments back in the unreal world of Las Vegas.

Raynemaker1 


After the exploration of Black Mountain…we retired for the balance of the week to Banner Elk.  A formerly “little” spot on the map between Sugar and Beech Mountains- four season resorts in the High country with mountain tops in the 5,000 ft plus range…  And now a booming real estate market as the entire 76 million baby boom generation seems to be colonizing the entire Smoky Mountains in faux Adirondack styled homes with spruce siding, Adirondack chairs, and price tags that hardly seem like second home prices! .

Perched amongst the trees …

Mossycreekbannerelk I was content to enjoy my pedestal home of 20 years, where we enjoyed some tasty dinners and selected wines from Eric’s Wine and Cheese Shop, a 20 year plus local institution.  Knowing now that FedEx delivers there, I am also going to order GourmetStation dinner gifts the next time to compliment the experience!

Stops at 6,000 ft. Grandfather Mountain and the mile high swinging bridge were highlights, as well as dinner one evening on Beech Mountain at over 5,000 ft…looking out over lush lawns and right on cue, pre-dusk, the small herd of deer that bounded out onto the lawn to entertain us.

One very indulgent afternoon we arranged a three hour massage therapy session. I can only say that it is worth the extra expense to have the massage therapist come to you, so that afterwards you can just relax and not have to worry about moving. The pedestal home features a spa room at tree level…cedar lined with a built-in sound system. So we listened to some flute music courtesy of Marina Raye and sat for well over two hours after our respective massages, in the  giant four person soaking tub looking out into the tree canopy.  Kim received an extended foot massage in the soaking tub, whilst she sipped a bottomless glass of Merlot and Colleen disappeared towards the end of the soak to surprise us with a wonderful pasta dinner, resplendent with a display of locally grown Heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella stacked and swirled in a creative presentation. This was a perfect way to end our last evening in the mountains of the High Country. Cool night air descended…the sounds of crickets came up in a chorus around us and great conversation ensued.

Sadly, the week ended far too quickly… and at the airport in Johnson City, TN, the goodbyes were hard to do. Our sheltered retreat was over and we were being thrust back into the real world of email, Blackberry, investment banking, communication support and the non stop stream of data interpretation. All we have to sustain us going forward would be the memories…but great memories they are.  So if you are in need of a wonderful relaxing retreat, then I suggest the High Country of North Carolina.  Hiking, white- water rafting, sight seeing, and relaxation on your terms are just some of the activities of the High Country. For further information on rentals try checking out NCMountainRetreats.com and remember life is worth living, so enjoy it and put the stress of unimportant things behind you. It is after all about friends and good food and wine and simple things done well. Thanks Colleen and Kim!

Wine Gift for Wine Loves – Combines Tradition & Technology


Posted: November 12, 2007
by: T.Alexander

If you’re seeking a gift for a hard to buy-for individual & they just happen to be a wine lover, I have the answer for you. Enjoy!

This innovative USB key is geared directly at the upscale oenophile. The founders of the BeWine Connected project, Alfred Tesseron and Emmanuel Etcheparre, were looking for a way to meld the traditional elements enjoyed by wine connoisseurs with modern technology. This innovative USB key is geared directly at the upscale oenophile. The founders of the BeWine Connected project, Alfred Tesseron and Emmanuel Etcheparre, were looking for a way to meld the traditional elements enjoyed by wine connoisseurs with modern technology. Etcheparre was the designer behind the “custom-made-to-measure tool that precisely reflects Pontet-Canet’s image: a model-sized bottle concealing a USB stick,” a press release said. “This small, removable accessory captures the strongest Bordeaux icon: its wine bottle. This innovative and exclusive concept is the ideal gift for all wine lovers as well as those who like to draw meaning from both the content and the container.” The USB stick has a video tour of the Pontet-Canet estate and winery as well as featuring a vintage waste tasting by Michel Rolland. Other information on the 1GB stick includes “cell phone ring tones with wine-connected themes, wine cellar management software, a reference of Bordeaux Grand Crus Classés wines, a desktop environment dedicated to wine.” BeWineConnected is available in French, English and German, with Japanese and Chinese editions on their way. Current retailing price is 33 Euros.

Usb_wine_small   

Real-Restaurant-Recipes.com - The Secret Is Out!


Posted: November 10, 2007
by: T.Alexander

Donna Hager initially learned many of her skills while cooking beside her mother and other family members and then honed those skills cooking for family, friends and relatives for years. She so loved to entertain and cook and try new recipes, in 1983 she did a "foolish thing." She started her own restaurant in a small town in Washington State.

Donna already knew a great deal about food but she brought one more element to her restaurant business that was equally important. She knew, and loved, people. The food she prepared was exactly as advertised and, coupled with the quality and accommodating service her restaurant provided, the business became very successful.

So successful was the restaurant, soon regionally known (greater Seattle area) chefs and souse chefs from other restaurants were working with her. She "went to school" with them on a daily basis almost since the time she opened the restaurant. The menu expanded to include foods the locals were not familiar with.

Because the customers trusted the food and service so much, they began broadening their culinary choices when ordering to include new international cuisine offered on the daily fresh sheets. As the reputation of the restaurant grew, Donna was asked more and more - almost daily - for the recipes. Regionally read newspapers requested the recipes and then still more and more people wanted these recipes. She was asked about writing a cookbook but simply did not have the time. Then, an idea came to her. She decided to share her "real restaurant recipes" by publishing them on the Internet.

So in her spirit of wanting to share and accommodate her "guests," a new venture was born - her website called Real-Restaurant-Recipes.com. The website is now on its way to becoming so successful in terms of traffic and online visitors she is almost overwhelmed by the response. But instead of feeling over-worked by this additional task, she is totally exhilarated, adding to the site on a daily basis.

Real-Restaurant-Recipes offers quality breakfast recipes, lunch and dinner recipes and everything in between including appetizer recipes, dessert recipes, recipes for soups, fabulous salads, salsas, sauces and gravies and so much more.

"What! No time to cook? Friends and relatives too far away to join you on special occasions?" Donna discovered GourmetStation when she was in a bind to send a quality food gift to some relatives. She ordered a dinner gift from us and waited for the "reviews." The relatives were jubilant! So - then she agreed to become a GourmetStation author to share information and recipes with you. No formal culinary schooling - only mom and grandmom and other family members and then over two decades of hands-on experience with a number of quality chefs. This background provided Donna with the culinary skills she needed for her restaurant and her successful Real-Restaurant-Recipes.com.

Please take a moment to visit Donna at Real-Restaurant-Recipes.com. You'll be glad you did! And when you do visit Donna, don't forget to subscribe to her free electronic newsletter appropriately titled "What's Cookin."

Donnahager

An Evening In Cortona


Posted: November 6, 2007
by: Dave, Edie & Simonetta

The one time Etruscan fortress of Cortona provides a wonderful and romantic setting  for a magical evening under the Tuscan moon.  A stately city, sitting on a hill  overlooking the Val di Chiana and Lago Trasemeno, it offers its visitors breathtaking  views, steep and narrow streets, pedestrian passageways, a deep and rich history, warm and welcoming people, a collection of the finest shops and wonderful trattorias and ristorantes.

Cortona_3

Simonetta, Guido, Edie and I began our evening in Cortona arriving in the late afternoon at Porta Colonia.  As we approached the Porta, we could see the original Etruscan walls built to protect this onetime Etruscan fortress and the “newer” walls built during the time of the Roman Empire.  Our evening started with a stroll down Via Dardano, a narrow street flanked with pasta shops, and trattorias. Via Dardano lead us to “Piazza della Republica”,  home to Cortona's majestic town hall.

The “Piazza della Republica” was alive with families, older folk and young people    all enjoying the tradition of the “passigiata” as well as the company of their fellow Cortonesi.

Cortonacityhall_2

The “enotecas” and (caffe) bars were busy with activity and groups of people sharing the events of their day.  Shops were busy and I was drawn into the Maledetti Toscani Leather Shop which opens onto the Piazza. The intoxicating aromas of the leathers, their textures, and the variety of colors were a joy to my senses. 

After making a purchase, I joined the others in the Piazza where they were talking with Antonio, the man who grows the beautiful fields of sunflowers.

Antoniossunflowers_2

next to Casa Bellavista.   We headed to a nearby bar to “take a caffe”.  After a brief visit,  Simonetta, Guido, Edie and I to continued our passigiata.  Walking down Via Nazionalle we could not help but enjoy the shops brightly colored displays.

Cortonaartshop_2

We  paused a while at Trushers, a beautifully decorated martini bar, housed in a thousand year old building, where we enjoyed delightful antipasti snacks along with our drinks of choice. 

The evening was moving along and now it was time for dining.  We headed back through the Piazza della Republica and up Via Dardano to Trattoria Dardano for our evening meal.  Trattoria Dardano, a family owned and operated trattoria features a menu of typical Tuscan cuisine.  We enjoyed a variety of antipasti, primi and secundi courses.  Being a lover of duck, I was consistent with my ordering:  pici e anatra for my primi and roast anatra for my secundi.  A contorni of Tuscan beans and dolce completed a fine dinner.  We enjoyed a glass of homemade bay leaf liquor as a perfect ending to a delightful meal and an evening in Cortona, under the Tuscan moon.

Dave and Edie

www.fototoscana.net

Family Crests & Custom Items From Sage Sublime


Posted: November 4, 2007
by: T.Alexander

Personalization is a big word these days. We all want our individualism recognized in one-way or another, and we act out this need in the clothes we wear or the car we driver. There are simple ways to claim our individuality through personalized coffee mugs; mouse pads & the like but most are....well, ho hum. Let me tell you about personalization at the highest level…. your own family crest.

You do not have to be a Rothschild or Rockefeller to have your family icons artfully collected in a family crest.  You can have one designed in a reasonable period of time and at a reasonable cost. Meet Paige Taylor…artist supreme of Sage Sublime. Paige led me through the process of creating a family crest by asking a few questions.  Favorite color, favorite flower, favorite place & what I love most in the world. The result is what you see below; pure beauty. The colors are the colors of my Victorian home wrapping around the Eiffel Tower representing my favorite city. My favorite flowers are lilies and they flank the most important thing in my life, Borzoi (Russian Wolfhounds – you’ll find 5 or 6 at our home on any given year.) After the design was completed, I was able to have the crest printed on greeting cards, shirts, tote bags (and believe me, I did).

 

Donna_crest2_2

If you have an interest in creating your own family crest, say for a unique holiday gift - contact Paige at paige.sagesublime@gmail.com The crest would also make a wonderful gift for a guy or gal graduating from school & embarking upon life’s journey.

Paige also provides other design services like these lovely holiday cards. Let It Snow is my favorite collection. Contemporary & fresh, but not to be outdone by this collection of cards for your favorite nerd! Enjoy.

Let_it_snow

Awesome Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe……..and a chef’s little “secret”!


Posted: November 1, 2007
by: Robert Jackson

Have you ever ordered roast turkey when dining in a really good restaurant with a great chef? If you have, then you’ve probably wondered how they manage to keep the meat so tender and moist. Is it a secret ingredient, or perhaps some amazing piece of hugely expensive, professional cooking equipment? Actually, it’s neither, and I am going to share their little secret with you…..it’s all down to BRINING!

Brining is the very simple and inexpensive process of “marinating” the bird in a salt solution infused with aromatic herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables. The salting process encourages very deep, cellular moisture penetration, which basically means less drying out during roasting…..resulting in a moister bird.

Thanksgivingtable

But before the recipe, let me explain a few basics:

1. Begin the process the day or night before as the turkey needs to soak for at least 10 hours.

2. You will need a container large enough to hold the turkey with enough brine to cover it.

3. If you are using a frozen turkey, it must be fully defrosted before the brining process begins. Do not use a self-basting or Kosher turkey as both already have salt added.

4. One way of telling if you have enough salt in your brine, is that a raw egg will float in it.

5. The turkey must be COMPLETELY submerged in the brine.

6. Ideally, the turkey should be kept refrigerated during the brining. If that isn't possible, keep the container (a cooler box is perfect for the job) somewhere cool such as in a basement. Ice packs or reusable gel packs may be used to maintain the temperature (but do not put ice directly into the brine as this will dilute the solution). The turkey and brine solution must be kept below 40° F /4° C.

7. You can vary the spices and seasonings according to your own preferences and availability. You can even substitute some of the water with cold tea, fruit or vegetable juices, stock, cider, wine or even light beer. The choice is yours! Just have fun….and experiment!

8. Remove the turkey from the brine about an hour before you plan to roast in order for it to reach room temperature.

Spiced and Super-Moist Roast Turkey

INGREDIENTS
Serves 12

9-11lb/4-5kg turkey
about 10pints/6 litres cold water
about 4oz/125g salt (preferably Kosher)
7oz/200g light brown sugar
1 pint boiling water
3 tbsp black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick, broken
1 tbsp caraway seeds
4 cloves
2 tbsp allspice berries
4 star anise
2 tbsp white mustard seeds
2 onions quartered
1 x 3in/6cm piece of ginger, cut into 6 slices
1 orange, quartered and squeezed to release the juice
4 tbsp maple syrup
4 tbsp clear honey
4 bay leaves torn into pieces
handful fresh herbs

For basting
4oz/125g butter
3tbsp maple syrup
freshly milled black pepper

METHOD

1. Begin the day before by dissolving the salt and brown sugar in the boiling water. Allow to cool and then refrigerate overnight.

2. Add the brine solution, the water and all of the other brining ingredients to the container you are using. Mix well to dissolve the, sugar, honey & maple syrup.

3. Add the water and all of the other brining ingredients to the container you are using. Mix well.

4. Untie and remove any string or trussing that is attached to the turkey and then wash inside and out under cold water. Now sink the bird into the liquid adding more water if necessary to completely submerge it. Refrigerate or put into a cool place (see notes above) and leave it for at least 10 hours. Turn the turkey over at least once during this time.

5. Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse inside and out under cold water. Dry thoroughly using kitchen towel. Allow to come up to room temperature (this helps to ensure proper and safe heat penetration).

6. Preheat the oven to 425F/220C/gas mark 7 (fan oven 200C).

7. Put the butter and maple syrup into a saucepan together and place over a low heat. Stir until the butter is completely melted and the two ingredients are combined.

8. Generously brush the maple butter glaze all over the turkey and season with freshly milled black pepper.

9. In a large roasting tin, place two long lengths of kitchen foil, one widthways and the other lengthways (forming a rather large "cross"). Place the turkey on top of the foil. Now fold the closest piece upwards and form a pleat where the ends meet above the breast. Then fold the other piece of foil upwards and crimp and fold to create a loose parcel that allows air to circulate around the breast.

10. Put the turkey into the oven and cook for 40 minutes before lowering the temperature to 350F/180C/gas mark 4 (fan oven 160C). Now continue to roast for about another 2 hours.

11. Remove the turkey from the oven and carefully peel back the foil to expose the breast. Baste with some of the juices from the pan. Turn the heat back up to 425F/220C/gas mark 7 (fan oven 200C) and roast for about another 20 minutes until the breast is golden brown.

12. Testing if the turkey is cooked: Turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F/74°C as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. At this temperature, the turkey will be cooked perfectly and safely yet remain beautifully moist.

If you do not have a meat thermometer, you can test for doneness by piercing the thickest part of the leg with a skewer or sharp knife. If the juices run perfectly clear, it's cooked. If the juices show any sign of pinkness, return to the oven for another 15 minutes and test again.

Once fully cooked, very carefully lift the turkey from the pan and place on a cutting board. Leave to rest for at least 30 minutes loosely covered with foil.

CARVE, EAT & ENJOY!

Robert Jackson

Gourmet Food Revolution