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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.

The Interminable French Feast

Posted: June 25, 2007
by: Chris Card Fuller

"You must have spent all day preparing dinner",said our neighbor Anne
Marie.  It's approximately nine pm (which by Parisian standards would be
early) but given the fact that we're dining outside (and in Normandy),
eight or nine pm is fine for outdoor dining to maximize the hours of
daylight  (Sun sets at 9:45 in this first week of June).


And the truth is, yes, I did spend all day preparing dinner.  So, in case
you're wondering, how does an American visitor in France prepare a meal
for French guests (one of them being a French chef)?

The answer is "With much reflection!"
One of the things I've learned over the years is the famous KISS formula
(i.e. Keep it Simple Stupid). And I might add to that KIF (i.e. Keep it


The first couple of years in France, I tried to be a good ambassador and
serve plates that might quell the myth of the hamburger as being the
be-all and end-all of American cooking.  But in my enthusiasm to disprove
the myth, I ended up making far too much food, and too many different
recipes.  Still, friends continue to tease me about my tendency to bring
on a deluge of appetizers & hoping this first barrage might distract
guests from the fact that I am back in the kitchen juggling plates,
totally clueless.

In recent years, some new additions have made life in the "galley"
much more organized.  Here are some of the lifesavers & if you can
afford them (and more importantly, in France, if you have the space for
them):  a dishwashing machine, a second refrigerator, a crock pot (called
a mitigeuse), and Saran wrap.  If you want to buy crystal stemware, you
can buy inexpensive crystal stemware at some of the larger supermarkets
like LeClerc or Monoprix.  This stemware can actually be washed in the
dishwasher -something I would never try with more expensive crystal.

Keep it fresh:  People might excuse a chewy cut of beef, but they will
never excuse day-old bread.  The bakery is open every day in France, so
you should make sure to have a loaf of fresh bread on hand.  The baguettes
tend to dry out so quickly.  You're better off picking up a loaf
which will stay fresh till dinnertime.  Keep it in a breadbox or
wrapped in a towel.  Don't slice the bread until the last possible

RE: Meat.  Steaks in France tend to be chewy but the flavor
compensates for chewiness.  You have to really spend some time getting to
know the right butcher.  Try different cuts.  Entrecote is normally
considered to be one of the better cuts of steak.  Steak is more often
panfried here than broiled, simply because many people eat their steaks
rare.  I've recently been introduced to "la plancha", an oven-top
griddle which some of our friends use with great success. If you have any
concerns about the tenderness of steaks, opt for a roast
of pork, veal or a leg of lamb.

RE: Sauce aka gravy.  Sauces tend to be much lighter in France.  You've
probably heard about the rich butter sauces, but day-to-day cooking is
based on using the natural juices from meat which are cooked down and
served with the meat. The exception to this rule would be some regions
like Normandy where fraiche is used in abundance for every kind of
meat dish.

Tomato sauces (which are used in many American dishes) are not as
predominant in French cuisine for the simple reason that it's hard to
find a wine that goes well with tomato sauce.  In Provence where the
tomato is a basic ingredient, the local Provence makes a good

RE: Fish. The simplicity rule is truer than ever with fish.  If you're
lucky enough to find fresh sole, don't wreck it (as I did once) by
trying to create a "dish".  Fresh sole needs very little help. The
best thing you can do with fresh sole is to lightly flour it and panfry it
in butter.  Throw in a few toasted almond slivers if you must, but not
even that is necessary. Finding fresh fish at the beginning of the week
is not always easy.  Some markets (like our local Champion branch) only
carry fresh fish on Thursday
through Sunday.

If you're vegetarian, you'll be happy to know that people are often
willing to try a new dish if it is presented in an appetizing manner.
"Crudit" or shredded raw vegetables are often seen as a starter on
restaurant menus.  At home, you can prepare a similar starter.  Or you can
slice strips of melon and serve it with a glass of Porto (especially in
the summer months).

Cous-cous or semolina (a North-African dish) is one example of a good base
for a vegetarian main course. You can include garbanzo beans and the spicy
sauce used to flavor a colorful vegetable medley.   Vegetables can also be
prepared in the earthenware tajine (which slow cooks them in the oven).

Cheeses:   Cheese shops in town tend to be overpriced (in my opinion).
The supermarket cheese departments cannot compare with the outdoor
markets.  Find a cheese stand at your closest outdoor market and develop a
good rapport with the vendor.  For your cheese platter, try to choose one
or two soft cheeses and a hard "mountain" cheese.  If you have
leftover cheese (you always do, either you can use it in the next few days
-  goat cheese can be slightly heated in the oven and served on toasts
along with salad.  Or you can put cheeses in a zip-lock bag and freeze
them for another day.

Camembert and other soft cheeses must be left out for a few hours before
serving to maximize their flavor (an authentic AOC Camembert must be lait
cru which means it's unpasteurized) And yes, there is always a
slight risk with unpasteurized cheese, in the same way that eating
chocolate mousse (made with raw egg) can be a risk.  But then, we've
been eating unpasteurized cheeses and mousse au chocolat for a number of
years with no problems.  You decide.  Always keep cheeses covered with a
net or a cheese plate cover (to keep out flies) and if the weather is
particularly hot, do not keep cheeses out to the point where they become
too runny or "trop fait".

When choosing desserts, opt for light and fluffy over two-crust pies or
buttery cakes.  Apple pie may be one of your favorites, but after
appetizers, a starter, a main course, salad and cheese, with plenty of
good wine to accompany each course, your guests will thank you for making
the dessert course light and easy-to-digest

Here are some ways to spend more time with your guests:  Try to have the
starter course prepared as much as possible before their arrival.  Arrange
the plates, saran wrap each individual plate and stack in your fridge.
You can partially cook veggies, esp potatoes and heat thoroughly just
before serving.

Have coffee measured and the coffee pot ready to turn on at the flip of a
switch.  Set coffee cups, saucers, sugar and spoons on a tray within easy
access for the end of the meal.  (This is a good time to serve any little
candies, after dinner mints  or liqueurs/brandy, etc).


Have a flower vase and a pair of scissors set beside the sink in case a
guest brings you a bouquet of flowers.  (This saves you scrambling around
cupboards looking for that flower vase that you remember seeing several
months earlier at the back of the cupboard under the kitchen sink).

Find a partner in crime "do not be afraid to delegate" but make sure
it's someone who really knows you well enough not to be horrified at the
cyclone in the kitchen.  Take advantage of your significant other's
desire to be helpful.  He or she can be your lifebuoy.  People you let
into your kitchen have already gained the key to your heart next time
you're invited to dinner at a French friend's house.  Pay attention to
who is allowed to help in the kitchen and you may have already guessed it's
more often than not, the most trusted friend of the host or hostess.


For a video on a lunch in Normandy from Fat Bell Travelers, click here.



Summer Dinner Party Themes & Gourmet Dinners Delivered

Posted: June 7, 2007
by: T.Alexander

Are you thinking about hosting a summer dinner party, picnic or other event where you can share time with friends, family or neighbors? You want to make the event unique and memorable, but just can’t seem to come up with a new idea…right? An entertaining drought is not uncommon. Sometimes you just need a little spark of an idea to flourish into a beautiful full-blown theme. Maybe one of these ideas will be your spark:

Garden and color: If you’re like me and love the summer garden show, pick your favorite flower and corresponding color. Hydrangea are common in the South and they are abundant in sky blue, white or deep purple. Build a visual theme around your favorite flower and scatter it throughout the party area. You might even look for printed napkins with the flower or other high quality items like cups and paper plates.


Wine: This one is especially fun. Pick your favorite region, like France for example, and build your theme around both the region and favorite wines from the region. If you select France, here is a Tour de France wine collection from Wine.com featuring Chateau Les Graves de Barrau, Bouchard Bourgogne Pinot Noir and Louis Bernard Cotes de Rhone. Take home gifts might be little Eiffel tower trinkets, or some icon to hold your special evening in the memory of your guests.


International Region: Give your guests a rich culinary journey to an international region. Pick your favorite travel spot and build a dinner party around that region. Tuscany is one of mine and there are many recipes to choose from. You can even decorate the dinner table with colorful sunflowers!

If you’re like me and love to develop visions and themes, but don’t have the time to shop and prepare, remember GourmetStation for gourmet meals delivered nationally, including a delightful 4 course Tuscan dinner for two. Our gourmet dinners not only make a striking food gift, they can make giving a dinner party easy so that you may relax and be the exceptional host or hostess that you are.  Bon appetit!

Planning Holiday Dinner Parties & Christmas Dinner Without The Stress

Posted: November 25, 2006
by: Robert Jackson

At this time of the year, we all have so much to think about! It's just one Christmas_ornament_red

long party season - starting in earnest with Canadian Thanksgiving in early

October, or late October in the USA with Halloween. And then it just doesn't stop until the 1st of January, when we all wake up with a sore head, and a hefty credit card balance! But we all love it, and so we should!

What we don't love, and should actively avoid...is the stress that often accompanies all of the planning and preparations that are so essential for a successful host or hostess entertaining guests at home. So I want to share with you some well rehearsed tips for planning a holiday dinner party or Christmas dinner which just may help to get you through this season....without a headache!

My number 1 golden rule in successful, stress-free entertaining is... PLANNING AND PREPARATION! If you are not a natural-born "planner", now is the time to learn! The single biggest cause of average, (or worse, disappointing!) hospitality is a host or hostess who is so badly organised and prepared that the party descends into orchestrated chaos!

So here are my top 10 suggestions for slick and stylish entertaining without inducing a single, grey hair!

1.. Menu & Recipes

Plough through as many cook books and websites as you need to in order to prepare a menu that YOU are happy with. If using a website to locate dinner menus, print off the recipes as you find them

2.. Keep it simple!

Do not get carried away by trying to create a menu that is beyond your comfort zone. It is always far better to serve very casual, simple food that has been skillfully prepared than it is to serve extravagant and complex dishes which are poorly or badly cooked!

3.. "Cheat" a little!

Don't be afraid of buying in 1, 2 or more prepared dishes. There are so many excellent suppliers (such as GourmetStation) available now - many of them on the internet. When combined with your own offerings and finished with your individual flourish, no one need ever know your little secret!

4.. Get some Help

If the occasion is beyond your abilities (whether due to restrictions on your time, a large number of guests or a lack of culinary skills), call in some help. That might just be a few close friends. Or perhaps you need to hire Caterers or a Personal Chef. Again, you will find it easy to discover such services in your area on the internet.

5.. Prepare a Timetable

Sit down with a sheet of A4 notepaper and make headings for at least 7 days leading up to the event. Now with all of your recipes spread out in front of you, decide which tasks can be performed ahead of time, and by how much (many dishes are suitable for freezing and can be prepared a week or more in advance). Then under each date heading, list all of the separate stages of preparation.

6.. Make Lists

From your timetable, now prepare lists for the grocery shopping (look out for foods that must be ordered well in advance). Make lists for drinks & beverages to be purchased. And finally make "to-do" lists. Prioritise these in the order of importance (taking the timetable into account). I find

sticky "post-it" notes useful for this. But however you do it, make sure the reminders are somewhere prominent where you won't forget them!

7.. Prepare the Invitation List

Again on A4 note paper, prepare your guest list. Be realistic about numbers! Do not invite more guests than you are comfortable with (or can physically accommodate!). Decide on the invitation format. Depending on the formality of the occasion, a card by post, email or the telephone may be appropriate.

8.. Shopping

Always leave plenty of time for grocery shopping and do as much well ahead of time as your menu will allow. Bulk shopping can now easily be done online which takes a lot of the physical effort out of the equation. Specialty food purchases can also often be ordered online from gourmet food suppliers. Do not leave shopping to the last moment.... or you will regret it!

9.. Only Spend That Which You Can Afford

Do not be tempted into unnecessary extravagance that you cannot afford as spending excessively rarely impresses people. Plan your budget...and stick to it.  Just a few small, luxury items will go a very long way and is all that is needed!

10.. Relax and enjoy yourself!

My final golden rule to stress-free entertaining is to at all times, remember that good hospitality is all about enjoyment...for your guests, and especially for yourself! So relax. Don't allow yourself to get too bogged down by worrying over every small detail. Even when kitchen mishaps do occur, our well intentioned, invited friends are almost always, very

forgiving! After all, it is the Holidays...another drink anyone?

Happy Holidays everyone.

Robert Jackson

Boca Party Supplies

Posted: November 11, 2006
by: T.Alexander

Let’s face it – what would life be without parties? While the event itself is fun, it’s the anticipation and planning that I love the most. It’s an art. Like painting a picture – starting with a gala theme and then filling in the blanks. The most critical element to pulling off a successful party is reliable resources, and I’ve found one for you.

Whether you’re a professional party planner or just someone that likes to “do it right”, you need to know about Boca Party Supplies. Bob Lindstrom owns Boca Party Supplies and works with Patti Combs, a party industry innovator for many years. Their headquarters are in Florida and they ship nationally.Choc_fountain

The piece that caught my eye is the chocolate fountain. If I could keep it continually filled with melted flowing chocolate (it holds 15 lbs.) I imagine my mood and energy level would improve. Seriously, renting these beautiful pieces is an option, but consider purchasing them and having them on hand for all your parties – large and small.

Tiered trays are also available and the prices are quite attractive. You can purchase a stainless 15 inch serving tray with 24K gold decoration for $160.00. So what if you’re not having a party. Treat yourself royally and use this beautiful piece to serve yourself Sunday brunch croissants! You deserve it.


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

Dinner Party Etiquette For The 21st Century!

Posted: September 3, 2006
by: Robert Jackson

Dinner party etiquette, and indeed the subject of etiquette in general is wrapped up and disguised in layer upon layer of old school tradition! Here at Gourmet Food Revolution, I intend to dispel some of the mystique of dinner party etiquette. Here you will find easy, commonsense advice and tips to help you through any modern day formal or semi-formal dinner occasion. Whether you happen to be hosting a party or attending as a guest, this information is for you……………this is dinner party etiquette for the new millennium!

Dinner Party Etiquette - the BasicsEtiquette_robertimage

Even in today’s fast and ever changing lifestyle, there is one very simple skill which if we don’t already possess, can easily be learned that is guaranteed to get you through even the most trying social occasion – good manners! Yes, something as simple as politeness and good manners will make up ten fold for any lack of etiquette know-how.

And if you are not sure if your manners are good enough, pick a role model and compare your behaviour with them. This could be someone well known on screen or television, or perhaps a friend, colleague or business associate. Pay attention to how they behave around other people. Learn from them!

Learn to be confident in yourself. Unease and nervousness in social occasions will undoubtedly make you feel uncomfortable and thus more prone to unnatural behaviour. A good tip before any important occasion is to go somewhere quiet on your own and sit or preferably, lay down. Close you eyes – and relax by taking long, slow, deep breaths. Then in your imagination, see yourself at that social event looking calm and confident. Imagine yourself interacting comfortably with other guests – you are a total success! Feel the experience – really let it sink in.  This type of mental programming will assist you tremendously.

As host or dinner guest, never allow yourself to be persuaded into believing that the more you spend, the greater the impression you will make! That may be true in certain (frivolous!) circles of society, but it is generally not so, and it is certainly quite unnecessary. Spend only that which you can comfortably afford.  If you would like more detailed guidance on dinner table etiquette, click here.

Dinner Party Etiquette - Myths and Unnecessary Trivia

What rules? There are no rules!!

We hear a great deal about rules of etiquette, as though they were written in stone somewhere, or part of the Constitution! What is acceptable to one person or one society may be totally unacceptable to another. If you must live by rules, then develop your own list of rules! Rules of etiquette steeped in history and tradition have very little real relevance in today’s society.

Some folk firmly believe that unless you come from a background of substantial wealth and a particular upbringing, then you are automatically excluded from certain social choices. This is completely, and utterly, ridiculous! In my profession, I have performed the role of Butler at numerous very grand and formal social occasions for the wealthy and upper classes. And I do not exaggerate when I say that on occasions, the behaviour of some of those attending was truly appalling. Social background, education and wealth are no guarantees of good manners and proper behaviour!

Often a dinner host or hostess believes that the more complex the menu, the more extravagant the occasion, the more elaborate the table setting ……the more he or she will impress the guests! That is far from the reality! A simple yet stylish, well executed dinner party delivered with thought, care and attention, will achieve a far greater result……..for a lot less stress!

Dress code? Just as there are no rules in modern day entertaining, there is also…..no dress code! However, if it’s a formal affair and the host has clearly indicated a dress style (black tie, lounge suits, smart casual etc) then clearly, the dinner guest should respect that. As a host however, do consider carefully whether such a stipulation is really necessary. The trend these days is very much towards casual dining and generally speaking, most dinner guests will be more relaxed in that situation.

Dinner Party Etiquette - Social Behaviour

If you are hosting a dinner party, use yourself as an example of what you consider to be acceptable social behaviour. Most dinner guests will take their lead from you – and if they don’t, they probably shouldn’t be there and are unlikely to be invited again!

The art of conversation! The successful dinner party host should always encourage lively and varied conversation with honest opinions being expressed and shared. However, proper dinner party etiquette should encourage avoiding sensitive issues or subjects that some guests may find uncomfortable. As a considerate dinner host, if such a conversation is under way, discreetly interject and carefully change the subject. Or if that fails, interrupt by introducing the next course!

For both the dinner host and guest, excessive behaviour of any sort is to be avoided. That should include excessive drinking, excessive talking (being overbearing!), excessive joke telling (particularly bad ones!!) and even excessive eating! A healthy appetite is to be enjoyed, over indulgence however, is not an endearing feature!

To smoke, or not to smoke? Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the host or hostess to dictate on this. As smoking becomes less and less acceptable publicly, it is quite unacceptable to do so at a dinner table unless expressly invited to do so. It can be a sensitive issue. Personally, I would advise that the host makes another room available (perhaps where after dinner coffee will be served) for any guest wishing to smoke. Again, there are no strict rules on this subject – as dinner host, you must make this choice for your guests. If you would like more detailed guidance on table setting etiquette, click here.

Dinner Party Etiquette - Place and Table Setting

The days of making an impression by setting out enormous and extravagant place settings with numerous pieces of (sometimes confusing!) cutlery and glassware for an excessively long menu are thankfully, largely over. Keep the setting simple by putting in place only that which is required up to and including the main course. Cutlery for any following courses can acceptably be provided as the dinner progresses and concludes. 

Excessively large, elaborate table decorations and expensive, hall marked tableware are quite unnecessary (unless ofcourse they are family heirlooms!). A simple yet thoughtfully styled table using the best that you own and can afford can be very affective. Don’t be led into the trap of believing that your table must look like something off the front of a glossy home design magazine! I said earlier that there are no rules. Well infact there is one golden rule………..keep it simple!

If you are hosting a large dinner party, then a table plan and place cards are essential. For a smaller party however, avoid such unnecessary protocol. Simply, casually direct dinner guests to sit where you would prefer them to.

This is dinner party etiquette for the 21st century. All of the above is no more than plain, common sense! And it is also about behaving responsibly and not offensively!

As a final word, please remember that the true art of entertaining has one prime goal………..that of pleasure! It should be enjoyed by host and guest alike. So at all costs, avoid being overly concerned about what is “right, and what is “wrong”. Do what you feel is right ……..and if you do happen to make the odd gaff - as long as you carry it off with grace, honesty and humility, you will happily survive the day! After all, it is only a dinner party! Relax…………..and enjoy!

Robert Jackson - Gourmet-Food-Revolution

The Great British Picnic

Posted: July 21, 2006
by: Robert Jackson

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!


Robert Jackson


Gourmet Food Revolution - Robert Jackson - At Your Service

Posted: May 15, 2006
by: T.Alexander

One of the things I love about the web is the opportunity to become acquainted with kindred souls from around the world. Then sharing that “find” with others through blogging…well it doesn’t get much better. Read on to see where I’m going.

If there ever was an epicurean it’s Robert Jackson from the Regency town of Brighton UK. Before I tell you about Robert’s amazing history, let me ask a few questions. What if you had a friend who was fully trained and degreed in hospitality management? What if this friend was fortunate enough to work in some of the finest hotels and restaurants in the world? What if this friend had served as an officer on the one and only Cunard cruise liner CM2 and had the opportunity to mingle and socialize with royalty, aristocracy and film stars? And what if this friend was willing to draw upon his amazing history and give you hints on entertaining, dinner party planning, simple but delicious recipes, and table etiquette?

Well your friend, Robert Jackson, is waiting for you at Gourmet Food Revolution. From the get go Robert was sure of his destiny as he experimented at age 8 with sweetmeats (candies), toffee, and chocolate Easter eggs. By age 13 he had already completed a Cordon Bleu (culinary arts) home study course and by age 17 he embarked on his formal education in international hotel & catering management.

Employment opportunities took Robert to locations in the UK and overseas, including what he calls his “lucky break” - a chance to work on the QM2. How does one follow the QM2? Robert opened his own small hotel and restaurant on dry land. Now Robert has settled in the South coast of England and has a successful business in Brighton where he consults on butlering, catering and hospitality and maintains the web site for Gourmet-Food-Revolution.

Future Delicious Destinations posts will include tips from Gourmet Food Revolution on planning elegant dinner parties, selecting simple yet delicious menus for your dinner party, recipes from appetizers to desserts, a guide to selecting prepared food suppliers (of course GourmetStation is on the list!), tips on hiring a personal chef, and top 10 do’s and don’t for proper table etiquette.

You might not be able to sip tea with Robert on a sunny afternoon & hear his wonderful stories, but you can certainly visit his informative web site and learn about everything from how to select a prepared meals supplier to properly setting your table. Yes, Robert, I think you Mum would be proud!


Dinner Party Idea – French Style Prepared Meals

Posted: March 27, 2006
by: T.Alexander

If you’re seeking creative dinner party ideas consider a French or Parisian theme. There’s so much romance and culture surrounding French cuisine, you’ve got lots of opportunity to create a memorable evening for your guests.

The French have elevated food well beyond a culinary art or a time-honored tradition. So the main thing you should focus on is “the food”! You may carry the French theme throughout your event by using powder blue, for example, as tabletop color. And certainly, you must include French table wine. But the focus should be the food with authentic French recipes.

If you wish to do a little research, consider Ina Garten’s book Barefoot in Paris. Ina will take you on stroll around Paris to her favorite spots. Then she’ll share with you recipes from these local bistros that have been shortened to provide an authentic eating experience with as much simplicity as possible.Chicken_montrachet

One of my favorite recipes from Ina is Chicken With Herbed Goat Cheese. Click here for the recipe. You’ll see that the defining ingredient in this recipe is Montrachet cheese. Montrachet is a white creamy chevre, a French term for goat’s cheese, from the Burgundy region of France. Basil and garlic accentuate the recipe but the dominant flavor is the tangy yet mild Montrachet cheese.

If you’re like me and don’t have the time to shop, chop & prepare, consider GourmetStation’s collection of Parisian prepared meals delivered. You may order entrees a la carte and add the salad or appetizers and dessert yourself. Or you may order the 3 course or 4 course Parisian gourmet meals, complete with selection of French themed appetizers, soup, entrees and delicious desserts. I recommend the Parisian 4 Course Gourmet Meal because GourmetStation’s version of Chicken With Herbed Goat Cheese is included as an entrée option. It is simply called Chicken Montrachet and is served with a rich luscious demi glace sauce. With GourmetStation your dinner party will have all the French authenticity of a home prepared gourmet dinner without the fuss and hard work….giving you time to be the perfect host or hostess that you are!

House Guest Dilemma – Consider A Gourmet Meal Delivered

Posted: March 18, 2006
by: Mark Stine

Ok, so you think you have your orderly life and then the phone call or email arrives. Suddenly you are faced with houseguests!  What do you do when you work, have family obligations and need to entertain guests all at the same time!

As a resident of Las Vegas, let me tell you houseguests are a regular occurrence. And even if they don’t stay with me, opting instead to savor the delights of the new hotels on the strip, they still want to visit my home for an evening or two and soak in the solar heated pool.Veggie_salad_mar_06_st_patrick_day

Then there’s the whole ordeal of properly providing guests with a memorable gourmet meal. Yes it can be fun to take a trip to the local market, buy food, then spend time prepping all the while engaging in witty banter with your guests as they sip wine and watch you perform food miracles to feed the hungry hordes. Nice imagery….but not reality. This is not like an ad from a magazine…staged and the food prepped by a food stylist. It’s hard work and frankly can be hard on the pocket book as well.

Rather than panic...consider the handier and more civilized alternative to spontaneous entertaining, gourmet meals delivered by GourmetStation. If you know guests are coming, just take a few minutes to pull up the web site, make the selections that fit your entertaining style and guests’ preferences. You may select three or four course dinners from Parisian, Tuscan, Cajun or Fusion menus.  They even have a wine-pairing guide to help you in the selection of the proper wine for your cuisine selections.

My favorite offering is the four course dinners. Just heat the delicious soups on the stovetop in a saucepan. The artisan bread and entrees with side item and sauce finish in the oven in about 30 minutes.  And my favorite dessert, cheesecake, requires no preparation and is best served chilled. The entrees even arrive in their own ovenable container. Now you’re on your way to entertaining bliss. Heat, plate and serve a gourmet meal for two or more in about thirty minutes. With help from GourmetStation you may even find a moment to enjoy the experience yourself.

Img_7618 Mark Stine is patron of GourmetStation turned guest writer. A resident of Las Vegas, Mark enjoys horticulture, traveling, and skiing in Colorado with his daughter Lauren.

GourmetStation delivered gourmet meals start at $69.99 plus $19.99 shipping with a two-day notice required for deliveries to the entire continental US, Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico.