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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.

Taos…. Scenery…mysticism…Southwest flavors


Posted: August 26, 2011
by: Mark Stine

Taos, New Mexico is a wonderful sensory spot in the summer. Storms can pop up over the mountains and drench the valley and plateau with the fresh scent of rain and grass…lighting can arch across the horizon and then within hours…blue skies can return.

Anytime I can find my way back to Taos…it brings a sense of peace and enjoyment. Ancient in origins when compared to most US cities…Taos has retained its connection to the old Pueblo and to its ancient history.

Family lines run long and true. and water for irrigation is metered out in old “ditches” that the ditch masters control. I have even heard rumors of feuds erupting and ditch masters cutting off the flow...such is the state of water wars in the West.

After a recent trip to Taos, where I finally was able to drive up to the Taos Ski resort…one of those summer storms sent me scurrying back down the mountain.  Even in summer, the altitude can make the cold rain feel like sleet after the warmth of the high altitude desert land below.

Passing down in elevation on the way back to Taos Pueblo…one comes across the tiny crossroads of “downtown” Arroyo Seco. A collection of old buildings, now renovated into chic boutiques, restaurants, shops and art galleries, you can’t but help to stop and check it out.

 Sol Food

A scenic stopover in Arroyo Seco

One spot that cried out  to us was Taos Cow Ice Cream Co.  A wonderful Café & Deli which features all natural and rBGH Free ice cream.  Located in between Taos and Taos ski area it’s but a short drive between the two locations.  I can’t say enough superlatives about the ice cream flavors available and the creamy effectas it melts on your tongue. Let’s just say it was a “moo” – ving experience!

 Logo-Taos Cow (2)

Taos Cow can be found  online at http://www.taoscow.com/ or locally in the physical world at Taos Cow Ice Cream Scoop Shop, Cafe and Deli  •  485 Hwy 150, Arroyo Seco, NM 87514  •  (575) 776-5640  •  eat@taoscow.com

Not wanting to completely ruin our appetites before dinner, we hoofed it around the small intersection and managed to hit every little store, gallery and shop…while scooping up menus from restaurants we might want to come back to.

 Truck

The Mercantile store- worth a browse or two

But the threat of yet another thunderstorm drove us back into town…make sure you check out the Taos Pueblo square when you visit. But for us,shopping was not on the agenda…

 Historic

Taos Plaza…steeped in history

Margaritas were in order …check out the bar scene in a local hotel on the main road into town…they have the coveted best Margaritas in town title!

 Landmark 1936

As their website notes, “Fondly called 'the living room of Taos' by locals and visitors alike, The Adobe Bar is the place to mingle. With local color and atmosphere drawn from the tri-cultural, historic, and artistic traditions of this unique community, The Adobe Bar provides our patrons with live musical entertainment every night of the week Since 1936, The Historic Taos Inn has welcomed famous folks like Greta Garbo, D. H. Lawrence, and Pawnee Bill. More recently, celebrities like Robert Redford and Jessica Lange have been spotted sipping margaritas in the lobby.”

Mark2 
Feeling right at home

With a couple of Margaritas under our belts…we made our way across the street where we had dinner reservations at “Graham’s Grille by Lesley B Fay”

One of the finest restaurants in town, Graham’s came highly recommended by my dining companion Colleen.   http://grahamstaos.com/about-restaurant

Service was impeccable and our server was a family member of the owners and gave us background on the restaurant and its rather extensive wine offerings.

 DSC_0230

Stylish Menus and an alfresco option

Graham’s should definitely be at the top of your list. Reasonably priced and with full service breakfast- lunch and dinner, in its short history it has already become an institution in Taos…

At the end of the summer’s day…another storm blew into town, scenting the scene with sage brush and ionized air…good for the heart and soul…..Taos …

 Mountains

a perfect place in time

Santa Barbara Getaway for Rhubarb Barb…


Posted: March 7, 2010
by: Mark Stine

Santa Barbara Poster

It was one of those “Milestone” birthdays that warranted a special birthday celebration for gourmand and noted rhubarb pie baker “Rhubarb” Barb. The September 09 blog from GourmetStation featured another rhubarb aficionado, Nashville's own Ginger Anderson …and Donna’s (aka  T. Alexander) personal note to me at how good that  pie was…well that was a real challenge to Rhubarb Barb who said “Thems fightin words” and would welcome a rhubarb pie bake off!  

So to simmer her down…I flew to the Burbank airport - scooped her up and headed up the coast to a favorite spot Santa Barbara.

No matter when you go, Santa Barbara and nearby Montecito are wonderful getaways. The atmosphere is relaxed….the scenery stunning and the variety of restaurants ample and scenic enough to suit any taste. After a coastal morning drive up from greater LA …food was on our minds. Scooting through the main drag of Montecito tabulating our options…we turned the car around and headed back to the café with the busy morning crowd. They obviously knew something and we were about to find out what. The cute café had outdoor seating…shrouded just a bit with morning mist and a very active and full house on the inside.

After a word to the hostess, we were seated outdoors at Jeanine’s American Bakery & Restaurant. ( www.jeannines.com )  The food was wonderful…fresh…seasonally flavored…but what added to the experience was the wonderful hostess, Nancy, a retired teacher who had taken up the cause of promoting, “hostessing” and all round cheerleader for the delights of  Jeannine’s. She made our morning special, getting us the outdoor seating we desired…getting a special “birthday surprise slice of cake” for Barb and stealing extra moments with us to engage in the history of Jeannine’s and why she so strongly believes in the place.

Why we even got Nancy to pose with the birthday gal….

Nancy_Barb

Jeannine’s menu is a reflection of family values and quality….if a coastal trip is in your horizon…stop in and see what operator Eleanor Hardy really means in their value statement.
“Our menu is a reflection of what we as a family, like to eat everyday. It is simple authentic food made from wholesome and, whenever possible, organic ingredients. We make our own dressings, and sauces, roast our own turkeys and bake our own biscuits. Good food made with the best ingredients and served in a comfortable atmosphere by a friendly staff. That is what Jeannine’s is all about
Eleanor Hardey
Breakfast

Jeannine’s is located at 1253 Coast Village Rd.  (805) 969-7878.

While driving through Montecito we missed Oprah’s house, but if you allow yourself extra time for exploring, there are many gated properties and lushly landscaped grounds to view.

Montecito Gate

Former Daytonian (Rhubarb Barb and I both being from the Dayton suburb- Beavercreek) and actor Rob Lowe and his family make their home there with mountain and ocean views, although I don’t really know him and that information tid-bit came from a Montecito real estate site, I did meet him ocean-side once in Malibu, while we shot a scene for the series The West Wing. Since it was just the two of us walking on the beach in that scene, surrounded by actors portraying reporters, I managed to mention Dayton, Ohio and he volunteered that he, Martin Sheen and Allison Janney, all series regulars were from the Dayton area. He mentioned he even dated a girl from Beavercreek once – WOW - I felt like I was living Entertainment Tonight! Montecito is littered with celebs, as it is a stunning place to live, so if you stay in the vicinity and eat out in the evenings, you ever know who you will bump into.

Rob-lowe

After touring Montecito, we arrived in Santa Barbara and checked into the Encina Lodge and Suites…..comfortable, affordable and conveniently located near the action of  downtown Santa Barbara. Taking a cue from Barb and also local’s recommendations, we attempted to make reservations at The Palace Grill – a Cajun-Creole-Caribbean-Santa Barbara flavored style restaurant. Even without a reservation, we stood in line for the opportunity to snag any “no-shows” and were rewarded with a spot near the open air kitchen. A wimpered “ But it’s her birthday” may have helped in snagging one of the three remaining tables, as no one behind us got seated-whew!  If you go, be forewarned that on Friday and Saturday nights they have limited reservations. Located at 8 East Cota Street in downtown Santa Barbara, parking is easily located in area parking decks. (805) 963-5000.

To start off the night we each ordered the house specialty drink…The Cajun Martini- A Palace classic.  First off it is served in a mason jar over ice with a martini glass and cherry peppers on the side. The vodka is well chilled and marinated with fresh jalapeno pepper and a touch of vermouth. 

Martini

The food is spicy, depending on what you order and very satisfying. Dessert- well it was Barb’s birthday and they did a nice chocolate soufflé with a birthday flair!

Dessert

Afterwards, we couldn’t see our way out after finishing those mason jars of Cajun Martinis. They had a real kick….and we wandered the main avenue gaining our “sea legs” before heading back to the lodge.

The next day we went a bit high brow, what with Barb being a design and graphics expert as well as a fine artist. Always fun to tour museums with a professional!  They had a wonderful Chinese exhibit when we were there. For further information before you go, check out their link,  www.sbmuseart.org

Art Museum

History (from their web site)
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art opened to the public on June 5, 1941, in a building that was at one time the Santa Barbara Post Office (1914–1932). Chicago architect David Adler simplified the building’s façade and created the Museum’s galleries, most notably Ludington Court which offers a dramatic sense of arrival for museum visitors. The newly renovated Park Wing Entrance and Luria Activities Center open in June 2006.
Over its history the Museum has expanded with the addition of the Stanley R. McCormick Gallery in 1942 and the Sterling and Preston Morton Galleries in 1963. Significant expansions came when the Alice Keck Park Wing opened to the public in 1985 and the Jean and Austin H. Peck, Jr. Wing in 1998. The Ridley-Tree Education Center at McCormick House, a center for art education activities, was established in 1991.
Today, the Museum’s 60,000 square feet include exhibition galleries, a Museum Store, Cafe, a 154-seat auditorium, a library containing 50,000 books and 55,000 slides, a children’s gallery dedicated to participatory interactive programming and an 11,500-square-foot off-site facility, the Ridley-Tree Education Center at McCormick House.
All in all it was a wonderful birthday trip. Having been to Santa Barbara and Montecito a number of times, I can only hope to get back again soon…as I am sure you will agree after you have had a chance to visit…breathe the cypress and eucalyptus scented air…and taste some of the great local fare. Enjoy!

Sun In My Belly – Lunch With Donna & Dee


Posted: February 21, 2009
by: T.Alexander

What cool little spot in your neighborhood awaits discovery? Sun In My Belly is only a couple of miles from my home in Inman Park (Atlanta) – towards the Decatur side of the world on College Avenue. I decided to meet my long time friend Dee Simon for lunch and here’s what we discovered.

 

Donna_Dee_Cropped      

The atmosphere is comfortable, casual, and like the staff, very inviting. Hang out for a while before your meal, sip tea on the red velvet couch or wait outside if weather permits. The menu is lunch oriented and diverse with a large selection of breakfast and bakery items, appetizers, sandwiches and specialty desserts. Here comes the first test. Our waitress approaches and proudly recites the specials for the day. All sound delicious but are made with meat, cheese and more meat and cheese. I announced to her that I was vegan and nothing on the menu was vegan. Instead of melting with embarrassment, she quickly announced that the kitchen would modify any selection and make it vegan. Wonderful, I thought…a gal that understands customer service. Merit point #1.

 

Waitress    

My friend Dee ordered quiche and Venus salad. Dee is a fine cook and when she said “I cannot make quiche like this at home” there goes merit point #2. (The quiche looked good to me but more inviting was Venus salad with arugula, lemon scented artichokes & parmesan cheese. Take away the parmesan cheese and guess what you have? Vegan!)

 

Quicke  

My vegan delight was a specialty sandwich made on fresh Focaccia bread with roasted red peppers, Portobello mushrooms, zucchini squash and a delightful cold black bean salad on the side. It was delicious! Merit point #3.

 

Vegan Sandwich   

 

On the way out, don't miss the sweet display. Guess what's for dessert? I just forget about being vegan :)

CAN YOU SAY TARISIMU?

 

Dessert Case   

Sun In My Belly

2161 College Ave.

Atlanta, GA 30317

404-370-1088

http://www.suninmybelly.com

It has been said that when Picasso was asked what it was that compelled him to create, his response was the “Sun in my Belly”.

By the Light of the “August” Moon and a Café too!


Posted: January 3, 2008
by: Mark Stine

Ok…So we are coming off the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays and cold weather abounds. So naturally, I being a warm weather fan reflect back on balmier times when one can stroll about at night and enjoy the mild air.

Last July, I had the good fortune to be in New York City during a particularly nice week, weather-wise and invited a friend to join me for dinner. Kim’s suggestion was to take advantage of the summer specials many restaurants were having, to entice new customers, under a special program offered in New York City. Being a long term resident of Manhattan, Kim is versed in the ways of dining out and I was keen to see what her choice of restaurants would bring.

Kim

So my dining friend Kim and I headed off on foot…the only way to really be a New Yorker, as cabs don’t qualify, and we headed down to the heart of the Greenwich Village area…strolling first through the ever gentrifying Meat packing District.

The restaurant chosen for the night, “August”, had a very cozy feel to it…glass and brick and a feeling of permanency. European – old world flavor is the first thing that came to mind. While we had to wait a short time for a table...a good sign as it shows a loyal clientele, we spent the time near the small bar area sampling two choice glasses of wine.

Our table was readied in the back room, kind of an atrium affair as I recall and we took advantage of the pre-fixe menu… designed to expose new patrons to the chef’s features, with suggested wine pairings.

Menu 

We found the service attentive without being intrusive and the food selections wonderfully paired. We opted to each select opposing dishes under each category so we could sample a broader range of appetizers entrees and desserts. A great strategy regardless where one dines!

I was especially fond of the Saffron Orzoa with feta, okra and grilled eggplant, preceded by the Gratineed Clams seasoned with scallion and chorizo appetizer. I am a dessert man and my favorite was the Blueberry Clafooti with buttermilk ice cream. My only wish…for more ice cream!

Following the wine stewards recommendation, we tried several of the pairings and found the subtleties lent a nice resonance to the meal. Kim and I left feeling satisfied, a wonderful meal, great conversation, attentive wait staff and excellent wine recommendations. Then a long walk back in the mild night air under the influence of an “August” moon in July.

So give it a try if you find yourself in Manhattan, www.augustny.com where you can get directions and check out new happenings at the restaurant. Plus I think their graphics say volumes about the feel of the restaurant.

The great thing about eating is the diversity, kind of like the options Donna at GourmetStation presents. She is always looking for new taste pairing to present to patrons online and just like GourmetStation is fun to explore, NYC is such a wonderful place to explore because the number of restaurants in the city continues to grow and new food trends and restaurant settings provide an unlimited range of options.

Sometime you feel like a fine meal...and well…other times you feel like a good burger. And luckily my good friend of 28 years Alice, also in Manhattan, suggested we take in her old watering hole Café Loup where we had just such an opportunity.

Loop

Café Loup,(as in Loop) is a ubiquitous New York restaurant bar - a very relaxed neighborhood feel...layered with a nice upscale patina. A super chef/owner was our host and knew Alice by name and a “beyond courteous” bar tender kept my dining companion Alice and I heartily plied with our favorite wine …Alice chose a wonderful Sauvignon blanc and we never found our glasses empty.

Since this was a personal catch up session and the summer heat made escaping into a nice cool locals spot that much more inviting, we talked for hours…And what made the day even more memorable was the exploding steam pipe which had occurred in an area of Manhattan near Grand Central Station, where I had been earlier that day and also affected Alice’s subway stop on her way home to meet me, which of course gave me an earlier start at the bar!

At some point in the active conversation…and conversations with Alice are always active and engaged, our burgers were delivered to the very busy bar area where we were sitting.

Thick, a bit rare, politically incorrect, but the way they preferred to serve them for flavor and robustness. Solid…straight forward…great grill burgers, thick juicy and tasty. We washed it down with more wine and as the long night came to a conclusion…my conclusion was that I was very glad to be in a very fun locals restaurant in New York City with an old friend.

So if you find yourself in Manhattan, give these two interesting spots a try. New York is about experiences, so create some new ones yourself 2008!

The Soule Domain – and It’s a Wonderful Day in Dick’s World


Posted: April 15, 2007
by: Mark Stine

As time has gone by, I have become a fair weather skier. Now mind you, I have been skiing since age 15 and turn 53 this month. After seeing Olympic skier Stein Erickson a few years back in Deer Valley, Utah, I am inspired to keep going, as he has  done…..and for the record Stein is in his 80’s and still going quite strong.  And I hope to still tackle the slopes when I am his age…..

But, there is cold weather skiing and then there is spring skiing, accented with brilliant sunshine, long days and late afternoons spent on the sun deck drinking a favorite libation. And I have become a fair weather skier by choice.

Well this spring’s ski trip turned up a wonderful lodging spot in south Lake Tahoe, The Lake Tahoe Vacation Resort. I hooked up with my friend Ed and his family and hosted them at a timeshare exchange right on the lake.  I got there first and was greeted with 67 degrees in South Lake Tahoe, hardly putting one in the mood for skiing, so I spent the afternoon sunning and walking along the shores of lake.

It has been a number of years since I had been to a ski resort in the area…and was taken by all the large Ponderosa Pines and the brilliant blue of the lake surrounded with snow capped peaks and remembered how I felt when I first experienced the scenery there. It really is a magical place.

While the snow conditions were not optimal this year, it was still more than adequate for our group and we had a great time skiing a more family oriented resort, Sierra, about a 20 minute drive from our lodge. Once we got everyone in to ski equipment, off they went to lessons or to the top of the mountain, where a great 2.5 mile trail makes it easy for even beginners to work their way down the mountain.

I have to tell you though, one of the reasons Lake Tahoe was picked over Park City this year, is that Ed, a retired dentist attended Emory dental school with an old friend, Dick, who still works his practice on the north shore of Lake Tahoe and Ed thought it would be great to get to visit with them as well as ski.

So, after a few days at the ski resort, we drove up the east side of Lake Tahoe to meet Dick and his wife Sandy at a restaurant they recommended, called The Soule Domain. What a treat. The marketing brochure positions the restaurant as featuring “Creative American Cuisine in an elegant Log Cabin” and that is exactly what they deliver. The chef/proprietor is Charles Edward Soule IV and all of our dishes were wonderfully presented and artfully done with excellent flavor profiles. (The Soule Domain: Can be reached at 530 546 7529  and sits ½ block up Stateline Road across from the Tahoe Biltmore Casino Crystal Bay in North Lake Tahoe….or check out their website http://www.souledomain.com)

Restbusinesscard_2 

The dinner conversation was lively and one of the points brought up that night at dinner by Sandy and Ed was how life was for Dick.

I had heard Ed mention this fact before, but it was confirmed that night by Sandy in how life for Dick just seems well….perfect.

No matter what the issue in the world, what natural disasters were happening …. “It was always a wonderful day in Dick’s world.” Well two nights later we were invited to Dick and Sandy’s house sitting on Lake Tahoe and I go to see first hand how such a statement came to be.

Dick and Sandy have lived in Lake Tahoe for quite a few years and have worked hard to establish the life that they have. Dick has his dental practice in a building that overlooks Lake Tahoe. His commute to work is a 15 minute or less kayak ride down the shoreline from his home. He did confess to me that if the lake level rises he can’t paddle under some of the docks and has to go around them, adding 3 minutes to the paddle commute. All the while admiring the scenery, snow capped peaks in winter and gorgeous weather and pines in the summer.

Dickedmark

Sandy is equally athletic, tanned and quite accomplished as well. Their young adult kids were off in Argentina exploring and dinner at their house that night was relaxing. It was fun to see how life had turned out for Dick and Sandy. Wonderful life together, smart and attractive children, beautiful home, world class scenery and long term established friendships.

So as you can see, it really is a wonderful day in Dick’s world….and I thank them for sharing. And I thank Ed for allowing me the privilege of meeting Dick and Sandy.  Now we all can’t live on Lake Tahoe, but I would like to think that just perhaps, if we all step back and look at the positives in our own lives, a little bit of Dick’s world just my rub off……and I hope it’s a wonderful day in your life too!

Mark Stine