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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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14 Romance Tips For Valentine's Day

Posted: January 31, 2006
by: T.Alexander

Tomorrow I’ll start a series of 14 posts counting down to the most romantic day on earth, Valentine's Day. The posts will begin on February 1, 2006 and run through the big day, February 14, 2006. The purpose will be to help any romance challenged person, man or woman, spice up their imagination and make the most out of this very special day. The theme will be “Valentines 2006 - Fine Dining At Home.” For those that wish to avoid the stress of a busy restaurant, why not bring the fine dining experience home. Here’s a peek at what to expect over the next two weeks: history, poems, flower selection, fine dining, menu selection, table setting, champagne serving, last minute gifts and more. Valentine4_heart GourmetStation has the answers.

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Ribollita Warms Cold Tuscan Days

Posted: January 26, 2006
by: T.Alexander

I am so happy to hear from Simonetta at Casa Bellavista and thank her for continuing to send recipes and snippets of life from her Tuscan bed & breakfast.  It's cold in Italy now and Simonetta reminds us how Italians used black cabbage in earlier times to make it through the cold winters. I'm eager to try Simonetta's version of Ribollita.

"I'm here to write some Tuscan recipe for you and all the people that would like to try. In Italy it's very cold and it's traditional in this period of the year to prepare a soup with black cabbage. Now it's very good time because the plants in the garden are frozen. It's a very old recipe from the countryside where in the past the people were very poor and during the winter there was not a lot of food. Simonetta"


250g white cannellini beans

250g white cabbage

250g chard leaves

250g black cabbage

1 leek

150g sliced bread

Extra Virgin olive oil

4 tomatoes

1 potato

1 onion

1 zucchina

1 carrot

1 stock of celery

salt & pepper


Wash the beans and place in a large saucepan with plenty of cold water, sage leaves and two garlic cloves. Bring to the boil on a slow heat and cook slowly for around 1 hour.

Chop the leek and onion and cook lightly with a little oil, chop the leaf vegetables and add them to the pan.

Chop the potato, carrot, zucchina, tomatoes and celery and add to the other vegetables. Drain some beans and add to the pan, cooking all together until the liquid begins to dry up. Add the water from the cooked beans, salt & pepper, and cook slowly for 2 hours. Just before the end of this period add the rest of the cooked beans.

Toast the sliced bread and place in soup plates, pour soup over the bread and add oil and black pepper. Serve hot.

Eggplant De Jour

Posted: January 25, 2006
by: T.Alexander

If you’re on a journey to transition to a plant rich diet and the bite & mouth feel of meat is keeping you from moving forward, consider eggplant. While slightly larger than bell peppers, eggplants share some of their characteristics. Their sturdy “meaty” fruit allows them to be stuffed, baked, fried, sautéed and still maintain plate appearance and bite without turning to mush. Below are three of my favorite recipes. Don’t forget GourmetStation’s vegetarian collection if you seek a vegetarian food gift for another or an indulgence for yourself. Eggplant_stuffed

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Croquettes

Stuffed Eggplants

Yin & Yang At The Asian Dinner Table

Posted: January 21, 2006
by: T.Alexander

Cultural behavior stems from philosophy and that includes how a culture chooses to feed itself. I’m fascinated with Asian culture, cuisine, and the uncluttered simplicity of Asian eating habits. Dishes are basic in ingredients and preparation, yet are filled with heavenly flavors. Yin_yang_1

Think about yin and yang for a moment. Yin & Yang can be looked at in western terms as opposite factors and the relationships that exist between these opposites.  For example the Earth is divided into ocean & land masses, yin and yang. But the philosophy further holds that no opposite is pure or absolute as there is always some degree of the opposite contained in anything that exists. So opposites hold each other in balance, so to speak.

When I think of a typical Asian dinner table I think of fish, usually steamed and seasoned, served with fresh vegetables and rice….food from the sea, food from the earth, perfectly in balance. Hummm. Wonder if yin & yang at the dinner table contributes to the health, focus and efficiency of the Asian population?

French Women Don't Get Fat

Posted: January 17, 2006
by: T.Alexander

January is “field day” month, so to speak, for every company that wants to make us believe we can manage our weight and health with an array of quick fixes. Bad choices about health, diet and exercise did not happen overnight and good choices to counteract the bad choices won’t happen overnight either. Beware of quick fix gimmicks. Think about lifestyle management as a philosophy, a way of living, and a lifetime commitment. And make sure the new choices make you happy!

There are many excellent guides to eating and living well, but my favorite is French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano. Mireilleguiliano_sm The moment I picked up the book I knew it was a winner. Why? Because not only does the book contain common sense processes to reprogram bad habits and redefine our relationship with food, Mireille emphasizes that we must enjoy our new lifestyle. There is no room in a well-balanced life for food guilt and deprivation.

You must read the book yourself, but here are a few nuggets to wet your appetite.

65% of Americans are overweight and the fastest selling books are diet books.

Americans, unlike French and other cultures, gravitate toward quick fixes and extreme measures.

No extreme ideology or technology will solve our problem – only a balanced relation to food and life.

Most Americans eat 10% to 30% more than they need just to satisfy psychological hunger. Sound familiar?

At least half of bad eating & drinking habits are careless and grow out of inattention to true nutritional needs and delights.

What’s the secret out of our dilemma?

Eat grandly on occasion but not regularly.

Never multi task while eating – no TV, newspaper, or eating on the run.

Make the dining experience a real experience by using the power of presentation, which includes china, glassware, table linens and even candlelight.

Use plenty of seasonings like sweet basil. Tarragon, and rosemary. Don’t forget flavorful condiments like French Dijon mustard.

Use Mireille’s 3-step process of assessment, recasting, and maintenance. More than anything, make sure your new lifestyle change is gradual and filled with flavor, fun and fulfillment. French_women_dont_get_fat_book_cover_1

The Christmas Tuscany Came to Connecticut

Posted: January 14, 2006
by: T.Alexander

Ever think about spending Christmas in Tuscany? Sounds inviting, doesn’t it. Well Dave & Edie Galusha decided to do one better – they brought Tuscany to their home in Connecticut this Christmas. You’ve all enjoyed the blog posts by Casa Bellavista owner Simonetta & Guido Demarchi. And you’ve enjoyed the posts by Dave & Edie about their experiences at Casa Bellavista in Tuscany. Sit back now and enjoy Dave’s reflection of the Christmas that Tuscany came to Connecticut.

The trip from JFK to our home in northwest Connecticut was filled with laughter, conversation and excitement.  It had been six months since we visited with Simonetta and Guido at Casa Bellavista in Tuscany.  Now, they and there children Carolina and Filippo were going to be visiting with us to start our Christmas celebration.

Bridge After getting unpacked, we enjoyed a dinner of homemade gnocchi with tomato sauce; tilapia sautéed in extra virgin olive oil, fresh garlic and white wine and butternut squash sautéed with diced onion.  Food Then, it was time for our guests to stop fighting the jet lag and get a good night’s rest.  The next morning would be filled with some New England winter weather fun.

In the morning, Carolina and Filippo were overjoyed to see the foot of snow that covered our yard.  Even though that much snow is not something they would ordinarily have in Tuscany, they knew how to make snow angels and enjoyed sledding and hiking through some nearby woods and walking out onto the ice covered pond behind our home.  Snow_angel

The rest of Simonetta’s and Guido’s visit was filled daytrips to see some of the typical New England Christmas sights including a life-sized Neapolitan Crèche and covered bridges.  The afternoons and evenings were filled with preparing sumptuous Tuscan dishes of creamy polenta with a sausage marinara sauce; stuffed pork tenderloin; pasta carbonara and roasted vegetables and paninis of marinated portabella mushrooms, arugula and shaved parmagiano regiano.  Of course, fine wines and great coffee were also enjoyed.Sled

In June of 2006, the cooking lessons and the conversations will continue when we visit Casa Bellavista.  This was a Christmas we won’t forget.  The Christmas that Tuscany came to Connecticut.

Soup's On!

Posted: January 13, 2006
by: T.Alexander

Zupa (Polish), soep (Dutch), sopa (Portuguese), sopp (Swedish), leves (Hungarian)or Marak מרק (Hebrew).Andy_warhol_campbell_soup__colored Soup.
Long before Andy Warhol turned a Campbell's soup can into pop art, soup has been a classic dish on many tables. Soup recipes can be found in cookbooks dating as far back as 30 AD when Marco Apicio's included a dish made of farro chickpeas, fava beans, onions, garlic, lard and greens in De Re Coquinaria.

Soup has even made its way into literature.
Lewis Carrol's Alice in Wonderland's Soup of the Evening

Beautiful Soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Beau - ootiful Soo - oop!
Beau - ootiful Soo -oop!
Soo - oop of the e - e  - evening,
Beautiful, beautiful, Soup!

There are even soup songs. For a unique treat listen to 12-year old Michael Bannett sing Soup of the Evening. I promise you it's worth the click.

One of my favorite fables is of course, Stone Soup. I'm sure you recall the tale of the travelers who made the most delicious soup from a stone...with a little help from some new friends.

For me a perfect winter's meal is a steaming bowl of soup, some crunchy bread, a tossed green salad and perhaps some warm right out to the oven cookies. Don't worry if you don't have time to prepare homemade soup or bake cookies GourmetStation has done it for you. This is one of my favorites and makes a great beat the winter blues food gift.

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Anniversaries Are Not Only For Weddings

Posted: January 12, 2006
by: T.Alexander

Aida_invitationRecently I received an invitation, from my dear friend Aida, inviting me to celebrate the 25th anniversary of her living in her home. What a wonderful idea to hold a party to acknowledge an important life moment. How often do we let milestones slip by without a passing nod?

Creating a life moment anniversary party can be as simple as gathering a few friends, opening a bottle of vino and enjoying some special appetizers. What's important is not how big the soiree but the joy in sharing memories with friends and family. Remember GourmetStation for fantastic anniversary food gifts.

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Celebrate Life's Victories

Posted: January 11, 2006
by: T.Alexander

Congrats! is a little word that sings happy toasts and good wishes. Celebrations are life's happy moments, sometimes grand and sometimes small, when you stop for a second or two to acknowledge a dream that came true. I like to think of these life's victories as special holidays.

What can you celebrate? Think new: New baby, new job, new home, new pet. Think milestones and accomplishments: birthday, anniversary, graduation, team win. Think work: project completed, new client, promotion, innovative ideas. Think firsts: first rose in your garden, first kiss, first best friend, first car.

Of course, celebrations are more fun when you share the joy.Celebration There is no better way to let friends and loved ones know that you're excited about their special holiday than with a celebration gourmet food gift. If you're not feeling creative GourmetStation can help ensure the day is extra special.

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Winter Romance

Posted: January 5, 2006
by: T.Alexander

With our hectic lives it's easy to forget about romance. However, time spent with the person you love is the best gift any day of the year.  A small romantic gesture can touch your heart even more than a grand show. It may be more difficult to get motivaded when the weather is chilly, but winter is the perfect time for romance.  Here are a few ideas to help you start thinking of winter dates.

- Chilly nights are a great excuse to cuddly in front of a roaring fire. Plan your romantic dinner in front of the fire. Serve an easy to eat meal of soup, crusty bread, a salad and chocolate chip cookies warm from the oven. Set your coffee table using pretty votive candles that cast a soft glow. Soft jazz playing in the background will help to set the mood.

- Draw a heart in the snowand  write your initials and those of your sweetie. Red Kool-Aid mixed with some snow will add an extra touch. Be sure to have your camera ready to snap a shot. Put the photo in a frame for an special surprise.

- Rent a few of the films that you've been longing to watch. Pop a huge bowl of pop corn ... be decadent and indulge ... add  lots of butter!

- On a winter afternoon, a walk along the beach or in the woods takes on a unique feeling. The lighting is different. Walking hand-in-hand helps to keep you warm and chances are you'll enjoy nature without a crowd of people.

- Do you remember snow angels?  Bundle up with your mittens and scarfs and make a few angels. While you're at it when was the last time you made a snowman? When you're done playing .. hot chocolate with a splash of Irish Bailey's will warm you right up!

- A bubble bath for two complete with candles and a bottle of bubbly champagne is a romantic stress reducer.

- What can be more romantic than a horse drawn sleigh ride Sleigh_ridein the softly fallen snow? 

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