Gourmet Station back to home
the main top image deilcious deestinations

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.

« May 2007 | Main | July 2007 »

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.



Those Aging Boomers – An Appropriate Food Gift

Posted: June 24, 2007
by: T.Alexander

Lately we’ve read and heard a lot about the aging boomers, their effects on US society and their needs as they age.  USA Today said that almost 3.0 million boomers have passed over to the other side….”the other side of 60 that is”. Then there are the 75 million boomers still in their 40’s and 50’s. Many of us have a mother, father, aunt, uncle or friend in this age group. Or we might just be there ourselves!

These boomers are not ordinary people. They are post World War II children of privilege. Many are well educated, well traveled and have acquired significant material possessions in their life time. Which brings us to the point of this article. When it comes time for an occasion gift for these boomers…what do you give have someone who has it all?

Enter the era of experiential gifts. These gifts are exactly what they imply – an experience. For those gift recipients who have received every trinket imaginable over the years, consider an experiential gift. It might be a day at the spa, a day riding horse-back or even a ride in a hot air balloon. If your gift recipient has a taste for the gourmet side of life, consider a food gift.

Gourmet food gifts, specifically dinner gifts, can satisfy many gifting occasions, especially for those recipients who do not live nearby. If you want to say thank you with a dinner delivered, if you want to say congratulations with a gourmet meal, or if you want to let them know you are thinking of them, a gourmet dinner gift may suit your needs, and theirs.  There are several companies that specialize in this type of food gift including Atlanta based GourmetStation. Most companies deliver nationally and provide a wide variety of cuisine with a minimum of preparation time. The idea is provide your gift recipient with an evening of restaurant quality food delivered right to their home. An experience they will long remember.

Panama…It’s not just for Hats!

Posted: June 16, 2007
by: Mark Stine

GourmetStation’s research into world cuisine has inspired me over the years to look beyond the suburban life I have led and see new and …shall we say tasty opportunities and well…what would the cuisine be like in say Panama?

Having been a subscriber to International Living for the last three years, which touts low cost spots in the world where you can live large on less and whose online emails haunt me incessantly with “about to be missed affordable real estate opportunities,” I finally took the plunge and headed off to Panama.

Panama seemed to fit the bill…civilized and direct flights to the US, the Canal….an emerging Latin Capital that has recently been labeled, “The new Miami” and high-rises sprouting like mushrooms along the bay front and around the “chic-er” neighborhoods. Since I had already missed out on coastal Croatia and newly discovered Montenegro, what with the Brits driving up coastal hot spots in Europe, while I sat reading about it, I thought don’t let the Panama bandwagon pass you by!

So, I talked two friends into an adventure and off we went. But before heading off, I needed two things, a realtor and a place to stay. The realtor was problematic….However after a quick search on the internet I uncovered a gem of a B&B in the Bella Vista neighborhood of Panama.

Our hosts were Patty and Rudy of Patty’s Casita. Her web site reads”“Patty's Casitas offers an alternative to typical Panama City hotel accommodations...as we offer B&B and apartment for short term rental in the heart of Panama city where you will find Panamas major attractions such as the Panama Canal (Miraflores Locks), the Bridge of Life Museum of Biodiversity (soon to be build by the renown architect Frank Gehry), history, shopping, bird watching (Gamboa), Eco tourism, jungle trekking, marine and biodiversity exhibition centers and much more...Our Guest House Bed and Breakfast in Panama City (Arcos de Bella Vista), a beautiful colonial house, offers a spacious suite with en-suite bathroom located in a residential and exclusive green area, called Bella Vista and our self-catered apartment (Amador Rental) is located in the hottest new tourist destination called Amador! You will find excellent restaurants, bars, night clubs and waterfront promenade all within few minutes walk from our panama city lodgingsJ While this country has a large number of hotels in Panama City to choose from, we feel that our non smoking accommodations offer the best deal available...providing you with inside tips (we speak English, French, German, Italian and Spanish), airport transfer service from and to Tocumen International Airport and private guided tours in Panama City and surroundings.”

And I agree with all she had to say in her web site. A wonderful 1930’s vintage estate property, in an up and coming renovation neighborhood right next to the restaurant district, Patty’s Casita offered the perfect location from which to launch our real estate search.

But first breakfast! When one thinks B&B, the range of breakfast items provided can be coffee and a roll, to interesting and tempting breakfast treats. Patty subscribed to the later. Patty, a multi- national person has lived in many global spots, and she offered a wonderful breakfast each morning. Tasty empanadas, fresh local fruit, yogurt, meats and cheeses…locally grown Panamanian coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice, why every morning was like a buffet.

Better yet, while we enjoyed this breakfast repast ( we.. being me, Barb and John…three real estate bargain hunters), Patty and her husband Rudy would graciously provide insights on their own real estate ventures. Joined by her mother, visiting from Germany, whose husband and she had also purchased beach property in Panama, we felt immediately like we were part of an extended family. Rudy in fact had met us at the airport in Panama City, they provide full services to visitors, with Rudy doing tours and assisting visitors and Patty handling the B&B.


We had a wonderful time looking at real estate…sampling delicious sea food and learning about Panama…why we even saw the Panama Canal in action while we enjoyed a champagne brunch one Sunday. I thought it would be dull as dirt watching a large ship go up and down in the locks…but frankly the champagne inspired everyone to gleefully race out onto the terrace and shoot pictures, videos and generally whoop it up! It was a good time and memory.

On a cultural note…I was made aware of a book which reaches into the heart of Panama through a Fantasy tale …a book called, in English, The Forbidden Valley, en Espanol - El Valle Prohibido, available on Amazon.com  The Panamanian author is Eduardo Lince Fabrega and is based on the fantasies and historical events interwoven into memories of his childhood spent in el Valle.


So…the Panamanian trip was a success. I have four condo projects under consideration as a retirement outpost…very low property taxes a HUGE incentive, coupled with warm tropical weather. My traveling buddy John found a place on the beach to check out as a purchase option (as well as a Panamanian hat), and co-conspirator in world forays Barb…(you may remember her as “Rhubarb Barb” from a prior recipe blog). Well she sees potential investment in the beach too. Living in California and not far from Malibu, she was partial to the Malibu Beach project. Finally...a living breathing …Malibu Beach Barbie…stay tune to see if we join the expat community. In the interim…think Panama…it’s a happening place!

Mark Stine

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!

Welcome Guest Writer - Chris Card Fuller

Posted: June 4, 2007
by: T.Alexander

We have received wonderful comments and feedback from Delicious Destinations guest writers. Our goal is to have guest writers from every corner of the globe. I have been searching specifically for a guest writer from France for about two years. The search is over! Welcome, Chris Card Fuller; we welcome your French experience into our food & culture blog. By way of introduction enjoy this bio about Chris and how she came to work in and love the world of food & travel.

When I was nineteen, a palm reader at a cocktail party in Palos Verdes

Estates read my palm. She told me that even though I was helping the

hostess serve hors d'oeuvres, the kitchen wasn't really my bailiwick.

She didn't mention anything about travel and she didn't see France in

my future.

By many strange twists and turns in the path of life, I ended up spending

more and more time in France, particularly in Paris & Normandy. The palm

reader was right in guessing that I might find producing a four-course

dinner for French guests to be a daunting task, but well worth the

privilege of gaining an intimate view of day-to-day living in Paris and

the Norman countryside.

Parislogue.com came about thanks to Bootsnall.com founders Sean Keener and

Chris Heidrich who launched the site and invited me to contribute my

comments about French living.  The Bootsnall.com site for independent

travelers caught my eye back in the late late nineties as the ideal site

for sharing my travel stories with like-minded travelers.

Aside from travel stories about French life, I've also published a

number of travel articles for U.S. newspapers including the L.A. Times and

the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. My collection of travel essays titled

"The Fearful Traveler's Companion" was published in December 2005 by

iUniverse.com   A number of hair-raising encounters interspersed with

unusual food thrills included in this first collection are just a sampling

of future stories to be told. My travels have taken me from Appalachicola,

Florida to Yap in the Caroline Islands, from Timbuktu, in Mali, to Phaplu

in Nepal.

Bootsnall members are often requested to send in a photo or the name of

their first pair of hiking boots.  My first pair of hiking boots I

borrowed from my dad for a trip to Aspen, Colorado. I was sixteen years

old.  Aspen is where I first drank a "smoothie" and ate tempura

veggies.  My first introduction to snails was in a French restaurant in

Telluride, Colorado.  In other words, you don't necessarily have to be

in France to enjoy great French cuisine (but it's well worth the trip,

at least once in your lifetime).

Travel and food, for me, have always been an inseparable part of the same

great adventure.


The Gold Standard Gourmet Cook Book

Posted: June 3, 2007
by: T.Alexander

Are there a lot of cookbooks out there or what? With so many choices, how do you make a selection? My criteria is simplicity combined with variety and end result that produces flavors you cannot forget. The solution? The Gourmet Cook Book – The Gold Standard. Here’s what editor in chief Ruth Reichl had to say about their goal: "Our goal was to give you a book with every recipe you would ever want."

Gourmet Magazine has given us luscious desserts and cleaver entertaining tips for six decades. In this one cookbook you may discover the best of the best and there’s a bonus. Included with the cookbook ($40.00 plus shipping) is a 45 minute DVD from Ruth and her team demonstrating certain dishes and techniques that will help you cook like a pro.

If you’re like me and you love the idea of being an at-home-chef, but you don’t have the time, skill or patience, try GourmetStation. Our delicious dinners delivered nationally are configured around internationally themed menus including Parisian, Tuscan, Cajun, Fusion & Americana. You may enjoy your own intimate dinner for two, or you may find the gourmet meals to be an excellent gourmet food gift. Our patrons have used our dinners for food gifts for all occasions including birthday, anniversary, congratulations, thank you, thinking of you and romance. Bon appetit!