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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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Napa Nirvana

Posted: August 24, 2008
by: Mark Stine

Napa is wonderful anytime of year…I had the good fortune a year ago to spend a long weekend in Napa…to not only see the vineyards and taste some great wine, but to see a one man art show featuring John S. Kornfeld at the Robert Mondavi vineyards.

But first…someplace to stay!  Accommodations were arranged at the Yountville Inn in Napa Valley( www.yountvilleinn.com ). Gracious…comfortable and accented with lots of natural wood, beams and stone…the Yountville Inn makes you feel instantly comfortable. Three nights in an oversized mini suite with a fireplace and a spa styled bathroom left me a bit in awe at how comfortable the décor and amenities were. While it was summer …nights do get cool and if you are feeling indulgent, you can also air condition the room a little just so you can use it (Not that I would ever waste the energy!)


To make me feel even more special, the public lounge just off the check in area featured a wine tasting the afternoon I checked in. What a nice thing to start my first evening off with…an in-house wine event. The hostess was fun and informed. The featured wines were from Hendricks Wines…featuring “hope and grace” wines. Charles Hendricks is described as, “Winemaker Paraclete: An encourager, a messenger, an assistant, a guide”.


A consultant to vineyards, he has now shifted his focus to the line of “hope and grace” wines. We sampled a 2005 Chardonnay, 2004 Pinot Noir, 2004 Malbec and a 2004 Cabernet, all under the “hope and grace” label. Productions are limited and the the bottles ranged form 26.00 to 60.00 a bottle in price. Well the hostess was  congenial and it came down to me and a nice couple sampling till the bitter end! She offered us all the opened bottles to take home..I let them take the one we both favored, the 60.00 Malbec, but I ended up with a Chardonnay and a Cabernet. Not a bad score and all for free! Check them out at www.hopeandgracewines.com

Napa has a certain sense of style….its own California interpretation of enjoyment, taste and architecture, but that has all changed with the Castello di Amorosa. Modeled after an old world castle, the vineyard offers a unique view  into the past.  The wine tastings were passable as I recall, but the unique feature was the authenticism about the reproduction castle in Napa. Right down to a large Norway rat running across one of the castle corridors! Did someone actually cue him..like a movie background extra…”Go Now”?? Our tour group got a kick out of that sight. Overall the tour was well worth it….conducted by their then new head of marketing, showing the ropes to one of the new doecents. 


Another added surprise for me to this extended Napa weekend was an invitation to a private reception for the featured artisit. Held at the private home of a doyenne of Napa, it was an amazing experience to be at a wine recption and cocktail party overlooking vast acres of vineyards


with the mountians framing them in the background. I had missed that day one of the premiere “Sparkling Wineries” tours, but the owner appeared at the reception carrying several bottles of her version of “champagne” and I was priviledged to sample some first hand and engage in dialouge on her personal history .  The cast of characters at the event also included a young couple…he a winemaker of a competing wine Valley (Sonoma) and of Roessler vineyards. The Roessler web site lists his view of their wines.  In the cellar, we employ winemaking techniques that can be characterized as "Old World" in style, with a minimum of intervention. This allows all of the hard work in the vineyard to shine through and creates a classic backdrop for the nuances and characters derived from the variety of soils, clones, and climates.

We hope that you will take as much pleasure as we do in exploring different regions and vineyards through enjoying our Pinots and Chards!

All the best,
Scott Shapley”

The significant other with him, Laura  Hoover was well traveled and she and Scott, as I remember, both had grandparents who met and maintained homes in the Seychelles Islands. What were the odds on that happening! Anyway, we discussed my recent trip to Panama and Laura brought up a project she had gotten into involving microcredits in Guatemala and Mexico. It’s a way of helping people help themsleves by launching small businesses with micro credit loans  www.namaste-direct.org 


They truly do amazing work and for such little investment from “investors.”

I felt very lucky and priviledged to hob nob with the annointed of Napa …and that is the fun of travel…you never know where or with whom you could end up.

Needless to say , three nights and afternoons dining in Napa provided an exceptional experience…and a bit of a weight gain. But it was worth it. The finale was the art exhibition set in the gallery area of the Robert Mondavi Winery.


Perfect Napa weather..wonderful restaurants, exceptional wines, parties …art events…local galleries, a private reception at a gracious home in  Napa ….new acquaintences…what’s not to like about a summer trip to Napa and wine country?

Mark Stine

Are "Convenience Foods" always that Convenient?

Posted: August 16, 2008
by: Robert Jackson

As you may be aware, I am a great believer in making life easy in the kitchen. Indeed, my website Gourmet Food Revolution is in fact dedicated to proving that cooking really excellent food at home can be done without causing too much exhaustion or stress and without the necessity for culinary training! So I am always on the lookout for new ideas and tips and was intrigued, even excited a little when Delia Smith, the doyenne of Britain's celebrity cooks launched her latest book "How to Cheat at Cooking".

Now for those of you who may not be familiar with Delia (yes, the whole nation is on first name terms with her!), she was in truth one of our very earliest "celebrity chefs". Since the early 1970's through her books and TV shows, she has in fact caused quite a revolution in the domestic kitchen. Her recipes have always been stripped back to perfect simplicity, yet producing nothing short of spectacular results. In my mind, she is nothing less than a saint!  However, it has to be said that her latest book caused something of a storm amongst both her fellow celebrity chefs and editors alike. So rather than rush out and buy her book, I decided to research it first. I was intrigued to find a review in the Sunday Times by journalist Lydia Slater who like many of us, was intrigued.

So Lydia, a busy working mom and longtime Delia fan chose her "good old shepherd's pie". This dish is in fact a concoction of tinned minced lamb, frozen mashed potato, ready grated cheese and frozen diced onion. Doesn't sound terribly appetizing to me, but who am I to argue with "Saint Delia"! Delia goes as far as to recommend specific convenience products from particular supermarkets. For Lydia, that required a good hour's worth of energetic shopping going from store to store. Assembling and cooking the ingredients required a further hour.

As for the results, our intrepid journalist only described it as "okay" expressing her preference for her own, familiar recipe. She also points out that cooking her own recipe takes less shopping time and no longer to cook. Plus, the cost of producing what Delia describes as "nothing short of sensational" was close to £7 ($14) whereas buying a ready made pie, let alone making her own would cost only half that! The moral of the story.........? Keep it simple yes. Take some well researched short cuts yes, and don't be afraid to buy it in....such as in the wonderful range of dishes available from Gourmet Station. But don't be slave to every latest fad, and do be prepared to trust your favorite tried and tested recipes. Talking of which, this is an absolute favorite of mine, a really good old-fashioned, Shepherd's Pie.....and hardly a convenience food in sight!

My Favorite Shepherd's Pie Recipe


Serves 4

2 tablespoon olive oil

salt & freshly milled black pepper

1lb/500g lean minced (ground) lamb

1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1-2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon tomato purée

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary needles chopped

9fl oz/ 250ml red wine

10fl oz/200ml lamb stock

2oz/60g washed and sliced button mushrooms

2oz/60g frozen peas

instant gravy granules or powder


2lb/1kg Desirée potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

2oz/60g butter

2 egg yolks

Parmesan, grated

salt & freshly milled black pepper

You will need a baking dish, about 7½ inch (19cm) square and 2 inches (5cm) deep.


1. Heat the oil in a large pan until hot. Add the chopped onion, garlic and carrot and fry over a medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes until soft.

2. Add the minced lamb to the pan and fry over a high heat for 3 to 4 minutes turning frequently. Season with salt and freshly milled black pepper Remove from the heat, cover the pan with a lid and carefully tip the pan to allow all of the fatty juices to run away.

3. Return the pan to the heat, add the Worcestershire sauce, tomato purée and fresh herbs. Continue to cook for 1 - 2 minutes before adding the red wine and stock. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer, uncovered for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Finally add the sliced mushrooms and peas, bring back to the boil and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes before thickening with gravy granules or powder to the desired consistency (personally, I don't like the gravy too watery, nor too thick). Taste and adjust the seasoning. Allow to cool while you prepare the topping.

5. Cover the potatoes with cold water, season with salt and bring to the boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to a steady simmer and cover with a lid. Cook for about 20 minutes until completely tender.

6. Using a colander, drain the potatoes and then add back to the hot pan, cover with a lid and leave to dry out completely for about a minute over a low heat.

7. Now mash the potatoes using a masher (I don't like them over mashed and prefer to leave a little texture in them). Add the butter and season generously with salt and freshly milled black pepper. Beat in the egg yolks and about 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan.

8. Preheat the oven to 400ºF/200ºC/gas mark 6.

9. Spoon the mince into the baking dish and then carefully start to pile the mash (in small amounts) over the top. Once the mince is largely covered, spread the mash evenly and then rough it up with a fork. Finally grate some extra Parmesan over the top.

NOTE: if you're not planning to cook the pie straight away, allow to cool completely before covering loosely with cling wrap and refrigerating.

10. Place the dish onto a baking tray and bake in the oven near the top for about 25 minutes until the potato topping is crusty and golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for about 10 minutes before serving.

This is just one of the many deliciously easy recipes available from
Gourmet Food Revolution

Robert Jackson


Annual Gift Certificate Sale at GourmetStation

Posted: August 9, 2008
by: T.Alexander

So how many times do you find yourself wanting to gift another - and you're at a loss? Someone did something nice for you - gave you a ride to work this week while your car was in the shop. Loaned you their beach house for a nice vacation. You know what I mean. And then there are the reoccurring occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. These are the ones we struggle with from year to year to be original and creative. Well, gifting should not be a struggle and GourmetStation has a solution. Plus the soluion is on sale now at 30% off.

Keep a few of our food gift certificates on hand to make gifting easy for you and a pleasure for your recipient. Your recipient will receive our totally cool passport with menu tickets to our Parisian, Tuscan, Cajun, Fusion & Americana menu lines. Redemption options include phone or Internet; plus our dining gift certificates never expire. They'll receive a ready to heat gourmet dinner for two or better said, "a gourmet experience." Bon appetit!


Great Cajun Cook Off

Posted: August 1, 2008
by: T.Alexander

Certain foods have a fan base just like a rock band. BBQ comes to mind first. I’m not sure what gives a food category license to have more excitement and passion than other categories, but it is a fact of life. And no category has more passion than Cajun Cookin’. For those of you who share this passion, here is an event you must know about. A Cajun Cook-Off! Below is information right off their web site:

“The Third Annual Great Cajun Cook-Off is here! Brought to you by the Cactus Cajun Foundation, this year’s event will take place on Sunday, November 2, 2008 from 1 to 4 PM at the Lath House Pavilion in Downtown Phoenix. The Cook-Off is an exciting fundraiser featuring a cooking contest between amateurs and professionals in the categories of gumbo and jambalaya. All proceeds from ticket sales go directly to the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity and the Joel Monte West Club Scholarship.”

If time and distance won’t allow you to attend the cook-off in Phoenix, and you wish to be there in spirit, consider making a donation to this worthy charitable event.

You may also enjoy authentic Cajun cooking from GourmetStation….as a gift for another or a treat for yourself. Our Cajun cuisine is configured in 3 & 4 course Cajun dinners delivered....exquisite food gifts.