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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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The Queen's Diamond Jubilee

Posted: May 29, 2012
by: Robert Jackson

HM Queen Elizabeth celebrates sixty glorious years on the throne of England next month, and we are all so very excited to be a part of this historic and momentous event.


For many of us, we have known her for all of our lives. The young Princess Elizabeth was crowned Queen in Westminster Abbey on June 2nd 1953, one year before my birth. So she has always figured in my life - a "constant" in this ever changing, rapidly developing world that we live in. From my very earliest memories, I have always been fascinated by her enigmatic personality and faultless dedication to duty. We are all so very, very proud of her.

For those of us lucky enough to live in Great Britain, we can look forward to a host of celebrations planned to take place over the extended national holiday weekend of 2nd to 5th June. Details of all the events can be found at the official website of The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Celebration.

So for my tribute to mark this remarkable occasion, I would like to share with you twenty amazing facts about Her Majesty that you may not be aware of. This will then be followed first by the original very famous recipe created by chef Rosemary Hume, for the Queen's coronation banquet in 1953 - Coronation Chicken. Then in case you would like a simpler and quicker recipe, that will be followed by "the cheat's version" by Felicity Cloake, food journalist of The Guardian newspaper.



1. Queen Victoria was the last and to date the only British Monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee.


The current Queen, who was aged 85 on Accession Day in 2012, is the oldest monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee. Queen Victoria was 77 when she celebrated hers in 1897.

2.The Queen is the second longest serving monarch. Only five other kings and queens in British history have reigned for 50 years or more. They are:

Victoria (63 years)
George III (59 years)
Henry III (56 years)
Edward III (50 years)
James VI of Scotland (James I of England) (58 years)

3. Over the reign, Her Majesty has given regular audiences to 12 Prime Ministers. They are:

Winston Churchill 1951-55
Sir Anthony Eden 1955-57
Harold Macmillan 1957-63
Sir Alec Douglas-Home 1963-64
Harold Wilson 1964-70 and 1974-76
Edward Heath 1970-74
James Callaghan 1976-79
Margaret Thatcher 1979-90
John Major 1990-97
Tony Blair 1997-2007
Gordon Brown 2007-2010
David Cameron 2010 - present

4. The Queen has answered around three and a half million items of correspondence.

5. Unusual live gifts given to The Queen on foreign tours include: two tortoises given to The Queen in the Seychelles in 1972; a seven-year-old bull elephant called "Jumbo" given to Her Majesty by the President of Cameroon in 1972 to mark The Queen's Silver Wedding, and two black beavers given to The Queen after a Royal visit to Canada.

6. In an average year, The Queen will host more than 50,000 people at banquets, lunches, dinners, receptions and Garden Parties at Buckingham Palace.

7. Over the course of the reign, almost one and a half million people have attended garden parties at Buckingham Palace or the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Scotland.

8. The Queen launched the British Monarchy's official website in 1997. In 2007 the official British Monarchy YouTube channel was unveiled, swiftly followed by a Royal Twitter site (2009), Flickr page (2010) and Facebook page (also 2010).

9. The Queen's real birthday is on 21st April, but it is celebrated officially in June.

10. The Queen has 30 godchildren.

11. The Queen has owned more than 30 corgis during her reign, starting with Susan who was a present for her 18th birthday in 1944. A good proportion of these have been direct descendants from Susan. Her Majesty currently has three corgis - Monty, Willow and Holly.

12. As part of the main celebration for the Queen's Golden Jubilee in June 2002 the spectacular fireworks display which took place from the roof of Buckingham Palace required 2.5 tons of fireworks, with some rising as high as 800 ft into the night sky. The light and sound display also involved 50 searchlights on the Palace, and fountains of water over nine metres high and a sound track.


13. The Gold State Coach was used twice during the Golden Jubilee, making its first appearance since the Silver Jubilee in 1977. The first time was at "All the Queen's Horses" equestrian spectacular and the second in the procession to St Paul's Cathedral on Jubilee Day, 4th June.

14. The Empire State Building shone purple and gold on the evening of Tuesday, 4 June 2002 in honour of The Queen's Golden Jubilee.

15. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh have sent approximately 45,000 Christmas cards during The Queen’s reign.

16. The Queen has given out approximately 90,000 Christmas puddings to staff continuing the custom of King George V and King George VI.

17. The Queen has launched 21 ships during her reign.

18. The Queen has sat for 129 portraits during her reign.

19. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh have been married for 64 years. They were married on 20th November, 1947 in Westminster Abbey. The Queen's wedding dress was designed by Norman Hartnell and was woven at Winterthur Silks Limited in Dunfermline, Scotland, using silk that had come from Chinese silkworms at Lullingstone Castle.


20. The Queen was born at 17 Bruton St, London W1 on the 21st April, 1926, was christened on the 29th May, 1926 in the Private Chapel at Buckingham Palace and was confirmed on the 28th March, 1942 in the Private Chapel at Windsor Castle.

The original famous Coronation Chicken recipe was created by Rosemary Hume, founder of Le Cordon Bleu cookery school, for the Queen's coronation banquet in 1953. Originally called "Poulet Reine Elizabeth", the dish was designed to be a compromise between exotic spices and inexpensive ingredients. It is excellent eaten with a rice salad or served as a filling in sandwiches.

The original recipe by Rosemary Hume
Serves 8


2 medium chickens
1 carrot
Thyme, bay leaf, parsley and 4 peppercorns to flavour
1 dessertspoon curry powder
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp tomato purée
1 glass red wine
Juice of ½ lemon
450ml mayonnaise
1-2 tbsp apricot purée (made from soaked and boiled tried apricots)
2-3 tbsp whipped cream


Poach two chickens for 40 minutes in water with the carrot, a splash of wine, thyme, bay leaf, parsley and four peppercorns. Cool in the liquid then remove the meat from the bones.

To make the sauce, heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and add two tablespoons of chopped onion. Cook gently for three minutes then add a dessertspoon of curry powder. Cook for a further two minutes. Add one teaspoon of tomato purée, a glass of red wine, ¾ wineglass of water, one bay leaf, and bring to the boil. Then add a pinch each of salt, sugar and pepper, the juice of ½ a lemon and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Strain and cool.

Slowly add the cooled sauce to 450ml mayonnaise, then stir in 1-2 tablespoons of apricot purée. Season again - the sauce must not be too sweet. Finish by adding 2-3 tablespoons of whipped cream. Add only enough sauce to coat the chicken lightly.


....or for those in a hurry....

The "cheat's version" by Felicity Cloake

Her previous attempts at coronation chicken have always involved Sunday's leftovers, so she's back on familiar ground using cold cooked chicken.

The dressing is simplicity itself:

2 tbsp "good spicy fruit chutney" (she uses mango, in keeping with the Anglo-Indian theme), mixed with 1 tbsp "good Madras curry powder" and equal parts Greek yoghurt and mayonnaise and tossed through the chicken, which is then left to marinate for a couple of hours. This is then finally garnished with toasted almonds and chopped coriander.

If you are planning a celebration to mark this very special occasion, you may want to check my suggested menus for:

Tea Party







From One Meal To The Next: Chapter 3

Posted: May 22, 2012
by: Dave, Edie & Simonetta

Viareggio to Bagni di Lucca

The Tuscan sun was up early casting its warming glow over the seaside city of Viareggio.  From the balcony of our hotel room we enjoyed a view over the city and up to the mountains of the Garfagnana which were soon to become part of our day's trip as we travelled "from one meal to the next".  First however, it was time for breakfast and a final review of our travel plans for the day; an adventurous ride across the mountains of the Garfagnana, lunch in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, a visit to the two tiered aqueduct in Barga and completing our day's travel at the Albergo Corona in Bagni di Lucca.

As we departed Viareggio our route took us through side streets of the city and past a number of marble works whose yards contained some of the most enormous pieces of marble we have ever seen.  Beyond these huge blocks of marble, rising to the sky, stood our challenge, the mountains of the Garfagnana .  Slowly, the road narrowed and soon we realized that there was no more straight road.  We were headed into a section of mountain roads filled with "S-turns" and "switchbacks".  Coming out of one of the turns, we looked up to the mountain peak and were treated to a magnificent view of a wide swath of white cascading down the mountainside.  Our first reaction was, "Oh wow, were going over a snow covered mountain!"  A few more "S turns" closer and we realized, the "cascading white" was a vein of marble


which was being quarried.  How the quarry workers were able to move all the cranes and cutting equipment to the top of the mountain is something we still have not figured out.  Nor, have we been able to figure out how they get the marble down off of the mountain!

As we approached the top of the mountain we entered a tunnel.  One and a half kilometers later, we came out the other side of the mountain and began our descent to the village of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, our chosen place for lunch.  Just to the left of the main gate of the village, we located L'Aio di Piero, a delicatessen of sorts.  Once inside the shop we were treated to a visual feast


of meats, cheeses, sauces, preserves and pastas


To the left side of the shop was a small room with stone walls, wooden beams and small rustic tables and chairs.  There was a pleasant excitement about the room as people visited and shared the joy of good food and wine.  We were seated at one of the last remaining tables and after ordering a carafe of the "house red" we began to study the menu.  In short order, we decided to order a platter of prodotti tipici.  Soon, we were enjoying a feast fit for a king, including: caprino, scamorza and pecorino fresco (all tasty cheeses), salumi, prosciutto, capicola, bresaola (cured Tuscan beef), slivered radicchio, olivi, pickled cipolla rossa, calamari wrapped anchovi, bruschetta with red pepper pesto, stuffed peppers, fried fiori  di zucca con ricotta (squash blossoms with ricotta) and fried zucchini.


Following a relaxed time over lunch, we enjoyed a walk through the narrow medieval streets of this beautiful little walled village.   Our next stop...the village of Barga and a search for a Roman aqueduct.  Arriving in Barga, we stopped for an espresso and a visit to the tourist office for a map and some help with directions.  With their help, we were able to locate a bit of Roman history without difficulty. 


Marveling that it still stands today, we could not help but think what a proud testament it is to Roman engineering. 

As the sun began to set, we headed to Bagni di Lucca and the Albergo Corona, our home for the next two nights.  Settling in for the evening, we could not help but to begin to anticipate the next eating adventure.  Suffice it to say, it involves wild mushrooms and a visit to the Ponte Sospeso.

Dave and Edie www.fototoscana.com

Simonetta  www.casabellavista.it

Business Travel - Tips from Hollywood

Posted: May 22, 2012
by: T.Alexander

Has anyone ever written a book on business travel? Maybe Business Travel for Dummies? Perhaps Hollywood can help us out here. If you’re in the mood for some tips (funny ones I might ad), check out this article on The 10 Best Movie Scenes About Business Travel. From hilarious Bill Murray in Groundhog Day and Lost in Translation to George Clooney racking up travel points in Up in the Air, there’s a tip or two for us all. And if you don’t find a tip, you’re guaranteed a good laugh!

Pâtisseries délicieuses …

Posted: May 14, 2012
by: Mark Stine

Scoping through magazine articles awhile back, I am came across one with a pastry challenge…for anyone visiting Paris and I immediately thought of my friend Colleen, who authors this week’s blog.


Colleen Watson- Guest Blogger

She was headed off to Paris and I didn’t know if this Pastry challenge would be of interest, but she immediately was excited about the opportunity and the result….well read and find out…as Colleen accepts the Paris patisseries challenge. Take it away Colleen.....

Pâtisseries délicieuses …
Stepping off the plane to unseasonably cool weather for a June in Paris, I’m already craving those items I think of as being the best of French food. A freshly-baked baguette, wonderfully rich and creamy cheese accompanied by a glass of Bordeaux.

I could be happy sitting in a café all day watching the Paris world pass by with only my drink order changing from café crème to a vin rouge.

But this trip, my good friend and frequent traveling companion, Mark Stine (yes, the very same blogger who generally graces this space) sent me a list of several of the top pâtisseries in Paris. I decided I was up for the challenge.

So, on one of the warmer days toward the end of my trip, I set out with my traveling companions to begin the adventure. From where we were staying near the Tour Eiffel, we decide to go to the furthest away and work our way back. We took the metro, conveniently located a couple of doors down from our hotel to the Métro République. We followed our Paris map a couple of short blocks south of the Pl. de la République off of the busy Bd du Temple to Jacques Genin.

For years, Jacques Genin, self-taught pastry chef, sold his chocolates and caramels to high-end Paris restaurants and hotels, but finally opened his own space in the hip northern edge of the Marais at the end of 2008. And thus, his delicious goods were made available directly to the public.

His beautiful establishment is warm and welcoming, a combination chocolaterie, pâtisserie and tea salon, with its beautifully designed white walls, extraordinarily lovely orchids well placed by the entrance, and its pristine hard wood floors begging us to take the few steps down into the heart of the shop. Awaiting us were deliciously appealing pastries and glass cases filled with delicate freshly made chocolates.

Standing behind the glass cases, Arthur Dieupart motioned us over and gave us our first taste of the best chocolates in my memory. Smooth and creamy ganaches, we purchased several of the small lovely boxes, each holding nine squares of the most interesting flavors with herbs and spices (jasmine, ginger, mint, tea) and others equally interesting (grapefruit, rose). Even the more typical kind was not of a typical taste.


But, we did come for the pastries!

Jacques Genin has a delightfully inviting tea room on the other side of the circular stairs that lead to the loft kitchen where all the pastries, chocolates, jellys and caramels are made fresh each day … and throughout the day to replenish what has been sold. We decided on the Saint-Honoré, a surprise from the typical that featured a delectable, flaky pastry topped with vanilla whipped cream alongside three cream puffs of chocolate, caramel and vanilla. It was a perfect selection with the café crème (oh, and more chocolates).


jacque genin, fondeur en chocolat - paris
133, rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris
Tél +33(0)1 45 77 29 01

Pulling ourselves away from the inviting ambience, friendly staff and delicious smells, we left to walk to the next shop on our list, Pâtisserie Pain de Sucre.

Located on rue Rambuteau, also in the Marais, just three blocks northeast of the Centre Pompidou, this shop is owned by Nathalie Robert and Didier Mathray. These two met each other at Pierre Gagnaire's three-Michelin-starred restaurant in the pastry kitchen, of course. They opened Pain de Sucre together and continue to work as a team, creating wonderfully fabulous confections.

The bright, well-appointed space is just what you’d imagine when thinking pâtisserie. As we enter the shop, the first things we notice are the cases filled with inviting pastries and macaroons. We quickly notice the ornate and amazingly fairy-tale ceiling perfectly suited to the space. The shop is busy with customers unable to make decisions because everything is so well presented and looks so inviting, concoctions so well appointed they looked like artwork. Even the marshmallows are tempting!
We decide on their tarte au citron, which is apparently pretty famous. We leave the pâtisserie and stroll down to a café for an afternoon espresso. The tart is all we anticipated, delightfully creamy with a hint of lime. Definitely a winner!


Pain du Sucre
14 rue Rambuteau, 75003 Paris
Tél +33(0)1 45 74 68 92

We move on toward our final stop of the day, La Pâtisserie des Rêves located in the posh 7th arrondisement and created by chefs Angelo Musa—a winner of the Pastry World Cup and a Meilleur Ouvrier de France—and Philippe Conticini, partnering with hotelier Thierry Teyssier. (They have another shop in the 16th arrondissement, 10-minutes from the Palais de Chaillot, which includes a salon de thé and an atelier des choux.)

We step into a small space crowded with late afternoon shoppers clearly picking up pastries for after dinner pleasures. Everything in the shop is artfully designed, from the color-coordinated walls, fixtures and packaging, to the interesting glass domes under which contain deliciously appealing delicacies.

If you are looking for only one treat, the word in this "Pastry Shop of Dreams" is to try the Paris-Brest, for which it has won raves, and rightly so. The original Paris-Brest was created in 1891 to commemorate the Paris-Brest-Paris bicycle race and was popular with riders because of its energy-rich calorie content and its circular shape, which was easy to eat on the ride.

True to their creativity, Phillipe Conticini’s Paris-Brest is different than most, with six small puffs of pastry (choux) nestled together in a circle, each containing rich chocolate-praline. The addition of the chocolate adds a wonderful flavor to the smooth crème and goes way beyond the typical. Definitely one to try!


La Pâtisserie des Rêves par Philippe Conticini
93, rue du Bac, 75007 Paris
telephone: +33 (0)1 42 84 00 82

And so, with a sugar over load and a desire for some substantive food, we walked back to our “neighborhood” and stopped at a corner bistro that offered us our customary glass of Bordeaux and the special of the evening, a fresh fish in … wait for it … puff pastry!

We woke up the next morning, our last day in Paris, and decided we couldn’t go home without at least a dozen more boxes of chocolates from Jacque Genin. We made our way over to the shop, which, on this day, was teaming with customers. By the end of it, we (and all the others) had nearly wiped them out. We met Jacques, a most sincere, warm and charming host, and had another pastry and café crème. This time, the lime … divine!!

......And so the Paris patisseries challenge was met by Colleen and her bonvivant friends…I however was a lucky recipient of one of the boxes of chocolates from Jacque Genin…two words...tres’ magnifique! I am not ashamed to say…I ate all of the chocolates in one afternoon...I did however recycle the cute chocolate tin and filled it with a necklace that I gave to my daughter. If you can’t make it to Paris anytime soon..may I recommend the internet..make a list of all of the pastry shops in your area..and spend an afternoon in Pastry pursuit! Bon appetit!

Mother's Day Food Gifts From GourmetStation

Posted: May 5, 2012
by: T.Alexander

Most Moms probably wish we would celebrate Mother’s Day every month. Why not? Just think about it. A typical American Mom of two prepares about 84 meals every week. Mom, Dad, two kids, 3 meals per day, 7 days per week. That’s 84! OK, so maybe it’s a little less if the family goes out to eat once or twice a week. But you get the idea.

Some GourmetStation patrons allow Mom to celebrate every month with our Dinner of the Month gift. Moms receive gourmet dinners delivered directly to her doorstep every month for 3, 6, 9 or 12 months. Plus the menu is not one we presume Mom will like….she gets to select her own menu from our Parisian, Tuscan, Cajun, Fusion or Americana menus. Delicious.

So whether you decide upon a dinner of the month program, a dining gift certificate for a dinner for two delivered, or our Taste of Tuscany Mother’s Day Brunch, you won’t go wrong. GourmetStation – your provider of the most exquisite Mother’s Day food gifts.