Perfectly Delicious Pumpkin Dishes to Celebrate National Pumpkin Month!

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It’s National Pumpkin Month and what a great way to celebrate a new season than with healthy, delicious and festive pumpkin dishes! Did you know that pumpkin is a highly nutritious super food, rich in Vitamins A, B (folate), C and E, antioxidants (alpha and beta-carotene) making it heart healthy, lowering cancer risk and helping to protect your cells and your vision. In addition to all of these immune system boosters, pumpkin also has a super low calorie content! In fact, one cup of pumpkin packs only 49 calories and offers 2 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and is full of minerals like, potassium, copper, manganese and iron. Pumpkin is also a super great hydrator with its 94% water content. And it’s delicious! What’s not to love!

October has to be one of my favorite months in the kitchen. Besides being National Pumpkin Month, pumpkin dishes are just a great way to celebrate the change of season with food! I love creating fun new pumpkin recipes and enjoying preparing and updating some of my old ones. For breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, I've selected a few of my favorite pumpkin delights to share with you to enjoy!

Simply click on the photos for the recipes.

Gingered Pumpkin Muffins with Dark Chocolate Glaze

Gingered Pumpkin Muffins with Dark Chocolate Glaze

Pumpkin Risotto  with Fried Sage, Toasted Hazelnuts and lots of Parmigiana!

Pumpkin Risotto with Fried Sage, Toasted Hazelnuts and lots of Parmigiana!

Creamy  Pumpkin Parmigiana Zita  with a hint of Amaretti

Creamy Pumpkin Parmigiana Zita with a hint of Amaretti

Pumpkin Ravioli  with brown butter, sage and toasted walnuts

Pumpkin Ravioli with brown butter, sage and toasted walnuts

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake , with a ginger snap and pecan crust!

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake, with a ginger snap and pecan crust!

I hope you enjoy preparing these Fun & Simple pumpkin recipes as much as I enjoyed putting them together for you! Don’t forget to share and please reach out with your comments, photos and Pumpkin Month experiences! Did you know that October is also National Apple Month? Stay tuned for lots of absolutely amazing apple dishes coming out in next week’s post! In the meantime…

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Perfectly Delicious Pumpkin Dishes to Celebrate National Pumpkin Month!

GigiWilson+PumpkinHaze+copy.jpg

It’s National Pumpkin Month and what a great way to celebrate a new season than with healthy, delicious and festive pumpkin dishes! Did you know that pumpkin is a highly nutritious super food, rich in Vitamins A, B (folate), C and E, antioxidants (alpha and beta-carotene) making it heart healthy, lowering cancer risk and helping to protect your cells and your vision. In addition to all of these immune system boosters, pumpkin also has a super low calorie content! In fact, one cup of pumpkin packs only 49 calories and offers 2 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and is full of minerals like, potassium, copper, manganese and iron. Pumpkin is also a super great hydrator with its 94% water content. And it’s delicious! What’s not to love!

October has to be one of my favorite months in the kitchen. Besides being National Pumpkin Month, pumpkin dishes are just a great way to celebrate the change of season with food! I love creating fun new pumpkin recipes and enjoying preparing and updating some of my old ones. For breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, I've selected a few of my favorite pumpkin delights to share with you to enjoy!

Simply click on the photos for the recipes.

Gingered Pumpkin Muffins with Dark Chocolate Glaze

Gingered Pumpkin Muffins with Dark Chocolate Glaze

Pumpkin Risotto  with Fried Sage, Toasted Hazelnuts and lots of Parmigiana!

Pumpkin Risotto with Fried Sage, Toasted Hazelnuts and lots of Parmigiana!

Creamy  Pumpkin Parmigiana Zita  with a hint of Amaretti

Creamy Pumpkin Parmigiana Zita with a hint of Amaretti

Pumpkin Ravioli  with brown butter, sage and toasted walnuts

Pumpkin Ravioli with brown butter, sage and toasted walnuts

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake , with a ginger snap and pecan crust!

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake, with a ginger snap and pecan crust!

I hope you enjoy preparing these Fun & Simple pumpkin recipes as much as I enjoyed putting them together for you! Don’t forget to share and please reach out with your comments, photos and Pumpkin Month experiences! Did you know that October is also National Apple Month? Stay tuned for lots of absolutely amazing apple dishes coming out in next week’s post! In the meantime…

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Fun & Simple Delicious Ideas to Celebrate Your Valentine at Home & Away

Call me a hopeless romantic but my absolute favorite day of the year is Valentines Day. Champagne, chocolate, roses, and hundreds of renditions of my very favorite song playing all day…what could be better than that! Needless to say, we make it a day of culinary traditions. I like to set a fun, whimsical and romantic table to set the mood, then we start the day with strawberries and champagne and our traditional Valentine’s Breakfast, Chocolate Waffles! Super chocolatey, crispy on the outside, surprisingly light and spongy on the inside, with whipped mascarpone cream & pure maple syrup, a decadently delicious way to start the day! My favorite part of Valentine’s Day, besides the food of course…hundreds of renditions of "My Funny Valentine" (Rodgers & Hart circa 1937 from the musical Babes in Arms) playing throughout the day.  From Frank Sinatra to Chaka Khan, Ella Fitzgerald to Big Muff, Paul Brown jazz guitar, every genre of music imaginable!  I know, silly right? I’m sure it makes Jeff crazy hearing the same song all day long, but believe it or not, each rendition sounds so incredibly different that it really doesn’t seem like the same song.  Regardless, Jeff has put up with my Valentine’s Day shenanigans for 25+ years now, so he must not mind so much!

Valentine’s Day is synonymous with Chocolate, so I thought I would share some of my favorite Fun & Simple Chocolate Delights! Decadent Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes, a Flourless Chocolate Torte with Cabernet Glaze, a lusciously light and airy Chocolate Mousse and my rich Chocolate Souffle. (simply click on the photos for the recipes)

Don’t forget to read to the end for recommendations of my favorite romantic places to celebrate with your Valentine. From New York City to Napa Valley, Charleston and the islands of the Bahamas, these destinations are the perfect getaways for two!

About drinking champagne…the glass actually does matter! I love the Coupe, classic, nostalgic, elegant and romantic, but not good for bubbles if you are a big fan of keeping your bubbly, bubbly. The Flute is perfect for young Champagne and great for keeping the bubbles. The Tulip is my second fav…perfect for mature Champagne (aged to the point where it will not gain further complexity by continuing to store) and believe it or not a regular Wine Glass is ideal for high end more complex Champagne varieties. In addition to being festive and delicious, champagne also has some major health benefits, in moderation of course.  Scientists say that drinking 3-4 glasses of champagne per week may actually help us live longer! Not only is it heart healthy, just as good as red wine, it improves circulation and may reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease.  Champagne is low in calories compared to other wine varieties and according to a study at the University of Reading (and others) champagne can boost brain health and help prevent dementia and memory loss.  Full of antioxidants, bubbles are great for your skin and skin tone.  As if I needed another reason to love champagne! 

Lily Bollinger said it best, “I only drink champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it, unless I’m thirsty.”

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A perfect compliment to champagne on Valentine’s Day is my Lobster Cocktail, also delicious with fresh shrimp, and a wonderful beginning to a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner at home. So simple and can be prepared a day ahead of time, just put it together when you are ready to serve. This simple, yet sophisticated and decadent appetizer could just as well be an elegant meal, served in a martini glass alongside a nice chilled glass of bubbly, I can’t think of a more beautiful way to start...or finish!  You can boil the lobsters yourself, or have your fish monger steam them for you, making it even more simple to prepare.

If you are looking for romantic getaway ideas with great culinary, I have a few favs! Click on the links for their websites and more information:

Dune Restaurant Terrace - Four Seasons Ocean Club Bahamas

Dune Restaurant Terrace - Four Seasons Ocean Club Bahamas

Four Seasons Ocean Club Bahamas - One of my favorite places in the world and definitely my favorite beach! With Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s French-Asian cuisine with a hint of the islands, a delicious menu and what could be more romantic than oceanfront dining on the beautiful turquoise waters of the Bahamas?

Meadowood Napa Valley - Nestled among the tall pines of the Napa Valley, this casually elegant gem is the ultimate of wine country romance. From the beautiful spa, croquet, golf, tennis and modern American cuisine at The Restaurant which sources from local artisans, growers and of course wineries, the Meadowood experience is like no other in Napa Valley. Chef Kostow calls his cuisine “evocative and playful,” what could be more romantic than that?

The Surrey New York City - There isn’t a more romantic city than New York, and no more romantic spot than this favorite upper east side gem. Small and quaint, the bar is reminiscent of a lovers rendezvous next to the incomparable Cafe Boulud, cozy, intimate french cuisine by Chef Daniel Boulud, exquisite! Then, walk across the street after dinner for drinks and jazz at Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle.

Planters Inn Charleston, South Carolina - Located in the heart of historic downtown Charleston, the #1 tourist destination in America according to Conde’ Nast and Travel & Leisure, this Relais & Chateaux property exudes southern charm and romance. Have drinks in the candlelit Champagne Bar before dining in the velvet lined Peninsula Grill Dining Room and you must finish with the 12-layer Coconut Cake…simply divine to share with your Valentine!

And, while you’re in Charleston, New York and Nassau, check out my Jeff’s historic walking tour app on your smartphone for a fabulous GPS guided self-walking tour of the city, complete with audio histories, local activities directory and directions. It’s beautifully done and so simple to use on your time, just the two of you. Check it out at historicwalkingtour.com.

So, that’s it! My idea of the perfect Valentine’s Day either at home or away! Of course, it’s all about the food, lots of champagne and chocolate, all while enjoying Your Funny Valentine

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Me and My Funny Valentine!

Me and My Funny Valentine!

5 Perfect Pumpkin Dishes for Thanksgiving!

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Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving…right? Of course it’s one of my favorite holidays because it’s all about two of the my most important things in life…Gratitude and Food! I like celebrating and preparing for Thanksgiving all month long, creating fun new recipes and enjoying preparing and updating some of my old ones.

Pumpkin is one of my favorite foods and can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, not to mention the many health benefits of pumpkin!

Vitamin A rich and only 49 calories per cup, pumpkin has little or no fat content, and is high in antioxidants, like beta carotene which protects your cells against free radicals. Pumpkin also has fiber, Vitamins C, B2 and E, Iron, Copper and Potassium. I love pumpkin in lots of dishes over the holidays, but I eat pumpkin all year long.

I've selected five of my favorite pumpkin delights for you to share with your friends and family this holiday season and all year long...enjoy!

Simply click for the recipes.

Pumpkin Risotto   with Fried Sage, Toasted Hazelnuts and lots of Parmigiana!

Pumpkin Risotto with Fried Sage, Toasted Hazelnuts and lots of Parmigiana!

Creamy   Parmigiana Pumpkin Zita   with a hint of Amaretti

Creamy Parmigiana Pumpkin Zita with a hint of Amaretti

Pumpkin Ravioli   with brown butter, sage and toasted walnuts

Pumpkin Ravioli with brown butter, sage and toasted walnuts

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake  , my go to Thanksgiving dessert

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake, my go to Thanksgiving dessert

What’s better than preparing a holiday feast with those closest to you and sharing a day of food, love and gratitude! I can’t think of a single thing! I hope you enjoy preparing these fun & simple pumpkin recipes as much as I enjoyed preparing for you! Please feel free to share and don't hesitate to reach out with your comments and send me your photos! I would love to hear from you! You will find many of my favorite holiday dishes in my new cookbook, Fun & Simple Gourmet! And…it makes a super great holiday gift!

Wishing everyone a safe, healthy and Happy Thanksgiving! In the meantime,

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Vivid Veges! It's National Vegetarian Week

A rainbow of fresh...look at all of this beautiful healthy color! 

A rainbow of fresh...look at all of this beautiful healthy color! 

It is national vegetarian week and what a great time to jump start a healthy lifestyle going into summer! This time of year is perfect for eating a little lighter as the temperatures begin to heat up and of course we want to look and feel good in our summer attire and swim wear. (check out the photos and recipes of some of my favorite vegetarian dishes below!)

There are a multitude of benefits related to a mostly plant based diet rich in fiber, folic acid, vitamins C, E and magnesium. In addition to feeling better, lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and risk of heart disease, many studies suggest that eating a vegetarian diet can improve your mood, reduce the risk of diabetes, certain types of cancer, cataracts, and even kidney stones!

Eating “Vegetarian” doesn’t mean sacrificing flavor, in fact, most dishes that do not include meat have more flavor and are very satisfying. Here are a few of my favorites! I did throw a couple of vegetarian pasta dishes in the mix, but they can be prepared with gluten-free pasta or zucchini ribbons or spirals to keep them super healthy! (click on images for recipes)

“Vegetarians” come in several varieties. The common denominator of course is that none of these vegetarian diets described below include meat.

Vegan: (total vegetarians) whose diet includes only plant based foods.

Lacto-Ovo: whose diet includes only plant based foods, but do consume eggs and dairy.

Lacto: whose diet includes only plant based foods and dairy products.

Ovo: whose diet includes only plant based foods and eggs (no dairy)

Pescatarian: whose diet includes plant based foods and fish

Pollo-Vegetarian: whose diet includes plant based foods and chicken

Partial-Vegetarian: whose diet includes plant based foods, chicken and fish

I have been a Pescatarian most of my life.  Due to my A blood type (natural vegetarian) and a very sensitive digestive system, I consume mostly plant-based foods along with fish (no more than 2-3 times per week).  My weakness is definitely carbohydrates, I love my pasta, my favorite comfort food, but should be consumed in moderation due to the glycemic index (sugar content). I will touch on this in another blog coming soon.

Join me in celebrating National Vegetarian Week by sticking with a diet rich in plant-based foods (at least 80%) and maybe a serving or 2 of your favorite fish or chicken this week, and let me know how you are feeling by week’s end! I guarantee you will have more energy, sleep better and maybe even shed a few unwanted pounds! Can’t wait to hear your thoughts and experiences, and don’t forget to share photos of the “vegetarian” dishes you enjoyed this week! Cheers...

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My Favorite Day of the Year - Valentine's Day!

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My favorite part of Valentine’s Day…hundreds of renditions of "My Funny Valentine" (Rodgers & Hart 1937 from the musical Babes in Arms) playing throughout the day...  From Frank Sinatra to Chaka Khan, Ella Fitzgerald to Big Muff, every genre of music imaginable!   

Call me a hopeless romantic but my absolute favorite day of the year is Valentines Day. Champagne, chocolate, roses, and hundreds of renditions of my very favorite song playing all day…what could be better than that!

About drinking champagne…the glass actually does matter! I love the Coupe, classic, nostalgic, elegant and romantic, but not good for bubbles if you are a big fan of keeping your bubbly, bubbly. The Flute is perfect for young Champagne and great for keeping the bubbles. The Tulip is my second fav…perfect for mature Champagne (aged to the point where it will not gain further complexity by continuing to store) and believe it or not a regular Wine Glass is ideal for high end more complex Champagne varieties.

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Needless to say, we make it a day of culinary traditions, starting with Chocolate Covered Strawberries and Valentine’s Brunch featuring Chocolate Waffles and Champagne. Gentlemen, don't forget the roses and the little blue box!

My Lobster Cocktail starter is the perfect beginning to a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner at home. So simple and can be prepared a day ahead of time and just put together at the last minute. Add a glass of your favorite champagne, what a way to kick off the evening!

Then, may I recommend a lovely Chateaubriand for Two! Slow roasted tenderloin with a rich and flavorful mushroom sauce and roasted vegetables, so tender, it will melt in your mouth! This dish is so simple to prepare, but don’t tell your Valentine, he (or she) will think you slaved all day!

I usually do Chocolate Soufflé for Valentine’s dessert, but this year, I am changing it up with my Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes with a Pink Champagne Glaze. The cupcakes can be made the day before, so all you have to do for dessert, is enjoy!!!

So, that’s it! My idea of the perfect Valentine’s Day. Of course it’s all about the food, delicious but simple to prepare and lots of champagne and chocolate, all while enjoying Your Funny Valentine

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Me and My Funny Valentine!

Me and My Funny Valentine!

A Few of My Favorite Things - A Magical Day in New York at Christmas

These are a few of my favorite things, but my favorite thing during the Holiday Season...to be in New York City, there isn't a more magical place and time on earth!  Here's my idea of the perfect day in New York at Christmas with all of my favorite things... 

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1.  Start the day with coffee at St. Ambrose, the best coffee on the upper east side! Then grab one to go, and head towards the Met, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the 2nd most visited art museum in the world. After perusing the exhibit of Modern and Contemporary Art...

2.  Stroll down Madison Avenue and make a stop at Zitomer's (76th) for a little funky gift and card shopping. You just never know what you might find there! A must stop is the Original Ralph Lauren Flagship Store in the Gertrude Rhineland Waldo Mansion, circa 1898 at 72nd & Madison. Modeled after the Chateaux of the Loire Valley in France, the rich history of this beautiful building along with Ralph Lauren's timeless and incredible design flair, make this truly the most amazing retail establishment in the world. It used to house all of the RL lines from mens wear to home collection. I spent the most magical day here during the blizzard of 2003. The snow was coming sideways down Madison Avenue early that December morning as friends of mine and I sat in the Home Collection Showroom, on a purple velvet sectional sofa, with crystal chandeliers above, fragrant holiday candles flickering everywhere, a fire blazing in the fireplace and, to make it more perfect, "It's a Wonderful Life" playing on the television above the fireplace mantel. You could see the horizontal pattern of the blowing snow through the windows to either side of the television screen. Did I say magical? Not to mention the staff offering us champagne as we began to feel the warmth of the fire.  We felt we had just moved into the most amazing Winter Wonderland, I didn't ever want leave! A moment in time I will never forget.

My Jeff outside the Ralph Lauren Flagship

My Jeff outside the Ralph Lauren Flagship

Inside the beautiful Ralph Lauren Flagship

Inside the beautiful Ralph Lauren Flagship

3.  Ice skating (or watching) in Central Park on the way to lunch. Walking through the park to Central Park South to make our way to Columbus Circle for my favorite lunch in the city, Nougatine at Jean-Georges. I can't tell you how many lunches we have enjoyed at Nougatine, but each one has been fantastic, and each comes with a story of its own. One in particular was taking our god-daughter and a friend for holiday lunch and meeting Steven Tyler, who could not have been more engaging. The kids thoroughly enjoyed the conversation, and as we left the restaurant, asked us, "who was that guy again?" Obviously, they were too young to truly appreciate our lunch mate or the conversation, but Aunt Gigi loved every second.

Nougatine at Jean-Georges, Columbus Circle

Nougatine at Jean-Georges, Columbus Circle

4.   Just enough time to drop by Harry Cipriani for a Champagne Cocktail on the way to afternoon tea at The Pierre. The scene at Cipriani is always good for a crowded bump on the shoulder, spilling a little of that deliciously sweet drink, but if your lucky enough, it only hits the floor and not you or your partner!  Then just a block to The Pierre for traditional holiday afternoon tea. A little caffeine pick me up, or just more champagne, either way, a delightful way to spend the late afternoon.

Afternoon tea at The Pierre

Afternoon tea at The Pierre

5.  Strolling down Fifth Avenue towards Rockefeller Center taking in the beautiful lights, decorations, and artfully crafted Christmas windows along the famous 5th Avenue shopping mecca. It wouldn't be Christmas in New York if you didn't just poke your head into Tiffany's and watch all the pretty little tiffany blue bags walk out the door for some lucky someone! Then, it's time for cocktails and wine while we view the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center at Morrell's Wine Bar. The best place for a glass of wine with all of your new best friends and spectacular view across the plaza to the tree!

1 Rockefeller Plaza

1 Rockefeller Plaza

6.  Dinner at the Sea Grill Rockefeller Center, where the beautiful dining room's windows are literally overlooking the Rockefeller Center ice rink, and while you are enjoying a perfectly prepared and very fresh fish dish, it almost appears as though if the skaters can't make their turn, they might just wind up at your table! Well, not really, but it is a magnificent and up close and personal view including a glimpse of the tree above.

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center

7.  An after dinner drink or cappuccino at The Polo Lounge or Nat King Cole Bar (St. Regis), just across the street from one another on 55th and 5th. Since they are so close, why not have one at both! The perfect end to the perfect holiday day in Manhattan.

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Just a few of my favorite things! Can you tell I have mastered the art of eating and drinking my way across the upper east side? Well, it took years of practice, but each place, each story, each moment, and especially everyone that I have shared these moments with, holds a special place always in my heart.  May your holidays be filled with all of your Favorite Things!

PS...Tomorrow, a few more favorite things, Burgers and Bloody's at 21 Club and a theater matinee, can't do all my favorite things in just one day! We highly recommend "Hamilton" it was amazing! And, we got really great seats at a reasonable price on StubHub!

Wishing you and yours the happiest of holidays!

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Jeff and me in Central Park 

Jeff and me in Central Park 

Tasteful Holiday Sides

I love my Le Creuset! It makes holiday cooking easy, fun and colorful!

I love my Le Creuset! It makes holiday cooking easy, fun and colorful!

So, let's make this Thanksgiving thing simple and fun! For me, it's all about the sides and the beauty is that most can be prepared in advance, and then just heated through when its time to serve. Really, once you get the bird in the oven, there is time to get everything else together AND spend time with your family, friends and guests and really ENJOY the day! I love being in the kitchen, and holidays having other people in the kitchen with me, enjoying a beverage, snacking, telling stories, laughing and just having fun! I like having a few appetizer snack plates available as the guests arrive.  Not too much food, in anticipation of a holiday feast, but a few light snacks. I also like to keep the "feast" simple. There is no need for so many dishes on a holiday table, keep it simple, fresh and remember, it's really about the company and the celebration!

My favorite part of a Thanksgiving meal is the sides. I like to go with a theme, and then select sides that compliment each other. This year, there is such an abundance of fresh figs, I put together a rustic Thanksgiving menu for us utilizing these sweet little gems, along with my standard staples, like my Ciabatta Cornbread Stuffing (Jeff's favorite) and Grand Marnier Cranberry Sauce

I know I said that the sides were my favorite part of Thanksgiving, but I am a big fan of a bite of something sweet to make a festive meal complete! This year for us, my Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake, Georgia Pecan Tart and a moist and delicious Fig Cake with ginger, walnuts and a lemon scented glaze. Please reach out for more recipes, I'd love to hear from you!

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Now, let's talk about wine pairings. We always begin with champagne, it's just a wonderful way to start a celebration. When it comes to pairing wine with a holiday meal, especially with turkey, I like a nice medium bodied Merlot. With its easy tannins and soft finish, Merlot doesn't overpower food, making a fabulous pairing with a holiday meal that usually has many diverse flavors. One of our favorites is this lovely Duckhorn Merlot, comprised of 90% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc, aged in 100% French Oak barrels.   

 

Wishing you and yours a blessed and wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. We have so much to be thankful for! Cheers to good health, much happiness and a simply delicious holiday celebration! 

Can you believe Christmas is literally 5 weeks away! Stay tuned for delicious food and wine pairings to get you through the holiday season! Until then...

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Primo Pairings!

   
  
    
  
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    For cheese pairings right through dessert…this week it’s all about the reds…red wines that is. As the weather becomes cooler and evening begins earlier, cozy gatherings to celebrate family and friends are a great opportunity to explore flavors and pairings with your favorite wines. I lean toward red wines this time of year for their warmth and depth. 

For cheese pairings right through dessert…this week it’s all about the reds…red wines that is. As the weather becomes cooler and evening begins earlier, cozy gatherings to celebrate family and friends are a great opportunity to explore flavors and pairings with your favorite wines. I lean toward red wines this time of year for their warmth and depth. 

   
  
    
  
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    A Cabernet Sauvignon with less alcohol and light tannins is perfect for aged cheeses. Semi firm cows milks cheeses such as aged Cheddar and Goudas pair exceptionally well with Cabernet, as do aged sheep and goat milk cheeses like Pecorino (sheep’s milk) and Sartori (goat’s milk). Rich, bold Cabernet pairs well with sharp cheddars and Gruyere. For creamy soft ripened cheeses like Brie, a lighter red variety, Pinot Noir or a light Merlot, would compliment the creamy, buttery flavor of the cheese. These light varieties also tend to compliment my favorite, Parmigiano-Reggiano, with its salty bite, which exaggerates the tannins in a heavier more tannic wine.

A Cabernet Sauvignon with less alcohol and light tannins is perfect for aged cheeses. Semi firm cows milks cheeses such as aged Cheddar and Goudas pair exceptionally well with Cabernet, as do aged sheep and goat milk cheeses like Pecorino (sheep’s milk) and Sartori (goat’s milk). Rich, bold Cabernet pairs well with sharp cheddars and Gruyere. For creamy soft ripened cheeses like Brie, a lighter red variety, Pinot Noir or a light Merlot, would compliment the creamy, buttery flavor of the cheese. These light varieties also tend to compliment my favorite, Parmigiano-Reggiano, with its salty bite, which exaggerates the tannins in a heavier more tannic wine.

   
  
    
  
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    When it comes to pasta, there are a multitude of choices, but one rule of thumb, is to pair based on the sauce. Tomato based sauces are very acidic, and therefore pair well with medium weight red wines such as a Chianti or Merlot. As you add more richness or protein, such as meat (i.e. Bolognese), a bolder red pairs beautifully, Barolo, Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel. I like a nice Merlot with this spicy tomato based   Spaghetti Calamari .

When it comes to pasta, there are a multitude of choices, but one rule of thumb, is to pair based on the sauce. Tomato based sauces are very acidic, and therefore pair well with medium weight red wines such as a Chianti or Merlot. As you add more richness or protein, such as meat (i.e. Bolognese), a bolder red pairs beautifully, Barolo, Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel. I like a nice Merlot with this spicy tomato based Spaghetti Calamari.

   
  
    
  
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    There isn’t a more popular pairing for red wine than steak, especially a nice bold and balanced Cabernet.  Tannins bind with proteins and fats, which steak has plenty of! I could do an entire blog on pairing different types of steak with red wine, but for today, I’m thinking about my   Chateaubriand  , the center cut of a tenderloin, lean, rich, yet subtle in flavor and melt in your mouth texture. With an earthy mushroom and herb sauce, a nice young, lower alcohol content Cabernet Sauvignon is the perfect choice to bring out the flavors of both the steak and the wine.

There isn’t a more popular pairing for red wine than steak, especially a nice bold and balanced Cabernet.  Tannins bind with proteins and fats, which steak has plenty of! I could do an entire blog on pairing different types of steak with red wine, but for today, I’m thinking about my Chateaubriand, the center cut of a tenderloin, lean, rich, yet subtle in flavor and melt in your mouth texture. With an earthy mushroom and herb sauce, a nice young, lower alcohol content Cabernet Sauvignon is the perfect choice to bring out the flavors of both the steak and the wine.

   
  
    
  
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    My favorite red wine pairing…chocolate, of course! These rich and delicious   Chocolate Cupcakes   are just screaming for a nice glass of Merlot to compliment their deep chocolate flavor and decadence!  

My favorite red wine pairing…chocolate, of course! These rich and delicious Chocolate Cupcakes are just screaming for a nice glass of Merlot to compliment their deep chocolate flavor and decadence!  

I hope you try one of my pairings with your favorite glass!  Let me know how it goes and which wines you selected with each dish, I would love to hear from you!

In the meantime...

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It's National Pumpkin Day!

I've been celebrating Pumpkin Day all month long, creating fun new recipes and enjoying preparing and updating some of my old ones. For breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, I've selected a few of my favorite pumpkin delights to share with you...enjoy!

Simply click on the highlighted dish names for the recipes.

Pumpkin Risotto   with Fried Sage, Toasted Hazelnuts and lots of Parmigiana!

Pumpkin Risotto with Fried Sage, Toasted Hazelnuts and lots of Parmigiana!

Creamy   Parmigiana Pumpkin Zita   with a hint of Amaretti

Creamy Parmigiana Pumpkin Zita with a hint of Amaretti

Pumpkin Ravioli   with brown butter, sage and toasted walnuts

Pumpkin Ravioli with brown butter, sage and toasted walnuts

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake  , my go to Thanksgiving dessert

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake, my go to Thanksgiving dessert

I hope you enjoy preparing these simple pumpkin recipes as much as I enjoyed preparing for you! Please feel free to share and don't hesitate to reach out with your comments! I would love to hear from you! Wishing everyone a safe, healthy and Happy Halloween!

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Pretty in Pink on National Chocolate Cupcake Day!

We are coming out in Pink...and Dark Chocolate to recognize and support Breast Cancer Awareness Month! I don't know of any better combination than Chocolate and Pink Champagne!

We are coming out in Pink...and Dark Chocolate to recognize and support Breast Cancer Awareness Month! I don't know of any better combination than Chocolate and Pink Champagne!

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These Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes are the bomb! So rich and velvety, and for an extra special touch for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I added a little Rose' Glaze for a touch of pink!  Having a little dark chocolate craving? I've included a gluten free version!

Click Here for the recipe!

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And you thought Rose' was only a summer beverage...Check out the Rose' All Day Wine and Music Festival in Dallas, October 29th! In support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the event will donate $1 from every ticket to the AIRS Alliance for reconstructive surgery. 

I say Rose' All Year!!!

My Angel, Jeff, pretty in pink to honor Breast Cancer Awareness, enjoying @whisperingangel Rose' ... All he needs is one of my chocolate ganache cupcakes! 

My Angel, Jeff, pretty in pink to honor Breast Cancer Awareness, enjoying @whisperingangel Rose' ... All he needs is one of my chocolate ganache cupcakes! 

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Why Farm to Table? 5 Good Reasons

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Beyond the obvious, nouveau restaurant catch phrase, what does Farm to Table or Farm to Fork mean… really?  So, you go to your local farmer’s market on a Saturday morning, bring home some beautiful fruits and vegetables, even meats, cheeses, eggs, nuts and baked goods, then get in the kitchen and cook a little dinner with them.  Simple right?  Yes!  It is so simple and so good!  Good for you, good for the community, good for the environment and good for the economy!  This concept is nothing new but a re-connection to our roots and an attempt to minimize the distance that food travels and must be preserved before being eaten. 5 Good Reasons for Farm to Table:

It's Good For You. The health benefits of fresh local are undeniable.  Since it is not being transported from a long distance, local fruits and vegetables can be picked at the peak of ripeness, not beforehand, when they have not yet fully absorbed their nutrients, to make up for shipping time which means you are eating them at the peak of their flavor. According to the San Diego Tribune, the average produce travels 1500 miles to reach your grocery store, a large percentage of which is coming from outside of the country.

Local Community Impact.  By supporting local farmers you are supporting your own community, creating demand for labor and getting out in a fresh, healthy environment to visit, taste and enjoy!

Environmental Sustainability.  If produce travels 1500 miles at an average of about5 miles/gallon in a large transport truck, it takes 500 gallons of fuel per truck, not to mention emissions polluting our air.

Animal Welfare.  By supporting local farmers who do not practice in industrial factory farming, you are supporting animal welfare.

Economic Impact. By supporting the local farmers, you improve local economic vitality, increase labor demand, and decrease the need for a large supply chain, imports and shipping costs to the food that you are buying.    

Not only are restaurants adopting this brilliant concept, schools are offering Farm-to-Cafeteria lunches promoting healthy eating and nutrition education. Check out my list of my favorite Farm to Table restaurants across the country on Gigi’s Dish List. (click here)

Enjoy this beautiful start to fall, with healthy farm to fork foods!

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Romantic Fall Getaways

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Okay, so you’ve been with the kids all summer, taken your family vacation, and enjoyed every moment.  Now, it’s time for a little romantic getaway just for the two of you! Of course, when I’m looking for a getaway, I always look for a great place to recharge, but it’s really about the food for me, which makes for the perfect all round getaway experience.  Wining, dining and romancing is what this getaway is all about! Here are a few of my favorite Romantic Getaway spots that offer a comfy, cozy environment and fabulous cuisine.

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Auberge du Soleil, Napa Valley @AubergeSoleil

Calistoga Ranch, Napa Valley @CalistogaRanch

Twin Farms, Barnard, Vermont @TwinFarms

Blackberry Inn, Walland Tennessee @blackberryfrm

Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur, California @Post Ranch Inn 

Little Palm Island, Florida Keys @LittlePalmFL

Inn at Little Washington, Virginia @InnatLittleWash

 

This week’s feature, one of our favorite romantic spots, and my recommendation for your fall romantic getaway, Post Ranch Inn and the Sierra Mar Restaurant. Check out their website Postranchinn.com. We have visited Post Ranch and Sierra Mar many times and it has to be one of my favorite dining experiences. The food and wine are fabulous and the view simply spectacular. With the quaint and wonderful town of Carmel just minutes away, and of course, beautiful Pebble Beach, there is so much to do and see close by, or you can just stay on the cliff of Big Sur and enjoy each other! My recommendation for a fall getaway. 

The vistas at this most magnificent spot are spectacular. Enjoy your romantic getaway, whether traveling near, far, or just having a special staycation at home!

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Located on the Monterey Peninsula, 140 miles south of SF, 94 SanJose 25 Monterey 20 Carmel, down State Route 1 through curves and cliffs and the most incredible views of the Pacific Ocean, rugged CA coastline with the Santa Lucia Mountains bordering the east and the Pacific bordering the west. Activities include hiking, bird watching, wale watching and beaches.  High in the cliffs, site the most beautiful hideaway, Post Ranch Inn and the Sierra Mar Restaurant. 

Summer Travel Series - Vail

This week’s feature – The Vail Valley - Where the air is crisp and cool and the red sky sunsets take your breath away! #SummerintheRockies Read on for my favorite places and Colorado inspired recipes!

“I’ve seen it raining fire in the sky.  You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply, Rocky Mountain High, Colorado…” John Denver Circa 1972

“I’ve seen it raining fire in the sky.  You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply, Rocky Mountain High, Colorado…” John Denver Circa 1972

The summer mountain climate makes for incredible fresh local produce!  The Farmers Markets are amazing show casing local farmers’ and artisans’ works, fresh pastries and confections.  My idea of a perfect day is shopping the farmers market and coming home to create a fresh meal with the day’s bounty. 

The local Palisades Peaches are so sweet and juicy and though just perfect all on their own, I love to cook with them and have so much fun creating fun recipes that include these delicious wonders.  A traditional peach crumble, arugula salad with grilled peaches and goat cheese, even in a vegetarian Bolognese with wide pasta noodles, a fantastic, fresh and simple summer meal.

My traditional Peach Crumble.   Click here for the recipe

My traditional Peach Crumble.  Click here for the recipe

When it comes to dining out in the Vail Valley, there is an array of terrific options, in fact, a few of my favorite restaurants on earth are right here in the Vail Valley.  It’s all about the lunch for me and on a special occasion I love to splurge on a long late lunch as my only meal of the day.  Being a July girl, we are usually in Vail for my birthday. My favorite lunch is @SweetBasilVail where we spent my birthday this year, starting with Rose’ Champagne and Truffle Fries…what could be more decadent than that for a special celebration!

Sweet Basil Vail ...One of my Favorites!

Sweet Basil Vail...One of my Favorites!

In addition to super great dining, the summer activities are limitless here and there is something for the entire family.  Healthy living is key with so many great hikes, biking trails, paddle boarding lakes, tennis, golf, super great kids camps, water rafting and fly fishing…the list goes on.  It really is the perfect family summer camp!  Did I mention that I caught 6 rocks and a tree while trying to fly fish?  Jeff is a very talented fly fisherman however, otherwise, we would starve if we were counting on me to catch dinner!  

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My fisherman!  Jeff catching our dinner in the beautiful rapids of the Eagle River. As you can see, the end result is delicious. Trout is probably our favorite white fish, flaky and light, with a delicious mild flavor. There is nothing better than fresh caught fish. A beautiful Rocky Mountain Trout Amandine. Click here for my recipe!  

Preparing for our Trout Fishing Adventure!

Preparing for our Trout Fishing Adventure!

Enjoying our last days of summer in Colorado. We are so blessed to be able to spend a good part of our summers here.  It truly is God’s country! 

  

Summer Travel Series - Colorado Summers

This week's feature, beautiful Aspen Colorado! 

This week's feature, beautiful Aspen Colorado! 

Downtown Aspen

Downtown Aspen

The Little Nell Aspen

The Little Nell Aspen

This week's feature, Aspen.  Though known for being a great ski town, Aspen is also filled with a rich history of early settlers and miners heading west.  Check out Jeff's historic walking tour of Aspen, you will find this little western town's history fascinating!

One of the first things you'll notice in Colorado in the summer is the incredible flowers everywhere you look, in all shapes, sizes and colors of the rainbow.  They just make me smile!

Cascade of beautiful flowers Aspen Streets

Cascade of beautiful flowers Aspen Streets

Downtown Aspen Shopping

Downtown Aspen Shopping

A few of my favorite restaurants are right here in Aspen.  For lunch it has to be Ajax Tavern @thelittlenell right at the base of Ajax Mountain, and The Wild Fig, just across from the famed Wheeler Opera House.  My favorite dinner spots Casa Tua for Italian @casatuaaspen for a super great menu, Ellina @ellinaaspen and a clubby Steakhouse, Steak 316.  Don't forget to check out what's happening at Belly Up Bar @bellyupaspen, for an intimate look at fantastic entertainment.

When breakfast comes into play, I can’t resist the Lemon Soufflé Pancakes at Element 47 @littlenellaspen on the pool terrace.  They are delicate, light and spongy with a sweet raspberry sauce.  Here is my version of this favorite breakfast dish, I think mine are pretty close!

Lemon Souffle' Pancakes -  Click here for recipe!

Lemon Souffle' Pancakes - Click here for recipe!

Shopping in Aspen is nearly as much fun as hiking the beautiful Maroon Bells! From elegant designer boutiques to home decor and cowboy boots, not to mention stunning art galleries featuring exquisite collections, there is something to appeal to everyone!

Kemosabe  Boots, Hats, Jewelry and Buckles

Kemosabe Boots, Hats, Jewelry and Buckles

I shot this beautiful landscape on the way back from Aspen.  Colorado truly is God's Country! Hope your summer travels bring you to the Rockies sometime soon! Send me your travels and photos from your favorite summer trip! I would love to post them on the blog!

Live well, love well, eat well...travel safely!

 

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Fab Flavors of France

Chocolate Creme Anglaise with Berries

Chocolate Creme Anglaise with Berries

What to do with a little leftover chocolate creme anglaise from last night's dessert soufflé, serve it with berries for breakfast of course!  A chocolate lovers dream petit dejeuner!  As we continue celebrating "April in Paris" and the Fabulous Flavors of France, we wrap the month with my favorite Francais inspired desserts, of course, it has to be chocolate, like my chocolate soufflé (pictured below).  Rich in flavor, but light and airy in texture.  French cuisine has influenced the culinary world for centuries.  The French have mastered the art of savoring food and wine, never in a rush, always taking time to enjoy every bite, every sip, every moment of a meal.  Ending with something sweet is thought to be a great way to create balance for the palate.  Just like me, the French have an affinity for chocolate and custards.

Hope you enjoy making my Chocolate Souffle.  It is so simple to prepare and oh so yummy!  Send me your photos!  Remember April in Paris isn't just a time of year, it is a feeling and always a good idea!

Holiday Series Continued - Gigi Bellini

How about a Holiday Bellini ~ Gigi Style!

There is nothing like a fun and festive cocktail to begin a holiday celebration.  This tall, cool and cheerful glass of bubbly magic is all you need to make merry!!!

3 ounces Prosecco                                                

2 ounces Pomegranate Juice                              

1 splash Grand Marnier (orange liqueur)

Finish with a ring of fresh orange zest and let the bubbles tickle your nose and the soiree begin!

That's what I call a celebration in a glass! Wishing you the Happiest of Holidays...

More holiday cheer and menu planning ideas coming soon!  Keep checking gigiwilson.com for the latest recipes for a joyous holiday!

A perfect holiday side dish - Roasted Vegetables

Roasted Fall Vegetable Salad

Roasted Fall Vegetable Salad

Porc l'orange Gigi Style!  

Porc l'orange Gigi Style!  

Beautiful and delicious roasted fall harvest vegetables make a stunning side for any meal right through the holidays.  A perfect accompaniment to your Christmas Turkey, Roasted Rib Roast, Beef Tenderloin or Crown Roast of Pork.  These gorgeous roasted brussel sprouts, red, yellow and orange beets, shallot and roasted South Georgia pecans, combined with orange segments and an orange-apple cider vinaigrette, will be the highlight of your holiday table...and oh so healthy!  

 

With my Porc l'orange for Christmas Eve Dinner...Absolutely!  More holiday menu ideas coming soon!  

Link to recipe:  gigiwilson.com/porc-lorange

Fall Harvest Series Continued - Wine

Duckhorn Vineyards Chardonnay - Napa Toyon Vineyard

Duckhorn Vineyards Chardonnay - Napa Toyon Vineyard

Decoy Sonoma, a formidable member of the Duckhorn Family of Fine Wines.  One of the  best values in quality wines available today.

Decoy Sonoma, a formidable member of the Duckhorn Family of Fine Wines.  One of the  best values in quality wines available today.

Thank you @Duckhornwines for introducing us to your latest releases.  Among them a few of my new favorites!  2014 Duckhorn Chardonnay Napa Toyon Vineyards, 2014 Decoy Merlot Sonoma and 2015 Decoy Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma.  Utilizing a mix of Estate vineyards and growers throughout the Sonoma and Napa Valley, these fine wines from the Duckhorn family have set a high standard for American Fine Wine.  I now know what we will be serving with Thanksgiving Dinner!

From a mid to late October harvest, to the first part of November when fermentation is complete, it is time to press the grapes and transfer the wine to barrels where it will age and mature until the perfect time for bottling.

When it is time for sipping, first look at the wine for clarity and appealing color.  Then aerate the wine, swirling your glass by the base and enjoy the aroma (aka "nose") absorbing the wine's flavors and aromatics.  Lastly, holding the glass by the stem (never the bowl), sip and enjoy!

Beautiful grapes ready for fall harvesting!

Beautiful grapes ready for fall harvesting!

Holiday Travel Tips for Everyday Travel!

Have Suitcase...Will Travel!

Have Suitcase...Will Travel!

A light dusting of snow on the Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee

A light dusting of snow on the Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee

Holiday travel season is here, as if we need more stress this time of year.  Since I seem to be preparing to be "on the road" most of the time, friends always ask how I eliminate the stress of travel prep.  #traveltips #gigistyle  

Practice makes perfect as they say, and after many years of doing it, I pretty much have it down to an art.  Holiday season travel is exciting, but seems to bring with it an added level of stress by nature.  Holiday travel is meant to be fun…so let’s see what we can do to help keep it that way!

First make a packing list of the types of items you will need, depending on your destination and planned activities.  Packing smart is the key to stress free travel.   

Pack light!  Choose knits and cottons, fabrics that don’t wrinkle easily. I can actually go for two weeks in a carry-on bag, I know what you are thinking, impossible right?  Stick with me here.  Pick a color and plan around it using the Rule of Three.  No more than three bottoms and/or 3 tops that are interchangeable among each other, this is where your color selection comes in, plus it really makes choosing what to take so much easier!  Pack layers and ladies don’t forget a little black dress, the most versatile item in your closet.  Dark fabrics don’t show stains and can be worn more often.  If you roll clothes, place those items on the bottom of your bag and folded items on top.  Pack small light colored clothes and undergarments in Ziploc bags, squeezing all the excess air out.

Think what you can do without, and don’t pack it!  Only take jewelry that you are actually wearing to travel, which not only keeps is simple, but also helps to prevent leaving a “little” something behind. 

Shoes:  Rule of Three.  Pack one pair of dress shoes and one pair of casual shoes, and of course, if you plan to visit the gym or hit the tennis courts, one pair of tennis/workout shoes.  Stuff shoes with sunglasses, charge cords, other smaller items that will fit inside.  If you are taking your golf clubs, don’t forget to utilize extra space in your golf travel bag for items that would take up unnecessary space in your suitcase, shoes in particular, tennis rackets, etc. 

Pack liquids and cosmetics in small travel containers and place in sealed Ziploc bags, which helps with organization and prevents leakage.  Place vitamins and supplements in Ziploc bags avoiding bottle bulk.  

If you are traveling by air, ladies, always carry a wrap or sweater on the plane.  And children should pack (with supervision of course) and carry their own bag!  I see some of the cutest roller bags being pulled by the most proud children when I’m traveling.

Preparing your home:  Turn off toilets, or water altogether.  Pour a little bleach in the toilets.  Turn off the icemaker and remove the all but a couple of ice cubes.  This way you will know if you had a loss of power while you are away.  Chances are if the cubes have melted, the food in your freezer has also thawed at some point.  Remove foods and condiments from the refrigerator that will be spoiled by the time you return.  Leave closet doors ajar for air circulation and in summer or warmer climates, leave AC turned on to 78-80 (F) degrees, winter heat on 60-65 (F).

There you have it.  Stress free travel…just in time for the holidays!
If you haven’t made holiday travel plans as yet and you are still looking for a fabulous destination for you and your family to spend time together in an amazing setting with incredible culinary…my holiday dish list recommendationBlackberry Farm,  Walland, Tennessee.  Happy Traveling!