Gourmet Groupies

Go on a Global Gastronomic Tour

Sampling wines at one of our Gourmet Dinner Club Evenings

Llew and I are huge food aficionados and our love for cooking and entertaining means frequent parties at Holly Berry House in the form of large buffet luncheons and intimate sit-down dinners. Our repertoire is varied and we enjoy food from every country of the world with equal relish. When we travel, we seek out the local cuisine with enthusiasm. Since both of us enjoy cooking so much, we rarely eat out. When we do occasionally dine in a restaurant, we make it special, choosing to eat in restaurants run by celebrity chefs such as Lidia Bastianich (Felidia’s) and Alfred Portal (Gotham), at Union Square Cafe (Danny Meyer) or Tabla (Floyd Cardoz) in New York City.

I have an enormous collection of cookery books and am a dedicated fan of the Food TV Network. My favorite food writer is Ina Garten, better known as “The Barefoot Contessa” who happens to own a house in Southport village where we live. I also enjoy watching Nigella Lawson, the British food writer and Mario Batali because I learn so much from them that I can use in my regular daily cooking.

My mother Edith is an amazing cook and I regret that I did not learn more about home cooked dishes from her whilst I still lived in Bombay. However, with the few main meals and techniques that she taught me in India and a very slim notebook containing some of her basic recipes, I arrived in the United States and began my own messy adventures in the kitchen.  I bought myself a copy of Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking and gave it my best shot. Needless to say, there were many initial burned offerings emanating from my kitchen.

My Mother and I still trade recipes on the phone and I still stand by and watch her work her magic in her Bombay kitchen during my summers in India. There is nothing I can ever  do, though, to replicate the tongue-tingling taste of her creations.  It must have something to do with her special touch! When my daughter Chriselle moved into her own apartment in New York City, however, I presented her with her own copy of Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking as she adores Indian food and never bothered to learn anything from me whilst she still lived with us in Southport. Who says History doesn’t repeat itself?

Though Llew and I have strong roots in Indian cuisine as a result of our origin on the Indian sub-continent, we have experimented endlessly with multi-ethnic cooking and have learned our way around such exotic ingredients as Thai kaffir leaves and nam pla (fish sauce), French Roquefort cheese and aoli (garlic mayonnaise),  Italian panceta (bacon) and  toasted pine nuts and Moroccan Ras el-Hanout (powdered spice mixtures) and bulgur (toasted wheat). We have braised, rolled, deep fried and baked our way through North African stews, and Viennese apfel streudel, Pakistani vegetable pakoras and French profiteroles. There are few recipes we find too challenging and hardly any foods we will not try at least once.

Meet the Members of Our Gourmet Dinner Club

Our mutual love of food led us, five years ago, to fellow foodies in our  neighborhood of Fairfield through whom we have developed some precious and very close friendships. We’ve had some truly memorable times through the years over groaning festive tables. While ours is essentially a Gourmet Dinner Club, we have held amazing summer brunches al fresco and casual barbcue backyard suppers to celebrate the men in our lives when, predictably, the menu featured Ribs–every guy’s favorite food! (That’s Llew and me–above left–enjoying a glass of wine before one of our Gourmet dinners).



As if all the food offerings are inadequate, we are also fortunate to have a resident sommelier within our group. Dan deLannoy, who knows a thing or two about wine, selects a sampling of bottles that accompany each of our gourmet meals. This gives us the opportunity to experiment with a number of little-known vintages as well as discover the importance of pairing the right wine with the right item on the menu.

Meet the members of our Gourmet Dinner Club:

Gourmet Groupies All: Llew and Rochelle Almeida, Bonnie and Art Thurnauer, Amy and Dan DeLannoy, Brett and Mary-Lauren Factora

Art Thurnauer and Bonnie Britz-Thurnauer:


Art is a Sales and Marketing whiz. Bonnie is a College Counselor . She is a fabulous chef with an admirably creative bent. Give her a few ingredients and in minutes she can whip up something amazing. It is always a pleasure to attend parties in their home.

Dan and Amy de Lannoy:


Dan, our resident sommelier is a marketing professional. Apart from being a gourmet, he is a passionate sailor and skier. Amy is a corporate attorney who is deeply involved with voluntary community service. They set exquisite tables and love to entertain.

Brett and Mary-Lauren Factora:


Bret is a mehanical engineer with a passion for ice-hockey. He is also a long distance runner. Mary-Lauren, a Director of Marketing, is a dynamo, a true bundle of energy and organization who adores reading and travel especially when it includes their three adorable daughters.

Ford and Mary-Jo Smith:

Llew's Birthday May 2008 035

Our newest members, Ford and Mary-Jo Smith are novice cooks and are looking forward to sharpening their culinary skills with our club. Ford, an investment professional, has been an avid rower since his college days. This will come in handy as he feels there is no meal with too many calories. Mary-Jo, a pediatric nursing educator, has recently discovered yoga. They have two grown daughters who love to cook—go figure!

Making our Club Work:

Our Gourmet Dinner Club meets about six times a year, usually every other month. We take turns hosting the evening in our respective homes. The Host Couple is in-charge of planning the evening from menu selection and recipe distribution to preparation of the entree. Our menus are planned thematically–by season (a Spring Menu or An Autumn Harvest Menu), by National Cuisine (An Evening in Paris, A Passage to India) or by chef (Giada de Laurentis, Ina Garten) or by cookery book (Miracles with Five Ingredients).

We take turns cooking the various parts of the menu with each couple making one or two dishes–if you make appetisers one month, you will be assigned a dessert the next time. We do not split the cost of the meal as we find that expenses generally even out. However, we do split the cost of wine at the end of each meal.

If the thought of magnificent meals–both their preparation and their consumption–gets you salivating uncontrollably, then you’ve arrived at the right spot. Park yourself in our Gourmet Garage. Here you will find table settings and recipes that will allow you to throw the kind of fabulous parties that will be remembered long after the last plates have been cleared away.

Here are the menus and recipes for some of our most recent Gourmet Dinners:

Americana For Memorial Day

Pakistani Bada Khana

Britannia Rules The Waves!

Grilling! Grilling! Grilling!

Simple Italian Food from Mario Battali

A Night in Morocco

A Book-Lover’s Dinner Menu

A Father’s Day Barbecue

Thanksgiving on Valentine’s Day Menu

A Mardi Gras Fiesta

Dinner by Giada

My Published Essays on International Cuisine:

If I enjoy cooking and eating, I also enjoy writing about food and my feature stories on international cuisine have appeared in various gourmet magazines.

Browse a bit through “Those Tiffin Lunches” that appeared in Chilli Pepper magazine which is edited by David DeWitt and published out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. In this essay, I look back fondly on the hot lunches that my mother cooked, packed and sent to school while I was a student in Bombay, India. My mother Edith D’Souza’s own recipes for her traditional Indian Manglorean dishes follow the essay.  Please click on the link below to read the article.

Those Tiffin Lunches

The following essay is the result of the extensive travel that Llew and I undertook in Spain in Spring 2006 during which time we sampled regional cuisine and local wines all over Madrid and Andalucia. This article appeared in Upper Crust, a magazine for gourmets, edited by Farzana Contractor who happens to be my high school classmate in Bombay.  Please click on the link below to read the article.

On Tapas and Tio Pepe: A Journey Through Spain


Bon Appetit!