What is for dinner this summer?

This week chez nous in Paris the menu has been cantaloupe starters, tomato mozzarella salads, grilled eggplants, stuffed courgettes, Asian prawns with broccoli, peppers and coriander, spanakopita with lots of onion, and sliced peach for dessert.

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All these fruits and vegetables from the Bastille Market for just 10 Euros! Enjoyed with excellent (and cheap) rosé from our favorite wine shop (see: Christmas preparations: wine). Cannot complain!

What has been on your plate this summer?

The Wound exhibition by Seppo Fränti

We all have wounds, in different parts of our body. Some have them in the heart, others elsewhere” suggests Seppo Fränti and continues to say that by naming his exhibition “The Wound” he acknowledges the inevitable yet curative role wounds play in life.

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Seppo Fränti is one of the most prominent collectors of contemporary Finnish art. The Wound exhibition makes a small part of his private collection available to the public for the first time.

If anyone, Seppo knows about wounds. He was one of the unlucky tourists to be kidnapped by terrorists in 2000 but that is another story. Today he is more known in Finland for his outstanding collection of young Finnish artists’ works.

This spring a fragment of his collection became The Wound exhibition. Very quickly the exhibition became one of the most-talked cultural events of Finland, providing the viewer with a unique opportunity to see what young Finnish artists are up to. The exhibition closes on Sunday, so if you are in Helsinki, do not miss this exceptional opportunity to learn more about the Finnish art!

Where? Lapinlahden Lähde (former Lapinlahden sairaala), Lapinlahdentie 1, Helsinki. Every day (until Sunday!) from 13h to 19h.

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1726519167564493/

For inquiries and private visits: seppo.franti@gmail.com

Catalogue: adobe.ly/1Uz2nrK (Finnish and Swedish)

Articles: http://www.hs.fi/kulttuuri/a1459482818959 (Finnish)

http://www.lilou-s.fi/taide-art/seppo-frantin-taidekokoelma-raiskyy-lapinlahdessa/ (Finnish and French)

https://helsinkicontemporary.com/news/seppo-fr%C3%A4nti-collection-in-exhibition-for (English)

 

Christmas preparations: poultry

A typical French Christmas meal consists of either turkey, capon or goose –stuffed of course. These are the most common poultry to be served at Christmas, but other types exist too. Some of the more rare ones can only be found during the end of the year season.

As we have tasted all of the “common poultry” (see e.g. French Christmas meal: stuffed goose from Les Provinces), and wanted to discover something new, we headed to our favorite butcher Les Provinces (also a restaurant),  near Marché d’Aligre.

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Les Provinces near the hip Aligre market provides not only an amazing choice of poultry but also friendly service.

After a lengthy discussion, we opted for a a guineafowl capon from Chaumes, Bourgogne. Endemic to Africa, guineafowl is one of the oldest gallinaceous birds and leaner than chicken. Its meat has a gamey taste. How it compares to our other poultry experiences –to be seen!

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We chose guineafowl capon on the left to feed us Christmas Eve.

Have you experienced guineafowl capon, or other more exotic poultry? Suggestions, opinions, comments?

PS About wine pairing, see Christmas preparations: wine

 

Christmas preparations: wine

Finding the right wine for one’s meal is serious business in France but even more so when it comes to Christmas meal wine pairing.

Carrying the baby and groceries (read: already about 12kg…), we headed to a wine shop called La Cave des Papilles, located a few steps away from Montparnasse Cemetery. It is not located in our arrondissement, but so worth the visit. This charming wine shop specializes in “le vin naturel“; wine made with minimum technological intervention. Lots of wine offered by independent winemakers, biodynamic wine, etc.

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La Cave des Papilles is a wonderful address for natural wine.

Our visit took about 40 minutes. The shop is not enormous but the choice is extensive. Lots of labels we have never seen before.

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Discovering new labels is a lot of fun.

We listened to the seller –very knowledgeable– and finally based our decision on his recommendations and our taste. AOC Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine (Loire Valley) for oysters. AOC Jurançon (South West of France, near the Pyrenees) for foie gras. AOC Rasteau (Rhône Valley) for poultry. We are big fans of the southern Rhône Valley appellations, home of some fantastic wines like e.g. Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and instead of going with wine from Bourgogne (as recommended by the seller), we opted for our usual region.

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So many labels, so many regions.

We didn’t buy anything for cheese but should we need some more wine, we have a lovely bottle of Irouléguy from 2010.

….and just in case you wondered –no need to buy champagne as we have Canard-Duchêne in the fridge!

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I told you. Serious business.

Is your wine and food pairing as exhaustive this Christmas?

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La Cave des Papilles: 35 Rue Daguerre, 75014 Paris. Metro: Denfert-Rochereau. Closed during lunch hour!

 

Christmas preparations: cards

Phew, over fifty Christmas cards on their way to friends and family mainly in Finland, France, the US and India.

As I was searching our closets for cards and envelopes (I keep a stock) I stumbled upon these cards that I had bought in Calcutta during our last trip to India. I was going to choose some to be sent away but fascinated by their beauty, I then changed my mind. What exquisite tiny pieces of art they are! I want to keep them! I photographed them and took time to admire the handicraft while wondering who had made them and what the stories behind are. I felt that these cards are like carpets: their ornaments tell a story; a story the person who made them wants to tell. Happiness, sorrow, hope, dreams –what else?

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Flowers and the person behind the flowers. 

Maybe after all I will frame and hang them on the baby room’s wall.

I am not quite sure which one I prefer. Maybe the holy, lime-green hand of hamsa. What about you?

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Aren’t these cards absolutely splendid? Only in incredible India!

Note: Cards made and sold by Calcutta Rescue (www.calcuttarescue.org). If you are in Calcutta, do not miss them at the Fairlawn Hotel every Thursday between 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm. They take orders too!

 

No Bastille Market today

As a consequence of Friday’s tragic events the markets remain close today. This is a pity because we love going to the Bastille Market every Sunday, and would have gone also today. All those colors bring us a lot of joy. Not to mention that we bring home several bags of fruits and vegetables that last at least until Thursday –the day the market opens again.

The Bastille Market, open on Thursdays and Sundays, gives a lot of joy to us.

The Bastille Market, open on Thursdays and Sundays, gives a lot of joy to us. Today the market remains close.

Many Parisian have preferred to stay indoors since yesterday but I believe this is exactly what the terrorists want. And I don’t want to give in. I have never been good at doing what I am “supposed” to do…

Yesterday afternoon we left our secured home and wandered through the streets of Paris. First Rue de Charonne where we met with a friend, then la Place de la Nation and Rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine. The 11th arrondissement  was very quiet indeed but calling it a ghost town would be far-fetched. Near Faidherbe-Chaligny metro, a few steps away from the shooting sites, we said good bye to a friend who headed home. We started walking towards our arrondissement, the 4th, and did groceries in the heart of the lower Marais, Saint Paul. Shops, cafes and restaurants were open and alive. By the time we were ready to return home it was lheure de lapéro. I paid attention to a church that was unusually full of people of all age. Hundreds of candles were lit.

In a few minutes we are going to check the market anyway. Maybe an odd vendor will be selling aubergines and grapes? Probably not. In this case we are going to have a walk. Should we stay inside and prepare for the worst, minimize the risk by skipping our usual habits? No, I don’t think so. I have never lived by fear, even in countries where I probably should have because the risk of terrorism was very high. So far my intuition and luck (or destiny if you prefer) have kept me alive and I trust they will continue to do so. Maybe I am naive but I refuse to live under fear.

PS I was going to end this post by referring to the Western values like freedom etc., but I don’t want to fall under this East (“bad values”) versus West (“good values”) thinking, which I believe is another trap, something terrorist want us to start believing too. The global situation is by far much more complex….

Palermo with a baby?

Prior to booking tickets to Sicily we were hesitating between the western and the eastern part of the island. We would not be able to do everything Sicily has to offer, so better stick with just one side of the island we thought. After a brief (read: shallow) consideration, we bought tickets to Palermo. Delicious, distinctive street food and a bit of history, here we come! So we thought.

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Antica Focacceria San Francesco, a Palermitano institution, is a wonderful place to taste local delicacies.

In total, our trip in Sicily was going to last 12 days. We reserved two first nights at Grand Hotel et Des Palmes (a local institution, right in the center of Palermo), assuming that we will definitely want to stay longer. The plan was to eventually continue by a rental car from Palermo to one or two other destinations, preferably by the sea. After we had seen “everything” in Palermo…..

Palermo is a city full of history and art. Be prepared for a lot of walking!

Palermo, the capital of Sicily, is full of history and art. Be prepared for a lot of walking!

One week later (am writing this from San Vito Lo Capo) I am sorry to acknowledge that our two-night stay in Palermo was more than enough. We are very happy that we hadn’t reserved more nights. In fact we could not wait to leave Palermo behind us. Why? Do not get me wrong, Palermo surely offers a zillion things to do and see, but it was not the right choice for us traveling with a five month old baby. Below is a list of my/our impressions!

Only crazy tourists in Palermo with an ultra-Parisian stroller? (ok, we had a baby carrier too)

Only crazy tourists in Palermo with an ultra-Parisian stroller? (ok, we had a baby carrier too)

  1. Palermo is much bigger (and chaotic) than I expected. The greater Palermo has over one million inhabitants, making it the fifth most populated city (with its surroundings) in Italy. My fault, didn’t do my research well enough. I expected more small streets leading to cute piazzas, but streets we saw were big, noisy and very polluted. The potential of the seaside in Palermo is not used as it could be argues the urban architect in me.
Streets of Palermo are busy. Humidity combined with pollution makes walking quite unpleasant...

Streets of Palermo are busy. Humidity combined with pollution makes walking quite unpleasant…

2. In order to really understand and enjoy Palermo one needs to visit museums, churches, historical monuments etc., but how many museums do parents with a (crying) small baby usually visit…? Trying to get a feel of this fascinatingly multicultural city just by looking at the walls didn’t make us much more knowledgeable about Palermo’s rich past.

See the names? Signs like this show the rich and complex history of Palermo.

See the names? Signs like this show the rich and complex history of Palermo.

3. Our hotel choice was a big mistake. More about that later, but we should have searched outside the city, for example in Mondello, a nearby beach town, and just do day trips to Palermo.

This said, our stay in Palermo was not a great success. I am still beating myself up while asking “what did you think of bringing a small baby (with precious lungs) into a big city like Palermo?”. One week later I am still wondering how much of this feeling comes from the fact that we are very tired (accumulation of months’ fatigue…) and how much of it really is because of Palermo. Would I have liked Palermo more should I have gone there before the baby? Who knows. I think someone once called Palermo a rough diamond and I could not agree more. Just that when traveling with a baby one normally looks for smooth and not rough places (lol).