Monthly Archives: July 2013

Back to work (motivation help from rosé wine)

It was very hot in Paris last week and the heat wave will make its return tomorrow. At the moment, most of my friends are at exotic beach destinations from Elba to Greek islands, and yes, receiving text messages while trying to put together a publication is not easy! I do love my work –do not get me wrong- but there are periods when the beach sounds more tempting than at other times…

So, how do I get myself back to the work routine after three weeks’ holidays? By establishing my own After-Work that consists of drinking rosé and eating good food!

Our caviste, like everyone else, is on holidays, so we have been returning to Monoprix (a French grocery store) for wine purchases. It has been fun experiencing different rosé wines and honestly, I think Monoprix’s price-quality ratio is better for rosé wines than for reds and whites.

Yesterday we tried Les Embruns Gris Sauvage (IGP Sable de Camargue): organic rosé wine from Languedoc. More precisely, this wine comes from the western part of the Camargue region, the largest river delta of the western Europe (if you have a chance to visit it, do not hesitate! It is stunning and very authentic). The wine tasted lovely: agrumes, peach and other fruits. Easy and pleasant to drink. A very good choice for 4 Euros. And it is organic.  Les Embruns Gris SauvageWe also bought a bottle of Eléphant Rose Lubéron for 5.50 Euros but it is in the fridge at the moment, unopened. Perrin family makes excellent, rather affordable wines of all three colors in Provence and Rhône (South and North). This particular rosé we bought comes from Caromb, near Mont Ventoux (north east of Avignon). Eléphant Rose 2012 (Luberon)

If you are curious about these wines, please see the links below, and do not forget to check the new Pearlspotting Facebook page, too!

Les Embruns Gris Sauvage (IGP Sable de Camargue):,0,0,0,171,0

Eléphant Rose Lubéron:

Image copied from here: (Courtesy to the Union of Vin des Sables)

La Briciola: pizza of “something missing”

La Briciola and Amici Miei are both on the list of “The Best Pizzas of Paris” published by Le Figaro. Yesterday we tested La Briciola, located in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris.

Upon arrival at La Briciola, we were greeted in a really friendly manner and got a nice table by an open window. It was a perfect summer evening in Paris. The place was really cosy and the giant green olives we were offered were extremely tasty. The vegetarian pizzas arrived, and yet they smelled herbs and tomatoes, the dough was thick and not crispy. In fact we both had hard time using our knife to cut it…  My husband had ordered extra salami on his pizza and he said that the slices tasted of liquid used to light up the barbeque… My criticism toward the pizza was that the vegetables were not grilled enough and that the predominant taste came from artichokes. I love artichokes, but I think the overall taste was not balanced. La BriciolaWe had a bottle of Italian rose for 16 Euros –not a bad price-quality ratio.

When it came to the bill, we left a tip for the lovely service, but there was something missing… I personally love my pizza very crispy and vegetables nearly burnt, and these criteria were not filled. We walked home and said that we should return to Amici Miei.

Note: On Tripadvisor, La Briciola is better rated than Amici Miei. But what does this really mean –only that you should go and see it for yourself! My advice is this: if you prefer good service and soft dough, go for La Briciola, but if you prefer rather rude service but excellent pizza, opt for Amici Miei… Anyhow, they are located (almost) in the same neighborhood.
PS Since summer 2013, there is also Da Vito –an excellent choice!

Le Figaro list:

Other pizza reviews by Pearlspotting:  and 

The Wind in the Willows (kaislikossa suhisee)

Do you have a sound that you love? I do have, and it comes from rowing a boat among the reeds. the reeds in a lakeAs far as my knowledge goes, we have two types of reeds in the lake where our summer house is located. They grow in a small bay near to us, and this bay is also a hiding place for pikes. They seem to like shallow water.reeds in the lake During my last visit to the summer house, there was one day when the temperature climbed to 25C. I took our rowing boat with my husband and we headed to the reeds for a “water safari”. We did not see any pikes, but it was nice anyway. rowing among the reedsI have tried to illustrate the rowing in the reeds experience by sharing these photos, and if you are intrigued, like my new “Pearlspotting” page on Facebook and you can access a short video to hear the sound that I love.

What does Finnish barbeque look like?

On our first night in Helsinki, we were invited to eat barbeque with my brother and his girlfriend. They had made the groceries, so all we needed to do was to go outside, set the fire and start waiting for food to be ready!barbeque: tomatoes, chicken, sausagesThey started grilling sausages, chicken and tomatoes (we had prepared an olive oil, garlic and herbes de Provence dip for the tomatoes). garlic, herbs and olive oil dip for tomatoesTomatoes turned out delicious, and so did the chicken! It was one of the best chicken I have ever eaten (the best grilled chicken in this world is served at Le Tyrolien in Algiers…).

The next set of food to be grilled included halloumi cheese and blue cheese-stuffed mushroom. My husband’s favorite. Very tasty and so easy to make.  halloumi and blue cheese mushroomFinally, there was only a slice of salmon left. It was rather easy and fast to grill it without the usual aluminum foil. Don’t you just love the presentation of salmon on sausages…?salmon and sausagesFor dessert we had grilled, sliced pineapple with cardamom-flavored whipped cream. Yummy!

PS In case you wonder where these cute, colorful plates come from, they are Finnish made and designed by Iittala ( The plates come in many colors (unfortunately no longer in brown) and can be found here:

Short stay in Helsinki (my personal highlights)

After the summer house we spent only two full days in Helsinki. It was a brief visit, and it rained very often, so we did not get to visit as much as we had planned. But this short stay was very pleasant and I made a mental note of returning to Helsinki again this autumn (each year I say this, and then by the time the cold weather begins in Paris, we prefer to travel to warmer places. Let’s see about this autumn). The Senate Square, Helsinki

Some highlights of our Helsinki visit were (not in any particular order):

  • Walking around Kauppatori (The Market Square) and Senaatintori (The Senate Square): watch the luxury cruise ships leave for Tallinn and Stockholm, admire the architecture dating back to the first part of the 19th century (the Russian rule), contemplating at the market by the sea whether to buy a reindeer skin or one kilo of strawberries!
  • Visiting Artek, the world famous Finnish design and furniture shop ( A must! Artek
  • Grillata“: prepare and eat Finnish barbeque (which includes salmon of course). For cooking ideas, see What does Finnish barbeque look like?
  • Kappeli ( this restaurant/bar/cafe opened in 1867. It is a Helsinki institution and located in a beautiful, wooden building right by the Market Square. We had just coffee.
  • Putte’s Bar ( I ate a very good Funghi pizza that came with chanterelle mushrooms. I loved the pizza but I have two remarks about the place: I had made a reservation and we were seated downstairs, in the darkest corner. Also the wine is super expensive (like almost everywhere in Finland).
  • Liberty or Death ( we drunk cocktails with famous ice hockey players. Could it get more Finnish?
  • Alppitori ( they have excellent hamburgers. My chicken burger came with avocados. My husband’s burger came with crispy bacon. And the best part is that they have French rosé wine for 25€ per bottle.
  • Siltanen ( we had drinks at this club/bar/restaurant that I like very much. It is trendy and hip, and has that industrial feeling. They have DJs and groups playing almost every night.

Time went by very fast and sooner than I realized, I was sitting in an airplane looking at those thousands of tiny islands scattered around Helsinki and its coastline. Helsinki archipelago

How to survive 36C in Paris?

I left Finland for Paris yesterday. Weather in Finland was not the greatest during my holidays, but it is not ideal in Paris either:  today the mercury may climb to 36C and the entire week is supposed to be hot.

Since there is no beach to go to in here, how does one survive in Paris during a heat wave (une canicule)?

1. Before you go to sleep, take a towel or a tissue, and sink it in cold water. Then place it on your body (head, legs, stomach, whatever). Amazing! It really helps. And stays fresh and cool for a long time.

2. Close the shutters. It keeps the sun light and the heat outside. I usually hate shutters (even curtains), but this is a must. Think about Provence: there is a reason why all houses have shutters and why they are closed even during the day time. Parisian shutters3. Drinking: Drink water but also fruit juices. I learned this in the Sudanese dessert: fruit juices are excellent for hydrating the body, considered better than water by the Sudanese nomads. I am not following this rule very carefully, as I am half way through my second big cup of coffee, and coffee and sodas should be avoided…

4. Eating: Eat fruits. Make salads. Serve tapas. For example, I often make a salad which is a mixture of different types of melon, cucumber, feta cheese and boiled potatoes. As simple as that, and delicious. Or prepare tomato & mozzarella. Make tabouleh. Enjoy gravlax (smoked salmon) and smoked fish (served cold, and rich in vitamins).

5. Go to movies! Cinemas have a cooling system that most apartments in Paris don’t. But before you purchase a ticket, make sure the AC works…

Now that I have shared with you my personal survival tricks, please tell me what yours are!



Fishing at midnight

pike perch ("kuha")lake fishWind calmed down, so we could go and check the nets. The lake was quiet and the colours were stunning. It will be a busy night to prepare all this fish! fishing at midnight

Very easy tartiflette

The sun is back and we had tartiflette for lunch at our summerhouse terrace.lunch at summer house terraceThe recipe I used could not be easier: put sliced potatoes (peeled), onions, garlic and thinly-cut smoked duck into a glass bowl. Mix. Add cream and black & white pepper. Mix again. Add special tartiflette cheese on the top of the ingredients. Cook under aluminum foil for 1h – 1h30 minutes. Enjoy with either red wine or dry white wine (for example AOC Vin de Savoie Apremont).tartiflette

PS Duck can be replaced by lardon. To give more taste, onions and garlic can be sautéed in a frying pan.

Our beautiful lake has turned into a monster!

This is what our lake looked like yesterday evening.  Colours were stunning but we could see the storm approaching… beautiful view of a Finnish lakeAnd this is the view tonight! The wind is so strong that it disturbs the internet connection. We cannot go and check the fishing nets. Hoping  for a better day tomorrow. It is barely 10C but after posting these photos I will head to the sauna to warm my bones…. storm at a Finnish lake

The 24 hour lamb leg

July 14 is the French National Day, also called Bastille Day. We are in Finland at the moment, far away from Paris celebrations, but my parents decided to create a special meal for their French son-in-law.

Two days before the big day we begun defrosting a lamb leg, bought at the local farm. On the eve we placed the leg in the largest bowl we found at the summer house and covered it with olive oil. We then added herbes de Provence (mixture of dried herbs), fresh rosemary, thyme stems and black pepper, with only a little bit of salt. Next we cut plenty of garlic into small pieces and put them on the lamb, not forgetting to place (unpeeled) garlic cloves aside in the bowl.preparing 24 hour lamb legIn the end, we added a cup of water, covered the leg with aluminum foil and put it in oven. At the summer house we have a traditional Finnish oven called leivinuuni, which is specifically made for cooking: excellent for making crunchy pizza, bread, overnight porridge, meats, etc. The moment we started cooking the lamb leg, it was around 110C inside the oven.Traditional Finnish oven, leivinuuniThe next morning I moistened the leg with juice that had come out of the lamb. The dish was looking good. I repeated this a few times during the day. In the evening, after approximately 24 hours, we removed the leg from the oven. The temperature had decreased to 50C. My Mom had prepared a green salad with home-grown tomatoes, cucumber, olives, feta cheese, onion and basil leaves. My husband served red wine (AOC Côtes du Luberon). The lamb leg was excellent: juicy, not greasy, not dry; just perfect. The garlic cloves melted in the mouth. France was properly honored!

PS I did not have time to do it yesterday, but today I prepared some eggplants (with olive oil and herbs), and we finished the lamb with oven-baked eggplants.