Monthly Archives: September 2013

What Karl Lagerfeld and Elle UK taught me today

What one can learn during some hours on the beach!

1. Karl Lagerfeld is a philosopher: “Personality begins where comparison ends”.

2. Prada and Dior have some crazy, extravagant sun glasses. Really.

3. Chanel is as classy as ever and they have a pair of glasses made for me.Elle UK October 20134. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is free like a bird, and advertises Bulgari jewellery (but does not need that much of photoshopping).

5. Flats by Tod’s look so comfortable and colors are sophisticated. And they are color-coordinated with bags.

6. Nicole Kidman looked great in the Paperboy film (2012), and continues to do so in Jimmy Choo.beach time7. Thomas Sabo has totally copied my engagement ring by Chaumet. Except that his ring is gold plated and with zircon.

Inspiration source:  ELLE UK, October 2013 (

What are summer holidays made of?

Last night I left Paris for well-deserved summer holidays. At the Roissy airport’s newsstand I made a strategic decision and did not even look toward the direction of the Economist. I also suggested my husband to let Le Monde wait for its next customer… Instead, I collected and purchased Elle, Vanity Fair, IDEAT and Technikart. I think my new specialty will be this fall’s jewellery and clothes lines! And an even tan.Chania

PS I will be away from Paris for next ten days. Should you want to follow my travel news, please like Pearlspotting’s Facebook page. καληνύχτα!

Have you tasted Serbian Chardonnay?

Very rarely I drink anything but French wine in France. Not because I don’t like wines from other countries, but simply because there are so many wine regions to discover in France. This said, every now and then my curiosity wins, and I go and buy Georgian red or Indian rosé. And sometimes it happens that we receive guests from exotic countries, who bring us a bottle from their favorite vineyard…

Last night we had friends over for an apéritif, and they offered us a bottle of Serbian white wine. We opened this nicely chilled bottle of Kovačević Chardonnay and served everyone. Wow. The first impression really is important! A well-balanced taste. Rounded. Fruity but elegant. Nice color. Wine that meets international standard in all possible ways. The winery’s website suggests to accompany this wine with “sea and river fish with a generous toppings, various light meat and hard and semi-hard cheese”, but we enjoyed it with olives, charcuterie and roasted almonds. Worked out perfectly.Kovacevic Chardonnay from SerbiaWe truly enjoyed the bottle, and made a note to remember to watch out for Serbian wine until we actually manage to make a visit to the country. Thank you S & D for this fantastic moment!

FYI: Serbia’s viticulture is “as old as the world”, and it was particularly strong during the Roman period. So strong, that Serbia (technically former Yugoslavia) was one of the world’s top ten wine producers. Unfortunately, the breakup of Yugoslavia affected the wine making, and it has taken a while for the sector to bounce back. Today, however, Serbian wine can be found in international wine fairs, and a handful of French wine makers have moved there to cultivate the grapes… Tells you something about the potential!

Wine we drunk:


Oyster season opening

Every year it is the same. In the end of the summer, I start eagerly looking forward to September. Why? Doesn’t everyone want summer to last forever? No, I don’t, because I know that September brings something wonderful to my life… It is the first month that contains the famous “r” letter, which according to the common belief indicates that now it is a good time to restart eating oysters!

Eating oysters in months without “r” is something I do, too, especially if I am traveling in oyster-producing regions like Bretagne (Brittany), but I do know that falling temperatures make oysters loose their milkiness. And this is why many consumers prefer to skip eating them in summer.

For almost one month now I have been asking people if they have already tasted this delicious shellfish. I have even recruited my husband to conduct a survey at his work… His boss responded “still milky, wait a bit”. Some others laughed, “I eat oysters all year round, I don’t care about the milkiness!”. A friend, who is a big fan of Bretagne, like us, said “they (oysters) are getting there”…oysters at Le Cabanon de l'ÉcaillerImpatient to wait longer, we headed to Le Cabanon de l’Écailler last Friday to officially open our oyster season. Their oysters come from Charente-Maritime, which is roughly speaking between Bordeaux and Nantes (the southern tip of Bretagne). I ordered nine oysters of fine de claire and my husband ordered the same amount of fine de Ronce. Mine were tiny, too small for my taste, but the ones of my husband were really tasty (and much bigger).

We opened the season with a bottle of white Chablis, and made a toast to a successful and long oyster season. Vive les Huîtres!

Le Cabanon de l’Écailler: 14 place Constantin-Brancusi, 75014 Paris. Tel. 01-43205217

Le Train Bleu: exquisite and elegant

When my brother told me that he would like to take his girlfriend to a romantic, old-fashioned Parisian restaurant during their visit chez nous, I shortlisted a few options for him. But as soon as he saw the photos of Le Train Bleu, he responded without hesitation “this is it, please make a reservation for us, and I would like you and your husband to join us”. Le Train Bleu from outsideIt was a beautiful summer evening. We had some Canard-Duchêne champagne at home before walking to the restaurant. All this was a surprise gift for the girlfriend, so by the time we arrived at the Gare de Lyon railway station, she was very puzzled. “Are you taking me to the Côte d’Azur”, she asked. We smiled, walked into the railway station (where the tracks are) and took the main stairs to the restaurant, following a sign Le Train Bleu. Once inside, all of us stopped breathing for a few seconds. The beauty of the paintings and the interior design was stunning.  Extraordinary. Le Train Bleu We had a table next to the train tracks (I had specifically asked for this). Our waiter came and was extremely friendly, offering a leaflet of the restaurant’s history (available in English). We learned that we were now maybe, just maybe, using the same table as so many famous people who have been regulars to Le Train Bleu: Coco Chanel, Brigitte Bardot, Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dali, etc. IMG_6075We ordered the Menu Réjane, which for the price of 56€ per person includes a half a bottle of wine. Since we were four, we ordered one bottle of white Gaillac Château Adélaïde and one bottle of red Côtes de Bourg Laroche Joubert. Bravo for both wines! ceiling at Le Train BleuFor the starters we had Gazpacho-chilled cod with lime, ovencrisp Poilâne bread and Hand-chopped beefheart tomatoes, Welsh onions and Leccino olives, Burrata and jellied basil.

Both starters impressed us by the stylish presentation, and we found that the ingredients married very well. My husband loves beefheart tomatoes, so it was his paradise! Gazpacho-chilled cod with lime, ovencrisp Poilâne bread

Hand-chopped beef-heart tomatoes, Welsh onions and L eccino olives, Burrata and jellied basil For the main course, my brother had Baked Scottish salmon, spinach shoots, coconut emulsion and red curry, and appreciated very much the curry-salmon mixture. Baked Scottish salmon, spinach shoots, coconut emulsion and red curry The rest of us had Farmhouse chicken Tournedos Rossini, vin jauce sauce, artichoke purée, and we were delighted to find out that our dish contained a large chunk of foie gras… delicious!Farmhouse chicken Tournedos Rossini, vin jauce sauce, artichoke purée For the dessert, my brother’s girlfriend had a “red-berry” tiramisu,red-berry tiramisuI chose a mixed cheese plate, and my brother and my husband chose the famous Traditional rum baba. Now, I am going to be a bit mysterious, because all I can say is that Rum Baba at Le Train Bleu is not only a dessert, but also an experience…. This is the only dish that I am not going to show you, but when you go to Le Train Bleu, you will realize why! (but if you are really curious, contact me by Pearlspotting’s Facebook page and I will tell you)

Our night was fantastic, the service impeccable, food delicious, and I sincerely recommend Le Train Bleu for any occasion you may have in life. Truly.

LE TRAIN BLEU: Gare de Lyon, 75012 PARIS. Tel. +33-(0)1-43 43 09 06 (

Catching the last rays of the Mediterranean summer

I spent this summer pretty much working in front of the computer and piles of papers, but to be honest, I do not mind spending the summer in Paris. Less traffic, less pollution, less people, less stress, less everything –in my opinion August in particular is the best month in Paris!

However, now that my contract is going to end in few weeks’ time, I can finally start planning for holidays. Our last trip to the Mediterranean basin took place in May (Crete), and we would like to catch some more of that southern sun before the autumn really begins…sky is the limitWhen I was preparing Sicilian Caponata: a perfect autumn dish yesterday, I was pretty decisive about  flying to Sicily and renting a car to explore the island. I am very intrigued about the culinary culture there. In addition, we could have free tickets with Easy Jet, and there are several flights per week (did you know that since last year you can use your Emirates miles to buy Easy Jet tickets?). The Sicily option sounds tempting for many reasons, but I do wonder about the weather. Would we be able to swim in the sea?

This morning I turned on the computer and there was an email from Transavia (, a low-cost airline that is part of the Air France-KLM group. They have super-hyper-cheap flights to destination where many airlines stop flying around the time when the schools start, so now I am looking at returning to Crete (Heraklion 69€ one way) or flying to Turkey (Antalya 79€ one way). There is also Sicily (Palerme) for next to nothing: 39€. Hmmm… How about flying to Antalya and catching a return flight from Heraklion? How long would the island hopping take?

So many choices, so many wonderful destinations! Whether we choose Sicily, Crete, Turkey or something else in that part of the Mediterrenaen, it will be a fantastic choice, full of culinary experiences I am sure!

If you were me, where would you go and why?

PS Have you already checked Pearlspotting’s Facebook page?

Sicilian Caponata: a perfect autumn dish

When I was jogging along the Seine tonight it felt a little bit like autumn for the first time. I returned home, walked into the kitchen, watched the eggplants I had purchased at the Bastille Market yesterday, and wondered what to cook. I then took a look at Facebook and a friend’s post: Sicilian aubergine stew recipe called caponata. I had almost all ingredients at home (I replaced the parsley by basil leaves, and green olives by black olives) and the result was delicious! We ate the caponata with some slices of mozzarella, and the dinner was perfect! Only wine was missing…CaponataSo, instead of continuing to make my usual cut-in-two, grilled in oven eggplants, I think I will be inventing variations of caponata in this long autumn that is about to begin. Not only that, but I think our dilemma where to take next holidays was just answered…. A place in this world that mixes eggplants, capers, almonds and vinegar must be visited!

PS If you are wondering about the bowl, it is Finnish design by Marimekko and can be found here:


Easy Saturday dinner from the Aligre Market

I used to go a lot to the Aligre Market when I first moved to Paris, and I remember discovering anis flowers and other exotic spices unfamiliar to me at that time. However, working abroad and eventually living in different arrondissements in Paris kept me away from this charming market for years –until now. Since this summer I have been rediscovering the market and even if it is less African and Arab than it used to be, it is still more ethnic than most of the markets in the center of Paris.

Yesterday we were tired after another wedding, and decided it was going to be a quiet dinner at home. My husband, a loyal follower of Le Fooding restaurant reviews, had recently read about a butcher’s shop/restaurant called Les Provinces at 20 Rue d’Aligre, so we decided to eat some beef for dinner. Les ProvincesOne of our favorite dishes, Côte de Bœuf (ultimate French meat dish), usually sells for a bit less than 30€/kg. The butcher at Les Provinces presented us with two options: Irish beef with a very small bone for 26€/kg and French côte de bœuf with a much bigger bone (as we usually buy our beef) for 36€/kg. Following the butcher’s recommendation, we opted for the Irish piece of 700gr for two. Butchery Les ProvincesAfter taking notes of the butcher’s cooking tips, we purchased some tomatoes from the covered market (I did not know they are open so late!) and headed to the next address: the wine shop. One of the important things I have learned in France is that a good, well-prepared meal always deserves to be served with wine, and this rule can only be broken under specific, rare conditions….

If you read one of my previous posts Food shopping around the Aligre market, you may remember that one of the few remaining places in Paris where you can purchase your wine directly from an oak barrel is situated near the Aligre Market. Le Baron Rouge is an institution in Paris, and highly recommended. In addition, there is a bonus for oyster lovers, as they serve oysters during the winter months (this year they will start in the early October). Le Baron RougeInside the wine bar, we returned the old bottle to the bar tender and he filled a new bottle with organic Côtes du Rhône (5.20€ for one liter). I find this tradition so cute, and I hope they keep their oak barrels for many more years to come! Le Baron RougeTomatoes, beef and wine in our bag, we returned home to prepare the dinner. Doing groceries in France can be so much fun, and if you know the right places, you can buy fabulous products for a very decent price. Even in Paris. Vive la France!

The Aligre Market (Le Marche d’Aligre): Place Aligre, 75012 Paris ( Metro Ledru-Rollin

Restaurant Boucherie Les Provinces: 20, rue d’Aligre, Paris 75012 (

Le Baron Rouge: 1 Rue Théophile Roussel, 75012 Paris (

The Ganesh Festival in Paris

The area around La Chapelle metro, bordering the 10th and the 18th arrondissements, is a home to Paris’s Little India. Many of the restaurant and shop owners are technically Sri Lankan tamils, but if you miss South India in general (food, spices, smells, colors, etc.), this area will cure homesickness until your next trip. Little India of ParisLast Sunday the feeling of South India/Sri Lanka intensified, as the neighborhood hosted the annual Hindu festival: the Ganesh Festival. It was our second time participating in the procession and even though we felt that the festival was maybe a little bit less spectacular this year, it still made our day. Ganesh festival Paris The temple’s website has excellent information about the Ganesh festival, available here:

This year, the website mentioned that religious ceremonies begin at the temple at 9am. Around 11am the parade leaves the temple and circles around until 15h, before returning to the temple.Ganesh festival Paris We arrived in the neighborhood around 14h and still managed to get a good glimpse of the festival. Upon arrival at the temple, we asked the policemen where the parade is, and followed their directions.Ganesh festival in ParisIn the beginning part of the parade there was a van carrying a small Ganesh statue, followed by a much bigger Ganesh. Then came the flowers, colorful dresses, fires, dancers and players. Ganesh festival Paris If you print the itinerary in advance from the temple’s website, you can easily locate the parade and just stay fifteen minutes if you like.Ganesh festival ParisThis festival will definitely introduce you to a very different Paris, while providing you with fantastic photo-shooting opportunities. I love the Ganesh festival and will return next year for sure.

PS In addition to printing out the map, do not forget three things:

1) Do your lentils and spices groceries at one of the multiple shops near La Chapelle metro station.

2) Visit the temple ( Remove your shoes before entering and visit the temple clockwise.

3) Eat DELICIOUS South Indian thali at Saravanaa Bhavan (My love affair with Saravanaa Bhavan)


Sunbathing by the Seine

Today was again a lovely sunny day, and the weather forecast predicts around 30C for the next three days. Hurrah! This summer has been one of the best ones since many years and it is not even over yet. sunbathing by the SeineSpending summer in Paris is wonderful but there is one downside to it. Unless you want to go to a swimming pool or one of the parks, or you have a private balcony, it is difficult to sunbathe in Paris. To be precise, I mean to sunbathe AND to be left alone. I recently tried one spot by the Seine and quite liked it. People were discreet, they seemed to know each other, and they had this Parisian thing going on… (what do I mean by this? no one waved at the tourist boats that went by!). Seine ParisIf you are interested by this spot, turn on the google map and zoom to the eastern tip of Île Saint-Louis. Once you arrive sur place and on Boulevard Henri IV (the part of the boulevard which is on the island!), you see a tiny park called le square Barye. Enter the park and find the steps that take you down to the Seine. Find your spot according to the sun and which bank you want to watch. Toward the Left Bank you have a lot of architecture to admire: the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Institut du monde arabe etc.Le square Barye in the eastern tip of Ile St LouisIf you want to be a true Parisian, bring a local newspaper or a book and some picnic food like fruits and charcuterie from the nearby market (Bastille in this case) with you. If you want to wave at the tourists you may be the only sunbather doing so, but hey, who cares. The tourists will give you a cheerful response!

Lastly, do not forget to find a pigeon-free zone (do not stay under the trees like I did….)!