Monthly Archives: October 2013

My love affair with Saravanaa Bhavan

Since our trip to Tamil Nadu we have been regulars at Saravanaa Bhavan, which is a South Indian restaurant. It started in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, and has gained a lot of success all over the world in recent years. You can find Saravanaa Bhavan in Dubai, New York, etc.

Everything at Saravanaa Bhavana is vegetarian so don’t expect the usual palak paneer, cheese nan and butter chicken. If you have never been to South India, you will probably find dishes that taste like nothing else you have ever eaten before. And this is what I love about Saravanaa Bhavan: the taste is sublime, sophisticated and curious!!!!!! And good for your health.

Last night we had our usual: South Indian meal (thali), onion rava masala dosa and business meal. This is a bit too much for two, but since we love all of these three dishes, we can never decide!

South Indian meal looks like this:South Indian mealand consists of: chappathi with side dish, rice, sambar, rasam, special kuzhambu, vegetable curries, raitha, curd, appalam, pickle and something sweet. What is nice about this thali is that you can order more of any side dish and rice for free.

Onion rava masala dosa looks like:onion rava masala dosaand it is a crispy wheat and rice flour crepe stuffed with mildly-spiced mashed potatoes and onions.

Business meal looks like this: Business mealand it includes sambar rice, curd rice, special rice of the day, poriyal, appalam, pickle and something sweet.

I feel eternal love toward all of these dishes and cannot have enough them!

PS Saravanaa Bhavan increased their prices this summer, but it is still very affordable. South Indian meal costs 13€, business meal 10€ and a dosa 7€50. Our only disappointment is that they don’t serve Indian wine any more –only Bordeaux. As we told the waiter yesterday, Grover is an excellent Indian red wine!

Saravanaa Bhavan:

170, Rue Du Faubourg Saint Denis,
75010, Paris.
Tel : 01 40 05 01 01

Marriage of oysters and nouveau wine

Fifteen oysters with vin primeur, and my Saturday night is perfect!oysters from NormandyOysters: cultivated by Patrick Liron in Normandy. They can be found in three different arrondissements in Paris: 3, 7 and 15. Our favorite oyster type is huître sauvage but I was told yesterday that they will only be available starting November. We purchased 30 oysters in total, three different types but all size two, for 37€.

Where to find Patrick Liron oysters in Paris?

Wine: vin primeur by Domaine La Grave, Coteaux de Peyriac (Hauts de Badens). Vin primeur means new wine, and it is sold the year it was harvested. Sometimes only few weeks later. It is at its best within few months of the release. The most famous vin primeur is obviously Beaujolais nouveau.

The white wine we had yesterday comes from our favorite caviste, Bernard Bouichet who has an outstanding taste in good-quality, healthy-tasting wine. We bought one bottle of vin primeur last weekend and returned yesterday to buy ten more. At 4€80 per bottle, the price-quality ratio is excellent.

Where to find this excellent vin primeur? La Cave du Voyageur, 21 rue de la Croix Nivert (75015). Tel. 01-42 73 07 81.

PS Have you already checked out the Pearlspotting’s facebook page?

Bringing a little bit of Châteauneuf-du-Pape home

France is a very diversified country. Each region has its distinctive history and culture that translate into specific types of cuisine. Tripe and cider in Normandy, crêpes and galettes in Brittany, bouillabaisse and ratatouille in the Mediterranean, socca in Nice, snails in Burgundy, duck and foie gras in the south-west, choucroute in Alsace, etc. The list is next to endless.

Every time I travel inside the Hexagone, I discover something new food wise. And it is almost as fascinating to live in Paris, and visit restaurants, grocery stores or food fairs to discover products of those regions that I have visited. It is like bringing a tiny bit of vacation home…Châteauneuf du PapeEarlier this year we visited the Salon des vignerons indépendants and saw a stand that looked familiar. It said AOC Châteauneuf-du-pape and the bottles had Château des Fines Roches written on them. We knew immediately where they are located: 15km from Avignon, in the southern Rhône Valley. Fines Roches refers to the château around which the grapes to make this wine grow, but it is also a place where we had a fabulous lunch in August 2006!Chateau ddes Fines RochesWe started talking with the owners and ended up buying some bottles of their red. And last week we opened one of these bottles, a bottle of AOC Châteauneuf-du-pape Château des Fines Roches (2010) to celebrate our wedding anniversary. And this week the winemakers, the Mousset-Barrot family, sent us an invitation to the Salon des vignerons indépendants that will take place in Paris during the last weekend of November. Très sympa! Château des Fines Roches à Châteauneuf du Pape


Château des Fines Roches (hotel & restaurant):

Salon des vignerons indépendants:

Warming up for FIAC

After my meeting in the 16th arrondissement this afternoon, I started walking toward Grand Palais, which equals FIAC this week. However, on my way, there was Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, one of my favorite museums in Paris. So, I walked in. It has been several months that I have not have my Delaunay, Dufy and Modigliani dose! Dufy, The Electricity FairyThe permanent collection of this museum is free, and the building is full of light. I describe this museum “cheerful”. It rarely is a top priority for a tourist visiting Paris, but in my opinion it makes an excellent introduction to the turn-of-the-century artists. I find Dufy’s La Fée Electricité (The Electricity Fairy) fascinating.

After an hour or so, I walked out. But there was another “obstacle” between me and FIAC. Palais Tokyo was a few steps away, so I decided to check out its new restaurant Monsieur Bleu. I loved the interior design and thought that the green, which dominated the restaurant, was a particularly beautiful shade of green. There was also a dark grey fireplace made of marble, almost identical to the one we have at home. The lamps were massive but discreet. Indeed, I give full ten points to Monsieur Bleu’s looks!  Monsieur Bleu

By the time I closed the heavy metal door of Monsieur Bleu, my feet stopped cooperating. No FIAC today, they told me.

Mea culpa –a new try tomorrow or Saturday!

Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris:

The Electricity Fairy (by Dufy):

Monsieur Bleu:

PS why not to follow Pearlspotting on Facebook, too?

Autumn leaves

Isn’t that red on the wall an outstandingly deep color? This is the view from our balcony and I cannot get enough of it. Since I got back from holidays, I have been watching those leaves turn red. Not just yellow and orange, but red, as if the leaves were burning. autumn leaves ParisPS I took a similar photo last May and it is here:

Which one do you prefer? Spring or autumn colors?

FIAC is back!

One of my favorite art events in Paris starts this Thursday!

FIAC is an annual art fair where galleries from all over the world present their collections. It is a fascinating meeting point, and a melting pot, of contemporary art. I have attended FIAC several times and have always found it very enriching.

This year the main event takes place at Grand Palais, which is one damn piece of art (and architecture)! Other outdoor art installations can be found at Jardin des Tuileries, Jardin des Plantes and Place Vendôme.FIAC Jardin des Plantes

The event of the year not to be missed! Practical information below:

Grand Palais: From Thursday October 24 to Sunday October 27 from midday to 20h. Nocturne on Friday October 25 until 21h. 35€ for adults, free for children under 12 years old.

For “Hors les Murs” events (free):

Jardin des Tuileries: every day until November from 7h30 to 19h30

Jardin des Plantes: every day until November from 10h to 17h

Place Vendôme: every day until November

Berges de Seine: every day until November

The Bastille market in October

Observing seasonal variations of food markets is definitely one of my main Sunday hobbies. We are now officially in autumn, which means endless amounts of cabbage, figs, pumpkins, pomegranates, persimmons, mushrooms, etc. No more strawberries, melons and peaches.Bastille marketToday was a particularly interesting day at the Bastille market, and this is what we got for less than 10€! There was a whole rabbit (with fur and all that!) for 9€ and the vendor would have prepared it for us, but we skipped it this time… This week we will be eating healthy: cauliflower soup, onion soup, ratatouille, grilled eggplants and stuffed tomatoes. Unless you would like to suggest something different?

PS To compare today’s market to the market in May, have a look here:

Blini amuse-bouche

Traffic jam in Boulevard Saint-Germain! Guests late!

Tonight’s amuse-bouche is blinis with either tarama with a slice of cucumber, or with smoked salmon and home-made tzatziki. With lots of dill of course.

PS A bottle of red Sauvageonne (Languedoc 2009) is open and breathing –will be served with duck confit in about two hours’ time.

Have an excellent Saturday night everyone!

Making friends over the Indian Ocean

Posting a photo of a Japanese bowl cannot be anything too exciting, right?

Well, continue reading. I will tell you about a lovely meeting that took place during an Air Tanzania flight from Mauritius to Dar Es Salaam some years ago. Japanese bowlThe project I was working for in Dar Es Salaam was coming to end. Two colleagues had left the country, leaving me alone in this huge three-bedroom apartment near the Sheraton Hotel. I knew there was an abundance of things to wrap up professionally, but I also knew that I had a free return ticket to Mauritius to use –a corporate gift from someone working for Air Tanzania. So, what did I do? During the last weeks of the project I worked like crazy, allowing myself to catch a flight to Mauritius with a good conscience on August 3, 2000!mauritius stampsDuring my stay in Mauritius, a lush, volcanic island in the western part of the Indian Ocean, I mainly dived. I had just completed my SSI Open Water Diver course and Mauritius is famous for rich sea life. When I didn’t dive, I moved to a different part of the island, practicing my limited French with whoever was patient enough to listen to me.

But back to the Japanase bowl!

On my way back on August 8, I was seated next to a Japanese couple. We begun talking, exchanged personal and professional information, and I learned that the couple plans to stay for a week in Dar Es Salaam because they are in used cars’ trading business. I don’t remember how the idea came to me, but I suggested they stay with me –in the flat paid by the company, which has two empty bedrooms. To my surprise (and probably to theirs, too), the couple said yes!

During that week, I was busy writing and editing, and the couple was engaged in closing car deals. When I came home from occasional meetings in town and opened the door, the couple had cooked Japanese food for dinner. I already had a cook, but my Tanzanian cook was specialized in Swahili dishes, not in maki and miso, so it was a refreshing change to eat differently.

Eventually, the couple left. Soon after them, I left Dar Es Salaam, too. Our co-habitation had ended smoothly, and until now, we still sometimes talk by email. Last Sunday, when I was emptying our cellar in Paris, I came across this bowl, that traveled with me from Tanzania to Paris. Even within Paris, this bowl has moved from one arrondissement to another, and it is only now, thirteen years later that I actually refound it. This is the bowl the couple served my miso soup in.

Isn’t this such a lovely story?!  I have plenty of stories like this and I think they should be told to remind us of positive consequences of globalization. What do you think?

PS Attention those of you who follow me on WordPress Reader: there was an issue with the RSS feed, and nine of my last posts have not shown up.  You may want to check some of the last ones out. There is a review on the famous Le Train Bleu restaurant and several articles on my trip to Crete (search by “Crete” tag). Enjoy!

Sfakian delights

The first time we walked into the Bakery, Niki welcomed us like we were her family. She made us sample local specialties including lemonopita, a heavenly citron cake. lemonopita The second time she offered us sea snails she was snacking between customers. By each visit, our discussions grew longer and we enjoyed listening to the stories told by her strong Cleveland, Ohio accent. It soon became our daily highlight to go and see Niki and her husband Marko.Marko at the bakery in Hora SfakionTheir Bakery is the oldest in the region, and specializes in traditional Sfakia treats as well as in more common Greek products (like a delicious spinach pie!). I am usually not a big fan of bakeries, and even in Paris, months can go by before I step into a boulangerie, but something told me that Niki’s and Marko’s bakery is different and worth exploring.Niki's and Marko's Bakery I soon learned what it was. Marko explained to me that they try to stay loyal to the famous Cretan diet, which means using as much as possible flours other than wheat, nor forgetting olive oil instead of butter. Barley, rye and oak are commonly used, but some more exotic flours like carob is used, too. Marko continued that they are very keen on developing more products based on carob, because it is a gluten-free flour and has a very special flavor (it is often used a substitute to chocolate) .  carobBased on my empirical research in Hora Sfakion and Paris (yes, our suitcase was half-full of these delicious products!), I have established my Top Sfakian Delights (available in the Bakery) list:

1. Rusk: this double-baked bread, which comes in different variations is so yummy! When you order dakos at Greek restaurants, this is the bread they use in it. I particularly like olive oil rusk and tomato&feta rusk.

2. Sfakian treat: this sweet has traditionally been served at Sfakian weddings. Anis, coriander, orange and mahlepi give it its distinctive oriental flavor.

3. Graviera cheese: is a type of rusk that has a strong taste of local graviera cheese, which is made from a mixture of sheep, cow and goat milk. Sfakian treats4. Carob with cereals and almonds: this is the famous carob-flour based sweet, which contains less than 20% of wheat (the Bakery is studying how to replace the wheat, thus making it entirely gluten-free). It has a taste of some of the biscuits my Grandmom used to make, and I would personally serve it with coffee.

5. Lemonopita (citron) or Portokalopita (orange): these sweets have no wheat flour in them, and I am trying to convince Niki to share the recipe…. These are some of the best desserts I have ever tasted in my life!

6. Spinach pie: talking about crunchiness! Before catching a ferry to Loutro and other places, we purchased these wonderful pies for lunch. I tasted spinach pie all over Crete, but this is by far the best!

If you read this far, you are probably a foodie, so why not to make a visit to the Bakery the next time you are traveling in western Crete?

The Bakery of Niki and Marko Douroudakis, Hora Sfakion, Crete.

Email: / Tel. : 28250-91268