Tag Archives: biodynamic wine

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.


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?

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.


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.


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.


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!


I told you. Serious business.

Is your wine and food pairing as exhaustive this Christmas?


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


Arrival at the summer house

It has been almost one week since I arrived at the summer house in Finland. The routine kicked in fast. The wake-up between 9 and 11 o’clock, porridge with berries while watching the lake view, walking the baby in the woods (she seems very impressed by the surrounding tall pines and spruces), cooking lunch, cutting wood, observing birds, arranging the boat garage, heating up the sauna and preparing dinner (often Grilled vendace: a typical Finnish meal after sauna).

I usually go to sauna around 9 o’clock in the evening, after putting my daughter to sleep, and return to the kitchen to cook while my parents have their turn at the sauna. The weather hasn’t been warm enough for drinking rosé wine at terrace but we have enjoyed red wine from Luberon and biodynamic red from Languedoc-Roussillon (Domaine Cazes, Cuvée Marie Gabrielle 2011). Life is sweet here and will only get sweeter when my husband arrives some time next time.

No need to look further for peace and calm. Finnish lake scenery at its best.

No need to look further for peace and calm. Finnish lake scenery at its best.

It is 7 o’clock in the evening as I am typing this. Time to cut wood and heat up the sauna!

PS I will be here for several weeks, so stay tuned for more stories about the life at the Finnish summer house!

Lastly, Pearlspotting is on Facebook and on Instagram. If you prefer Twitter, you can find me here @Miia_Niskanen

See you soon!

Wine Exhibition of Independent Winegrowers is back!

Is your wine cellar empty? Good, because the Wine Exhibition of Independent Winegrowers returns to Paris this weekend! More than 1000 winemakers from all over France will present their products, often organic and biodynamic, and always of high quality. It is a dream event of all wine lovers and not to be missed! wines of FranceAs previously, I have an extra ticket and happy to send it to someone interested in participating the exhibition between March 28-31. It is for two people and includes complimentary wine tasting glasses.

The rules are the same: like Pearlspotting on Facebook, or if you prefer, become my blog’s follower by inserting your email address into the box available on the front page of my blog (https://pearlspotting.wordpress.com). Please write a comment or a brief story about your most memorable wine experience. Do not forget to mention the name of the wine the story involves (if you remember). Can be from anywhere in the world.

At midnight Wednesday (Paris time) I will pick up the winner (call it Internet lottery) and contact this person. Next day I will send the ticket to the address of the winner.

I am looking forward to your wine stories, and meanwhile, my previous posts about this wine exhibition are to be read here: Wine tasting at Salon des Vins des Vignerons Indépendants and Maison Lorgeril from Languedoc-Roussillon.

EXHIBITION WEBSITE: http://www.france-independent-winegrowers.com/index2.php

What is a whelk?

A whelk looks strange. It is slimy. It smells like sea and mud. Some call it ugly. Just look at this photo!a whelk

But a whelk is also delicious! Especially with homemade mayonnaise! Moreover, it is rich in protein: around 20g of protein per 100g, which is more than what lamb contains. Would you have believed? In addition, a whelk is rich in vitamin B12, copper and zinc, making whelks more than ten times richer in B12 than beef. Impressive how good these slimy creatures are for us!

You can buy raw whelks and boil them for a few minutes with salt and black pepper, but supermarkets in France sell them ready-cooked. This is what we did yesterday: we purchased shrimps and whelks and ate them with mayonnaise. Afterwards we had a cheese platter with salas. Such a perfect dinner. Easy (no cooking needed), affordable, tasty, healthy. And as a bonus, gluten free. shrimps and whelks for dinner

If you are interested in whelks, maybe you would like to read this article by the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/dining/whelks-are-coming-out-of-their-shell-and-onto-your-plate.html (December 2012). Apparently the whelk has surfaced on cutting-edge menus in the US, and chefs are creating some very interesting-sounding dishes of them. Why not to try when you next time see them on the menu?

Tip number 1: The only thing you really need to be aware of when eating whelks is that little tiny “lid”. It is the thin top part of the whelk, and should be removed by your fingers and thrown away.

Tip number 2: You need special equipment to eat whelks with. A normal fork won’t do it. Tiny forks or pins are the only efficient ways to pull the whelk from its shell, believe me.

PS Have you already tasted a whelk? What was your impression? How was it prepared and eaten? Did you have red or white wine with it? We had biodynamic red (Côtes du Roussillon, Marie Gabrielle Cazes, Languedoc), creating a nice match.

If you haven’t yet tasted the whelks, do you think you will one day?




Shan Goût: not your usual Chinese restaurant

To celebrate the beginning of the Year of the Horse, we ate at Shan Goût yesterday. This small restaurant near the Marché d’Aligre is recommended by Le Fooding and since our criterion was to find something a bit upscale, the choice seemed perfect. We reserved one week in advance.Shan GoûtUpon arrival, we were given a table sort of in the middle of everyone: there was a group of guys a few centimeters to our left and a bigger group to our right. It felt like sitting in the middle of a corridor. And it surely did not seem fair that reserving one week ahead does not guarantee a nice table. 

Second negative-ish point. No champagne by glass. Ok, call me a snob but we are in Paris. And champagne belongs to the new year…


One has to order a fix menu, and we opted for two starters and two main courses (22€ per person plus 3€ extra per person because of the dishes we chose).

We begun with steamed cabbage with crab meat and a taro soup. Cabbage had a refined taste but did not compare to the taro soup, which was divine and velvety. taro soupeShan Goût

For the main course we opted for a duck leg served with lentils and greens. It did not taste particularly Asian, and came in a gelatin-like sauce. It was not bad, not at all, but it was not at all what we expected either. Very fusion, to say the least.Shan GoûtThe second main course we shared was sea bass. It reminded us of tastes of Laos, Malaysia…. and it was fantastic!!! Shan Goût


We had a carafe of red wine from the Avignon region but my husband liked less than I did. Otherwise, the wine list seemed interesting: for example, Maison Casez from Languedoc-Roussillon makes excellent natural and even biodynamic wine, and would be our next choice should we return to Shan Goût.

This said, yes, I am still puzzled as to what to think. 50% of what we ate was delicious, but the other half left us a bit empty. There was the issue with our table. The service was not particularly friendly. Not rude, but nothing too smiley either. Hmmm. The restaurant aims high: Shan Goût is considered high-end and the price proves it (almost 100€ for two), but I would suggest they work a bit more on the presentation and the service.

Will I return –probably yes because I don’t like having puzzled feelings about something!

Le Fooding review: http://lefooding.com/fr/restaurants/restaurant-shan-gout-paris

Wine: http://www.cazes-rivesaltes.com/vente-vins-de-rivesaltes-muscat-rivesaltes-rivesaltes/?page=shop_home

Maison Lorgeril from Languedoc-Roussillon

Le salon des vins des Vignerons Indépendants (Wine Exhibition of Independent Winemakers) begun in Paris on Thursday. All wine lovers, don’t you just love this photo? Wines from eleven regions of France, and all you have to do is choose where to start! Les salons des vins des Vignerons Indépendants

Our time was quite limited, but oh so rewarding! We were particularly interested in producers coming from Languedoc-Roussillon because of our recent trip in the region. As you may know, Languedoc-Roussillon is the world’s largest wine-growing area, possessing very interesting geographical and climate conditions: it is between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, surrounded by the mountains, and its burning sun is cooled down by strong winds. The grapes often grow in the altitude.  Maison Lorgeril depuis 1620

We found Maison Lorgeril and had an informative, pleasant talk about their wine making.  We learned that the owners, count and countess de Lorgeril live in Château de Pennautier, which has been owned by the same family since 1620. The castle is located near Carcassonne in Languedoc-Roussillon; the region between Rhône and Pyrénées in the southern part of France. The castle is considered the heart of their wine production, and its wines include AOC Cabardès, Vins de Pays d’Oc and Vins de Pays de la Cité de Carcassone. In addition, Maison Lorgeril has five other estates where grapes are grown, totaling in nine different AOC.Lorgeril carte vignoble After tasting two whites, three reds and a white dessert wine, we left the stand  with a heavy bag full of wines we will serve at Christmas… nice! We love buying directly from producers, and especially from those ones who have the kindness to share their knowledge and wine-making stories!

Maison Lorgeril: http://www.lorgeril.com/ (the map was copied from this website)

Le salon des vins des Vignerons Indépendants: http://www.vigneron-independant.com/ (until Monday) and Wine tasting at Salon des Vins des Vignerons Indépendants

Wine Fair ticket to give away!

It is the return of Le salon des vins des Vignerons Indépendants in Paris next weekend. The wine fair begins on Thursday morning and ends on Sunday evening. Independent winemakers from all over France gather together to present their products and the buyers happily stroll from one stand to another. A fantastic, joyful wine event not to be missed I say!!champagneI will be going to the event most probably on Thursday evening, but I have an extra ticket to give away. As I have no idea how many of you would be interested in acquiring the ticket, I suggest the following:

  • Like Pearlspotting on Facebook and write on the wall what your favorite wine (French or foreign) is
  • Respond before the midnight on Monday (Paris time)
  • If I only one person responds, this person will naturally have the ticket
  • Should there be several interested ones, I will organize a raffle on internet
  • When the winner is identified, I will announce his/her name on Facebook and send the ticket to the winner (in France or abroad, does not matter!)

Sounds fair? I hope so!

PS The ticket is for two people and valid any day during the wine fair.

To read more about this wine fair, see Wine tasting at Salon des Vins des Vignerons Indépendants or http://www.vigneron-independant.com/auxsalons/

L’Etoile: restaurant that makes you feel and look good!

How do you recognize an excellent restaurant? From the fact that when you wake up the next morning, you have slept like a baby, and you feel and look as if you have just spent one week in a retreat. Without exaggeration, this is how I felt this morning after a very pleasant dinner at L’Etoile (former L’Etoile Rouge).L'Etoile, ParisWe were welcomed by la patronne, who offered us two glasses of rosé wine  because our table outside was not yet ready –a lovely, rare gesture in Paris, but most of all, the wine was not just any wine. It was excellent Pic Saint Loup from Languedoc. Menu, L'Etoile in ParisWe ordered two starters: a millefeuille of tomatoes & mozzarella, and a squid salad. Both were divine. IMG_5200 IMG_5202Based on the restaurant’s recommendation, we ordered a bottle of Le Côte de Provence Rosé Locus Ameno. Delicious.

For the main course I had grilled cod and my husband had rabbit. My cod had a lovely, very intense lemon taste and the rabbit came with a sauce that reminded us very much about mixes you find in the Indian cuisine. It had been a long time since I had such an intriguing culinary experience!  IMG_5206 IMG_5205I believe that the photos above speak for themselves. The presentation was artistic and beautiful, as you can see.

In the end we shared a dessert. I loved it, even if usually I am not a big dessert fan in France (my husband likes those heavy French-style cakes etc.). This blueberry mousse was great because it was light, reminding me of Finnish desserts. In fact, upon completing cooking classes, this is something my Dad made for us every single Sunday for quite a while!  blueberry mousseDuring our dinner, la patronne came to speak to us a few times, and she seemed to know many of the customers. In the end we even had a good talk with the chef, who came to our table. We learned he trained with a very famous Michelin-starred chef Joël Robuchon and in addition, he explained how important it is that the cooking follows the principle of four basic tastes: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness (he shared some of his tricks on how to make winter tomatoes taste better…..).

In overall, the restaurant L’Etoile merits nearly ten points and we are sure to bring food lovers visiting Paris to this interesting pearl that I believe has a lot of future. Keep watching the name I say. They are already on lefooding.com, but I would not be surprised if more recognitions were on their way….

L’étoile:  75 rue Crozatier 75012 Paris . 01 53 17 02 44

Le Fooding article: http://www.lefooding.com/restaurant/restaurant-l-etoile-rouge-paris.html

Wine tasting at Salon des Vins des Vignerons Indépendants

Vignerons Indépendants (http://www.vigneron-independant.com/) is a network of independent winemakers who are present in France through eleven regional federations. Their aim is to produce authentic wine with personality and the process that brings the winemakers to this result is protected by a Charter of thirteen principles. To show a potential consumer that this is serious business that gives a guarantee of quality, the network puts its logo on each bottle they produce. Vignerons Indépendants logoFor example, we buy wine in Paris at our caviste who is specialized in the wines of independent winemakers, but if we need to buy wine elsewhere, we try to look for bottles with this logo as it most probably increases our satisfaction level (and contributes to the sustainable development of viticulture).

We had been offered complimentary tickets to visit Le Salon des Vignerons Indépendants (http://www.vigneron-independant.com/auxsalons/), so there was no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than head to the Northwestern part of Paris, Porte de Champerret. As soon as we walked in, I was reminded of how fun it is to talk with people who truly love what they do. Moreover, I think working so closely together with the nature, whether animals or plants, gives a person some perspective and makes him often humble…. Of course, amongst 1,000 winemakers present in the Salon, we also met those who did not bother presenting their products, but in general we met lovely and friendly wine producers. In fact, if you read the Charter, you see that an independent winemaker should respect his customers and be someone who “is happy to welcome you, to give you advice about wine tasting and introduce you his production“.Domaine Les Luquettes, BandolIf you stopped reading after “1,000 winemakers” and are now worrying about how to navigate through so many producers from eleven different regions, do not worry. It can be overwhelming but the best thing you can do is to remember enjoy it. There is (almost) nothing worse than a wine snob who doesn’t know much but pretends to know it all! Our idea was to choose approximately ten stands, and maintain a healthy balance of visiting wine producers we really like (that we want to buy from) and visiting new ones (trying to learn more). I am hereby presenting three winemakers whose wine we tasted, liked and bought, but I know there are many other excellent wines out there!Vignobles Mousset-Barrot, Châteauneuf-du-Pape1. Vignobles Mousset-Barrot, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (AOC) & Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages (AOC)

Vignobles Mousset-Barrot (http://www.vmb.fr/) is a family business that has vines growing around three château in the southern Rhone Valley of France. Grapes that grow near Château des Fines Roches and Château Jas de Bressy make red and white wine and fall under the appellation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC. Château du Bois de la Garde produces all three colors but in terms of the appellation we are no longer longer talking about Châteauneuf-du-pape but Vin de pays de Méditerranée, Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages.Vignobles Mousset-BarrotA common factor between all of these wines is that they grow around Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which is not only a world-famous appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) but also a small town near Avignon. Its history is intertwined with the Popes: in the 14th century the Popes temporarily lived in Avignon and were big supporters of the wine produced in the region.

We were particularly interested in AOC Châteauneuf-du-pape Château des Fines Roches, because a few summers ago we had a superb lunch at this château (www. chateaufinesroches.com) that overlooks the vineyards.Chateau ddes Fines RochesAfter a pleasant tasting of several reds, we ended up buying a 16.50€ bottle of red from 2010 (http://www.vmb.fr/sites/default/files/FR_roug.pdf) that goes perfectly with saucy game meat, like wild boar or rabbit stew. The next time we are in the region, we will definitely try to stop at Château Jas de Bressy, where the Vignobles Mousset-Barrot wines are stored and sold (http://vmb.fr/en/access-map).

2. Domaine Les Luquettes, Bandol (AOC) & Vin de Pays du Mont Caume (VDP)

From Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Rhone Valley we moved towards the French Mediterranean and a seaside town called Bandol. We know the region quite well, and many long lunches, and even longer dinners have been enjoyed in that region and in the company of une bouteille de rosé. Moreover, a few years ago we were invited to a wedding in a private island (owned by Paul Ricard) called l’Île de Bendor (www.bendor.com), ovelooking Bandol.  Domaine Les Luquettes, BandolSo when Elisabeth Lafourcade, the owner-manager (propriétaire récoltante) of Domaine Les Luquettes (http://www.les-luquettes.com) smiled at us as we were walking by, we didn’t hesitate to stop at her stand. Before we realized, we were tasting their different wines while listening to a crash course to wine history of the region. We learned that in 600 BC Ionian Greeks from Phocaea planted the first vines in the region. When Romans arrived less than 400 years later, they found vineyards doing very well; so well that the wine was ready to be exported, and this is exactly what the Romans started doing. Originally Bandol was famous for its red, and the rosé came later. Because of its history, geographical location and centuries-old tradition, the Bandol wine has become so special that it was one of the first wines to receive its own appellation (AOC Bandol) in 1941 (http://www.vinsdebandol.com/aoc/decret-du-11-novembre-1941/?lang=en).Domaine Les Luquettes, BandolWine-making history at Domaine Les Luquettes goes back generations; their cellar was built in 1852. Today their two primary appellations are Bandol (AOC) and Mont-Caume (VDP). In 1997 the first bottles of Domaine Les Luquettes were released and today they are exported to Canada and the UK.

Optimists as we are, we decided that the sun will soon start shining in Paris and we can start enjoying our new balcony, so we bought two (rosé) bottles of Vin de Pays du Mont Caume for 6€ per bottle. Now the only thing missing is the temperature to reach at least 15C (and preferably 20C…)!

3. Clos des Augustins, Languedoc Pic Saint Loup (AOC) & Vin de Pays du Val Montferrand (VDP)

At Clos des Augustins (http://www.closdesaugustins.com), located some 20km North of Montpellier, the vines are grown according to organic methods; “reasonable culture” (culture « raisonnable ») as the owners call it. In 2004 they decided to go even further to show their commitment and respect of nature: biodynamic viticulture was introduced.Clos des Augustins, Pic Saint LoupBut what does biodynamic viticulture mean? The father of the biodynamic agriculture is an Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner who suggested that the nature should be seen from a spiritual and philosophical perspective as well. In my own simplistic words, I say that he wanted us to see the nature beyond green leaves and black soil –to realize that there are forces beyond our knowledge and no matter how much medicine we give to a sick plant, it won’t work unless we do it in respect of these spiritual forces living in the nature.

How does this then translate into a wine producer’s daily life? Well, he needs to practice his profession according to the lunar calendar and the alignment of planets. For example, only certain days are good for bottling wine. This may all sound a bit weird especially in the beginning, but biodynamic wines have indeed proven skeptics wrong by doing really well in blind tastings! (useful information can be found here:

http://www.boissetfamilyestates.com/press/FortuneBiodynamics.pdf)wineThe owner, Roger Mezy, offered us to taste all three colors produced by Clos des Augustins. In terms of the appellation, we were now talking about Pic Saint Loup (AOC), Val de Montferrand (VDP) and Coteaux du Languedoc (AOC). Our bags were already very heavy but white wine was something we had not yet bought, so we purchased two bottles of “vin de copains” (something to be drunk with friends): Les Bambins Clos des Augustins, Vin de Pays du Val de Montferrand (2011). We paid 8.50€ per bottle and the bottles are in the fridge waiting for maybe a fish dish, or simply for friends to come over!

PS If you are interested in wine and are planning to come to Paris in the autumn or spring time, try to coincide your visit with one of the wine salons. It really is a lot of fun and provides an excellent way to learn more.  And if you are just driving around France, do not be afraid to stop to buy wine directly from the producers. It is best to call in advance,  but no one says you cannot stop by and ask if this is a good time to visit. Lastly, if you are interested in individual making of things, do not forget to do a little bit of research in order to find the logo of Vignerons Indépendants in the bottles you buy!