Tag Archives: Greece

Easy Tzatziki Fish

The main staple at the Finnish summer house is fish. Fish, and more fish. Pike, pike perch, white fish, trout, burbot, etc. There is probably as much of variety as there are ways of fishing!

At our summer house the nets are always in the lake. Depending on the weather we catch a lot or nothing. At the moment we have five nets in the water, all together 300 meters. This is quite a lot and requires visiting the nets twice a day. However, because of the unusually hot weather the catch has not been amazing, but nonetheless enough to feed us every day.oven-baked white fishYesterday I invented a new recipe, which is as simple as it gets, and really delicious at the same time. I used white fish (siika in Finnish) but you can use any other type of fish. Here you go:

-Place a pre-salted fish fillet on the baking tray (one fillet per person)
-If the fish is fresh, no oil is needed, but if you doubt, sprinkle a little bit on each fillet
-Sprinkle either “lemon pepper” (sitruunapippuri in Finland) or alternatively black pepper and lemon juice on each fillet
-Sprinkle a table spoon of Cretan tzatziki seasoning mix on each fillet (a very think layer!)
-Bake about 15-20 minutes in 225Cwhite fish, green salad, grilled fennelTo be enjoyed with green salad and grilled vegetables. I prepared grilled fennel, which was super good, but the only limit is your imagination!!

PS Pearlspotting is finally on Instagram! I have been posting several photos every day, so do follow me there too!

Discover New Restaurants by Les Heures Heureuses

For the third consecutive year, the City of Paris organized Les Heures Heureuses in the end of May. This successful food event has become very popular and it is about new discoveries: to make Parisians break their usual habits by visiting new bars and restaurants.

And sure, there is a lot to discover! This year, more than 280 restaurants in different parts of Paris were selling small tapas at only 2€ and most places offered wine at 2€ per glass to go with. We participated only on Friday night (and missed Thursday and Saturday), and made some excellent new discoveries.

 les Heures Heureuses

Our first we stop was La Cave Mavrommatis, the famous Greek wine bar and shop. Our food tour started well with a complimentary, full-scale wine tasting of white, rosé and red from Domaine Kir Yanni from the northern part of Greece. The moment we tasted the mini pitta filled with Graviera cheese, our next holiday destination was chosen…

Tip: If you have not yet eaten at Mavrommatis (42 rue Daubenton), hurry up! One of the best pigeons I have ever eaten.

Les Nautes

Our second stop, Les Nautes, continued on the Mediterranean side: veal meatballs in tomato sauce. Yummy! And excellent rosé.

Tip: Looking for a terrace by the Seine this summer? Think of . During Paris Plages there won’t be any cars.

Allo Sushi

From the Seine we moved to the heart of Marais for marinated salmon with herbs and edamame. Allo Sushi was previously unknown to us and we made a decision to make it our new Japanese cantine.

Tip: Every morning a seven-kilo Scottish salmon is delivered to Allo Sushi… with Le Label Rouge guarantee of excellency!

Le Thé des Écrivains

Our fourth stop was a book shop with a cafe –again a place we did not know about. Le Thé des Écrivains served a delicious Thai cake made of tako flower and coconut milk, and we had a cup of tea with it. A delightful address worth returning to!

Tip: More than a book shop! Cultural activities every week. Check Le Thé des Ecrivains for program.

L'Embuscade

Energy level up, we walked from the Marais to the 11th arrondissement. Our fifth stop was L’Embuscade, a lively bar in the trendy Oberkampf area. We had homemade Berber couscous and enjoyed friendly service and lively atmosphere.

Tip: Free couscous every Friday!!

Pierre Sang

Next and last stop was in Oberkampf, too. Run by a Top-Chef finalist of the same name, Pierre-Sang has been making buzz in Paris since 2012. We had two cheese tartines that were served with some unidentifiable (but delicious!) sauce. Will return very soon.

Tip: No reservations, no telephone, so arrive at the opening (7 o’clock in the evening) and preferably a bit earlier!

***

It was my first time to take part in Les Heures Heureuses and I would not want to miss it next year! We made many new discoveries at the cost of 40€ for two wine included. Who would not be happy?

Les Heures Heureuses: http://lesheuresheureuses.paris.fr

Addresses we tried:

Mavrommatis (group of restaurants and shops): http://www.mavrommatis.com
Les Nautes: http://www.lesnautes.com
Allo Sushi: http://www.allosushi.com (ALLO SUSHI)
Le Thé des Écrivains: http://www.thedesecrivains.com
L’Embuscade: L’Embuscade
Pierre-Sang: http://pierresangboyer.com

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.
Amuse-bouche

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!

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: fournosdourou@hotmail.com / Tel. : 28250-91268

Exploring the Sfakia region

One morning in Hora Sfakion: one of a kind, a few drops of rain fell. We decided to postpone the day trip to Loutro by one day, and reached to our map to see what we could visit by car. Since we had arrived from Chania (in the north), and since we were planning to head toward Frangokastello (in the east) after Hora Sfakion, there was only one choice left: go west! road from Hora Sfakion to AnapoliThe curvy, steep road from Hora Sfakion to the west takes the curious traveller to the heart of the Sfakia region, home to three villages: Anapoli, Aradena and Agios Ioannis. Very few people still reside in this region, and there are definitely more sheep than human inhabitants. Sfakia regionThe first stop 12km away from Hora Sfakion is Anapoli, a former capital of the Sfakia region, and an important resistance center. There is a restaurant and a bakery, but nothing much else. After Anapoli, there is another 3km to reach Aradena. This is where the famous Vardinogiannis Bridge, used also for bungee jumping, is located. The gorge is 138 meters deep at this point. Vardinogiannis bridgeMost people make a u-turn at this point, but we wanted to see what is in the end of the road. After all, we were only 5km away from the last stop, Agios Ioannis. road to LivanianaThis is where they road gets very interesting. It almost seemed that we entered a micro-climate zone and a different world. The trees looked different, the clouds were all over us, and the weather suddenly got very cool (bring a sweater!). At several points we thought of turning back, because the clouds were so thick and we would have not seen a sheep should it have stood in front of our car! But we did reach Agios Ionnis in the end. According to the map there are four orthodox churches but we could only find one. We stopped to take some photos but did not stay long: I was convinced that if there are ghost in this world, they would appear to me here. That is how spooky the place is (at least under the weather conditions we had).Agios IoannisOn our way back, we decided to turn right toward Livaniana. We did a good twenty minutes by car toward this seaside village, but the road suddenly turned really bad and we did not want to risk getting a flat tire, so we turned around. road to LivanianaBefore returning to Hora Sfakion, there was one more place for us to visit: Sweetwater Beach. It is located a few kilometers before Hora Sfakion, and as you are approaching Hora Sfakion by car, you will see a small sign to it. We did like the others and parked the car by the roadside. After a medium-difficult (bring your running shoes and water!) walk of 25 minutes, we reached this secluded beach, which can only be visited by foot or boat. Sweetwater beachWe arrived toward the end of the afternoon, and saw some nudists and some other people putting together a tent. We swam for a while, before climbing back to our car by the same path. I would not recommend the path to you if you are traveling with children or elderly people. Althought I like exercising and think it is important always “to walk instead take a lift”, I do think the path can be quite dangerous. If you hesitate, visit Sweetwater by one of the taxi boats! This last photo gives you an idea of the path…path to Sweetwater beach

Discover South West Crete by boat

The southwestern coast of Crete from Paleochora to Hora Sfakion is famous for its stunning nature, distinctive culture and strong history. It is one of the most remote regions in the island, located behind rough mountains, and many of its beautiful pearls are only revealed to those who take the effort to reach them by boat or by foot.South West Coast of CreteDuring our two trips to Crete this year, we visited all of the ferry line stops except Sougia and the Gavdos island.

1. Paleochora is the largest of these ferry stops, and a very good base for exploring the famous southwestern corner of Crete. One-day trips are organized from Paleochora to visit the famous “pink beach” Elafonisi. We visited Paleochora last May but because the high season had not yet started, the ferries were smaller and not capable of accepting cars (check this if you are traveling by car!). However, despite this small disappointment, we spent four lovely days in Paleochora and stayed at Hotel On The Rocks (http://www.hotelontherocks.gr). Paleochora

2. Sougia is a laid-back, small village that lived its golden years during the Romans and the Byzantines. It is 40 minutes away from Paleochora by ferry. We did not visit Sougia, but the photos look appealing. For more info, visit http://www.sougia.info.

3. Agia Roumeli is 1h30minutes away from Palechora and one hour from Hora Sfakion. It is the “official” main base for exploring Europe’s longest gorge, the Samaria Gorge. We did a day trip to Agia Roumeli from Hora Sfakion, and enjoyed beach time. If you are not using the opportunity to explore the gorge (you definitely need running/hiking shoes), then there is nothing much else to do except watch colorful fish to swim by your feet. Agia Roumeli

4. Loutro is a tiny, delightful village only accessible by boat or foot. The fact that there are no cars makes it very charming. I fell in love with Loutro and could spend one week there. In a way it is this picture-perfect Greek village that you have always dreamed about. LoutroThere is a nice beach right in the center and the water is very clear. It seems that every single house on the waterfront is a hotel or a bed and breakfast, and the restaurants are multiple, too. Since Loutro is not easily reachable,  I would recommend reserving accommodation at least for the first night. LoutroWe only made a day trip to Loutro (15 minutes from Hora Sfakion) but if I ever return to Crete, Loutro will be on my must-do list!! I would bring a pile of books with me, and when I get tired of reading, I would rent a boat for a day (I saw ads for 60€ per day) and catch octopus. Talking about relaxation…

5. Hora Sfakion is the easternmost stop on the ferry line. It is the capital of the Sfakia region, which is the only region of Crete that was not taken over by the Arabs, Turks or Venetians. Thanks to its rebellious nature, Hora Sfakion has remained very authentic (read my previous article Hora Sfakion: one of a kind).  Hora SfakionToday, this charming little village provides tourists with a variety of activities. One can rent a boat, hike all the way to Loutro or Agia Roumeli (and return by ferry) or visit the nearby mountain villages. Or simply talk to locals who are very friendly and happy to share stories about their daily life. Southern Crete by ferryWe stayed four nights at Xenia Hotel –the only hotel in town– but there are several bed and breakfast places. To taste famous Sfakian dishes, you have a choice of several restaurant on the waterfront, or Three Brothers with an impressive view on the Libyan Sea.Three Brothers Visiting this part of Crete by ferry should be on everyone’s must-do list, regardless of one’s age group or interests, I reckon. Most of the tourists you will meet are those hiking in the gorges, and the places I mentioned above are quiet and authentic. As you already know, my favorite is Loutro, but I enjoyed every single village we visited on the ferry line. If I intrigued your curiosity, visit this wonderful website called http://www.sfakia-crete.com/sfakia-crete/ferries.html#B for more information (it is also where the map in the beginning of this article comes from).

PS Are you already following Pearlspotting‘s Facebook page?

Hora Sfakion: one of a kind

The town where I was born played an important role in Finnish independence battle, so rebellious places around the world in general intrigue my curiosity. Since I first heard about Hora Sfakion, it has been on my must-do list.

Hora Sfakion is the capital of the Sfakia region, located behind the Lefka Ori mountains in the southwestern part of Crete. It has been an important resistance center against the Turks and the Venetians, thus the heart of the Cretan independence. Lonely Planet Crete (2012) writes “the more bullet holes you see in the passing road signs, the closer you are to Hora Sfakion, long renowned in Cretan history for its rebellious streak against foreigners.”road to Hora SfakionEven if very little remains of the rebellious days, Hora Sfakion has its own personality that is very much alive particularly in local kitchen. For example, everyone visiting Crete and especially the western part will hear about the Sfakian pie and other treats. The village’s remote location has indeed allowed it to maintain its distinctive culinary culture that is now famous all over the island. Hora SfakionToday this village of some 300 inhabitants is calm and picturesque. The time has stopped, it seems, and locals mainly live from tourists who use Hora Sfakion as a base for hiking trips in the nearby gorges.Hora SfakionWe stayed four nights in Hora Sfakion and tried to scratch below the surface to understand what being a Sfakian means today. Along our stay we met many lovely people who seemed proud and slightly reserved, and who never hesitated to smile. Xenia Hotel’s manager George was one of these true Sfakians we met, and willing to share some of his stories.

George described Sfakians as “friendly and sensitive” but continued “do not make enemies here”. When I directed the discussion toward famous vendettas, asking if they still exist, he smiled and responded “no”, but continued laughingly “you never know.”George, manager of Xenia HotelWe then talked about the World War II and how difficult the life had been in this mountainous region immediately after the war. People had guns and traumatizing war memories, but no food. Before I realized, I was listening to a fascinating story of a group of Sfakians walking all the way to the Preveli Monastery, located 50 km to the east from Hora Sfakion. The Sfakians had come to the point where they were starving to death and something needed to be done. They knew that this important, rich monastery possesses over 2000 sheep, so off they went to steal some of them. The story goes that during several “missions” over 300 sheep were brought to Hora Sfakion to fill hungry stomachs. Apparently the monastery, regardless of its suspicion toward these rebellious people, remained powerless, because no authority would be able to confront the Sfakions. sheep stealing from Preveli MonasteryNowadays, the life in Hora Sfakion is much more secure and comfortable, but the Sfakians have kept their playful and rebellious mind. The last story that George shared included once again sheep. George himself owns sheep but does not keep counting them on a regular basis. Once it happened that he was invited to a delicious lamb dinner by some local Sfakians. The evening was delightful, and everyone happy. A week later George met the hosts, who finally revealed the origin of the lamb dish by asking if he had appreciated the way they had prepared the lamb, emphasizing the words “your lamb”… I asked George if he got upset, and he responded truthfully “we spent a wonderful evening together and the dinner was delicious, so who cares about one sheep. If you asked me, I would give you one”!

So, if you are searching for an original holiday destination, think about Hora Sfakion. We are surely going to return there one day, and I am sure that the stories will get more fascinating the better we learn to know the famous Sfakian people…