Tag Archives: Languedoc-Roussillon

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!

Les Nautes: newcomer by the Seine

Les Nautes is one of the latest additions to the Parisian restaurant scene. Located right by the Seine and in front of the Île Saint-Louis, this old customs house has an industrial feel to it. I loved its unusual entrance. Once inside, I admired beautiful wooden tables, 13 pendant Alvar Aalto lamps (golden, like we have at home!) and art pieces (sculpture and paintings) by young artists. Bravo for the original decoration! Les NautesRecommended by Le Fooding, our food bible to eating in Paris, Les Nautes had been on our list since its opening last October (the bar opened one year earlier). We live a five-minute walk away from the restaurant and believe it is important to support the neighborhood restaurants –that’s how the arrondissements of Paris stay vivant (alive)!

We had the corner table by the window and enjoyed watching touristic boats cruise along the Seine. Bread, butter and Poisson Rouge arrived, and we got to taste this curious, organic white wine from Lanquedoc-Roussillon that actually is red by color! It tasted fruity and had I closed my eyes, I probably wouldn’t have tasted its “color”. It was the most perfect pairing with oysters and our main courses: fish and meat. oysters at Les NautesFor starters, we shared six oysters from the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel, Britanny, and they were the best oysters I have eaten for a long time. In fact, as this oyster season (which started last September) has been very mild, I find that oysters have not been at their best this winter. And if you follow my blog, you may remember that I regularly eat these seafood delicacies…Les NautesFor the main course, my husband ate tuna and I had entrecôte. Both dishes were succulent, and the taste of the fish and meat proved that the restaurant goes out of its way to find only the best products. The only regret we had was that the side dishes for both of us was the same (rather ordinary-tasting courgettes with cream).

The bill came to 77€ for two, including a shared starter, two main courses and a bottle of wine (19€). Very reasonable for such great quality I consider, and we will definitely return!

PS: First of all, Les Nautes recently changed the chef, so I would not count too much on the older Tripadvisor reviews. Secondly, Les Nautes also has a bar by the river, and I bet it will be one of the hottest terraces in Paris this summer! Especially during the Paris Plage when the cars cannot circulate nearby.

Restaurant (http://www.lesnautes.com): 1 Quai des Célestins, 75004 Paris. Tel. 01-42745953. Metro: Sully Morland or Pont Marie

Le Fooding review: http://lefooding.com/en/restaurants/restaurant-les-nautes-paris

Wine: http://www.vins-bios.fr/domaine-de-clairac-coteaux-d-enserune-languedoc/471-poisson-rouge-2010-domaine-de-clairac-coteaux-d-enserune-.html

Lamps: Alvar Aalto bell lamps from 1937 find a new home in Paris

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?




What to drink with foie gras?

To pair food and wine is not always straightforward. Even if my principle is “pair it as you like, what you personally prefer”, there are some foods that are trickier than others and deserve more thinking. Foie gras is one of them.

We served foie gras yesterday with toasted pain d’épices (sweet, spicy bread) and coarse salt (sea salt). I had prepared a tomato-onion salad to go with.foie gras and wine

We enjoyed the foie gras with Loupiac (AOC), Château Martillac 2012, and considered it was a successful match (7.80€ the bottle).Loupiac 2012

However, one does have many choices apart from Loupiac, and below you have a list of my favorite foie gras & wine pairing options. I have tried to mention wines that are fairly easily available, too.

1. Champagne: the emperor of the drinks, goes with everything, anytime! If you don’t like sweet wines (the rest are sweet and white), then opt for champagne.

2. Sweet Jurançon: Located in the southwestern part of France, near the Pyrenees, this AOC is probably my favorite among sweet wines. In addition, it has an interesting history: “Jurançon wine occupies an auspicious place in French history. As the story goes, when the future King Henry IV was christened in 1553, his infant lips were touched with a drop of Jurançon wine, which was said to give him lifelong vigor. This practice is repeated to this day at many local christenings.” (http://www.winesofsouthwestfrance.com)

3. Sweet Côtes de Gascogne (IGP): Located in the same region as Jurançon, but a little bit more north, this is another excellent, slightly less-known wine-producing zone.

4. Sweet Monbazillac (AOC): 100 km east from Bordeaux, this is another excellent sweet wine.

5. Sweet Sauternes (AOC): very near Bordeaux, this is probably the most common sweet wine to go with foie gras.

The list is obviously not exhaustive and of course there are many other great wines like for example Le Rêve de Pennautier, “Vendanges d’Après” Vin de France by Maison Lorgeril from Languedoc-Roussillon that I enjoyed over Christmas. This said, what you serve with your foie gras?

PS A tip for the non-French: if you want sweet wine, look for the word vin moelleux in the bottle.

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

Franco-Finnish Christmas meal

Last year we spent Christmas in Paris with my parents who flew over from Finland. Traditional Finnish Christmas meal includes ham but I do not eat ham and my parents were curious to eat like the French, so this is what our Franco-Finnish Christmas meal looked like and consisted of:

1. Champagne for apéritif! My father was responsible for opening the bottle and my mother was ready with her glass (Finnish design, naturally). champagne for aperitif

2. We begun with an Elegant amuse-bouche recipe for Christmas that included Russian caviar and scallops tarama:elegant amuse-bouche

3. And continued with oysters from Cancale  (oysters are an integral part of French Christmas): oysters from Cancale

4. From oysters we moved onto foie gras (another integral part of French Christmas!): foie gras at ChristmasUntil now we had been drinking champagne but this is when we switched to sweet white wine by Maison Lorgeril from Languedoc-Roussillon: Le Rêve de Pennautier, “Vendanges d’Après” Vin de France (BLANC MOELLEUX). An excellent choice, a sublime wine!!

5. After the oysters we enjoyed some Finnish smoked salmon….smoked salmon from Finland

6. …before moving to our already very famous French Christmas meal: stuffed goose from Les Provincesstuffed gooseWe also opened another fantastic bottle of Maison Lorgeril from Languedoc-Roussillon: Mas des Montagnes, “Terroirs d’Altitude”,  AOC Côtes du Roussillon Villages. This extraordinary red went so well with the goose that we could only say “wow”. And continue eating.

7. After the goose it was finally time to dig into cheese and there is no better time to eat Mont d’Or than Christmas: mont d'or cheese(Unfortunately the wine (red Irancy) was not the most perfect choice to go with the cheese; especially after the previous wine)

8. If you now think we could not eat any more, you are wrong… For dessert, we had marron glacé and calissons: Marron glacé

with some chocolate and vin chaudChristmas chocolate and vin chaud

Our Christmas was merry and delicious, and I hope yours was too!

If you want to know more about our cooking ingredients etc., have a look at this post too: Christmas meal essentials!

And to learn more about the wines, please go here:

PS If you liked this post, you may want to check out Pearlspotting’s Facebook page! Especially since I am flying to Venice tonight and will be updating from there too.

French Christmas meal: stuffed goose from Les Provinces

Traditional Finnish Christmas meal includes an oven-cooked ham but my parents happily followed French traditions while in Paris. Good for me, as I do not eat pork! Les Provinces

One week before Christmas we visited the boucherie-restaurant Les Provinces near Marché d’Aligre to see what our options for the Christmas meal are. The most typical French Christmas meat (poultry) is capon, a castrated rooster, but the butcher suggested we buy goose. After discussing the choice between the capon and the goose with everyone, we agreed that we prefer goose. Price-wise there was no difference and we had a feeling that the goose will be more original –the goose meat is more reddish brown (similar to duck or duckling) whereas the capon remains white as chicken (but is more fatty). So, “Prepare us a nice big goose with stuffing” we told the butcher and left a 10€ prepayment!Les Provinces

In the afternoon of the Christmas Eve we returned to fetch our stuffed goose and in the late morning of the Christmas Day we opened the package to find a beautiful, fat goose from Anjou with some organs aside for those who appreciate them.stuffed goose from Anjou

We followed the roasting instructions: higher temperature in the beginning that gives the goose golden color and crispy texture, and lower temperature during the rest of the time with the aluminium foil. We added a glass of water in the casserole and kept moistening the goose with this water (some fat drained from the goose and mixed with the water). 2 1/2 hours later our goose left the oven and was ready to be cut. Such a beautiful piece of goose it was! roasted goose

Everyone loved the goose and it will surely find its way to our Christmas table again in future! We enjoyed it with sweetened potato casserole, a Finnish dish, but you could also serve roasted carrots and potatoes or other vegetable with it. The red wine we had was Mas des Montagnes, “Terroirs d’Altitude” AOC Côtes du Roussillon Villages, and it was really excellent!!

The stuffing our goose had included veal, poultry liver, onion, alcohol, herbs and spices, and no pork, but remember that nothing prevents you from creating your own stuffing…

Boucherie-restaurant Les Provinces: Easy Saturday dinner from the Aligre Market

Wine: Maison Lorgeril from Languedoc-Roussillon and http://www.lorgeril.com/2-35542-Terroir-d-Altitude.php

PS As a bonus, here you go with a photo of the organs we prepared some days after Christmas. We recognized liver and gizzard but were not sure about the rest. Do you have an idea? goose organs

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

What to expect to eat in Roussillon?

Earlier this month I was in the region called Languedoc-Roussillon and specifically in the southern part of it, Roussillon. This area of France is truly interesting food-wise: it is very Mediterranean but the mountains lurk in the horizon, it borders Spain and it is considered part of Catalonia. It has a strong culture of jambon, sausages, different types of seafood, snails, rabbit, cod, anchovies and tapas plates etc., and one should not forget the local wine and cheese making!

Roussillon wine

This blog post is about sharing my culinary experiences during the recent five-day trip in Roussillon, and to show you what to expect to see and taste both at restaurants and at markets. Enjoy!

Beautiful garlic! After all, it is the Mediterranean!
garlic in Collioure

Cheese! (mixture of cow and sheep):
cow-sheep cheese

Roquefort-flavored sausage:
soubressade and local sausages

Sea urchins! Salvador Dali liked them… do you?
sea urchin

Catalan snails in tomato-jambon sauce:catalan snails

Warm goat cheese salad: warm goat cheese salad

Mussels with aïoli and grilled cuttlefish:
mussels with aïoli

Mushroom with Balearic spicy sausage called soubressade on a toast:Sobrassada

Duck legs: duck legs

Beefsteak: a beefsteak

Razor shells (my all-time favorite!!): razor shells

“Small tapas assortment”: tapas assortment

My only regret is that we did not have a chance to taste the local oysters, but one always needs to keep a reason to return!

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Collioure: the pearl of the coastal Roussillon

Collioure is one of those Mediterranean towns that every artist seems to have loved. Matisse, Picasso, Derain, Dufy, Chagall, Braque –you name it– have all immortalized this cute seaside town in the south of France. We spent one night in Collioure, and even if the weather has turned cooler and greyer, we could see and feel the charm of the old town and the historic harbor area.

CollioureI could only wonder how old these plane trees are! It looks like many artists have leaned on them… …imagine the storied they could tell us!

We also witnessed one brave man having a swim in the sea. But after all, who would not be tempted in such beautiful surroundings?Collioure

Collioure has a rich past. Throughout its history, the Spanish have had their fair share of Collioure occupation, and once upon a time Collioure was a summer residence of the King of Majorca! It has been part of France only since 1642.

There is an impressive fort built by Vauban, the military architect of Louis IV, which reminds us of the old battles and the strategic location of Collioure.Vauban fort


If you are traveling in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, make sure to stop here for a day or two. Even during winter season (like last weekend) the life goes on and the tapas scene is quite active. In addition, there are delicious anchovy shops and a dozen of art galleries. And there is the wine route that passes by Collioure –after all, Collioure has its own appellation (appellation d’origine contrôlée, AOC). No wonder all of those artists loved it here!