Tag Archives: wine

Ca’ San Sebastiano wine resort and spa: where gourmet and luxury meet agriturismo

When planning the second part of our summer holidays, we looked at the map and asked ourselves what options we have besides taking the usual “Autoroute du Soleil” from Paris to the south of France. We have taken that highway dozens of times, and yet there obviously are a lot of sightseeing along the route, we wanted something new. We had four nights to spend somewhere before our arrival in the French Riviera.

Upon a friend’s suggestion we decided to make a small detour and cross the Alps to the Italian side and head toward Piedmont, home to the Slow Food movement, Eataly, truffles and Unesco World Heritage sites.

I had made some inquiries about what to see in Piedmont and everyone had told us to head “south-east of Turin” because this is where the famous wine-producing area called Langhe is. It almost seemed as if outside Turin and Langhe there wasn’t a lot to see… However, we had found on Internet a very charming small boutique-like hotel in the north of Langhe and wanted to stop there. And what a pearl we found!! Our first stop in Piedmont, Italy was Ca’ San Sebastiano, a fantastic wine resort and spa. Look at these photos and the colours –no Phohoshop needed! IMG_7802.JPG

IMG_7803.JPGWe fell in love with the style, described as “…an almost Provencal style with the addition of some charming details and authentic objects, mainly found in the various Italian and French ‘brocante’ and antique markets” in the hotel’s website.IMG_7783

At arrival we were taken to our room, the Lavanda Apartment. When we had called, we  had just made a general booking for two adults and a four-year old without asking too many questions, so what we walked into was better than we could have expected. The apartment had a big bedroom with a fireplace and an even larger living room with an equipped kitchen, a sofa bed and a balcony facing the garden.

The pool area where we spent the rest of the day was overlooking the hills, wineyards and Medieval churches. It was serene and pleasant. There were mainly Italian tourists, a nice mixture of couples of all ages and families. IMG_7815For dinner the hotel had suggested a buffet table that we had prior to the arrival been hesitant about (mainly because of the price, 25€/person), but it was so worth it. It was straight from an Italian movie featuring romantic life in the countryside: fresh homecooking dishes with tons of delicious vegetables, pasta of course, fresh herbs, dark red wine from the local grapes… Our daughter, a big fan of grissini, spinach and olives, was in heaven.IMG_7773The next morning we had a breakfast (a combination of homemade cakes and cookies, jams, cold cuts and cheese etc.), purchased some wine to take home, said hi to the swimming pool, and hit the road. We did not try the spa and its famous vinotherapy and hay bath, and missed the wine tasting and cellar visits, but we will definitetely be back. Maybe we will rent bikes and tour the nearby hills.

I think in future we would fly from Paris to Turin, visit some of those famous museum including the famous Egyptian Museum, rent a car and drive to Ca San Sebastiano, located only one hour from Turin by car.

This was our first-ever agriturismo* experience,  and we now regret not explorig the concept before but better late than never, right!

TIPS:

  • There are many differents kind of accommodation options: mainly rooms and apartments but there is also an other apartment called Orangerie located 8 km from the hotel that can host up to 5 people. I personally thought the booking options were not that simple to understand, so best to call the hotel directly and tell them what you need. And if the hotel is not full, visit different options like we always do! E.g. we saw a family with a baby on the ground floor and their apartment had a small terrace where the baby could play.
  • There are mosquitos in the evening -a lot of them!!- so be prepared.

CA’ SAN SEBASTIANO: Via Ombra 10 -12 Fraz. Castel San Pietro – 15020 Camino.

Phone: +39 0142 469595 Cell: + 39 339 5030545 info@casansebastiano.it

PRICE:  70€/room including breakfast (such a great deal, especially considering this was in early August!) and 25€/buffet dinner/adult (our four-year old didn’t pay). 

*Agriturismo: the word basically means “farm stay” but in practise the concept goes beyond that. Here is a great article to learn more about agriturismo: https://www.walksofitaly.com/blog/hotels/what-is-an-agriturismo

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.

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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: poultry

A typical French Christmas meal consists of either turkey, capon or goose –stuffed of course. These are the most common poultry to be served at Christmas, but other types exist too. Some of the more rare ones can only be found during the end of the year season.

As we have tasted all of the “common poultry” (see e.g. French Christmas meal: stuffed goose from Les Provinces), and wanted to discover something new, we headed to our favorite butcher Les Provinces (also a restaurant),  near Marché d’Aligre.

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Les Provinces near the hip Aligre market provides not only an amazing choice of poultry but also friendly service.

After a lengthy discussion, we opted for a a guineafowl capon from Chaumes, Bourgogne. Endemic to Africa, guineafowl is one of the oldest gallinaceous birds and leaner than chicken. Its meat has a gamey taste. How it compares to our other poultry experiences –to be seen!

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We chose guineafowl capon on the left to feed us Christmas Eve.

Have you experienced guineafowl capon, or other more exotic poultry? Suggestions, opinions, comments?

PS About wine pairing, see Christmas preparations: wine

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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I told you. Serious business.

Is your wine and food pairing as exhaustive this Christmas?

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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!

Le Zerda Cafe: the number one by Le Figaro

In the quest of finding the best couscous and tajine of Paris, we visited the restaurant listed as the number one in Le Figaro‘s Best Couscous of Paris list –Le Zerda Cafe.

Le Zerda Cafe is located in a lovely pedestrian street called rue René Boulanger in one of the nicest parts of the 10th arrondissement. When we had called in advance for the reservation the terrace was full, but upon arrival we got a table outside after a five-minute wait. The street was lively, the weather was hot, and the night was perfect for people watching and exploring a new restaurant.

Open the door and enter the world of North African food.

Open the door and enter the world of North African food.

We ordered “the usual”: couscous for my husband and tajine for me. I am not a big fan of semolina (made of wheat) so tajine with meat, vegetables, fruits and nuts suits me perfectly. (Note: Le Zerda Cafe, as many other North African restaurants, is happy to serve semolina also to those ordering tajine, so do not hesitate to ask for it!)

My husband’s Couscous Zerda arrived with fabulously fine semolina, hearty vegetable stew and a mix meat plate of lamb, beef, meat balls and merguez (spicy sausage). He thought that the merguez and meat balls were a bit tasteless, but he liked very much the lamb served on a brochette and grilled lamb.

My tajine included a lamb shank with pears, almonds, dried apricots and plums.  The dish had a balanced taste (not too sweet) and I also liked the fact that there were no potatoes added (commonly served with tajines). Unfortunately the lamb shank (souris d’agneau) was not the best piece of lamb I have eaten as it was rather greasy. I kept giving pieces of my lamb to my husband who in exchange made me taste his meats.

Is there anything better than the arrival of boiling hot tajine on the table?

Is there anything better than the arrival of boiling hot tajine on the table?

To wash all this food down we drunk Algerian red wine Chateau Beni Chougrane from the Mascara region, which was a lovely choice even on a hot summer evening. As I have mentioned before, most North African reds make me very tired. My theory is that these grapes have been absorbing a lot of African sun, making them a good remedy for falling asleep –the same effect spending an entire day under the sun can have on you!

We had a lovely evening, the service was friendly and the food very good, but somehow we had been expecting more. After all, we were visiting the number one couscous restaurant of Paris (according to Le Figaro), so we had all the reasons to expect something out of ordinary! Unfortunately I guess this is a common problem: when something is so highly praised, your expectations grow out of proportion. This is why listings are bad….

This said, I am sure we will return to Le Zerda Cafe. As one of the oldest Algerian restaurants in Paris, it is a real institution and its dining hall very picturesque. To me it looked like the most perfect place to warm the bones up during the long Parisian winter!

Le Zerda Cafe: 15, rue René Boulanger 75010 Paris. Tel. 01-42002515 or 06-28476381. Metro: Strasbourg – Saint-Denis.

Le Figaro list: http://www.lefigaro.fr/sortir-paris/2010/11/22/03013-20101122ARTFIG00674-le-test-des-meilleurs-couscous.php

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Previous posts about eating North African food in Paris are:

L’Alcôve: finest meat of Paris (also serves couscous and tajine, but the house specialty is grilled meat –delicious!)
Algerian restaurant l’Atlantide in Paris (excellent couscous and tajine –my top choice!)
L’Homme Bleu: Berber hospitality in the center of Paris (reputable couscous and tajine restaurant but I was disappointed during my last visit)
Le Tipaza: refined Moroccan food (a good address near the Eiffel Tower)

 

Most Influential Blogger Award

The cyber world, like the real world, is full of surprises. Last Sunday I received a message from SalvaVenia that he has nominated me for the Most Influential Blogger award. Wow, that was definitely a surprise, and a pleasant one! Thank you Salva!!

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I have not met Salva in a real world but we have had some very interesting discussions by WordPress. I think he started following me when I was writing the India series earlier this year. It seems he has enjoyed my writings about India, and I have enjoyed his comments, often very philosophical and knowledgeable. The topics of our discussions have varied from food (of course) to history, travels, religion, culture and life in general. I have no idea what he does for living, but I guess I could call him a contemporary thinker. He seems open-minded, wise, and someone who is capable of and willing to understand the world beyond the geographical borders and “universal truth”. Salva has given me a lot of food for though and I would be curious and honored to meet him one day.

So, thank you SalvaVenia again for all your fascinating comments that I believe have enriched my life, and for this award –appreciated!!

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Awards often come with responsibilities, and so does this one, too. The guidelines for acceptance the award are simple, and one of them is about nominating ten bloggers. I have been thinking about this all week long, and it has been a really difficult choice. I still consider myself rather new to the blog world, and I am sure there are many amazing blogs out there that I simply do know about (and many others who I follow but have not taken time to get to really know them). However, I have made choice reflecting some criteria (for example English language and regularity of writing) and this is what my list looks like (in alphabetical order):

1. to follow a fascinating life of a professional travel writer.
2. grapefriend for wine stories with a twist.
3. Hello, Fig for amazing collage artwork.
4. Married In Marrickville | The Russian, Italian & Greek Girl… for amazing recipes and oh-so-beautiful photos.
5. My French Heaven to make you fall in love with South West France.
6. Paris: People, Places and Bling! for shopping in Paris.
7. Restaurant and wine epicure for restaurant reviews in Helsinki.
8. The Flexi Foodie for healthy and yummy (vegetarian) recipes and well-being tips.
9. Traveller’s Tree to read about a Greek living in Finland.
10. Young Apron for restaurant reviews in Paris.

Now, if you are one of the aforementioned blogs, there are five basic rules that you should follow:

1. Display the Award on your Blog.
2. Announce your win with a blog post and thank the Blogger who awarded you. Do not lump this award with any other award in a “basket”, “bouquet” or “collection” etc., I would rather you didn’t accept the award.
3. Present 10 deserving Bloggers with the Award.
4. Link your awardees in the post and let them know of their being awarded with a comment (or a pingback).
5. Include an embedded video of your current favorite song (YouTube has almost everything, just copy and paste the link into your WordPress editor). If a video is not possible you can embed a SoundCloud track.

So, lastly, my music choice: Nu – MAN O TO (http://youtu.be/2M1xKXd4GVI). Enjoy the world of Rumi!