Les Jardins d’Etretat, Normandy

They says Monet used to paint from a corner in Les Jardin d’Etretat. And it’s impossible not to be inspired by his painting “The Cliff, Reflection on Water” when admiring a long sunset over the bay of this small town in Normandy.

Designed by the Russian landscape architect, Alexandre Grivko, of Il Nature, the garden is dedicated to Madame Thébault, a famous actress of the early twentieth century. She planted the first tree on this hill in 1903 and was a close friend of Monet. 

Another legend has it that Queen Marie-Antoinette was behind the construction of the oyster beds in Etretat to satisfy her insatiable appetite for the shellfish. It’s no coincidence that the best place in town to get some juicy, delicious oysters is named after Marie-Antoniette herself! 

The garden looks a little bit like a matrioska, with different small gardens and corners built inside the main one.

The Jardin Avatar with the Clockwork Forest installation by the British Collective Greyworld

The Jardin Émotions inspired by those historical oyster beds; the Jardin Impressions dedicated to the Atlantic Ocean and the English Channel. The Jardin d’Aval with its orchids that lead us through the labyrinth of the Jardin La Manche and finally to the Jardin d’Amont at the very top of the garden. 

And finally my favorite: the Jardin Zen, which features an audio art installation by the Russian artist Sergey Katran called “Until The Word Is Gone”. A series of terracotta sculptures replicating the shape of sound waves generated by recordings of the word “art” being said in 125 different languages! It’s really impressive. 

The weather at the end of May was perfect, the Atlantic Ocean gifted us beautiful sunsets, the air was clean, and all the people we met were very nice and welcoming. 

Merci Les Jardin d’Etretat for the kind invitation! Until next time, France.

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lauraLes Jardins d’Etretat, Normandy

A Gathering in the Finnish Woods

A gathering in the Finnish woods, with Chef Joona Lehto, thanks to PING Festival.

Last May, I was invited by the PING Festival to join a gathering in the Finnish woods with Chef Joona Lehto. He cooked us a plant-based dinner with only fresh and local Finnish produce.

A gathering in the Finnish woods, with Chef Joona Lehto, thanks to PING Festival.

A gathering in the Finnish woods, with Chef Joona Lehto, thanks to PING Festival. A gathering in the Finnish woods, with Chef Joona Lehto, thanks to PING Festival. A gathering in the Finnish woods, with Chef Joona Lehto, thanks to PING Festival. A gathering in the Finnish woods, with Chef Joona Lehto, thanks to PING Festival. A gathering in the Finnish woods, with Chef Joona Lehto, thanks to PING Festival. A gathering in the Finnish woods, with Chef Joona Lehto, thanks to PING Festival. A gathering in the Finnish woods, with Chef Joona Lehto, thanks to PING Festival.

I had my Canon A1 with me and decided to shoot the dinner using a roll of Kodak Portra 400 — and it turned out great! What a magical evening captured in film!

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lauraA Gathering in the Finnish Woods

A City Guide to Helsinki – Best Places in Town

The first time I travelled to Helsinki was two years ago, thanks to My Helsinki who invited me to experience the Helsinki Secret program. Since then I have been lucky enough to go back to Finland and experience Lapland in winter and the archipelago near Turku in summer – twice!

Frequent stops in Helsinki have allowed me to make friends who have introduced me to some of the best restaurants and bars in the city.

So, here is my personal city guide to Helsinki. Hope you enjoy it!

Breakfast / Pastries
Café Ekberg, best bread and pastries in town
The Cock, I know… And they open at 11am, but you’re on holiday, right?
Ipi Kulmakuppila, it’s in Kallio – the hipster neighbourhood of Helsinki – and it’s beautifully designed

Restaurants
Juuri, “Finnish cuisine with attitude.” Perfection in a dish. Impossible not to love it
Sandro, Middle Eastern flavours and a down-to-earth atmosphere
Fisken på Disken, looking for fish? This it the place
Savotta, traditional Finnish cuisine in front of the Helsinki Cathedral
Nolla, the best discovery of my last trip. Passionate owners, great chef and a food recycler compost machine – a must!
Vibami, quaint Vietnamese restaurant in the city center

Cocktails, beers and wine
Yes Yes Yes!, a perfectly designed and vegan friendly restaurants in a former McDonald’s. Sharable dishes and a fantastic selection of cocktails, wine, and beer!
Bier-Bier, good selection of beers from all over the world
Bar Bronco, local sports bar where you can watch hockey games
Holiday Bar, to pretend you are somewhere tropical even if it’s -10°C outside
Il Birrificio, if you are in the mood for craft beer and sausage
Soil Wine Room, good selection of wines and Spanish tapas

Coffee Shops
Andante, where Finland meets Japan (or viceversa)
Paulig Kulma, Finland’s most famous coffee roaster opened a coffee shop, a great place to get some work done!
El Fant, one of my favorite coffee shops. I usually get a green tea and an avocado toast. Trust me!

Hotels
Hotel Indigo, best location, friendly staff and nice rooms
Hotel Katajanokka, a former prison turned into a hotel
Aallonkoti, right next to the central station, it’s so comfortable you may not want to leave
Lilla Roberts, Art Deco hotel in the design district

 

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lauraA City Guide to Helsinki – Best Places in Town

Poke – The Original Hawaiian Recipe

I love Hawai’i. And I think we should respect the food traditions of other cultures. With that in mind, I felt compelled to do a short and educational post about poke.

In Milan we are currently living through pokemania, or as most places would write it—pokémania.

C’mon guys, it’s poke! Repeat it with me: pˈk/poh-kay with no accent!

Almost every new poke place here is called poké-something and it’s not just the spelling they’re getting wrong, many are also making a dish far away from the original recipe. I write this out of love for Hawaii, and because I’d like to find a good poke option in Italy, too.

In her wonderful book, The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawaii’s Culinary HeritageRachel Laudan posits that the original Hawaiian recipe for poke was created back in the 1960s. It may not be ancient dish, but its deeply Hawaiian, so we should try to get it right.

So, here are the essentials as I see them:

The meaning: Poke means to slice, to cut. Fish in this case. Raw fish. It’s a raw fish salad made the Hawaiian way.
Traditionally, it is made with aku (oily tuna) or he’e/tako (octopus). These days you’ll often see ahi (yellow tuna). Salmon and shellfish are other options, but not the rule. It doesn’t even have to include seafood, avocado poke and tofu poke are common vegetarian substitutes.

Cube shaped: The fish is cut into cubes, not thin slices like chirashi. It really affects the texture!

Seasoning: The fish should be seasoned with shoyu, green onions, and sesame oil. All of these three ingredients are mandatory! You can add more, but you can’t leave these three out.

Now, I’m not Hawaiian—only in my soul—so I’d love to hear what some Hawaiians, chefs, and poke fans think about what makes a great authentic poke.

Poke as it is served at Mai Tai Bar in Maui, Hawai’i in 2016.

For more about Poke, I found this article on The Honolulu Magazine really interesting – Poke: Past and Present
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lauraPoke – The Original Hawaiian Recipe

A City Guide to Milan – Best Places in Town

Lots of people keep asking me for a list of my favorite places in Milan. So this is a personal guide to some of the best spots in town. And I’ll keep updating this guide as I find new places here in Milan!

Breakfast / Pastries
Giacomo, great light and atmosphere in the morning, Palazzo Reale
Bar Luce, Wes Anderson designed bar, Fondazione Prada
Pasticceria Marchesi, I prefer the one in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
Pave Break, less crowded than the original one, Porta Romana
Taglio, best eggs benedict in Milan

Trattoria / Restaurants
La Madonnina, Ticinese/Navigli Area
La Crota Piemunteisa, Ticinese/Navigli Area
Trippa, Porta Romana
Giulio Pane e Ojo, traditional Roman food, Porta Romana
Giacomo Bistrot and Giacomo Rosticceria, Via Sottocorno
Rataná, best Milanese risotto in town, Garibaldi/Isola district
Erba Brusca, farm-to-table restaurant, outside the city center
Langosteria, best fish restaurant, Navigli Area
Taverna Moriggi, traditional Milanese food in a freshly renewed historical restaurant

Bread / Pizza
Quei Due, Ticinese/Navigli Area
Dry, the best pizza in Milan paired with incredible cocktails, Brera
Sorbillo, lievito madre al Duomo
Panificio Davide Longoni, best bread in Milano, Porta Romana

Sushi / Japanese
Poporoya, Chef Shiro is a sushi legend and so is his chirashi, Porta Venezia
Casa Ramen Super, Luca is bringing to Milan the best of Japanese fusion cuisine with an Italian twist, Isola District
Tenoha, a modern Japanese restaurant inside a Milanese court, Navigli Area

Cocktails
Rita, by far my favorite one, Navigli Area
Mag Café,hipster hangout, Navigli Area
Carlo e Camilla in Segheria, the location is as great as their cocktails, Navigli Area
Bar Basso, birthplace of the Negroni Sbagliato, Porta Venezia

Beers 
Al Coccio, Navigli Area
Pave Birra, Porta Venezia
Birrificio Lambrate, since 1996 good craft beer made in Milan, Lambrate
Hop, the younger brother of Birrificio Lambrate a bit closer to the city center, Porta Romana
Bar Magenta, they say they invented the aperitivo in Milan, Corso Magenta x Carducci

Wine
La Cieca, Porta Romana
Il Vinaccio, Navigli Area
Saketeca, if you are more into Sake, they have wine, too!

Workspaces
Santeria Social Club, near the Bocconi University
Cascina Cuccagna, an old converted farmhouse in the city center, Porta Romana
Walden Cafe Milano, tiny and chill next to Corso di Porta Ticinese

Architecture / Design
Villa Necchi Campiglio, famous worldwide for Guadagnino’s movie, “I Am Love”, Via Mozart
Fondazione Castiglioni, best to book in advance to discover more about the father of functional Italian design, Cadorna
Laboratorio Paravicini, hand-painted tableware workshop in the 5 Vie Design District
Fondazione Prada, the best contemporary art foundation in Milan, Porta Romana

 

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lauraA City Guide to Milan – Best Places in Town