Archive for the ‘Guest Review’ Category

South of France Tours by The Good Life, France

This article was first published by The Good Life, France on .

What if you could really “do” southern France in 7 days in a truly meaningful, authentic and fabulous way? It’s just a week, but, if you know the right people and go to the right places, it really is possible to experience the very best of the south of France. The food, the sights, culture, history, wine and customs – so many things go to making this part of France a very special place. And, at TripUSAFrance they really do understand what it takes to make sure you experience all those things. This is a south of France tour that’s not rushed, not a 5-minute-tick-the-box race – but enjoyed the best way, relaxed, personal and authentic.

Julia and Stephane Girard-Gervois, a father and daughter team, of TripUSAFrance are two of the best guides in France. Their know-how, experience and contacts mean that you get to really know southern France in a very short space of time.

The very best of the south of France

TripUSAFrance’s south of France tours take in the main sites. From captivating Carcassonne which looks like a fairy tale come to life, to magnificent Montpellier (where Julia grew up before moving to the USA). But with this tour you’ll also discover less well known but incredibly special places. On the itinerary are Palavas-les-Flots with an enticing beachside hotel and the Maguelone Cathedral by the sea, once lived in by Popes. In just 7 days you’ll visit legendary sites as well as Provence’s jewels. Avignon with its incredible Palace of the Popes and the stunning Pont du Gard Roman bridge.  St Guilhem le Desert, one of the most beautiful villages in France and St Paul de Mausole where a troubled Van Gogh took sanctuary. Plus the famous underground art gallery Carrières Lumières and much more.

Julia will reveal the best of Nimes with its amazing Roman architectures. And picturesque Aigues Mortes, plus wine tasting at the gorgeous Chateau Flaugergues and at Chateau Jonquières.

You’ll have a real connection with the area, joining a French cooking class and visiting a French market. You’ll even be joining Julia’s mother for a delicious picnic by the water, where she’ll teach you to play the traditional French game of pétanque.

If you’ve got an extra two days to spend in France, you can also visit stunning Aix-en-Provence, the Roman city of Arles, and the famous soap factory of Marseille (talk about the perfect souvenir to take home).

See Southern France at a relaxed pace in a small group tour

Julia and Stephane like to keep their tour groups small so that they can really ensure that this is a journey you relish. You won’t be rushed on and off a bus, given 5 minutes here and 5 minutes there. That’s not the southern French way at all! You won’t spend all day on the road getting from one place to another to tick a box. The itinerary ensures you won’t spend more than a couple of hours being transported – meaning you have loads more time to really experience France. They’ve picked the best restaurants and know the chefs and the menus. If you’re a vegetarian, vegan or have food allergies then you won’t be suffering from a lack of choice here.  Julia’s made sure that every chef on their itinerary can offer you something delicious.

Learn French as you go

If you don’t want to learn or practice your French – that’s fine, Julia and Stephane will be with you. And, if you do want to go off for some free time, they’ll give you a cell phone so you can contact them whenever you need to. But if you do want to learn French, Julia will be happy to help you. She’s a teacher in Washington DC when she’s not guiding in France.

Get to know real France as a temporary local

For a feel good, real good, stress-free, everything beautifully organized, authentic, fabulous experience of the real south of France, TripUSAFrance will absolutely deliver. As Julia says “on our tours, you’re temporary locals, not average tourists bouncing around in a crowd or waiting in long lines and getting stuck in tourist traps. We will help you make a deeper connection with the country and understand what it is like to live there, while fulfilling the desire to see amazing sites and make lasting memories”.


Ristorante e Taverna Vaelsa, Pohjoisesplanadi 9, Helsinki, Finland by guest author, Reijosfood

Pohjoisesplanadi, Helsinki, Finland

This article was first published on on 18, June 2017 and can be found at Ristorante e Taverna Vaelsa,

Ristorante e Taverna Vaelsa opened spring 2015 at the Market Square, at Pohjoisesplanadi 9 in the historic Govinius building. At the 2nd floor there is restaurant serving with wider menu and downstairs is taverna, which serves pizzas and some salads. Vaelsan’s kitchen combines local food and classic Italian cuisine with a modern touch.

Visited taverna at late lunch time on Saturday and tried pizzas. Ordered them from the menu under Pizze Speciali headline.

Chose Bresaola Mozzarella, Rucola, Bresaola, Parmigiano, Lemon Vinaigrette and VeganaZucchini, Paprika, Eggplant, Parsley, Vegan Cheese.

Pizza Bresaola was delicious, but quite dry as there was not tomato sauce. Pizza base was quite thick and had to cut quite hard pieces. There was enough fresh rucola, which is not always the case when pizza includes rocket salad.

Pizza Vegana was also tasty and it was pleaseant surprise to see that taverna served also vegan version including cheese. That definately increases points.

Wines were a little bit problematic, only 3 red wines available and 2 out of them had run out and replaced with other brands. Of course pizzas do not necessarily require full-bodied wines but for instance the one we enoyed was quite light.

Location is excellent, just opposite to Market Square. And if you get window table like us, it is nice to watch the crowds outside.

Service was a little bit limping, maybe due to busy lunch hour, which was ending. If you want to visit ristorante, better make table reservation, to taverna you can just walk in and check if there are free tables.


Noa – Tallinn, Estonia by guest author Reijosfood

This article was first published on 22.04.17 on

NOA is a seaside restaurant on the border of Tallinn and Viimsi, Estonia, seating 80 people. The NOA dining room has been built on three different levels allowing guests to see the view of the Old Town silhouette across the bay. When putting together the menu, restaurant has not committed to any specific ingredients, countries or locations, but rather focused on creating an equal experience to all vege, seafood and meat eaters.

For aperitives decided to order NV Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Brut, Champagne AOC, France and Gin tonic made from worlds best gin, Napue, Finland. With sea view, perfect drinks to start the dinner.

Before starters restaurant offers fresh bread and spreading, which both tasted excellent. Big box instead of plate, at least kept the pieces of bread warm.

For starters ordered Crispy seafood and chips with cuttlefish sauce, coriander, lime and potatoes and Grill “Caesar” with romaine lettuce, asparagus (& cheese).

Seafood included pieces of mussel, octopus and some white meated fish, which I can not remember any more. Anyhow all pieces (finger food) were perfectly prepared. Chips were one of the best ever tasted; there was some spice on them, which made them scrumptious. And sauce paired well both with crispy fish and potatoes.

It was not your ordinary Caesar salad.  Warm, but fresh served with seasonal veggie, in this case asparagus.  A simple, but tasty starter.

For main courses had Octopus pasta Homemade pasta, wine and butter sauce, tomato garlic, pepper, grispy panko and Eggplant “burnt end” (Goat’s cheese curd), crispy vegetables, smoked tomato

Pasta was cooked as it should be, al dente, and it was still hot. That is difficult combination! Octopus was crispy and fresh, very tasty on top of all. Panko is a Japanese-style breadcrumb, but as the amount was small, it just completed the dish.

The eggplant dish was served with cranberry sauce which gave the dish a bit of a sour taste.  The crispy vegetables made for a nice addition.

For wine ordered 2011 Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC, Chateau Mont Redon, Rhone, France. Full-bodied and round. It paired perfectly with the dishes eaten.

Restaurant Noa (a la carte) serves excellent food, dining room is cozy and athmosphere relaxed. One could also choose 11 course menu on separate dining room with white table clothes.

Service was professional and polite. Kitchen had just changed menu, which meant that had to wait for main courses quite a long time. Due to delay, restaurant offered Limoncello’s for digestive for free. Must say that they were better than ever had, even better than in Italy! But delay had a small impact on service rating.


L’Amandier Hotel, Marrakech, Morrocco by guest author Amelia Walker

This review of L’Amandier, Marrakech, Morrocco originally appeared on 1 August 2016 in written by Amelia Walker.

The long-awaited launch of the five-star L’Amandier hotel has finally been unveiled. It is nestled in the Ouirgane Valley and only an hour from the city.

L'Amandier (Anthony Craddock)

“My brother and I discovered this place some years ago when it was a scrub of land, with a few dying almond trees and nothing else. This was the start of a colourful journey of new friendships, discovering water, running water, sowing seeds, laying brick on top of brick, bring in power…and now we are here,” says Founder, Anwar Harland-Khan.

Well, for those of you in need of inspiration for an international destination, be it for incentive travel, a private party, a conference, a holiday, team builder or celebratory venue, this gem-like haven is a beguiling place.

L'Amandier (Anthony Craddock)

“L’Amandier has been quite a journey,” says Anwar. We are sitting on one of the villa’s expansive sun-warmed terraces, within 12 acres of citrus groves and almond trees, surrounded by a patchwork of valleys and mountain peaks. The panoramic views over the surrounding Toubkal National Park that we’re looking out on are spectacular. Aside from the gentle hum of the call to prayer that I can hear in the distance, it is peaceful, quiet and wonderfully still. I can’t remember the last time that I’ve felt this relaxed. ‘Landscape therapy’ here is instant and you immediately give in to the pace of life. Calm trickles down from the top after all – and Anwar is warmth and charm itself.

I am one of the lucky media guests invited to the hotel’s soft launch (before it officially opens its doors in Autumn 2016), to join his friends and family to celebrate this 12-year project coming full circle.

L'Amandier (Anthony Craddock)

L’Amandier is an environmentally sensitive venture that has remained sympathetic to its surrounding environs. The property has been designed by London-based architect, Nick Gowing, who has juxtaposed the contours of the surrounding landscape with the buildings geometric lines. His aim? To ensure that the beauty of the vista was incorporated into the living and communal areas where possible, through floor-to-ceiling windows (light and space are recurrent motifs throughout), and buildings rendered in the same colour as the rich, red earth of the L’Amandier Plateau, merging it as part of the landscape, in form and function.

L'Amandier (Tara Panchaud)

The premises accommodates up to 46 guests in the six suite boutique hotel and the 13 estate villas. All villas have been sold to private investors but are available to rent (each owner has full use of the hotel’s facilities and access to In-house Catering with Private Chef). Each boasts a vast roof terrace with frame pergola style seating area, swapped with deep cushions and white cotton drapes, and showstopping vistas – the perfect backdrop for sundowners.

The architecture is cubist in form yet embraces the characteristics of a Moroccan riad – whereby the rooms are built around a central courtyard. Each villa accentuates L’Amandier’s philosophy of uniting a contemporary European design aesthetic with traditional Moroccan artistry and sustainable materials, think tadelakt walls, bejmat tiles and local walnut wood for the furniture.

L'Amandier (Anthony Craddock)

Elsewhere there’s a 50-cover restaurant, a blinding 25m-infinity pool, tennis court and a vast 40m2 terrace perfect for alfresco soirées.

Elegant interiors represent a timeless grace and come courtesy of Michael Kopinski. His descriptions of “Zen-like” and “raw” are spot-on, nodding to the country’s past and championing the skill of the Moroccan people, through ethically sourced local products. It’s all in the detail right? Well the subtle intricacies do not go unnoticed. I’m referring to the change of light throughout the day, and how the colours of the bespoke handpicked tiles dotted around the resort flicker between cobalt aqua and silver depending on the positioning of the sun. “The feeling inside the hotel is of shimmering water,” explains Michael. “The colour palette reflects the beautiful rich greens of the surrounding lush valleys and the baked clay colour of the sunsets… but toned down, subdued, an echo.”

L'Amandier (Anthony Craddock)

I felt a shift at L’Amandier. At one point I did nothing but stare at the view for 40 minutes – no need for emails, or phone. It is a heady mix, this seamless blend of indoor-outdoor living and the combination of culture, creativity, spirit and vision.

Lemon Tree Garden – Rethymnon, Crete by guest author Reijosfood

First published by Reijosfood on 5th August 2016 at

Summer vacation in Crete, Rethymnon meant also visits to several restaurants and tavernas. Tried about 10 places and always tested starters and main courses. Better avoid dining spots with most aggressive “in throwers”, best ones are those counting on menu,location and athmosphere.


Mostly ate in Old Town where you can find many good and not so good dining spots. When it comes to taverna type of restaurants serving traditional greek food, Lemon Tree Garden is the choice. Judgement is based on two visits, which both were above average in “tavernas category”.

Restaurant has good service, fresh ingredients and well prepared dishes not forgetting vegan choises.

During second visit had for starters Spinach Pies, Vine Leaves Rolls and Feta Cheese.Usually spinach pies include cheese, but restaurant had vegetarian version available. Two types rolls, vine leaves (dolmades) and zuccini flower rolls. Both were prepared at restaurant, too often you get canned rolls. Greek style feta cheese was delicious, right mixture of herbs and tomato.image

For main courses had Gyros, which in this case were perfect. Best part of this was just outdoor terrace, grilled pork. In one taverna get meat which had been grilled earlier and was warmed before serving.




….and Stuffed VegetablesSweet pepper and tomato stuffed with deliciously spiced rice. A perfect vegan dish accompanied by sliced potatoes.  Olive oil is always part of the dishes, and combined with the proper spices, makes for the perfect sauce.



In previous post you can find some information about Greek wines, which are part of dining. In Lemon Tree Garden had Melios and Chateau Julia, both Merlots.


Chateau Julia








Lemon Tree Garden has nice outdoor terrace inside old walls. The name comes from the trees above tables, lemon and orange trees are the roof of restaurant.

After dinner restaurant serves fresh water melon, lemon cake and raki depending on what you have eaten. Nice way of ending dinner, but as you know what to expect, do not order dessert.



Brasserie Kamp by guest author Reijosfood

This article was first published on 3 July 2016 at

Brasserie Kämp

Hotel Kämp is a historical hotel in Helsinki, Finland. The hotel was originally built in 1887 by Carl Kämp. The building was demolished and the facade was rebuilt in 1965. 

Dining at Hotel Kämp gives a possibility on a culinary journey from East to West. Asian food is offered at restaurant YUME. Brasserie Kämp offers a wide range of European brasserie style food.

A la carte list is short which makes ordering easy, if you find suitable dish. One option is to order gourmet “fast food” like Kämp burger or club sandwich which are luxorious. Especially french fries are maybe the best in the city.

Wanted to challenge kitchen and decided to order for starters Salad a la Kämp Mixed salad, cucumber, plum tomatoes with marinated artichokes and button mushrooms

Crispy, fresh vegetables made for a very delicious salad.  The parmesan dressing was substituded by a vinagrette, and marinated artichoke with button mushrooms were the choice to make the perfect all vegan option.  The other options are shrimps orchicken.



and Arctic Ocean Shrimps Hand peeled shrimps, fennel and apple salad, cold cucumber juice.

Shrimps were fresh and just hand peeled, of course. Cucumber juice was delicous and made the dish sort of soup like of starter.

Shrimps at Kämp

For main courses ordered Roasted salmon Creamed seasonal mushrooms seasoned with chervil and tarragon, potato puree.

Salmon was roasted well, meaning that it was not over cooked which can happen easily. Mixture of mushrooms and potato puree paired extremely well with the fish.

Salmon at Kämp


and from All day Dining list Black rice and cauliflower Black rice from Piemonte, roasted cauliflower, hazelnut vinaigrette.

From the “All Day Dinning” part of the menu, this is the perfect vegan option.  The original dish is served with goat cheese.  The dish is creamy, but the hazelnut vinagrette and roasted cauliflower keep it fresh and crispy.



Recommend to dine at the terrace of Kämp Brasserie, which is perfect location to observe passers-by on Esplanadi promenade or pedestrian street. Most of the dishes can be ordered as starters or main courses which helps in keeping the menu short.

Service was unique with French touch. There is a difference between Kämp Brasserie and recently opened trendy bistro type of restaurants when it comes to service. But it is refreshing that there still are some traditions honored.



Sunn by guest author Reijosfood

This article was first published on 05.05.2016 by at

Restaurant Sunn

Restaurant Sunn is located at the edge of the Senate Square, directly opposite to the Helsinki Cathedral. The name of old building is also called Sunn, which has inspired the naming of restaurant. The view from the second floor, where restaurant is, is one of the best in Helsinki.

Sunn is open every day of the week serving brunch on Weekends, lunch and dinner. This gives the traveler a chance to see all the festive seasons with the locals including Christmas, May Day and Midsummer.

Actual idea was to try dishes from dinner a la carte menu, as there was also some interesting vegan options. But instead of a la carte, restaurant served May Day Eve buffet “Let’s party”. Should have guessed that because of the special day.

Starter buffet included many goodies, but as vegan choises were limited, restaurant served special starter edition to the table. Duck breast, curry chicken, salads and cheeseshad main roles.


The vegan starters were: Cabbage and broccoli, beet root and spinach, asparagus, cherry tomatoes and strawberries, and tofu and potatoes.  The tastier was the one with strawberries. This mixture worked well together.  The tofu and potatoes was missing something; some salt would’ve added enough flavor to this dish.


Main courses, 3 options, were served to the table. Chose Whitefish ”Monte” with asparagus, cauliflower and spring onion sauce and pimped version of Asparagus, fried mushrooms and truffle-boletus foam.

As it is asparagus time, all main courses included that vegetable.

“Monte” might mean hill or mountain as dish was placed in layers on the plate, or not? However, fish was excellent, cooked as it should. Sauce tasted delicious and paired nicely with whitefish.


Tofu can be paired with about anything, but in this case the combination was a bit bland.


Dinner included also dessert buffet which included different type of cakes. As it did not offer so many vegan choises, also got one portion to the table.

Remember to ask window table and you can enjoy of one of the best views in Helsinki. Part of the windows open to narrow side street, so try to get table by window which opens to the Senate Square.

Senate Square

Buffet was average although the name was fancy, “Let’s party”. If you compare it to many other buffet’s available during May Day time, you could eat similarly everywhere.

Would be interested in to try a la carte, which was the original intention and still is in the plans.

Service was good and especially serving one starter and dessert to the table made it even better.