All posts by Uzi Varon

Amedeo Modigliani in Ateneum

The retrospective exhibition of Amedeo Modigliani is in the art museum of Ateneum, Helsinki this winter, 28.10.2016 – 5.2.2017.A must for all art lovers. The museum also has much more to offer, such as Kaarina Kaikkonen`s installation at the Ateneum Art Museum courtyard 5.2.2016 – 11.12.2016 !And the new display of the museum’s collection of Finnish classics is truly impressive.Go go go.

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Active family holiday in Eilat

November is not the greatest month to be in Finland. So Eilat seemed like a welcome change and a perfect place for a family holiday. About 30°C temperature and 10-15 apertures more light (in photography terminology) makes a big difference.
Eilat is known as the destination for beach-life lovers and divers, but my latest working trips showed me how much more the city and the surrounding region can offer to the visitor. So I thought that it could suit us all, as our group consisted of twelve people – ages 1-60…
Direct winter flights from Helsinki to Eilat take less than 5 hours and are very affordable!Eilat The underwater observatory marine park in Eilat is a great place for kids and adults alike. You get an idea how it looks down there under the waves, even if you never put a diving mask on your face. The underwater wonderland with all its creatures and corals will mesmerize you.
A 20€ ticket will give you access to all parts of the observatory, including the multi media cinema.
It is located a few kilometers south to the city and you can easily reach it by taxi from the northern beach hotel area for about 10€.Family trip to Eilat Israel Family trip to Eilat IsraelA jeep safari is a fantastic experience for all who can stand some dust, bumps and at times some scary hill slopes. The truth is, that some of the asphalt roads in the mountains are very beautiful too in terms of the landscapes they cross, yet I think that with a jeep you can get into the guts of it all.
Prices 160-180€/4 hours per jeep.
Family trip to Eilat IsraelFamily trip to Eilat Israel Family trip to Eilat IsraelThe “Red Canyon” is an easy and beautiful trek that suits families. Our youngest hikers were ages 8, 5 and 2.5 and they enjoyed the place as if they were in an amusement park. The easy path takes 1.5-2 hours to walk. Early afternoon is preferable time for this family outdoor activity. Drinking water, hats and maybe some energy snacks are recommended.
You should follow the coloured signs back to the starting point or you will find yourself on a much longer trek. This time of the year it gets dark already at five o’clock in the afternoon, and you wouldn’t like to wander in the desert after sunset.
Family trip to Eilat Israel The restaurants around the hotel areas are mainly Mediterranean and Asian style. I especially like the “Fish Market” for their atmosphere and fresh fish. (10-15 min. drive by taxi south of the city center) The Giraffe Restaurant on the beach promenade was great too. You will find it when you walk east along the northern shore boulevard. Barbeach on the southern beach, near the diving and surfing center.
Eilat Typical Israeli breakfast served in Barbeach.Eilat Local drinks. Goldstar beer and Limonana, a sweetened refreshment made with fresh lemon and sweet mint crushed with ice.
Family trip to Eilat IsraelEilat Bird-Watching Park is located just north to the hotel area. About 40 min walk or a short taxi drive. The place is open 24/7 and free. Yet it is strongly recommended to take a guide so you get a better idea what the place is about, how they operate and some facts about bird migration habits. Finns are known for their sympathy for these little creatures and annually many birdwatchers come to participate voluntarily in the park’s activities.
EilatHai Bar wildlife reserve is located near Kibbutz Yotvata about 35 km north of Eilat. Some of the animals that once roamed free in this region can be seen there. It is like a mini safari and sure worth a visit once you are in Eilat.
EilatThe “Top 94” action park in Eilat offers many activities. The carting part is managed by Timo Hirvi, originally from Finland
EilatWatching the sea and the surfers from the many beach restaurants and bars is a nice “after action” time. The water pipe is optional…

EilatAnd if you are absolutely in need for some off road bicycling, you will find many marked trails around the city.
Family trip to Eilat Israel2 weeks before our arrival Eilat was flooded. The whole annual amount of rain, just over 30mm, fell in 3 hours.Family trip to Eilat Israel Family trip to Eilat Israel Family trip to Eilat Israel There is no holiday for me without some off road moments.
Mount Shlomo is located just west to the city. You will see the sunset just behind it every evening. The trek to the summit and down takes about 4 hours and is not too hard. Yet, if you have the fear of heights you might find it challenging at places.
A taxi will take you from the hotel area to the starting point at Har Yehoram on road 12 for about 13€. First follow the Black/White marks and just before the summit the Blue/White marks.
The way down (tread carefully, it is very steep) will take you to the finishing point at Shlomo valley on road 12. There you can call a taxi to take you back to the hotel.
You can also do this trek starting and finishing in the same place (road 12 and Shlomo valley crossing) see the map below. But this way you will climb the whole way and will miss the most beautiful views that you could see when starting from Har Yehoram.
Remember: Hats, long sleeve shirts, sun protection, good hiking boots and a lot of water! Gloves protect hands from the rough stones and walking sticks can help your balance.
Family trip to Eilat Israel Family trip to Eilat Israel Family trip to Eilat Israel har-shlomo-trek Family trip to Eilat IsraelMy good old Keens have seen a lot of off road terrain.

Little pieces of Åland

This summer our traditional ”Getting lost in Finland” road trip took us to the beautiful archipelago of Åland. It is a bit of an oddity, an autonomy between Finland and Sweden. It is a Finnish territory although swedish is the official language. Luckily visitors get along just fine in English as well.
Last time we visited these islands was 33 years ago! So it was about time to explore this place again.

motorbikers_

dance_in_turku

rock_and_roll_turku
As the ferry from Turku to Mariehamn leaves early in the morning, we decided to spend the evening before in Turku and save a morning rush.
That was a smart move! Just another wednesday evening and so much going on. Within a few hundred meters along the Aura river bank there was a gathering of hundreds of motorbikers, an impromptu dance floor in the middle of the street with live music, mainly Tango that so many Finns love and practice, a very good rock band on board an old merchant ship and even live jazz music in a bar.

borea_hotel_turku
An old cruiser Bore is nowadays serving as Hotel Borea. So we got into the marine atmosphere right on our first night.

amalia_guesthouse_aland

amalia_guesthouse

amalia_limonade_factory

limonade_factory

Amalia guest house in Lemland is a cosy place to stay. It has a small lemonade factory in the yard. Amalia Lemonades can be found all over Åland in cafes, restaurants and supermarkets. Rebecka Sjölund works in the Factory shop in the summer.

st_andrews_church_lumparland_aland

St. Andrew’s church in Lumparland. First built in 1540, but the present building is from 1728.

stallhagen_beer_brewery

stallhagen_beer
The local beer brand, stallhagen beer, is sold and served all over the islands. We just had to pay a visit to the brewery and found out that the beer was indeed very good.

karingsund_aland

karingsund_boathouses_aland

karingsund_boathouses_aland2

The idyllic old boat houses in Käringsund, Eckerö we remembered from our previous visit. But the hunting and fishing museum close to the Eckerö guest harbor is relatively new. It gives the visitor a good idea of the often very tough conditions in which the island people made their living in the old days. The building itself has been designed in a most considerate way to suit the landscape.

christiansund_guesthouse

Christiansund guest house

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Friday evening in Eckerö. We could not find any open shops around. Driving back and forth in the country roads looking for something to eat we finally found a Thai take away restaurant. Their fresh made Spring rolls were huge and very tasty.

bumarsund_aland
The gigantic fortress of Bomarsund was built by the Russians in 1832. The battle with the British-French navy was short and destructive and very little of this huge construction is left to see now. Yet a new trek of about 4 km is taking the visitor around, and useful information boards complete what the eyes cannot see.

alands_windmeals
Everywhere you go you will see the old wooden wind mills.

anni_blomqvist_grave

anni_blomqvist
We paid respect to the famous writer Anni Blomqvist. Her archipelago stories and her own tragic life has left a mark on so many people in Scandinavia.

bomans guesthouse
Mari Kokko-Tidenberg and Arto Tidenberg live in Helsinki, but every summer they run the charming Bomans guest house in Vårdö. We ended up staying two days in their friendly care. The place can host up to 70 people and besides breakfast they also serve dinners.
It is quite unusual for Finns to own property in Åland, so we were curious to know how Mari and Arto ended up in there. Mari told us that in 1984 her mother Sirkka-Liisa came to work in the Kastelholm castle, which back then served as a prison. She then met and married Magnus Boman and they lived together in his family’s dairy farm. In 2000 the farm was transformed into a guest house. When Sirkka-Liisa passed away in 2014 Mari got to be the co-owner of the place, taking care of the business with Magnus, who still lives permanently on the farm year around. Mari, however, after tourist season returns to her profession, working as a doctor in Helsinki.

fishing_aland

Short fishing trip with Magnus Boman was an extra treat to our stay in Bomans guest house.

fish_whitefish
5 whitefish and 1 perch.

uzi_getabergen_aland

getabergen_aland
Road trip means hours of sitting in a car. It is a welcome idea to take a few hours hike in the nature. One beautiful trek you find in Getabergen in the northern part of the main island. It offers great views and impressive rock formations. In there I spotted one of the rare orchids growing in Åland, the Orchis militaris.

marskogens_lamm
When it comes to coffee breaks, we always look for an interesting, rather off the main road places. Marskogens Lamm is a lamb farm. In their café they sell not only good coffee and the traditional pancake but also many other local delicacies like cheese and their own lamb meat products. Friendly Ann Sunberg serves home made buns and pastries and I just loved her table decorations with the wild flowers.

cows_aland
I just had to stop and take this funny picture.

olle_alands_photography_museum
Åland’s photography museum in Pålsböle is sure worth a visit. Olle Strömberg has collected thousands of cameras and other items that cover more or less the entire history of the technology of photography. Olle, originally from Sweden, fell in love with a local beauty in Åland. He moved to the islands and did a 40 year photographic career working as a commercial photographer and cooperated with almost all local museums as well. Now retired, he runs this amazing museum and its charming coffee shop with his wife.

simskala_sealskins

aland_landscape
Simskäla is the very northern part of the island of Vårdö. Seals were once hunted for food. Nowadays some fishermen hunt them to avoid destruction of their nets.

kurt_eriksson
Kurt Eriksson was a seaman and globetrotter who traveled the world for many years. He had the will and skills of learning many languages of the places he visited.
Now retired, he is running his wood workshop and a summer café, Anna’s Shop, in his home village Grundsunda in Vårdö. He welcomes and entertains his visitors with endless stories in 6 different languages. And of course the very famous Åland pancake.

alands_pancake
Åland’s pancake.

Varda’s chicken meatballs

My dear friend Varda is known for her hospitality and great cooking. Whenever I visit her I find myself enjoying a great meal. This time she came up with absolutely delicious chicken meatballs. Many of you have probably eaten chicken meatballs before, yet the recipe Varda came up with is something else. I tried it at home, of course, and it really worked. Simple and super tasty. Enjoy! varda kukkola hicken meatballs ingredienceschicken-meatballs-by-uzi

Varda’s chicken meatballs

Ingredients

  • Meatballs:
  • 400gr minced chicken meat
  • 1 egg
  • ½ dl bread crumbs
  • parsley
  • 1 onion
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Sauce:
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 red hot chili peppers
  • 1 tin of crushed tomatoes (500gr)
  • 1 tin of chickpeas
  • generous splash of oil
  • 2 teaspoons of red sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of turmeric
  • black pepper
  • salt
  • 1 table spoon sugar

Instructions

  1. Start with the meatballs.
Chop the onion and parsley.
  2. Mix all the ingredients well.
  3. Make meatballs the size of ping pong balls.
  4. Fry on a pan just until the meatballs get golden color (Do not overcook, for they will go on cooking in the sauce.)
  5. Leave the meatballs aside and prepare the sauce:
  6. Chop the onion and garlic and fry in oil.
  7. Chop and add the chili.
  8. Add the crushed tomatoes.
  9. Add sweet paprika, turmeric and black pepper.
  10. Balance the final taste with salt and sugar.
  11. Let simmer slowly for 20 min.
  12. Add the chickpeas and the meat balls to the sauce and cook slowly for another 20 min.
  13. Serve with rice.
http://sweetchili.fi/en/vardas-chicken-meatballs/
chicken meatballs a la varda

Ofer`s perfect Pita bread

I have been working in the same studio with Ofer Amir since the mid 90s.
Besides being a great photographer colleague and friend, Ofer also happens to be an excellent cook and pastry chef. From time to time he treats us in the studio with his latest culinary discoveries or just his favorite dishes.
Here is Ofer’s recommendation for a perfect Pita bread.
pita bread making 6

Ofer`s perfect Pita bread

Ingredients

  • Pita bread, 20 pieces
  • 1 kg white flour
  • 1.5 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar, syrup or honey
  • 3 even tablespoons of dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 cups of water

Instructions

  1. Sift the flower to the mixing bowl and add the salt and yeast, mix.
  2. Mix the oil, honey and 2 cups of water and add the mixture into the flour. Adjust the mixer on slow speed and let mix for 6 minutes. If the dough is too dry, add some water. The ready dough should be soft and smooth and not stick to your hands.
  3. Sprinkle some flour on the dough and let rise for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Knead the dough with your hands to take the air out and divide the dough to 15-20 balls.
  5. Sprinkle the working surface well with flour.
  6. Shape one ball at a time into a flat disc of about 15 cm diameter.
  7. Cover all pitas with a towel and let rise for another 10 min.
  8. Heat the oven to maximum heat (250-300°C).
  9. Place the pitas on a baking paper on a tray and bake for 4-5 min.
  10. Watch that the pitas will not get dark but grow puffy and very light brownish color.
  11. Let cool a bit and eat them warm and fresh. If some are left over, they keep at their best when stored in the freezer. Then just thaw and warm them in the microwave oven on mid power for 45 sec.
http://sweetchili.fi/en/ofers-perfect-pita-bread/
pita bread making 1 pita bread making 2 pita bread making 3pita bread making 3pita bread making 5

Chocolate mousse à la Isa

 

The birthday party of a good friend brought me to Copenhagen for a weekend visit last month. The party itself took place at my friend’s fantastic photo studios “The Lab”. In every good party, the culinary part is important, and in this case it was a true pleasure. I was full with admiration for the chef Isa Jacob Kristiansen, who with such peaceful and confident way created the delicacies we enjoyed.
With his permission I would like to share his extraordinary version of chocolate mousse.
Enjoy!

 

isa jacob kristiansen_mouse chocolate

choclate mouse 1

choclate mouse 3

Chocolate mousse à la Isa

Ingredients

  • Chocolate Mousse
  • Recipe for 8 people
  • 115 g 70% chocolate
  • 30 g unsalted butter
  • 4 tbsp dark rum
  • 2 tsp instant coffee
  • 150 g caster sugar
  • 4 egg yolk
  • 4 eggwhites
  • 250 ml cream

Instructions

  1. Melt chocolate, butter and rum in a bowl placed over a pot of hot water.
  2. When completely homogenous, set aside to cool.
  3. In a bowl placed over a pot of hot water, thicken the egg yolks with instant coffee and 1/3 of the sugar. approx 75°C.
  4. Whisk egg whites with 2/3 of the sugar, until sugar is dissolved and it feels like an italian merengue.
  5. Mix everything together slowly without whisking.
  6. Whisk the cream, and mix with the mixture. Again slowly. Set aside to cool for at least 4 hours.
http://sweetchili.fi/en/choclate-mouse-alaisa/

choclate mouse 4

choclate mouse

American car show

Hurry hurry hurry all you fans of American classics.
Big engines, big wheels, lots of chrome metal inside and out.
The event takes place in Helsinki Messukeskus this weekend, 25.-28.3.2016.

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GOA AND MORE, A NICE START FOR 2016

In the very last days of December it seemed like a good idea to exchange the B/W reality of Helsinki to full technicolor world. And about fifty centigrades increase in temperature would do nicely, too. So we chose Goa as our winter holiday destination with our life long friends from Copenhagen, Merete and Shay.new year eve on baga beach New year’s eve in Goa’s Baga Beach. Loads of teen testosterone (only young men on the go!), full blast electronic music and fireworks. And with all that, everything went through rather peacefully.yos at his home I met Yos in Helsinki last autumn. He’s been travelin in and out of India for over 10 years. We agreed to meet in Goa in January. Found him at his Goan home in Anjuna.
_49A5836 At Baga beach outside Xavier’s shack we met Naim, or ”Mikko” as he is known among the Finnish tourists. Mikko speaks good Finnish and arranged us a driver for one of our trips. Here’s a picture of him and his wife taken back home in their village in Maharashtra.cows in goa Someone told us that the name of Goa has something to do with cows. Might be true. There sure are plenty of those around.
kola beach goa 2 kola beach goa kola beach 4 goa Cola Beach in the southern part of Goa is about the closest I ever got to a paradise beach. Beautiful, clean and quiet. Great accomodations, simple and comfortable. Falling asleep and waking up to the sound of waves was a welcome change to the constant boom boom soundtrack of the more populated northern beaches.fishermen kids in goa Boys helping their father to prepare the nets for night fishing at Cola-Beach.fishermen in kola beach goa Fishermen returning with the night’s catch. They have to make do with whatever is left after the big trawlers have harvested the coast._49A6371 Three days trip to the state of Karnataka and the ancient city of Hampi gave another perspective to India. The train journey takes 8 hours each direction, but it is an exotic experience in itself. The colourful medley of the other passengers on board, changing landscapes and the constant parade of vendors keep you entertained all the way. Hampi karnataka hampi karnataka 4 hampi karnataka 2 hampi karnataka 3 river in hampi karnataka The temples of Hampi are unique and beautiful. Built and carved in the local granite they stand along the great valley surrounded by rocks and hills. A small river adds a ribbon of blue among the red and black hues of the stone. My second visit to this place after almost 10 years was sure worth it._49A6583 The guard in one of the temples allowed me to photograph her hands.bus in goa Can a bus get any more colourful?
cashew nut goa Cashew is one of Goa’s symbols. This strange nut grows attached to the bottom of the cashew apple, outside the fruit. The fruit itself is used to produce the famous Goan spirit Feni.school kids in karnataka In India most people seem to like to be photographed. Here a group of schoolboys are posing for Shay._49A6858 _49A6891 The Artjuna cafe restaurant’s chef, Nadav Shir has traveled the world and India for 12 years. Artjuna is such a pleasant place and the food so good, that we ended up eating there many times. Here Nadav prepares our veggie lasagna.faces in goa East meets west in Goa.river boat in goa The Kerala-type houseboats are a relatively new feature in Goa. This one was built in the traditional way by people from Kerala. It has three cabins and takes only six passengers at a time. We spent 24 luxurious hours on board enjoying good food and drinks, beautiful riverside landscapes and all the singing and soaring birds around.
Well… just to make sure the experience would not be too idyllic, some hotel started another loud technomusic party at midnight very close to the place where we achored for the night.house boat goa white-bellied sea eagle _49A6906 Our houseboat, Laid Back Waters.
house boat and captain Our captain Ramesh.kingfisher bear goa Kingfisher, probably the best known Goan brandname.fish market in goa Goa’s fish markets have a great selection of seafood. King fish, barracudas, sharks, red snappers, squids, shrimps…

Pasta with fresh wild mushrooms

funnel chanterelle finland

You can not get it all! This autumn has been blessed with sunny days and comfortable temperatures. Low wintery sun paints the nature’s warm colors with an extra golden tone. But ! As much as we have enjoyed this sunny and dry autumn, the mushrooms would have needed the rains to pop up. So it’s been unusually slim pickings this year.
October is the season for the funnel chanterelle. I spent a few hours with my mother in law and sister in law searching for these delicious mushrooms. When dried, they can be stored for the whole long winter’s use.
This time the amount I found was so small, I decided to use them right away with pasta.

Here is a very simple recipe you might find tasty.

Pasta with fresh wild mushrooms

Ingredients

  • Fresh Funnel Chantaerelles
  • Fresh cherry tomatoes
  • Fresh garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Spaghetti
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Chop the garlic to thin slices.
  2. Cut the tomatoes to 3 pieces each.
  3. Fry the garlic in lots of olive oil and put aside when golden.
  4. Fry the tomatoes in the same oil, just for 30-60 sec, then put aside with all the oil still remaining in the pan.
  5. Fry the mushrooms on a dry pan first to get the extra moisture away, then add olive oil and fry for couple of minutes and let the mushroom absorb the oil.
  6. Cook the pasta.
  7. A couple of minutes before the pasta is cooked, put all the sauce ingredients back to the pan and warm them up. Add salt and pepper according to taste, then mix with the cooked pasta.
  8. Add parmesan cheese on top.
  9. Bon appétit!
http://sweetchili.fi/en/pasta-with-fresh-wild-mushrooms/

pasta with wild mushrooms tomatoes and garlic

My Family reunion in Burgundy

My brothers and I live in 3 different countries: Israel, Holland and Finland.
However, we try to meet as often as possible and pull our kids and grandkids to the circle of the greater family. I personally believe that strong family ties can give you a feeling of security and warmth in this modern world.
This year’s meeting was held in the end of September in Burgundy, France. Looking for a place in the countryside, a compound that can host over 40 persons, we found the Château de Prety.
And indeed, great it was. This wonderful old mansion dates back as far as to Roman times.
During our 5 days meeting, the families did independently trips in the area, exploring the villages, small towns and markets.
The whole tribe met for dinner every evening. Good food and local wines gave the best conditions to spontaneous connections between family members of all ages.
I was especially delighted to witness how the younger generations did connect and enjoy each others company. Small groups chatting around dinner table or in the yard around the fire and under the full moon light.
Varon family reunion
Everybody has finally reached the meeting place and it is time for a toast!
Varon family reunion Varon family reunion chateau-de-prety-garden-2 Château de Prety ‘s garden has all that I love in gardens. Size (it is huge), informal design, lots of hidden corners one can find peace or meditate in, flowers and the history of the place visible.
chateau-de-prety-gate-and-micka The gate to the compound and Mycah, who has just woken up in the first morning after the previous day’s long drive from Holland.
Varon-family-reunion-burgundy So this is my family. You mess with me, these are the people you’ll have to reckon with…
Varon family reunion The Israeli delegation came up with T-shirts for everybody with a specially designed emblem for the event. 3 different colors: blue for the senior generation (the 4 brothers and their wives), green for our kids and their spouses and white for the grandkids. Great idea and fine execution!
varon-musicians-burgundy varon-musicians. Some of the Varons from Israel brought their music instruments with. Here, rehearsing under the supervision of my brother Ran. It was lovely listening to them almost daily. Sometimes as a group, other times just a sound of a lonely cello coming out of the third floor window.

chateau-de-prety-yard
chateau-de-prety-yard

The sound of water was a nice background music throughout the days.

entrance-and-bathroom-chateau-de-prety
entrance-and-bathroom-chateau-de-prety

My own suite used to be the Château’s horse stables. They have been transformed into beautiful living spaces.

chateau-de-prety-zen-corners
chateau-de-prety-zen-corners

Interior and exterior decorations match.

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pumpkin-in-a-vegetable-market-in-burgundy
vegetabale-market-in-burgundy
vegetabale-market-in-burgundy

The vegetable market in the nearby village brought to my mind old still life paintings with their colors and style.