Tag Archives: Turkey

Topkapi Palace Sarai Gardens, Istanbul, Turkey

No matter how far you roam from the land that taught you the axiom “April showers bring May flowers,” the simple rhyme will come to mind whenever you get stuck in a spring rain.

This was true for me when Dave and I wandered through the tulips at Topkapi Palace Sarai Gardens during our Spring 2012 trip to Istanbul, Turkey.

Wander with us, try not to get wet!

Oh come on! It really was not that bad.

That’s the spirit! Now, you just need to tell Dave’s office to stop calling him while we’re on leave.

Maybe this guy can help.

Ah, this is better. Back to the pretty flowers.

Bye!

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Menemen

Bah, bah, bu dah bah…MENEMEN!

Do words like Menomonie and Menemen make you sing that Muppets song, too?

Well, it sounds similar, but Menemen is actually a traditional Turkish breakfast dish. It is the crossroads of eggs, onion, peppers and tomatoes. Pair it with crusty bread, turkish tea (cay), and you have a healthy and tasty start to your Turkish day.

Afiyet olsun!

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Turkish wine.

What? You didn’t know that there was good Turkish wine?

The Turks know where it’s at.

It’s Friday, tutti! Work hard, work-out hard, and relax tonight…

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Nar suyu, Pomegranate juice

Nar suyu was everywhere during my recent trip to Istanbul! Young men pushed carts, overflowing with pomegranates and a juice press, around the tourist attractions. They were selling the freshest version of pomegranate juice that I have ever drank. (Drunk? Grammar police, comment with correction.)

The tourist attractions sometimes offered nar suyu as well, which was the case at the Basilica Cistern. This is a must-see historical landmark, and admission is fairly priced for the experience. Don’t let a long line put you off, either, the line moves quickly.

I digress.

In the cafe near Basilica Cistern’s exit staircase, nar suyu was going for 6TL (Turkish Lira), roughly $3. Or so I remember. For a large glass.

I almost caved at that moment, but decided to hold out for one of the street vendors.

After strolling past the Hippodrome, and wandering past carpet alley (“Where are you from? Wisconsin? Oh! We have an employee who married a woman from Wisconsin.” Yea, SURE you do…), I found myself at the mouth of the Astra Bazaar.

The Astra Bazaar is sort of a sedative to the mayhem of the Grand Bazaar. You can spend bundles of money and get high quality wares in both places, but the experiences are vastly different. The Astra is calm and quiet, the Grand is hyperactive and noisy. “Teamen” (future post, but no surprises lurking here) can be found at both places, but I was looking for pomegranate juice, nar suyu.

Pomegranates!

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Happily, this young man served me.

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I would have shown his face, but it would have cost me more TL and he was already taking me on the juice – 10TL a glass! I happily paid it however, tourist season was just beginning and I like to overpay young entrepreneurial kids. Plus, maybe he didn’t want his face on someone’s travel blog even for a couple TL.

The juice was thick and rich. I sipped it for a solid half hour and enjoyed each sweet-tart moment. Tesekkür Ederiz (Thank You) nar suyu entrepreneur!

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Künefe for me, a menu for you

Künefe is an Anatolian specialty that I risked ordering at the same cafe in Istanbul where I succumbed to the tantalizing marketing of Ayran. While my choice of Künefe was even less informed than my Ayran choice, Künefe turned out to be not only a cultural favorite, but a universally understood combination of dessert flavor magic.

As you can see from the menu, all I knew from the outset was that the Künefe is a dessert (sweet!…probably), that is special (ah..yea…so is Ayran…), and it is from Anatolia.

For those of you who might need a geography lesson (like I did as I prepared for my trip to Istanbul…), “Anatolia” is Turkish for…

…in other words, 97% of the country, “Asia Minor” or “Turkey.” So, Künefe is a special Turkish dessert. Still having no idea what would appear on the plate before me, I confidently ordered Künefe.

I was delighted when this plate appeared before my eyes (ah…yea, my photography hand was slower than my fork hand).

Even though a couple of bites are missing, I hope you can visualize a crispy round of fried phyllo dough with those bright pistachios crushed on top; while you’re at it, go ahead and imagine the buttery smell wafting up on heat waves from this delightful dish.

The dessert had taken quite a while and I was still reeling from the Ayran experience, so I timidly took bites from the outer edges. Oh, sweet delight! The preparation time must have allowed the perfect syrup saturation as the heat fried the phyllo dough – it was crispy and crackly, yet still chewy and sweet. What I didn’t immediately know was how wonderful the syrup used to sweeten the dish would mix with the cheese baked into the phyllo dough.

Yes, that’s right! CHEESE in the dessert pastry with syrup!

Künefe presents a wonderful insight to the mysteries of phyllo dough. I was mostly interested in eating Künefe. However, I found this website that describes more of the history of Künefe, as well as a recipe for those brave souls willing to experiment with phyllo dough. If I can convince Dave to take on this challenge, I’ll post the results here.

Until then, we’ll all have to dream about this delectable Turkish dessert…

Yum!

p.s. I really don’t think bloggers should use “yum” – (nor “post script” cop-outs); I mean, it is kind of a lazy word for describing food, but let’s be real, what other word so universally describes that feeling of the food hitting your taste buds, textures clashing and melting in perfect rhythm in your mouth and slowly sliding down into your stomach as your lips purse into that “MMmmmmmm…” that is the only phrase you are capable of while you recover from the sensory overload of the bite you just ate.

p.p.s. The menu photo is a bit tight, and I considered not including it, but for those curious about cafe menus in Istanbul, this gives much insight.

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Ayran. Don’t be fooled, this is buttermilk.

After reading in preparation for my trip to Istanbul, Turkey, I felt ready to try some new foods.

One new food was going to be a tangy yogurt like drink that one guide and culture book raved about, citing it as a “must” try food. This dairy drink is named “Ayran.”.

You say it “ahy-rawn.”

I was pleased to find it on the menu and also managed to pronounce it well enough to order it without finger pointing and gesturing – which were fairly common on this trip.

I anticipated a thick creamy drink in a tall glass.

Instead, this plastic cup with aluminum peel-back cover arrived.

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Oh yea, and the straw. Don’t forget about the straw.

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I opened the lid to reveal a very liquidy yogurt substance, that I should have shaken. D’oh!

I stirred fast and furious and the smell wafting up to my nose was tangy. Tangier still than the tangiest yogurt. Did I mention the straw and the liquidiness?

I leaned in, took the straw in my mouth and sucked up…straight and pure buttermilk.

And then I washed my mouth with my çay and desired Ayran no more.

Incidentally, I began to notice that every corner kiosk sells Aryan, that many many Turkish children gleefully plead for and enjoy sucking on an Ayran, it’s everywhere in Istanbul!

Somehow, I was still sated by my single sip.

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Çay is chai, did you know?

One “çay”

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Istanbul brought many pleasures, including linguistic delights, pronunciation delights and sensory delights in the same package…actually, I could add a plethora of other delights to this photo – aesthetic, temporal, etc; but I digress. These tulip shaped tea glasses are quintessential Istanbul to me. Tinkle, tinkle, tinkle goes the spoon against the glass as you stir 1-2 sugar cubes into the strong, dark tea. All around, no matter where you are, you can hear tinkle tinkle tinkle or see “çay” (pronounced “chai”) on chalkboard menus, or cafe sideboards, or on a tray being carried through the neighborhood.

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