Archive for October, 2006

Back to Archives

Coffee or Tea

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

starbucks.jpgThis morning, we treated ourselves to a morning walk to the Starbucks on Istiklal street. There are 36 Starbucks in Istanbul and so far, we have seen only his one. It’s in a trendy area and it seems to be full of business people and private school teens.
During the afternoons, the pedestrianized street looks like this:

In the mornings, it is much less crowded so that we are able to walk without concentrating on not running into other tourists or Turks. Most stores seem to be open again after the end-of-Ramazan celebrations, so it’s nice to window shop again for clothes and shoes, scarves and tea, baklava, tree-trunk sized kebaps and turkish delight.

tea.jpgWe don’t go for Starbucks very often here because of the option of going for tea. Served scalding hot, with two lumps of sugar in a small glass, our tea breaks have been something I look forward to each day. In our favourite tea shop, a short walk up the hill, there are boardgames and backgammon boards for people to use while sipping and puffing on hookahs. It’s cozy inside, with lounging cushions and pillows on the floor in a couple of rooms, and booths and easy chairs in the front and back. Such an enjoyable ritual to adopt.

More Turkish Delights

Friday, October 20th, 2006

CIMG1051.JPGHaving failed to find cilantro, fennel, cardamom or ginger for some of our favorite recipes, we thought we might have more success with a Turkish recipe. Turkish Lamb Pitas with Tomato Sauce were a surprising tasty treat, even though we didn’t find cilantro—apparently it’s not actually Turkish. I feared using too much allspice, but it added a pleasant earthness along with the mint. We couldn’t seem to stuff enough yogurt into the pita, having to repeat the process as we ate to the bottom.

Pastries in Turkey are mostly variations on baklava, nuts and pastry soaked in syrup. We found a little shop in Beyo?lu with continuous stream of customers waiting for their turn at the counter, always a good sign.


Of the three pastries we purchased, the pistatio baklava was by far the best, probably the best I’ve ever had, and the other two were a bit of a disappointment. The large square was mostly shredded wheat, sort of like the cereal with a layer of nuts and soaked in a syrup. Unfortunately that syrup was not very sweet or otherwise flavorful. The green roll was almost mushy with the not-so-sweet syrup and the pistatio flavor was subtle. However, we are not giving up, there are many more sweets to try at the same store. Perhaps we can watch what other people order.

CIMG1055.JPG We like coffee with our dessert and what better coffee for Turkish baklava than Turkish coffee. I knew nothing about how to make it. When Janet inquired about the location of the Turkish coffee pot I responded, “That cup with the stick on it?” Fortunately we found an entertaining web page with excellent step-by-step instructions, so Janet was able to make it successfully on the first try. The process is quite touchy, requiring the right combination of water, sugar and coffee and then must be carefully heated and stirred in several steps to create a foaming reaction. The taste is…different, sort of like burnt chocolate. It is bitter, as expected, but not thick, except for the sludge that formed on the bottom of the cup. I’d drink it again.

Turkish Delights

Tuesday, October 17th, 2006

We’re the kind of people who enjoy a good breakfast. Hot or cold, buffet or continental, greasy spoon or white table cloth, Western or Asian, anything and everything. We even ate the sad little breakfast spread they had in Budapest at our budget hostel: sugarless Tang, stale-ish buns, plastic cheese, sliced “meat”, wretched cornflakes (how on earth could cornflakes taste bad?) with UHT milk and weakened instant coffee. How is Nescafe coffee at all, I would like to know? It’s like drinking dirty water poured through an old oil filter, with sugar. Further, I found that adding UHT milk to the blend does not inch it any closer to tasting good. Indeed, this practice threatens to reverse the breakfasting process.

But, I digress. We have come across more good breakfasts than bad in our travels. Notable on “The Bad List” are Budapest, Kaifeng, China (flavourless, gristly meat in a steamed bun), and Vienna (similar to Budapest but served in an old college mess hall). Leading on “The Good List” are Paris (strong cafe with buttery, flaky, sinful croissants), Tallinn (fresh juice and fruity yogurt), Bolshoe Goluostnoye, Siberia (kasha with fresh cream and blinis with homemade jam), and now, Marmaris, Turkey.

CIMG0690.JPGStaying with Mom and Dad on their boat in Marmaris, I was so happy to have access to a kitchen again—pardon me, a galley—that I promptly suggested eggs benedict for our first morning on board. Just thinking of it makes my mouth water: nice eggs, fresh Turkish bread, ladles full of hollandaise sauce… Plus, I busted out Dad’s old stovetop espresso maker and brewed up some blistering-hot coffee with the grounds brought from Amsterdam especially for that purpose.


And what could make eggs benny taste even better? Eating it outside in the sunny cockpit, bobbing on a clear, green sea.


And then there was the Turkish breakfast on Day 2: dried apricots, almonds, walnuts, goat feta, olives, fresh bread, honey, and more espresso.


Already I liked Turkey and we had barely made it beyond the boat. And even when we did move past the dock, it was to visit the pool. When we actually started to venture into town via a mini-bus called a dolmus (Turkish for “full”), we were well into the tourist resort-mode of drinking good, frosty local beers, roasting our pale selves in the sun and keeping an ever-watchful eye for doners and kebaps. Of course, with that attitude, we fit right in with the tourists in Marmaris and the boating crowd at the marina. Sun, food, a little chilled gin (actually, a lot of chilled gin) and a pool? Why would we leave?