Archive for January, 2013

  • Dean & Deluca

    January 30th, 2013


    I’ve been looking forward to telling you about a new assignment I’ve been given, working with Marie Claire Türkiye, writing and shooting for their Going Out section. Unfortunately due to a production oversight, I didn’t get credited in the February issue’s pages. Still there’s always next month, right? One of the things I really enjoyed covering for the latest issue was the new Dean & Deluca at Kanyon. For those in the know, D&D is definitely at he premium end of the scale for food and entertainment, but I’m cautiously optimistic about this brand entering Turkey. A co-venture between the famous New York brand and Turkey’s gourmet emporium, Mania, the operation will probably only roll out one more location in 2013 at Istiniye Park. However, given the enthusiasm during the opening week — they’re averaging about 600 covers a day — more seem sure to follow. Whether the focus is gourmet grocery service, high end dining, or upmarket coffee retailing is also undecided according to the operational management. Turkey is a fantastic place for food, and if a retailer like D&D can help spotlight Turkey’s wealth of delicacies to the outside wore world then I’m for it. I learned recently that something like 70-80% of the world’s supply of the mushroom most associate with Italy—the Porcini—is sourced here in Turkey. D&D also seem to be packaging a great deal of Turkey’s organic foods, and if there’s an industry that needs a mighty champion right now, it’s the organic one. Their coffee is quite nice too.

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  • The mill

    January 28th, 2013


    Last week I gave a brief glimpse of the mills around  Denizli. Today I thought I’d offer you a bit more these mills is really incredible. Everything is covered in cotton cobwebs, glistening in the slanted sunlight. Heated by small iron wood stoves these mills still operate what are still considered hand-looms, because the pattern and the threading is intently monitored by the men who control them.  It think these places are something quite beautiful to behold, and I hope you’ll agree. There are no computers and no button pressing automation, so each product they weave has unique variations. These men are making pestemal, many of which are destined for my friends at Hamamist and are all the rage right now in Australia. For my non-Turkish readers, if you’re not familiar with these wonderful towels, you should investigate them. Not only are they beautiful, but they’re light, thin and incredibly absorbent, perfect for holidays and the washing machine, because they don’t bulk up your luggage or your laundry.












  • Osman Usta: the Master beneath the mosque

    January 25th, 2013




    I don’t know about you, but I like a well made shoe. In fact, I prefer a pair. These days, however, it seems you have to go to Italy or Spain to find a good handcrafted shoemaker … or so I thought. Skeptical? I was too. Despite a tip from my friend, Metin — a man of substance and style —I learned about a fine shoemaker in my own backyard. Much to my amazement, beneath Yeni Camii (New Mosque) in Yeniköy, there is, in fact, an artisan shoemaker. He is also turning out some extremely stylish men’s boots in supple leather and silky soft suede, and has been doing so for no less than about 50 years. To my embarrassment, I walked by his shop for almost two-and-a-half years without a second glance. Perhaps it’s because it seems like a relatively modest storefront and workshop. Let this be a lesson to me to be more attentive. Osman Usta has clients from as far afield as England, France, Argentina, Spain. Now the term usta (master) is somewhat overused in Turkey as it can refer to anyone from the guy slicing slivers of döner off the spit, to a second-rate carpenter, or to a man like Osman. In this case, however, the title is well earned. While I sipped a tea I had the pleasure of watching him work. It’s truly something to behold. I will definitely be seeking him out the next time I look for a new pair of suede or lea footwear. In fact, I can hardly wait to put in an order for some shoes from the Master beneath the mosque.

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  • A little Meander

    January 22nd, 2013




    I’m taking the next couple of days to explore Turkey’s fertile textile basin. Sheltered by the mountains, along the river Meander (Menderes in Turkish) I’m looking into the craft of cotton weaving. For thousands of years this place has been a rich land and the site of numerous civilizations as well the highway of marching armies. Today it’s the heartland of Turkey’s export textile industry, a magic place, warmed by geothermal waters, wreathed in fog and shot through with dazzling slanted beams of light — which can afford you a glimpse of the calm and warmth through which people navigate life here. If you’re interested in the history and the feel of this place, I highly recommend Jeremy Seal’s excellent book Meander, which charts his journey from the river’s headwaters to the Aegean — it’s equal parts entertaining travel story and compelling history. For now, here’s a glimpse of the texture and the mood in these parts:











  • Sedat

    January 18th, 2013


    Dear Sof,

    As I’ve said before, something interesting always happens when someone asks me to take a photo. Today as I was hurrying from one place to another near Galatasaray Lisesi, a man called out at me, but what was unusual was that he did so in English. He asked me why I wasn’t taking his photo. This is, real street life, he said, pointing to himself. I told him I’d be delighted. He saluted me with his can of Efes Xtra. What followed was one of the most real conversations I’ve had in a long time. Sedat grew up in Germany, but is Turkish. He speaks flawless German, or so he told me, and I had no reason to believe he exaggerated. His English was near perfect, though he wasn’t for a moment proud of it. He asked about where I was from and found out my mother was Scottish. Then he told me about how he’d had a Scottish girlfriend, who now owns a hostel in Kekova. They traveled all around for two years and I could tell by the way he described her, he loved her. He told me he understood why she left him to settle down, and I could see he was sincere. Apparently she sends him letters and money from time to time, and that he misses her but doesn’t want to be dependent on her. It’s not pride, so much as self-worth. He told me about his love for Çıralı and Olympos on the Mediterranean, but that if he goes there he can’t afford beer. I had plans to go shoot and try out a pide place, but there was something about Sedat that kept me rooted to the spot. Finally I decide there was no need to rush, and sat down next to him. He tried to give me the piece of foam he sat on, but I told him I wasn’t cold. He told me that the worst thing about being on the street wasn’t asking for money, though that was difficult, it was that there weren’t enough people who would stop and talk to him. We agreed that asking for help, even if it’s for another beer, isn’t easy. He said sometimes he found it hard to find space to be alone when he needed to cry. As he was talking I couldn’t help but wonder how such a well educated man could end up in his situation. There had to be more than drugs and alcohol. He has kicked the drugs, he said, but still drinks. I believed him. Then he told me about a Canadian doctor he met, who helped him when he was still addicted to drugs. She offered him her number and help anytime. He said however he doesn’t like to take more than he needs, and now he is only a drinker. I believed him. He told me that he had been married once and had a daughter. He thought about them every day. They died in a car accident, he said. His daughter was so beautiful, he told me, and so was his wife. Then he told me to talk to my daughter just as I was talking to him, no different, and then she would know me for who I was. I asked him if it would be all right if I shared his story. He said, absolutely. And I believed him. When I repeated how sorry I was for his loss, he told me that it was 25 years ago, a lifetime ago. I didn’t believe him.

    I was so happy to see your face today, Sof. I can’t tell you how much.





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  • Chaining the unchainable

    January 16th, 2013


    I don’t know about you, but I prefer the image immediately above to the one immediately below. I like to stand at the edge of things and and peer into the vastness, to witness the beauty of nature’s forms unimpeded by manmade forms. That’s why I can’t quite fathom why the city of Istanbul took it upon themselves to impose these truly ugly chains and pylons along the Bosporus between Tarabya and Yeniköy. Has the municipality suddenly become concerned for our safety? Or did they need to find another way to clutter up more free space? There are a lot of places where the city’s intervention might do some good. I’m not convinced this is one of them.


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  • A fire in the mind

    January 14th, 2013


    Only one colour can break the tonal tide of white/grey/blue that this season pours down upon us. It’s like a vitamin for the soul. A beacon in a white night. The hue of courage. Unlike cowardly yellow, it knows how to stand up to nature’s desaturation and never blench. Eat red. Drink red. Wear red. See red. Hold back the chill of winter. Kindle a fire in the mind.







  • Sometimes at Hepsi Hikaye

    January 13th, 2013


    There’s nothing quite like a good conversation over a meal between friends. These days, however, it’s not always easy to find the time or the right venue to make such a thing happen. Restaurants can be too loud or too impersonal. Hosting at home requires you to make a serious commitment in terms of preparation and work, and can take you away from the friends you want to get close to. Fortunately, the Bebek club of ideas, Hepsi Hikaye (Everything’s a Story) is now hosting intimate, multi-course dinners on Friday and Sunday nights, dubbed “Bazen” — meaning sometimes in Turkish, and is also a combination of the two Organizers, Banu and Zeynep’s name — with a menu designed and prepared by chef Melih from Alaçati’s well loved restaurant, Agrillia. If you’re looking for an alternative to the typical night out, it’s definitely worth a look. The food Friday night —prosciutto fagioli soup, lor cheese and lentil salad, cottage pie, porcini papardelle, and beautifully prepared beef — possessed all the warmth of a home cooked meal without the burden of dishes. The wine was truly excellent too. It was a different kind of night out. One well worth having.







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  • The stairwell refuge

    January 12th, 2013


    In most business buildings, and many apartment blocks there’s an essential Turkish institution. Past the postboxes, across the scuffed, cracked tile floor, an illumined window, fogged with steam, behind which moves a shadowy indistinct figure. What’s brewing inside the uninitiated, non Turk might wonder? A magician in his lair? Almost. From that room, usually not much more than a metre or two square, a man or youth will emerge bearing a shiny silvery tray on which he carries an absolute Turkish necessity — piping hot, black tea accompanied by a tiny spoon and two little bricks of sugar. Outside pushed against the narrow corridor wall, a stool or two, maybe a chair with its vinyl cushion torn, exposing some yellow foam cushioning, and a table with an ashtray and stubbed out butt. This time of year, this is the cheapest refuge from Istanbul’s rain-spattered streets, where for less than 50 cents you can buy yourself a quick infusion of warmth and escape the bone-clinging chill that the wet season brings. The hallway tea room. A Turkish institution that earns its rent in 75 kuruş increments.









  • Dear Sof V

    January 9th, 2013


    Had big plans for 2013, but the weather has intervened to give us a slow start—school’s out and we’re snowed in, Sof. As you’re fond of saying, hands up in the air, “What are we gonna dooo, Baba?” For starters we’re sticking close to home. Meetings are cancelled, people have the flu (which we’ve escaped for now) and that’s about all there is to say. I’ve been staying in with you mostly, which is nice for me, but not so good for our followers. Your dedicated blog and blogger will be blogging again soon. Promise.





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