Archive for December, 2013
Sometimes I find it hard to think of a more satisfying adventure than the sharing of food. The sight of the table ready, the expectation of guests, the stories that will be shared, the glances hovering over the cheese and charcuterie, the beginning, the rich wine and garlic aroma wafting from the oven, the clink of the glasses, and the slow, steady devastation of the table that follows are all as important as the food itself. May the New Year bring us many such a feast.
Just wanted to share with you a sample of some photography I recently did for Cochine in Beyoglu. It’s a cozy spot halfway down Kumbaracı Yokuşu I first mentioned in a separate post last year that serves French-influenced Vietnamese cuisine and is run by a super great couple, Melis and Chris Maxwell (immediately above). This year there’s a new menu and some fantastic new talent in the kitchen, which is why they called me in to take some shots.
I really love the place as it’s one of the few venues in town I will continue to hang around in after a great dinner. At most places, you might eat a good meal but won’t feel an inclination to linger once the plates have been cleared. That’s not the case here. With live music on many an evening and some quite nice cocktails being whipped up behind the bar, it’s easy to get into (and stay into) a Cochine kind of mood. In fact, if I were persuaded to go out New Year’s Eve, this is exactly the sort of place I’d head.
At three-years-old there’s a certain someone who has begun to take the arrival of December very seriously. As parents, therefore, it seems we must as well. Yet since only one of us comes from a land that fully embraced Christmas — at least once upon a time — it has become incumbent upon him to creative direct the proceedings. Fortunately, the other parent is an enthusiastic convert to the festive season. Especially now that she’s seen just how magic certain traditions can become when you have a small but significant believer in your life. So this year, we are trying to make it more of an event than ever before. And after a certain someone arrived home disappointed to miss out on the cookery class the other day it seemed like a good idea to kick the season off with a new tradition, the tradition of baking Gingerbread men … people … persons.
But before Chef Sof’s adventures in baking could begin, we had to source our ingredients. For instance, nutmeg in Turkish? Apparently it’s muskat or küçük hindistan cevizi. Know what hindistan cevizi is? Coconut … omit the küçük and you’re presented with a distinctly different nut, which isn’t a nut at all. Then there’s good old-fashioned blackstrap molasses … or rather, there isn’t. Fortunately some consultation and multi-lingual cross-referencing revealed üzüm pekmezi (grape molasses) would do just fine. So after a couple of trips here and there we had everything we needed. In fact, we had rather more than we needed as a quick check of the cupboards would have revealed, because there, unopened, and labeled boldly in English was a very fine shaker of ground nutmeg. Let’s just say some unseasonable language was heard.
Anyway, Martha Stewart, if you’re reading this, don’t fear. You won’t have any competition from the Welbournes of Istanbul anytime soon. Great fun was had. And while some of us like our gingerbread persons just fine, others seem to prefer the candy-coated chocolate buttons that adorn them a little bit more. We didn’t even get around to the icing. Maybe next time.
Today I decided to celebrate some of my favourite über herbs and spices while setting up some lights in the studio. These guys not only pack a punch in terms of flavour but also add — if you believe their press — a host of health benefits. That’s why I decided to give sage, turmeric and ginger the spotlight for today. Call me crazy but I like to think of these guys as comic book heroes, surging through our bodies and making a meal of such malicious villains as free radicals, mutant cells, and toxic contaminants. Ka-pow!