• zürich creators: shem leupin

    November 27th, 2017

    At consumer-level, Zurich is not a trend-setting place. The Swiss have built a world class reputation perfecting products of enduring quality, not flash fads. In my opinion that’s a good thing. In such a culture, innovating profitable products, or commodities, especially those that already work so well and satisfy so many, without apparent reason, can hardly be seen as a worthwhile venture. Unlike hugely populated markets hungry for the next big thing – places where creating novelty is a relentless thirst, here in established Zurich it’s a difficult proposition. Yet Zurich doesn’t lack for creativity. In fact, the creativity that succeeds here might just be the kind that matters.

    For instance: coffee. An essential, mostly overlooked daily ritual, your cup of joe is what it is, and as long as it performs and tastes in the manner expected, who cares? A perfectly valid viewpoint. Food and beverage snobbery is often tiresome, borderline offensive, in a world where there isn’t currently enough nutrition, let alone quality, to go around.

    However, for creative people who work in F&B, something as mundane as a cup of java is also an unexplored opportunity for creativity. This isn’t simply about ego or one-upmanship, it’s about enhancing a daily experience and improving one’s handiwork. Also, responsible trade as well as individuality in the end product, created in partnership with growers, can better the good fortune of those undervalued but essential people who cultivate and collect our daily sustenance. Moreover, smaller outlets and producers offer an alternative to the massive bargaining power (hegemony) of corporations that can crush small growers and producers.

    To Shem Leupin, the affable, approachable, creative mind working with Swiss heritage brand, STOLL KAFFEE, coffee seems an opportunity for a welcome change. A conversation with Shem, whether it’s about your morning cup, finding the right brew for your customers, the supply chain, or developing yourself as a barista, is refreshing. His enthusiastic, unpretentious view of what goes into a daily habit, is as eye-opening as the strongest diner coffee, without the bitter aftertaste. There’s a transparency about Shem and Stoll demonstrated by the fact that you can walk right into the roastery to pick up your coffee. A visit I highly recommend. You can choose from a whole range of different coffees for both espresso and pour-over methods and see where the magic is made. Perhaps I’ll bump into you there.

    The Stoll roastery at Austrasse 38, 8045 Zürich, is open for walk-in sales from 08:00-17:00 Monday to Friday.  If you’re curious about coffee, it’s a great place to start. Shem is also responsible for an ace coffee shop, simply called COFFEE at Grüngasse 4, 8004 Zürich, open 08:00-18:00 Monday to Friday and 09:00-17:00 Saturdays.

  • hydra … our summer’s first and last port of call

    November 1st, 2017

    As stated before, I love islands. At their best they are little capsules of bliss. On an island you accept the fact that there is a disconnection from all that mainland hustle and bustle. You’re cut off. Which is a pleasure …  and while I am happy that there are more far islands left in this grand world to discover, my current favourite is Hydra. I am not alone. Far more distinguished company have resided or worked here – Leonard Cohen, Jurgen Teller, Sofia Loren among others. We had a celebrity sighting with a Game Of Thrones star. I’ve been twice and predict a return at the next earliest date.

    Although the amphitheatre arrangement style of the architecture of the port may be overshadowed by Santorini’s iconic and relentlessly photographed scene, Hydra doesn’t lack for charm. Strict codes preserve it from crass developments and ugly architecture. This is, for my money, exactly what I hope for on a Greek island. The fact that the port-side town lacks motor vehicles or even bicycles is a huge plus. Want to lug your bag up the hill, you have two options: shoulder the burden or hire a mule who line up, truculently, each morning to assist in the unloading of various goods at the port. They might not be the happiest islanders but their toils are greatly appreciated by a snap-happy generation of instagrammers as well as seven-year-olds who delight in being given a ride to the hotel along with overstuffed suitcases which don’t easily roll along on cobblestone streets.

    Given its proximity to Athens, (1.5 hours on the Flying Dolphin, 2.5 by Flying Cat) it’s a big favourite for casual weekenders as well as the elite traveller. The full spectrum of hospitality is available. We sampled two distinctly different properties. The rather grandiosely titled, Hydrea Exclusive Hospitality (at which the first four photos of this post were taken), located on the western edge of the harbour, is a magnificent perch, everything a romance seeker could expect style-wise from a design hotel. We also stayed at Miranda, an old captain’s mansion, which has its own old-world charm and much less “exclusive” prices, and where our welcome included another ubiquitous four-legged islander: a white and ginger street cat, we very creatively dubbed, Ginger. Hydra probably has the friendliest and most well cared for population of cats we have encountered so far, also much to the delight of the seven-year-old set.

    In terms of quality food and drink, you don’t have to wander far. Good, honest fare abounds. Side streets, in particular, offer a host of family owned and operated options. Eat whatever is featured on the daily menu. Fresh produce and other close-to-source ingredients make such dishes sing. Also sweet, sun-kissed tomato sauce with a hint of cloves make dishes such as rooster in sauce, or meat balls and sauce a daily craving. A side of fresh cut potatoes never hurts either.

    The most difficult question of the day is where to dip ourselves into the Aegean. There are fantastic places arrayed cliff-side to drink, take in the sun and plunge into Poseidon’s blessed pool. Yet some mornings the wind picks up and forebodes the need for a sheltered cove, in which case there are also beaches, usually requiring a 20-30 minute stroll, or a shuttle boat – if you don’t feel the need to exert yourself. When we wanted a beach our preferred choice was the Four Seasons (not the chain), which also comes highly recommended as a boutique hotel. It’s about 45 minutes on foot but the westerly walk features plenty of scenic places to stop and enjoy a refreshment or two. If speed is of the essence, there’s a regular shuttle boat every 30 minutes. While we can’t attest to the suites — having not stayed there — the food and the cheerful staff constantly deliver. Personally, I prefer to remain closer to the harbour, and so, from 10:00 AM most mornings, our favourite was the cliff-side, Spilia (pictured two frames above), where the super-friendly and talented bartender-barista, basketball aficionado Aggelos (pictured immediately above), hosted us with such natural good grace we almost felt like locals.

    As the sun moves westward, we almost always find ourselves at Hydronetta (shots 1, 3, 4 , 5 below) which means mermaid, for aperitifs. Just around the point from Spilia, the sunsets are a thing of legend. And despite some occasionally melodramatic playlists, we never felt the need to break with tradition. The sheltered cove was perfect for a dip on all but one evening where only yours truly felt comfortable venturing for a swim.

    After nightfall and a good dinner at somewhere like Kryfo Limani (Secret Port) or Pardosiako (Traditional) there’s always time for a digestif or two at Amalour, or you can head back to the port and enjoy a perennial favourite, Pirate Bar. But the music is really good at Amalour (immediately below) so don’t rush. In terms of atmosphere, the western portside Papagalos (Parrot), right below Hydrea E.H., is also good place to zone out next the gently bobbing yachts.

    While the season is now over for most of our preferred haunts, we’ll be kept warm with memories of a summer bookended by Hydra’s eternal magic. Thank Poseidon for the welcome tide that brings you ashore on Hydra. We now look forward to our return.

  • the new mobile office: lake zürich

    October 2nd, 2017

    Who doesn’t like a workspace with an inspiring view? Yet even the nicest corner suite is essentially the same scene, day-in, day-out. No matter how well appointed your office, it’s hard to change things up. My latest workspace is constantly changing. Thanks to Zürichsee, any day I need to sit down and get fired up,  keep my mind moving and not get stuck, I hop on one of their boats. Not only are they spotlessly maintained, the views are incredible. You can get fresh air any time you need it, and you never need to go hungry or thirsty either. Better yet, you’re not confined to the same office. It’s easier to keep the mind floating along when the body travels with it. You can even choose from a classic steamboat, or a more sleek modern contemporary design, the boat schedule is here. You can go first class or economy. Yet the same friendly service is on either deck.

    Once home after a gruelling day of contemplating such glorious scenery, you can also have the satisfaction to ask: what was the scene like at the office today, dear?

  • daytime at union pacific …

    October 18th, 2016

    engin

    sign II

    Up Tables

    chemex pour

    Coffee supplies

    Ham n Cheese

    Up lounge

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    Lunch Menu (October)ricerolls1

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    Food board

    It was a long, long summer, as you know. The good news is, that, despite the stresses and strains, life is again returning to the city. It’s autumn and Istanbul is like that kid in the schoolyard that won’t submit to the bully. Sure it’s taken some hits. But it keeps on picking itself up. That attitude inspires us at Union Pacific. Our sign is properly mounted and lit up. We have a fantastic team led by the inimitable Chris James Maxwell, formerly of Cochine, who are plating up a great mix of flavours and experiences from the vast and varied shores of the Pacific. We have a fierce baker in-house whose skills with sweet or savoury are becoming legend. We have coffee from some of Istanbul’s artisan roasters. We have new items coming to the menu weekly (check up above). But most of all, what do we have? A great time.

    Like to travel? You don’t have to go far to begin the journey. Step on in. We’ve got places to take you.

    Union Pacific General Store & New World Eatery – Şah Değirmeni Sokak 6A, Şahkulu Mahallesi, Tünel, Beyoğlu,
    +90 212 252 7274.

  • Mastic

    September 27th, 2015

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    mastica trees-elisabeth

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    Early every morning in the village of Vouno, Elisabeth (pictured above) rises and sorts through what looks, at a distance, like a pile of rocks and twigs. Working in a shed beside her village home, her deft hands, gnarled like the trunks of the trees from which she harvests her treasure, meticulously plucking the sticky resin that drips like angels’ tears from the other detritus that carpets the ground of Chios. Reputed to be the birthplace of Homer, Chios is largely overlooked by the hordes of tourists from continental Europe who descend upon Greece each year. But despite the island’s literary pedigree it is the Pistacia lentiscus variety of gum tree unique to Chios that makes the island famous.

    After scraping and scoring the bark, the tree releases resin which subsequently falls to the levelled ground around the tree trunks and is collected by people such as Elisabeth. This local industry is an important part of Chios’ cultural heritage and helps supplement and support earnings. I was told that one kilo of the pure resin can fetch up to 80 Euros. Mastic is used in everything from Mastica liquor, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics as well as instrument and furniture manufacture.

    Mastic smuggling also features in Amin Maalouf’s entertaining and erudite novel, Balthasar’s Odyssey in which the “… Turkish authorities only allow it to be used in the Sultan’s harem, where it’s fashionable for the noble ladies to chew it from morn till night to whiten their teeth and perfume their breath. The farmers on the island who grow the precious tree (Pistachio lentiscus), which is very like the pistachio tree we have in Aleppo, have to hand the mastic over for a fixed price, but those who produce a surplus try to sell it on their own account, though if they’re found out they may spend a long time in prison or in the galleys or even be put to death.”

    Thankfully for kind and generous Chians like Elisabeth, such penalties no longer exist and mastic can now be enjoyed by a much wider audience than the Sultan’s harem.

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  • pide project

    January 22nd, 2015

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    Today I finally get to share something with you that I’ve wanted to share for a while. One of the reasons my posting has been so spotty of late is that I have been busy working on an interesting new project for BABAJI PIDE, a new venture by famed London restaurateur, Alan Yau, which places pide centre stage while celebrating the many pleasures of Turkish cuisine.

    Working with Simon Johnson from THAT Magazine, we’ve been creating content for the new website, which just launched and you can view here. I’m pleased to say that I’ve done all the original photography for the site so far as well as a bit of writing too.

    A high point in the work so far was getting to shoot with Ayse Dilek from FOOD PROJECT, who shared this recipe which you can make at home. So as a bonus today, I’m including the extremely delicious pide recipe she shared to make at home and tide you over until you can drop in on BABAJI PIDE on Shaftesbury Road in Soho. Here it is:


    MOZZARELLA, COTTAGE CHEESE, SEMI-HOT PEPPER PIDE 

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    INGREDIENTS (Makes 5 pides)

    PIDE DOUGH:

    500 grams flour
    12.5 grams olive oil
    10gr granulated sugar
    12.5 gr salt
    1 grams fresh yeast
    300ml water

    TOPPINGS:

    625 grams mozzarella / Turkish string cheese (if available)
    375 grams cottage cheese / Turkish Çökelek (if available)
    25 small pickled semi-hot peppers

    recipe diptych

    5 copy

    DIRECTIONS:

    Add fresh yeast to warm water (slightly warmer than lukewarm) and wait until it dissolves, set aside.

    Combine flour, olive oil, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Make a trough in the centre and add the yeast mixture. Using your hands knead the dough together until it is smooth and consistent. Cover with a damp tea towel and allow to rise for minimum 1 hour.

    Preheat oven to 180C.

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    Divide the dough into five equal pieces. Using a thin rolling pin, shape each portion into an oval.

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    Place ovals onto an oven tray. Distribute the toppings equally among the ovals.

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    Drizzle with olive oil and bake for approximately 10 min or until the pide dough is golden and crisp at the edges.

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    Serve with some fat dollops of Balkan style yoghurt and roughly chopped fresh mint & parsley … afiyet olsun! And drop me a line if you try the recipe at home, please. I’d love to know what you think.

  • merry citrus

    December 18th, 2014

    lemon

    tangerine

    Perhaps some vitamin C will restore my holiday spirits and bring some good cheer and not too much coal? The season is almost upon us …  1 week to go. I’m not ready. Are you? Lots of love from Istanbul!

    Posted in Food & Drink | | No Comments
  • kronotrop

    November 11th, 2014

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    Umut-latté art copy

    I have a confession to make. Wait … I have two confessions to make. One, I have neglected the blog a bit lately and for that I am genuinely sorry, so I hope today’s post helps rectify my shabby behaviour. Two, I have an addiction.

    My addiction led to wanton coffee consumption all across Istanbul. Worse, not all of that coffee was virtuous. To be honest, much of it was downright awful. You see, I did not know the origin of my espressos and lattes. And, yes, I am ashamed. Fortunately, a little over two years ago, I met a coffee snob who helped reform me. I am a new man, thanks to Çagatay Gülabioğlu. In coffee, once more, I trust.

    ROASTERY-6 green beaning copy

    ROASTERY-2 Turgut copy-1

    ROASTERY-8 freshly roasted copy

    ROASTERY-9 fresh roast beans copy-1

    Thanks to Çagatay’s high standards, he drew the attention of Mr Mehmet Gürs, top chef and the founder of Istanbul Food and Beverage Group, who has since become involved as a patron of coffee excellence. My own personal stake in this story is that I have had the pleasure of doing a couple of photo shoots with the new Kronotrop gang, both at their Cihangir shop location and their roastery, and truly enjoyed myself witnessing the processes involved to brew a worthy cup.

    Perhaps to some coffee seems like a rather mundane affair, but in all seriousness, I really like to explore the processes and the degree of attention which the people who work together to bring me — and, I hope, you too — a much better cup of coffee. Think of all the different people a single cup of coffee connects. It’s the attention to detail and the eagerness to share a better experience which I can relate to and inspires me in my work.

    Above and below are some of the keepers and outtakes from the shoots.

    home coffee vac bags

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    Behind counter - Gizem copy

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    Nicaragua Beans copy

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    Smiling Max copy

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  • turkey’s national drink?

    September 16th, 2014

    ayran & mint

    These days there seems to be a lot of debate about what is and isn’t Turkey’s official line on just about everything. Recently, this discussion spilled over into what Turkey’s national drink is — with one rather prominent member of Turkey’s elected government stating: ayran (pronounced: “I ran”). As tempting as it is to boycott something on that basis alone, it really wouldn’t be worth it. Besides, you can’t really blame a drink for its fan club, now can you? Like blaming lager for louts … perhaps I digress?

    Made with yoghurt, water and a pinch of salt, Ayran is a powerhouse of refreshment — whether you’re depleted after a day in the heat, a night out, or suffering from insomnia, there’s something magic about this drink. It sets you back on your path somehow. It’s also pretty flippin’ tasty with a spicy meal.

    Ayran Jug

    Next time you’re feeling a little under it all, I recommend you reach for an ayranWhether you have it with mint or not is up to you. I’m going to add a little honey to my next batch, so I can get sweet and savoury all at once. Is that a controversial move? Should I dare to mess with Turkey’s national drink? I really don’t know. Should you drink it in a tin cup or a glass? I rather prefer it in a glass.

    If you want to make it yourself, I figure that it’s about as easy as falling off a bicycle. It also has the virtue of allowing you to control the salt content. I find the trick is to put a ratio of about 2 cups of plain yoghurt to one cup chilled water, plus a pinch or two of salt and then blend them together till it’s good and frothy. I hate lumpy homemade ayran, so that’s how I make it  myself. Some people use cucumber water instead of regular water for an extra dose of cool. Again, whether that’s adulterating your ayran experience, or whether it’s truly Turkish or not with cucumber water is not for me to say. Turkish purity control is not my concern.  I hope you have the freedom to enjoy your ayran in whatever way, shape or form you prefer. Peace be with you.

    Posted in Food & Drink | | 1 Comment
  • it’s too hot

    August 7th, 2014

    The Antidote

    Istanbul has been sweltering. And even that tricky little trickle of water and so-called strait, otherwise known as the majestic Bosporus, doesn’t seem willing or able to wash the heat out even at night. As I’m cooking for guests tomorrow, I thought I’d start by giving an old favourite a new twist,  a cooling little concoction I’m calling”limonade” because I used more limes than lemons. Now let’s introduce you to the key flavours of our episode today …

    LEMON copy LIME copy MINT copy BASIL copy

    INGREDIENTS:
    8 Limes
    4 Lemons
    6 cups of ice cold water
    1 cup of brown sugar loosely packed
    2 tablespoons of honey
    small bunch of basil (washed)
    small bunch of mint (washed)
    1 inch of ginger peeled and cut into discs

    INSTRUCTIONS: Wash all the ingredients thoroughly. In a small pot on a low, low heat dissolve brown sugar into 2 cups of water. Add ginger discs. Zest one lemon and one lime and add to syrup mixture. Do not boil the syrup and remove from heat once sugar is dissolved. Stir in honey and then set aside to cool. Squeeze all the lemons and limes and strain them into a pitcher. Add mint and basil leaves. Once syrup is cooled strain mixture to remove ginger discs and add to pitcher. Add remaining 4 cups of ice cold water to pitcher and stir. Serve with plenty of ice and extra lemon or lime slices.

    Posted in Food & Drink | | 3 Comments