• Food & Drink,  Places

    Bosporus deluxe

    A few weeks back I spent some time in front of the camera instead of behind it touring around the Sea of Marmara and up and down the Bosporus. It was quite an experience and a nice way to earn some money, especially when being on the water was a lot more comfortable than being immersed in the dense heat of the city streets. The Bosporus really is this city’s spiritual life source. It never gets tiring being on the sea, whatever type of vessel you’re on. However, I have to say, this particular one was the finest I’ve had the pleasure of being aboard, incredibly comfortable, and tastefully appointed. It had all the old school charm in its design that I’d want if I was fortunate enough to be able to afford such a craft. Despite being perfectly happy aboard a vapur on the Bosporus you can imagine how…

  • Food & Drink

    The mystic fruit

    It’s a great time of year to be in this part of the world. Pomegranates or nar as they’re referred to in Turkey are native to this region. Whether they’re squeezed on a citrus press into a refreshing juice, sprinkled on a salad in aril form (the little juice-encased seeds you can see above) or simply popped one at a time into your mouth, you’ll never encounter anything quite like a pomegranate. These amazing fruits have been cultivated for thousands of years, and are mentioned in Greek, Judaic, Christian and Islamic texts, associated with both paradise and the underworld. Some Hebrew scholars even believe that it may have been the original forbidden fruit. Interesting then that it’s been associated with so many disease-fighting and longevity-promoting benefits. Taking pictures of them  yesterday evening in the late day light I was thinking how an uncut pomegranate looks a bit like a whirling dervish…

  • Food & Drink

    Wood Oven Happiness: Datlı Maya

    Today when I was taking pictures for a Cihangir guesthouse I was fortunate enough to stop in at Datlı Maya, a delicious stone oven bakery. I don’t know about the carbon footprint implications of a wood burning oven these days, but when it comes to pizza, or in this case, pide a boat-shaped Turkish flatbread equivalent (pictured immediately below), it makes a great difference  in terms of taste. This cosy wee spot tucked in behind Firuzağa Mosque is big on both taste and personality. The staff are friendly and boisterous, and the woman running the shop can greet you in Turkish, English or Greek with equal exuberance. From what I understand Datlı Maya sources its ingredients directly from quality farm producers. While they make no claims of being an ‘organic’ bakery, the food is fresh and remarkably economic, probably a benefit of cutting out the middle-man. There’s self-serve tea and glass-bottled water upstairs in…

  • Food & Drink,  Places

    Turkish nuts

    To be honest, the man above is not a nut man at all. He’s a fig man. The title of this short piece should really be Turkish nuts and fruits, but it’s not as catchy. Even more sadly the nut lady beside him wouldn’t let me take her picture. There are far fewer photos of the sweet teyze (aunt) street vendors on this blog than I’d like, but traditional women with headscarves are a bit camera shy, especially when the person holding the camera is a great big male yabancı (foreigner/stranger). However, if I were her, I’d be proud of my nuts. Just look at them. They’re worth a Maşallah or two, don’t you think? Anyway, I love the fact that you never know what fresh produce—whether it’s figs, hazelnuts or walnuts—is going to show up on your street corner, farm fresh and pretty much irresistible. Turkey is one fertile country. Have…

  • Food & Drink,  Places

    The Pera perch

    When I first came to this city you could acquire yourself a scruffy but livable flat with an amazing Stamboul view for as little as $40,000 US in Galata. The neighborhood did not have an Eczacıbaşı guest house, it did not have nearly so many cafés or espresso corners, boutiques, or the well-to-do expats and visitors to fill them. Today, the old Genoese quarter of Pera is an altogether different experience.

  • Places

    Escaping the hottest month

    It’s Ramazan and it’s hot. Forgive me, humid. In any case it’s not the best of times to be in a cramped city of 15 million … or is it that 18 million? Everything is a bit of a blur right now. Anyway, the days are a real test for everyone in the city, especially those observing the fast. As I’m not, the challenge is finding someplace cool and welcoming where you can eat and drink without feeling like you’re rubbing it in people’s faces.

  • Food & Drink

    Turkish Coffee: a fuzzy kind of feeling

    Do you ever have experiences you’re not sure how you feel about? That’s the fuzzy sort of thinking I have about Türk Kahvesi. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’m ever going to stumble out of bed, shouting, “Don’t talk to me until after I’ve had my first sip of Turkish Coffee!” And yet there’s something very intriguing in a Turkish coffee—even if you don’t use the remains to penetrate the ripples in space-time with fortune telling.

  • Places

    Büyükada Evening

    Late afternoon. The sun beginning to descend and properly fortified by the gifted cooks at Club Mavi, it was time to move. Bicycling to the station midpoint of the Island, I locked up my rental bought myself a couple of cold bottles of water and proceeded to climb the hill on foot. Though some people ignore the postings, you can take your feet or hire a donkey to take you to Aya Yorgi (Saint George). This is where it gets a bit touristy again, but to be honest, the ascent is well worth it, whether you want to send a request to the director of the universe, or simply take in another impressive, but perfectly secular, view. After visiting the church it was time for a refreshment with a bit more of an edge to it than that provided by spring water. I opted for a cold white, which wasn’t…

  • Places

    Büyükada Day

    Prinkipo or Büyükada, as the name in Turkish tells you, is a big island. It’s also a big tourist destination right now, much to the distress of Istanbul’s weekenders. That’s why you should never go on weekends this time of year without your own private pad to enjoy. My advice is visit between Sunday evening and Friday morning. There will still be some tourists, especially in the vicinity of the ferry port. However, if you grab a horse and carriage, walk or rent a bicycle—as I did at the staggering expense of 10TL/day—you can easily escape for some quiet seclusion in the hills and enjoy a vista worthy of Elysium.

  • Food & Drink,  Mind / Body

    Summer Elixir

    For some of us, summer isn’t always the holiday we want. Or sometimes it’s too much of what we want—sun, drink, late nights. That’s why when I’m feeling like I’ve overdosed on any or all of these things, I resort to my favorite seasonal elixir, which helps me detoxify physically and mentally. The key ingredient here is fresh turmeric root, something which is not always easy to find in Istanbul. I’ve tried with the powder, but don’t seem to enjoy the same feeling afterwards. Fortunately, as I was watching cool little video the other day, shot by I noticed that the natural food and organic supplier in Besiktas, Kirkambar, had some on the counter.