• Food & Drink

    Istanbul’s Vietnamese Speakeasy

    In a recent post I described what I’d do with a leisurely day left to my own devices, and in it one of the places where I said I’d finish my day was Cochine. On Saturday night, however, I was able to put the place to the test with 15 friends for dinner and drinks. From now on, If I have my way, I will never veer from eating out  anywhere but owner-operated kitchens. It makes all the difference. Food preparation is a kind of alchemy. It’s not just the ingredients, or the measurements, it’s the spirit of the people putting it together that determines whether or not they create gold.  There’s a lot of gold at Cochine, located on Kumbaracı Yokuşu, thanks to the complementary talents of its owners Melis Onderoglu Maxwell (pictured immediately below) and Chris Maxwell. It would be all to easy to walk past Cochine’s discreetly…

  • Uncategorized

    Happy Holidays

    Well here we are again, in the midst of yet  another holiday season. How do the years slip away so effortlessly? One of the best things about being a parent is rediscovering the magic of this holiday through someone else’s eyes. For me, Christmas still has some magic, but it’s best spent on the young, rather than trying to recreate the illusions you had when you were a child. It’s even somewhat weird to be the guardian of a tradition you have such mixed feelings about, and  yet, despite the doubts and the stress, it’s more than just the atmosphere. There’s something to it. Perhaps Like a magic trick, you’re better off not deconstructing it, and rather letting it be. I hope you find your magic this season.

  • Food & Drink,  Places

    Festive cheer about town

    Sometimes you’ve got to overdo it to do it right. One might even say ’tis the season. Once you’ve accomplished all there is to accomplish, it’s time to live it up. So here’s my agenda for the perfect day of moderating the moderation, and lounging about before it’s time to get all ambitious again for a new year. Start by finding yourself a good breakfast. You can’t go wrong with a mid-morning breakfast at either Auf or Unter, currently stealing my heart with the beautifully appointed interiors, honest food and fantastic staff. You’ll get a great cup of coffee and something really satisfying from Zeynep’s bakery or Esra’s kitchen. These two love food, and so do their people. It’s a welcoming way to while away the bleary morning hours. When you’re done, maybe amble your way towards Nisantasi and finish off the last of your seasonal shopping, and check out…

  • People,  Places

    What a year

    At first it’s hard for me to believe. It’s been only 1 year! So much has happened since I first launched this site December 19, 2011. I’ve been introduced to so many incredible people, I can’t tell you how fortunate I feel to have these experiences and share them. I’ve learned so much about so many different people thanks to starting this site. It’s helped me find a vehicle for my natural curiosity, and voice my constant state of wonder. I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life —  launching  this site isn’t one of them. It’s allowed me to record my small keyhole view of local history and share it with people all around the world. Being an immigrant, you never lose your roots, but it makes the dislocation a little easier when you  can simultaneously share your new home as you explore it with people you…

  • Books & Lit,  Places

    Rummaging in the past: Aslıhan Pasajı

    Today was a truly miserable, wet day. On top of that, the weather was bad. Perhaps on days like this there are few better refuges than the world of books. Fortunately, I had a chance between meetings wandering through Beyoğlu to pop into this fantastic pasaj just off the Balık Pazarı. This place is crammed full of interesting books, documents, newspapers and media from another time — to such an extent that you could totally lose all sense of the here and now. A good thing, in my opinion, especially on a day like today.  Galatasaray, Beyoğlu/İstanbul‎  34435

  • Food & Drink

    Behind the scenes at:

    Yesterday I had a fantastic opportunity to go into the kitchen and bakery at Auf and see magic being made. Talk about talent. Talk about love. The heat in this kitchen wasn’t only radiating from the ovens, it was glowing from a passionate love affair with food. The people I met on Esra and Zeynep’s team were so alive, and so full of ardour for what they were doing — a philosophy graduate who would rather bake, a former English teacher who’d prefer to create — all working really long hours and pulling it off with incredible smiles. Every day the women (and man) in the kitchen create a new menu, based on seasonally available produce and ingredients which might change anywhere up to 15 minutes before the lunch crowd storms in. Yet this is not a tense environment, and I don’t think simply because there was a yabanci in…

  • Art / Design / Craft

    Nihat Usta

    At 79A Kumbaracı Yokuşu, the street that falls from Istiklal Caddesi to Tophane, exists a portal into a another world. This is the dükkan of master craftsman, Nihat Usta. Every day Nihat Usta boards the early morning motorboat to make his way from Anadolu Kavağı to his Pera workshop where he restores the most incredible furniture from another era. From his shop emanates a glow. Is it the materials like mother of pearl and wood that he works with? Or the aura of a man who can create something that much of us only dream of? In any case, there’s something vital as well as timeless (at least, I hope so) about this place. Let’s hope that businesses like Nihat’s thrive for years to come. They are something that keep the spirit of places like Beyoğlu from becoming artificial or feeling gentrified. Thanks for keeping it real, Nihat Usta.

  • People

    Zeynep & Emre

    Sometimes I like to trace the trajectory of my life, wondering if (and when, if so) I would have met all the people who are now in my life, if you took out a few key lines. There are two people I should definitely mention on this blog as it’s dedicated to my daughter. The first year I spent in Turkey was a turbulent time, full of highs and many lows. However, despite all the personal setbacks two people (pictured above) made all the difference by welcoming me into their home, both literally and metaphorically. On Friday night it was Zeynep’s birthday. I first met your mother on Zeynep’s Birthday seven years ago. We didn’t start dating until about five months later, but that night changed everything. Whether life is random or determinined is something that’s hard to decide. Whether your life is better for knowing such people, is not.…

  • Places

    Lit up

    Colours saturate. Dull broken pavements suddenly glisten, slicked with rain. Vapours rise. Damp tobacco burns without the tiniest crackle. Exposed bulbs buzz, haloing in the rain. And all the while people migrate from one island of artificial light to another in the sudden fall of Karaköy night.