• Food & Drink

    Jujubes

    Where I grew up jujubes were a confectionery made of corn starch and syrup, a cheap and rather poor substitute for a more refined sweet like Turkish delight. Lately, however, I’ve become acquainted with the real deal, an Asian fruit which is appearing all over the city in manavcı (green grocer) carts everywhere. I love harvest season.  As usual, these tiny apple-like creatures which are native to Asia, called hünnap in Turkish, and sometimes referred to as red dates, are credited with a host of health benefits, including stress-reduction in Chinese and Korean medicine. They’re also anti just about anything bad—anti-inflammatory, anti fungal, anti bacterial, anti spastic, antioxidant, anti ulcer. They may also help improve memory functions. At 3TL for a half kilo, that’s a mighty fine deal if you ask me, regardless of whether or not they live up to all those claims. They’re also pretty flippin’ tasty with a…

  • 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…

  • Books & Lit,  Food & Drink

    XOXO the Mag

    One of the reasons I’ve been posting somewhat less often these days is I’ve had some interesting work from the  print world. The latest is from the September issue of local Fashion-Music-Art-Design glossy bible XOXO the Mag. In this month’s issue I had the good fortune to work with Turkish wordsmith Lale Kayabey and her chef husband Selcuk Aruk on a food article about Turkey’s Greek community, food and the lifestyle of  Yeniköy living. After photographing the food — savory fish soup, cinnamon and rosemary mussels and rice, and güllaç (rose-flavored rice pudding) we all sat back and consumed it. And believe me, after staring at each dish for so long to find the right shot, you really work up an appetite. Directly above and below are a couple of examples of the food. I look forward to working with this talented team again, and hope to steal some more of their recipes.…

  • 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.

  • Food & Drink,  Places

    Karga: the Kadıköy hideaway

    As I’ve said, one of my favorite escapes these days is Kadıköy. Within the neighborhood, though, there’s a place that’s the perfect cool dark refuge from the intense summer heat and sun. The beer is cold, inexpensive, and perhaps best of all, the music is consistently good, something you can’t often say about a lot of the beer joints in Istanbul. If you like your music a bit dark, a touch alternative, a bit edgier  than the mainstream, you won’t be let down. There’s a distinct vibe in Karga, which possesses that independent Kadıköy feel, and distinguishes it from its more showy, more gimicky or more pretentious rivals in Beyoglu. You won’t find anything quite like Karga there. People here are a little more understated, a little less pushy, and definitely into their music. I really love the building too, the dark, dark wood, the scuffed floors and the unfussy feel.…

  • 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.

  • 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.