• Food & Drink

    Palamut

    No innocent people were harmed in the crafting of this post. Just some fish. Yes, my friends, the streets have come alive with the sound of “Beş Lira! Beş Lira! Beş Lira! Evet Palamut! Beş Lira! Beş Lira! Beş Lira!” Palamut, a kind of Turkish Bonito is in season at the moment, and no matter where you go they all seem to be 5tl (Roughly $2.50 US) per fish, which is a mighty fine deal for catch of the day. This oily fish is a perennial favorite of many fishstanbulians—sorry could resist, but didn’t. They’re caught both in the Bosporus and Black Sea, and probably chock full of all the right omega fatty acids. So Bonito appetito! Their suffering isn’t in vain. It’s Friday and this nice man below will do all the hard work for you, like gut and behead the little devils. Now stop staring at me, fisheye, you had it coming, and you…

  • Food & Drink

    Alıç: the latest street eat

    Yesterday I discovered another distinct flavor this country has to offer that I didn’t know existed. This time it’s alıç, which after much searching—okay 5 minutes online—for a translation, seems to be the fruit of a species of hawthorn tree. The sometimes orange, sometimes yellow alıç certainly won’t win any beauty contests, but it has a sharp sour taste and is often made into a jam. It’s not a particularly juicy fruit and has more almost as much seed as it does flesh. Still, it’s worth a try. The gentlemen assured me that it’s hormone-free and straight from Malatya. According to The Healing Plants Bible by Helen Farmer-Knowles, the flowers and fresh or dried fruits of the hawthorn are “a cardiac sedative, blood-vessel dilator, and are blood-pressure-lowering.”  The little bag the man is filling only set me back 1TL, so I’m certainly no poorer for trying.

  • Food & Drink

    Autumn Ottoman Delights

    Once again I managed to snag a delicious (literally) photo assignment with friends and foodies, chef Selcuk Aruk and writer Lale Kayabey for XOXO the Mag. October’s issue features a fantastic array of autumnal colors and tastes favored by the Ottomans. This time I thought I’d show some of the photos that didn’t make the final cut. Trust these dishes and their ingredients — jujubes, pomegranates, cinnamon, spice, carrots, spinach and yoghurt and everything nice — to make your mouth water. They certainly did mine.

  • Food & Drink,  Places

    The real conspiracy

    In a country like Turkey there are plenty of conspiracy theories. Just about every person in the street has at least one they fervently believe. Today, however, I’d like to tell you that I have fallen victim to a 100% genuine conspiracy at the hands of some nefarious yet innocent looking people here in Istanbul. It didn’t happen to me on the proverbial “bridge between east and west” but on the very real bridge between Karaköy and Eminönü, a.k.a The new Galata Bridge. What happened?  Well, I can only tell you that I was minding my own business, wondering about the future of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s republic when I fell prey to the twisted words of a white-shirted, black trousered man, saying, “Cold beer! Cold beer! 5TL! Yes, my friend?” Yes, I thought I was stronger and better than that, I thought I was prepared for the wiles of the…

  • 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,  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.…

  • 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.