Saturday, March 31, 2012

Eating at Asitane was an absolute must-do for me. Another No Reservations find, Asitane's menu is based off the cuisine served in Ottoman palaces. Give me history, give me food.

This tasty bite above is a stuffed quince. There are two questions that should follow that statement.

1. What is a quince?
2. What's inside?

Answer one: Don't quote me, but... an Asian cross between an apple and a pear... closer to a pear.
Answer two: In this case, "a blend of lamb and beef, rice, aromatic herbs, pine nuts and currants flavored with grape molasses."

Aside from its deliciousness, the best part? The recipe dates back to 1539!

Other things we tried:

Almond soup (1539): flavored with grated nutmeg and a drizzle of pomegranate.
Terine soup: chestnuts, dried yogurt, red pepper paste and mint.
Lamb shank with spinach marmarina (1764): roasted and braised, served on creamed spinach in a pastry bowl.
Sea bass biryan (XV): roasted, stuffed with walnuts and spices with a saffron rose water dressing


I don't know if I mentioned this prior, but I love public transportation! Particularly scenic public transportation. After hopping a ferry back to the European side of Turkey, we unfortunately missed taking a tour of Dolmabache Palace by 20 minutes or so. Being only a few miles from our hotel, we decided to walk back, that is, until I realized that we had't yet taken the tram. Istanbul is indeed better by foot, but at least one ride on any country's train/tram is a must!


Nice hat, Mr. Crosswalk Man!


Friday, March 30, 2012

I would have stayed over on the Asian side of Turkey all day. Flowers and gypsies. I almost didn't get back on the ferry, in fact, I shouldn't have gotten back on the ferry. These women and their botanical blossoms were visually enchanting.

I'm still kicking myself for not taking the next ferry and spending a moment making a few more photographs.


Asian tulips. Not really, or really... maybe they are. I have no idea. All I know is that we were in Asia all of the sudden!

Brad had never been to Asia, so we made an impromptu decision to hop off the ferry on the Asian side of Turkey and take another ferry back to the palace we were planning to see, back on the European side. Now he can say that he's been to Asia!


The end of our ferry trip on the Bosphorus.


Girl Tower, Girl's Tower, Maiden's Tower, Leander Tower... call it what you will. This little piece of history on the Bosphorus has more stories attached to it than names.

It's been a lighthouse, a watchtower, a traffic control center and now, as you can probably guess, a tourist attraction and restaurant. While we didn't actually visit the site, we passed it on the ferry long enough to recognize it as the "Girl Tower" that Hakan had mentioned a previous night.

Utility uses aside, an alluring story of a princess imprisoned within the tower does give the toll booth, a much more romantic feel. One story suggests that Constantine, afraid his beloved daughter was going to die of a snake bite, locked her in the tower to prevent a fortune teller's prophecy, while the other, is your standard "Emperor is upset with daughter's unacceptable love affair" punishment story. Whether these tales are history or fairytale, protection of punishment, I have one question: why is it always the girl who gets locked in the tower?*


*With "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" as an exception, of course.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

And then, the winged beast looked her in the eye and said, "I didn't sign a photo release."

Ferry ride along the Bosphorus - 2.26.12

Ferry ride on the Bosphorus... taken right as the ferry was turning around to come back to port.


Best stumble-upon brunch EVER. I say stumble-upon because we literally stumbled into a line of people waiting to get into this bustling restaurant whilst on a nice stroll through Karakoy. Busy restaurant? Check. No audible detection of English? Check. Always two very, very good signs of a killer meal to come.

You see that neon "Self Service" sign in the bottom photo? Yeeahhh... that was all the English there was in this place - written or spoken. It was just enough English to indicate that we would be choosing our own items, right then and there, to assemble what was to become my favorite meal in Istanbul. While I consider my Turkish almost up to par with my English (not), it seemed that pointing was an adequate method of communicating what we wanted on our giant breakfast plate. The humorous part about this is that when you reach such a language barrier, prices suddenly become irrelevant and you find yourself submitting to the will of the man who is delicately organizing the array of cheeses and cold cuts on your plate. This wouldn't be the first time this has happened to me, English or no English, but those stories are for another time.

To be honest with you, I'm not even really sure what we ended up ordering. All I know is:

A) I'm still devastated that we didn't order more... of everything in that establishment.
B) I needed to have more kaymak and honey.
C) This was the only restaurant that offered a carafe of tea on the table to refill that thimble the Turkish call a tea cup (To whoever came up with that idea - thank you, thank you, thank you).


D) There was pastrami on that plate that rivaled the great Katz pastrami of New York's Lower East Side - And that kind of statement can get you killed in these parts.

Namli Gurme/Karakoy/Istanbul/Turkey/2.26.12

Note: I would have absolutely taken more photos of the interior, but one of the clerks spoke enough English to shake his hand and tell me, "No photo."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sure, a simple walk across Galata Bridge could be the deciding factor of your next meal. Not really because you'd like it to be, but because one of the very aggressive, yet sweet-talking gentlemen standing outside each establishment has literally tied you down and dragged you into his lair, I mean... restaurant. Don't get me wrong, it's a lovely walk across, but beware potential captors and swinging fishing hooks from above - yes, the top level is lined with fishermen. But being caught by a maitre d' or fisherman aside, it's kind of awesome that Istanbul allows that kind of liable coexistence on the bridge, sans waivers.

Galata Bridge/Istanbul/Turkey/2.26.12

Looking across the Bosphorus toward Galata Tower.


Dog charmer? Dog whisperer? Can someone please tell me what is going on here?


On a walk to the pier. In the top photo, I have no idea what she is rolling out, but thought it was a nice, quick snap. And although we preferred to walk most places, I have a weird fascination with public transportation, which explains the second shot - just liked the blending of train and pedestrians on a street that is hundreds of years old.


This also makes me very happy. A little later in the morning, the weather was so delightful that was had our coffee and morning cocktail on the balcony. The belief that you have to be on the beach or at brunch to have a morning cocktail is completely and entirely false.

Balcony/Art City Hotel/Istanbul/Turkey/2.26.12

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Waking up to this view got me quickly out of bed, into the cold and onto our balcony to photograph the sunrise in nothing but my winter coat.

Sometimes there is no time for pants.

Marmara Sea/Istanbul, Turkey/2.26.12

Better than jam, better than jelly, better than butter. There I said it. Better than butter.

Ok, not all butter*, but the vast majority of the butter out there.

But yes, plllleeeeease sir, may I have some more kaymak (with honey)? Who knew the clotted cream of water buffaloes would be so delightful! Paired with honey, it is such a simple, yet magical taste and texture combination. Seriously, US of A, let's get on this train.

*My sincerest apologies to the butter of my life who resides somewhere in Paris. You truly are the only one for me.

(L-R) Honey and kaymak, flatbread, apple tea/2.25.12

Basilica Cistern - built in the 6th century.

As for Medusa's upside down head in the top photo, the origin is unknown. There is also a second Medusa head located behind this head, which is placed on its side. Again, reasoning for the positions are unknown.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Removing your shoes is just one of the dress code requirements when entering mosques, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, popularly known as the Blue Mosque, being no exception. And I'm not going to lie, standing in a beautiful 400-year-old structure in your socks is a pretty awesome feeling. However, standing in said architectural marvel with a hole in your sock is a really embarrassing feeling (Sorry, Mom!). Of all the days to not notice a hole in your sock...

Blue Mosque/Istanbul, Turkey/2.25.12

Blue Mosque interior/Istanbul, Turkey/2.25.12

Galata Tower/Istanbul, Turkey/2.24.12

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Imagine warm, soft, melt-in-your-mouth goat cheese. Imagine warm, soft, melt-in-your-mouth goat cheese baked in a sugary frosted Mini-Wheat shell... with pistachios on top. Ladies and gents, I give you the kunefe.

If only I had known how beautiful that cheese was going to look when Hakan cut the first slice, I never would have put the camera down. I'm sorry for delivering you a second-tier photo of an absolutely scrumptious Turkish dessert.

And just for the record, what I so eloquently described as a Frosted Mini-Wheat shell is actually finely shredded phyllo dough. Yum.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

This little gem deserves its own entry! Another food spotted on Bourdain's Istanbul No Reservations episode. Stuffed mussels! The mussel itself is packed with cinnamon and nutmeg-spiced rice, pine nuts and currants - presented in its shell.

You can find these guys on the street or in restaurants, but we were told that restaurants had the best. Still not so sure about that, but perhaps a great deal of food poisoning was avoided thanks to Hakan's advice.

Just for the record, after we snarfed the first order, we promptly ordered a second.


While we didn't try the Turkish coffee that Starbucks had to offer, we did try a fine Turkish apertif called Raki with our dinner in Taksim. The anise-flavored national drink is often served with chilled water, either mixed or on the side, and is similar to Ouzo. I wasn't such a fan, but it was a delight to pair it with some fried hamsi - anchovies that are specific to the Black Sea. No, anchovies aren't my favorite either, but when in Istanbul!

I tried to pull an Iceland and buy 10 bottles at the airport duty-free shop on my way out, but forgot that a nine-hour layover in Amsterdam was going to foil my booze-purchasing plan. Amsterdam, however, facilitated my space-cake-purchasing plan... more on that later.


Bottom photo: notice that little American gem on the bottom right! Hakan did tell us that Turkish Starbucks do offer Turkish coffee. And yes, we did mean to try it, but it just didn't make the top of the priority list.

Taksim nightlife/Istanbul, Turkey/2.24.12

I'm sorry, I ate it. I was cold and hungry. I couldn't wait.

On the left is lentil soup and on the right is lachmaschun - Turkish pizza. If you've watched Bourdain's episode of No Reservations in Istanbul, you know that this is a must-have fast-food. Instead of eating it by the slice, you roll it up (like a burrito!) with arugula, tomato and onion. As predicted, it was one of my favorite Turkish foods!

And lentil soup? I love lentil soups of all sizes and colors.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hey! I heart Istanbul too!

So I know I set up the palace blog post below as if I was going to post a million photos, but after my visual galavant through the Hagia Sophia, I think I'm going to short-change the palace in favor of getting on with it and posting about food. Typical, I know. I thought this shot was a good segway...

Onward! To lunch!


Meanwhile, back in the palace's harem...

Just kidding, I got nothin'.

Harem/Topkapi Palce/2.24.12

The first few photos of our day at Topkapi Palace. Just as an FYI: Unlike the Hagia Sophia, where I didn't realize that each audio-tour device had two headphone jacks (needless to say I was very upset that we had paid for two), you must purchase two devices at this palace.


Afternoon apple tea from the terrace of Topkapi Palace, overlooking the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey.

Note: Farther down on the right side of the wall, we saw a few guys sitting on a rock ledge, one who was dressed in full-on scuba gear. Still trying to figure that one out... possible scenarios welcome.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sniper shot from the top of the Inonu stadium of a street vendor serving deliciousness to departing Bestikas fans below.


Besiktas fans stopping traffic on the street en route to the game. I should have ran to the other side of the street, but I wasn't thinking. Not totally sure what is happening here, but it was photo-worthy.


When in Europe... go to a football match! Besiktas vs. Braga. Our friend Hakan was awesome enough to go pick up tickets and attend the game with us. There was only so much I could shoot with a 70-200mm lens from our seats, but I did what I could!

Besiktas vs. Braga/Inonu Stadium/Istanbul, Turkey/2.23.12

I love travel. Love, love, love travel. And light. I love that too.

This was one of the neighborhood mosques by our hotel. Unsure of the name. Bad blogging form, Alli.

Istanbul, Turkey/2.23.12

Walking most everywhere, we found that there was too much to miss by taking cars and taking trains. Since I'm a sucker for public transportation, we took the train a few times, but I still think we both preferred to walk.

We walked by the Blue Mosque almost every evening under light like this. Besides, it's hard to take photos from a packed train.

Blue Mosque/Istanbul, Turkey/2.23.12