Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Istanbul is for Lovers...of Food

I just got back from a quick four-day trip to Istanbul and all I can say is: I'm still full.

You know the feeling. You're in a new city and the strange laws of eating only during meals don't apply anymore. Food is everywhere and given the choice between a yogurt and baklava, I'm sure you can guess which one I would choose. Actually, both, in the case of this wonderful city: yogurt is the drink of choice for those spicy Adana Kebabs or when you're tired of drinking raki, sort of like pastis except it felt more like drinking liquid licorice candy. 

Bad weather aside, Istanbul is a really interesting city. Oh yeah, you thought Istanbul was always sunny and nice? So did I. Until I walked around in the rain all day long by 8° celsius and I came to the realization that cool weather + light leather jacket does not equal "happy Lucie", even with the warmest scarf the world has ever known. Side note: am I the only one who never packs enough warm clothing? I'm always cold yet I always have this lingering hope of feeling really warm and nice and perfect whenever I go on a trip. I imagine myself wearing a nice billowy top, basking in the sun drinking tea by the water. Reality check:

1- I always end up having to add a sweater over that nice top, and it bunches up everywhere and looks awkward and not how I want it to.

2- "basking in the sun" doesn't apply to me: I don't bask, I burn.

Finally, an hour of sunlight!

Oh well. All rolled up in my not-so-warm clothes, I ate my way around Istanbul, and it was really nice. The sights, obviously, were pretty amazing too. But I always feel like getting to those off-the-beaten-path places and seeing what real people (by that I mean non-tourists, not non-robots) eat and how they eat is the best way to discover a new culture. 

Highlights from the trip below!



Dinner on the first night at Antiochia: if you're planning on going to Istanbul, please please go here. The food is amazing and the staff is really nice. They serve specialties from the Hatay region of Turkey and we were really blown away. We had sis et (picture little squiggles underneath the s) and meat wraps (both pictured), as well as amazing mezze and the most delicious candied green walnut dessert. Yum. 

Lunch the next day was at Dürümzade, a tiny dürüm spot serving minced meat wraps. It was apparently featured in Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations on Istanbul, and I can understand why. Really tasty and filling--just make sure you don't mind a good dose of raw onion. That's the part where the yogurt drink (in the background) becomes really nice.

I didn't take any pictures of dinner, but we went to famed spot Ciya Sofrasi. I had read a lot about it and how it's probably the best culinary experience in the whole city. To be completely honest, I preferred Antiochia. 

Above is a simple lokum and baklava place near the hotel: nothing fancy and it was actually a chain, but everything sure was good in my opinion. Notice I don't have any pictures of the actual food, although we went there twice. Between getting my camera and eating the sweets right away, my hands made an obvious choice. Two words: chocolate baklava.

Finally, on Monday we had lunch in a small courtyard off to the side of the Grand Bazaar. We were surrounded by Turkish men having a quick lunch so this really wasn't a touristy destination. Too bad for all those tourists, who missed the most moist and spiced meat ever at Kara Mehmet. 

Alright: I thought I was still full, but writing all this just got my appetite going again. Apple tea and baklava, anyone?
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Barbara said...

The food looks wonderful! I love your posts! Full of adventure, food and fun!

claudia said...

the food looks really good...

Anonymous said...

The food looks amazing!!! I want to fly there just for a taste and of course to see that part of the world....
Your adventures are so well written. :)

Paris Pastry said...

Apple tea & baklava? Yes, please!
The food sounds amazing (and spicy)!
Eating till your stomach hurts is the best part of traveling, if you ask me ;)

Emily said...

Baklava!! My-oh-my. I'm incredibly jealous of your trip!

Ingrid said...

I think I'm full from looking at it and reading it all! :)

grace said...

oh my goodness. i had no idea how urgently i needed to go to istanbul! everything sounds amazing, particularly the baklava and the very idea of touching something also touched by mr bourdain. great post! :)

Anonymous said...

I loved Istanbul! Gozleme is definitely my top rated favourite! :) Thanks for sharing allll the yummy food you encountered!

The Paris Food Blague said...

hello just stumbled upon your blog. always great to find more france based gastronomes. i'm sure what you're eating now is waay better than "turkish" food in paris

a bientot
the paris food blague

Lucie said...

Glad you all enjoyed it!

Paris food blague: I definitely agree about Turkish food in Paris... Kebabs are disgusting and greasy for the most part! What's funny is that in the small town in the east of France where I go on vacation, they're actually delicious and so much more authentic!

bake in paris said...

I have to say... this is my dream trip.... Istambul, it is always in my mind..

And thanks for all the wonderful info about wonderful places to eat :-)

Sawadee from Bangkok.

m said...

So happy to read your entry! We live in Istanbul and are always surprised that visitors from abroad are so picky about food when they come over for a (short) holiday, whereas there's such a large variety of food to try over here! If you're ever thinking about coming back, visit Onbaşı at Vatan Caddesi -a small family run place serving food from the Urfa region, the best meat ever- or haci abdullah in the Isteklal street -all kinds of traditional food from the Turkish kitchen. Unfortunately no alcohol-... Thanks for being so positive about Istanbul, we've been in the news in such a bad way lately that we need all the commercials we can get :-))