Friday, June 24, 2011

Tost - Healthy and Tasty Snack...Anytime... Anywhere...

If you are walking around the city, feeling hungry and don't want to indulge in a big meal, I would suggest going into any bufe for a snack or a light meal.  Bufes are small snack shops that specialize in tost, Turkish style grilled cheese sandwich, and different types of sandwiches and hamburgers.

My favorite is the simple cift kasarli tost (two pieces of thick slices of bread with extra kasari cheese, grilled in a heavy iron grill) which goes really well with Ayran ( salty yogurt drink.)   Ayran which is one of the most popular drinks in Turkey, is an acquired taste for most Americans.  For those who are not adventurous enough  to try a salty drink, there are also freshly squeezed fruit juices and Turkish tea that also goes really well with tost and other offerings at a bufe.

There are bufe chains all over town like Marmaris Bufe, Durak Bufe, Kristal Bufe, Baris Bufe, Taksim Bufe, Susurluk Tost ve Ayran evi which offer consistent great tastes for very reasonable prices.  While some are small hole-in-the-wall type of places, some offer outdoor seating.

My most memorable tost and tea snacks have been the one's I have had on the vapurs (steam boats that carry commuters back and forth on the Bosphorus) or vapur iskelesi (ferry docks) and the make-shift cafe right on the water, in front of the Dolmabahce palace parking lot.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Great Website for what is going on in Istanbul

Kanyon Shopping Mall, Levent
Istinye Park Shopping Mall, Istinye
City's Shopping Mall, Nisantasi
While searching for more information, I found this  great website that seems to have all the pertinent information and latest news about Istanbul.  I will probably be using it myself when I get into town.

Anjelique - Fabulous views at the coolest place in Istanbul

the view in the evening as the sun sets and you are enjoying your mojitos
If you want to experience summer nights on the lap of the Bosphorus, Anjelique, bar, restaurant and night club situated in a three story yali (house by the sea) in Ortakoy, is the perfect place for you.
You should arrive around 7.00 pm to enjoy drinks on the terrace and watch the sunset.  I hear their mojitos are superb.

as night falls, the bridge and the baroque Ortakoy mosque are illuminated  shining like diamonds on the water
After the sunsets, you can enjoy a great meal from their rich menu of world cuisine.  Their portakalli ordek  (duck a l'orange) is one of my husband's not-to-be-missed recommendations.   My son and nephew were there last week and they couldn't stop raving about each and every single delicacy they had from the hors d'oeurves to the delectable chocolate souffle for desert.

the illuminated view of the Bosphorus bridge and Ortakoy mosque is the backdrop to the music of world famous DJs
Once the music starts, the sophisticated restaurant turns into a world-class night club.  Dancing under the stars on the shores of the Bosphorus is on my list of zesty moments to savor in Istanbul.
A perfect beginning or ending to a fairy-tale evening would be to arrive or depart from this incredible place with the boat service going back and forth between the two shores of the Bosphorus.

There is also a good review on if you want to get a feel for the place.

Muallim Naci Caddesi
Salhane Sokak, No.
Istanbul, TURKEY
tel:  212 327 2844
      212 327 2845

Two of the Best Hotels to Stay in Istanbul - Four Seasons

FOUR SEASONS HOTEL - Istanbul at Sultanahmet

This is the first Four Seasons Hotel to open in Istanbul.  It was  a century old neo-classical prison before they turned it into a hotel which is worthy of a visit just to experience it's unique aura.

For years, the Sunday Brunch at the Seasons Restaurant was one of our favorite haunts.  It is the best I have had anywhere in the world with an amazing selection of delectable food and deserts.  The desert buffet alone would make it noteworthy.

The location of this hotel at the center of the old city, Sultanahmet, can't be beat since it's only steps away from the Topkapi Sarayi (Topkapi Palace), Arkeoloji Muzesi (Archeology Museum), Sultan Ahmet Camii (Blue Mosque) and Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia)  just to name a few of Istanbul's key historical attractions.  Not to mention Kapali Carsi (Covered Bazaar) and Misir Carsisi (Spice Bazaar) all within a short walking distance or one to two stops on the metro.
Tevkifhane Sokak No. 1
Sultanahmet - Eminonu
Istanbul, TURKEY
Tel 90 212 402 30 00

FOUR SEASONS HOTEL - Istanbul at the Bosphorus

This Four Seasons situated in a 19th century palace, has the advantage of being right on the Bosphorus with breathtaking views.  This is a wonderful part of town that offers different venues, out of the way museums and an abundance of restaurants and nightclubs.  City center is still a convenient taxi ride away.  Staying here, one can get the whole dreamy experience of life on the Bosphorus.
Ciragan Caddesi No 28
Besiktas, Istanbul, TURKEY
Tel  90 212 381 40 00

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Pandeli Restaurant - Istanbul, Turkey

For any visitor who has time for only one meal in Istanbul, I would recommend going to Pandeli.  Located in the Misir Carsi (Spice Bazaar) in Istanbul, Pandeli Restaurant, has to be one of the best experiences for Turkish food.  Everything about it, from it's amazing location, great views, impeccable service to some of the best food of it's kind are all to be found in this restaurant that I count as one of my favorites in Istanbul.

The menu is not only fantastic but innovative as well.  You can find most of the traditional Turkish dishes but some like the donerli patlican boregi (eggplant pastry with Doner Kebab) is something that I have only had here.  It is also one of their most popular menu items, tending run out rather quickly, so as soon as I come into the restaurant, I always ask for it along with their 'out-of-this-world' bademli kurabiye (almond cookies).

The ambiance is fabulous, situated above the front entrance of the Spice Bazaar, overlooking the Golden Horn on one side and the bazaar on the other, it has a story book feel to it.  You enter through a door inside the bazaar and climb up a steep flight of stairs to arrive in domed, blue and white tile covered rooms with tiny windows.  Each of the three dining rooms has only a couple of tables, adding to the cozy atmosphere.

Service by the older gentlemanly waiters is impeccable, giving one the feel of a home-coming. Every one who walks in through those doors is treated with warmth and attention almost like a long lost daughter.  Reading through their website, I realized the reasons for this, since their chefs have been with them for the past 45 years and they were trained by the chef who worked before them in Pandeli for 69 years - they say the staff does not easily change at this culinary institution.

They have a great website that has wonderful photographs of the restaurant, it's famous clientele and food, but, unfortunately it's only in Turkish.  I will try to translate it to the best of my abilities here.
This restaurant was listed in Food and Wine Magazine's top 20 taste cities in the world, and the New York Times travel section.

I wish everyone a chance to indulge in this Istanbul classic that is a feast for all the senses. I try to stop by whenever I am in this neighborhood for at least tea and almond cookies by a window with a  view of the Galata Bridge... some of my favorite zesty moments.
Menumuz (Our Menu)
Sebzeli Kuzu Incik (Lamb Shank with Vegetables)
Hunkar Begendi (Sultan's Delight - Eggplant Puree with lamb stew
Kuzu Tandir (Lamb Cooked in a Special Tandir Oven, Buried Hickory Charcoal Grill)
Donerli Patlican Boregi (Doner Kebab with Eggplant Borek)
Karisik Zeytinyagli Tabagi (Mixed Olive Oil Dishes)
Fasulye Pilakisi (Beans cooked in Olive Oil)
Patlican Salatasi (Pureed Eggplant Salad)
Zeytinyagli Yaprak Dolmasi (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
Plus Karisik Izgara Etler ( Variety of Grilled Meats) and Deniz Urunleri (Various Seafood) 
Resim Galerisi (Photo Gallery)
Unlu Konuklarimiz (Famous Guests)
Iletisim (Contact Us) 
This page has a map of the area

Pandeli Restaurant
Misir carsisi, No 1
Tel:  0212 527 3909
Fax:  0212 522 5534

Thursday, June 9, 2011

June 21, 2006
Tekkebasi, Dervish Lodge

I'm sitting on top of the world right now; at least it feels that way. As I gaze out over the hills of the butterfly valley I see the Kabak Bay in the distance covered by a mist of humidity so thick it's hard to distinguish between dream and reality, almost as if the mountains are floating on clouds. There is a slight breeze blowing up my way, from the Mediterranean, that keeps me from feeling the heat. The beetles' collective, harmonious melody enhances the enchanted ambiance. I feel like everything around me is calling out to pour my soul, to come out and say whatever it is I have been keeping hidden. If one has any kind of an artistic inclination, this would be the place where it would come out to life. This place has the kind of quality that would make you come face to face with your inner self because this is nature at its most intact form. It's almost as if the mountains call out to you and say "this is it, this is where you belong."

Where is this place with the unheard of names and surreal atmosphere, one might ask?

I am at the Tekkebasi Lodge, in the Alinca section of the Karaagac village of Esen, between Fethiye and Kas. This dreamlike place belongs to my cousin Erdem, who used to be a professional photographer and an editor for Atlas magazine. I have been meaning to visit for quite sometime and finally got the chance this week.

We arrived here two days ago from Antalya. We took the Korkuteli road to Kemer (Fethiye) and at this intersection, turned in the direction of Kas. After going through the town of Esen, we followed the signs for Karaagac, Sydyma and entered a paved road for 10km.s. We found ourselves on a tiny dirt road in a little village and followed the right to find the 6km winding mountain road to Tekkebasi. This is a road that has to be taken in daylight for its perils and breathtaking views. We passed mountains full of pine trees and oleanders, with ancient water ways running down steep hilltops. As we ascended higher and higher the view took on a picture like quality. With each new turn there came a new prospect that stole the thunder from the former. After many twists and turns we noticed a little blue sign that said Tekkebasi Lodge. Our poor minivan persevered through this obstacle as well and brought us to Erdem's front gate. I knew we were at the right place when I looked out at the amazing view that was the same as the pictures I had seen previously on their website.

We were greeted with ethnic sufi music and told to make ourselves at home on the makeshift wooden terrace hanging off the side of the mountain. When you sit there it feels like you become a part of the scenery, it's as if you're an eagle perched on top of a tree looking out over your terrain; you become aware of every little thing surrounding you, smelling the fresh oregano in the nearby hills, watching a dragonfly as it whizzes by, hearing the roosters crow, the village children playing in the distance. One feels the need to whisper here with a unique concern for disrupting the harmonious sounds of nature.
It was time for the sunset and as the sun was touching the side of the mountains, making its final descend into the sea we felt a little bereft at being a part of such a poignant scene and then suffer the loss all too quickly. In the coming days we would learn to savor each moment so it wouldn't hurt as we would have to say farewell.

It was time to take a little tour of the premises. As soon as I walked into my cousin's stone, cave like abode I felt like I walked into someone's dream. It turns out, he had drawn pictures of this particular place in his youth and when he found this spot during one of his travels he knew he had found the right place. He has built all the accommodations himself. There are several bungalows that are mere shelters for the ones who don't want to sleep out in the open and there is a traditional yurt tent with an opening in the top center to watch the stars as you lay to sleep. Everything feels like it belongs there, everything is one with nature. For those who want more comfort or privacy, there are two cabins that sleeps 4 comfortably, with all the modern amenities, situated within the forest, 200 meters away from the lodge.

Time seems to stand still here, there are no hours in a day, days in a week. You live from sunup to sunset just existing as only one of God's creations. This is a place for peace and serenity. There is no distance long enough or no mountain high enough for the people of this area; I don't know if it's because of the challenging roads but they measure everything in matters of hours it takes you to walk there.

It is a great place if you're into trekking; it's right on the ancient Lycian way. There are some extremely interesting points to visit nearby. I choose to stay on the mountain until it's time to leave but it took my husband only one hour to get to Fethiye.

This is not a place for a family vacation, at least not my family. I was extremely happy in those moments when the boys went to brave the roads to go to Patara to swim. So if you own a four wheel drive, love nature and want to find the place where you fit perfectly within, Tekkebasi Dervish Lodge is the place for you.

I will be back with more travel notes in the near future. Hope you have a fun and adventurous summer.

P.S. Their email address is


Monday, June 6, 2011

Set Balik Lokantasi - Istanbul, Turkey

There is an abundance of Balik Lokantasi (Fish Restaurants) along both the European and Asian sides of the Boshporus and to a novice all would probably taste quite spectacular.  Since my husband and I pride ourselves in always searching for the perfect meal, I can confidently say that Set Balik Lokantasi (a little off the beaten path) in Kirecburnu is probably one of the best that we recommended to everyone we know.  This place is always at the top of my list and one of those places I dream about when I am away from Istanbul.

Set Balik Lokantasi

Haydar Aliyev Caddesi, No. 18
Kirecburnu, Istanbul, 34467
Tel:  0212 262 0411
        0212 262 3498

What makes Set Balik so special is not just it's fantastic food but it's service and prices as well.  I should probably make a footnote here about the prices in these seafood restaurants.  You should always ask to see a menu and make sure to check the bill carefully.  The whole easy going culture of 'not worrying' can sometimes have unpleasant results.  I sometimes feel that they charge by the person instead of by the amount of food and drink consumed.  This will not happen in Set Balik, they are very reasonably priced and I  don't remember, ever being surprised by the bill there.  Having said all that, I think any meal by the Bosphorus is a priceless experience.

Set is by the water but not on the water, but if you sit at the terrace you still get a view and of course there is also the fabulous sea air to inhale.   Turks love to sit outside and the ever resourceful Turkish restauranteurs are prepared for all eventualities.  They have massive awnings that open and close according to the position of the sun, outdoor heaters to prolong the season for as long as possible and also provide shawls and blankets for anyone who might feel chilled.  But even on a cold, dark, winter day where you have no choice but to be inside, the food alone will be enough to lure people in.  This place is usually packed especially on the weekends but it is still possible to have a nice, quiet meal if you go at off hours (we like to go for a late lunch or an early dinner before the crowds) Although I cannot complain about much even when it was completely full.

Now about the food... There are the usual mezes and then some... they always have something new and it's always exciting to try out what they are offering.  I want to mention some of my all-time favorites here -  hardal soslu levrek (seabass with mustard sauce), pekmezli patlican salata (eggplant salad with molasses),  pilaki (broad beans cooked in olive oil), deniz borulcesi (pickleweed salad), kozlenmis kirmizi biber (roasted red peppers) and they also have some of the most incredible salads - the general preference with fish is a salad of mixed greens, you can even leave it up to them, just let them know if there is a particular ingredient you have an aversion to...

For the hot meze-  their fried calamari is a great example of its kind (my husband will get this for his main meal) they also have a very interesting fried potato roll with seafood in it that I think is delightful, plus on some days, a waiter will come out every once in a while and drop off a plate with something new they are trying out.

All of the main seafood dishes are very good in my experience and I can't just name one I like particularly better than another so I say go for whatever catches your fancy... I am sure you will be happy.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

One of the Jewels of Turkish Cuisine - Balik ve Raki (Fish and Raki)
Although the most famous Turkish food everyone around the world seems to be familiar with is the shish kebab, there is a very rich variety of seafood that is also a big part of Turkish cuisine. This should not come as a surprise; with it's 1250 miles of shoreline, Turkey is almost a peninsula, surrounded by the Black Sea to the north, the Aegean to the east and the Mediterranean to the south, as well as Marmara, which is an inland sea that connects the Black Sea to the Aegean.  It is a generally accepted fact, I wholeheartedly agree with, that nothing quite tastes like the fish out of Marmara Sea. Seafood aficionados would probably know that the differences in temperatures and environmental conditions affect the characteristics and flavor of the fish that comes out of a certain body of water.  As a result, going out to fish restaurants in areas surrounding Marmara is an incredible experience that every mortal should experience at least once in their lives (for those of us who are lucky enough to have lived in the area, this used to be a weekly ritual)

There is a whole culture attached to going out to eat fish in Turkey.  Especially in Istanbul where it is renown for its excellent varieties from the Marmara Sea, having Balik (fish) and Raki (aniseed flavored spirit) at a restaurant by the Bosphorus( the strait that connects the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea) is one of those zesty moments, I cherish and try to repeat as often as I can.

Bosphorous, Istanbul, (photo from Set Balik's website)
Those who are not fans of seafood should not despair because there is such a wide variety of meze (small tapas-like portions of salads and foods both hot and cold, eaten with alcoholic beverages, before the meal) that even a vegetarian can have a feast at one of these restaurants.  The ritual starts with the inspection of the meze tray, which, depending on the restaurant can contain upto 15- 20 different alternatives. First the diners order their cold mezes from the tray and then go onto order the hot mezes  The cold meze will include some vegetable dishes prepared with olive oil, vegetable dishes that are served with garlic yogurt, stuffed grape leaves or mussels, a variety of seafood like octopus or shrimp prepared with olive oil, garlic and lemon... the list can go on and on... the hot meze can be anything from borek (stuffed phyllo dough pastry) to shrimp stewed in a crock pot, to fried calamari or mussels... There are so many dishes that come out one after another that if you don't plan ahead, you won't have room left for the main meal.  The reason so many different variety of meze is offered is because of the accompanying drink - Raki- and the ceremony of drinking what is commonly referred to as 'lion's milk' (it turns white when mixed with water) There is even a concept of Raki sofrasi (raki table) in Turkey which means several meze including feta cheese and melons, that is setup to be enjoyed with the raki, throughout a long period of time.  Of course the conversations that accompany this ritual are priceless, some people drink it just for the conversation.

The fish that one finds in Turkey already have distinctive flavors so they are usually prepared by grilling or frying them and served without any sauces.  The only exception to this is the steamed sea bass that is stewed with butter, peppers, tomatoes, onions and mushrooms, but even in this dish there is no sauce that covers the fish.  If you have the luxury of time, I recommend what the locals do - that is to either have a table laden with meze or pick one or two and order a wonderful fish and salad.  Salad is another star on the tables of fish restaurants, usually prepared using different kind of salad greens.

And of course, there is always desert.  Traditionally, halva was eaten after fish but today  one can find a variety of options - one of my favorites is chocolate souffle...

At last but not least, you have either Turkish coffee or tea to top off this perfect meal...

This spectacular variety of Turkish cuisine is something that shouldn't be missed...
The following video is a song about having balik (fish), roka (arugula) and raki in Istanbul... gorgeous shots of one my favorite cities in the world...  I thought this would be a nice way to finish this long post...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

First Day of Summer

A fisherman's boat and a steam-boat on the Bosphorus where it meets the Black Sea  (Istanbul)

Today is the official beginning of the summer season, and perfect opportunity for me to start the blog I had been contemplating for some time, about travel, food, family, and making connections.   One of the happiest of times for myself is when I am traveling... sometimes to unknown lands and other times to all too familiar ones... But wherever the wind may take me whether it be the little Italian restaurant right in our neighborhood or the beaches on the Aegean Sea, thousands of miles away, I can usually find something to relish about the whole affair.  Having a natural curiosity and an abundant zest for life, I seem to stumble upon some great places or prospects for significant experiences. They say knowledge is worthless if not shared.  I agree and want to share my own travelogues here with the world...