Archives for posts with tag: travel

So, I went to Turkey! A long time ago! And I didn’t blog about it! But now I am! Hurrah.

And so now it is a nostalgia blog.

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Things in Turkey that tasted really good:

Turkish breakfast! I want this in my life on the daily. So many bits and bots. Ok: tiny bowl of olives, some weird bologna-pink meat, a super-plain flat omelet, this soft a-little-less-salty-than-feta sheep’s cheese–always cut into triangles, maybe some normal-ish Swiss-ish cheese, cucumbers and tomatoes, a never-ending bread basket, honey, and jam. Covering all yer morning bases. My favorite little mish-mash: bread, white cheese, honey, pepper. GOOD GOD. Fueled for the day. Or the next 45 minutes, till we stop for a coffee and a pastry.

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Balik Ekmek, fish sammie. Literally “fish bread.” Best bought from dude on boat. The older the dude and the grungier the boat the better. Bonus points if he has toddler-sized plastic stools for you to sit on and a dog to eat your scraps. There are tons of boats rigged up with grills, making sandwiches out of crusty bread, questionable Bosporus fish (you know how hippies say to eat raw honey to get over allergies? I think I’m going to start eating trash fish from wherever I am to acclimate myself), raw onions, and tomatoes. Add lemon and salt to taste. Yeah! Kickass. Don’t think about it too much. (I think we also ate lamb intestines on the street. It looked really good–I swear, it did–and I was starving so I made us all sit down to dinner and we all pointed at the really yummy looking lamb bits. Got in a bit over our heads on the cool-tourist front there.)

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Grilled anchovies at our favorite underground-ish fish bar/restaurant. We went twice; the dude seemed elated to see us again, and it seemed we’d earned his approval as good eaters so he gave us all the insider intel. Fish “ravioli,” which were not ravioli at all, but deep-fried fish-cubes with spicy runny yogurt on top. Angler fish, which made mom feel barfy but I kind of liked. Fish cakes, smooshed around skewers and grilled as well as smooshed into balls and fried. Fish. They dig them some seafood there; all bridges are packed with dudes fishing, filling grimy old plastic buckets (no real buckets, all re-purposed yogurt tubs, water jugs, etc) with shiny squirmy fish.

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Famous Kanlica yogurt. Has a weird skin that you mix in, and can (should) be ordered with a giant (seriously, giant) scoop of powdered sugar on top. The powdered sugar gets half mixed in and half turns into sweet, dusty lumps. Dusty lumps sounds awful, but, yeah. Really good.

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Yogurt sauces in general. Whizzed with beets, topped with olive oil. Purslane stirred in, garlic whisked in. (Sometimes I really want to leave blogs un-spell-checked; that was “garlic wished in.”)

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Simits–street bagels. White bread, in a ring, covered in sesame seeds. Cost like… a quarter a pop. Staves off desperate hunger (aka tears, emancipation from parents, divorces, and world wars) like nobody’s business. Galled Gevrek in Izmir, the land of my dad’s youth. He remembered eating them as a kid and Googled them like mad and never could find them, because he was spelling it wrong. Ha ha. Pretty good; definitely not as good as a bagel though. Sorry Turkey.

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Tea. Called cay (chai) and served everywhere, all the time, always in little tulip glasses with a red-daubed saucer. Always exactly the same–if you do it differently you are exiled to Croatia. The tea is lovely, yes. And you sure can drink a lot more of it than coffee. And it really lends itself to hanging out more than an espresso does. But, lord, that first regular drip coffee back in the U S of A was fantastic. (Though if we had the same amount of 50-cent tea stops, I would live a significantly mellower life, hanging out on the corner with my tea-homies.)

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Pistachio everything. Chocolate bars (or chocolate sticks–really skinny chocolate bars) filled with ’em, pistachio baklava-ish things, lots of pistachio ice cream. (Which is my favorite, by the way, should anyone reading this want to buy me ice cream.) Only disappoint was a bodega ice cream cone, the ice cream in which was chemically altered so it would not ever melt, come hell or high water or a giant heat wave. Which really just took the fun out of it. And made my tongue feel weird.

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One night we went to a super cute sidewalky restaurant, only to discover that they had no alcohol. No Efes (the one and only beer of the entire nation–tasted like Rainier. Tasted like home) but we were starving as per usual so we stuck with it. I ordered semi-blindly and was rewarded with a giant bowl of the tiniest, most adorable American Girl Doll-sized dumplings (each had a two-milligram speck of meat inside) doused with yogurt and splashed with hot chili oil over the top. Hell yeah. Bowl o’ dumplings; I can roll with that.

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Kumru, the most best carb-iest beach meal there ever was. This little town Alacati (Where we actually were not? We got confused on the bus and went to another town which I do not know the name of. And M&D were just rolling with it, and wanted to head on home after a long beach day at the unknown town, but I nearly cried because I wanted to see the old stone houses in Alacati very badly and they felt bad so we went there in the end. And it WAS great, so I felt a little vindicated, but still a little bad about dragging my poor parents around in the sun. But we had wine and cake, so yeah. It all worked out.) Anyway, the kumru. Little pointy-ended baguette (with sesame seeds) with a thick slice of white cheese, ever so slightly melted, salami, sausage, and tomato. That is all. Wrapped in paper. Ideally served with a yogurt drink, extra-ideally on the shores of the Aegean sea.

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And finally, the strawberries and cherries from the tiny produce/cigarette vendors. Tiny soft strawberries, like ones from your yard (if you are the type of person who tends your yard and not me who had a lovely planter box for one week till I got bored and it all died), not like the big hard boring strawberries from the store. Handle-with-care and eat-now berries. Sweet moment with the truly ancient greengrocer as he very slowly picked out each strawberry to compile me the best half-kilo of of berries there ever was.

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Yum. Good stuff. Thanks Mom and Dad; the best travel companions on earth.

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Casa Felix is pretty aptly named… It’s Diego Felix’s house. Just about opposite of the mass of spilling-onto-the-sidewalk cafes and hamburger slinging food carts in Buenos Aires, Casa Felix is a closed-door pescatarian restaurant, serving one beautiful meal to twelve guests just three nights a week. Past busy Palermo, Casa Feliz is marked by a glowing door and the somewhat apprehensive diners gathering around it at 9:30, wondering if they’re at the right spot, only to be happily welcomed in by Diego himself, ushered through a lovely home decorated with bright flowers and soft light, through a working kitchen with a very full spice rack, back into a sweet garden patchworked with herbs and gravel.

Little glasses of caipirinha arrived, the mojito’s complex cousin made with herbs from the tree above us. The rest of the guests trickled in and we milled around the dark garden admiring the plants, the garden, the house, the concept, the whole city. A tray of northern Argentinian cheese wrapped in chayote leaves (…from said garden) drenched in dark chamar syrup presented itself and was quickly cleared, the soft salty cheese in love with the fibrous leaves and sweet palm-sugary syrup. A return diner said his previous Casa Felix meal was one of the best in his lifetime…a certain good looking movie star who may have played Che Guevara arrived… (!!!) excitement built.

We chatted with Diego about his restaurant, which is the principal bit of a bigger project. He and his wife and sous chef do cooking tours in the States, bringing the closed-door dining concept with them, taking over people’s kitchens and producing wonderful meals with local ingredients. The local/organic trend is pretty different in Argentina, Diego and a couple other locals explained. While lots of small farmers are probably growing close to organic produce, its difficult to get certified, so produce may or may not be organic, it’s hard to say. Plus, perhaps there just isn’t quite the same market for the Whole Foods mentality here in the nation of sausage-sandwich lovers. Argentina seems to be somewhat unique in the fact that it’s really self-sustained, all the produce eaten here is grown here. The meat is raised here, the chairs made here, the pencils made here- everythings stamped with “Industria Argentina.” So in that sense the local food/goods mentalty is already somewhat established. But Casa Felix takes it way more local, using fresh pungent herbs from the backyard, making oil from the flowers of the tree down the street. The four days of the week they aren’t hosting dinner, they’re gardening, out meeting producers, introducing them to new seeds. Soon we moved inside, the eight of us seated around one big table. Soft brown bread (so unlike the hard white rolls native to Argentina) and white bean pate was set in front of us, but veterans warned us to save room. After a bit more chatting (and champagne) our first course arrived: chipas over green beans and arugula with salsa criollo. Hot crusty cheesy breads stuffed with salty fontina over sauteed green beans and bright green herbs, with a lighter interpretation of a common steak topping here; salsa criollo, diced onions and tomatoes in oil. The next course another play on an Argentine classic; an oyster mushroom and almond empanada over the season’s last tomatoes, a couple beets, and some light pea sprouts.

A world apart from the street empanada wrapped in paper and stuffed with hot beef, yet still prepared with the same crimpy edges, the same soft dough. Oyster mushrooms are heaven on their own, but with the texture of the almonds and the tang of the tomatoes…oh my. To calm us down from this food bliss, a little intermezza, tiny glasses of cold melon granita, lightly sweet and a welcome break from the complex meal. Then on to the main course! Calamari shepherd’s pie over beans and red pepper sauce, with a few slices of grilled zucchinis. Diego explained the mixed Peruvian and Argentine roots of the dish, and we all got a little quieter as we awed at how something could taste this good. An inbetween polenta and potato pie, topped with a smack of brulee-d sugar, holding inside a handful of perfectly prepared tentacles, over soft beans and just spicy-enough red pepper sauce.

Unexpected, this pairing of earthy shephard’s pie with sea-faring squid, and further yet with smoky red pepper sauce and charcoaled zucchinis. But perfect! Later on dessert arrived, plum and peach galettes with an oatmeal crust, over a spoonfull of sticky black currant sauce, topped with chocolate ice cream. The ice cream melted into the galette, every bite holding the sugary sweetness of the chocolate, the brightness of the late-season fruit, and the crunch of the oatmeal pastry. And finally, little cups of mate cocido- the mate burnt with sugar, creating a dark, sweet, caramelly drink just tasting ever so slightly of mate. By this time it was midnight, but we lingered for at least an hour longer, chatting with our new food-friends, a little bond created over this shared meal. The closed-door restaurant is a special thing, bringing the loveliness of a meal at home even further into the restaurant world than family-style restaurants have done. We all have the same plates, the same tastes, but different reactions to the food, different backgrounds and commentary on the parade of gorgeous courses. And Casa Felix is an extra-special thing, with their bountiful garden, their world tours, their combination of Argentine tradition and modern flavors, their cozy dining room and open kitchen. A lovely meal in a new favorite city.