27 April 2016

Turkish Wine of the Week - Çamlıbağ 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

I seem to unwittingly be on a mission now to try all the Cabernet Sauvignon wines in Turkey. As far as missions go I don't suppose this one is so bad. Certainly it hasn't been a hardship! This week it's Çamlıbağ's special reserve 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from the warm climate of Bozcaada (near Çanakkale).

In the glass Çamlıbağ's Cabernet Sauvignon was ruby red with no hints of purple. With a nose and flavor profile that includes blackberry, berry jam, tobacco, baking spice, and what I think were violets it's pretty stereotypical of a warm climate Cabernet Sauvignon.

Lowish tannins and low alcohol don't make for a big Cabernet and this was no different. However for a medium-bodied Cab it did okay. I can't be positive but oaky flavors of baking spice and tobacco in the finish hint that this wine spent at least a little time in oak.

For 45TL (from La Cave) this wasn't too bad. Comparatively I prefer the similarly priced Arda Cabernet Sauvignon or the more expensive Ma'adra and the next time I want a Cab I'm far more likely to buy one of those instead of this one. However after tasting this one I am far more willing to try the other wines offered by Çamlıbağ. 

25 April 2016

Turkish Breakfast Review - Journey

M and I attempted to breakfast at Pell's Cafe on Thursday but it seems to have disappeared. So on a recommendation from his neighbors we went to Chigangir's popular Journey. (I've never experienced anything like E&M's building-at least half of the neighbors are friends and they all hang out all the time.) I haven't been to Journey in years and then not for breakfast so I was excited to try.

I was a little taken aback when I received my latte. I knew going in that Journey was a bit hipster (Have you seen what hipsters do to food?! They need to be stopped!) even so my eyebrow went way up when I received my deconstructed latte. I had to swallow my sarcastic remarks in the end though because this was one of the best lattes I've had here. No one in Turkey seems to get the difference between a latte and a cappuccino; the only real difference between them here is that the latte might be served in a tall glass. Journey gets major points for theirs though which essentially was a couple shots of espresso served with hot (but not foamed!) milk on the side. I had two.

M and I split the paleo breakfast and the buckwheat pancakes. Hipster ahoy. The paleo breakfast was a little weird but had some good offerings: a slice of walnut bread, olives, butter, pesto, walnuts, brie, avocado slices, REAL bacon!, and arugula with lemon.

It also came with a fried egg with spinach and porcini mushrooms. That was so yummy. So, so yummy. As was the bacon. Real bacon.

The pancake plate was also pretty nice. Five mini pancakes with slices of orange, pear, strawberries, bananas, and grapes with kaymak and maple syrup. Buckwheat is not my favorite pancake flavor but they weren't too strong and with a dollop of kaymak and strawberries there really were quite nice.

Journey has a pretty extensive breakfast menu and a really nice, relaxed atmosphere. Definite thumbs up for the breakfast and the coffee! I will be back. I wonder if they'd give me a side of bacon with my next breakfast order?

Kılıçalipaşa Mah. Akarsu Cad. No: 21-A
Cihangir, Beyoğlu

22 April 2016

Brutti Ma Buoni - My Trials and Tribulations

In November when I was in Rome L and I had the most magnificent cookies called brutti ma buoni - literally ugly but good. I have tried several times now to recreate them and are consistently turning out far more brutti than buoni. I shall persevere!!

Both attempts had good and bad points. The first recipe I found was, I now believe, miswritten. No way one egg white was enough so I did some guesstimating and randomly threw in a few more egg whites. I also went the whole nine yards with roasting whole hazelnuts then putting them through a food processor with confectioner's sugar.

I'm sure it was an ingredient  proportional issue but these baked flatter than a pancake. Brutti ma buoni should be puffy and round, kind of like a coconut macaroon. Sans the coconut.They were both brutti and buoni but brutti in a completely different way than they should have been. But wow did they taste good.

For my second batch I used a completely different recipe. I also skipped a step and used prepulverized hazelnuts that I found at Carrefour. Even the method with these cookies was much different and involved hand whisking the egg whites and sugar in a double boiler-which I think made a big difference in how the cookie turned out.

I knew as soon as I scooped these onto the cookie sheet that I had a better chance this time of making them look right. The meringue was fluffier and the raw dough stayed put instead of migrating into the surrounding cookies.

This recipe also called for a significantly less amount of hazelnuts so that explains why they may have looked slightly better (well, better = the way they're supposed to) but did not have the big hazelnut flavor that the first batch did. I also think I let them bake like two minutes longer than they needed. My new oven and I are still learning how to get along.

So the first batch wins for taste but the second sort of wins for looks. I think my next attempt will be with the below recipe which is the one I used for the second batch but with some tweaks.  When made correctly these cookies are amazing and totally worth all this trial and error to get right!

Brutti ma buoni


  • 200 grams whole hazelnuts
  • 1 cup (200 grams) sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 Tbs (30 grams) flour
  1.  Preheat oven to 350 F/177 C and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the hazelnuts on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes (or until fragrant) and skins begin to flake. Remove and place on a clean dish towel. Roll up the towel and let them steam for about 10 minutes then rub the (still in the towel) briskly to remove the skins. Let them cool completely then coarsely chop (or run through a food processor).
  2. In a heatproof bowl placed over a shallow pan of simmering water combine the sugar and egg whites whisking constantly until opaque in color.
  3. Remove from heat and beat with a hand mixer until thick and glossy. Beat in the vanilla then fold in the flour and chopped nuts.
  4. Place heaping tablespoonsful on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 12-ish minutes then check and bake more or not.
These are best the day of but will keep for a day or two in an airtight container. 

20 April 2016

Turkish Wine of the Week - Chamlija 2013 Sui Generis

Chamlija's new Sui Generis is a study in how important it is to let your wines breathe. I started out completely turned off by this one only to do a complete reversal the next day. But before we get to my Saint Paul*-like conversion...the pertinents.

A little more expensive than the average bottle of Chamlija, a bottle of Sui Generis will set you back 105 TL, unless you get it from Solera like I did where you get a 25% discount when you buy a bottle to go. Before 10PM of course when Turkey's no alcohol sale law kicks in. The Sui Generis is a blend of Cabernet Franc 42%, Merlot 32%, and Cabernet Sauvignon 26% that has spent a fair amount of time in French oak.

In the glass it was a dark, inky red color. The nose was huge with more things than I could identify however I think I managed to pick out scents of black fruit and berries, cocoa, something floral or sweet tobacco...there was something giving it a sweet scent. Of course I could just be making up all that. I do like to make up things. Before it properly opened the low tannins and higher acid did not balance well and my take away was that it tasted a lot like a liquor-filled chocolate. And while I like chocolate, a lot, I usually spit out the liquor-filled ones.

I was prepared to say that I liked this on principal alone. Much like my relationship with Suvla's wines I'm pretty well in love with Chamlija's wines and defend their honor to any who dare impugn it. That said I almost dumped the remainder a day later because apparently my principles only go so far. Instead of throwing it out I decided to give it one more try. Chamlija has not let me down so far and I couldn't accept that it had this time, especially when the Sui Generis comes with such a fantastic label.

Gorgeous. The fact that I could do such a 180 on my opinion makes me think I need to be better about letting my wines breathe a bit before diving in. I think I'll get a decanter or see if someone in a more normal country will send me an aerator. Once it had breathed properly the acid settled down and the black fruits and tobacco created a big, bold flavor with a delightfully long finish.

One of the things I love about Chamlija wines is the bottle descriptions. I've mentioned before how much I love the poetry of Suvla's descriptions but Chamlija goes another way. Their wines introduce themselves which I find fantastically charming. Merhaba, ben Sui Generis (Hello, I am Sui Generis) begins the back of this label.

*I think in fact that I like the Sui Generis better than I like Saint Paul. I've always found him rather supercilious.

18 April 2016

Turkish Breakfast Review - Forno

A few months ago I met a work contact for breakfast in Balat. I don't often go to Balat and really wanted to take pictures for a breakfast review but also didn't want to be that weird person taking pictures of her food. However I totally can be that weird person around my friends who have, by and large, already accepted that I am weird. Since spring has finally arrived in Istanbul I dragged M to Balat Saturday morning for breakfast and exploration.

Once we got to Balat on the Golden Horn, which is the new new hipster neighborhood it took me a few minutes to find my way back to Forno. However in those few minutes we realized that Balat is not lacking for breakfast places! It is quite the opposite actually as there's a new, and often quite colorful, cafe every few meters. I see many a field trip to Balat in our future.

Forno is well-known for its pide, however its breakfast isn't too shabby either. For 35TL you get access to a full breakfast buffet, fried eggs of your choice (M had eggs with cheese, I got them with roasted meat), and unlimited tea. Of course they also offer a variety of coffee options. The breakfast buffet is pretty amazing: simit, bread, croissants, su borek, five different cheeses, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, tomato paste, olive paste, kaymak, honey, jams, and fruit yogurt.

Forno is small, just a few tables, and while there were staff a plenty service was a little iffy Saturday morning. M ordered a filter coffee that didn't arrive until 10-12 minutes after he ordered it and after we'd asked for it a second time. His second coffee took nearly as long to get which, considering they seem to be using a pod coffee maker, there really just isn't an excuse for that.

Iffy service aside, the food is great. The eggs were tasty and the buffet offerings certainly above standard. M and I were enamored of the yogurt which was like the kitchen sink of yogurts with apples, pears, strawberries, orange peel, and honey all thrown into the mix. We had several helpings. While this is just my first foray into breakfasting in Balat I would definitely recommend Forno.

Fener Kireçhane Sk. No:13
Balat, Fatih