24 November 2014

Turkish Wine of the Week - Suvla 2013 Merlot

And we're back! After a brief break for a trip to London and Scotland (look for those posts soon!) we're diving back into the weekly wine reviews.

For about a month now I've been making preparations to leave Turkey for good. Sherlock and I were going to pack up and move which would have taken Turkish Wine of the Week in a wee bit of  new direction. However while I was in Scotland my friends E&M of the Kenya saga told me that they're moving here! No more drinking alone! Although I maintain that Sherlock counts as drinking company even if she's not partaking.

Since I'm staying put in Istanbul for at least another year though that means a trip to the Suvla winery is on the schedule! And on that note, on to the Merlot. I was both excited and trepidatious going into this one. On the one hand...Merlot. It rhymes with 'no' for a reason. One the other hand...Suvla hasn't really disappointed me so far and the Suvla 2013 Merlot blends have been fantastic.

This is what she does when I'm drinking

The 2013 has a nice dense ruby color. Plum and cranberry on the nose; the bottle label says I should also be getting pepper in the nose but for me at least no so much (Sherlock had no comment). It was a bit tight when I first tried it. This one wants air so be prepared for that. In the mouth the tannins are light unless I held the wine on my tongue for a while. In the front I got a lot of dark fruits and whatever pepper I wasn't smelling I was certainly tasting.

At first there was something about the 2013 Merlot that completely turned me off; something mineraly that completely prepared me for 'Merlot = no' vindication. But I decided that Suvla wasn't going to do me that way. Suvla and I have an understanding that in the realm of Turkish wines and all the pitfalls and dragons that go along with it, Suvla is my knight in shining armor. So I set aside the wine for a little while; okay it was a day before I could face it again but the point it that our mini breakup gave it time to open up. For me this vastly improved the experience.Breathing gave the Merlot a chance to exchange its initial uptight nature for something softer, really brought out the plum in the nose, and brightened up the flavor.

I like to think that I'm an adventurous eater and can generally place pretty high in any 'what's the most unusual food you've ever eaten' competition but I have a few firm and fast food rules:
  1. Nothing from the body cavity. I've been there and I'm not going back. Deep fried chicken uterus on a stick. All I'm saying.
  2. Say no to Merlot.
  3. No (oaked) Chardonnay.
  4. Cilantro-why?!
So does this new found enjoyment of Suvla's 2013 Merlot mean I'm striking Rule 2? Abso-fracking-lutely not. What it means is that were someone to offer me a glass of Suvla Merlot I would happily accept rather than look at them with hurt because I thought we were friends but now they're trying to poison me.  Every rule has it's exception and I found Merlot's! Suvla's armor remains untarnished.

Suvla has several Merlots, the 2013 being at the least expensive end of the scale. I can't say my experience here has really made me want to work up the ladder. However I am due for a visit to the shop in Cihangir and I think this time I'll spring for one of the pricier blends. The Sir has consistently been a favorite but I have yet to try Suvla's Sur (another Merlot blend as it happens). I have things to celebrate and I think a bottle of Sur will fit the bill!

05 November 2014

Goodbye Kenya

Big cats are always going to be my favorites in the wild kingdom; but I do really enjoy the giraffes as well. Almost as much as I love to take a picture and make just one aspect of it color. I decided to combine my obsessions and do that to some of my giraffe pictures.

Kenya was so incredible; it left me awed, amazed, and speechless. So I'm going to end my Africa series with no more words, just the pictures.

04 November 2014

Persimmon Rice Pudding

Fall continues here in Istanbul although not nearly as beautifully as when I wrote my last fall post. Instead of Indian Summer weather and blue skies we are moving into an almost early winter. Which in Istanbul means 10 C, rain, mist, heavy haze, and grey. Lots of grey. Grey like stereotype London but without the benefit of cream tea.

My measuring cup


Truly depressing.

You what's not depressing about fall? Autumnal produce. Like the apples and pears of the last post, and persimmons. The persimmon is an odd fruit and with its tomato like appearance; if you don't know what it is you might not know it's a fruit. And yes I know that technically tomatoes are fruit but technically eggplants are berries so if you really want to go there... To this day the best way I've ever had persimmons is the fried persimmon cake thing on a stick Lauren and I gobbled in Xi'An (which we once tried and failed to create). Since they're so inexpensive here I decided to see what else they could do.; adding them to rice pudding seemed like a great idea in this weather.


As much as I appreciate borrowing my neighbor's mini oven I do still long for the full kitchen I had in DC. I miss the little things as well as the big ones. Like measuring cups. Not that I couldn't find some here I'm sure; I'm just lazy really. My measuring cup is a coffee mug. I figure if I go on the assumption that the mug is 8 ounces and "measure" everything else accordingly I should be in the ballpark. Sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn't.

Rice pudding is such a nice dreary day food and when eaten for breakfast gives you a warm glow for the rest of the day. Adding persimmon brings it to the next level.

2 very ripe, medium persimmons

1/2 Cup dried cranberries

2/3 Cup rice
3 1/2 Cup milk
1/4 Cup honey
1 1/2 Tsp orange zest
3 Tbs sugar
Cinnamon to taste
Nutmeg to taste

  1. Cut off the pointed end of the persimmons and scoop out the fruit's pulp. Way easier than peeling and chopping. Blend the pulp and set aside 2/3 Cup for later. 
  2. Combine rice, milk, honey, zest, sugar, salt, and spices and cook over medium heat, stirring really super often, until it comes to a simmer. Lower the heat and stir often until the mixture thickens; about 40 minutes. Maybe grab a book to read while you're stirring.
  3. Once thickened, stir in the cranberries and let cook about 5 minutes or until the dried fruit has softened.
  4. Remove from heat, stir in the persimmon pulp, and let cool a bit.
  5. Dive in!

03 November 2014

Turkish Wine of the Week - A Brief Sabbatical

I'm sick. It's depressing. Largely because I can't taste wine well enough to drink it. Not that that's stopped me in the past given that my mom's answer to an upper respiratory infection when we were kids was a Seven-Seven which I'm glad I couldn't actually taste because ick. But since this is supposed to be a wine review I thought it pretty useless to drink the wine if I couldn't really taste it. I was so looking forward to trying the Suvla Merlot!

I could write up a tea review since that's what I've been knocking back all week (Lipton Yellow Label baby!) but that's not terribly exciting. Although I did make chai today (with an assist from spices bought at the grocery store in Nairobi).

Since I leave on Thursday for a couple weeks that means there won't be a review next week either. I'll be trading in wine for cider while I'm in the UK! Lots and lots of cider. I'll be back on the 24 and we'll tackle the Suvla Merlot!

31 October 2014

A Walk Amonst the Dead

I wanted to do a kind of spooky post today in honor of Halloween and thought a recent photo and grave rubbing expedition to Eyup Cemetery would fit the bill. Until I started reading about Ottoman cemeteries.

Clockwise from top: fez, Sufi hat, fez, & turban

An Ottoman graveyard was created in such a way that it was to be a garden where people could wander peacefully without morbid thoughts. Morbid or peaceful doesn't matter to me; I love me a graveyard. There's an old one near where I grew up and when we were kids my sister, brother, and I would bike to it often. Somewhat creepily it does lie right next to what is now a fairly popular campground. The majority of the graves are old, 19th century, and we'd often speculate as to how people died. Especially when an entire family died within a year of each other.

I suppose there is a kind of peace to that cemetery; if a bit of a spooky one. With people that long dead there are few, if any, family members to tend to graves and nature is beginning to reclaim the land. The cemetery in Eyup is facing similar problems despite new burials every year. But even with knocked down headstones, broken steps, and overgrown underbrush it maintains the charms it must have once had. The old stones are carved with Ottoman Turkish but even if you cannot read the script, the decorations give some indication as to the person beneath; sex, rank, and even the number of children someone may have had are recorded on the stone. For example: the size of a turban* reflected a gentleman's status; fezes mark pashas or public servants, a particular kind of hat indicates someone belonging to the Sufi order, and women's graves are carved with flowers; one for each child.

Wandering through the cemetery to the famous Pierre Loti cafe at the top of the hill isn't the only way to find peace in Eyup. This small area of Istanbul is, despite if having been left outside the city walls, one of the most religiously important places for Turkish and non Turkish Muslims. Mehmet the Conqueror contracted the (original) mosque built here in honor of his standard bearer Abu Ayyub al-Ansari (aka Eyup Sultan), close companion to the Prophet Muhammad. Prominent Ottomans wanted graves close to his tomb and mosque and thus was the cemetery created.

Eyup is a charming bastion of quiet away from the bustle and hustling of Sultanahmet and I like to come here from time to time to enjoy the city from afar. The mosque is currently undergoing renovation but that doesn't detract from the peacefulness of the village square, the cemetery, or the amazing view from the Pierre Loti cafe. And if you're not into cemeteries like I am; or you just don't want to walk up; there's always the cable car!

Eyup Sultan Camii

Eyup Sultan Camii
So be it spooky or not...Happy Halloween!

*No gravestones after the 1829 ban feature turbans.