29 June 2016

Turkish Wine of the Week - Sevilen's Isa Bey 2014 Chardonnay

It's no secret how I feel about Chardonnay-basically I hate it. I enjoy a steel-aged Chardonnay but those are difficult to find in the US, finding one in Turkey is like finding a unicorn standing in a field of four-leaf clovers. However a friend of mine is a huge fan of Sevilen's Isa Bey Chardonnay and at her prompting I tried a bottle.

Before we talk about the wine itself (35 TL from Carrefour, 69 from Solera) let's talk about this particular line of Sevilen wines. Isa Bey means Mr. Jesus. Naming your wine after the guy famous for turning water into wine (if I but had a superpower!) is not a bad marketing gimmick.

As oaked Chardonnays go this was not horrendous. Which is about as ringing an endorsement as I will likely ever give an oaked Chardonnay.

While it looks like a darker yellow/gold in the picture that has more to do with lighting than the actual color which was paler than I expect from a Chardonnay. Being a 2014 it is a bit younger so I'm throwing out a guess that it did not spend a great deal of time in oak. The nose was light, faintly floral with citrus blossoms and green apple. On the palate it was crisp with lively acidity and a medium, slightly buttery finish. For me the overwhelming flavor aspect was green apple with undertones of citrus.

For those who like dry, oaked white wines but for who your standard Chardonnay is too full bodied this is a good choice. It's not a heavy white but is quite quaffable. I'm still not a convert but I will try some other Mr. Jesus wines this summer!

27 June 2016

Turkish Breakfast Review - Aşşk Kahve

Getting a late start on this week's breakfast review because I completely forgot that it was Monday! Either the heat and humidity have finally succeeded in melting my brain or I haven't had enough coffee yet.

Speaking of coffee...Saturday morning M and I ventured up the Bosphorus to Kuruçeşme to try the highly reviewed Aşşk Kahve. While traffic along the Bosphorus road is usually a nightmare Saturday and Sunday mornings it's clear sailing. I think we may have waited for the 42T in Taksim longer than we were actually on it.

Aşk is the Turkish word for 'love', so aşşk is kind of like saying 'loove' and when we first arrived at the cafe I was ready to be in love with it. It's in a beautiful garden, sits right on the water, and is decorated with bright colors. It was a nice breezy day so sitting on the water was a very relaxing and refreshing change from my stuffy oven of an apartment.

Aşşk Kahve gives you the option of building your own breakfast platter offering all it's cheeses and spreads individually. Instead of doing that though M and I went for egg dishes, although of course with an order of bal kaymak on the side because life should always have bal kaymak!

Our drinks, the bal kaymak, and a bag of mixed breads came out pretty quickly making a favorable first impression. The portion of kaymak was quite generous and I really loved that it not only came with honey on it already but that they brought us a bottle of extra honey (of which I made judicious use!). My latte was only meh but M said his Americano was good. We were slightly horrified that his small orange juice cost 12.50 TL but whatever it was I paid for my passion fruit lemonade was well worth it.

Both of us paid the extra fee to have real ham with our eggs. M's choice was sunny side up eggs with ham and potatoes while I went for the Eggs Benedict. He quite enjoyed his order but I had mixed, leaning toward negative, feelings about my order. The salad and potatoes served on the side were better than the eggs themselves. While the dish looked promising the bechamel had virtually no flavor. Fail.

While we started out with great service it quickly took a huge nose dive. Yes the cafe was super busy but we also saw a lot of waiters avoiding eye contact with people and wandering around aimlessly in an attempt to look busy. It took M several minutes to flag down a waiter to order a water and when we were finally able to get someone's attention to ask for the bill it took another 15 minutes to come.

We both left with mixed feelings but in the end I think we decided that, while we wouldn't go back for the food, we would go back (especially on a weekday when it would theoretically be slower) for a drink and to sit in the garden by the water. Seriously it's worth the trip for the lemonade which comes in multiple flavors aside from the passion fruit (I'm addicted to anything passion fruit flavored); but for breakfast...meh. I've had better.

Aşşk Kahve (right next to the Macro Center)
Kuruçeşme Mahallesi, Muallim Naci Caddesi, No 64/B 
Beşiktaş, İstanbul

24 June 2016

Friday Fun - Sevilen Cider

Not too long ago while I was in Solera I found this bottle of Sevilen CIDER. I love hard cider and really needed to try this despite the rather steep price tag. Luckily since it was Solera I didn't pay the full 65TL (for cider!) but even with the discount it was a bit much.

Basically it tasted like äpfelschörle (apple juice mixed with sparkling water) and with only 5% APV (alcohol per volume) it wasn't a lot more than that. It was very apply so it had that going for it-pretty much that's all it had going for it. It was super sweet, really super sweet. I like sweet ciders, ciders that are too dry, for me, start to veer into beer-flavored territory and ick. This was too sweet for me. It was also only just barely carbonated.

If you like apple juice that's had both sugar and semi flat sparkling water added to it then Sevilen's cider is for you! If that's not your bag though you can safely skip this and know that you haven't missed anything by not trying it.

22 June 2016

Turkish Wine of the Week - Arcadia 2010 Sauvignon Gris

"'The time has come,' the walrus said, 'to talk of other things'." For me that means it's time to switch from my beloved red wines to the whites I try to drink during the warmer months. Now that summer is upon us I will try to drink more whites and may even face off with a few Chardonnays. To kick this off I went to a white wine tasting with some of my girlfriends.

Organized by Istanbul-based British pub, Pubness, we were to taste our way through four different Turkish wines with French sommelier Jean Luc. Forty to sixty people were expected at this event but only nine of us came. While some of that may be attributed to flaky people this was also a day when Istanbul experienced a 4.4 magnitude earthquake, a bombing that killed 11 people, a bus accident that killed several more people, and severe weather. Given all that I'd say nine people was a pretty decent turn out. Apparently not for Jean Luc who, and I am not kidding, refused to go ahead with the tasting because he wouldn't lower himself to speak to such a small group. The Pubness owners apologized profusely while Jean Luc sat at the back of the bar, wrapped in his own imagined superiority. We went on to enjoy our evening sans Jean Luc, spoke to Pubness's bar manager about the wines we were supposed to have sampled, and had our own fun while loudly disparaging Jean Luc, his heritage, what his ego was compensating for, and pretty much anything else we could think of.

Jean Luc wankery aside, we begin this season of whites with Arcadia's 2010 Sauvignon Gris. A lovely person gave this to me as a gift for my house warning so I don't know how much it'll set you back. I found this an interesting if not exactly enjoyable wine.

For one thing it was a learning experience for me. I've never had a Sauvignon Gris before so imagine my surprise encountering it here in Turkey. The Sauvignon Gris grape is a pink grape which, at least in this case, produced a brilliant, clear pale straw/gold color. Most commonly found in the Loire valley, the Sauvignon Gris is usually labeled only as a Bordeaux wine as it's apparently illegal to label it with the grape name. 

walnut tulum & chevre cheeses w/ lavender apricot jam

At first I had a hard time smelling past the oak to the fruit underneath but as the wine opened more I got some apple and stone fruit along with sweet spices and almond. The flavors were quite nice and paired beautifully with the walnut tulum and chevre cheeses that I had. Tulum seems to be Turkey's response to Stilton, it's got a very strong flavor.

While the flavors were nice enough where the Arcadia Sauvignon Gris let me down was the mouth feel. It's very flabby. I got no acid at all from this and I wonder if the bottle had gone off. Have you ever drunk water that's been overly softened? That's what this felt like. I've never had such a flabby wine before and while I appreciate that I now really understand what it means when you say 'flabby wine' I will be more than happy to not ever repeat the experience again.

Speaking of flabby...'Jean Luc' is now code for anyone being too pretentious, egotistical, self-important, etc., etc. The real shame of the evening was that for all the sommeliers trying to change people's mind about the accessibility of wine and the poor imagine of the snooty sommelier many hold there is a Jean Luc perpetuating the stereotype. I am sometimes pretentious but I vow that when I get my sommelier certificate I will not be a Jean Luc!

20 June 2016

Turkish Breakfast Review - Marmelat

Last Monday I had a mission. Well it was something of a dual mission: 1. Go to CherryBean Coffees to replenish my coffee bean stock and 2. Have breakfast at CherryBean's neighbor cafe Marmelat. I've been walking by this bright cafe for months now when I go next door for my caffeine mix and last week M and I went in to try them out.

Service was a little slow and they didn't have everything listed on the menu in stock-but it was still a pretty hearty thumbs up from the two of us. Marmelat offers traditional Turkish breakfast foods-no pancakes, paleo anything, or eggs benedict here-the difference between Marmelat and all the other Turkish breakfast places though is that they offer you a choice.

For 25TL you get Marmelat's breakfast plate and get to choose! three cheeses, two meats, two marmalades, and two olives and it comes with a boiled eggs, tea for two, and tomatoes and cucumbers. We also ordered sucuklu menemen which was very good, and a side of cigara borek (they were out of the pachanga).

Everything was excellent but we were most impressed with the marmalades-which apparently you can buy from the cafe! We chose raspberry and quince with clove and I will be back to buy them both. Often store-brand jams and marmalade are sweeter than candy. Marmelat's were gorgeous. We were full from breakfast but asked for more bread anyway because we couldn't leave the jams lying.

Thumbs up for Marmelat-well worth the visit. And after you've stuffed yourself with breakfast you can go next door to Cherrybean for a great coffee.

Marmelat (near the Galata Tower)
Bereketzade, Camekan Sk. No:8 
34421 Beyoğlu