31 March 2014

Turkish Wine of the Week - Terra Kalecik Karasi

I have found it!! I have found my hands down favorite vintner for Kalecik Karasi. This is the second winner from Terra, the first being the Narince I reviewed some weeks ago. I'm not entirely surprised how good this was though. While price is not always a sign of quality, as anyone who has ever bought wine at Trader Joe's knows, it's not not a factor. The Terra is a little bit on the "pricier" side running about 35TL ($17-ish) a bottle. It's worth it.*

I've been fooled by a nice nose before so the overwhelming (in a good way) berry/cherry that I was smelling made me very hopeful; and yet cautious at the same time. I was not disappointed. The flavor was similarly in a good way overwhelming in it's berriness. Most notably raspberry. Often a wine that has such a strong berry flavor profile, particularly raspberry and strawberry (which I did not taste but am mentioning for the purpose of berry clarity) is a sweeter dessert style wine. Not so with this one.

In addition to the pleasing berryness, the Terra Kalecik Karasi was very smooth and needed little to no airing. Despite the berry it still went very well with the types of food I would normally think to pair a Kalecik Karasi.My dinner was a simple plate of haydari, dolma, and sasksuma.

I also was indulging in some icki kofte. The flavor of the kofta was actually a little too strong for the Terra but I bring up these particular kofte because if you can, you need to get your hands on some.

Icki kofte are ground (likely) beef mixed with the Lord only knows what spices and walnuts. They're then breaded and likes fried? They're fabulous cold, heavenly baked, and may the good Lord bless the folks at Carrefour Turkey and their catering section for always having them around. They're not cheap in store or restaurant, but totally worth it.

This is likely the last Kalecik Karasi I'll review. At least for a while since this is my gold medal winner. So on to other varietals!

*I'm about 2/3 of the way through a bottle of the Pamukkale semi-dry Sultaniye so I should remind myself to not try to blog while partially bombed as my already massively bad spelling just...whew. It's bad stuff.

28 March 2014

There are 141 Churches in Venice. Seriously.

I've been kind of hoping this post would write itself because it's going to be a bit of a pain. There are, in all seriousness, 141 churches in Venice. 115 are Catholic, there are three non catholic, and 23 on the islands (of various denominations one assumes). Certainly I did not take pictures of all of them and thank goodness because it's going to be difficult enough to match the pictures I did take with the correct corresponding church!

Chiesa di S. Stefano

Total blank

Chiesa di Santa Maria della Salute

Santa Maria della Salute

Thankfully I saved one of the street maps we had. Hopefully I can remember which of the little crosses on the map we visited, and which belong to which pictures. One thing I recommend is to decide before you start visiting churches is which do you want to visit? Many of them have free entry and even those that charge have minimal fees, between 2.50-5.00 Euros. When you think that it goes mostly towards preservation and reconstruction it's really just a small amount. If you want to save a little though, because all the various entrance fees do add up, you can get a Chorus Pass which is
12 Euro and lets you into about a dozen or so different churches.

Santa Maria della Salute

Santa Maria della Salute

Very few churches allow photographs at all. Santa Maria della Salute (above) was one of the few that had no objections. I completely understand not using flash inside the churches. Most of these still have original artwork. Santa Maria Gloriosa del Frari (below somewhere) has a giant freaking Titian. A Titian. A giant one. It was beyond incredible. The painting practically glows from light it seems to generate on its own. So yes, I get no flash-but no pictures at all? Lame.

It's on the tip of my tongue...

Chiesa di San Rocco (R) & Scuola Grande di San Rocco (L)

Scuola Grande di San Rocco

Chiesa Santa Maria Gloriosa del Frari
Rather than taking a vaporetto from Fondamente Nove on our return from Burano we decide to walk. While Venice is a remarkably easy city to get around in, especially for a European city, we got knocked slightly off our planned course and found ourselves in the Pizza San Giovanni e Paolo. What a happy accident. The church itself was covered in scaffolding but we visited first its library (free) then the church (2.50 Euro) and were so happy we'd stumbled upon them.

Not a clue

Chiesa di San Giovanni e Paolo

The library which I think actually connects to the Ospedale Civile had not only remarkable art and ceilings, as seen above, but a vast collection of medical books in a variety of languages, tools, and curiosities. I recently read a rather fascinating book called Stiff by Mary Roach. While the book's main point is what happens to cadavers donated to science, Ms Roach discusses a little bit about the history of surgery. After reading her book and seeing some of the tools on display here I am more happy than ever to live in the modern age. Even with the absolutely unnecessary and outrageous cost of health care in the US.

Yes that says: 'amputation'

Hell to the no.
Chiesa San Giovanni e Paolo was one of the few churches that allowed indoor photography. Which just made me even happier and more willing to pay the miniscule entrance fee. We saw several churches done in this style: exposed brick, groin vaulting supported by (in this case) Doric columns, and lots of windows. It gave me a very indoor while outdoor feeling that I found unbalancing and yet really cool.

One of these days I'll figure out the level tool in PS

I love Istanbul, don't get me wrong, and it's not that Christians aren't allowed to be Christian or practice their religion in Turkey (for the moment at least)...we just can't really do it openly. Most churches which have managed to remain churches live behind walls that also contain our worship. So as a Catholic it's such a difference to be in a Catholic country. It's like I was able to let go of a breath I was unaware of even holding. We were in Venice for four days and could literally have spent the entire time visiting churches and likely still would have missed some. If you even sort of kind of like to look at churches though, this is your city! Maybe just keep better track than I did of which is which!

Also no clue

26 March 2014

Turkish Wine of the Week - Vinkara Kalecik Karasi

And we're on another Vinkara wine this week. I'm going to say that by and large there isn't (or I haven't found it yet) a bad Kalecik Karasi, but this would be close. I begin to suspect that Vinkara just isn't producing a lot of winners.

Since I didn't have a great deal to say about this particular Kalecik Karasi I looked it up on my new favorite website, Wines of Turkey, to get a little bit more information about it. Apparently we must all pretend to be British when we talk about this wine and add an -er at the end of it: Kah-le-djic-car-ah-ser. Grown largely in Anatolia (semi-central Turkey), Kalecik Karasi produces a medium-bodied wine, low tanins, with a fruity flavor, and red fruit in the nose. Which would be why I like it so much. I lean towards the reds that have more of a berry flavor profile. Kalecik Karasi also has something that I've never seen as a wine description before...a top note of cotton candy. Yup. Cotton candy.

I'd say that this is probably the "Italian wine" of Turkey as it pairs best with pasta, pizza, tomato sauces etc. Although having just recently been in Italy where I was reminded of the complicated flavors of some of the more complex Italian wines I'm not saying that you could compare this to one of them. I had one red in Venice, a Schioppettino, that just about knocked me off my chair.

I did in fact have this with a pizza I ordered from one of Beyoglu's premiere pizza places: Miss Pizza. And after I finished the pizza, Sherlock tried to eat the box.

Like the Vinkara Okuzguzu, the Kalecik Karasi was not particularly remarkable and is my least favorite of all the Kalecik Karasis I've tried. So while not horrible, I'm not going to recommend this particular iteration to anyone since there are so many better Kalecik Karasis out there. In fact I think I recently did find my favorite and the review for that will be up soon.

All things cardboard belong to Sherlock.

24 March 2014

Piazza San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale

Considering it's been almost years since I was last in Venice I suppose it's not surprising that I don't recall much about the city. What was stamped on my brain though was the Piazza San Marco. And not surprising; it's a pretty unforgettable sight.

The square, surrounded by shopping arcades, the Palazzo Ducale, and of course Chiesa San Marco itself is home to some of the most expensive cafes in Venice, likely 80% of the city's pigeon population, and (for me at least) one most unforgettable views in the city. In the summer there's always a line to get into the San Marco so keep that in mind, but in March there was no waiting.

Built between 1084 and 1117, San Marco (or the Basilica of Saint Mark if you prefer) is a gold mine* of Italio-Byzantine architecture. It blows away every other Byzantine-style church I've visited. The combination of different colored marble, mosaics, sculptures, scallops, and domes is a truly breathtaking vision. Annoyingly, many churches in Venice do not allow photographs inside, even sans flash. Which means I don't have any pictures to illustrate the absolutely breathtaking mosaics inside so I encourage Googling it. It also means I'm posting a zillion pictures of the exterior.

Europe seems to love its astronomical clocks

Exterior mosaics depicting events in the life of Christ
On Sunday, our last day in Venice, we attended the 10.30 AM High Mass. I was thrilled as, complete with choir, Latin, a loooooong winded homily, and wretched incense I felt like I was back in my former church in DC. However, because any pews that may have sat in the center of the church have been removed, simple folding chairs were set out for Mass and crowded together in such a way as to make kneeling, unless you happened to vertically challenged, completely impossible.

The Last Judgement

TripAdvisor has become my travel Bible. It's how I find hotels, restaurants, and often things to do. As such it is how I found our hotel for Venice. We visited the weekend after Carnivale so prices were largely back to their normal low season amounts but the city was still busy. I was hoping for something fairly central, hopefully located either in San Marco or Castello, and something reasonably priced. When you're unemployed reasonably priced takes on a new meaning.

TripAdvisor directed me to the Hotel Casa Petrarca. Located almost smack dab between the Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco it certainly won the location test. And for only 270 Euro for two people for three nights, it ticked the reasonably priced box in a big way!

In addition to great location and price, Casa Petrarca also had a great staff who directed us to fantastic restaurants and activities. At their recommendation, we booked a ticket for the Secret Itinerary tour of the Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace). At a mere 4 Euro more per ticket it's entirely worth it. In addition to being able to wander around the museum parts you get access to on the regular ticket, we received a guided tour of the secret rooms in the Palace, the history of the Venetian Secret Service, and got to see the cells where the famous Casanova was kept.

The below is one of the secret rooms. Pictures aren't allowed in most of these rooms but I snapped this before we were told they weren't allowed so...fair game. Offices of the secret service members were quite plain as can be seen here. If I remember correctly, this office belonged to one of the highest ranking members of the Council of 10 as the service was called. So while a luxuriously appointed corner office was not a job perk, major influence in the Venetian Government and impressive salaries more than made up for the plain work space.

*Almost literally-apparently one of the Basilica's nicknames is Chiesa d'Oro (Golden Church) due to the number of gold tiles used on both the exterior and interior mosaics.