29 July 2014

Turkish Wine of the Week - Corvus Tenia

I'm a little late with this week's post. It's so hot and humid in Istanbul these days it seems that even the Internet can't be fussed to work. Knock on wood but it seems to have recovered at least a little today, although I have to compose all my emails in advance so I can hit 'send' during one of its working moments.

But back to the point. I've had a couple wine now from Corvus and I'm not sure that I'm a fan. Could be I'm just picking the wrong grapes. Th Corvus Tenia is a single grape wine made out of the Çavuş grape. Unfortunately I have no information about this grape despite somewhat exhaustive online searching. Even my trusty Wines of Turkey website let me down. If anyone can tell me about the properties of Çavuş, please do!

Even Sherlock is skeptical

What I got out of it from my own, not so keenly honed, senses was that it's so Chardonnay adjacent as to be a first cousin. One that married its first cousin Chardonnay at some point.

It has a nice color which is probably the last good thing I'll say. A nice dark, yellowish gold which I, correctly or not, associate with barrel aging. It was very floral on the nose which also came out in the flavor. I tasted mostly the floral and some citrus and I'm going to go out on a limb and say there was also a little butteryness from the suspected barrel aging.

If you like dry white (which I don't) and/or Chardonnay (which I also don't) then you might like this. I'm not saying it was terrible, just that it wasn't to my taste. But if this ever made its way back into my wine cupboard here I'd probably save it for use as a cooking wine.

25 July 2014


I've been to Buyukada a few times, most recently in April for the Festival of Saint George (still waiting for my wish to come true) but that's the only of Istanbul's Prince's Islands that I've visited. With MG still in town (no she's not actually still here, I'm just insanely lazy about posting) it seemed like a good time to try a new island.

Personally...they seem really similar. Heybeyliada has slightly shorter hills and unlike Buyukada has some flat spaces. When you debark at Buyukada you have to start walking uphill almost immediately. In theory Heybeyliada also does not allow motor vehicles...but the naval academy/base has vehicles driving hinder and yon so there's more traffic.

What Heybeliada DOES have going for it is a fantastic little bakery just behind the main seaside road. The bakery has a range of scrummy goodness but my favorites are the giant macaroons (cocos) that are 2TL each I think...maybe they're even just 1TL. They're glorious and if you like coconut these will not fail you. It's worth the 90 minute boat ride just to get some of these. Seriously.

Seriously? This cracked me up.
I have decided though that if I need a wee get away from the hustle and bustle of Istanbul, and from Sherlock who now thinks the best way to wake me up is to wrap herself around one of my feet and attack, that I will stay at the Merit Halki Palace Hotel. Who wouldn't want to stay in something cotton candy pink?

The hotel looks beautiful, has a pool (which may even overlook the Marmara), and looks like the perfect venue for a wedding. So I guess it's a good thing they do weddings. They do events of all kinds so I might try to convince my current employers that they need to hold their next meeting here.

Merit Halki Palace Hotel

22 July 2014

Turkish Wine of the Week - Vinkara Domi-Sek Misket

I'm a little late with this week's post. After the "preview" Sunday night I spent Monday largely in bed hating myself. I'm not even sure at this point if I'll manage to drink anything this week to post next Monday! But since this one was already drafted...lets go.
Vinkara has not previously been one of my favorite wine producers and so it is with the quattro domi-sek.

This is the first of the Miskets I've tried that has truly been a semi-dry. Quite probably that's why it's not a favorite for me. It was not at all bad and I think, even at 35TL a bottle, I might like to give it another try and see what I think of it a second time around. As with anything else, if you have a flavor idea in your mind and the actual flavor doesn't match, you end up completely off your stride.

I think the view might have improved the flavor!

While the nose and flavor profiles were within the same family as the sweeter Miskets I've been drinking, the taste was quite a lot drier and the orange blossom and honey flavors I've come to expect much less evident. You can even see in the pictures how much darker the color is which (combined with the drier taste) make me wonder if perhaps this was oaked at any point.

It went quite well with a dessert Stilton I picked up recently in London and with chocolate; however it went far less well with peaches and nectarines. Shudder. That I won't do again. But the wine I just might; just not any time soon...

20 July 2014

Turkish Wine of the Week - A Preview

Yes, it's Sunday night...well technically I suppose it's Monday morning which means I'm early for my usual wine post. And I have no pictures because I'm old school and I actually have to upload them from a camera, resize them, then upload them to the blog. HOWEVER, I've been asked by one of my current guests, to live blog our current wine adventures. It is...1:07 AM and I'm on my terrace with five if my new favorite people, one of whom has asked me to live blog our current drinking adventures.

We began our evening at one of my favorite restaurants in Sultanahment (The Anatolya Cafe and Restaurant) with four bottles of wine. And, like a good Turk, I invited them back to mine for more. We are now on our eighth bottle and I've been asked to both live and guest blog the drinking. I promise that pictures and real reviews will follow.

M has just now helped me fix the view as I somehow managed to make it really tiny. I know how to fix this on Chrome but not Firefox. And while I peer at my keyboard (we're on the terrace so my only light is from the screen and ambient city life (and bleeding ell now I've gone and blown up the view so now I'm typing a blog for either a child or a really really blind person) but the conversation in the background is about gay people, Nosferatu, and fish sandwiches (balik ekmek).

It's been pointed out to me that this might sound less than PC and I should mention that E is gay. So it's ok that I mentioned that we're talking about gay people.

"My office did not say one word when SCOTUS struck down Don't Ask Don't Tell and Prop 8 and DOMA..."and now I've lost the quotation but apparently you need one gay guy on a boat. And you have to pay an extra dollar for white rice at Jandara Thai in Woodley Park.

And we're back to a revolving conversation about C needing to replace his carpet. Apparently his wife is Skyping in from a third county to do house cleaning inspections. Which is awesome.

And apparently, for my visitors, this trip is about  transitioning his job to M and E touching M's milky white skin...dude I don't even know anymore. And now we're making babies. Not actively though, however the conversation is about as fun as actually making a baby. And K and M, who are both under 30 (ugh, seriously that just hurts me) have just been relegated to the children's table.

And now we're talking about how I'm too old to have children and I'm sounding veeery Western MI. Luckily I have K to remind me that we're not from Minnesota...and now E (who's gay remember) has moved on to a woman he slept with in New Orleans. This is fascinating. And I have to correct a lot of spelling errors. More than usual.

I don't even know how to write this but the conversation has shifted to sex and babies with Mexicans. Which I didn't quite think should be included here...but when the visitors tells you to do things, you have to do them.

This is actually a really difficult conversation to document. Having worked in a series of NGOs I'm fairly familiar with a number of acronyms but my friends have a whole different set of their own.

"Have ya'll ever done Ketamine?"

Yes this is my life. It consists of Turkish classes, drinking wine, my cat, online classes (I now know all about blood spatter), and bizarre people. But bizarre people really are the best.

"What is a wet burger?"

"Just let your mouth taste it!"

"What's that brown bag in your freezer?"*

It is now 1:57 AM. I assume that I don't have to work tomorrow. I sent my current employer a message to ascertain whether or not I am needed tomorrow (they're about 45 min away) but I have no emails. So Imma turn off my alarm clock. Which doesn't matter because Sherlock (currently hiding in my bedroom) is going to wake me before 8 AM for her morning wet food feeding.

Apparently C only brought one pair of pants. He insists that M not spill wine on them because he's not going to Gap. I said there wasn't one here but he corrected me. There is indeed a Gap here. In the same mall on Istiklal where there's an Arby's. Sadly, Arby's does not deliver.

I worry we might be too loud but the Ramadan drum banging guy has already started so...and now we're putting things on our nipples. Well, no. E is putting things on his nipples and my not to be named employed friends are posing with said nipples (at C's urging I named their employer earlier  but that has since been edited out). There are pictures. I will not post them. You're welcome.

"This is the one that asked me for the vaginal soap. With cranberry oil.  Triple action."

I don't even know anymore.

Also apparently I'm getting a hundred million dollars to move to Gaziantep. That is my base price for moving there, so that's cool.

E just said one of his subordinates needed a butt plug.  Classy.

'Furtive' is apparently a white verb. I'm not even sure what that means.

And M just broke suuuuper expensive sunglasses trying to pick up poor Sherlock. My poor baby.

"You don't have good people in government." Truer words, man. Truer words.

"Go Ramadan!" (In response to drummer ass butt).

"Do you smell my Patchouli?" 2:51 AM

C is now reading my coffee fortune. I tried to speed drink my coffee but it was so hot... I apparently have three smoke stacks. They are overtly good luck and the fact that I have three are a good sign. I have a lot of white sections which excite him because it means I have a lot of opportunity ahead of me. And he sees mountains. Which means heights of expecations which are the challanges I will succeed in achieving. The only concern he has is the dark bottom. I had to thumb print it which was really hard and now my hand is covered in coffee grounds.Now there's Arabic which I don't understand. Now i have a fish and a giver which means I have generosity and opportunity which is the 2nd time he said opportunity. It's a man giving fish apparently. Flying fish represents zeal and enthusians and passion for something. And he sees a pregnant woman. The preganat wonam has long hair. Like mine. I will become pregnant in the next 12 months. C says the baby dadddy is someone in Scotland. I must leave the cup, which is a good one, for a couple days. I will take a not drunk blurry pic tomorrow morning. It's a white a white cup which means clarity and purity, lack of confusion.

He likes the cup. And I must admit that I am not confused. Drink, and faced with wine I did not finish (I abandoned my cup for the coffee) but not confused!

Also I hope my neighbors, mostly my downstairs neighbor who is also my Sherlock sitter, is not disturbed by our noise. After they left and Sherlock came in (poor baby, she was not happy, I had to give her more wet food) I dropped the padlock to my terrace and it made a terrible clatter.

At this point I have no idea what I've written. Apparently it is a masterpiece and I am Pulitzer bound. Is there a blog Pulitzer? I shall post this before we all come to our senses.

I'm pretty sure I've read this and have edited everything that is legally not supposed to be said...if not I imagine they will tell me. I'm to send them all the link. I really hope they make it back to their hotel alive. It would be bad on many levels if I contributed to their death,

It is now 3:22 AM. My alarm is definitely being turned off. I will attempt to stay awake until I figure they've all stopped for a wet hamburger (jealous much) and got to their hotel. Apparently there will be more drinking tomorrow. God help me.

*It's coffee by the way. The brown bag in my freezer.

16 July 2014

Ephesus. Again. Times Five.

Just because we left Cappadocia behind does not mean that my adventures with MG were over! She did a pretty comprehensive tour of the main highlights in Istanbul before we even left for Cappadocia so on the tail end of that trip there were a few days left. And what do you do when you have a day to spare? You go to Ephesus.

I wonder if there's a record for 'most visits' to Ephesus. I think I'd win.

Because we'd had such an early flight and early wake up calls in Cappadocia, MG nixed my usual 6:45 AM flight to Izmir in favor of a 10:30. We had less time but since the day's plan did not include the House of Mary or the Basilica of Saint John (the Apostle, not the Baptist-Lonely Planet and even the Basilica's ticket booth confuse them) I figured we would be ok.

In theory we were. See if you go to Ephesus and want to do the whole tour including Mary House then you're set because there are cabs right at the bus and their sole purpose is to take you to Mary House, wait for you, then drop you off at the first of the two gates to Ephesus. If you don't want to take the cab you better hope you're on a tour bus or have your own car because there's no other way to get to the Mary House or the first entrance. Unfortunately for MG, I insisted that we enter Ephesus from the first gate and was convinced that it couldn't be more than 2-2.5 kilometers. You'd think I'd have learned something in Cappadocia. At least there wasn't flora trying to scratch us to death. That's probably about the only win.

Betting this isn't how it was done back in the day!


A significant while (and a bit of a hill) later we reached the first entrance. Where I was especially happy to have my Museum Card as they've recently raised the entrance fee from 25 to 30 TL.  Even more unfortunate is that the Ephesus Museum, which has been closed for something like two years already, is still not open. And no one seems to know when it will open. Much of the statuary you see when you visit the city, for example the Muses on the library, are all replicas. Original pieces are kept in the (seemingly) terminally closed museum.

By the time we reached the second gate, MG agreed that it was better to start at the first entrance. Which doesn't really mean that she appreciated me making her walk all the way in the heat! The advantage to starting at the first gate is that you get to build up to the Celsus Library and the giant theatre. If that's where you're starting then everything is downhill. Except not really because if you walk from gate two to one it's uphill. Also, much as there are no taxis or dolmus to drop you off at the first gate, there are none to pick you up either. Which means you have to walk back to the second gate. Only something like 15-20% of the city has actually been excavated so you might think that walking it twice isn't such a big deal; but when you're walking around a marble city that seems to double as a sun reflector and have to dodge crowds of (other) tourists it becomes a much bigger issue!

Looks like I might be back here in December. Perhaps I'll ask after a frequent visitor program then!

14 July 2014

Turkish Wine of the Week - Leona Bloom Misket

Yet another winner in the Misket family! I've only tried one wine from Leona in the past, a Kalecik Karasi/Merlot blend for which I didn't much care; however the Bloom was quite lovely.

As with the previous Miskets, the Leona Bloom had a lovely pale, clear yellow color and floral nose. However I found the usual orange blossom to be even more evident in the Bloom's nose. Since the orange blossom aspect of the Miskets is my favorite part of the wine I certainly enjoyed that extra little kick! The flavor profile was also very much what I expected from a Misket. The main stand out point of the Bloom flavor was that the citrus notes were much more evident than I have found in other Miskets.

At about 32TL a bottle the Leona Bloom follows in line with nose, flavor, and price as all previous Miskets. So far not a one has been a disappointment!

07 July 2014

Wine of the Week - Safir Semi-Sweet Misket

I am making it my mission this summer to try all the Misket wines produced in Turkey! And so far all of them are winners. Doluca's Safir is no exception. Before I wax poetical about its orange blossom and honeysuckle flavors, a little technical information about the Misket grape is needed, I think.

Misket (or Muscat for us Westerners) grapes come from Izmir along the Aegean. The wines they produce run the gambit between "dry" to dessert. I say "dry" though as my personal experience, with any Muscat, not just Turkish, is that a so-called "dry" Muscat leans a little closer to semi-dry than straight up dry.

The nose of a Misket will be full of tropical fruits, flowers, and citrus which are all easily detectable; and also apparently bay leaves and thyme which I have a harder time smelling. The easily drinkable flavors of honeysuckle, orange blossom, basil, roses, mint, honey, bergamont, lemon balm, daisies, grapefruit, and melon make this a wine that goes well with all sorts of cheeses (from mild dessert cheese to cheddar and blues), seafood, spicy food, light foods...and it's just delightful all on its own!

All Miskets seem to live in the same 30-35 TL price range, and I have no idea why. Are there fewer Misket grapes grown vs demand? Are they more difficult to grow? No idea but it's something to be aware of if you're out shopping for a Misket. Which means for me that it might be a bit of a pricey summer!

I have tried several Miskets now from Terra, Ancyra, and now Doluca. I don't have a favorite yet but I know there are a few more out there. Either I'll hit on one eventually or will spread the love around to all producers all summer!

And less anyone think I'm just really well-informed about Turkish grapes, let me burst those bubbles by saying that (aside from my taste buds) all my information comes from the Wines of Turkey website :)

02 July 2014

I Was in the Same Room as Richard Armitage!!

I took a long weekend in London (being able to do that is one of the things I love about living here!) to visit my bestie. It just happened to be the most fantastic and luckiest coincidence ever that The Crucible starring (pause for fan girl giggle) Richard Armitage was in tech the same weekend. Which meant not only tickets but fairly reasonably priced ones at that!

The show started tech week with a four hour running time. It seems they have it down to 3.45 now but it could really be cut a bit more. It's not the dialogue that slows it down but all the extraneous "dramatic" crap. It didn't help that the play went up more than 10 minutes late (hopefully they get that under control before opening). But what really needs to go is the opening sequence in which a moaning Tituba slowly, and I mean


enters from downstage, alternately dragging and stamping her feet. After she painfully (for us not her) makes her way to the front and stamps around a bit, the remaining cast members enter barefoot and (also sloooowly) make their way to the chairs scattered about. After pausing for what felt like an interminable amount of time, they all put on their shoes (why are they barefoot?!), sit, and the lights slowly dim until there's only one follow spot on, sigh, Richard Armitage. Sigh.

Let's take a moment to talk about the Old Vic.What apparently was once a shallow stage is now a small space in a theatre in the round. What used to be stage and back stage is now more seating. Usually I avoid the first couple rows of theatres (you'll end up craning your neck looking up at everyone, often can't see all the way downstage, and it's splash zone for blood and other things) but here the front rows are all on level with the actors. Had I but known!!

When we arrived I was a little skeptical about the set up. All that was on the itty bitty stage were a bunch of chairs. Set dressing remained minimal throughout with actors bringing in small pieces of furniture as needed for each act. The designer even covered up the decoration that's part of the theatre's architecture by draping it all with grey-ish cloths. I'm not usually a big fan of all this minimalism but in the end I liked it here. The bareness of the set dressing emphasized the starkness of the play while not distracting from the rawness of the emotion and dialogue.

Speaking of the dialogue...

I've seen a couple film versions of this play but this beat them all. On film it was just a film but as a play I could feel the emotion. So here I nod to several of the actors by whom I was particularly impressed.

Samantha Colley as Abagail Williams. She is full on crazy and it's amazing. She's even more frightening in her moments of calm and in the way she silently commands her minions. The power she has over them, especially Mary, is incredible.

And a nice segue onto Mary played by Natalie Gavin. Ms Gavin's Mary was quite sympathetic. I don't recall appreciating how difficult her position was when I read the play but you really feel her struggle between morality and survival and (spoiler alert-it's not like the text hasn't been around though!) it makes her ultimate choice of survival over the truth all the more painful to see.

Adrian Schiller as Rvd John Hale was another favorite of mine. Here was a good man, an outsider, brought in to deal with this community's problem and trying like fire to do the right thing. And not succeeding. Like Mary he is torn between survival (ie signing 70-some death certificates) and morality by standing up for John Proctor and pleading with those who refuse to save themselves by confessing. His plea when he asks Proctor if throwing away his life for pride is not a greater sin than saving his life by dying is desperate and heartrending.

And here we move to Armitage. I just about fell out of my seat being in the same room with him and was so pleased that the charisma he has on screen is as powerful, and even amplified, on stage. I did some swooning. I read in a recent article attached to the play that Armitage's main love is theatre but, because of the recent trends in which it seems to be all the screen actors getting the best stage roles, he consciously went after a TV and film career so he could return to stage. And what a return.

Armitage owns the stage during the play. And for anyone thinking that it can't be all that hard to do so given its minuscule size, remember he's competing in scenes with crazy Abby and her army of devil spotting ladies-in-waiting. Even when he's not active in the scene he's active and present. That said, he does not pull focus (except for people like me who can't stop looking at him because he's So. Damn. Pretty.) and there's not a sense of 'Look at me, look at me, I'm the star'.

His beautiful voice (I may own and frequently listen to all his audio books) carried well around the theatre but, sadly, he seems to be reducing his natural Northern accent. I couldn't tell if he were trying for something American, although who's to say what an "American" accent sounded like in 1692, or if he were just lightening it. Either way he should stop that. Whoever in his management/pr office monitors his Google alerts should tell him that.

There was a moment that may have veered a little too close to the sun towards the end of the play when John Proctor is making his own moral vs. survival decision. He did not go the route of Icarus and go splat but I questioned if it were a moment of over acting or no. My completely amateur, I just like theatre and blog about any and every adventure, opinion came down on the side of not over acting. Proctor is so close to reclaiming his life but he's not sure he's worthy of it because of both his past sins and the sin he commits now by lying to save his own skin while his friends and neighbors die for maintaining the truth. His emotional struggles throughout the play were also physically manifest and never more so than in this final scene. His reaction when his wife lies for him about his affair with Abby was heartbreaking. In the past I've been lock step with Rvd Hale on this about the greater sin being to throw away your life for pride...Armitage's John Proctor made me think that maybe it's not.

While watching the play I had to wonder how many people in the packed house really knew what the story was about. Sure, Arthur Miller wrote a play about the Salem Witch Trials...but that wasn't the point of this story. The Crucible is about McCarthyism, which ripped apart Hollywood and the country in the 1950's. The practice of naming names to get yourself out of hot water ruined a good many people during this anti-Communism scare in the US. Some people gave up names willingly and some, like poor Tituba in Act I, out of fear and desperation. As a high school kid reading The Crucible for the first time and with a very basic understanding of what McCarthyism was I couldn't fully appreciate it. As an adult I am horrified. The United States of America was founded by the very pilgrims from whom Miller's characters descend because they wanted freedom. One of the freedoms we have is the right to be Communist if we damn well want to be (which frankly when you look at American politics sometimes it doesn't seem like a bad alternative). But in the 50's, actual Communists and the merely suspected alike were persecuted for exercising these freedoms. To me, this is one of those moments in American history, like the interment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the genocide, yes genocide, of Native Americans that the American people have willfully forgotten. How do we not repeat these crimes if we don't learn from our mistakes? What will be the next trumped-up panic?

I've now veered way way off the path of Richard Armitage fandom so, in a Homeric circular writing trick I now leave my soap boxy meander to come back to the play...

I'm so glad bestie indulged me and took me to this, especially since she didn't come out raving about it the way I have! It's been a long time since I've been to the theatre but even longer since I've been to a play that I thought deserved high marks in all departments.

There was laughter at the beginning of the play when everyone made such a big deal about Abby and the girls dancing in the woods. The horror with which they reacted when they learned the girls were dancing. Dancing! The horror! Apparently though, THIS is what happens when you forbid dancing.  Something to think about, no?

01 July 2014

Turkish Wine of the Week - Arya Kalecik Karasi-Bogazkere

I know I'm a day late this week but I had a good reason and I'll be blogging about it this week!

I was at The Cave, my local alcohol, shop, the other week looking for a selection of Turkish wines to try out on visiting friends. The guy who was helping was friendly but unfortunately useless as far as personal recommendations went as he doesn't drink alcohol. Insert blank face here. So I ended up with two bottles, an expensive bottle of one of the Suvlas on my list and a cheap bottle of a wine I've never heard of. That's the one we're reviewing today.

Right off the bat I wanted to like the Arya. I enjoy a butterfly so if you put one, a purple one no less, on your label I'm likely to be drawn to it. It also did not hurt that it was a pretty cheap wine, only 15 TL (about $7.50) and it was a blend of two of the Turkish reds I like: Kalecik Karasi and Bogazkere. I was further happy when the wine turned out to be almost the exact shade of plummy purple as the butterfly on the label.

If you've read any of my wine posts at all then you'll know that I often describe the nose (ie smell) of a wine. For the Arya I would say that the nose was deep, dark, and full of dried red fruits. Similarly I would describe the flavor as being smooth, with light to no tanins, and full of red fruits. I could say these things. It's possible I might even be right. But I'm not going to say these things. Sometimes when I drink a wine I don't taste the undertones of flint, mint, or tobacco. Sometimes I don't even taste the top notes of red fruits, blah, blah, blah. I just taste wine. So it was with the Arya.

Does that mean that it's a bad wine? No. Doesn't mean anything, really. I still rather liked it even. I found it to be kind of Chianti-esque and it went very well with pasta and pizza. Or maybe it was just because I ate pasta and pizza this weekend that I was thinking about Chiantis...

Also, I'll buy this wine again. Why not? I may not be able to wax eloquent about the hints of this or that in its flavor profile; but it was cheap, it was decent, and bonus, it didn't give me a red wine hanger. That's a winner in my book!