26 January 2015

Turkish Wine of the Week - Suvla 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc

I find it very interesting the way we become programmed to certain things. For instance, I've been only nominally employed for the last two years but I still look forward to the weekend and hate Mondays with every fiber of my being. Wine review make my Mondays marginally better but really really good wine make them negligible.Good for me that this week I have a stellar wine to talk about!

I was in the Suvla shop looking for gifts for friends moving here. I thought they should have some nice wine before the harsh realities of the overall wine situation here came crashing down on them. I was recommended the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc (at I think 28TL) and since I hadn't tried it yet myself I got one for them and one for me; and am so glad I did.

The pretty garnet red (and the fact that this came from Suvla) gave me high hopes for what was to come. Now, I must warn you, I am about to wax tipsily poetic. It could get a little hairy.

It was actually a little while before I even tasted this one I was so caught up in the nose. This wine...smells like the dark. Spicy, pepper, blackberry. When I closed my eyes and inhaled I could see wisps of deep, dark purple make their way from the glass to wrap my brain in their smooth tendrils.

Then I tasted it and promptly fell down the rabbit hole. The description on the bottle of the wine's silky tannins and long finish are not wrong, but they are slightly inaccurate. "Silky tannins and long finish" don't in any way describe the reality of what it's like to swallow rich silk that tastes of nicely balanced spices and fruit.

The more I drank the more romantic and slightly ridiculous my descriptions became. It didn't help that I was chatting with both Lauren and my friend LT who rather egged me on. After I compared the drinking experience to being cocooned in silk that's so dark red it's almost black LT declared herself deeply jealous that she can't drink red wine. Everyone who can't drink this wine should be jealous.

One of my Christmas gifts from Lauren was a giant brick of chocolate. Called, Brix, this chocolate is specifically for wine tasting purposes which is pretty darn cool. The extra dark, 70% cacao version she got for me apparently pairs well with Cabernets so I pulled some out to go with the Suvla. I think for the first time in a few years of wine and chocolate pairing I would say that the wine actually did more for the chocolate than vice versa; and it was darn good chocolate before I paired it with the wine. On the wine side though, the chocolate actually took away from the feelings of the smooth tannins and we know how much I love a tannin.

Before I knew what had happened I was 2/3 of the way into the bottle. It just seemed silly to leave that last glass undrunk. And the wine was just so smooth I was fairly sure I could drink the entire bottle and not get a red wine hangover. Sadly lost that bet. But I have to say that it was the easiest red wine hangover I've ever had. An ice pack, some water, and aspirin chased away the headache pretty quickly.

In case you couldn't tell; I loved this wine. A lot. So much so that I would dare to say it's the best under 30TL Turkish wine available here. Whatever I buy during my next foray to the Suvla shop, I'm pretty sure another bottle of this will be part of the purchase.

Go forth, my readers, and drink Suvla!

19 January 2015

Turkish Wine of the Week - Vedat Milor 2012 Büyülubüğ

Since my Carrefour has remodeled and renamed itself a Carrefour Gourmet (which as far as I can tell means that it simply has a less well designed interior and higher prices) I have found a few new wine labels. I was thrilled when I saw Vedat Milor Büyülubüğ (30-ish TL if I recall) was one of the new options. When asked which country I think produces the best wine I will always say Spain first (Italy second and Argentina third) so seeing a Turkish wine blend that includes Tempranillo and Grenache made me do a little happy dance right there in the Carrefour Gourmet wine section.

Unfortunately the happy dance ended when I got it home and tasted it. Crushing disappointment from its murky garnet color to its syrupy finish.

While the nose held the promise of berries the palate was a sad imitation of what Tempranillos and Grenaches should be. I've happily owned up to my love of a jammy wine in the past but in this instance I understand why 'jammy' is a four letter word to wine experts. I was surprised by the lightness of the tannins the way this wine stuck to my tongue, coating my mouth with its cloying flavor.

Happily Carrefour has not renovated away its selection of Turkish mezes as the spicy acili ezme and icli kofte made the Büyülubüğ far more palatable. However for the first time in a long time I found myself pouring the remainder of the bottle down the sink.

12 January 2015

Turkish Wine of the Week - Majestik 2013 Syrah & Kalecik Karasi

Whenever I go into Carrefour I take a quick look at the wine section to see if I can find red wines at a) I haven't tried yet, b) aren't massively over priced, and c) aren't Merlots. My options are dwindling. I did manage to find something from Sevilen's Majestik line that I haven't tried yet; it's 2013 Syrah/Kalecik Karasi blend.

I find that I tend to enjoy the flavor of a wine more if I feel it has a pleasing color. This must be some sot of subconscious something but holds true in this case. I thought the dark purply-red color was lovely. I'd love a dress in that color.

The nose was as pleasing as the color, redolent with red fruits, especially raspberries. I love wines that have a heavier berry profile (which likely explains my preference for red to white wines).

Medium tannins on the palate which quickly gave way to an explosion of forest fruits (again especially raspberries) and I think tobacco? The 2013 Majestik Syrah/Kalecik Karasi isn't an especially layered or "sophisticated" wine but any time I get an explosion of juicy forest fruits I'm jumping on the band wagon. Wine doesn't always have to be complicated or leave you stumped as you search for descriptors for what you're tasting. I like slightly jammy wines with berry profiles and a little tannin to make it interesting; therefore I like this one and imagine I'll go back for more.

It did not hurt that this went with one of my favorite dinners: cheese and bread with oil and balsamic!

09 January 2015

Salted Caramel Sticky Buns

A funny thing happened to me on the way to a friend's.

After two years in Turkey I've experienced a number of odd incidents but I think this one takes the cake (or sticky bun if you prefer). I was headed to a friend's place in Şişli which requires a trip on the metro. As I was headed toward the exit I noticed a group of three or four men, also headed toward the exit turnstiles, veer away from the exit to where a security guard was standing. Thinking nothing of it, I passed through a turnstile and veered left to the exit I needed. Then the world exploded! The men I'd noticed earlier attacked a security guard. Several more guards rushed in as the brawling group moved quickly across the station (in the same direction I needed to go). And then the gun came out.

The guard pulled his gun and started waving it around. That is when the majority of bystanders who moments ago were merely curious as to what was going on, myself included, hit the walls. I stood with a group of people near a bank of ATMs, hoping that the machines would take any bullets instead of me. All I could think was, "Fantastic. The absolute last thing I need is to get shot in fracking Turkey." And to my absolute bewilderment, while 85% of people in the station were doing their best to stay clear of whatever the heck was going down, the other 15% apparently had no sense and/or self preservation instincts because they continued to mosey on past the gun waving group of fighting idiots.

It's moments like this when I really wish my Turkish were better. I am really curious as to what made these guys decide to attack an armed man. Eventually the other guards separated the fighters and wrestled the idiots out of the station; unfortunately out the same exit I needed though. I stayed put by the ATMs until dude (who was still waving around his gun while yelling at the departing idiots) also left the station. I've never been so glad to be of drinking age and helped my friend sample the vats of punch she'd made (vodka, satsuma (clementine? whatever) juice, and thyme gets two thumbs up).

All that and I was still the first person to arrive! While waiting for the situation to clear I was at least happy that, were it my time, I would have died after enjoying the successful labors of my first ever attempt at making sticky buns. While I usually eschew short cuts like mixes or pre-made doughs, my inability to find many/afford certain ingredients and implements has made me get over myself a little. When I found a recipe for sticky buns using defrosted phyllo dough I was more than happy to try it.

Dude. Phyllo dough, puff pastry, something in the family...whatever it was I bought created some sort of salted caramel sticky bun baklava chimera. A beautiful, nutty, gooey, sticky, chimera. Life as I know it will never again be the same.

Salted Caramel: (here)

Sticky Buns:
  • 1/2 butter
  • 1/2 brown sugar
  • pecans, walnuts, etc as desired
  • cinnamon
  • frozen puff pastry or phyllo dough (thawed)
  1. Pre heat oven to 350F and grease a 9x9 baking dish.
  2. Melt the butter and whisk in the brown sugar. Pour into dish and sprinkle with chopped nuts.
  3. Sprinkle cinnamon to taste and pre made salted caramel on the dough. Roll into some sort of approximation of what a sticky bun should look like. Be careful that you don't handle the dough too much as it will quickly lose its integrity.
  4. Place buns in the dish in the butter/sugar mixture.
  5. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the uncovered part of the buns are a nice golden brown.
  6. When they come out of the oven, spoon some of the caramel mixture over the top buns a couple times. After they've cooled slightly (don't let them cool too much because the caramel might harden in the pan) turn over on to a plate and scrape remaining caramel over the buns.

06 January 2015

Arthur Christmas and Turkish Hot Chocolate

Happy Epiphany/Twelfth Night! And Merry Christmas to our Orthodox friends!

For the last day of hot chocolate and Christmas movies I chose a new favorite movie and tried a Turkish twist for the chocolate. The movie was great. The hot chocolate...eh not so much. Arthur Christmas is adorable and the movie has a great cast. It's worth the watch alone for Cutie McScottish (otherwise known as James McAvoy).

I thought for the very last hot chocolate I'd do something mocha-style but with Turkish coffee. This seemed like a really good idea in my head. Not so much as it turned out. In fact less of a good idea than putting jam in hot chocolate. Turkish coffee and chocolate flavors do not mix well, not like everyone else's coffee and chocolate. I added some sugar and a lot of cocoa powder in an attempt to blend the flavors a little more. It didn't come out undrinkable...but I wouldn't really recommend it.

My suggestion, if you want to make a mocha hot chocolate, would be to either just substitute some milk for fresh-brewed coffee or, better yet, steep some whole coffee beans in milk for like an hour, discard them, then whisk in the coffee as per usual.

This was fun! Since it's fracking cold and snowing here I'm going to continue to make hot chocolates even if they don't go up on the blog. Hope you tried and liked a few of these! I'm thinking a series of lemonades for the summer.

Happy Christmas to all!

05 January 2015

Turkish Wine of the Week - Suvla Kabatepe Rose 2013

It's very pink. Really. Very. Pink.

Normally I eschew roses, largely I think because I don't like dry chilled wines. Partially also probably because roses make me think of white Zinfandels and well...If Suvla's Kabatepe Rose is any indication though I need to stop being snobby about pink wines and jump on the bandwagon!

The whole Kabatepe Rose 2013 experience is like being enveloped in summer. The nose is all summer fruits and flowers with strong overtones of strawberries and raspberries.The palate is similarly so, red fruits, strawberries, raspberries and summer flowers. It is not sweet though so don't be thinking that. It's very crisp and slightly acidic.

I hope this is still in stock come summer because I just found the wine that I'll be drinking on my terrace come the warm weather. In addition to this Suvla has a blush and now that I'm off my high horse about pink wines I will certainly be trying it. Sometimes it's good to be wrong.*

*Disclaimer: I'm usually not wrong. Just so we're all on the same page.

04 January 2015

Twas the Night Before Christmas and Nutella Hot Chocolate

I think maybe a lot of people don't remember 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. Much like the Micky Mouse Christmas Carol, this was aired every year (on CBS of I recall) and was always one of our favorites...until it disappeared from air. But then my clever little brother found it. The singing is slightly less annoying than it is in other movies. It's also kind of amusing the way the humans and rodent communities live on concert with each other. Plus the Santa is cute.

I also (half) watched the classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer during which (while fast-forwarding through the truly dreadful songs and anything involving the ridiculous elf, Kirby) it really hit me how truly bigoted this movie is. The song is one thing because we all know kids are cruel so them not letting Rudolph join in any reindeer games is not surprising. The poor little calf's just been born and his parents are practically rejecting him. Were reindeer Greek they'd probably have left him out in the snow for the fates. Why do we watch this?!

Really, could there be much better than Nutella hot chocolate? Other than the Nutella raspberry frappuccinos they make in DC's Pound pretty much the answer is, no. Really if you're in the DC area go to Pound on the Hill and  try one. In the meantime this will tide you over. Oooo...you could use raspberry flavored chocolate (not jam as we learned with the raspberry hot chocolate attempt).

  • 1 Cup milk
  • 1/4 Cup heavy cream
  • 50-ish grams dark chocolate, chopped*
  • 2-3 great heaping Tablespoons Nutella. 
  1. Heat milk and cream to hot but not boiling.
  2. Whisk in chocolate and Nutella.
  3. Add more Nutella as desired :)
*I ran out of dark chocolate so used milk chocolate but added cocoa powder. It needs the dark chocolate (or cocoa) otherwise it tastes too milky.

03 January 2015

How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Coconut Hot Chocolate (take two)

The good version of course. Generally I'm behind anything Christine Baranski does; but it takes a lot to trump Boris Karloff. Watching his version of The Grinch and getting that song stuck in your head is a time honored seasonal tradition.

And who doesn't love the part when his heart breaks the magnifying glass, growing to a truly unbelievable size given the proportions of his chest cavity. No wonder he was able to lift the sleigh with all the gifts; he was on some sort of roided out high. Even I'd likely be able to lift more than a wine glass if my heart were that big.

It is not wine that we're talking about today though; it's hot chocolate and my second attempt at a coconut version. Not that the first one was bad, not at all, but because coconut and chocolate together makes me feel like this:

And since there are multiple ways to achieve the goal of coconutty chocolate goodness it would be irresponsible to not explore them all. In the name of science, and ... Christmas. Or whatever.

Recipe Version 1:
  • 1 Cup milk
  • 1/4 Cup heavy cream
  • 55 grams dark chocolate (chopped)
  • 1.5 Teaspoons sugar
  • 3-4 Teaspoons powdered coconut milk*
  1. Heat milk and cream to hot but not boiling.
  2. Whisk in sugar and powdered coconut milk.
  3. Whisk in chocolate.
*Asian food stores might have this. Coconut milk in Turkey is outrageously expensive so I bought a couple boxes of powdered milk in Kenya (for all of $1 each).

Recipe Version 2:
  • 1 Cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 Cup heavy cream
  • 55 grams dark chocolate (chopped)
  • 1.5 Teaspoons sugar
  1. Heat coconut milk and cream to hot but not boiling.
  2. Whisk in sugar and chocolate.
Recipe Version 3:
  • 1 Cup milk
  • 1/4 Cup cream of coconut
  • 55 grams dark chocolate (chopped)
  1. Heat milk and cream of coconut to hot but not boiling.
  2. Whisk in chocolate.
So it appears there are more than two ways to pull this off but I don't have access to cream of coconut or enough days before Epiphany left to try them all. Pity.

01 January 2015

Miracle on 34th Street and Raspberry Hot Chocolate

As we go into January and winter rears its ugly head here in Istanbul, this hot chocolate experiment seems to be an even better idea than I thought it would be and will likely continue long past Twelfth Night*. It's cold, windy, wet, and miserable here. And my apartment, which is totally fine nine months of the year, is basically an uninsulated marble and cement box with drafty windows and doors.

Miracle on 34th Street, the remake (because Dylan McDermott) is usually one of the first Christmas movies I watch during the season. For no other reason than that the movie begins with a Thanksgiving parade so it always seems like a nice segue. And so I did this year but I bust it out again for this. It's no hardship (again because Dylan McDermott). What is a hardship though is that my Carrefour has recently renovated and it seems to no longer stock a lot of things I used to go there specifically to buy; like frozen raspberries. My hot chocolate plans took a little stumble because of this so I had to get a little creative. Incidentally the lack of frozen raspberries has also thrown off my oatmeal game.

It wasn't bad really. It was interesting to say the least. However I think I will hunt down some raspberry flavored chocolate or bite the bullet and give up one of my arms to pay for some Chambourd before I try this again.

  • 1 Cup milk
  • 1/4 Cup heavy cream
  • 2-3 Tablespoons raspberry (or what you will*) jam
  • 55-ish grams dark chocolate, chopped
  1. Whisk jam into milk and cream.
  2. Heat milk mixture to hot but not boiling.
  3. Whisk in chopped chocolate.
  4. Enjoy!
*Haha, see what I did there?