25 February 2015

Turkish Wine of the Week - Vino Dessera Öküzgüzü 2012

A few weeks ago I finally made it to Comedus, a great little charcuterie deli nearish my place. In addition to going a little nuts buying a variety of cheeses and meats, I also picked up several bottles of really quite reasonably priced wine.

Comedus had a couple wines by Vino Dessera, the Öküzgüzü I picked up (32TL) and a Cabernet Sauvingnon. Since I liked the Öküzgüzü so well (spoiler), I'll probably go back for the Cabernet and if even the nose is at all similar (beautiful, floral with red fruits) I think I'll like that too.

Aside from my eye drops everything on the table was delicious.

Initially on the palate it's not a remarkable wine. Like most of the Öküzgüzüs I've had the tannins were barely discernable; nor did the wine have much of any finish. However, a nice level of acid combined with a good floral/fruity balance and juicy fruits made for such a charming and delightful flavor that I couldn't be moved to care too much about missing tannins!

More than just a nice drinking wine, the Vino Dessera Öküzgüzüalso paired very well with the cheeses and smoked meats we got, highlighting the richness of the meat and playing well with both the strong flavors of goat cheese and the sweetness of caramelized red onions.

So...winner!! There are many reasons I'll be headed back to Comedus soon and getting another bottle of this (plus anything else by Vino Dessera) is one of them.

23 February 2015

A Taste of Home - Chicken Pot Pie

Beginning this week I'm moving the Monday wine review to Wednesday. We are not without a post today though-and it even involves wine! Albeit both briefly and tangentially.

Be it the winter weather, having familiar friends around, or just a bit of homesickness I have been craving American food lately. Not the new, fancy American food found in foodie restaurants but old-fashioned, home-cooked kinds of food. Although not my mom's food. She recently brought up that old Lenten stand-by; tuna noodle casserole. I am not craving that. Forty days in the desert with Jesus wouldn't entice me to crave, let alone eat that. I love my mom but there's a place in Purgatory reserved for people who make tuna noodle casserole. No, no. I wanted chicken pot pie. Could anything be better on a chilly winter's night?

Pot pies are fantastic comfort food. I don't mean to say that I was instantly transported (in my mind or otherwise) to my family home when I ate one. We weren't pot pie eaters growing up but many a Sunday dinner involved chicken and dumplings in gravy so...close enough. There is just something so homely about them though. I might not be able to eat them for the next month or so of Fridays but I can get a taste of home with them the other six days of the week!

Even Sherlock wanted a place at this table

I've now made this twice and enjoyed it deeply both times. One of the great things about pot pies is you can vary the recipe and change it up to fit your own taste. You don't have to use carrots, zucchini, and potatoes the way I did-you can use whichever vegetables you prefer. If it didn't cost an arm and a leg I would also have added Parmesan.

Add a nice dry white wine like Suvla's Kabatepe White, a side of vegetables (steamed broccoli in our case) and you really couldn't ask for more! Except maybe dessert!

  • Phyllo dough 
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 large or 3 medium carrots
  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 large or 3 medium potatoes
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1/2 Cup cream
  • garlic
  • black peppercorns
  • (fresh) thyme
  • (fresh) oregano
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • flour
  1. Put breasts in medium size pot and cover with water. Add salt and pepper and (optional) powdered garlic, paprika, and/or a Lawerys-like seasoning. Boil on medium heat until cooked through then remove breasts but reserve the liquid. Shred the chicken and set aside.
  2. Smash and chop 3 cloves garlic and chop onion. Saute in large sauce pan or medium sized pot over medium heat until onions are soft. Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons full flower over onions and stir to combine.
  3. Add about 3 cups of the liquid from the chicken, stirring after each cup. The broth should start to thicken but if it doesn't you can add in more flour. 
  4. While broth is thickening, prepare the pie shells and oven. Pre-heat oven to 350F. Spray the insides of small tins, or other individual baking dish, and line with a square of phyllo dough. Mine comes pre-cut into small squares and when defrosted is pliable and can be reshaped to fit.*
  5. Back to the filling: add cream, diced carrots, potatoes, chopped zucchini, about 1/2 teaspoon of peppercorns, 2 sprigs of thyme, and oregano. Combine everything, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are just cooked.
  6. Reduce temperature to low, add shredded chicken and additional salt/pepper as desired, and simmer until vegetables are cooked through.
  7. Ladle mixture into prepared tins. Don't fill to the brim as it might spill over. Cover with second square of phyllo dough, pinching it around the edges to help avoid spill over.
  8. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.
Filling can be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator for a few days or frozen until wanted.
*You can skip the bottom shell to save calories if you don't mind eating out of the tin.

20 February 2015

Not Quite My Neighborhood, but Close - Karaköy İskelesi

I haven't had a chance to get back out to take more neighborhood pictures because Istanbul has decided to have proper winter this year. The last few weeks have been dotted by cold temperatures, snowfall, accumulation, and even thunder snow. My building lost power for almost all of yesterday and while I took refuge during the day with some friends I insisted on sleeping in my uninsulated, cement and marble box of a freezing cold apartment. Couldn't leave Sherlock on her own, could I? And I reminded myself that, growing up in Michigan we lost power many a winter a day and slept in far colder conditions there. But I digress...

Recently I took advantage of an unseasonably beautiful and warm day to snap some pictures around Karaköy İskelesi.

Galata Bridge from Karakoy

Karaköy İskelesi

Galata Tower above Karaköy İskelesi

Karaköy is one of Istanbul's 'up and coming' neighborhoods. When I lived in DC that meant you could find some nice little restaurants/bars but that you might want to be out of the area by nightfall. Here it's a little less ominous and means more that the neighborhood looks dodgier than it really is. In fact, Karaköy's maze-like small streets, all leading to the water, are dotted with lovely boutique hotels, shops, an trendy cafes and restaurants. And you can walk around at night with little fear for your wallet. Aside that is from the bill at many of said trendy restaurants.

Pictures of the inside of the neighborhood are eventually forthcoming, but for the time being I have views of the waterfront area. I recently had an appointment in Kadiköy on the Asian side and, while not a devotee of schlepping over there for anything I really do love to ride the ferries. I did not expect such a beautiful day when I set out so I was sans my proper camera but happily did have my little Nikon point and click on me.

Topkapı Sarayı

Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia

From the ferry

On clear sunny days such as this there is nothing finer than riding the ferries, chased by seagulls and watching beautiful Istanbul as you pass from Europe to Asia. Where else can you even take such an easy jaunt from one continent to another?!

16 February 2015

Turkish Wine of the Week - Pamukkale Anfora 2012 Cabernet Franc

I feel like I don't often see a Cabernet Franc here so when I found an Anfora Cab Franc (new from Anfora) at Le Cave I grabbed it. Especially since the nice guy who helps me choose wine there pointed out that it was far more "ekonomik" at 28TL than the 140TL bottle I was also buying.

The deep ruby color gave way to an intriguing nose of (sour) cherry and smoke. I almost thought I was going to once more start waxing poetic; but no. It was a good wine, and at 28TL probably one I'll buy again, but not good enough for the Muses to whisper in my ear.

Redolent (which is my new favorite word) of tobacco and sour cherries, Anfora's Cab Franc was pretty decent. Light tannins and a long finish complete the experience. This would go well, I think, with grilled meat, strong cheese, and anything that has had the benefit of truffle oil/salt.

My friends, E&M, are all about using Vivino which, if I had a phone with a camera let alone one that supported apps, I might be as well. However I find rating wine here difficult. For one thing, it's been so long since I've had even a semi decent European wine that I forget how the mediocre Turkish wines stack up against them. But if I were rating this against only other Turkish wines; I'd say it's about a 3.5. Nothing to knock your socks off but but it won't give you a hangover after one glass either.

On another note, I am very happy that I have a backlog of reviews to post as I recently lost another "I can drink this entire bottle of red wine in one sitting and not get a hangover" bet with myself. Unlike the last time I lost this bet, this one was a hard lose so I'm off the sauce as it were for a little while.

11 February 2015

Pop Up Restaurant Presents Georgian!

One of the things I miss here is really good international food. I've found decent Thai, outstanding Korean, good enough Indian, but Chinese still eludes my grasp. This is all about to change because I recently learned about PopUp Restaurant Istanbul! I can't believe I didn't know about this before.

What an intro to PopUp Istanbul-Georgian food! I love, love, love Georgian food. I believe there are actually one or two Georgian restaurants in the Aksaray bus station; but Aksaray is a wee dodgy and I haven't wanted to wander around there looking for the bus station. Now that E&M are here though we'll get around to that once it stops snowing. The long and short though was that PopUp Istanbul is around the corner from my apartment and the menu was like a greatest hits of Georgian foods.

Celeric in mustard mayonnaise
Red pepper stuffed with carrot and spices
Aubergine rolls with walnut garlic paste
Spinach balls with cheese


Walnut chicken with rice an herby beetroot

Choux pastry round

My two favorite Georgian foods, and two of my favorite foods period, are eggplant rolls with walnut and garlic paste and khatchapouri. Khatchapouri is an art form and there are several kinds. My personal favorite is adjarian khatchapouri. Imagine a bread boat that's been hollowed out, filled with one kind of cheese and topped with another kind, and butter. Unfortunately it's traditionally served also with a raw egg cracked over the top...hold the egg please. We had imeretian khatchapouri which is a, kind of corn bread-like round bread stuffed with cheese. I won't say no to that!

In addition to the amazing food, all prepared by Maia, a lovely Georgian woman, E&M and I enjoyed the company of a disparate and lovely group of new people. We were the only newbies there that night; something we plan to change by becoming regular members! It seems I was the only one at our table who had been to Georgia and I'm afraid I sounded like a terrible know it all-going on and on about the food and wine and how everyone should visit. Hopefully I sounded like an enthusiastic know it all rather than a pedantic one. I feel like that matters.

BYOB-of course we brought Suvla!

Not only is Maia a killer chef, she also sells khinkali (soup filled meat dumpling amazingness) frozen; so you can make them at home. She makes a small version, kind of like a large Turkish manti, and the traditional size. Dude. And since I was having such a good time I forgot to photograph anything except the meze course, completely fortuitous.

The next PopUp Restaurant Istanbul is next Saturday and will be Chinese food to celebrate the New Year. I really, really want to go but already promised myself to a friend's birthday party. There will be other PopUp nights though and I'll be there! If you're in Istanbul...well don't go to PopUp. The space is limited and I don't want competition! 

09 February 2015

Turkish Wine of the Week - Sava Premium 2013 Kalecik Karasi, Shiraz, Merlot

Two of my best friends have just moved to Istanbul and I haven't had time to take them through the do's and don'ts of Turkish wine yet; so I wasn't really shocked when I turned up for dinner and found them with a bottle of Sava.I love them but they are very much 'wine tastes like wine' people; at least they sprang for the premium. I'm always game to try a new wine though so here we go.

The nose was vinegary, maybe that was the banana? I cannot say I've ever encountered a wine with self-proclaimed aromas of banana.

In the end it wasn't nearly as bad as I'd thought it would be. Despite some sharpness to the flavor, the flavor and cherries and a long finish and light tannins made it fairly palatable. Especially when paired with the vegetable, walnut, haloumi, and bulgar stuffed eggplants we had for dinner.

What shocked me was the cork-while it's not marked on the bottle as far as I could see, it seems that Sava, that most reviled of Turkish wines, is produced by my favorite cheap Turkish winery-Pamukkale. Did not see that one coming.

By the time dinner was over and I had drunk two modest glasses; I thought I may have too harshly judged all things Sava. However the next morning I saw the light. Or rather hid from it as the case were. Two glasses was all I had and I woke up with as vicious a red wine hang over as I've ever had. Well no, that's a bit of hyperbole, I've had worse. But it was a whole lot worse than the one I got from drinking an entire bottle of Suvla in one sitting.

Unfortunately price point really does matter when it comes to Turkish wine. You're far better off splurging a little than saving money and regretting it the next morning.

05 February 2015

My Neighborhood - Streets and Churches Part 1

It has occurred to me that, while I walk them frequently, I have never photographed my neighborhood. While I am now in the holding pattern of the overcast and ofttimes grey Istanbul winter, I did go out a few months ago and get some of it on film.

Yeni Çarşı Cd.

Yeni Çarşı Cd.

Istiklal Cd.

Istiklal Cd.
I headed up Yeni Çarşı to Istiklal. I've written before about the steepness of my street so, as much as Istiklal is in my top five 'Things I Hate about Istanbul', it's always a bit of a relief to reach it! On this particular day I was specifically planning to photograph some of the many churches on and around Istiklal and the first one I came to was Saint Anthony, the largest Roman Catholic church in the city.

Saint Anthony Catholic

Saint Anthony Catholic

Saint Anthony Catholic

Saint Anthony Catholic
I hear Saint Anthony's bells from my apartment every day. I always know it's noon because the bells ring a song that is always the recessional at my Sunday Mass. I attend the smaller and, in my opinion, far prettier Santa Maria Draperis Franciscan Catholic church farther down on Istiklal. It's a little 'hidden' as the gate is relatively modern and the church is down a few flights of stairs from street level; so you don't see it right away.

Saint Anthony Catholic

Saint Anthony Catholic

Santa Maria Draperis Catholic

Santa Maria Draperis Catholic
I sing the Responsorial response Psalms on Sunday now. Every week it's terrifying. My priest asked me in late November or early December if I would mind doing this but of course I couldn't start on a normal Sunday when attendance is maybe 10 people. I started Christmas Eve which was not only standing room only but with more than the average tourists wandering in and out.

It did not go well.

Asmali Mescit Cd.

Asmali Mescit Cd.

Asmali Mescit Cd.

Mesrutiyet Cd.
Because I deeply dislike Istiklal, I often use Mesrutiyet as an alternative route from Tunel to my street. It's a charming street in its own right, lined with cafes and restaurants (including my favorite Thai place - Pera Thai, and a specialty delicatessen); and bonus, a fraction of the foot traffic on Istiklal. Asmali Mescit is similarly packed with restaurants and bars and it's fun to get lost back there exploring them all.

Mesrutiyet Cd.

Mesrutiyet Cd.

Mesrutiyet Cd.

Galip Dede Cd
Galip Dede is the street that leads off Istiklal down to the famous Galata Tower and is home to my favorite Turkish towel and soap shop, Home Spa, and my new favorite jewelry shop...which name I unfortunately don't remember.

Galip Dede is also pretty heavily traffic but thankfully it's a little emptier on Sunday mornings. Last Sunday the weather was so nice I didn't need to wear leggings under my skirt for church. Unfortunately, I failed to take into account the especially high winds that day and had my own Marilyn Monroe moment.

Galata Kulesi

Galata Kulesi Sk.

Saints Peter and Paul Catholic

Istiklal Cd.

Past the Galata Tower is yet another Catholic church, Saints Peter and Paul. And despite the fact that I showed up when it was supposed to be open and hung around for half an hour, it never did open. So all I managed was a picture of the gate door. I had not intended to take pictures of only the Catholic churches that day, but I lost my way trying to find the Crimean church and there was something going on at the Armenian church. Another day then.
Balik Pazar-Istiklal Cd.

Balik Pazar-Istiklal Cd.
My next time out I'll try the other end of Istiklal, the passages running off it, and its churches-specially the big Greek Orthodox church at Taksim.

02 February 2015

Turkish Wine of the Week - Yenidoğuş 2008 Karaoğlan Rezerv

Despite living in Istanbul for two years; one of them right next to the famous French Street which high volume live music keeps me awake many nights until 2-3 AM; I had never actually gone to the street until a few weeks ago. Restaurant selection s very much like that in Sultanahmet; you walk through, brushing off touts until you're ready to give in and sit somewhere. We ended up in a pretty decent place with a pretty excellent (if over priced) wine from the Shiluh winery in Mardin.

Sadly on looking for Shiluh wines at Cihangir's Le Cave I was told they neither have any nor expect to get more. Sad. I was recommended a wine by Yenidoğuş that was supposed to be similar so, after my long lead-in, that's what we're going to talk about today.

Especially bad pic this week but you get the idea

The Yenidoğuş 2008 Karaoğlan Rezerv (I think 40TL) began auspiciously with a lovely ruby red color and a nose full of red fruits and spice.

On the palate it was interesting; not at all memorable tannins which means they must have been very light and intense tobacco flavors with I think cherries? The finish was also not memorable which was not a surprise given the feeling of this one. One thing I found odd was that while the flavors were very upfront and present, it felt watery in texture; which means the Karaoğlan Rezerv had a very short finish.

It wasn't bad by any means, but it wasn't as good as the Shiluh I'd had the night before nor as good as several other wines I've had here. I would drink it again but not buy it again is where I come down on this one.