Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Istanbul eats

Istanbul Eats guidebook is a must!
IsToday was our Istanbul Eats tour, so we walked from nine this morning until nearly three this afternoon trying all kinds of different Turkish foods and drinks. After taking the scenic route and only getting slightly lost, we found our guide, Senem, in front of Hamdi restaurant, along with another American couple from St. Louis.

We started with a traditional Turkish breakfast, each piece gathered from little shops outside the spice market. From a street cart, we picked up simit, a pretzel-like bread coated with sesame seeds held in place by grape molasses. Next we were led to a spice stand, where we were given samples of many different types. From there we headed to a cheese stand where we got goat and sheep cheese (which is much tangier than the cheeses I've had, and hubby is from Wisconsin). The man  in the shop tells you what kind of cheese you are getting, instead of picking it out yourself. We also grabbed pickles, which is all kinds of different vegetables here, not just cucumber. Finally we headed into a small "secret place" with a little table. The tour guide set out some water buffalo clotted cream (which was delicious),  olives, and figs. Hubby had Turkish coffee and I had tea, which I was looking forward to coming here. It was so delicious, and the tour was just starting. With where we were eating, all leftovers were used to workers in the building above who couldn't afford food, as well as homeless people and cats.

The next stop was a little stall where we had sweet meats, which is sheep intestines. While I was a little leery of this-- it's made with intestines, after all--I was pleasantly surprised with how good it was. The bread it was served on was soft and flaky and the meat was blended with tomatos, onions and peppers and was very savory. From there we went next door to a meatball, wrapped in lintels and fried. That had some kick to it, but was really good.

I forgot to take a picture, so this is from TripAdivsor
After that, we headed to a shop that made pide, which is kind of a cross between pizza and flat bread cooked in a wood oven. Ours had Turkish salami, tomatoes, cheddar (which is white here), and peppers, wrapped in dough and cooked. The peppers had no spice to them and it was very good.

The gorgeous mosque was covered in brilliant blue tile
After the pide, we visited the mosque built by Rustem Pasa, voted the coziest mosque by Newsweek, according to our guide, Senem. In Muslim belief, if you get rich or powerful, you need to build a mosque to give back to a community. He was so cheap he didn't want to spend his own money, so his architect designed the mosque on the second floor and shop stalls on the first. We headed into the mosque, which is covered with exquisite blue tiles. The lighting fixture was very low, which she explained is because the mosque is a meeting place where people came to pray, sleep and read. So people would be able to read easily, the lights are kept low. The carpet was a lot springier than anything I've felt before, but I suppose if you get on your knees to pray it should be.

A counter full of delicious
From there we headed to a shop where we tried baclava, as well as Nightengale's Nest and some other treats I can't remember the names of. Then we visited a candy shop for Turkish Delight as well as some contract candy, used after the sultan made deals. We then had lamb kabob in one shop, which is unique because he cooks it with the tomatoe and peppers instead of adding them after.

The aged bar that has been used since the 1800's
From there we headed to an aged shop for some boza, made from fermented bulgheur. It tasted quite a bit like applesauce.
Finally we passed the Crown Prince's mosque on our way to the Underground Lamb for lunch. We had a delicious chicken pilaf and lamb served on flatbread. For desert there was a dish of cheese, covered with fine noodles cooked with sugar. It was very different, but very good.

The Grand Bazaar from just inside Gate 1
Thus ended our tour, where we said goodbye to Senem and headed to the Grand Bazaar. Oh. My. God. Talk about overstimulating. The raccoon in my DNA was very happy,, my eyes flitting from sparkling jewelry to vibrant lamps to colorful Pashminas. I didn't know where to look. We grabbed a couple things for our families and headed back to our hotel for a rest.

For dinner we ate at the small restaurant across from our hotel, which is far more touristy and not nearly as good, but not unpleasant either. My knee and ankle were still hurting from my fall the night before, so we called it an early night.

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