Sunday, August 19, 2012

Food in This New / Old Land

Asia  -  Yesterday, I met with some lovely new friends for a journey over to the "other side" of Istanbul.  We took a ferry not far from the neighborhood where I live.   For those who read this blog who are from Astoria, I have to tell you... looking at Asian Istanbul across from the Bosphorous Strait, is much like viewing Astoria from the Washington side, only on a MUCH grander scale.  Our group was comprised of myself, Suzanne, a southern woman from the US who teaches special education, Prags, a delightful man from South Africa who also teaches special education, Dominick, a secondary teacher from Northern Ireland, and a friend of Prags', Paul who is a priest and also from Northern Ireland.  An unlikely gathering that made for a most delightful day that began at 9 AM and lasted past the end of Ramazan and into the night of feasting and celebrating.

Suzanne always asks the question, "what is one mission you have for this day?".  I had no mission other than to be able to say I had finally been to Asia.  She was on a search for the best martini olives.  The guys simply wanted to go see the sights, though Paul did want to view the Hagia Sophia.

The markets on the other side are known for olives, cheeses and fish.  We found these and more.  
Yes, those are sheep heads, roasted and ready to go, complete with the eyes, which are considered a delicacy.  We did not purchase any of these.  We did however find a restaurant famous for it's mezes and quality of entrees.
Mezes are the Turkish equivalent of tapas.  Small appetizers that are bold in flavor and eaten family style.  This restaraunt delivered!  It was the very best meal I have had here.  We all went into the restaurant where the dishes were each explained to us.  We then chose a variety of them and sat outside where they were delivered to us in style.  A slow leisurely meal of new food.  It would be hard to choose one favorite.  We had two types of bread, one the traditional fluffy almost pita style and the other a very large puffy tortilla style.  These were served with a side of feta in mild chili oil.  My other favorite would have to be these little lamb meatballs, breaded and deep fried, then rolled in crushed pistachios.  I know, I know...but they were exquisite.  Okra in tomato sause, egglplant stew, falafal, stewed greens in yogurt, and special salads, which we were chastised not to eat until the END of the meal.  Oh thank GOD for food.  It was fitting that our festing took place at the end of Ramazan, a Muslim period of day fasting and contemplation.

 After reposing and rousing ourselves from satisfaction, we worked off some of our meal by shopping for a variety of non-food items.  The prices in the street markets are very affordable, and haggling is invited.  Dominick and Suzanne found a little cafe where they enjoyed a round of backgammon while I sipped some Turkish coffee.   

Thus began the first part of our day.  Next Blog... back over to Europe for the end of Ramazan and a trip into the spice market!

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