29 May 2010

why?

salonag02why is there an intricately carved apple?

salonag03why is there a giant oven and people rolling out baguettes?

salonag04why is there a huge pile of salt?

salonag05 why is there a young chef in training plating some food?

salonag06why is there a display case of wine, wine, and more wine?

salonag07why is there a giant chunk of mold? namely, penicillium roqueforti? aka the mold that is found in roquefort?

salonag08 why are there ham and sheep cheese baguette sandwiches being sold?

salonag09 why are there horses running around?

salonag10why are these dogs so happy, and what are they doing here?

salonag01why, it’s the salon de l’agriculture 2010! (that explains all the not-so-nice fluorescent lighting). perhaps i should use the past tense. but right after istanbul, i made a beeline for paris the weekend after for a daytrip to this massive gathering of france’s gastronomic pride.

imagine. a huge convention center. separated by france’s regions. all giving out samples. all selling their specialties. all eager to talk to you. all happy to talk about how X from their region is special and better than X from another region.

you’re overwhelmed. you spend about 2 hours wandering around.

and then you find out there’s a second floor because one floor didn’t cover all of france.

more hours pass. and you find out they have real, actual, living, breathing animals as well. goats, ducks, horses, donkeys – if it has to do with farms, it’s here! and giant expositions. and performances.

you didn’t finish, because you had a train to catch back to evreux. but you were already very overloaded on food and information, so that was fine. and you also came back with a very heavy plastic bag full of brochures and flyers – reading material that will last a while.

salonag11last question: why do i have to be longer than one hour away from paris? i’m definitely a bit paris-sick. or france-sick. or most of all, evreux-sick.

27 May 2010

leaving istanbul

istanbul81blue. obviously, you are always sad to leave a new city. but it comes. however, you have an afternoon flight. which means…

istanbul82green. for go. time to go buy pastries early in the morning to share with friends!

istanbul83green. for those pistachios, as usual. so you buy as much as you can with the turkish lira you have left. and you hand carry these precious desserts back to france.

istanbul84blue. for being the sky. the last time you see those turkish clouds.

well, the last time in winter 2010 at least. because you leave with a curiousity to see the rest of turkey – cappadocia, izmir…

and also because you are an idiot and didn’t buy a certain book. you wavered between a bilingual cooking book and an english cooking book. both were excellent. you bought the bilingual one because you assumed the english only book could be found in america. wrong. it may be in english only, but it isn’t available in english speaking countries! so next time you go back you will be purchasing a cookery tale by sahrap soysal. next time.

and until then, it’s back to france!

start with pastries, end with kokoreç

istanbul66 you’ve got your favorite bakery. you walk past it each morning on the way to the city center, and each evening on your way back.

istanbul67gray. for how washed out the early sun makes everything seem. you revisit the (outside of the) blue mosque – but this time, it’s early in the morning before the floods of tourists. and it has a completely different atmosphere. then you wander around, because not everything is open.

istanbul68gray again. for the pilfered marble in the hagia sophia

istanbul69gold and blue. for those tiles. for the immensity of the place. and especially for how light is so perfectly used.

istanbul70dark colors. that are contrasted against the bright bright rays of sun that burst through the windows.

istanbul71steely colors. because you can’t avoid construction. it will always, always, always be part of the landscape – unless it’s on a postcard.

istanbul72orange. for the glow of the lights as you walk through the passageway to the second floor

istanbul73yellow! red! pink! for when you exit and are reunited with fresh air. you stare at the building in the upper left corner and wonder what kind of person gets to live right next to the hagia sophia!? and it blows your mind that people can live next to extremely important historical buildings.

istanbul74mysterious reds. for the cisterns. and medusa’s heads – which you’ll have to go to turkey yourself if you wish to see them!

istanbul75lavender blues. you end up again at ortakoy. next to the sea. sunny. hungry. which leads to your favorite combination: eating + sun + outdoors. can’t be beat.

istanbul76green. because green has a magical ability to add life to any dish. a gorgeous color that changes everything.

istanbul77periwinkle blue. for the shade that gives you gorgeous lighting for your meze (appetizers). unfortunately, you can’t read the handwriting of the waiter to google what they are… so they will remain nameless for now.

 istanbul77b

a salad. a dessert. but what really stood out and changed the way you ate was the tartine. your favorite. whether its nutella + sprinkles, tartines just make you incredibly happy.

so in this turkish tartine, from bottom up: the bread from alaçati köy (alaçati village), keçi peyniri (goat cheese), kuru erikli (dried plums), and puşe yumurta (poached egg)

and this is why you take notes. because a few days ago, you recreated this tartine by memory. without your notebook. with four months since that happy moment in turkey. and it was delicious – but it was so wrong. you used apricots instead of plums. you used a cheese that was more spreadable and less fluffly. you added crushed pistachios. you added texas honey. you forgot the egg. it tasted perfect. but you would like to recreate it the correct way, so you add plums and fresh goat cheese to your shopping cart.

istanbul78purple and brown. for late night street lights. and late night chocolate stands!

istanbul79brown. for the gooey chocolate sauce on these profiteroles. and here a question comes up. the host claims that it was here, in istanbul, where the profiterole was invented. that is a big thing to claim, especially with a french travel buddy! you try to verify the story but it doesn’t go anywhere.

instead you just focus on the taste. – these are no ordinary profiteroles! less sweet. and of course, the way you eat them. you walk in, grab a plate, and eat the whole thing in five minutes. then depending on how many dirty plates you have, you pay for that many. and unless you keep eating, you are out of the restaurant because someone else with tired legs and a hungry-for-profiterole appetite wants your spot to eat. it’s not necessarily rude that you have to rush, but with a city of twelve million people, seating space is valuable stuff!

istanbul80you end the late night with kokoreç, which are lamb intestines (top left). but you eat it. after all, how often will you find yourself in istanbul?

25 May 2010

start with a surprise breakfast, end with asure

istanbul55blue. for those early pre sunset walks.

istanbul56red. green. yellow. the turkish breakfast. red tomatoes. green cucumbers. yellow orange juice. white bread. white cheeses. pink meats. black olives. yellow butter. black poppy seeds. red cherry jam. what a way to wake up!

the fun thing about turkey, or any country where you don’t speak the language, is  randomly ordering something off the menu. and then waiting to see what exactly is it that you ordered as they bring it out. it’s tons of fun as long as you aren’t a picky eater. and soon you start picking up keywords like peynir (cheese), suyu (juice), or domates (tomato) – and then you at least have a vague idea of what you’re ordering. but random ordering with no expectations always brings the best surprises!

istanbul57brown and blue. for the rooftops of turkish homes. for being up high. for being closer to the sky and the bright bright sun.

istanbul58yellow. for the subtle detail on the boat.

istanbul59red. not just any red. red polka dots. dedicated to your awesome travel buddy, M. aside from spotting a commercial being filmed, she spots a red polka dotted teapot. you spot a polka dotted vintage dress. both lead to some amazing things…

istanbul60gray. because you are a bit suspicious of the english writing. normally you steer clear of restaurants with english translations because it shows that they are aiming at tourists. but that red polka dotted teapot on the ledge makes you think otherwise. small details like this are not found in tourist traps!

istanbul61orange. you enter. already the atmosphere is different. you start wondering if this really is a restaurant, because you feel like you just stepped into someone’s home. but the person inside reassures you that they are indeed a restaurant, but they are not serving lunch yet. so you go wander for a bit.

istanbulvintageyellow. for the glow of what you decide is your treasure filled aladdin’s cave. an underground maze of rows and rows of vintage clothing. you're starving but a place as amazing as this requires a minimum one hour pit stop.

istanbul62yellow. you head back to the restaurant. or should we say, someone’s home. because that is what it was. bookshelves, personal photos, jackets, television, cabinets, etc. it was someone’s house with a few added tables and chairs for strangers like you. not a restaurant made to look like a home, or a restaurant with a home upstairs, but an actual home that was also a restaurant. a concept you adore.

you munch on some cubes of bread.

istanbul63green. for the herbs. their cat decides to join you for lunch, sitting right across from you and right next to M.

and the food is cooked just a few meters away from you in the kitchen – which is connected to the dining room. and when it’s ready, you gulp down your çorba (soup) and papaz yahnisi (a beef stew).

it shoots up to your top ten meals of all time. the atmosphere and the taste were perfection. it really was a home cooked meal, and that will always top restaurant food. the way everything merged together – home, restaurant, cat, books, music, teapot – so many small details that kept impressing you.

istanbul64red. it’s out of focus, but you can see the red polka dotted sugar box! the rabbit shaped slice of bread. the bookshelves. tea, of course. and soup.

istanbul65green. yellow. black. gray. for the 15+ ingredients that are in asure. you have dessert a few hours later… and the puddingish thing in the lower right corner catches your eye. you think it’s rice pudding, but it’s far from that.

wheat, rice, barley, beans, chickpeas, water, apricots, figs, raisins, orange peel, sugar, oranges, rose water, walnuts, pistachios, pomegranate seeds…  when you tell your host that you would like the recipe, she raises her eyebrows and says that it’s impossible! for her, it can have up to 40 ingredients. and it often involves three different households preparing different parts of it at different times, and then at the very end combining them. it’s a dessert made for feasts and holidays, she says – which is why you need lots of people to help prepare this ingredient packed dessert.

but that isn’t going to deter you. it’s added to your “to make someday in the future” list.

red start green end

istanbul43pomegranate red. you’re used to seeing just a few pricey ones in the “exotic fruit” section at high end groceries in texas. but in istanbul, they are spilling out of all shop windows, just waiting to be juiced for a perfect breakfast drink.

istanbul44blue. for the blue mosque. aptly named because of its intense blue mosaics everywhere.

istanbul45 green and gold. beause it isn’t just blue.

istanbul46red. for the simit carts that you see everywhere. a slightly sweet sesame topped street food bread. the aroma never escapes you because it really is  sold everywhere.

istanbul47strawberry reds. you adore strawberries and love seeing the different interpretations of strawberry tartelettes in each country you travel. but it’s really the banana in the cake piques your interest the most. did they really just roll an entire banana in a cake?

istanbul48gray. for the bad mood you were in because the grand bazaar turned out to be one of the biggest tourist traps ever.

istanbul49rosy pink. for a better mood. because you discovered some hidden gems in the grand bazaar.  a hidden patio. sunlight. quiet. steps. a completely different experience.

istanbul50bold colors. for the tightly packed blocks (?) of fabric crammed into small shops. textile heaven!

istanbul51steely blues and golds. for a sweet hot drink (that had some sort of condensed milk and cinnamon, if you remember correctly) that you never caught the name of, and for buttons sold in bulk.

istanbul52green and orange. for the loukoms. the piles of sweets. the coil drenched in honey. and the pistachio nougat. you now realize you weren’t very good at note taking this trip…. but perhaps it has to do with the fact that you weren’t super crazy about the sweets in instanbul. nice to taste, but you are a flour person and that is what really makes you tick. like the next set.

istanbul54white. because you adore things made with flour. and also for powdered sugar and cream. just some extra sweetness for the already very sweet turkish pastries.

istanbul53green. yet again, for crushed pistachios in baklava. you never knew there was more than just that typical triangular form of baklava. in istanbul you discover tray after tray after tray of this layered deliciousness.

the most characteristic thing about turkish pastries that you’ve noticed is: nuts. they love nuts. especially pistachios. and dried fruit. and perhaps honey as well.

on the topic of green, you’re also impatiently waiting for fig season to start. you craved figs while you were in istanbul, but in february, figs were a no go. but now it’s may. and soon figs will be popping up on your side of the ocean. those green texas figs. soon. so very soon.