Monday, February 28, 2011

Every time we travel, I always try to find a local market, preferably an outdoor farmer’s market.

To me, this is fantastic way to sample the local specialties and find the hidden gems. Prices (usually) are better than at some store where the shopkeepers also have to cover rent, labor costs, etc.

In Munich, Jason and I discovered the joys of the Viktualienmarkt, located just south of the Marienplatz. (From my prior research on, it sounded like this area was going to be the best place to do some food shopping.) This is Munich’s oldest and, in my opinion, very picturesque market. 

As soon as we turned a nearby corner, we passed this butcher shop. The front window was filled with all kinds of meat, especially pork. I was in heaven!

When you’ve been deprived of pork, seeing all this meat was quite overwhelming! “Where do I start? What do I want to buy? How much will fit in our suitcase?” These questions quickly started running through my head. (I had planned ahead and had a handful of Ziploc bags to secure our purchases in later.)

Since the weather was cold, dreary and rainy, our first stop happened to be at a darling honey shop called Honighäusel

Inside, we were awed by all the different flavors of honey. Ones from different types of flowers such as clover, thyme, rose and fruit tree blossoms. Others were flavored with pieces of herbs, spices and even chocolate. In the end, I settled on just two jars of honey – ginger and thyme.

We ordered 2 glasses of hot Honigwein – a sweet alcoholic beverage made from honey and water. It wasn’t even noon yet, but it was chilly! We started talking to an older German gentleman whom entertained us with stories about Munich and how when he was a young man he had lived in New York City.

After the wine, we stopped at Lupper, which seemed to specialize in Italian cured pork products. I bought 150 grams of Pata Negra Jamon Iberico, 100 grams of thinly sliced, spicy hot chorizo, a package of chorizo links and a nice chunk of Valdeón – a Spanish blue cheese. 

At Anne’s Oberbpfalzer Brotzeitschmankerl, the helpful young gal suggested several different German wursts and sausages, including a blood sausage, for us. I’m not even sure what we all bought, but we did so happily 
and it’s all stored in our freezer right now.

At Greisinger’s stand, we purchased some German speck and more sausages. (Over this past weekend, we carefully sliced off a few pieces of the speck, cooked it and enjoyed it with pancakes for breakfast. Salty pork goodness!) 

Rows and rows of Speck which reminded us of a saltier type of bacon.
In addition to the meats, cheeses and other gourmet foods, there were several stands selling local produce. Since we were staying at a hotel, I just wandered among the stalls and took some photos of the colorful seasonal vegetables.

By the end of our shopping trip, I had spent nearly 100 Euros on European cheeses, honey, mustards, spices and pork. I’d happily return to this market any day!

We also sampled several kinds of German mustards.

Here are the German mustards and honey that I brought back to Istanbul.

Salivating over all this food made hubby and me hungry. We strolled over to a nearby restaurant to order some German Weißwurst and beer.


Friday, February 25, 2011

I felt like a sinking ship on the last bit of Turkish grammar I learned.

“Ex: The eraser is in the pocket of Isabel’s coat.”

Make two of the nouns possessive. Then, (generally) add a direct object ending to the last noun depending on what verb you used. And, of course, the ending you used must match up with the last vowel to create “vowel harmony.” Enough!

This past month has been one of the most challenging months for me living in Istanbul.  I’ve studied several hours a day. I’ve shed a few tears. I’ve certainly cursed a few times, and I’ve argued with my husband. I haven’t cooked all week. Thank goodness for online restaurant delivery service here!

However, today, I took my final exam in level 1 of an intensive Turkish language class at Dilmer. I passed! I’m very happy and relieved. As I write this, I am enjoying a well-deserved glass of white French Sauvignon wine.

It’s amazing how much I’ve crammed into my brain this past month. I’ve probably learned 100 Turkish verbs plus countless of nouns, adjectives and adverbs. I had an amazing teacher and I’d highly recommend the school I attended. Now, I actually want to start using all my “book knowledge” and put it to test on the streets of Istanbul.

I’ve already used bits and pieces here and there. I certainly do feel more confident than I did previously. I don’t want to just get by anymore like I have been doing for the last several months. I’m living in a foreign country and I should know the language.

Turkish has been the most complex language I’ve studied. There are exceptions to so many things. Just when you think you understand the rules, a curve ball is tossed your way. If a noun ends in p, change that letter to b. If a verb ends in f, s, t, k or several other letters then you must use the “t” ending instead of “d” for the past tense.

I studied Spanish all through high school and college. Over the years, I’ve picked up enough French culinary terms through the restaurant business. But Turkish has been difficult for me to grasp.

Tekrar, tekrar, tekrar. Şimdi çok pratik!

I’m sure I’ll still hit some speed bumps along the way, but I will keep trying.

Here's copy of my certificate just to prove I passed my Turkish exam!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Nothing says “I love you” like a heaping full platter of German sausages, wursts, sauerkraut and half-liters of locally crafted beer.

Forget the red roses! My husband knows the true way to my heart.

This past weekend, Jason and I had a blast eating and drinking our way through Munich, Germany. Oh, we did see some important buildings and a great art museum in this fun city. (I’ll talk about that in another post soon.) But the main reason for our trip was to celebrate a “romantic” weekend together in the land of my ancestors.

Back in November, we were looking for inexpensive places to visit near Istanbul. One of the reasons we chose to live abroad was the opportunity to travel to places we haven’t been to with our passports yet. We stumbled upon cheap flights to Munich as well as a hotel. We immediately booked the trip for Valentine’s Day weekend.

Although the weather was gray and drizzly our two days there, we managed to to trod down many of the city’s cobble-stone streets in our search for good beer and plenty of pork products.

Our pub crawl included a stop at Augustiner-Bräu, which is one of the city’s oldest pubs near the Marienplatz. Secondly, we had to include Hofbräuhaus even though it’s jam-packed full of tourists night and day.

I would love to tell you more about our trip. However, I still have to make our steak dinner and then work on my Turkish homework.

For now, I must leave you with a photo collage of our eating experiences. Until next time!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Bavarian's famed roasted pork knuckle!

The sample platter!

Picture perfect!
German apple strudel for dessert, of course!

Monday, February 7, 2011

After just a few minutes outside reading and studying my Turkish, bird droppings landed on our table.

About 10 minutes later, a giant splotch of red bird poop plopped right in the middle of Jason’s book that he was reading. Not to mention, a young couple were basically making out nearby.

Forget this! We scrambled back inside Starbucks to find a seat and enjoy our Sunday afternoon. The Starbucks located in the “luxurious” neighborhood of Bebek in  Istanbul has a wonderful view of the Bosphorus. For the price of a café latte, you can sit seaside all day if you so desire. 
This is the view from the second floor of Starbucks in Bebek.
That was our plan until the damned birds came along.

Yesterday, the weather warmed up to 50 F here. The sun was shining brilliantly. Jason tortured me with a run through our neighborhood in the morning. In the afternoon, we headed to Bebek for brunch and to spend time relaxing and studying.

I probably ruined the efforts of our run by ordering eggs Benedict for brunch at Happily Ever After. But hey, it’s not very often I get to eat real bacon. I couldn’t turn down that menu item!
Jason fared a bit better with sautéed mushrooms and fresh tomatoes with his eggs, potatoes and bacon. The restaurant is a cute place - super crowded – but it has a great outside seating area.
After our brunch and coffee, we stopped by the newly opened Laduree along the main street in Bebek. Back in September, I saw the sign that proclaimed “Laduree coming soon.” I’ve been waiting patiently to try these macarons again!
The storefront of  Laduree in Istanbul is decorated for Valentine's Day.
Laduree is a famous Paris-based patisserie with a long history. In 1862, the patisserie opened as a boulangerie (bakery) and later became a pastry shop and tea salon in 1871 when a fired forced founder Ernest Laduree to rebuild. As a professional pastry chef, I had dreamed about this place. In May 2009, my wish was finally granted with my first trip to Paris where Jason proposed. I specifically chose our hotel based on its proximity to a Laduree store.
May 2009 - Here I am in Paris.
Inside Bebek’s tiny Laduree, there are rows and rows of pastel and brightly colored macarons. Each macaron is priced at 3.45 lira or about $2.20 USD. I chose six flavors – Chocolat, Framboise, Cassis Violette, Citron, Chocolat and Caramel Beurre Sale’ – to sample. (The store does not allow photos to be taken inside.)

The French macaron is a light, elegant, slightly crispy and chewy confection. The two "cookies" usually are sandwiched together with buttercream, ganache or jellies/jams. I used to bake hundreds of macarons and serve them as one of my petit fours in the restaurant. In Istanbul, many of the Turkish pastaneler (pastry shops) such as Baylan, which is also located in Bebek, bake decent macarons.

Rows of macarons available at Baylan
But, in my opinion, nothing still compares to the delicate French macaron.

At home, I bit into the rosy framboise macaroon. I have to admit I was slightly disappointed. The macaron didn’t taste as fresh as I thought it should be. Something just seemed a bit off.

Next time I’m craving a bit of Paris I’ll give our local Laduree another chance. But hopefully someday, we’ll return to Paris to savor the true French macarons.

August 2013 UPDATE: The Bebek location of Laduree has closed, but you can find a new branch in Nişantaşı at Abdi Ipekçi Cad. No: 5/1.

Afiyet Olsun!
My Traveling Joys

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Well, my brain is a bit fried. I survived my first day of the intensive Turkish language class.

Luckily, I knew most of the vocab taught today. I've at least learned something these past seven months!

However, I did learn several new words such as aile (family), Nedemek? (what does it mean?), haber (news) and ödev (homework). Also, I had to practice speaking the language (with my fellow students) more often than I usually do.

I still have to work on my ödev for tomorrow’s class. I’m waiting for hubby to come home from work so we can practice making nouns plural. What fun!

In the mean time, I’ll start cooking some bonfile steaks that I marinated yesterday in red wine, crushed garlic, fresh rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper. I joked with Jason last night that he better enjoy his “last supper” because he might not be eating a 4-course meal cooked by me for awhile now. I spoiled him with a first course of grape leaf dolma stuffed with rice pilaf and spices and served with a parsley-mint yogurt dip. (I cheated and picked up the dolma at a local shop in Nişantaşı.)

Next, I made a large salad brimming with cucumbers, tomatoes, arugula, red lettuce and beyaz peynir (Turkish white cheese similar to Feta).

Every time I see this lettuce at the markets, I find it so pretty.

The entrée was the bonfile served with a wild rice pilaf and roasted carrots with rosemary. While I was roasting the carrots on high heat, I apparently had set off a silent smoke alarm in our apartment. The next thing I knew one of the building security guards knocked on our door and inspected our apartment to make sure we were okay. Oops! At least I didn’t burn the carrots, but I did create a bit of smoke throughout the apartment.

For dessert, we nibbled on some of the financiers I had baked earlier yesterday.

Tonight, I guess we get lucky again because we’ll be eating fresh steaks served with the reheated leftovers.

Now, if only I could speak Turkish as well I can cook. I have a long way to go.

Afiyet Olsun!

Roasted Carrots with Rosemary
Carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally about ½-inch thick
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1. Preheat oven to 400F/204 C.
2. Place carrots in a bowl. Toss together with a good splash of olive oil. Season the carrots with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix well.
3. Line a metal baking tray with aluminum foil to help with clean up later. Place carrots evenly on the tray.
4. Bake the carrots for about 15 minutes until they are lightly browned on the edges. Do not set off your fire alarm!
5. Place carrots back in the bowl and toss with freshly chopped rosemary.