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!