Daybook · On Food & Drink · On Places & Travel

Daybook: Eating Turkey (Not About Thanksgiving)

I've always liked Turkish food, but I've never actually had a full-scale craving for it –until I went to Istanbul and Izmir in Turkey earlier this month.

I loved raki, a distilled anise liquor that you drink with a little water and ice with your meze, or small plates, which include the lahmacun, also known as Turkish pizza, a flatbread topped with ground lamb, to which you add onions and parsley, fold and eat. And the spreads, especially the ones made with smoked eggplant. Also I can't stop thinking about the chicken kebabs made with pistachio that I had at Hamdi in Istanbul, which is a little touristy but still serves an amazing meal.

While I was in the city of Izmir, I met a gal who'd worked in New York for a couple of years, and she told me that when she needed a taste of home, she'd go to Turkish Kitchen. Which happens to be right in my neighborhood!  In fact, it's been there for at least 15 years, which has got to make it one of the longest-running establishments in my neighborhood.

The craving for Turkish food set in the night before last, and so we made a reservation at Turkish Kitchen. For meze, we had lahmacun, tarama salatasi, a red caviar spread, and ezme, a spread made with chopped tomatoes, onions and hot peppers. (The version I had in Turkey was a little richer, as it included walnuts.)  I ordered one of the daily specials, grilled chicken served on a puree of smoked eggplant.  I am making myself hungry just thinking about it.

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For ongoing news of Istanbul, I like the International Herald Tribune's Globespotter's blog.  The October 2008 issue of Gourmet has a great article on eating in Istanbul, and an earlier story on street food, which has this tidbit: Ottoman Empire cooks apparently would spend their entire professional lives perfecting just one dish. No wonder the food is so addicting.  It's not about food, but here's my essay on visiting Ephesus from the Huffington Post.

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