One of our favorite things to do on vacation is to eat...heck, it's one of our favorite things to do when we're not on vacation. When we visit a place we have been to before, we make sure to hit all our favorite restaurants; and when we visit somewhere new, we sample the cuisine to get a feel for what the locals enjoy. Food is definitely part of the cultural experience.
It makes sense then that we came away from our trip to Turkey with some international favorites. Who knows if we'll venture to that area of the world again, but if we do, we know what kinds of things we'll be looking for...and what kinds of things we won't.
Our honeymoon happened to coincide with Ramadan. Those who celebrate the month-long holiday, fast from sunrise to sunset. During our first night in Istanbul, we had no idea where to go or what to eat until we saw a long line of people outside a bakery. We got in line and waited for our turn to get a warm loaf of flatbread (called pide) for only 1.50 TL (less than $1.00). We quickly learned that every night during Ramadan, the bread shop starts firing off hundreds of loaves of flatbread from their brick oven just before sundown, as the line begins to form. This was the best time to get a warm, fresh loaf of bread and it wasn't the same when Ramadan ended, so we felt lucky to experience it when we did.
Prior to our trip, Tommie watched Anthony Bourdain on the Travel Channel and was intrigued by his review of lahmacun. Lahmacun (meaning "meat with dough") is like a Turkish pizza. It is flatbread with minced meat and finely chopped/minced tomato, onion, garlic and parsley. We also really liked the cheese pide (basically pizza/flatbread with no sauce; just really good cheese on top). It was also affordable--the lahmacun in the picture was only 4 TL (less than $3.00 each).
I love olives, so it's no surprise that during our journey I was happy to discover that olives (zeytins in Turkish) are a staple starter for many meals, and they are also almost always part of a traditional Turkish breakfast. Since olive trees grow abundantly in the southern parts of the country, they are fresh and delicious.
Yes, we went all the way to Turkey and one of our favorite stops was a hamburger joint--silly Americans. We were initially drawn inside Mano Burger (located along İstiklal Caddesi aka Independence Avenue) in Istanbul because the style of it reminded us of San Diego burger places like In-and-Out and Burger Lounge. Come to find out, the creator of Mano Burger spent years in southern California and wanted to bring some of the vibe and food back to Turkey. He did well! We enjoyed flavorful burgers with caramelized onions and special sauce, and we loved their spicy fries.
Of course kebabs (chicken, lamb, etc.) are a hit in Turkey as well. Our favorite local place to go for kebabs was Kafe Restaruant located down a side alley/street in Ortakoy.
Turkish people always finish their meals with a cup of tea. We weren't a fan of the strong black tea most serve, but being the sugar-centric American's we are, we fell in love with their apple tea which is like a sweet, warm cider.
We know gelato is an Italian thing, but we weren't complaining to find that it has made it's mark in Turkey as well. Just to be clear, we did try Turkish ice cream and thought it was gross--we recommend sticking to the gelato. Surprisingly our favorite kind was cinnamon, which had a really good flavor to it.
One food we did not care for was the Turkish version of ravioli. Tommie claims it may have even taken the #1 worst food spot away from my mother's pumpkin soup. It was warm, small ravioli with some kind of meat (we presume) inside, and instead of warm tomato sauce on top, it was floating in cold, plain yogurt. Let's just say the stray cat under our table was well fed that night.