Tastes of Istanbul

by Jourdan Fairchild in ,

In a city that's double the size of New York (a fact that's still hard for me to comprehend), there's a whole freaking lot to take in. So I've divided our trip into experiences, and today, I'm starting with food. Turkish cuisine is everything you'd imagine it to be—and then some. The dishes are bursting with flavor, the meat is fresh and tasty, and Turkish wine is relatively cheap and satisfying. We ate street food as much as possible, and dined at hole-in-the-wall spots whenever we stumbled upon them. The delightful owners of our bed and breakfast, Aydin and Evrim, also supplied us with maps highlighting the best local spots for baklava, meatballs, meze, and Turkish delight. We ate too much bread, feta, and hummus, we tried things we didn't recognize based on the fuzzy pictures in the menu. But that was the fun of it! It's rare that in our day-to-day lives, we step outside of our culinary comfort zone. One of our favorite meals was at a neighborhood meatball shop. We arrived just before the owner and his wife were closing up for the night. But rather than shut their doors on bumbling, weary American tourists, they welcomed us in and served up the best meatballs we've ever had (sorry Meatball Shop NYC). The four of us didn't speak the same language, but our gestures and smiles were enough. These meals served as our time to rest, regroup, and reflect what we'd seen that day. We were ravenous each time, and besides one super fishy fish sandwich that smelled like my husband's feet, we were rarely disappointed.

The Turks are nuts for their nuts, especially hazelnuts.

The aforementioned fish sandwiches

Out-of-this-world baklava (the chocolate variety blew our minds)

Don't mind us as we inhale this heavenly puffy bread

Mouthwatering meatballs

Our meatball shop man hard at work

Cheating one night with American-style pizza

Stacks of simits, aka Turkish pretzels

More carbs in the form of Lokma, Turkish donuts

Breakfast of champions, aka menemen (eggs, tomatoes, peppers, cheese, sausage)

In our ice cream battle, gelato won over Turkish ice cream (which has a taffy-like consistency).

We both went crazy for borek, flaky breakfast casseroles filled with spinach, meat, and cheese.

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