After other dinner plans fell through, I called up my friend Emre (who I met in New York when he was there for three months in 2009) and he came to meet me for a little walkabout and dinner. And what a fantastic welcome to Istanbul it was. Emre and I share a love of great food, and back in 2009 I was showing him all manner of NYC restaurants. Last night he took me to a really excellent one here and I told him to order whatever he thought we should try and this was the delicious result:
OMG, everything above was so good! (It probably didn’t hurt that I was starving and had been eating only small amounts of crap airline/airport food all day). We had two kinds of salad, some amazing dolma, a meat and rice dish, and maybe the best kefta I have ever had.
After that we took a little walk around my neighborhood (Taksim) and area close-by, and he took me to a kind of hidden rooftop restaurant (well, there was no noticeable sign out front anyway) for a coffee and fantastic view over the Bosphorus. He then suggested we go out to a club close to my place, but I was so beat (had been up since 5am for my flight after all) that we called it a night and I hit the bed like a stone. This morning and afternoon we will explore the Sultanahmet area.
I already get the feeling I am going to love it here in Istanbul.
Yesterday (at the behest of my friend Sian) I hosted a Passover Seder at my house for a few friends. Half the table was Jewish or of Jewish origin, and half was not. We made the ceremony part (which can last literally hours and hours) of the Seder mercifully short at about 10 minutes, and set about enjoying some traditional foods that we had all prepared. Josh’s boyfriend Michael made a fantastic brisket, my friend Sian made a matzo kugel and a cake (kosher for Passover with almonds and egg whites), and I made charoset (my own recipe with pears, dates, walnuts, pecans, cinnamon and wine) and salad. Josh prepared an impromptu seder plate with fresh horseradish and parsley and eggs, and believe it or not we had no matzo, so we substituted rice cakes. Also in attendance were Sian’s friend Ian, and my friend Dimitri who is visiting from LA and staying with me at the moment.
Although I am nobody’s definition of religious, I was raised Jewish and orthodox (until I was 13 anyway) and it was kind of fun to be reminded of the culture of Passover and enjoy the food and drink with some friends. Many of these foods I hadn’t eaten in many years, and I don’t remember them ever tasting as good as they did last night. It probably didn’t hurt that we spared the ghastly Manischewitz wine of my childhood in favor of several bottles of nice Malbec.
I have a new client that owns a restaurant, and he thought it a good idea that I dine there before beginning the site design. So he comped me a dinner for two. I was thrilled by this idea because the restaurant is quite well regarded, and so I took Michael last night and we had a really wonderful meal. I ordered the sweet potato ravioli to start followed by the short ribs, complemented by a very nice glass of Malbec. The dishes were truly excellent, if a bit rich.
And sometimes after a rich and heavy meal, I will have very odd dreams — and last night I had a doozy. I can only remember little bits and pieces of it, but it involved a weird family reunion with hundreds of people (even though we don’t have nearly that many relatives) having a picnic in some windy field with many lined up tables. There was some discussion and argument about the best way for me to inflate a raft and what sort of pump to use. At one point I and a couple other people were in a seafood restaurant where they were serving frozen fish, and we argued over fresh versus frozen. Then we were in Italy and I picked up a WiFi signal to find the place where I had stayed with my friend Fabrizio (who I haven’t seen in 20 years). And finally, I was in the house from my childhood when the door rang, and I went to look through the peephole to see who it was. And it was a friend of mine who I didn’t want to talk to because we had had a falling out. And finally, it started snowing. I wish I could have remembered more, but alas these things are elusive. I have had dreams before that had particular story lines that were more fantastic or strange, but rarely one that covered so very many mundane subjects at once.
Sure, call it a chick flick if you think that damns it to some lower status. Maybe it is one. But I absolutely loved Julie & Julia, which I just saw today. It tells interweaving stories about the formative years of the famous chef on the one hand, and the woman many years later who would base a blog on working her way through every recipe in Child’s cookbook. Along the way we are treated to a jaw dropping impression of Julia Child by the incomparable Meryl Streep, and great performances by Amy Adams and the rest of the cast. It struck me that a great deal of the fun in this film is about the somewhat caricatured yet iconic place Julia Child holds in our culture. Her persona and mannerisms are legend, and the movie even plays to this by having the later characters watch the famous SNL skit with Dan Akroyd as The French Chef. On the more modern end in the character (based on a real person) of Julie Powell, I was moved by the potent idea of doing something for the love of it, and for the sake of having something to do. And through our projects, almost any project really, we find meaning in our way of pushing a rock up a hill only to have it fall back down again. Arriving somewhere is not nearly as interesting as the journey, and taking stock and pleasure in where we are right now.
The movie dovetails nicely with so many of my own interests, spread as they are over the years of my life. From France and French culture, to writing and blogging, this film really spoke to me. And of course one of the greatest elements in the film, taking notice that the love of great food is part and parcel of the love of life and living.
Yesterday was one of those days that makes me love New York — and makes everyone else think that I should probably be locked up for the inane grin on my face and kind, open look in my eyes. There was no special event happening. In fact the day was about as mundane as could be, but no matter where I was it was a pleasure. Went to go meet my friend Jon for lunch and he noticed and commented on this cheeriness in his usual way (with vague threats of physical violence). After lunch I took a pleasant, slow stroll through the streets near the UN to my apartment listening to music and feeling a strange and sweet sense of connectedness to every pedestrian who crossed my path and to the buildings and streets. The weather was perfect, and I am sure that helps. And being freelance and feeling no particular time pressure helps as well. In the evening I walked across town for a website meeting at a new (fucking) hipster hotel and then had a lovely dinner at a (so called) Indian restaurant called Tabla. The food was really more Indian inspired than Indian, but delicious nonetheless.There was seating outside, right across from Madison Square Park, the weather was perfect, and this continued my good-feelings-toward-New-York mood.
Other stuff happened during the day, but not as worth mentioning here. I leave that to your imagination…
Last night my friend Jon took me out to a yummy birthday dinner at a place called Zampa (which, funny enough I have passed several times admiring the signage). The food was great, I highly recommend it, and the staff was super sexy and friendly, always a nice combo. We had a few drinks and a nice time, then said our goodbyes, and I went to bed.
This morning I woke up and went downstairs to the coffee shop to grab a coffee and muffin. On my way and in the coffee shop, I (literally) bumped into 3 people and had to do the swerving dance with two others. Somehow my sense of direction is all screwy this morning. Like I went to bed in a right-handed culture and woke up in a left-handed one.
Ah, Paris. Sometimes it feels like coming home. Everything just falls into place so easily. I met up with old and new friends all day today, sharing great food and wine, and walks and talks. Despite being majorly jet lagged and tired (as is the norm for me, there was a screaming infant in the seat next to me on the flight over), I had a wonderful time today getting reacquainted with Paris. I especially love how most of the best conversations and interaction are around the table, as it seems to bring out the friendship and connection in everyone. It didn’t hurt that the weather was gorgeous and everyone had a bit of spring fever.
Now if you will excuse me, I am going to pass out and hopefully get adjusted to the time difference. Bonne nuit!
I don’t think I have ever had such a thoroughly decadent culinary run in so few days. Marites and I really hit it:
Peas and Ramps Risotto – Eighty One
Slow Roasted Chicken, Organic Chickpeas and Harissa – Eighty One
Wild Mushroom Soup – Eighty One
Gnocchi with peas in cream – Eighty One
Warm Caramel Roasted Bosc Pear (fresh goat cheesecake, golden raisins, gingersnap ice cream) – Eighty One
Warm Chocolate Pecan Bread Pudding (oatmeal pecan shortbread, butter pecan ice cream) – Eighty One
Toro Tartare – Morimoto
Kobe Beef Bento Box – Morimoto
Black Cod Bento Box – Morimoto
Soy Milk Souffle, Tofu Cheesecake, Maple Ice Cream – Morimoto
Salad of Herby Lentils, Green Beans, Avocado, Toasted Pecans & Baby Gem with Pomegranate Molasses and Avocado Oil Vinaigrette – Public
Roast Lamb Sirloin on Crispy Goats Cheese Polenta with Saffron Braised Baby Vegetables and Harissa Aioli – Public
Crispy skinned Barramundi with a Wild Mushroom Broth, Fingerling Potatoes, Pickled Ginger and Pea Leaf Salad – Public
Sticky toffee pudding with Armagnac ice cream and hot caramel sauce – Public
Unda Chicken Roll – Kati Roll Company
Shami Kebab Roll – Kati Roll Company
Achari Paneer Roll – Kati Roll Company
Shaved Tuna, Chilli Tapioca, Asian Pear and Lime – Spice Market
Shrimp Tod Mon Pla Cucumber Peanut Relish – Spice Market
Avocado and Radish, Chinese Mustard, Tempura Onions – Spice Market
Spiced Chicken Samosa, Cilantro Yogurt – Spice Market
Charred Chili Rubbed Beef Skewer – Spice Market
Steamed Red Snapper, Shiitake Mushrooms, Ginger, Scallion and Tarragon – Spice Market
Char Grilled Chicken, Kumquat Lemongrass Dressing – Spice Market
Ginger Fried Rice – Spice Market
Ovaltine Kulfi, Caramelized Banana, Spiced Milk Chocolate Sauce – Spice Market
Thai Jewels Crushed Coconut Ice – Spice Market
Amuse, Star Anise Gelee and Vanilla sorbet – Chickalicious
Poached Rhubarb with Sabayon, vanilla sorbet and pistachios – Chickalicious
Toasted Pecan, Panna Cotta, Pecan Sorbet – Chickalicious
Housemade Country Lamb Sausage, Scrambled eggs, and Toast – August
Eggs Bordelaise (red wine braised wild mushrooms, creme fraiche, fried egg, and toast) – August
Plums in Balsamic vinegar with black sesame seeds – August
Grass Fed Beef Hamburger with Kimchi – Green Table
Chocolate, Coconut, Pear Gelatto – L’Arte del Gelato
Duck Steam Bun – Double Crown
Endive and Stilton Salad – Double Crown
Coconut Chicken Salad – Double Crown
Spicy Seared Beef Salad – Double Crown
Tandoori-Marinated Foie Gras – Double Crown
Bitter Chocolate Trifle – Double Crown
Now, if you’ll excuse me, my next few days will be occupied with a strict diet of cardio, weight-lifting, and throwing up.
I just HAVE to write about the most amazing restaurant that we (John, Kevin, Paul and I) ate at this evening in the Village. It is called “August“, and it was perhaps the best meal that I have had in New York since arriving 4 months ago. Yes, it was THAT good. You can of course check out their menu yourself on their website, but if I had to sum up in a tidy description, I would say we ate as kings would have in the 16th or 17th century, albeit in smaller quarters. Or at least how they would have eaten in my romantic vision of the excesses of royalty from that period. My only regret was not having my camera handy to delight you all with the delicious visions that graced our table. I highly recommend a trip here after your next hastily arranged annulment and spouse beheading, or anytime really.
It seems we have dispensed with spring altogether, as this weekend was hot. And seeing as how it was the first hot weekend, people were out in full force all over the city, especially in Central Park. I enjoyed a lovely picnic on Saturday with several French friends, and a really yummy brunch (at Telepan) and walk in the park with my buddy Jonathon today. Click on the pic below to go the the full album.