Early start this morning to get checked out of the Armada, leave our luggage, and have one last wonderful breakfast at the buffet. We stopped for cash, the caught the tram to Eminönü in plenty of time for the 9:50 ferry. The ferry ride was lovely, and great panoramic views of the city from the water. We arrived at the Kadıköy terminal in about 15 minutes, and had no trouble meeting our guide Tuba just outside it. We both liked her immediately; she’s friendly and easy to talk to, and our shared love of food and travel kept the conversation flowing easily. We had a marvelous several hours walking around the market district near the ferry with her.
Our first stop was for Turkish coffee and lokum (what we call Turkish Delight), and we talked about the coffee tradition in Turkey. Breakfast translates as “before coffee,” and you always something sweet with it, but not sugar in the coffee itself. Next was a traditional candy shop, where we tried tried sugared unripe figs and olives, and three flavors of lokum: mastic (a tree resin) that had a gingery flavor; the best version of rose flavor I have had, and mint. We learned that it was traditionally made with honey, which I’d like to have a chance to try.
Then it was on to a traditional ‘working man’s restaurant,’ where we tried some gorgeous baklava and tavuk göğsü, the (in)famous milk pudding with chicken in it. (It was tasty, and you would not have guessed there was chicken in it.). We stopped into a traditional, full service butcher shop, then a cheese shop where we sampled several delicious cheeses, including tulum, a goat’s milk cheese that is aged in a goat skin, a very nice bleu cheese, and kaymak (clotted cream) with honey.
In between tastings, we enjoyed walking through open air market stalls that were overflowing with beautifully displayed fish and produce. It was the height of summer, and cherries, stone fruits, and tomatoes were everywhere. One of our most delicious stops was a traditional pickle store whose offerings included pickled green plums, okra, and broad beans, and a combination of grape molasses and tahini that is understandably a popular kids’ snack. At the spice shop, we tasted dried tomato puree, and got some isot and pul biber, classic varieties of smoked dried pepper, to bring home. cumin, and several kinds of dried pepper, bought some isot (pepper mix), some aleppo pepper, and some sumac. pumpkin seeds also yummy.
The last part of our tour was lunch with Tuba at Ciya, which serves excellent renditions of classic Turkish dishes. We chatted over a a selection of mezes, lamacun and kebab, and finished up with güllaç, a traditional dessert, and three drinks: za’atar tea, sumac blackberry. We loved Tuba’s passion for real, local ingredients, and her commitment to knowing her vendors and supporting multi-generational artisans who are still making things in the traditional ways.
After we parted ways with Tuba, we looked around Kadıköy a bit more before heading back on the ferry. We checked into the Empress Zoe, a quirky boutique hotel spanning a set of townhouses clustered around the ruins of a 15th century bath house. Since we’d had such a great food experience during the day, we kept it simple for dinner and just went across the alley to Aloran, where we shared a meze plate and a “Testy Kebap” for two that was cooked in an unglazed clay vessel which was cracked open at the table with great ceremony. After dinner, we walked up to Sultanahmet Square again to get some baklava at the artisan market, which we ate amidst the evening crowds enjoying their Ramadan celebrations.
We did take Tuba’s recommendation for dinner the next night, and crossed to Golden Horn to Yeni Lokanta on Istiklal Street in Beyoğlu. Their tasting menu was truly amazing – one of the best meals we have ever had.