Memorable moments

Memorable moments

Aylin Öney Tan - aylinoneytan@yahoo.com
Memorable moments

The year 2016 has been a year that we wish to forget in many ways, but I do try to look at the brighter side and remember fondly some of its memorable moments and morsels. This year most of the culinary highlights each month were strangely interwoven with other events or coincidences that happened later in the year. Unfortunately, some are marked with terror attacks, but the passion for food surely connects people and makes us endure hard times through shared moments around a table. Here are some of the memories that stayed with me throughout the year. 

One memorable day I spent was in February, we were with Tom Parker Bowles for an article he was preparing for Esquire UK, together with Bill Knott from the Financial Times and Cenk Sönmezsoy, a top Turkish photographer and food blogger (Cafe Fernando). The day was long and full, tasting our way through the historic quarter starting from Four Seasons Hotel in Sultanahmet, all the way down to the Spice Market and beyond stretching to Karaköy Lokantası for a final drink. Tom’s article was published in the July issue of the magazine, and it was the reason that  brought us together with David Dudi Califa, the guide of an Israeli group who were hit by a suicide bomber in March, just weeks after Tom’s visit. Tom has mentioned the sad incident in his article, suggesting that such cases should not keep people from visiting Istanbul. So did David, he came back and back again, and having read Tom’s article, wanted to meet with me. Eventually we met in September. One spot, practically a hole in the wall of a döner kebab place just at the corner outside the Grand Bazaar, turned out to be a favorite for both Tom and David, we found out that we had many friends in common, and the doctor who saved the life of David’s friend was a close friend and neighbor of a friend of mine, Ülkü Kahraman, with whom our paths crossed many times this year, but that is another story. Without knowing, Tom’s article started our friendship with David, evolved around our mutual passion for food, hopefully to endure a long time despite the tough times our countries are going through. 

A memorable day in February strangely connected to another one, a day in Sestriere Torino to another one in Istanbul in December. It seems that my March highlights will continue to be the annual meetings of SCIJ Ski Club International des Journalistes. After last year’s memorable visit to Baqueria-Beret in Spanish Pyrenees, this time the meeting venue was Sestriere uphill Torino in Italy. The mountain tastes, especially the amazing cheeses and the Gala dinner with fantastic Italian wines are still vivid in my memory, but the highlight for me was meeting with Carolina Vergnano, one of the sponsors of the meeting. There I learned they were about to launch their first Turkish coffee, which became true later in the year in December, but the funny coincidence was it was again Ülkü Kahraman in the picture, the representative of Vergnano in Turkey. 

The memories of white snow in Sestriere was soon to fade with one of the most memorable spring days, an asparagus harvest trip to Laçin Eskişehir, to the asparagus fields of Nomad, a new producer. Actually, we have previously with one of the founding partners Arman Badur, at another memorable culinary event back in January, the annual lunch of Gönül Paksoy, the formidable clothes designer, who is also an accomplished chef. Our mutual friend Aslı Aksoy from Nar Gourmet introduced us, who were to be the mastermind behind this incredible spring visit. With Aslı, I also collaborated with their new lines of Turkish coffee varieties, especially the one from Yemen, which brings back the Turkish coffee to its very original taste. 

April was busy with writing my article for the Dublin Gastronomy Symposium in May-June, one of the toughest topics I had ever dealt with, the food at the trenches in the Gallipoli War. Visiting Dublin for the first time was the reward, the food was amazing, the visit to Teelings Whiskey was great, and the people were so friendly and nice. But if there is one moment that will stay with me forever, it was the Gala dinner we had at King’s Inn when Máirtín Mac Con Iomaire, the chair of the symposium, sang the “Foggy Dew” for me. I fell in love with Ireland. From now on, I’ll apply for every food event held there. 

As usual, July was the time for Oxford Symposium for Food and Cookery, this year’s theme was offal, the talks more exciting than the food, but one bite was to be remembered forever. Duck tongues by Fuchsia Dunlop, a totally new taste and as Fuchsia points out, a new texture, one that is strangely exciting. 

Another exciting first time visit was to Thessaloniki in September, to make a presentation with Chef Cem Erol from MSA –Culinary Arts Academy for the great conference of WACS- World Association of Chefs’ Societies. Thessaloniki visit was exciting for me on a personal level, so similar to the Aegean province of İzmir, where my mother lives, so important because it is our ancestral town, the home place of my maternal grandfather. The highlight of the visit was again at the Gala dinner, meeting with Yiannis Boutaris, the legendary mayor of the city. Later in December, when Kyriakos Loukakis, the Greek Ambassador to Ankara served a Boutaris produce and a Yianakohori Kir-Yianni Estate wine, I happily recalled that memorable dinner.

November was a roller coaster, first was the Levantine Heritage Conference in London, followed by a day event titled “Yedi!” with big names including Massimo Bottura, and another wonderful trip to Barcelona. This is also the month I had several mishaps in my travels, including a ruined and revived phone, a lost and then found passport, an accidentally locked up suitcase which could not be unlocked for a week. All these are worth another writing to be followed up next week, including the Gastromasa event, when another bomb attack took place from the very spot we passed through an hour before, together with all the star chefs from Spain and Turkey, on the day I met with David once again. It was a year of such memorable events, all strangely interwoven with each other, every single one evolving with passion for food, and how it brings people together.