Aylin Öney Tan - email@example.com
DHA PhotoThe end of the year is all about lamenting about what we could not do the past year and promising ourselves that we’ll soon forget, probably even before February comes along. It has been another bumpy year for me; lots of working and endless running around without a break or a moment of rest. Yet there have been memorable times with exceptional food, fine wine and good company. Here are some personal highlights from 2015.
January: I had a lot of good eating experiences but one restaurant I visited is a vivid example of how time flies. At Vino Steak House, I was so impressed by the quality of meat, the wine selection, the very affordable corkage fee added to the market price bottles and, most of all, the hospitality of the owner, Metin Kocabaş, that I promised myself to be a frequent customer. Alas, time flies and I just could not pay a second visit to Vino Steak the whole year. Now I promise myself that one of my first stops in January will be there, even if it’s quick lunch break with a winning huge burger. The whole menu and wine list is worth a tour to Göztepe on the relaxed Anatolian side of Istanbul (http://www.vinosteak.com.tr).
February: “A Drop of Pleasure!” was the name of the exhibition dedicated to Turkish coffee in Topkapı Palace. Designer/curator Ersu Pekin did a great job, given the fact that the time frame was brutally short. I had my pinch of salt in the soup, connecting Ersu with a few crucial people who had been very instrumental in the success of the exhibit, like collector couple Murat Sungur & Nihal Bursa. Though I’m proud to have written an extensive chronology of Turkish coffee in parallel with the world history of coffee, I still regret the enormous time I spent on it and apart from the stress of finishing it in time, even going to the opening on that stormy snowy day in February was a sacrificial act.
March: Amazing, amazing March! It was my first trip with the Ski Club of International Journalists (SCIJ) group to Baqueria Beret in Pyrenees, up on the hills on the French border of Catalonia, Spain. The whole week was thoroughly exceptional, not only its white slopes, but the incredible landscape, the picturesque villages of Val d’Aran, UNESCO-listed Romanesque churches and, of course, the great tapas and wine bars. I definitely want to visit the whole area again and again, not only in winter time, but in all seasons to enjoy the wonderful scenery (http://www.visitvaldaran.com/en/).
April: Artichokes all over. I was in heaven in Urla during the artichoke season. It also marked an awkward moment in my writing history. Soon after being kicked out of Cumhuriyet by the new administration, their own team re-hired me to write in the new weekend supplement of the daily. The incident was memorable. I was right in the middle of an artichoke field when my phone rang and the voice on the other side asked me if I could write an article on artichokes! This could be a sign of good fortune but unfortunately the new supplement was short-lived. However, I did write a few articles before they sank into the supplement graveyard of the once mighty newspaper.
May: Cypriot flavors marked May, a lot of bottle trafficking included. Spirits are so ridiculously cheap on the island that it is inevitable that one will stow away a few more bottles than usual, if you have the carrying capacity of course. My luggage was over-loaded, including all the odd Cypriot specialties like bikla, a version of picallily, some jars of UPO (Unidentified Pickled Objects) and packages of sheep milk halloumi.
June: A few rose-infused days at the end of May was followed by a whole week soaked in good beer in June. I guided a tour to rose harvest in Isparta for Turkish Cultural Foundation YESAM and included was a visit to the magnificent Roman site Sagalassos. My suitcase still smelled of roses when I flew to Belgium for another memorable trip. I was again with the SCIJ group in Wallonia, Belgium to witness the re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo. The whole trip was organized perfectly thanks to the Belgian SCIJ team and the Wallonia Tourism Office. My tour was extended with more visits to breweries of Cantillon in Brussels and Drie Fonteinen in Beersel. What a pickled week it was!
July: A mind blowing globetrotting of the world’s top chefs; “The Grand Gelinaz! Shuffle,” was an experience of a lifetime. Thirty-seven of the world’s most celebrated chefs from around the globe, from San Francisco to Melbourne, switched places on July 9 and cooked a dinner at a restaurant in another city, trading places with each other to cook an eight-course dinner in an alien kitchen, with a completely foreign staff, using unfamiliar ingredients not normally on their menus. I was one of the lucky few to witness the event in Istanbul’s Mikla restaurant, which hosted guest chef Fulvio Pierangelini. As always, this month was also marked in my calendar with Oxford. This was my most relaxed year ever, as I did not present as I usually do.
August: When did August start or end? I do not remember; heat waves make me totally useless. The only memorable time I recall was an escape to the Greek islands. It was a short but sweet visit to Leros and Kos hosted by Galip Yorgancıoğlu, CEO of Mey İçki in Turkey.
September: This month was all about blood, sweat and tears. I was at the Milan Expo, not for fun but to toil at the Turkish pavilion. Giving talks about various topics of Turkish food, ten days in a row, four times a day, was not an easy task. At least I was not alone; the cooking workshop was done by cooks from MSA, the Culinary Arts Academy and dear Osman Serim took this task from my shoulders when I had to rush to Frankfurt, Giessen for another symposium, “From Kebab to Ćevabčići: Eating Practices in Ottoman Europe.” So September was about working but how can I forget the after-work hours at the Milan Expo, sipping Lambrusco with a bite of tigelle…
October: How about guiding 13 top London sommeliers in Istanbul? That was the challenge of October. They thoroughly enjoyed the experience; they loved the Spice Bazaar and the Kadıköy market, were amazed by the food at Çiya by Musa Dağdeviren, excited by the tastes at Yeni Lokanta by Civan Er; chilled out at Frankie and could not get enough of the desert wine Madre of Kayra. When they left, I collapsed!
November: I had to celebrate my birthday in an odd place, in Antalya at the G-20, where I was on duty giving Turkish Culinary Talks at the Home Culture Zone. We did not have a chance to witness the Putin-Obama ad-hoc meeting, but watched how the first ladies folded mantı, the famous Turkish dumpling!
December: A delicious end-of-the year dinner was with a friend of 53 years, counting from the age of 3, when we first met. As usual, the restaurant, Nicole, did not disappoint. It was a good choice as always, perfect for such rare stolen moments (http://www.nicole.com.tr/index.php/en/).