Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Euro Spring 2015 - Part 7 - Mosaics, Princesses, and Best Meal Of The Trip

Where our Heroes
  •  Delve deeper into the world museums and mosaics
  • Successfully get cash 
  • Find yet another use for the wonderful Istanbulkart
  • Find that the Princess Islands are not what they seem
  • Eat the best meal of the trip
  • Continue meeting people from all over the world
Today was designed to be a more relaxing day.  The weather was supposed to be lovely and it was.  One of the suggestions in the guide book is to visit the Princess Islands, a group about an hour and half by ferry from Istanbul.  There are a number of them and we chose to go to one called Heybeli.  By our reading we had the feeling that these islands would have some small villages and a lot of nature/trails etc.

But first we have the mandatory museums to check off the list.  So we stopped at the Grand Palace Mosaic Museum.  This was set up to present one of the best preserved ancient Roman mosaics from early Byzantium Imperial Period.  The Romans used mosaics as flooring and wall art extensively.  In addition to the shear size, it was very interesting to see the difference between the artistic style in mosaics over the millennia as we now have seen them in the traditional Roman, Early Byzantine, and Late Byzantine periods.  Hopefully, I will be able to do a pictorial presentation of these after we get to Malta and have more time (and hopefully better internet).

After the museum I got some cash from the ATM, topped up our Istanbulkart.  I was having some lower system distress and needed to get to the WC.  There was one right by the ATM and it needed a Turkish Lira for entry.  But they took the Istanbulkart!  Chalk another one up to that wonderful travel tool.  We took the tram to what we thought was the ferry station, got back on the tram when we found we had gotten off too soon, and took our ferry out to Heybeli.  The island itself was a bit of a disappointment.  I mean it's a nice town we thought it would be much more bucolic...sort of walk through the forest.  On the plus side however, I had researched a restaurant through the blog of Culinary Backstreets before we left the US since Wife had indicated she wanted to go to the Princess Islands early one.  The place is Heyamola Ada Lokantasi.

If you are a foodie, you read all about an experience like this, but rarely does it actually happen to you.  The restaurant's seating is mostly out of doors.  We didn't think it was that warm and asked if we could sit inside where there are only a few tables and we were the only ones inside.  Our waiter spoke very little English and we were having some difficulty.  Just two tables further in was a man with a Chicago Bulls sweatshirt on.  He came over and asked if he could help saying he noticed that we were getting frustrated.  This started a dialog between He (his name was Kutzul) and I on what was truly local that we could have.  He brought out three mezzes or small started courses.  (Side note on mezzes - Wife and I have been confused as to why the main courses we order almost never have anything with them other than the protein.  We figured out that the mezzes are supposed to be the vegetable component of the meal and you have that first!)  These were:
  • Borani - a spread made from yogurt hung in cheese cloth to get rid of moisture, garlic, red pepper, and a small amount of roasted eggplant for texture
  • A smoked cured horse mackerel - A local fish, oil cured after smoking with a few pickles in the cure.  Tasted a lot like kippers.  Loved the pickle interplay.
  • A marinated local seaweed that he said came from some rocks nearby
We were sipping on a couple of double shots of raki while this was going on.  We've found raki to be very addictive here.  It's one of those 'things of place', meaning great when you're here but you're not going to bring it back to your regular lifestyle.  We'd ordered fish and it was made to order.  So Kutzul said we should have a couple more mezzes on the house to tie ourselves over.
  • One of these was shredded, wilted carrots in the thickened yogurt
  • The other a broad bean paste (think Lima beans) with coriander, pepper and oil.
For the fish we had:
  • Whiting filet cooked in a ginger sauce that seemed to have some cream and saffron in it as well
  • Fresh bluefish (three small ones) that Kutzul said a fisherman had brought him yesterday, simply grilled.
There are few things I like better than really fresh fish grilled and this was totally on point.  Wife had also ordered some fries as she wanted some carb with her meal.  They were hot, fresh and crispy.

We were feeling pretty good and thinking this was just a great meal when Kutzul again offered something on the house for dessert.  It was a hot halava.  Halava is a confection made from sesame seed paste.  I've eaten it cold or room temperature many times.  This was in a small earthenware container, heated in the oven until melted and bubbly.  You could eat it with a spoon or on bread (think like Nutella) and was totally yummy.  It called out for tea which we responded to.  I am going to be sure to put a review on TripAdvisor because I've never had anyone take such good care to give me truly local things of quality before.

The trip back on the ferry and tram home was crowed and uneventful.  However, I want to make a note of all the wonderful people we've met during this trip.  I talked yesterday of our meal with the Turkish family.  Today getting on the ferry, a woman asked me if it was going to the Princess Islands.  She, her husband and her 14 year-old daughter were from Iran.  We must of chatted for 30 to 40 minutes on the ferry (understanding that most of these conversations have to be done with a lot of patience, repetition, pictures, maps on Google Maps because of the language issues).  We had another encounter on the way back with a young woman from Abu Dhabi.  She was visiting family, worked in media and was planning to go to graduate school in London.  Istanbul is truly a crossroads of the world.


Tom P said...

What a trip! Love all the people you are meeting and talking to! Sleep in Malta!

Diana & Steve said...

You know, Gloria and Michael, we will be expecting you to recreate these meals at home and invite all of us loyal followers to come to NM for the feast.

de-I said...

Actually replicating a lot of these dishes wouldn't be that hard from a process standpoint Diana. They're not that complicated. However,the ingredients are a different story. Where does one get Sea of Marmara seaweed?