Istanbul // Do All Things With Love

Let’s be real here – Turks are the best at food. Istanbul was bursting with restaurants and confection shops of all kinds. Most of it was really good, some of it was mediocre. I think I got spoiled though because I started my trip in Gaziantep, which is like the culinary hot spot and is known across Turkey as having the very best food. Anyways, I am starting this post stating that I am completely biased toward liking Gaziantep food more.

Istanbul // Do All Things With Love

Breakfast in Istanbul

We landed in Istanbul at around 9:00am and jumped on the metro line into the heart of the city. We exited the metro close to Aksaray (Old Town Istanbul), and looked immediately to find somewhere to get breakfast. We chose a chain that is a staple in Turkey (and soon to be opening a location in NYC): Simit Sarayı. This shop is kind of like if Starbucks turned into a Turkish bakery (they serve chai tea lattes and caramel macchiatos to go with your baklava). Anyways, we were hungry and they had fresh pastries so it hit the spot. The boys had some sort of pide (pizza-like baked good) and I had Börek made with potatoes. We shared the pastry in the middle which contained cooked meat of some kind.

Simit // Do All Things With Love

Simit cart – one of many dotting the streets of Istanbul

Simit is this amazing baked ring somewhat similar to a bagel consistency but more delicious, baked into a ring and coated lightly with sesame seeds. In Istanbul you can get one on just about any street corner from a simit vendor for 1TL (0.50 USD).

Gyro // Do All Things With Love

After walking around the Sultanahmet district for like six hours while running on two hours of sleep we were tired and hungry. So we walked away from the touristy district down one of many streets and came across a hotel/gyro shop and headed inside. The meat is very thinly sliced off of the slowly rotating (and still slowly cooking) large hunk of meet in the window.

Gyro // Do All Things With Love

They throw it on some pita, add some tomatoes and peppers and press it in a panini press (they call it ‘toast’) and voila you have a sandwich. Again, Turks haggle for everything so we negotiated a crazy low price for the food before we walked in. Something like $2.50 USD for four or five sandwiches (the boys were hungry).

Lamb Intestine Sandwich // Do All Things With Love

By the evening we had navigated ourselves to the crowded streets of the Taksim district of Istanbul to meet up with a friend. This is a really neat area. After we connected with this friend we decided to all grab a snack. Okay, so this is the part where we talk about love, and trust: My fearless Turkish guides took me to a ‘special sandwich shop’ that was packed with customers and the cooks were singing songs while they sold sandwiches – it really was something. The order was made in Turkish with me completely oblivious as to the meaning. I was served some mussels, which I had never had before but were recognizable and delicious. And then a sandwich which I was told to ‘try but don’t ask what it is’. Now I love my Turkish guy, I would do just about anything for him. When he insists I try his cooked chicken liver, I am a good sport and take a little bite even though it tastes like a farm and like organs (not a fan). Plus I already tried raw lamb on this trip, so what the heck, right? Wrong. It just tasted like tomato sauce and some spices, and something I just couldn’t put my finger on. After three bites and ‘mm, yeah, this is okay’ I made the mistake of asking what it was. The answer was Kokoreç – a lamb intestine sandwich. After that I just couldn’t manage to eat more and was finished off by one of my three Turkish guides. More friends joined us while we ate, so now the group was one American, three Turks and two Kyrgyz.

Hookah // Do All Things With Love

So we headed over to a cafe that served nargile (hookah) and spent the next four hours drinking glass after class of çay (tea) and smoking and catching up with long-lost friends.

Cay // Do All Things With Love

The next morning we went out for brunch in a very hip part of town (I forgot the location, but I can tell you that all of the brunch places had long lines just like the Portland brunch scene). We ate for many hours, then did some more sightseeing for the day and walked like 12 miles. Eventually ending up back in Taksim at another hookah cafe for like three hours. This is the local thing to do – people watch while drinking çay and smoking hookah.

Ice Cream // Do All Things With Love

We had a cone of ice cream before dinner because ALL GOOD ICE CREAM IN TURKEY IS MADE FROM GOATS MILK!!!!! Being allergic to cow milk, but being able to safely consume goats milk this place was like HEAVEN. I could stop anywhere and ask for a cone of ice cream and it is life changing. I had pistachio ice cream for the first time since I was a small child and it was the best thing ever. You guys, I’m moving to Turkey and never coming back!! No really. Bye.

Turkish Pizza // Do All Things With Love

We ate dinner at a famous pide (a flatbread pizza) restaurant Nizam Pide Salonu. I am not sure what I had, but something with delicious peppers and meat (and again, no cheese!).

Koka-Kola // Do All Things With Love

I thought this was kind of funny and neat. A Turkish coca-cola. I actually somehow drank so many cokes in Turkey because the popular drink of choice was ayran (seen below) which I can’t have. So I drank like my weight in coca-cola over the span of nine days. I don’t even drink soda in the states so it’s weird.

Iran // Do All Things With LoveAyran is the national drink of choice in the summertime. It is a drink of yogurt mixed with salt and water. One of the few things I couldn’t try while in Turkey because it wasn’t made with goat milk.

Okay, that’s it for Istanbulu food – more on the sights soon!