Showing posts with label Bosphorus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bosphorus. Show all posts

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Looking back at Cihangir in Gratitude Not to Be There

A very loud construction site
home to a new hotel
Too loud for me!
Last year, I moved to the neighborhood of Cihangir from the western part of Istanbul. I was very excited to live in a culturally vibrant neighborhood known for its cafes and hipsters. I made it all of a month-and-a-half before moving out of there.
It was so loud and dusty! I used to live down the street from that minaret, which seemed like a great location at the time, because it was so close to public transportation and the Bosphorus. Maybe someday it will be. For now, it has this gigantic multi-year construction project going on in the neighborhood. Plus, additional noise coming from Erasmus students coming home from a night of revelry at all hours of the night. Gosh, I'm glad I don't live there anymore. My new place has been a source of constant peace and joy.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Afternoon tea and pastry with Guest Chef Yann Duytsche in the Gazebo Lounge at Cırağan Palace Kempinski

When Istanbullis want a sweet treat, they frequently head to the Gazebo Lounge at the Cırağan Palace Kempinski. The lounge has that see-and-be-seen stir of elegant people discussing engaging things while enjoying exceptional edibles. Were the food not so outstanding, it would be easy to take one's eyes off the edibles to appreciate all of the assembled aficionados of delectable desserts.

But it is actually impossible to stop looking at the food. The Gazebo Lounge features the pastry of Master Chocolatier and Philadelphian, Executive Pastry Chef William McCarrick, who was recognized by the entire Kempinski hotel chain when his dessert was selected 2013 Dessert of the Year in a blind taste test.  His creation is a sweet called the Bosphorale, combining bergamot-scented Earl Grey tea from the Black Sea region, and Turkish apricots from Kayseri with the finest Swiss Valrhona chocolate under a shiny glaze.

Talent greets talent:
Chef William McCarrick on the right
host to Chef Yann Duytsche, on the left
This year the Gazebo Lounge is celebrating its dessert destination status by inviting three world-class guest chefs to share their creativity with the Istanbul food-obsessed community. Pastry Chef William McCarrick suggested Frenchman Yann Duytsche as the very first guest chef for the Gazebo Lounge at Cırağan Palace Kempinski. Yann Duytsche is from northern France in Lille but finds himself drawn to the food cultures of the Mediterranean. He owns his own pastry shop in Barcelona, Spain named 'dolç par yann duytsche.'
Chef Yann suggests anyone visitng his shop in Barcelona try his signature breakfast sweet, the Karre Mango Croissant, and then take home his bestselling dark chocolate and passion fruit cake plus two or three kinds of cookies.
When Chef Yann asked where I was from, I shared that I was American. He said "America has delicious dessert creations - maybe not so sophisticated -but we all make them: cheesecake, cookies, brownies, and carrot cake."

 The chocolate club sandwich features
a crisp caramelized puff pastry. 
Chef Yann begins to assemble his
chocolate club sandwich
with help from Zeynep.
Notice the luscious green pesto
made of roka (arugula) and pine nuts.
It's a trend new to me to feature vegetables
in pastry.
A smudge of pesto
and a splash of carrots & apricot
nest a sandwich of thin luxe dark chocolate
with lighter chocolate inside.
"I like to play with a dessert that
one almost wants to pick up with one's hands."
The Chocolate Club Sandwich 
Having a guest chef come to Istanbul for a weekend is very much like having a top musician come in and give a master class, only in this case, it is a master class in pastry. "Yann is one of the top pastry chefs in the world," said Chef William. "I worked with him in 1989 in France for a week. We have kept in touch since then. Yann and I have had conversations through the months before he came about what he would make when he was here. His style has a sense of humor - you can see it in what he calls his chocolate club sandwich."
Cırağan chefs come out of the kitchen
to commemorate the moment
The energy in the Gazebo Lounge was sky-high as Yann and Zeynep, who was assisting him, began to assemble desserts for tasting. "The entire team is really excited to have him here," said Chef William. "I told my team to rest up on their day off and don't go shopping or be on their feet. The would need all of their energy for this moment."  I realized what sound advice this was later when Chef William showed me an app on his phone that showed he had walked 17 kilometers the day before just in the course of his work at the hotel.
The Valrhona chocolate ingots
created an inspiring foundation
for creation.
These desserts
have achieved global appreciation
and not just because of the gold leaf
on top.
Chef Duytsche led a team of Spanish
pastry chefs to first place
 at the Club de la Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie
(World Pastry Cup Club) in Lyon, France,
the premier world event for the pastry-making elite.

Chef Yann's creations will be featured at three afternoon teas from 3-5 p.m. Friday (yesterday), Saturday and Sunday. His creations will also be the showpiece of the Sunday brunch.

"Chef Yann is interested in the newest trends. The creative brief I gave him was to push the boundaries even farther." When Chef William McCarrick explained some of what the two of them had planned for Sunday brunch it sounded delicious, and frankly, gravity-defying. Also, on Sunday they will feature a festive cake at brunch enjoyed by Lionel Massi, a sportsman well known to Europeans.
 Another pairing well-matched for Istanbul:
a crunchy chocolate base supporting eggplant.
It was delicious.
Surely, the addition of vegetables
means all of this pastry is good for us.
Chef Yann has created desserts with
asparagus, tarragon, even potatoes.
He said it is easy to bring sweet vegetables
to pastry, and each element has sense in context.
And what is Chef Yann most excited to learn during his stay in Istanbul? "He's most interested to learn about baklava, because the hotel has our very own baklava chef. We made him a savory mushroom baklava to sample," said Chef William.

Chef Yann also added that "he enjoyed eating at Tuğra, the Ottoman-inspired restaurant in the Cırağan Palace Kempinski that overlooks the Bosphorus. I want to see the markets too, to see how Oriental meets Occidental."

What he most enjoyed sharing with the staff in the Gazebo Lounge is his combinations of ingredients, the sophistication of presentation, and his specific aesthetic. "It's like creating a garden. Pastry doesn't need decoration. The decoration comes by how it is all arranged."
Many of the city's writing foodies
enthusiastically watched the preparations.
Large newspapers and
food website representatives
 were present
plus solo bloggers like me.
A Japanese inspired dessert:
My selection of treats
served alongside a very elegant
presentation of
Earl Gray English tea.
One of the most fun parts about participating in this
was meeting other writers,
especially Turkish ones.
Two young culinary students
who write for
Burak Özbay on the left and Gizem Dinçbaş on the right.
Burak said this about his studies,
"You don't pick gastronomy to study.
Gastronomy picks you."
Chef McCarrick and his mentee, Ayşe
Chef McCarrick wanted to make sure I met one of his team members, Ayşe. Having cooked all over the world in Switzerland, Austria, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Phillipines, Malasia, Bali in Indonesia, Dubai, London, and Istanbul he felt particularly strong that his legacy at Cırağan Palace Kempinski must be more than "putting cakes on the counter."

He said, "Ayşe is like a flower that just needs to be watered. She has tremendous potential as a chef. I want to help women succeed in this role because she will need thick skin to rise in this industry. Turkey doesn't have a tradition of women moving past helpers or assistants. When I was just starting out as a chef in Delaware, a chef helped me move to Switzerland to learn from another great chef. Part of bringing a guest chef to Istanbul, is to make opportunities happen for up-and-coming chefs to learn all around the world. When someone has personally met you it makes it easier for them to take a risk on you being on their staff for a few months." As I watched Ayşe's face beam under Chef McCarrick's words, I had to turn away less the catch in my throat and the tears in my eyes peaked out.
Thank you, gentlemen,
for an exquisite afternoon tea
and an inspiring day
watching your excellence in action.
I could see why the Gazebo Lounge is the "heaven of desserts" where people in Istanbul go when they feel like having a sweet. It is an avenue to all of the sweet things in life.

Part Two of My First Istanbul Hammam Adventure at Çirağan Palace Kempinski Hotel

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

An afternoon of nargile at Cırağan Palace Kempinski

 My friend Barb and I had planned to meet a bunch of friends in Istanbul's Yıldız Park for a fitness challenge this weekend. Unfortunately, none of them showed up! We lost our motivation to explore the park. "Let's go across the street to the fumoir in the Cırağan Palace and I'll teach you to smoke nargile," I said. So we did.
First, we wanted to explore the palace.
A view of the Palm Court
from the Grand Staircase.
Imaginative use of glass
creates an aesthetically-pleasing
 foyer within the grand stairwell.
The glass chandelier was unlit
but we could imagine its warm glow.
Cırağan Palace Kempinski artwork
of ladies like us
enjoying the Bosphorus
back in the day.
A view of the Bosphorus
from the Sultan's balcony.
The hospitable and lovely Barçak
at the Hendrick's gin cart
Nargile pipes at rest
The eye-catching array of nargile water pipes
and the pots of fruit flavors
waiting for us to choose.
I suggested apple flavoring
because it is most popular.
Our drinks arrived
and rested on cloth coasters.
They were served alongside Mediterranean treats
of olives, hazelnuts, and cashews.
An Istanbul still life!
The drinks were so quenching!
A refreshing slice of cucumber
set off a glittering gin and tonic.
The drink on the right was gin
infused with rose flavoring.
It was called the Sebestian Vettel
(named for a famous Formula 1 driver).
We selected it from the part of the beverage menu
that showcased drinks
celebrities chose when they stayed there.
Barb said Hendrick's gin was especially known for the
herbaceousness of its flavor.
Naruttin primed the coals
and showed us where the flavoring
went in the pipe.
I'm always struck how by deeply
nargile staff breathe in the smoke.
They prime the pump
by getting the coals burning.
Barb about to try her first puff.
Each smoker uses a disposable tip
that they remove every time they pass the pipe.
It is the yellow part at the top of the pipe.
Barb's first puff of nargile.

Not a bad spot for a relaxing
afternoon conversation.
The expat life!
With typical American attitudes about smoking (we're both against it and find it unattractive), neither of us thought we'd ever try nargile. Yet living in Istanbul makes one appreciate the joy of slowing down, breathing deep, and engaging in conversation with a fellow human being in an unhurried, almost meditative manner.
I like this tradition better than the American tradition of staring at a screen in a sports bar and not talking to each other much. Sharing nargile seems very intimate and close. Besides, it was fun to watch the staff set up for a wedding happening later that night under the palms.
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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Woman in White

Twilight beckons on the Bosphorus
But the Woman in White is unmoved.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Dinner on the Bosphorus at the Çırağan Palace Kempinski's Bosphorus Grill

I love experiences that heighten the senses. It was with great anticipation that I accepted an invitation to dine at the Çırağan Palace Kempinski's Bosphorus Grill. It's not everyday that one is invited to dine where sultans did, in an Ottoman palace setting, no less.

Earlier this year, I had had my first hammam in Istanbul at the Çırağan Palace Kempinski. Knowing the excellence that the Kempinski Hotel group brought to the operation of their properties, I knew that dinner at the Çırağan Palace Kempinski would be just as divine.
Outside the actual palace,
the gates for arriving water craft
gave a hint of the Bosphorus beauty to come.
Spectacular flowers
greet guests on entry to the hotel:
roses, orchids, lilies, and my favorite:
I glanced up above the reception desk
to appreciate for a moment
the way one would arrive
at the Çırağan Palace
back in Ottoman times.
 The stately Laledan restaurant
where the weekly Sunday brunch is held.
I would pass through Laledan on my way to the
outdoor Bosphorus grill.
Every inch of the grounds
contribute to relaxing guests.
Palm trees and salvia create a
destination entrance
to the Bosphorus Grill.
My hostesses:
Lara and Ciler,
two dynamic young professional
Turkish women who are
superb stewards of the hotel's legacy.
 Lara and Ciler
recommended we try
a Turkish wine from
Bozcadda Island.
Corvus Corvus
came from
a high-tech boutique winery
started by an Istanbul architect
and his wife.
They had left everything
to move to the island
and had begun to make wine.
 How romantic.
Children would love the Bosphorus Grill
because the boats come extra close
to see the Palace and the property.
Sezai Erdoğan
is the first Turkish
Executive Chef
at Çırağan Palace Kempinski
in Istanbul,
a pioneering achievement.
He is in charge of all the restaurant
and banquet kitchens
within the hotel.
Soon after Chef Erdoğan
came by to wish us a good meal,
 Mother Nature added to the evening's enjoyment
by rolling in a mighty thunderstorm
 from the Black Sea:
The storm was so much fun to experience!
The storm came quickly
from the Black Sea,
changed the skies over the Bosphorus
and poured down rain,
and just as quickly,
moved on to the Marmara Sea
at the other end of the Bosphorus.
When the rain stopped,
we went to the banquet area to peek
at what was on offer.
Turkey has extraordinary fruits
during the summer season,
especially Adana watermelon,
fresh melons, apricots, and pears.
Notice too, the large Medjool dates
which are
traditionally used to break
a Ramazan fast
due to the amount of sweet, filling, flesh
found in a single date.
That's important for those who have been fasting
since before sunrise.
Eating one date immediately
upon the end of a day's fast
removes the edge of hunger.

 There was a beautiful salad bar.
I resisted.
When in Turkey,
why have salad,
when Turkish chefs
prepare sumptuous mezes
to offer a bit of this and a bit of that?
Oh, and here they are.
Choices upon choices.

Green chicken curry with bamboo shoot
and cashew nut
Sautéed oyster mushrooms with fresh herbs
Grilled baby fennel with carrots
Ratatouille with basil
My final selection of mezes.
Believe me, it was hard to choose.
Looking at the bottom left,
have you even seen smoked salmon and strawberries
paired like that?
That was an idea new to me -
and what a delicious combination.
It was Smoked salmon and avocado salad
with strawberry and balsamic sauce.
An eggplant meze up front
because Turkish chefs
know how to make eggplant sing.
This was a Soya marinated,
baked eggplant salad with and fried onions.
Fennel comfit with root vegetables,
cinnamon, and star anise
because somehow the Europeans have kept the secret
of how delicious fennel is to themselves.
America has yet to discover fennel
in a big way.
Purslane salad with yogurt, garlic and peanuts
(not only is it a delicious salad green,
purslane is a very healthy super food),
also sweet potato salad
 with beef bacon and fresh herbs.
Potatoes gratin with truffles -
what satisfying comfort food.
The star of the plate was that tiny oven-roasted pear
with ricotta cheese and balsamic dressing.
Wow, it was fantastic.
 After our meze course,
we went back to the grill.
There were roasted lambs and chickens
and vegetables.
Chef d'parti Ibrahim Ünalan demonstrated
how he puts the naan on the side of the oven wall
with his naan mitt -
a detail kids would love
to watch performed
while they peer into the naan oven.
I had never seen this before.
So this is how naan is cooked!
There were so many meats
to choose from for a custom grill.
I choose two delicate lamb chops.
It was a hard choice, because the
pistachio-marinated beef tenderloin
also called out to me.
For those who preferred fish for their grill course,
there was mackerel, and salmon, and prawns
and many other fresh, top-quality choices.
Beef tenderloin
I can get back home,
but lamb done Ottoman-style
is not so easily found
in America.
I made the right choice!
Our final selection of the evening
was dessert.
What choices!
 Chef Ibrahim shows off
five different kinds of
homemade baklava.
 I think I'll have to try one
 of those small chocolate mousses
in the bottom right corner.
More tortes, cakes, and puddings.
Homemade mango sorbet
accompanied with chocolate mousse
and seasonal summer fruits.
What a beautiful finish to
a lovely dinner
at Çırağan Palace Kempinski's
Bosphorus Grill.
To see the entire menu
and price list,
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