Köfteci Yaşar, Eminönü’s best kept secret

It’s been awhile since I wrote about an Istanbul restaurant so I wanted to come back with one of our favorites – Köfteci Yaşar – which Gürkan discovered. This little gem is tucked away in the Eminönü bazaar district, and every single time we try to find it, we inevitably cannot, and have to ask for directions from several shop owners. The small restaurant is right next to a mosque which may or may not be helpful because there are plenty of mosques in the area. Perhaps more helpful is that it’s located in the corner where the wholesale burlap sellers are located.  My advice – be prepared to get lost and ask for directions once you get close. We’ve found that almost everyone in the bazaar knows Köfteci Yaşar.

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Köfteci Yaşar, one of very favorites in Eminönü

We really like this place, I mean, a lot.  We woke up on Saturday with nothing to do (a huge relief!) so we had a small breakfast in Beşiktaş and made a day of walking from Beşiktaş to Eminönü, just so we could have a meal at Köfteci Yaşar. In fact, Köfteci Yaşar was the only plan for the day while the long walk (we also made it to the colorful neighborhoods of Balat and Fener) was just a treat to spend a wonderful day in the sun.

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The grill master

Köfteci Yaşar is a small operation. I know for sure that they have köfte (meatballs), biftek (steak), and piyaz (a cold white bean salad dressed with olive oil and lemon juice), but there may be a few other meat options as well. Today, we had the piyaz and two plates of the biftek. I actually think the biftek is a tad on the salty side (Turkish food tends to be), BUT I can overlook that, because it’s extremely delicious. It’s perfectly prepared – pink inside and very juicy – and today it  came sprinkled with a generous helping of oregano. I love it for its simplicity.

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The light and refreshing piyaz

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The biftek served with green peppers and tomatoes

There are usually only three men working – one behind the grill, one taking orders and one helper- meaning there is way too much going on for three people to handle so they sometimes forget things. Be prepared to gently remind the server if he initially brings one entree instead of two which is what happened today.

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The cozy inside of Köfteci Yaşar

The restaurant is cash only. For two biftek portions and a large portion of piyaz, we paid 42 TL. Outdoor seating is available which is what I recommend.  Stick to the table under the umbrella. The pigeons perched on the tree above can send down surprises for the unassuming customer. This happened to us the first time we visited in summer.

Rüstem Paşa Mahallesi, Mahkeme Sokak, No 21, Fatih, İstanbul

 

I don’t think this map is spot on, but it’s definitely the general area.

Brewing methods galore at Drip Coffeeist

On January 3, Drip Coffeeist opened its newest location in Asmalımescit, in the heart of Beyoğlu. My first trip to Drip Coffeeist was a visit to its original location right off of Bağdat Caddesi. My friend Fatma introduced me to Drip Coffeeist’s cold drip and brownies and I was won over.

A new location in Asmalımescit means all the goodness of the original location is now more easily accessible for those of us living on the European side. Drip Coffeeist’s diehard customers had encouraged, in fact, pushed the owners to open another location on the European side. And when your first coffee shop is as successful as Drip Coffeeist’s, why not?

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Wall art at Drip Coffeeist in Asmalımescit

Like most coffee shops in Istanbul, customers have a variety of brewing systems to choose from, but unlike the other shops, Drip Coffeeist has perhaps the largest selection of different brewing methods. Imagine my surprise when the owner pointed out a brewing system I had never seen before.

That’s right, I’m talking about the Belgian syphon, not to be confused with the Japanese syphon, which is commonly referred to as the syphon in Istanbul’s third wave coffee shops. The Belgian syphon, or Royal Belgian Coffee Maker is – like its name – very royal-looking. Unlike the vertical Japanese syphon, the Belgian one works through a balance mechanism (for the full details, click here)  With a short brew time, the historical device is perfect for those who prefer a stronger body without the wait. Drip Coffeeist was one of the very first to use the king of coffee makers in Istanbul and so far, it’s the only coffee shop I am familiar with that is currently offering this brewing mechanism.

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The king of coffee makers

In the summer, the drink of choice at Drip Coffeeist is the cold brew, and it is indeed, very good; after all, it’s the drink that peaked my interest in interviewing Drip Coffeeist. The baristas at Drip brew their cold drip in the Kyoto-style meaning water drips drop by drop down the chambers to saturate the coffee grounds (for more details, click here). The process is extremely time intensive but the end product is worth it. Bottles of freshly brewed cold coffee can be purchased from Drip Coffeeist’s cold case and taken home to enjoy.

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Japanese-style cold brew mechanism

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Grab & go cold brew

If this all seems rather overwhelming, the baristas are happy to give customers a short briefing on the various beans and brewing methods in order to help them select the best combination. While chatting with the owner, I had a feeling that if you attempted all the varieties of beans and roasting methods, you would never be able to get through them all, and yet he reassured me that after 3 or 4 tries, most people find the perfect combination for their taste.

Drip Coffeeist uses single-origin beans, purchased in green bean form from suppliers in Istanbul. The beans are then roasted at Drip Coffeist’s Bağdat Caddesi location according to the particular brewing methods they will be used for. This process ensures that Drip Coffeeist controls and oversees the entire process, from green bean to the customer’s coffee cup. The best beans? El Salvador for espresso and Sumatra for brewing.

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Choose the beans for your perfect cup

So there you have it, go pick out your perfect combo at Drip Coffeeist. I tried a pour over with the Ethiopian beans and it was delish.

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Visit Drip Coffeeist in Asmalımescit

Drip Coffeeist’s Asmalımescit location can easily be reached from Tünel, Şişhane metro, or Istiklal Caddesi, and is located on the same street as the Adahan Hotel.

Asmalımescit Mahallesi, Meşrutiyet Caddesi,General Yazgan Sokak, No 9/A, Beyoğlu, İstanbul

Homemade food with a twist of Tarsus

Not only does Dört Kadıköy serve up good coffee  and hospitality, they also get a thumbs up for their recommendation to visit Sımsıcak Ev Yemekleri, a restaurant just a few storefronts down the street. At first my friends and I were just going to stop in for a tea since we had had our fill of coffee and desserts at Dört, but we certainly couldn’t say no to all the mouth-watering dishes on display. We ordered a huge spread and sat down to eat while at the same time informally interviewing the owner.

Sımsıcak Ev Yemekleri (translation: really hot homemade food) features a set menu of dishes which customers pick from the display up front, and they also rotate in different dishes depending on what’s fresh and in season at the local market. The owner’s family is originally from Tarsus, and thus, he also tries to incorporate goods from the Tarsus area when possible such as olive oil and pomegranate sauce, dried veggies, and spices.

Like Helvetia in Asmalımescit, Sımsıcak has several dishes for the vegetarian crowd, and for everyone worried about whether the veggies we eat in Istanbul restaurants are cleaned well, don’t fret at Sımsıcak. They wash all their vegetables three times, yes that’s right, three times. First in water, then in vinegar, and again, rinsed in water. And for those lamenting the amount of plastic bottles used in restaurants, Sımsıcak has one large water cooler where you can fill up your water glass, enormously cutting down on the amount of wasted plastic.

In addition to an amazing karnıyarıkone of my all-time favorite Turkish dishes – the restaurant’s two standouts were the eggplant puree and çıntar mantar. Eggplant puree is a standard Turkish dish made by roasting eggplant over a gas-burning stove and then pureeing it. Delicious, right? Well, as much as I like eggplant, I often find the finished puree to be too strong on the palette, either because of the burnt flavor or the bitterness of the fruit. Sımsıcak’s eggplant puree, however, was so smooth that for a split second, I doubted that it was even eggplant. When we asked the owner about his magical puree, he told us about a secret ingredient he incorporates into the dish. Where he got the idea for it is baffling since it’s not a common ingredient  used in traditional Turkish cooking, but it’s genius all the same. He did, however, ask us to keep the secret ingredient a secret, so I’m keeping my word.

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Karnıyarık, split eggplant stuffed with minced meat

The other highlight was the çıntar mantar, a mushroom which grows in Tarsus on the cedar tree but can also be found on kızılçam (red pines) in the Kanlıca area of Istanbul. I had never heard of çıntar mantar before, and in fact, I have been struggling to find the correct English translation but another blogger has referred to it as a Saffron Milk Cap. To be honest, I thought it was ciğer (liver) at first  due to its meaty appearance, and when I tasted it, it certainly had a meatier texture (& better taste!) than the standard table mushroom. For this very reason, the çıntar mantar is an ideal meat substitute and may feature in some of Sımsıcak’s dishes traditionally made with meat. Mushroom-stuffed mantı, anyone?

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Chopped çıntar mantar with grated vegetables

Just when you are starting to think that you might be enjoying a homemade meal made by your favorite Turkish abla, teyze, or kaynana, you are kindly reminded by the mustachioed Charlie Chaplin on the wall that you are in Kadıköy after all, and that you’ll step out into the streets to be swept up in the energy of Istanbul. But don’t forget to pay the bill first, and trust me, Sımsıcak Ev Yemekleri is quite the deal!

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Zucchini stew with mint

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Lentil balls (mercimek köfte) with assorted pickles

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Saçaklı köfte (meatballs with shredded potato) on a bed of potatoes, peppers, and eggplant with yogurt

Istanbul’s post-modern neighborhood cafe: Dört Kadıköy

 “A post-modern neighborhood cafe.” That’s how Neylan Öğütveren, one of the owners of Kadıköy’s newest cafe – Dört Kadıköy – describes it. Her goal is to create community and do something good for the neighborhood in a time when people aren’t sharing enough and need to know each other more than ever. From my perspective, her and her three business partners (and very close friends) Fahri, Emrah, and Ürün are off to a running start. I connected with Neylan over Twitter @dortkadikoy and set up an interview with her shortly after the opening of Dört Kadıköy earlier this month.

Due to Neylan’s welcoming spirit and outgoing personality, the interview turned out to be an informal chat between friends. I got to hear all about her inspiration and vision for Dört Kadıköy while enjoying a refreshing cold brew and warm walnut brownie topped with ice cream, followed by an artisan latte.

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Latte art, the way to my heart

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Cold brew drip mechanism

Dört Kadıköy isn’t your normal Istanbul coffee shop; in fact, it’s much more than a place that just serves coffee although they do that well, too. The cafe promotes a healthy lifestyle and welcomes four pawed friends. Don’t forget to say hi to Zeus, Neylan’s and her partner Fahri’s, Doberman in the back, and if you bike to the cafe, you get 20% of your purchase. The coffee and tea are organic and Neylan expects to expand their menu to include organic and vegan selections. Now, that’s something I can get behind.

The cafe is already holding Friday night Spanish language tables and plans to expand its community events to include long-table discussions and workshops including topics such as: COFFEE. The owners completed an extensive coffee training course here in Istanbul and they want to pass the information they learned onto the greater community – how to select beans, which brewing system to use, etc. Thanks to Dört Kadıköy’s partnership with Petra Roasting Co., a roasting company that made a big splash on the Istanbul coffee scene earlier this year, Dört Kadıköy is serving top of the line beans from one of Istanbul’s leading roasters.

Neylan’s background in Performance Art Management and Digital Performance also comes through loud and clear, and no detail has gone unattended to. The cafe’s interior design channels the Brutalist style, and in fact, the cafe was previously a repair shop so this too was an inspiration for the cafe’s design. The walls will soon be home to installations of local artists (first up is Çandaş Şişman) as well as permanent artwork. The logo’s design by Emre Parlak was inspired by the Bauhaus Movement and it’s an aesthetically pleasing logo that jives well with the cafe’s trendy brand.

Oh, did I mention the baked goods are homemade by women in Moda? That’s community for you.

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Syphon coffee with baked goods

 

dort kadikoy

My lovely ladies enjoying the goods. The more the merrier when exploring new places!

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Sample menu (subject to change)

Armenian-inspired Jash Istanbul

The place: Jash
The offerings: Huge selection of mezzes, entrees, and drinks
Price range: 12-20 for mezzes, 26-40 for entrees
The pros: Delicious mezzes, great hospitality, live music
The cons: The main entrees paled in comparison to the mezze selection


According to its website, Jash specializes in  traditional Istanbul cuisine. It’s a fair description, but perhaps, not quite correct. Most people know Jash as an Armenian restaurant, or at the very least, an Armenian-inspired restaurant. Sure it serves the standard mezze selections found in any Istanbul meyhane, but its Armenian owner has also added a few Armenian specialities to the menu, including topik which my readers will already be familiar with. A visitor to Turkey may not easily pick up on the Armenian influence, but a resident of Turkey would understand from the decorations (a small Jesus hangs by the front door) or the clientele (we met the owner’s Armenian cousins who were visiting from Montreal).

In many ways, this restaurant feels like you are eating in someone’s home not unlike the familial atmosphere at The Galata House. Like the Galata House, Jash also has an old-time feel to it, but in opinion, it’s done even better. Antique decorations, family photographs, and feel-good hospitality abound. Mari(a), the owner is very hands-on, she gave us recommendations when ordering, asked us what we thought of our selections, and went from table to table to make sure all her guests were happy. The restaurant has a good amount of seating with a downstairs and upstairs as well as an outdoor patio area – but as this place is quite popular, a reservation is a must. You can tell from the picture below that we were the first guests of the evening besides one large group of tourists sitting outside. Shame on us for arriving so early to a meyhane, but someone had some plans that he had to set in motion!

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Jash is know for its mezzes and they did not disappoint. I had my heart set on the topik so we ordered that along with cerkez tavugu (literally translated as Circassian chicken this dish is a special chicken salad with walnuts), sarma (stuffed grape leaves), and melon to go with our raki. The topik was among the best I’ve ever had and it was well worth the 20 TL price tag which I had originally found pricey. The sarma, too, were delicious and extremely fresh. I was surprised to find that they were much better than any homemade sarma I’d ever had – the chef at Jash certainly knows what he is doing. The chicken salad was also good but the portion a bit small. I took a look at a few other mezzes as waiters were serving them, and the midya dolma will definitely be on my list of things to order next time. They were HUGE and overflowing with rice stuffing.

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From L to R: melon, chicken salad, topik, and sarma

By the time our main entrees came, we both agreed that we were already quite full and it probably wasn’t necessary to order two full entrees (next time, we are sticking to the mezzes). I tried the harisa which is only available on the weekends and similar to traditional Turkish keskek which is made with chicken and wheat. Gurkan tried a kofte dish with meatballs on toasted bread with tomato sauce poured over and yogurt on the side. The concept was similar to Bursa’s pideli kofte, but not quite as tasty in our opinion. In the grand scheme of things, we weren’t overly impressed with the main entrees but it may be because nothing could compare to the delicious selection of mezzes we had just devoured.

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Harisa, similar to keskek

Jash has an accordion player that starts to play in the evenings around 8 p.m. On the night we were there, he took up a place outside on the patio to play. The real surprise of the evening was when the accordion player came over to our table and Gurkan PROPOSED. That’s right, he proposed in Jash and I said Yes! Everyone in the restaurant was clapping for us and snapping photos. After everything had calmed down a bit and we had gone back to our table, guests continued to congratulate us from their tables and one couple even beckoned us over to them in order to wish us well in life. I’m telling you this place has the coolest atmosphere. Mari also came over with little gifts including a bookmark and bag holder with the restaurant’s name on them, and we told her we’ll be back every year to celebrate (as long as we are in Turkey). Gurkan proposed on the longest day of the year, so it shouldn’t be too hard for us to remember our annual date at Jash.


How to get there:

Jash is centrally located and easily accessible from Kabatas or Taksim. In typical Istanbul fashion, it rained the evening we visited, so we went by taxi which may also be a good idea for first time visitors since Jash is tucked away in Cihangir.

A coffee break in Istanbul’s Old City

The place: Brew Coffeeworks
The offerings: Coffee & baked goods
Price range: 5-8 TL for coffee and espresso drinks
The pros: Strong coffee & funky decor with blue accents
The cons: Located in the old city, the clientele is mostly tourists


Normally, we don’t go to the Old City – it’s far too crowded and touristy for our taste. We only cross the Karakoy bridge unless we have a specific mission in mind – such as buying baking utensils in the bazaar, begging the Fatih Emniyet for my residence papers, or trying a new restaurant (the last one in Fatih was a major fail – #thanksbutnothanks Anthony Bourdain and his Turkey Youtube video). This Sunday, however, we had a mission and that was to help our roommates find new bikes. Gurkan had the bike know-how and I was just there for moral support, and of course, to help Nazli find a snazzy basket for hers.

Before even making our way to the Eminonu bike shops, we chanced upon Brew Coffeeworks, a cafe I remember one of our guests had mentioned he had found while touring. He had said that it was a nice place but in a strange location, and he couldn’t have been more on point. In the midst of unsupervised children, squawking pigeons, and haggling bazaar sellers, Brew Coffeeworks is a beacon in the chaos. Located in the same building as the Ottoman Legacy Hotel, I imagine the clientele is mostly made up of tourists either staying at the hotel or following their tour books to the Spice Bazaar and fish stands of Eminonu.

At first, we wavered about whether we should go in (we were after all on a mission and we had already agreed to eat at Cigkofteci Ali Usta if we were able to find it), but the cafe’s cool blue inside was welcoming and I hadn’t had my morning cup of coffee, so I nudged the others and they soon followed. Surprisingly, the cafe was also completely empty except for another table of two ladies. If the cafe wasn’t located in the Old City, but rather, somewhere in Taksim or Besiktas, I have no doubt it would have been packed. With Wi-Fi available and a decent amount of seating, it is a perfect place to study or work, but given its present location, people probably pop in to take a quick breather after visiting the Spice Bazaar.

Between the four of us, we ordered a few iced lattes and an iced americano for me. In the summer, cold press iced coffee is my drink of choice, but very difficult to find in Istanbul, so an iced americano is a fairly good substitute. We were pleased to find the expresso drinks at Brew Coffeeworks good and strong (none of that fake coffee masquerading as espresso in this joint). Besides the espresso, I really liked the funky blue accents – from the bright blue ceiling, to the blue accented photos, and even the blue display book about Şile cloth (which I mentioned in my last post about Şile), the concept was well executed and the cafe a welcome respite from the chaos of the Old City.

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Cafes in Cape Town & Zurich and a recently opened one in Izmir as well.

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Funky decorations with bright blue accents.

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Ample sitting space to study or work

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Iced Americano (not a cold press iced coffee, but honestly, a close second)

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I didn’t try the baked goods, but they looked awfully delish

Backwoods meets trendy Cihangir at Geyik

The place: Geyik Coffee Roastery & Cocktail Bar
The offerings: coffee & cocktails
Price range: latte 10 TL; cocktails 30-35 TL
The pros: Excellent coffee, great atmosphere and good tunes
The cons: Very small & the bathroom doors are see-through!


This cozy cafe is right down the street from Smryna, another well-known Cihangir hangout. By day, it’s a chill coffee house and by night, it’s a trendy craft cocktail bar. When we walked in, there was no coffee menu to be found, and instead, Serkan (the co-owner according to The Guide) simply asked us ‘what’s your drink?’ Normally, I take a pour over during the day but it was warm and I had just walked up from Karakoy, so I opted for an iced latte and I am glad I did. Serkan prepared the drinks right in front of us, and I was pleased to see he shook the lattes martini-style and served them with shaved chocolate. It’s certainly not standard latte preparation but it was a nice touch. The espresso was smooth and the drink frothy.

While sipping my drink, I admired the inside of the small cafe. A few stools were set up at the bar but most of the sitting space was on a bench alongside the opposite facing wall and towards the back of the cafe where there were free-standing tree stump stools. There were tables and cushions set up outside as well but all had been spoken for. Back inside I noticed the floor still had its original design and the ceiling was covered in rustic wooden beams. Behind the bar was a small image of a deer (geyik), the namesake of the cafe, set against a brick wall.

I also had a chance to check out the cafe’s cocktail menu, and I was shocked to see that the old fashioned had made the cut. For some months now, I have been searching Istanbul for an old fashioned, and I had come to the conclusion that the best and perhaps only old fashioned in all of Istanbul was the one I make at home (thanks to my friend Olivia who brought me the bitters from Boston). I’ll be back to try Geyik’s old fashioned, but not before I return for another one of those frothy lattes!

Word of warning: Don’t drink too much coffee otherwise you will have to use the bathrooms with see-through doors. Not sure how this can be possible? You’ll have to see for yourself…

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A snapshot from our walk to Cihangir

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The barista works his magic as Mr. Geyik looks on

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It’s all in the details at Geyik

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Shaken lattes at Geyik

 

Meatballs on-the-go at Ekspres İnegöl Köftecisi

The place: Ekspres İnegöl Köftecisi
The offerings: İnegöl-style meatballs,  meatball sandwiches, bean salad (piyaz)
Price range: A portion of İnegöl meatballs for 12 TL; half sandwich to-go for 6 TL
The pros: Family restaurant, fast service, and reasonably priced
The cons: This place gets really busy on the weekends! 


Ekspres İnegöl Köftecisi is not a tourist destination but it is the perfect place for everyone else – families with kids and grandparents in tow, students on a budget, and locals looking for a quick and tasty fill. I was first introduced to this restaurant as a student at Sabanci University when I was a frequent visitor to Kadıköy on the weekends. Since then, the place has gotten a face lift and the food is just as tasty as ever.

My recommendation is to try the İnegöl köfte, a special type of meatball originating in İnegöl (Bursa). A portion comes with a generous helping of fries and a spicy sauce on the side. I always get the piyaz (bean salad in olive oil) as well. It’s a perfect appetizer to share and I think Ekspres İnegöl Köftecisi’s piyaz beats out any contenders.

The service at Ekspres İnegöl Köftecisi is quick (I mean, really quick), so don’t be surprised if your food comes before you’ve even finished ordering it. At the counter, the waiters prepare the dishes assembly line-style and most customers order the meatballs so they’ve got this down to a science. On the other hand, the restaurant can get really busy on the weekends with families, and during those times, you might have to remind the waiter once or twice to bring you that ayran you ordered.

If you’re lucky, you can snag one of the few tables set up outside the restaurant. If the weather is nice, it’s the perfect place to enjoy your meal and do a bit of people-watching. I brought my parents here when they were visiting Istanbul, and we waited for a few minutes to get a table outside – it was definitely worth it!

The restaurant also has a pick-up window right inside the front door. For only 6 TL you can get a half-bread meatball sandwich (12 TL for the full sandwich). Friends and I recently picked up sandwiches to-go and took them to the Caddebostan seaside where we enjoyed them sitting by the water.

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How to get there: From Europe, take a ferry to Kadıköy. At the iskele, cross Rihtim Caddesi and head towards the Starbucks on your right hand side (near Bambi). Ekspres İnegöl Köftecisi is a couple store fronts up from the corner Starbucks.

Twins Coffee Roasters, bringing latte art and the flat white to Istanbul

The place: Twins Coffee Roasters 
The offerings: latte, cappuccino, espresso, filter coffee, Turkish coffee, and more
Price range: 4-8 TL
The pros: A real cup of coffee in the center of Istanbul complete with freshly ground espresso and lovely latte art
The cons: The location is a bit strange but must be a hit with the nearby consulates


Twins Coffee Roasters had only been open for 5-6 weeks and I already had it on my list of my places to-go. Instead of celebrating Çocuk Bayramı (Children’s Holiday) on April 23 like everyone else in Turkey, Gürkan and I headed up to Gümüşsuyu to try out Twins. An easy walk from either Beşiktaş or Taksim, it’s located right next to the Asker Hastanesi on Gümüşsuyu Caddesi.

We were somewhat surprised to see the place mostly empty, but then again it was a national holiday and trying out Istanbul’s newest coffeeshop probably wasn’t on most family’s Çocuk Bayramı to-do list. We walked inside and met Yosrie who whipped up a beautiful flat white and macchiato for us. Both drinks were undeniably delicious and  I was reminded of the down-to-earth, no-frills coffee shops at home where the coffee speaks for itself. Yosrie, originally from Cape Town, was also extremely personable and didn’t mind me snapping pics and asking him questions about the cafe. 

The day was warm and sunny so we enjoyed our drinks outside. Despite the great weather, I hesitated momentarily. With  a coffee bar along the wall and a large wooden picnic-style table in the middle, the one room cafe had a great feel to it. I could definitely see myself whiling away the time here reading, blogging, or catching up with friends. Yosrie even mentioned the possibility of opening another cafe in Beşiktaş, and if so, I’d certainly become a regular.

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Twins Coffee Roasters

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Serving up a variety of espresso drinks including the ‘flat white’

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Simple furnishings & vibrant accents

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Lovely latte art from Yosrie

How to get there: From Taksim Square, take Gümüşsuyu Caddesi past the German Consulate. Turn left as you get to the Asker Hastanesi and you’ll find Twins on the left-hand side of Miralay Şefik Bey Sokak.

 

Rainy evenings in Ortakoy

Ortakoy is not exactly the place you usually find yourself on a cold, rainy Istanbul evening but my friend Olivia was in town and I wanted her to try Ortakoy’s famous kumpir (giant stuffed potato). Since most of the week it was raining, we had no choice but to bundle up against the Bosphorus chill and walk to Ortakoy at least of those rainy evenings. Along the way, we passed Ciragan Palace, and I excitedly told Gurkan and Olivia how I been invited by Zomato to a baklava-making class at Ciragan. (Istanbul foodies – check out Zomato if you haven’t already!)

For the most part, Ortakoy’s jewelry and souvenir stands had been packed up for the day and the throngs of people that you usually find there were non-existent. It was unbelievably quiet and peaceful. We stopped at kumpir stand #6 which is the one we always go to in Ortakoy. As usual, the lady told us that if we were still hungry after the first kumpir, the second one was on the house. Yeah, right. One kumpir is enough to put me in a food coma – I can’t imagine what two would feel like. My favorite toppings are kisir (bulgur salad), corn, haydari (yogurt with herbs), and extra kasar cheese, and on this particular night, the man making the kumpir was particularly generous. For those of who you don’t know kumpir, there are plenty of other toppings to chose from such as: olives, spicy ezme spread, pickles, Russian salad (a sort of pasta salad), etc. When it comes to kumpir, the possibilities are endless. They are also fun and easy to make at home if you can get by with only preparing a few toppings (with a big group, that might be difficult) The main difference with an American-style baked potato is the sheer variety of toppings and the way the kumpirci mixes in the butter and kasar cheese before adding the toppings.

Despite being full after kumpir, we had designated it a street food sort of night so the eating continued. Next up were waffles with hazelnut spread/Nutella/strawberries/bananas/nuts for Olivia and Gurkan while I dreamed about  midye dolma (mussels stuffed with rice). Before heading back to our neighborhood, I talked the others into a few rounds of midye dolma in Besiktas, and by the time we made it home, we were cold and wet, but had very full stomachs.

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Olivia enjoys a waffle in front of the kumpir stands. Kumpir stand #6 is on the far right in this picture.

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Olivia and I bundled up against the Bosphorus chill

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A peaceful evening in Ortakoy

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Potatoes as big as your head!