Last week, about 150 of us enjoyed a week long vacation in Turkey, hosted by our high school friend from years ago – Ferit Sahenk. His hospitality was magnificent – days at the Grand Hyatt in Istanbul, a flight to and from a first class resort on the coast near Bodrum, sumptuous dinners and nights out on the until dawn. The overall coordination of the trip and degree of hospitality was beyond what any of us ever expected.
Turkey was a bright surprise with its raging economy, lively atmosphere, impeccable organization by our trip providers, and warm and friendly hospitality from all the Turkish people we spoke with.
A sincere and huge thank you from all of us, Ferit!
Another surprise was Turkish wine. A quick bit of research provided impressive facts: Turkey is the 4th largest grower of grapes in the world, with 1.5 million planted acres. There are hundreds of grape varieties indigenous to Turkey. The grapes are grown in several regions – but the largest are near Thrace – on the European side of the Bosphorus, and near Izmir, on the Aegean coast of the Asian landmass (making for a wine culture where east meets west). Of the whites and reds, the wines described below are excellent.
White wine – two local grapes grown near the Black Sea and Central Anatolia, respectively, are Narince and Emir (these sound like the names of heroic children from some ancient legend). Blended together, these produce a light, crisp, and tangy white wine that rivals the local Sauvignon Blanc (which itself rivals anything produced in Marlborough, New Zealand). Try this, or any crisp white wine, with the Istanbul recipe provided below.
As for red wine – the grape Öküzgözü has a lively fruity flavor and full body that is surprisingly different.
Turkey is up and coming. The streets of Istanbul bustle at 2 am with live music from hundreds of porch restaurants. The overall atmosphere is upbeat and optimistic, and the general attitude appears orchestrated toward working for a bright and economically strong future.
With men like Ferit driving Turkey’s economy – the country’s future looks bright.
One of the many gifts provided by Ferit during our stay was a cookbook titled Istanbul Contemporary Cuisine – A Blend of the East and West – a whole new world of flavors, by Hande Bozdoğan and Lâle Apa [Apa Tasarim publishers, Istanbul, 2009]. To complement the white wine mentioned above, or any sauvignon blanc, try the recipe below which is taken from the book. The citrus of the wine will complement the citrus in the salad.
medium sized oranges – 3
large red onion – 1
olive oil – 3 tablespoons
lemon juice – 1 tablespoon
dashes of cumin, black pepper, salt
1/2 tsp. hot paprika
1 tsp. capers
Peel the oranges with a paring knife. Slice them so they are round, and place them in a bowl.
Combine the olive oil with lemon, salt, and spices. This is your dressing.
Slice the red onions thinly….then add to the capers and dressing. Wait ten minutes for flavors to fuse.
Pour the dressing over the orange slices a half hour before serving.