Saturday, November 18, 2017

Istanbul & Beyond Author Robyn Eckhardt

Istanbul & Beyond has been named as one of the top cookbooks of Fall 2017 by Epicurious, Publisher's Weekly and Tasting Table. But the reason I’m so excited about it is that I’ve had wonderful food on my two trips to Turkey. There is so much beyond just the typical kebabs you find in Turkish restaurants in the US. Recently I spoke with author Robyn Eckhardt about the book. 

How many years did the cookbook take to write and how many trips did you make to Turkey? 
We started research in 2011 and turned in the manuscript 5 years later. Probably about 13 or 14 trips, our first trip was in 1998. We were living in China and moved back to the Bay Area and I began studying Turkish and then we started going almost every year for 2-3 weeks. At this point I can talk to anyone in Turkish about anything food relatied. 

After all that research, how did you decided what should go in the book? 
I focused on things that were not in other books, I wanted to highlight things that were not paid attention to. It’s about home food what people eat everyday.

Like many tourists, I’ve been to Istanbul, Ankara, Capadocia and the Mediterranean coast. What are the regions that you recommend visiting for foodies?
Unfortunately some of the regions are not safe to travel to right now. But the Black Sea coast is one of my favorites. The climate is a bit like the Pacific Northwest, you can expect rain but you’re there for the food. September to May is the fishing season. The anchovies get an extra layer of fat, they call them the prince of fishes. Don’t go in the Summer, there are no fish and it’s packed with tourisits. 

What were the most surprising recipes you came across in your research? 
Cornbread, whole dried corn kernals, collard greens. It was a trip to the Black Sea that inspired the book. We’d spent 4-5 months and were discovering dishes we never thought were Turkish like cabbage rolls—I assoicate those with the Balkans and Russia. I didn’t really think of things like baba ghanouj and hummus made from a dried fava bean puree were Turkish. All of the ways they make meatballs. I’m used to grilled kofte from Istanbul but in the East they are made with pumpkin and spiced butter. I would never have imagined also curry. I never associated curry powder with food in Turkey. 

What misperceptions do people have about Turkish food? 
So many! That all Turks eat a lot of meat. That everyone eats lamb which they don’t in the Northeast. Meat is eaten in cities but in rural regions animals are raised for dairy and meat for income. So more dairy is consumed, chickens. Also syrup sweets, dried fruit, grape molasses. One more thing is that mezze are part of the Turkish diet. Mezze is food to go with drinking and In Eastern Turkey there is not much mezze culture. 

What are the 2-3 recipes you most hope readers will try? 
I hope they will try the meatballs with pumpkin and spice butter because it is delicious and surprising. It uses purple basil but I have a substitution if people can’t find it. The technique for chopping in seasonings to the meatballs can be applied to other recipes too, it makes them lighter. I hope they will try one of the cheeses, they aren’t hard at all. The Hatay chile cheese is really simple and mind-blowing and it’s versatile and can be eaten with flatbread. And I hope that people will try the okra dishes—either okra soup with a tiny bit of meat and another from the Southeastern with meat and pepper paste. It has converted okra haters! And you can easily find okra frozen if not fresh. (You can find the recipe for the meatballs in this recent article in the Wall Street Journal)

Where do you recommend for Turkish food in the Bay Area? 
Istanbul Modern is a pop-up in SF run by a husband and wife team, he’s Turkish and she’s Mexican. They both worked at top restaurants including Eleven Madison Park and Blue Hill at Stone Barns. They are doing different and interesting things. Note: There are still seats available for the Istanbul & Beyond cookbook event they are hosting on Sunday November 19, 2017 in San Francisco. 

Disclaimer: I received at review copy of the cookbook Istanbul and Beyond, I was not compensated monetarily for this or any other post. This post does include an affiliate link. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Pairing Merlot & Steak #MerlotMe 2017

I love pairing food and wine. While a wonderful food and wine match can bring out the best in both the food and the wine, I also believe you should drink what you like and not let classic pairings get in the way of a good thing. Last year I took part in #MerlotMe and this year I was drawn to same bottle as before, a J. Lohr Los Osos Merlot, this time the 2015. But I went in a totally different direction with it.

The 2105 vintage has 9% Malbec in the blend and that’s what made me think, why not pair it with steak? Of course I know Cabernet Sauvignon is the classic wine pairing for steak but I actually prefer steak with Malbec. In general I also prefer Merlot to Cabernet. The J.Lohr 2015 Los Osos Merlot has big berry and cherry aromas as well as a ton of mocha. It’s fresh, fruity and youthful and I was surprised to learn it has 13.9% alcohol because it certainly didn't seem like it did (but for all I know it might even be higher). I served it with slices of a fantastic New York dry aged strip steak.

I’m not going to go into all the technical specs, but I will say that in reading the notes on the wine I saw that “splash decanting” was recommended. That was a new one on me. Apparently it just means a more vigorous decanting as opposed to the gentle kind of where you run the wine down the side of the decanter as opposed to dumping it in all at once. It’s not about removing sediment but just giving the wine some more breathing room. Personally I found that opening the bottle about 30 minutes before drinking it and giving it a good swirl in the glass was just fine.

Happy #MerlotMe and Halloween!

Disclaimer: I received sample bottles of Merlot as part of #MerlotMe. I was not compensated monetarily for this or any other post. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

G.H.Cretors Giveaway!

I've learned a few things about myself lately. I took one of those genealogy tests and got the results. Do I look Greek to you? More on that later. I also discovered that despite my age, I may have a thing or two in common with millennials. According to the results of a survey sponsored by G.H.Cretors, 65% say “I've eaten popcorn I picked off my clothes” and 64% admit licking their fingers after they are done snacking on popcorn. I fit right in with those millennials!

As long as I'm in a confessing mood, I'll tell you the photo above represents the sad remains of a deluxe shipment I received including quite a several organic flavors of popcorn from the aforementioned G.H.Cretors. While I pretty much like all their popcorn I will admit that nothing so far has topped my favorite flavor, The Mix, which is a combination of caramel and aged cheddar cheese popcorn, an addictively delicious salty sweet snack. If you've flown through Chicago O'Hare airport you may find this flavor reminds you of the popcorn you'll find there. 

GIVEAWAY

Currently G.H.Cretors is hosting a quiz anyone can take to determine their ultimate TV and snack pairing. Feel free to check it out and leave a comment with your pairing OR choose your own ultimate pairing of snack and TV show. I will choose one winner at random who will receive several different flavors of popcorn plus a deluxe canvas zippered tote bag and a snazzy S'Well bottle that keeps cold drinks cold for 24 hours or hot drinks hot for 12 hours. You must have a US mailing address to win. The comment form includes a field for your email address, so no need to include it in your comment. One entry per person please. Winner to be chosen at random on November 1, 2017.

Good Luck!

Disclaimer: My thanks to G.H.Cretors for sponsoring this giveaway. I was not compensated monetarily for this or any other post. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Chimay

If I were to ask you to name a Belgian Trappist beer, I bet you’d say Chimay. But I also bet you don’t know all that much about Chimay. I certainly didn’t until I met the utterly charming Luc “Bobo” Van Mechelin, US brand ambassador. We sat down over a beer or two so I could learn more about all things Trappist and Chimay. 

Trappists originally came from La Trappe in Normandy, but were expelled from France by Napoleon and settled in Belgium. Today there are 170 Trappist monasteries around the world, and 10 of them are in the US. In Belgium Trappists first made cheese, but then began making beer (they still do make cheese). In 1992 six Belgian and one Dutch Trappist monastery came together to protect the designation, “Trappist beer.” They agreed that to be a Trappist beer it must be brewed inside the walls of the monastery, there can be no commercial investment and 90% of the net profits must be given away to charitable causes. Chimay has given proceeds to support orphanages, schools and clean water. 

The Trappists of Chimay are particularly intellectual and have an impressive theological library. The Chimay Trappist monks arise between 3:30 and 4 in the morning and pray seven times a day. They are vegetarian and maintain silence in the monastery. Their beer takes 3-5 days to ferment and the yeast used to make it was lost during World War II (it took 3 years to recreate it). Unlike other beers, no imagery of monks is used on their labels out of respect for the monastery. 

Chimay was introduced to the US in 1983 and really took off in ’97-98 and is currently available in all states. Chimay makes about 300,000 cases and the vast majority is sold in Belgium, only about 25% is exported to the US. There are 4 kinds of Chimay beer you are likely to find: 

Chimay Gold — a pale ale, it has the aroma of hops and spice. It’s made from water, malted barley, sugar, hops, yeast, bitter orange peel and coriander. It’s 4.8% alcohol. 

Chimay Premiere — the oldest brew, a double, it has more malt and has a slightly sweet flavor of fruit and spice. It’s red colored and is 7% alcohol. 

Chimay Cinq Cents — is a balance of dry, floral and bitter and is a golden blonde color. It’s a tripel, made with triple malt and a higher alcohol level, 8%.

Chimay Grand Reserve — was originally brewed as a Christmas beer. It’s dark strong ale and has earthy, spice and caramel notes. It has the highest in alcohol at 9%.

Disclaimer: My thanks to Chimay for inviting me to learn more about their beers and try some samples. I was not compensated monetarily for this or any other post.