Happy Easter, From Istanbul!

Easter Sunday was a day of culinary treats in three parts of the city. The morning started off with one of my favorite activities- a romp around the Bomonti flea market with a pit stop for gözleme, juices, and tea. Özlem and I saved some room, however, because she had been planning on showing me her favorite mantı place in the city- Çimlik Mantı in Levent. After a few more runs up and down the market's aisles, we left the tables of prized nostalgia behind and headed for the allure of a warm and delicious meal.

The mantı restaurant, tucked a few streets away from the Levent metro and was a delightful and tranquil little place with an enclosed garden lined with tables. My mouth was watering before we even sat down in anticipation of the fresh and homemade tiny dumplings. The chef, a kind and chatty man, informed us that the place would be closing soon because the owner was selling the property. He had worked there since it's opening and was clearly saddened by the news.

When the mantı was ready, the chef brought it out in a bowl and served us both generous helpings topped with garlic yogurt and a red pepper sauce. It felt like we were eating as guests in someone's home. The mantı, as promised was flavorful and fresh, immersed in a tasty broth- Kayseri style. I paced my bites, wanting to prolong the experience. We topped off the meal with a chilled baked quince served with a dollop of fresh kaymak. The kaymak cut through the light sweetness of the ruby colored quince- a perfect equilibrium.

Although we were near bursting, we continued our Sunday food tour by heading to Beşiktaş to the 7-8 Hasanpaşa bakery.  The bakery doesn't look like much from the outside. In fact, I nearly walked right past it. Good thing Özlem knew what she was doing and pulled me in the right direction. The small entrance to the flamingo-tiled bakery only accommodates a few. Once inside, one can order cookies from the freshly baked ones sitting in large trays that are then priced by the kilo and weighed on a large scale at the counter. We ordered a few of several kinds, including orange-flavored cookies, macaroons, and acibadem cookies (very similar to amaretti), and went to enjoy them at a nearby çay bahçesi. And so, with our pants a little tighter and our souls a little happier, our food adventure came to an close. I waddled to jewelry class, reliving the flavors in my mind.

Finding delicious places to eat in Istanbul is easy if you have the right guide, and I was fortunate on Sunday to have an excellent one with a great palate. Here's to many more meals together, Özlem!

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