Occam’s dinner

After such a decadent Dinner last night and breaking my fast in such gluttonous fashion this morning, I wanted my dinner to stand out for its simplicity (call it my self-imposed austerity measures), but I wanted to enjoy it.

I hit the jackpot with a tiny little cafe on the western side of Taksim Square called Ozurfa’s Kebap. But I was not in the mood for a Kebap, and they had exactly what I craved: pide with Sujuk on it. 

Actually, it wasn’t just with Sujuk — as the server pointed out, I’d ordered a combination pide, which had just cheese on a couple slices; cubes of grilled lamb on a couple, and my beloved Sujuk.

Before they brought the pide, they also brought me some yoghurt with mint and a sauce that shared many of the best ingredients with tabbouleh, but acted more like a salsa Fresca with a bit of heat. 

When I paid my bill, I asked what it was called and the waiter said, “spicy salad.” No, really? Spicy salad? I pressed him, but he stuck with that moniker until I left. 


Too much of a good thing?

I started my day with a Turkish breakfast so massive I couldn’t finish it. I also couldn’t just save it for leftovers. But I can show pretty pictures and whet your appetite. If I can’t finish it, you can consume it with your eyes.

I had to remind myself not to gorge on local bread, almost a meal to itself in its density, and four skewers of cheese. Two of these has dried apricots between the cheese; sadly, the others had cherry tomato halves. I haven’t figured out why some people think those are edible raw.

Next came the Menemen, a terrific dish of scrambled eggs, peppers, and cooked tomatoes. Altogether, that was divine. 

While I tucked into that feast, they brought me a platter with Sujuk; cheese borek; cucumber; olives; honeycomb; and yoghurt, among others. I simply couldn’t finish it all, but I have to say, I tried to put a dent in everything, nonetheless.

I’m not going to tell you about a duck

I celebrated my birthday on a night train to Vienna from Berlin. I whiled away the hours in a private, locked cabin, reading and luxuriating in solitude. 

What I did not do was dine. There was no diner car on that train, which surprised me when the porter told me. The conciliatory statement, “but you can purchase crisps or a sandwich from me” didn’t sound enchanting, so I went without and luxuriated in the Vietnamese pork I had the next day in Vienna. 

I mention all this as a prelude to my utter and shameless gluttony, also known as “dinner at my hotel.” I wanted to dress up, but didn’t feel up to wandering around the streets of  80• (f) Istanbul while attired in my finery, so I asked the concierge to get me a table at their restaurant, if possible. 

It was possible — I only saw two couples dining there. I will indulge myself in the fiction that the rest of the hotel was too full from celebrating Eid to eat one more morsel. Yeah, that’s it.

Not terribly hungry — I had something perfunctory on the plane from Vienna — I ordered two dishes. The server added a couple more, “on the house.” The first item was a plate with three breads:

The one to the left was flavored with tomato and basil; the center with toasted walnuts; and the furthest with olives. They were divine, if actually a bit subtle; they set the tone.  Once I had eaten those, they brought gravelox:

After that, the mezze platter I had ordered arrived, and it was a beaut:

Highlights included the locally made cheese (lower left);  muhammara (top right), which is a purée of bell peppers, garlic, olive oil, and other goodies; and the hummus. I wouldn’t have thought I could be surprised by hummus, but this had body and character that balanced the garbanzos, lemon, garlic, and olive oil as I’ve never managed to do.

Once that gave way to my appetite, they brought the masterpiece, Avci Boregi. This divine creation took the form of tender, shredded duck in a butter and cream sauce with local  nushrooms, thinly sliced radish and radish greens, and the occasional pine nut. 

I didn’t bother with dessert. I mean, why?

Late Night Dinner in Vienna

So I opted for a late night meal. A stroll around the neighborhood of my hotel revealed that this city might be more similar to DC than Berlin where night dining is concerned. I could be wrong, but what matters is that I found Il Tempo. 

A classic Italian restaurant, il tempo had high ceilings, generous helpings, and a waiter happy to let me eat in peace. I opted for spaghetti with garlic and oil; they added dried chili pepper , brined olives and cherry tomatoes. I loved the olives and red chilies — they went well with the garlic and oil. The spaghetti was perfectly al dente, and neither too large nor too small a portion.

My only problem lay in eating gracefully to eat in polite company.  If that’s your worse problem on Independence Day?

You clearly need dessert. I clearly needed dessert. There was a strudel. Didn’t seem Italian enough. There was something else I didn’t quite hear. And then there was…


I generally tend to avoid tiramisu because some tend to have uncooked rum. The emphasis in this case was on the cream between layers of lady fingers. And what a fine smooth cream feeling it was. 

Yeah, I should get some sleep tonight.  

No museums today!

When I woke up, I promised myself that I would not darken the door of a single museum. Not one. No learning, no art, no pedagogy, no history, no curatorial texts. 

Today, I resolved, would just be about fun and nothing else. I began this effort by sleeping a little bit late and having a huge breakfast (bacon, eggs, croissant, a slice of Appelstrudel, and juice), then went upstairs to my room and finished the book I started the other day. 

Then — well after noon, I walked to the Rathaus Ubahn station and rode the U1 line to Praterstern. Here, just across the street from the Ubahn station, was one of the main reasons I came to Vienna:

The riesenrad, featured in Carole Reed’s adaptation of Graham Greene’s post-war thriller, The Third Man.  I could tell you I couldn’t wait to board this piece of film legend, but the Prater has a couple other things I love. Things I had to try:

I think the park has five respectable roller coasters (and about four kiddie coasters that held no appeal for me). I rode three, and the one you see above enjoys the distinction of being one of only two where I had second thoughts at the top of the first ascent. 

But it was a blast, as was an indoor ride that you had to navigate a maze in the dark to reach, then in a completely blacked out space, you careen hither and yon, your only illumination being erratically flashed strobes and lasers. 

I know, it sounds nightmarish, but I had a lot of fun riding that one, too. The third one was a little more standard, but it was a good one to begin  my visit with; it revved my heart rate up so the indoor coaster with the lasers didn’t come as a coronary event for me.

After riding the coaster depicted above, I walked around the entire park before I made a beeline for the riesenrad. There was nary a wait for that one, but there was an anteroom with panoramas and captions about the history of the Ferris wheel and its place in Vienna’s narrative. 

The very minute realized I was reading something Historical, I stepped away and queued up at the gate outside unti the operator opened the next gondola. 

Some fifteen minutes later, I stepped onto terra firma again and took the Ubahn to stephensplatz and strolled through the old city, making sure never to stop more than the two minutes it took  to buy a kasekraner and a soda to eat. 

Then, more walking. Lots more walking. Lots of of impulsive pictures of things (mostly building facades) that caught my attention. One thing I was not expecting:

So far, I’ve found  Vienna chock full of these anomalies. Finding and capturing little marvels without stopping to become the authority on each one has made today feel like the holiday it should be. 

First meal in Austria 

My first meal in Austria will surprise you readers.  It was a total impulse choice and I’m glad I chose it, even if it wasn’t my favorite food this trip. 

After getting checked into the lovely and comfortable Mercure-Joseph near the Rathouse, I headed down to check out the Seccession building. The role of the art nouveau movement in Eastern European culture ranks high on the list of reasons I chose Vienna as one of my destinations, so the Seccession’s proximity to my hotel felt like a command performance for me. 

As I strolled down Getreidmarkt, I realized I felt lightheaded, and none of  my memories of trying to see too much on an empty stomach turned out well. I saw a restaurant named Saigon and I made a bee-line for it. 

The duck-filled spring rolls I ordered as a starter — there were two — proved so succulent and tasty that is eaten them both before I thought to take a picture. 

My main dish, billed as “pork Vietnamese Style,” tasted close to fantastic. The pickled carrots and steamed rice  went well with the chunks of pork in a thick, aromatic caramel sauce spiked with green onions, cilantro, soy sauce, and nam pla. 

A bit of research tells me that what I ate cleaves closely to Thit Kho and the use of pork belly ensures the tenderness and richness of taste I enjoyed.

The only thing I did not enjoy was the hard-boiled eggs that belong in this dish. It strikes me as more of a texture thing than taste because I *LIKE* hard boiled eggs, and enjoy them alone, in the occasional salad, or in doro wat. 

I haven’t been able to figure out what was done to add an off-putting consistency to the eggs, but I choked it down in the name of responsible food exploration. I think the restaurant did it right, and it just wasn’t to my taste.

But I’m glad I chose this place — the service and prices were good, as were the portion sizes and presentation. Upon reading a couple food blogs, I think I was supposed to mash up the eggs before I started, not leave them intact. 

Live and learn, right?

Yes, I actually CAN believe I ate the whole thing

At my best friend’s recommendation, I made my last dinner in Berlin a visit to the Twelve Apostles for pizza. I wasn’t in the least disappointed (not that I ever expected to be). With dough so fresh it punched my ass when it arrived at the table, the pizza titled “Simon” features basil, spicy pepperoni, and sheep’s milk cheese. This pizza was not bland. 

Together with a three quarter liter bottle of San Pellegrino sparkling water, I worked my way through this gem until…

Well, until it was gone!  It took some work though — while I was waiting for my pizza, the server brought me a basket of rustic bread and a ramekin of pesto. It would have taken little effort to fill up on the bread and then surrender to the pizza, but I drew a line in the sand and stopped eating until manna descended from heaven to my table. 

I know, I know. This sounds like no small dose of hyperbole, some giddy exaltation of a basic foodstuff you can get anywhere. But this was something special. The basil was fresh; the pepperoni was cured; and that sheep’s milk cheese was sublime in its tanginess, Consistency, and the way it balanced the other ingredients. 

No, I’m not exaggerating about how good this was. You’ll just have to saunter over to Berlin and find out for yourself. 

A postscript, perhaps superfluous, but I don’t agree that gluttony belongs on the list of deadly sins. That’s why, when i passed a gelato place on my way back to the friedrichstrasse S-Bahn stop, I ducked in and got a single, decadent scoop of Belgian chocolate:

Yeah, readers I can hear you now; a chorus of groans rises, echoing the lament, “you’re killing me!”  I reply hey! It’s my arteries that are ossifying as I write this. Good night, and by the way?

You’re welcome.