Category: Istanbul


Halloween, as we know it today, is an American tradition, but it actually originated in Ireland.

It was the celebration of, “Samhain”, the transition between summer and winter. The Celtic people felt that October 31st was a time to honor the dead and try to communicate with beloved ones that died.

During the period when the Catholic Church coerced the Celtics into Christianity, it combined it with “All Saints Day” (November 1st) but also heavily encouraged prayer and religious festivities the night before.

So October 31st previously known as “Samhain”, became “All Hallows Eve”. The church even supported “All Hallows Eve” by including it on all calendars, which increased the number of people celebrating it, and soon it became a holiday commonly referred to as Halloween.

Halloween came to America only in the 1800’s, when Ireland suffered many potato famines, and Irish Catholics came to the country. Their traditions changed to accommodate their new land, so the turnips that were used for lanterns became pumpkins and evolved as a “Jack-O-Lantern.”

Halloween became very popular during the 20’s, when American cities began sponsoring costume parties and parades. Finally in the 30’s Halloween became one distinct holiday.

It was first only an adult holiday, but after World War II ended, the population exploded with the “Baby-Boom”, and the holiday extended to children.

In the 90s, “Baby-Boom” children became parents and have truly embraced Halloween. This holiday became one of the most popular holidays in America.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

Now that we know the origins of Halloween. Let’s talk about what it became today.

You will think Halloween became a children holiday, where they go from house to house, to “trick or treat” and collect candies.

In the States, adults get a kick out of it, as well. They love to get dressed and party. Besides few people who gets scary or funny costumes, most of the women get sexy ones.

So every Halloween, women fight to find the sexiest costume. The streets are full of slutty nurses, slutty police officers, slutty witch, and slutty pirates. Name the costume and they will make a sexy version.

I personally don’t like to dress up, so when I am in NY, my friends have to drag me to buy a costume. First I thought it was sweet that everybody wanted to get dressed up. Then I understood why it is such a big holiday. Halloween is simply a one night stand holiday without the remorse (as you are dressed up as someone else).

I have to admit the biggest pleasure is to sit at a coffee shop the following morning, and watch all the walk of shames. The sexy bumbling bee walking without one wing and broken antennas or the slutty baby who looks like crashed baby with her make up half gone…

So tell me who regrets most last night?
The kids who ate way too much candy and have stomach aches?
Or adults who drank too much with a massive hangover and basically don’t remember the end of their night?!?!

I am so luck to be in Europe where Halloween isn’t really celebrated, I spent my night on my couch watching TV ;)

In Istanbul, when a new restaurant opens, it becomes the place to be.

I prefer to wait and see if the fuzz continues after a while. Pipa is one of those restaurants. The first time I heard about it, and they explained me PiPa stands for pizza, pasta; I had my doubts…

My friends encouraged me to go and taste it. They told it is a nice place, and the food is “to die for”.

So during my last visit in Istanbul, I decided to try it.

The restaurant is located near Nisantasi, where I stay, so you can simply walk…

PiPa Restaurant Istanbul

PiPa Restaurant Istanbul

Let me tell you, if you don’t know where it is, you have to ask, as you cannot guess there is a restaurant in that building. When you finally find the entrance, black glass doors; you enter in a very modern designed, soft light, restaurant. The kitchen is open, and you have several bar seats.

We opted for a table, near the window.

The view? Some ugly and dirty buildings and people dusting their carpets from the balcony.

The service was nice; we ordered some appetizers to share and pizza as the main course. Unfortunately, all the appetizers were fried, and to be honest they all had the same taste.
The pizza was just I like it, very thin crust and delicious.
The good news is I won’t die for this food :)

It was a Wednesday, so not very full. The crowd composed of a bit of everything. Let’s bear in mind that it is summer, and they don’t have a terrace or garden.

And in Turkey not being able to smoke while having dinner, puts the restaurant at a big risk. Don’t underestimate the saying” “smoking like a Turkish”, we do smoke a lot ;)

My big shock was the price list… I couldn’t believe that a basic pizza coast 32TL which is roughly 18 USD. I understand we are in Istanbul, a big city, but this is supposed to be a pizzeria.

And for Turkey standards it is huge, I would have understood if we were in a fancy restaurant….

Would I return to PiPa? Not very sure. The décor is really beautiful, but they shouldn’t ask me to pay for it… and in my opinion, it won’t last long… unless they lower their prices.

Nuteras is located on the rooftop of the 200 year old historical building of “Passage de Petit Champs” called “Nupera” in Beyoglu district.

You have the chance to dine with a breath taking view of Istanbul with an International menu.

When I joined the girls for drinks, I was lucky enough to catch the sunset on Istanbul. You know there are some places when you arrive, you simply feel good… well Nuteras is that kind of place. You just want to enjoy the moment.

When we finally sat at our table, we have ordered some Turkish appetizers to start with: Lahmacun (Turkish mini pizza’s with ground beef, tomatoes, mint and onions on top), Pides and meat balls on aubergine puree.

They were all quite tasty, then everybody took a different entrée, I have opted for the lamb chops.

It was a great night: the food yummy, the service great, the atmosphere amazing… OMG, did I finally found a spot where I have no criticism to make????

And I haven’t talked about the best yet, the DJ that comes around 11pm… I don’t think he put one song that I disliked…

I am telling you Nuteras is a keeper. A great place for dates, group reunions and even to bring your friends from outside town…

Just next to the House Hotel in Nisantasi, you have the restaurant Kirinti. This restaurant opened its door on the Asian side of Istanbul in summer 1981, with only 35 seats. Thanks to the quality of food, it quickly started to grow and started to opened more branches all around the city.

Their menu can be easily called a book. You have all kind of food that you can think. Normally I am very suspicious about menus that have too many cuisines, but I was nicely surprised. I ordered beef strings on aubergine puree (typical Turkish dish). It was simply delicious.

The crowd was composed of a bit of everything, few tourist, lots of locals who just stopped by to grab a bite. Will I say it is a pick up place??? Noooo. It is just a great spot to eat something if you need a break from shopping or if you are with people who has different envies.

My big disappointment was the service. To catch the waiters attention was a workout in itself. You know the kind of waiters who just walks around and pretends to be busy, while their tables are waiting to order or to pay or to be served???? I think if they wanna keep their success, they should properly train the stuff and not get cheap labor by hiring kids from the villages.

Overall, if you are around and have no idea where to eat (and you are in no rush), swing by Kirinti. The food is good, and the location very practical.

I have decided to go to Istanbul for few days, for business and lots of pleasure. You know I keep telling you about my favorite hotel in the city, Radisson Blu in Ortakoy.

This time they have disappointed me as the usual people had left the hotel. It is still very well located, but it lost all its charm, as I don’t feel home as I used to.

So when I returned from my hometown Mersin to Istanbul, I have decided to try a new hotel, my moms favorite, House Hotel in Nisantasi.

Nisantasi is the most exclusive district for shopping, fashion, and entertainment… You can compare it to Madisson avenue in NY. House hotel is located between Prada and Prada and just few steps of Beymen (Turkey’s Bergdorf Goodman).

This luxury design boutique hotel has around 40 rooms, and an impeccable service. Its prices depend on the season, but it is worth every penny you pay for it. And to top that, don’t know if it is the quality of the eggs or the Hollandaise sauce that has an extra lemony taste… it has the best “Eggs Benedicts”.

And God knows how much I like that dish and have tried all around the world.

I think my mom is right, this hotel is really a great discovery, and you quickly start feeling at home… a luxurious home ;)

With heat wave still present in Istanbul, choosing our lunch spot was a challenge. Smokers don’t want to sit inside in the AC, and everybody wants some wind… so we ended up at “Mia Mensa” which literally means “My Catering” in Kurucesme. It’s terrace is literally on the water and just next to Istanbul’s famous “Ask Café” (Love Cafe). Opened in 1994 this Italian restaurant is one of those spots where you cannot go if there is too much wind, as you can risk flying :)

I was happy to be able to sit outside and not melt but a bit tired of going back to an Italian restaurant. I mean I am in Turkey and I want my fish or kebap restaurant. Enough of Italian cuisine… especially after having spent so much time in Italy this summer. I think I am done with pasta for a while, so I ordered my usual beef salad…
What can I say, it was a beef salad I mean not that hard to miss it, you put salad and you a cook a beef, and I was in charge of doing my own dressing. But my friends who took Tagliatelle all Aragosta (pasta with spiny lobster) and Linguine Marinara (sea food pasta) were really happy with their choice, and it looked definitely yummy.

Concerning the service, they were sweet, but very slow, especially for a restaurant where only 4 tables were full. I understand that they first had a cooking problem, as their stove didn’t work, but it lasted less than 10 minutes… and if you are taking 45 minutes to an hour to serve two salads and two pasta dishes (where the pasta shouldn’t be cooked more than 8 minutes), offer something for your guests to nibble before…

Anyway, as we were chit chatting and enjoying the nice breeze, while sipping our rose, we didn’t mind that much. And the result was worth waiting.
So overall, I liked the place and highly recommend if you want to enjoy a chilled lunch or dinner in Istanbul, with again without saying a breath taking view of the Bosphorus.

I met a friend for lunch at “Masa” restaurant which is in “Istinye Park” (one of the newest and most beautiful mall in Istanbul) where I had a beef salad…. Under the heat you cannot eat anything else believe me. Masa is one of the happening spots for lunch since it opened. Off course when I went, due to the heat and people on vacation, it wasn’t that busy. The fun part of it ? Even in winter people sit at the terrace with the heaters so they can smoke and enjoy lunch :)

You don’t go to Turkey and not see a fortune teller. It is one of the most fun rituals, normally they read the coffee cup, but this time I went to see a lady who reads on tea leaves.

Once my lunch done, I went to see the fortune teller, who off course told me that I will get married soon. Damn if they were all right, I would be married at least 10 times, and have a dozen of kids by now… I was more worried about my present than my future. Her house was so hot that I was afraid to pass out and not be able to go to my next big appointment: “Zuma” for drinks and dinner !!!

“Zuma” is a restaurant where they serve contemporary Japanese cuisine. It has several locations in the world such as London, Hong Kong, Dubai, Miami and Istanbul… And as all the locations it is great for happy hour, and happens to be located adjacent to my hotel’s restaurant in Ortakoy (I am sure by now you understand why I always stay at Radisson Hotel)

After the Istanbul traffic, we were really happy to sit by the Bosphorus and enjoy our drinks. When we finally hit the table, we ordered some sushis and few other things. The service was great except the French speaking girl who was placing people. You know the kind who are paid to be unpleasant, who believes that because they hold the reservation book, they rule the world??? Thanks god, the waiting staff was lovely so we forgot her until we left where she didn’t even say good night. They should seriously send her to a smiling school…

The crowd was a mixture of Istanbul socialists and tourists, the food was good but honestly I don’t really get the fuzz about this restaurant. Especially when I saw the bill we received… I agree that it is a hip place and sushis are expensive, but unless you put gold on them, I don’t see any reason to pay 500 USD for five maki sushi, literally two meat skewers, five shrimps tempura and a bottle of rose….

So beside the welcoming stuff, and the price… yes it is well located, and has a good crowd. But personally I prefer to go to fish restaurant and enjoy my food and the service and not feel that I have been ripped of. Anyway my company was great again, and we continued our night in Beyoglu, at 45’lik.

“45’lik” is a bar in Beyoglu that exist for the last 15 years. It became famous with the movie “Issiz Adam” which portrays the life of those whose lives have been isolated by modern lifestyles. It is also filled with food, mothers, old songs, and love. All Turkey cried over the impossible love of the two main characters that used to meet at the 45’lik bar and listened to the old Turkish songs. This bar is still full of people who just go for the pleasure of listening old Turkish songs and have a great walk on memory lane. I remembered my childhood, and sang so loud that lost my voice :)

It is my discovery of this trip and a perfect way to finish another glorious day in Istanbul…

Whenever I come to Istanbul I stay at “Radisson Blu Hotel” in Ortakoy. All my friends know that it is my second house. I like it because the rooms are fine and Ortakoy, where it is located, is the center of lots of summer bars, restaurants and cafes. “House Café” which is literally few steps away from my hotel’s entrance is one of the nice hangouts. Imagine a restaurant by the sea, where there is always a nice wind, with great cocktails, and very tasty international cuisine. Their only problem is service; the stuff is lovely but not very capable. I guess they hire young students who don’t have any idea about restaurant business. Don’t worry after an afternoon serving me, either they quit or they become professionals ;) )))
So when I woke up on Sunday, I was dreaming of their eggs benedicts. Finally ended up taking a bottle of rose and share a pizza. Once again they proved my theory, food excellent, and the service poor. The crowd well this is Turkey, so while a tourist is sitting on one side, some locals enjoying their lunch on the other, you could easily see a woman with her head covered having tea with her husband, sitting next to the table of the girl who has a mini, or I might say micro shorts sipping her chilled rose.
So I guess it shows very well what Turkey is about; a combination between Europe and Asia ….

That night we decided to go to my favorite Kebab Restaurant called “Venge”. Normally the restaurant is in 4. Levent area, but this summer they decided to rent a spot at Sortie as well. Very good idea because with the heat wave in Istanbul right now, the bosphorus air is always a blessing.
I would have thought it would be empty, but I was wrong. The crowd was composed of some French tourist that I believe the hotel sent some locals, some locals with non Turkish guests and us…
The system is simple, when you sit to your table, they bring you warm pide bread with cheese, and a lahmacun (mini Turkish pizza w ground beef and spices), and then the mezze plate comes where you chose your Turkish tapas to accompany your meat.

Once the mezzes on your table, your Raki (Pastis) chilled with ice you can start thinking about your main dishes… Venge is famous for their Doner Kebap (Turkish döner kebap, literally “turning roast”), is dish made of meat cooked on a vertical spit and sliced off to order. Unfortunately they didn’t have any, so we decided to take lamb chops and minced meat, no need to say delicious.
And finish dinner with their famous deserts to share, Irmik helva (Semolina helva) with vanilla ice cream inside, and Peynirli Künefe which is a sweet shredded pastry with cheese…. Well no need to say that these deserts are very light… I am sure if we follow eight watchers, we will get minus points with them ;)

Although the weather was too warm and humid it was a great night, I mean how you can not enjoy it…. Great food, great view, great company and amazing music….

I have spent my first day in Istanbul with my mother and sister. We did some shopping and from there we went to have a lunch at “Papermoon”. The Milanese restaurant that opened in Istanbul, and since had a great success. It is located by “Akmerkez”, which is one of the first shopping malls in Istanbul. Whenever I visit the city, I need to have lunch there with my girls. My lunch is generally composed of lots of wine, and “Spaghetti alla Bottarga”, (botargo) which is a cured fish roe delicacy. I love it so much that even if it is not on the menu, I ask the chef to make it for me… and guess what this is Turkey, where service is the key word, so I always have it

This time, as I have spend so much time in Italy eating pasta in all its shapes and ways, I decided to change and took a “Carpaccio of Pesce Spada” (swordfish carpaccio) followed by a “Cotoletta Milanese”, the classical breaded veal that you can also call Wienerschnitzel. But let’s admit sounds less sexy and appealing.

So after having good food, good wine, watching the Istanbul socialites having their lunch, we left the restaurant to continue our errands. And go back to our hotels for some rest.

In the evening I was meeting some friends at Biber, which is a bar, restaurant where you can taste good wines or drinks while nibbling tapas. It is situated in Sortie
For the ones who have never been to Istanbul in summer and saw those spots let me try to describe it for you. Imagine a great space by the Bosporus, in the middle of the space you have a big lounge bar, and around you have 4 – 5 restaurants. And each year great restaurants rent for summer those spaces (no kidding, they have to afford the rent…) and Biber is on the right of the main Bar, just by the water.

Biber is the hot spot this summer, everybody goes for happy hour and stays until wee hours, and I understood why… Service great, music and crowd great. Great selection of wine and yummy food…. And the best? It is not expensive!!!! So no kidding it is the happening spot, they found the secret ;)
So after staying there for a very long time, we decided to leave but were not ready to sleep yet… and some of us were hungry after all that chatting and drinks. So we took a cab and went to Kircicegi, which is in Ortakoy. It is a restaurant open 24/7, and has the best pide. The best way to describe a pide is Turkish folded pizza, the fold the pastry like a little boat and they fill in with whatever you want. The best combinations starts with Kasar cheese (Turkish parmesan), and then you add sucuk (Turkish spicy sausage) or pastirma (Turkish cured beef), or simply ground beef… I mean you have thousands of possibilities, and they are all yummy yum yum…

To sum it all, another “healthy” day, lots of food, lots of drinks and lots of shopping… but guess what, it is the pleasure of life…. so it is worth it. I would be healthy again when the sun would go away. And it is a crime to not eat in Turkey, and a bigger crime to not drink when you are with friends… and well you know me and shopping ;) ))