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Turkish Twist

Filed under: — jen d @ 11:05 am

Well, a recent and somewhat blessed cool spell has allowed me to goof off at work again and do stuff like e-mail and post irrelevant thoughts on my blog. So I’m taking advantage.

Last night I had my first Turkish Culinary Adventure with Amy and Allie, two lovely ladies from the IBCB. The Culinary Adventure is something I hope will become a bit of a tradition amongst our little circle of hungry church children. I think the first unofficial Culinary Adventure occurred just about a year ago, when I took Allie and Melanie, another lovely IBCB lady, out to dinner in celebration of the end of another semester at Wellesley College. That evening we drove around a bit trying to decide what we were hungry for, got bored with the proliferation of steak houses, and settled rather happily and spontaneously on a little Indian restaurant that served our steaming rice and curries in little copper pots with serving spoons. The actual eating bowls and plates were left for us to fill for ourselves. There were delicious breads served with some kind of Indian salsa, for lack of a better word, and we all sampled each other’s entrees — which I think was the idea behind the little copper pots.

Anyway, that was my second Indian meal, but a first for Melanie and Allie. Since then we’ve ordered in Thai and eaten various Italian dishes and Mike’s Pastry connolis in Boston’s famous North End. We had one progressive dinner, a smorgasbord of more American fare, and sampled numerous authentic Chinese dishes at our church gatherings and Bible study suppers. Anyone who braved our recent Memorial Day camp-out was treated to Pastor Bill’s “bacon-grease-egg-toast,” a culinary adventure in a class entirely its own.

And last night, we went Turkish. It was a toss-up between an Afghani restaurant (which we are definitely doing sometime soon), a Russian cafe, and a French creperie. The Afghani spot was far away in Cambridge on the other side of the river, and I was in a Turkish kind of a mood, thanks to bloggers like Tim and Gwen. So we made a small pilgrimage from Amy’s Allston apartment to Brookline. We passed a variety of interesting little cafes and bistros of various ethnic origins along the way, including a Jewish bakery and a Kosher Chinese restaurant called Shalom Hunan. After just one wrong turn and a broken flip-flop strap, we made it to the Turkish/Mediterranean establishment with an unpretentious name, something like ‘Family Restaurant.’ Not the most creative handle, but we were there for the food. The ambiance was also unpretentious, if a little confused: it was sort of a cross between a pizza house and a bistro witha Turkish twist. The menu was posted on a light-up plastic marquee behind the counter and “deli” cases (filled mostly with intersting-looking phyllo pastries); the tables were clothed in colorful striped clothes under glass planes. The walls were hung in spots with Turkish (I’m guessing) tunics of sorts. Patrons ate off of white plates and bowls and sipped water or wine out of stemmed glasses. Their tables were strewn with baskets of breads, plates of colorful grilled vegetables and something that looked like saffron pilaf or couscous, grilled meat balls — probably made with some kind of lamb, and various unnameable sauces.

We scanned our menus for a while in silence; the soup menu which boasted a variety of hot liquid concoctions, in particular a “yayli caprasi” (I’m trusting an often faulty memory for the accuracy of that title), something made with yoghurt, mint, rice, and (I think) garlic and lemon. It was the most delicious soup I’ve ever eaten. The list of ingredients left this westerner slightly skeptical, but the first bite convinced me that I’d been missing out on something in the 24 years I’ve lived without yayli caprasi. We all got a cup of that, and we all sang its praises. Loudly. For an extended period of time. If WHEN I go back, I’m getting a whole bowl, and a quart of it to take home with me. Something about the interaction of flavors — the mint wasn’t really minty, but it was something good; a tangy and most pleasant aftertaste brightened the mouth after each swallow, which Allie attributed to the yoghurt base. Whatever it was, it was Turkish heaven.

I can’t remember the name of any of our entrees, accept Allie’s ‘Okra.’ I’m guessing wasn’t the original Turkish name for the dish, which was made up of pilaf and the saffron-colored salad, grilled vegetables (including its namesake), and ground meat. I ordered a grilled egglplant stuffed with ground lamb cooked with tomatoes, onions, and other flavors. Amy got the flattened, grilled meatballs, I think made with lamb. Our hot tea was served in little hourglass-shaped glasses on glass saucers with little silver spoons. Delightful.

We rounded out the meal with some take-out desserts from the deli cases by the register. We shared a doughy-looking pastry doused in a syrup that was lighter than I expected, along with another walnut-topped pastry that looked quite incredibly like a bird’s nest. Both were filled with ground pistachios.

The highlight of the meal for me was definitely the Yayli soup. The idea of yoghurt in soup is ingenious. Allie says that we’ll experience something similar at the Helmand when we make our Culinary Adventure an Afghani one. I can’t wait. Foreign food, friends, conversation, and a few laughs. It’s hard to beat. Here’s to new traditions.

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