OK, so the other night, the kids wanted to go back to Olde Towne Tavern & Grille in Suwanee, where the kid food is always good. And, while I’ve been here on many occasions, the last time I was there, I was disappointed by the Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich. Still, it was close by and I’m almost always willing to give a place another chance.
Among the items on the new Chop House menu at the Olde Towne Tavern & Grille in Suwanee, Ga., is the Suwanee Strip steak, which I had medium-well with asparagus and cheddar mashed potatoes.
The kids barely spent two seconds looking at the menu, deciding on Skeddy in red sauce (the boy) and a kid’s cheeseburger “with no cheese and nothing on it except for ketchup” for the girl. Kids’ meals at the Olde Towne Tavern & Grille, even with its proclivity to add extra e’s where they aren’t necessarily needed, are still a decent $4.99 with a side and a drink.
Our server handed me the well-thumbed-through menu and I was about to get down to business when she handed me another, thicker menu. This one for the restaurant’s new Chop House entrées. Well now, this is new.
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In the middle of the Sultanahmet in Istanbul, Turkey, you can’t help but notice a large yellow tower looming overhead. Even on a dreary day, with all the bright colors to distract you in this part of the city, that sunflower gleam will catch your eye. You can’t miss it. From a distance, you might think it’s an old castle or keep – an Ottoman Palace of some distinction ready for you to explore.
But in truth, it was once a very nasty place. A neo-classic Turkish prison, in fact. Anyone who’s ever sat through “Midnight Express” knows it’s just best to stop talking about that kind of history right there.
These days, this old prison is now the Four Seasons Istanbul, a stunning luxury property in the historic part of the city. It has a wonderful restaurant, too, the Seasons, that was recently named the best restaurant in all of Turkey. But sometimes you want something a little more casual. And you can find all the brilliance of a Four Seasons meal in your jeans and tennis shoes by simply walking into the Four Seasons’ The Lounge..
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Hagia Sophia in Istanbul
There is an air of mystique around Turkey. A diverse and beautiful country, steeped in history, it harbors a rich and ancient culture. The cuisine that has arisen over hundreds of years is just as much a part of the rich cultural experience of Turkey as visiting its churches, mosques and bazaars.
Outside of Asitane
One place to revel in Turkey’s distinct Ottoman cuisine and ancient history is at Asitane Restaurant in Istanbul. Sitting in the shadows of the Chora church in the historic Edirnekapi section of Istanbul, Asitane has been serving up delicious fare in an upscale airy setting for almost 15 years. It uses a carefully researched archive of over 200 lost or forgotten recipes taken from over 500 years ago to create its inventive menu. Recently it has added featured dishes to its menu that were served in a feast for Sultan Suleiman in 1539. Talk about blending history with your dining experience!
Some particularly tasty items on their summer menu are the Stuffed Vine Leaves with Sour Cherries and the Mutanjene (diced lamb with apricots, raisins, honey and almonds and baked slowly in an earthenware casserole). From their winter menu, try the Scorpion Fish Soup or the Veal Marinated in Apricot Sauce.
There is plenty of atmospheric outdoor seating and they often provide live music to set the mood.
Kariye Camii Sokak No: 6 34240
Edirnekapi, Istanbul – Turkey
Photos courtesy of David Spender on Flickr and the Asitane Restaurant website
Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace, home to the Sultans for 4 centuries, was where Ottoman cuisine was refined and perfected. Did you know that some of the chefs at Topkapi spent their entire lifes working on one single dish?
Konyali Restaurant inside Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul has been named as one of Europe’s 2010 Capitals of Culture, with cultural and heritage landmarks being revived all over the city. The Topkapi kitchens are part of this revival, and will reopen in late 2010.
But you can already find the heavenly scents and mouth-watering recipes of the Ottomans in restaurants like Konyali and Karakol.
If you’re wondering what’s so special about reviving a bunch of kitchens, consider a recipe found in the Topkapi records for a simple Turkish dish with fried onions mixed in with eggs and eaten with bread.
In Topkapi, they fried and stirred the chopped onions with lots of butter for a full hour, then added cinnamon and then the eggs. The taste and flavor, it seems, transforms into something magnificent if you can convince someone to stand around stirring onions for an hour.
Imagine doing that for the rest of your life, trying to find ways to make it better. That’s Ottoman cuisine, and these are the kind of dishes you’ll find at restaurants inside the Topkapi like Karakol and Konyali, and others in Istanbul like Feriye Lokantasi, Tugra, Asitane and Pasazade.
Photo by fantaz