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British Airways Club World LHR – JFK

I don’t know whether it’s me but I always find the meals coming out of British Airways Terminal 5 in London so much better than those on the return leg.  Am I biased or have they nailed the catering at Heathrow Airport?  For a long-haul flight, I’ll always try and save the extra cash to enjoy the benefits of the Club World (Business) cabin.  I don’t think First Class is worth the extra money, you get treated like Royalty in CW, and I know because I’ve experienced both.

Before you book your seats, always check out specific seating options on SeatGuru.  You’ll need your flight date and airline details, whether you fly with British Airways or not.  A community of flyers add specific details to the site through message boards, and plane configuration helps to let you know if you’ll be near a galley, near a potentially banging door or a bulkhead.  It’s a great resource whichever class you fly and has helped me pick the best seat on lots of trips.

Back to our flight on a BA 747-400 with upstairs seats, in the bubble.  I didn’t get a chance to check these out because they were all booked but there are plenty of comments on SG.

Our seats on the outbound were very comfortable and my birthday trip began with a glass of champagne before I’d managed to sit down and a chance to catch up with Ronan and his new wife.

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After take off, out came the full bar and my favourite rose Champagne.  The Champagne de Castelnau Brut Rose is an award-winner with a beautiful salmon pink colour.  It’s super dry and smells of red fruits.  Two glasses of this and I was ready for food.  Feet up.  Movie on, even Scarlett approved.

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A morning flight meant lunch was served just before noon.  We’d taken advantage of the Lounge, but I didn’t have more than a cup of coffee and browsed through the papers so it was welcome.

With all Club World flights, passengers are offered a menu with a full explanation of what’s on offer for the entire trip.  You’ll be asked what you want for your main course and there’s usually a selection of four.

The starter was superb.  A sweet pea pannacotta was of restaurant quality, richly sweet and light, but sadly there was only one plate of it. A fresh plate of green salad is served with a simple vinaigrette.

Pea pannacotta, BA Club World

I chose the slow-braised Herefordshire beef cheek with a cheese-ridden gratin and baby shallots and gingered carrots.  Now it wasn’t the three glasses of champagne that had me thinking this was one of the best airline meals I’ve ever eaten.  It was.  Period.

British Airways, Club World

The dessert wasn’t too shabby either I chose the oven-baked vanilla custard on a sweet pastry with cherry jelly.  Superb.  Often these desserts are gelatin-laden, and this had just the right amount of ‘wobble’.

British Airways, Club World

I swerved the coffee and chocolates and settled down to a film.  My window seat meant that I did have to climb over the passenger’s feet to my right as he decided to have a snooze. It’s a bit of a party trick to try and not bash the extended foot rest if you need to use the facilities or fancy a walk around the cabin.

Next thing I remember the Twinings Tea Room had opened and it was time for Afternoon Tea.

Afternoon Tea, Club World

Antipasti, whilst an option, is not afternoon tea, so I chose the individual sandwiches.  Red Leicester and pickle, truffled chicken and coleslaw and the ubiquitous smoked salmon.

Warmed buttermilk plain and fruit scones came with Rodda’s clotted cream (THE best) and Tiptree Strawberry jam.

Afternoon Tea, Club World

I didn’t manage the macaron, Madeira cake or eclair.

Afternoon Tea, Club World

The return food I’m afraid isn’t worth the time it takes to write and post.  Needless to say, the outbound journey entirely made up for it.

What’s your experience of airline food?

 

 

 

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Eat Your Way Around The Yankee Stadium

Too much time spent choosing what to eat and drink could mean less time watching baseball.  There are six levels offering everything you want but didn’t really know you did, as well as the unexpected.  Here are a few offerings in the food and drink department at the Yankee Stadium. Bring your appetite, my friends, because this is a marathon and not a sprint.

Lobel’s

Prime Steak comes from this Madison Avenue family butchers shop which has been operating in New York since 1840. Carved medium rare before your very eyes the trick is to stop the server from filling the soft bun full to bursting. Ask for the gravy; it’s worth it and the price tag. You won’t need a knife or a fork this is messy, just make sure you get plenty of napkins and don’t wear white.

Applewood Smoked Bacon

Bacon on a stick anyone? Yep, it’s a thing. A thick bacon rasher is threaded on a stick and drizzled with a sauce of your choice.

Chicken and Waffles

What’s not to love about these branded waffle sliders? The waffles are light and fluffy if a little sweet but served with well-seasoned breadcrumb chicken which is deep-fried and traditionally smothered in hot sauce this is a satisfying comfort dish.

Tape measure Cheesesteak

It’s 24 inches and is built to share. A cheesesteak is known under many names in the States from the Philly or Philadelphia cheesesteak to steak and cheese. It hails from Philadelphia in the state of Pennsylvania and is a steak roll. At the Yankees Stadium, Carl’s Steak is the Tape Measure. It comes topped with a choice of white American Cheese or Cheez Whiz, a thick orange cheese sauce with ‘cheese cultures’ as an ingredient. Served on a sub roll with peppers and onions. This three-hander is for sharing, and I guess it should be at $27 and 1795 calories.

Garlic Fries

While these skin-on fries look unassuming, they’ve enough garlic on them to ward away evil spirits and probably personal conversations for days to come. Minced garlic and parsley is scattered on deep-fried potatoes and served in a plastic Yankees helmet which is yours to take away if you so wish. Just be careful washing it as the Yankees logo may rub off if you get too excited about cleanliness. Add cheese and sauce for the full experience.

Cheetos Popcorn

If you’ve got a thing for Cheetos in the US, you’ll freak over the popcorn. Not only will it stain your thumb and forefingers a chemically induced orange, but the fake cheese flavour will also have you dipping in for more. Popcorn and sticks of original Cheetos mix work in perfect harmony together in a bag large enough to share.

Sushi

Raw fish at a baseball game? Choose from Bronx, New York, Tanaka Roll and of course The Yankee platter, complete with flag.

Linda’s Egg Cream

For the uninitiated, an Egg Cream is a classic New York drink similar to an ice cream soda or float and made with chilled milk, a little fizzy water and chocolate, vanilla or coffee syrup. Linda’s claims to make the best Brooklyn Style Egg creams in New York. The trick is to whip up the mixture without disturbing the frothy head. A real skill mastered with a plastic straw.

Cotton Candy

Europeans know it as Candy Floss, but whatever you call it, this is sugar, colouring and corn syrup heated and spun onto a stick. Here in the Yankee Stadium, it’s sold from the vendor’s head. Note: not everyone can carry this look off.

Goose Island IPA

Goose Island hails from Chicago and began life in the Clybourn Brewpub in 1988, which it still operates. Hoppy with plenty of citrus notes, a great IPA to drink in the steaming heat. Only served in Yankee logo US pint cups.

Expect hot dogs, Kosher and otherwise, gluten free stalls and soup.  I’d like to say soup for the winter but the Yankees don’t play when it gets cold enough for soup.

It’s the law in New York to list the calories on every product, but don’t let that put you off indulging. If you’re feeling virtuous, head straight for the Farmers Market but is that as much fun as a bag of Cheetos Popcorn? I don’t think so.

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Lago, Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas

Lago is a fabulous restaurant on The Strip, inside the famous Bellagio.  It’s this Hotel whose fountains entertain and excite young and old, spurts of water ejected from a lake to music, from Frank Sinatra to Bruno Mars.  Its entrance is via the gaming hall and what a contrast.  Bright, airy and with one of the best views of the fountains.  It’s here you can eat and watch the jets do their thing. Continue reading

In-chair ordering, Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand

It’s not often I feel compelled to write about an airline, but Air New Zealand has tipped me over the edge.  Our London to Los Angeles flight was a total joy from the moment we checked in to the moment we left the plane.  Check-in staff were efficient, in fact beyond patient.  I’d used my old passport number to apply for an ESTA, and they waited while I completed all the detail on my mobile phone, for another.  We were invited to use the lounge that was lovely and an opportunity to relax into our holiday.  The flight was another matter.  We treated ourselves to Premium Economy seats, and the little extra outlay was worth it.  More legroom meant the largest seat pitch with comfortable recline, feet resting on a beanbag.We began with a hot towel service that promptly flowed into a drinks service.  Soon we were in the air, and it was time for food.  The menu has been conjured up by the New Zealand award-winning chef and restaurateur Peter Gordon and offered with wines from the area.

The salmon starter was unexpectedly tasty, and the meal just kept getting better.  Loch Fyne Whisky smoked salmon came with a celeriac and apple remoulade salad and fried capers.  There was a choice of warmed San Francisco sourdough, garlic and Spelt bread.

Loch Fyne Salmon, Air New Zealand

Mr and I both went for the seared turmeric crusted cod another winner.  The juicy, dense cod steak was accompanied by steamed coconut rice alongside a curry leaf and coconut sambal.

Coconut Sambal, Air New Zealand

The dessert (and Mr hates them) is inhaled in seconds.  A dense plum, fig and pistachio sable cake was topped with a dollop of creme fraiche.

Tart, Air New Zealand

Dessert, Air New Zealand

To end, a decent cup of coffee, served in a china mug.

Coffee, Air New Zealand

A typical example of this unblemished service came when I was hacking through my cheese cube.  I love cheese.  Within ten minutes of being seen enjoying it, a selection of three, with crackers, was dropped onto my tray table.

Cheese, Air New Zealand

Non-flowing drinks, coupled with a choice of great entertainment meant that this 11.5 hour flight was a complete pleasure and not a chore.

An afternoon tea began with a fresh fruit salad.A hot brioche frittata

Frittata, Air New Zealand

and a choice of Crosstown Doughnut, another Peter Gordon enterprise, from a choice of mixed berry or apple compote.

Apple compote, Crosstown Doughnut

Crosstown Doughnut, Air New Zealand

I even managed to sleep for 4 hours, unheard of for me on a long haul flight.

A perfect landing and earlier than expected.

We got to Los Angeles Airport fairly early for our return flight back to London, one of the first to check in,

Air New Zealand Check In, LA Airport

we were invited to use the Star Alliance lounge.

Star Alliance Lounge, Los Angeles

Star Alliance Lounge, Los Angeles

Star Alliance Lounge, Los Angeles

This time we were seated in the middle of the plane which I preferred. Not once was I knocked by cabin crew, just annoyingly the woman sat behind me who kept letting her tray table bounce down, which in turn caused my chair to ‘shudder’.

Premium Economy cabin, Air New Zealand

Kath looked after us both and we had a surprise reunion with the Purser and flight stewardess from our outbound leg.

Air Stewardess, Air New Zealand

Our menu seemed to be less impressive but I’ve always found that with an afternoon flight which goes into the night.

Prosciutto with melon, coriander salsa and white cheese was a nice start. The olive bread was delicious.

Prosciutto, Air New Zealand

Olive Bread, Air New Zealand

For the main course, the wood roasted chicken with curried fruit and nut rice pilaf, broccolini with a tahini yogurt sauce was really tasty.

Chicken, Air New Zealand

The pear mousse cake didn’t move me to try it, (seen with the strawberry in this picture). It probably wasn’t it just didn’t look too appetising.

New in-flight movies mean I caught up on The Martian (amazing) and Black Mass (violent yet captivating) and had a good four hours undisturbed sleep.

The at-your-seat ordering service meant I didn’t have to speak or move a muscle. Ordering ‘online’ meant a Baileys, a cookie and two sticks of chocolate were dropped on my tray table within minutes.

Ordering, Air New Zealand

In flight ordering, Air New Zealand

Subtle lighting changes in the cabin meant passengers went from pink to blue to orange, nudging passengers to sleep and wake up gently.

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Lighting, Air New Zealand

Breakfast was soon upon us and fresh fruit and granola was really welcome.

The flax seed grain waffles didn’t quite make the grade, they were stuck together in a clump, but the fruit and apple compote was scrumptious.

I’ve flown Virgin Atlantic and British Airways to LA in both classes, and I have to say this tops them both. I’d recommend Air New Zealand’s Premium Economy service to anyone – so convinced of this airline’s quality, we’re planning a trip to New Zealand for Christmas this year.

A huge thank you to Damian,  Laureene, Kath and the Purser in charge of both our flights, who not only managed to keep Mr updated with cricket scores, made sure our cups and plates were full, pillows fluffed and that we were totally entertained.

Lagavulin Distillery

Whisky, Wool and Wildlife – A Long Weekend on Islay

There’s something magical about Islay (pronounced I-la). It has some of the best beaches in Britain, whisky by the barrel-load and fish so fresh you practically have to slap it. For a whisky lover, particularly those with a penchant for peat, the mere mention of the name makes the heart beat faster. Even if whisky isn’t your thing, Islay is full of riches and a long weekend here will lift your spirits and make your heart sing.

Beach, Islay

Beach, Islay

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Stormy Islay

Getting there: You can get to Islay by Air from Glasgow with FlyBe or by Ferry from Kennacraig on the Kintyre peninsula to Port Askaig and Port Ellen.

Flying to Islay

Islay Airport

Stay: Glenegedale House is opposite Islay Airport and it’s a very warm welcome with plates of freshly baked cake and pots of piping hot coffee.  You’ll be guaranteed a first-class stay with a peaceful night’s sleep, followed by a hearty breakfast. This luxury guest house is a family-run affair with Emma and Graeme at the helm. I loved the whisky-fuelled porridge, full fruit buffet, cooked breakfast and banana cake.

Glenegedale Guest House

Banana Cake

Travel: Buses are intermittent but there are taxis which you’ll need to book ahead of time. To do the island justice, it’s best to hire a car to explore, grab yourself a Landranger map and plan your route and try not to rely too heavily on a sat nav.  Islay Cycles hire bikes for the family.

Bus stop, Islay

Walk: Islay is perfect for walking and as you’d expect there are plenty of well-trodden routes. The Walk Highlands website is a great resource. In April next year you can take part in the Walk Islay festival which allows walkers of all ability to romp around the islands of Jura and Colonsay.  Kildalton Cross and Port Mor is a must, and in the ruins of the Kildalton Church you’ll find the magnificent carved Celtic Cross which dates from the late eighth century. Red Indians are said to have rubbed their spines against the sacred stone and it’s believed if you do the same you’ll find your inner peace.

Kildalton Cross, Islay

Kildalton Cross

There are plenty of hidden beaches and some of the best will be the ones you find, usually deserted, with the odd flock of birds or a dog walker.

Beach, Islay

The Islay Community Garden is something of a secret and is very close to Islay House, built in the 17th century.  It’s had a few reincarnations since its construction in 1677 and when I visit was undergoing a conversion into a country house hotel.  The garden is open all year round and is free to visit.   Walk among the fruit trees, vegetables and buy some flowers from the wonderful cutting garden.

Islay Community Garden

Sup: Take your pick from eight working whisky distilleries on Islay but learn to pronounce their names before you arrive. Islay is the island of peat, cut from source and used to smoke the barley.

Islay Peat

Peat cutter, Islay

Lagavulin, (pronounced lag-a-voolin) Caol Ila (pronounced cull-ee-la), Bunnahabhain (pronounced boona-hah-ven), Bruichladdich (pronounced brook-laddy), Laphroaig (pronounced laf-roig), Kilchoman (pronounced kill-coman), and Bowmore have a distillery here.  An organised tour will explain the full whisky-making process, but be sure to book in advance.

Lagavulin Distillery

Lagavulin whisky

Lagavulin is said to be one of the oldest producers on Islay and it operates at full tilt to keep up with demand. Visitors on their tour get the full experience and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to taste mature malts straight from the barrels.  Here’s me having done just that – I think the eyes say it all.

Tasting, Warehouse

If whisky’s not your drink, then try the real ale made on Islay: Black Rock’s one to start with.

Eat: The Islay Hotel does a great seafood platter and has a well-stocked whisky bar, the Distillery at Ardbeg has The Old Kiln Cafe and when we ate there our lunch was tasty. I’m told it’s not unusual during the summer months to queue for half an hour to get a table, but there are plenty of places to eat on the island, just ask the locals.

Islay Hotel, Bar

Wear: Islay has had a Mill since 1883 and after a period of closure it reopened in 1981 and is managed by husband and wife team, Gordon and Sheila Covell. The two Victorian looms have produced some memorable plaids. The Mill made the cloth for the film Braveheart as well as a clutch of other Hollywood blockbusters. Today, they weave for tailors in Europe, local distilleries and they sell the rugs, scarves, caps and tweed, weaved on the premises.

Islay Woollen Mill

Watch: Islay’s surrounded by 130 metres of coastline and that means plenty of sandy beaches. Take a swim at Laggan Bay, Loch Indaal or Loch Gruinart. Be sure to take binoculars, there are seal colonies and a few otters and the island is a birdwatchers paradise and home to tens of thousands of wintering bird populations.  You can expect to see large flocks of geese – the protected Greenland and white-fronted and Barnacle and the RSPB has sites at Loch Gruinart and Oa.

Deserted beach, Islay

History: In the former free church of Port Charlotte you’ll find the Museum of Islay Life a chance to explore the history of the island. It houses around 2,000 objects over a wide range of subject areas from farming tools to kitchen utensils.

When to visit: Each September the island hosts the Islay Jazz Festival, now in its 15th year and hosts musicians from the international arena and the cream of Scotland’s jazz scene. Tickets are sold on a small-scale which allows concert-goers a uniquely intimate experience. Check their website for dates in 2016.

Lagavullin Jazz Festival

For more information on Islay go to Visit Scotland‘s website.

Hederman's Smoked Salmon

Ireland’s Artisan Smoker: Frank Hederman

When the tar-blackened door opened on the timber smoke house, the shimmering silver skins of the salmon hit the daylight and the smell of smoking beechwood filled the air, a delicious welcome indeed to Frank Hederman’s smoke and curing house in Cobh.

Hederman's Smoked Salmon

I was pretty excited to visit the smoke house, on the banks of the River Lee in County Cork, close to Belvelly Castle.

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Small, but perfectly formed it can boast to be the oldest, in fact, the only natural smoke house in Ireland.   It’s here that Frank smokes his produce and I get a tour with his wife Caroline.

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The salmon they smoke is Irish and sourced from a deep-sea farmed site, off Clare Island in County Mayo.

Within one day of harvest, the fish are filleted and cured using a dry-salt cure which acts in three ways – to kill bacteria, flavour the fish and act as a preservative. The fish is washed and hung in small batches with tenterhooks through the collarbone.  Hanging keeps it from developing an over-smoked crust and from bathing in its own fat.

The skill then is to judge when the fish is ready to be taken down. Atmospheric temperature, humidity and wind direction are all contributing factors and there’s no timer on hand to let the smoker know when. Each batch is treated the same but may need more or less smoking time then the last and that dedication can be tasted in each mouthful.

Smoked Salmon

Cut Salmon

Fish is also hot-smoked in a kiln with a real fire so the fish is slow-cooked and smoked at the same time, this time with a lighter salt cure.  When I get round to eating my salmon, it simply is too good to be eaten with eggs, with the best sourdough toast or with anything or anyone else, you’ll be quite selfish once you’ve tasted this fish.  I’m not even sure it needed the squeeze of Amalfi lemon I bought especially to dress it.

The mackerel was succulent and flaky and quite like no other I’ve ever tasted. In fact, on reflection I think Caroline just offered me a small taste, I ate a whole fillet (sorry about that).

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Butter from Glenstal Abbey is smoked in a cold smoker and I can tell you that the results are spectacular. A small knob of it dropped inside a topped freshly boiled egg, is heaven-on-a-plate.

Smoked Butter

Frank doesn’t reserve his smoking skills for just fish, cheeses from some of Ireland’s finest cheese-makers – Corleggy and Hegarty’s Cheddar are given the Hederman touch and baker Robert Ditty uses the smoke house to turn smoked oats into oatcakes.  Ditty’s Smoked Oatcakes are now available in 411 Marks and Spencer stores this month, as part of the Taste of the British Isles initiative.   Nuts, seeds, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes for Belvelly Pesto are also smoked here. Gravadlax and before the ban on eel fishing, the slippery peat-tasting silver kind was smoked here too.

You’ll find Hederman products at Midleton Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning and on Friday morning Frank’s Father is on the stall at Cobh Market in all weathers.  You’ll find Frank in the English Market in Cork City. A great excuse for me to return there to meet him myself – it really is a must-visit for any food lover.

In London, Frank supplies high end stores, including Selfridges and restaurants including the wonderful Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill.

Details of all Frank’s products are on the Hederman website.

A whole Quince stuffed with lamb

How To Eat & Drink In Istanbul: Day Two

As the title suggests, this is a two-part blog, please go to my Istanbul Day One post to see what you will have missed.

After a restful sleep and no breakfast, just the obligatory Turkish coffee we head off to Misir Carsisi or the Spice Bazaar and our first stop Pandeli Restaurant, which is gearing up for its one and only service, lunch.  This hidden restaurant in the roof of the Bazaar was established in 1901, and everyone who’s anyone in the acting world has visited from Audrey Hepburn to Frank Sinatra and their photographs and ‘review notes’ adorn the walls.  The first thing that strikes you about the space are the turquoise tiles and the view from the windows.

Pandeli Restaurant, Istanbul

Pandeli’s sweet speciality is an almond cookie, or bademli kurabiye of the crumbly kind. The spicing is light, and the ground almonds in the cookie are made entirely in-house.

Almonds

Almond cookies

We don’t stop to eat, except one of the delicious cookies brought out to us by the generous owner, we march down the stairs and into the main Bazaar.

Spice Market

“Cheap as chips” says one trader who coins antiques dealer and TV host David Dickinson‘s popular catchphrase.  It’s heard often and always makes me laugh, it’s a good hook to get you into their kaleidoscopic cave of spices, dried fruits, ceramics or carpets (actually less so on the carpets – there’s nothing cheap about them).

Surrounded by four seas with a host of rivers and lakes, Turkey has a wealth of fish.  We learn more about Bottarga or Balık yumurtası at Doğu Pazarı which doesn’t look very appetising encased in wax, but compressed grey mullet roe is a delicacy. Eaten in tiny slices and drizzled with olive oil, it can also be served on toast or grated over dishes. Known as “poor man’s caviar” the salted, dried and cured eggs of the mullet are coated in beeswax as a preservative.

Bottarga

Bottarga

The shop sells highly perfumed rose petals, and other dried flowers like this Echinacea, used primarily for tea and to fight colds or boost your immune system.  People visit the Bazaar as we would the high street chemist.  I bought some of the rose petals and used them very successfully in a rice pudding recipe.

Rose Petals

Echinacea flowers

Including these ‘flower bombs’ which explode once they hit hot water, more expand, then bang in actual fact.  One ‘bomb’ is dropped into a glass teapot with boiling water and allowed to infuse.  If no glass teapot (it’s all about the show) a heatproof glass glass will have the same effect.

Tea Flower Bomb

There was no time to waste and our next stop was deli and cheese shop Cankurtaran Gıda where we tasted four of the most common Turkish cheeses; Dil Peynirir; Beyaz Peynir a white cheese; Kaşar Peyniri and Tulum Peyniri. The shop is also well known for its cured beef pastirma which hangs like beef chandeliers from the celing. It’s air dried and covered in a paste made of ground spices known as çemen. The redder the pastirma, the fresher it will be. Purists will have their meat cut by hand and not machine.  Here’s Aylin our amazing tour guide, an architect, food historian, journalist there’s simply nothing this woman can’t do.

Cheese and Pastarmi

Just outside the Bazaar is Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi the oldest coffee company in Turkey. Until the end of 19th century shops sold only raw beans. Mehmet Efendi came up with the idea of selling ground coffee in his father’s coffee shop.  I haven’t sped up this video, this is how quickly these young guys work to serve the never-ending line of coffee-lovers.

A Simit is a bread roll, a little like a bagel sold on the streets from baskets, platters balanced on heads and ubiquitous wheeled stands It is often eaten as a breakfast or a fast food snack. Here’s a seller with a fresh batch helping chef and author Tess Ward choose a great one.  Here’s my recipe for Huffington Post LIfestyle.

Simit buying, Istanbul

We visit Ucuzcular Spices, a family business which not only sells spice but processes them in their factory at Çatalca, we all dive into the spices, nuts and the single ladies look to their oils for inspiration, ask for Bilge who runs the shop – I can’t promise she’ll find you a partner but she’ll give you the tools you’ll need.

Oils, Istanbul

Turkish OIls

The beautiful Abdulla sells everything you needed to enjoy bath, spa or hammam time. Next door the Fez Cafe is where we took Turkish coffee and watched the Bazaar shop owners pray.

Fez

Turkish Coffee

Under this hammered dome is Turkish Delight, food has to be presented, just so, even if it is with a coffee, here it’s all about the ritual.

This fabric shop was beautiful and there were plenty of raw silks with traditional Turkish patterns.

Silk Shop, Istanbul

Lunch was a leisurely affair on the roof of Armaggan a luxury store celebrating Turkish design.

Istanbul Map

We had the pick of a wonderful cold buffet and we ate in a remarkable botanical garden. Nar Kahve Restaurant uses only seasonal and natural ingredients and you can expect to find lots of wonderful salads and Turkish specialities, cooked in a modern way.

Chefs, Nar

I chose some of the delicious salads from the buffet, artichoke hearts stuffed with spinach, beautiful stuffed mini-aubergine.

Salads, Nar

These deep fried aubergine and courgette slices, filled with beyaz cheese and parsley were divine.

Deep Fried Courgette ballsThis cold starter of aubergine flowers stuffed with rice and spices was full of flavour, and simply beautiful.

Courgette flowers

Pide is a speciality here, baked in their stone oven. We ordered a few of the restaurant favourites, lamb served inside a whole quince was a savoury version of our stuffed apples.

Stuffed Quince

A whole Quince stuffed with lamb

The dessert buffet was magnificent with puddings and pastries to-die-for, handmade baklava, rice pudding and a three milk cake, similar to the famous cake of Argentina.

Three-milk cake

And a plate of wonderful marzipan, Turkish delight and candies.

Candies, Nar, Istanbul

A short ride took us to a private cooking lesson with Murat Bozok where we learnt how to cook squid with cous-cous.

Murat Bozok

We were also shown how to make Turkish hummus and we discover milk and ground cumin are two essentials.

Squid and Cous Cous

Back to the Hotel where we’re treated to a cocktail or two and a few of the delicious pastries that make up their afternoon tea.

Pera Palace Jumeirah Hotel

Macarons, Afternoon Tea, Pera Palace Hotel

The amazing pianist asks where I’m from and serenades me – well worth a visit just to see this 89 year old tinkle the ivories.  For those who can’t place the tune … it’s the George and Ira Gershwin classic “A Foggy Day In London Town”.

Still full from lunch and our cookery course we cancel our planned meal in a speciality kebab restaurant – Istanbul has beaten us in the food and drink department.

I leave the Hotel and walk up Istiklal Caddesi, or ‘Oxford Street’ where there’s a variety of chestnut, mussels and Simit sellers, nestling side by side with the chain stores, patisseries and restaurants.

Baklava, Istanbul

A sea of people dodge trams which run from one end to the other of this 1.4km long avenue full of shoppers who, at night time, hand over the baton to the clubbers.

Tram. Istiklal Street

Back in the Hotel we join guests in the Bar where a live band have taken over, a delicious Raki and Melon cocktail finishes my trip to Istanbul but has left me wanting much more.

Istanbul

Turkish people love to share and it was such an honour to be shown the true Turkish way when it comes to food and drink.  I learned so much in such a short space of time but I totally understand why Yeni Raki has been pleasing audiences since 1937. What’s to rush, when there’s so much to learn?

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Vintage Yeni Raki bottle

Cheers, or as they’d say in Turkey şerefe.

Massive thanks to Yeni Raki for the invite (please can I come back and see the harvest), Rose at Story PR, Ipek, and Alin for their patience and all the lovely people at the Pera Palace.