Tara had the great thought to divide foods of Turkey into Sweet and Savory. For the first time in the history of this blog, I immediately said, "I will do sweets," rather than my standard, "I don't care" when Tara normally asks which section I want to write. Not only is that because I love sweets, but also because the food in Turkey is really boring apart from the sweets.
First, let us know which title you like better. I won't tell you which is mine and which is Tara's.
Starting on the plane to Turkey, Tara discovered that they really like cherry nectar in Turkey. Not only is it everywhere, it is really cheap. Since cherry juice and/or nectar in the US is really expensive, we have drank almost entirely cherry nectar (and water) in Turkey. The nectar tastes like cherry pie filling in juice form. It has the calorie content to confirm that. Tara wants me to emphasize that she really, really, really, really, really likes cherry nectar (and jam). A lot.
Thanks to our friend Mike, we tried the waffles of Turkey. We had seen them advertised, but might have skipped them due to cost had it not been for his suggestion of trying them. Basically, you get a thin waffle with whatever sweet toppings you want, but most are served with some flavored spread, kiwi, bananas, and lots of sundae-style toppings, then folded over and eaten like a sandwich. Not sure how this idea became popular throughout western Turkey, but it's a good one that they should bring to the US.
I will only talk about the right half of the photo since the left half is unsweetened. Jam in Turkey is runny, almost like a syrup. The cherry jam tastes like cherry pie filling. We have eaten it on just about everything.
Apple tea is somewhat of a specialty of Turkey. It has no actual tea in it, but tastes more like apple cider. This is a boring picture, but you'll have to believe me that it tastes a lot better than normal tea.
Turkey also loves its apricots, so we had to try the apricot nectar since we had never seen it. Like peach, but more apricoty and, therefore, not as good. We switched back to cherry immediately following this sample.
If you were a racist, what would you name your knock-off Oreos? How about this? We'll hope they just borrowed some Spanish...
Here is apple tea in its concentrated powder form. I liked it this way because then I could add about ten scoops to a glass followed by ten scoops of sugar (yes, of course it is pre-sweetened, but a little extra sugar never hurts). Finer establishments apparently actually use apples when brewing their apple teas. I don't believe we ever stayed at those establishments.
I was initially very excited to find windmill shaped cookies that look like the amazing Dutch spice cookies. However, we then noticed the little wheat plant on the package, which isn't how sweet cookies are normally marketed. They were on sale, so I bought them, hoping against hope that they weren't healthy. They turned out to be slightly wheaty butter cookies. They should not be able to use the windmill shape, but at least they were sweet and not healthy tasting.
McDonald's has blackberry sundaes in Turkey. You'd think they would have cherry given how much everyone loves it, but no. The blackberry is good, though. A nice distraction from the normal, boring Turkish food.
We thought we were clever at a bus station one morning by going to the little restaurant and ordering the cheapest pastry we could find and then using their toilet rather than paying to use the bus station toilet. This failed for two reasons: 1.) behind the door that said it was a toilet in the restaurant was only a sink and peeing in the sink just didn't seem like a good idea; and 2.) the restaurant charged us more for the pastry because we sat down rather than taking it to go. A brilliant move on our part. The pastry had a completely unidentifiable sticky goo all over it. Not unpleasant, but not great.
While climbing down a gorge in Cappadocia that Tara informed me wasn't a path, we discovered some wild grapes. Because Tara doesn't normally trust me when it comes to eating random plants on a hike, I had to eat a ton of them to convince her that they were safe to eat. Then she tried them and fell in love with them. We almost had to go back the next day to get her more. I hope to find more the next time I make her climb down a non-path.
Gazi Antep. The WORLD CAPITAL of Baklava. Self-proclaimed, maybe, but probably true. We had only one mission in Gazi Antep--to eat baklava until we were sick, but not quite vomiting. Tara succeeded more than I did by eating herself sick. I just felt full. About half the stores in Gazi Antep specialize in baklava, and it is clearly for the locals since we were the only tourists around. It exists in many forms, and we won't bore you with most of the pictures. Note the special green alien logs, though. They are filled with pistachio puree which Tara compares to marzipan. It isn't all that good, but looks nice.
On a five minute break from eating baklava, we found a man selling fresh-squeezed mandarin juice. The main appeal was that it was glow-in-the-dark orange color. It tasted really great, too. Incidentally, Tara referred to this picture as "the one where you have bedroom eyes over the juice." Now, I don't know exactly what she means, but I am fairly confident that I have never made this face in the bedroom.
Around the corner from our hotel, we found a fun juice shop where we could try juices for much less than in Istanbul. Note the one called Salgam on the sign. Do you know what it is? Neither did we, but it sure looks fun.
So, I ordered one. This probably shouldn't go under sweets, but it came from a juice store. As it turns out, for just 50 cents, you can have a glass of pickled beet/carrot/vegetable juice complete with your own pickled carrot. Absolutely amazing. So amazing that we felt bad taking more than two drinks for that price and decided we better give the rest back to the man. He laughed very hard at me and said something in Turkish that must translate as, "You should have known the stuff was terrible because it is half the price of anything else on the menu."
So, we made up for it by ordering an Atom, which is banana, milk, avocado, cherry syrup, honey, and tons of nuts all blended. The nuts are so thick that it is almost like added peanut butter. Very good.
Here is a view from the outside of one of the Baklava stores. The stuff in the lower left is sort of like baklava sausage and is called kadayif. It is shredded wheat with nuts inside and is fun to eat, but mostly just looks more fun than the rest. During our day in Gazi Antep, I think we ate about three pounds of baklava. Most of that was probably me.
But then in Sanliurfa, we discovered something new at a local baklava shop. A baklava eggroll! It is an eggroll filled with nuts, shredded wheat, and honey. Not bad, but very strange because the outside tastes just like any other eggroll. I am hoping to find more sweet eggrolls in China.
Doesn't a peanut covered cookie make everyone smile? The cookie was dry just like any Italian would love, but the peanuts on top made up for the dryness.
In the Sanliurfa bazaar, I found a kid selling slushies and proceeded to drink a few glasses while standing there. It had artificial sweetner, which wasn't great, but it was still good and as close as I have come to a Dairy Queen Mr. Misty (now lamely called an Arctic Rush) in about a year.
In many sweet shops, we had seen what is locally called Guzeltepe. No, I don't know how to pronounce it, either. But, it sounded and looked fun, so I bought some. It is a slightly grapey jelly like the inside of a jelly bean surrounding walnuts. Not much flavor, really. I'll go with the baklava next time.
Turkey has its own special ice cream called Turkish Ice Cream. Negative five points for lack of creative naming. The have mixed ice cream with bubble gum (or at least lots of gum arabic) to make a chewy ice cream. Yes, it is weird. And it doesn't really have that much flavor. We aren't huge fans, but this guy was happy to make Tara pose with him. He even had me take a second picture on his camera phone.
The sweets of Turkey are the only thing worth eating in Turkey. Sure, it's an extreme statement, but I think you'll be much happier if you only eat sweets while staying there. If I were to do it over again, I would throw out all the doner and bread and goat and stick to sweets, sweets, and more sweets. And maybe some pickled beet juice.