Friday, February 13, 2015

Restaurant Day: From Helsinki to the world

It's pretty much an urban food-lover's dream: a four-times yearly "holiday" that turns an entire city into a festival of pop-up restaurants, with amateur (and some professional) chefs setting up shop in parks and on sidewalks, and opening their homes to strangers, to cook and serve favorite dishes, from Korean bibimbap to French macarons.

Started in Helsinki, Finland, four years ago, the event known as "Restaurant Day" has spread around the globe, though sadly for this Istanbul-based American, it has yet to get much traction in either Turkey or the United States. Mouth watering all the while, I interviewed a co-founder of the event and numerous participants about how Restaurant Day creates community through food -- and ended up digging in to its broader impacts on urban citizenship as well.

Read my articles for The Atlantic's CityLab and for Zester Daily about Restaurant Day:
Attention, eaters! This year's Restaurant Day events will be held Feb. 15, May 16, Aug. 16, and Nov. 21.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A full deck of 'Istanbul Secrets'

The "secret" to a good night out in Istanbul? Just pick a card, any card...

The latest guide to the city's eating and drinking scene is a pocket-sized deck of 52 cards, each featuring one of Istanbul's best restaurants, cafes, or bars.

Released this week along with an app version, "Istanbul Secrets" was produced by the Melbourne, Australia-based travel company Deck of Secrets, which enlisted Istanbul experts Serra Tükel of Guruology, Simon Johnson of THAT Magazine, and Başak Miller of NEW-IST, along with myself, to write up some of our favorite haunts.

Afiyet olsun.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Urban planning from the ground (or sea) up

Anyone who's spent any time in Istanbul has probably observed how few public spaces (especially green ones) this congested city has, and how eagerly people make use of unlikely recreational areas --
whether picnicking on a traffic median or fishing from a half-built pier.

Istanbul-based architects Can Sucuoğlu and Elif Ensari noticed the same phenomenon in the coastal city of İzmir, where they saw people flock to the shoreline despite its lack of urban amenities, pacing endlessly or sitting on the pavement just to be close to the sea.

The ingenious solution they devised -- a kind of floating parklet -- was showcased recently at the 2nd Istanbul Design Biennial, along with a kindred-spirit project in Istanbul's Kadıköy neighborhood to create street furniture from recycled materials. Both initiatives, as I wrote for The Atlantic's CityLab site, seemed to offer an alternative to the massive, top-down "urban transformation" projects that have been so disruptive and controversial: "human-scale, easily replicable urban improvements that are responsive to local residents’ needs."

Read my article, "Why DIY Public Spaces Are Starting to Take Off in Turkey," on CityLab.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Rethinking (and reviving) the Mediterranean diet

It’s not what most people think of when they envision the famously light, healthy “Mediterranean diet.” But hearty dishes like smoked game meats; the mélange of cabbage, fish, eggs, cheese, olive oil, pepper, garlic and sweet wine dubbed monokythron (literally, “one-pot”); and the fermented fish sauce garum were once common fare in the region whose traditional dietary patterns are now seen by many as a global model for better eating.

Evidence that the Mediterranean diet as we now know it was not predominant in the region during the long Byzantine era (roughly the years 330 to 1453) has been gathered by Dr. Ilias Anagnostakis from the National Hellenic Research Foundation in Athens. His findings have sparked controversy in his home country, he says...

Read the rest of my article, ‘Traditional’ Mediterranean Diet Isn’t What You Think, on Zester Daily.

Find out more about the Consulate General of Greece in Istanbul's ongoing lecture series Food, Spirits and Gastronomic Traditions in the Eastern Mediterranean” (scroll down for English).