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The flavours of Crete


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#1 Admin

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Posted 01 September 2004 - 12:32

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The narrow roads that lead down from Haghia Sophia towards the Marmara Sea are lined with old houses and new hotels" some of them big, some of them small. The historic walls of the Old City run along the shoreline, demarking a line between the land and the sea. The tightly packed neighbourhoods along shore road seem to start where the other ends. One such neighbourhood is Ahırkapı, a name that dates back to Ottoman times. Ahırkapı is home to the Armada Hotel whose 'backyard' is filled with traditional Istanbul houses. The Giritli restaurant is located in one of these restored houses. Owner Ayşe Şensılay has her roots in Girit, meaning Crete. She inherited her love of cooking from her family and serves all her family's favourite dishes. You can also find unique versions of Istanbul fare. For example, while 'lakerda', a kind of salted fish, is usually made from 'bonito', Girit serves the Cretan variety, which is made from the larger 'torik'. "Throughout history, Crete has suffered terrible invasions and massacres. Its people had to learn to survive on what nature gave them, like wild greens. I am in awe of their fortitude,"says Ayşe Şensılay, giving us an introductory lesson on Cretan culture and cuisine.

Sate your hunger pangs
A meal at Giritli consists of a lot more than what's on the menu. The joys of the Cretan kitchen are slowly unveiled during the course of your meal, allowing plenty of time for conversation. Everything is done for you: even the ordering! Start the meal with green salad and warm, spicy seafood rice made with shrimp, octopus, mussels and calamari and flavoured with cinnamon. This is the ideal beginning to your meal: it sates your hunger pangs while whetting your appetite for more. This is followed by a number of plates of 'meze', or cold appetisers, including many edible wild greens. Try the 'cibes' and the radicchio, a dark green with a slightly bitter taste. The wild greens are either boiled or steamed very briefly and then dressed with olive oil, a little garlic and vinegar. Another 'meze' is 'kopoglu mancana'. Fried aubergines are mixed with drained yoghurt and garlic dressed with a vinegary tomato sauce. 'Girit meze' is a delicous mix of green olives, 'zahter', thyme, mint, lots of olive oil, walnuts and goat cheese. Pickles made in the Aegean are unlike their more commonly found counterparts. Tiny Cengelkoy cucumbers are pickled in a vinegar and tomato brine. The starters at Giritli are truly feast of flavours for all the senses.
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Grilled octopus
You won't find flowery descriptions on the menu at Giritli. The food is straightforward, fun, light and delicious. The onion dolma is a case in point: the onion is stuffed and baked, period. The pickled beetroot is made the Greek way using Ayse Sensilay's grandmother's recipe. Other dishes include 'lakerda', taramasalata, 'çiroz' (salted and dried mackerel), mashed fava beans, roasted wild greens and roasted aubergine. Giritli also boasts a wealth of hot appetisers. The calamari is served whole with walnut and vinegar 'tarator' sauce. The grilled octopus is marinated in a wine sauce. The skin and suckers are left on to hold in the flavour. There is also a seafood 'borek' pastry. For the main course, enjoy the fish of the day. This month, sardines, gilt-head bream, red mullet, bluefish, sea bass and whiting are in season. Order the steamed sea bass in advance. For dessert, try the 'parmak borek' (finger pastry). Tahini halva is wrapped in filo dough, fried and sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Try the apple, morello cherry, cornelian cherry and mastic liqueurs. The all you can eat and drink prix fixe menu costs 40 million TL a head. Reservations recommended.

Address: Keresteci Hakkı Sok. (Armada Otel yani) Cankurtaran/Ahirkapi
Tel: 0212 458 22 70

By The Gate Magazine

#2 Garrott24

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 02:06

CRETE:
We were 3 days in Chania, 2 days in the mountains, and an overnight in Heraklion.
Chania
Hotel:
We spent 3 days and nights at Hotel Casa Leone. The location is superb, right on the waterfront. Our room had a tiny balcony facing the water and was just off the main lobby. The hotel staff were most helpful; the breakfasts just fine. My complaints about our room were 1) no cupboards or drawers; 2) a tiny, tiny bathroom with a miniscule shower area. From photos of other hotel advertisements around town, this is not unusual.



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