Rick and I visited Istanbul at the beginning of December 2012. This post is a review of our favorite day in the city.
If you had told me before we left for Istanbul that my favorite day in the city would include eating a pickled plum and sweetbread and intestines, I would have been very skeptical. You see, I am a very timid eater. But believe it or not, that's exactly what happend.
While doing my research for our visit to Istanbul I came across Istanbul Eats, Culinary Backstreets Walking tours on tripadvisor. They had excellent reviews, so I clicked over to their website to read more about them. As soon as I read their introduction, I felt certain that they were the company for us. They said:
"Eating locally and authentically has become the easiest and most satisfying way to get a sense of a place’s real culture and traditions. It also happens to be the tastiest way to do this. Our culinary walks are designed to lead visitors on an eating binge through a city’s lessser-seen historic side streets and authentic markets, taking in countless hard-to-find culinary gems and, in between bites, a select number of untouristed monuments."
The morning of our tour, Rick and I walked from our hotel to the tour meeting point to meet our guide Angelis. As soon as we met him, I knew that we'd have a great day. He was super personable and a ton of fun. We were lucky enough to be his only guests, so our group tour became a private tour!
I have decided not to go into the exact itinerary of our tour, so that anyone else who is planning on taking the tour can be surprised as the day unfolds. But, here are just a few parts of our day in pictures:
(Breakfast eaten in a 'secret' passagway. The honey over the cheese was just beyond awesome! The meat here has pistachios in it. If you like nuts in general, and pistachios specifically, Istanbul is your town. They are used in SO many dishes.)
(Quite the mustache, eh? If you're a viewer of the Amazing Race, this guy was shown in the episode from this season when they were in Istanbul. Rick and I actually taped this season to watch later and were watching the Istanbul episode a few weeks ago. All of a sudden we did a double take and quickly rewinded it to see if our eyes had decieved us. Sure enough, it's 'our' mustache man who gets his close up in the episode!)
(Cheers! We were taken to this store, which dates back to the 1800s and serves Boza, a fermented wheat drink.)
I'll be completely honest. When I first contacted the company, while I loved the reviews and what they said on their website, I found their price higher than what we have paid for other, similar tours, so I waffled a bit on signing up. However, Rick really loves food tours, so we decided to go for it.
My emails to the company were replied to very promptly and professionally, and within short order Rick and I were registered to take their "Culinary Secrets of the Old City" tour. I want to be sure to mention just how great the company was to work with. Due to our canceled flight, the original tour date we booked ended up being the day after our new expected arrival in Istanbul. Due to the 10 hour time difference between Istanbul and our home, we emailed them to ask if there was any possibility of shifting our reservation to the next day, so that we could be more alert. We were really pleased when they replied that it was no problem, and they would shift our reservation (with no fee for doing so).
As we were reflecting upon our time in Istanbul the night before heading home, both Rick and I agreed that the food tour was our favorite thing that we did. If we return to the city we will definitely sign up for another tour (or two!) with them.
Please let me know if you have any questions, I'd be pleased to share more about our experience with you.