You might have been able to guess the location of today’s Photo of the Day without a title. Advanced use of scarves? Check. Frou-frou dogs? Check. Delicious-looking loaf of bread? Mais oui, it is Paris. The French have a closer relationship to their bakers than most Americans can understand, picking up a fresh baguette daily. Even with the advent of baguette vending machines, you can be sure that the le pain quotidien (daily bread) remains a major part of French life.
Part of the fun of traveling is trying new and exotic foods. Many travelers try to eat only locally and eschew the familiar, though eating at American chain restaurants abroad can be its own experience. But when you make a foreign country your home, you have to adapt your tastes and cooking to what’s available locally while craving your favorites from home. I’m lucky enough to live in Istanbul with an amazing food culture heavy on roasted meats and grilled fish, fragrant spices, and fresh produce. Some foreign foods like pizza and sushi have been embraced in Istanbul, but Turkish food has remained largely uncompromised by outside influences and passing trends. Convenience foods are still a new concept in Turkey but you can always grab a quick doner kebab or fish sandwich on the street if you aren’t up to cooking.
In my own kitchen, I’m learning to work with Turkish ingredients and dishes and mix in some favorites from home, creating some “expat fusion” cuisine. Meat-filled manti ravioli gets an extra zing with some Louisiana hot sauce. In the hottest days of my pregnancy this summer, I craved pudding pops from my childhood, making them more adult with some tangy Turkish yogurt. One ingredient I miss here is maple syrup, which is generally only produced in North America, and hard to find and expensive in the rest of the world (a small bottle in Turkey costs about $20!). One of my American friends brought me a bottle this summer and I poured it over pancakes (surprisingly easy to make from scratch when you can’t get a mix) and my favorite Turkish treat, kaymak. Kaymak is a clotted cream popular on the breakfast table, served with a crusty loaf of bread and honey, available in most local supermarkets but best eaten fresh in a cafe like Pando’s Kaymakci in Istanbul’s Besiktas neighborhood. I draw a lot of inspiration from my friend and fellow expat Joy, who was a professional pastry chef back in Baltimore and now chronicles her mouth-watering cooking in her Istanbul kitchen on her blog, My Turkish Joys. She posts beautiful food photos and recipes with both American and European measurements to help US and Turkish readers recreate her dishes such as sour cherry pie. Afiyet Olsun (that’s Turkish for bon appetit)!
Gadling readers, have you created any expat fusion foods with ingredients from your travels? Make us hungry and leave us a comment below!
We’re halfway through the month of Ramadan (called Ramazan in Turkish), an important time for religious Muslims but also a time of many celebrations. Turkey is a largely secular country, thanks to founder Ataturk, who brought the country out of the Ottoman Empire into the modern world 90 years ago, and many Turks do not observe the fasting but do enjoy many of the traditions associated with Ramazan. Each day’s sunrise-to-sunset fast is broken with the iftar meal, a feast anyone can enjoy and typically started with consuming a few dates.
In Turkey, a large flat loaf of Ramazan pide bread is a specialty only made during this month and a must for any iftar. Last year, during my first Ramazan in Istanbul, I tried a few supermarket Ramazan pides and was mostly underwhelmed, it tastes similar to a pizza crust. This year I got wise and joined the many locals standing in line for a fresh hot pide and now I’m hooked. Bakeries all over the city make pides in the afternoon and evening to be fresh for sunset call-to-prayer and it’s one time you want to show up at a bakery at the end of the day. Look for a bakery with the longest line, get your lira ready (they generally cost around 1.50 TL or $1 USD), and grab a piping hot loaf wrapped in a paper sleeve. Pides are usually covered in sesame seeds and make a great sandwich base with cheese or spread with tahini and Nutella, that is if you can wait that long. Many Turks tear into their pide on the way home from the bakery, while it’s still hot and crusty from the oven. Enjoy them while you can, Ramazan will be over August 29, when the national bayram holidays begin and pides disappear until next year.
One of the magical things about staying at a hotel is enjoying the breakfast buffet. At home, you might just have a bowl of cereal, a banana or a cup of coffee for breakfast. Heck, many people just skip breakfast. Does it mean nothing to you that it’s the most important meal of the day? At hotels, however, you can indulge in all of your breakfast fantasies. Rather than studying a diner menu while agonizing over whether you’re craving the sweetness of french toast or the savory goodness of eggs, you can have it all at the breakfast buffet. How you attack the buffet is critical to maximizing your enjoyment. That’s why we’re here with our official rankings of all of the hotel breakfast buffet foods.
The Unquestionable Top Five
Because it’s bacon. When I was a kid, my mother limited how often we could have bacon. It was a treat. At the hotel breakfast buffet, however, you can have an entire plate dedicated to just those salty, succulent strips. And that plate can be refilled.
Bet you didn’t see that coming! Fruit, when purchased individually from a menu, can be expensive. Restaurants will rip you off if you just want a bowl of fruit and yogurt. At the buffet, however, you can go to town on some fruit like some sort of crazed monkey. Adding fruit to your plate helps you justify the amount of bacon you plan to consume. If you’ve traveled a great distance, fruit is also an excellent way to prevent scurvy.
3. Omelet Station
Omelets are tricky to make at home because we often don’t have all of the ingredients to truly do them justice. How many times have you found yourself with eggs but no cheese? Or eggs and cheese but no vegetables? Or eggs, cheese and vegetables but no frying pan? Plus, flipping omelets is tricky. That’s why it’s best to just let someone else do it for you while you hover over them and realize that watching someone make an omelet is pretty boring. Maybe just use that time to get yourself some juice.
This refers only to waffles that you can freshly make on a waffle maker. Firstly, you feel satisfied knowing that you prepared part of your own breakfast. You can survive anywhere! Secondly, you’ll be able to top your waffle with syrup, powdered sugar, butter, fresh fruit and nuts. Sure beats those Eggos that you normally toast up!
5. Assorted Breads
At home, you might have some bread that you can toast up. It’s OK but nothing special. At the hotel breakfast buffet, your cup runneth over with bread options (tip: don’t put your toast in a cup). Muffins, sliced breads with multiple grains, croissants (both mini and standard sizes), bagels, rolls and the holy grail of buffet breads, biscuits. Grab as many butter packets as you can fit in your pockets and carbo load like you’re running a marathon. But, remember what your mother used to warn you: Don’t fill up on bread.
The Questionable Remainders
Here’s where things get tricky. Buffet scrambled eggs suck more often than they don’t. They’re always bland, often overcooked and occasionally just loose disasters. Our advice: skip the scrambled eggs. If you really want scrambled eggs, however, and there’s an omelet station, we recommend that you ask the omelet sommelier to prepare you some freshly scrambled eggs. Plus, you can ask for omelet items in your scramble. Win-win!
Hard boiled eggs are a nice treat because preparing them at home is just not that enjoyable. They make your kitchen smell, you get shells everywhere and there are more exciting things to do with your eggs. But when ready-to-eat hard boiled eggs are just presented to you, you best take advantage. All other eggs dishes such as frittatas and quiches should be judged on a case by case basis.
Like eggs, sausage at hotel breakfast buffets can be a mixed bag (tip: decline all offers of mixed bags of sausage). Avoid sausage patties. You’re not at the hotel breakfast buffet so that you can replicate the experience of eating at McDonald’s. As for links, always take a close look to see how shriveled they are. If they look dehydrated, walk away. You want the casing to pop in your mouth, but you want that to lead to a juicy explosion. Dry sausage is not your friend. Besides, your bacon serving should eliminate the need for sausage.
You can eat this at home!
Unless the buffet is free, don’t get oatmeal. If you’re paying for the buffet, you already threw health out the window. Put down the raisins and start enjoying life.
Like the scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes at a hotel buffet tend to be underwhelming. Often, they’re just a big batch of mushy, bland starch disappointment. If you’ve handled your bread decision properly, you don’t even need potatoes.
11. Pre-cooked Pancakes
Bland hockey pucks served with packets of “pancake syrup.” I know that you think that you love Aunt Jemima, but she’s a cruel mistress and you deserve better.
The next time you’re staying at a hotel and wake up hungry, we hope that you’ll remember these handy rankings. Whether you’re on vacation, a business trip or anything in between, you need fuel when you’re on the road. Start your day right at the breakfast buffet. The decisions you make in front of those chafing dishes may just save your life.
I have a postcard of a cartoon that says something like this, “Erma, unsure of what to bring to the potluck, brought a loaf of bread.” All the other cartoon people in the postcard picture were sporting a loaf of bread as well.
In the case of this photo that was taken by jrodmanjr in the Ferry Building in San Francisco, I’m mostly reminded of abundance. I’m also drawn to the repetition and the crispness of the bread, and the fact that tomorrow it’s Thanksgiving.
If you are celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow, may there be delicious bread and loved ones at your table.
If you have any shots of abundance, share them with us at Gadling’s Flickr photo pool where they might be chosen as a Photo of the Day.