Friday, October 28, 2011

Baylan Restaurant & Bar Review: "Like, Comment, Share"!!!

Dear readers,

I think I have been on Facebook tooooo long! When I decided to do a review of Baylan Restaurant, for some reason, the 3 major icons on FB popped into my head - go figure!

Some of you might already be familiar with the "Baylan" brand and might be surprised that I said "restaurant" instead of "pastry shop", but surprise... surprise, Baylan is now also in the dining business!

Opened only a month and a half ago, Baylan Restaurant & Bar is located right next door to their pastry shop in Bebek, which opened in 2010.

Baylan Pastry Shop

Entrance to Baylan Restaurant & Bar
I had found out earlier on this year that Baylan was planning to open a restaurant as I had run into Erkan Yavaşer, the restaurant's manager (who I knew from when he worked at Nişantaşı Brasserie) while it was still under construction.

For those familiar with the area, Baylan Restaurant is located at the "old" Gloria Jeans Coffee branch and as it is so new, their PR efforts are at a minimum. I happened to read an article in one of the Turkish newspapers (can't remember which one) over this past weekend - that's how I found out that it had opened.

Last week, I had made plans to go out to dinner with two of my subordinates Seray Ulucan Kanberoğlu (Advertising Manager) and Hande Vatandost (she has since departed from the Guide) from my days at The Guide Istanbul. As we nearly worked together for 10 years and 7 years respectively, we have remained friends. Even though all of us have crazy schedules, we do attempt to get together from time to time to catch up and decided to have dinner together on Thursday night this week.

Of course, as I was the General Manager & Editor-in-Chief of The Guide Magazines, they left it up to me to decide where to go, but with one stipulation - it should be around the Levent, Etiler, or Bebek neighborhoods as they both work in Levent and Etiler and I live in Levent! We didn't want to be wasting time sitting in traffic to go to another part of the city.

After a few days of deliberating where we could go... I remembered the article I had read and suggested Baylan Restaurant.

Our dinner reservations were for 7:00pm and I got to the neighborhood early - around 6:00pm and first stopped by Lucca (my second home!) for a glass of wine before heading over to Baylan. I've already written about Lucca in other posts (and will continue to do so!), so you can visit those posts for more details.


I got to Baylan at around 6:50pm... I have this habit of always showing up early, as I hate to be late.

As you enter the 3-story restaurant & bar, the main level has a seating area where you can enjoy pastries, snacks or beverages or purchase cakes, chocolates and the glassware (wine, water and tea glasses) they imported from France and use in the restaurant.

Confectionary & Glassware display
I really liked the lighting and decor on the main floor and all the desserts, candies and chocolates on display were very appetizing and tempting!

I was then directed to the main dining room - one floor below...

As I walked down the stairs and saw the dining room, I thought "wow, what a lovely room!". I liked the warm earth tones, the wood panelled walls, comfy atmosphere, soft lighting and comfortable seating! Also, the ceiling can be opened or closed according to the weather!

As I was waiting for the girls to arrive, I asked to see the wine list and menu. My biggest WOW was for the wine menu!!! I couldn't believe the prices - in a positive way! Not only had they prepared a very nice menu with selections from Turkey and around the world... they had some of my favorites and at astoundingly low prices compared to other restaurants around town. For example, the wine we had - Hill & Dale Pinotage was only 75 TL/bottle! They also have Turkish and foreign wines by the glass - for only 14 to 16 TL! I was in heaven to say the least. I definitely liked the wine list.

Just then, the girls came and after our greetings and our wine was poured and bread served (I liked the selection of rolls which included all grain, plain and tomato flavored, etc.), we started reviewing the menu.

Baylan has a young and talented Turkish chef who was inspired by and attended culinary courses offered by Alain Ducasse and this was evident in his menu.

The menu is currently not every extensive and new items will be added in the future, but I did like what I saw and the prices were moderate to expense. As we were not very hungry, we decided to share an appetizer - Vol-au-Vent (pastry stuffed with asparagus, crayfish, etc.) and we were also "comped" an appetizer - (sorry I can't remember the name), served in a marble dish that had shredded chicken breast on the bottom and topped with pieces of bread. You can either dung the bread in the chicken or scoop it out.

We definitely liked the vol-au-vent (30 TL) and the other appetizer was good too, but the bread could have been crispier.

For a main course, Hande and I ordered another appetizer - roasted red bell peppers stuffed with minced meat flavored with cilantro and cinammon (18 TL). Seray was already too full to order anything else... that's why she is so thin and I'm not!!!

Roasted red bell peppers stuffed with minced meat
I not only liked this dish - I loved it!!! The flavors were amazing, the quality of the minced meat was top notch and the portion was that of a main course.

Even though we hadn't eaten alot, we passed on ordering dessert. I know this is a big mistake at Baylan as they are known for their delectable desserts, but we said another time! Instead, we ended our enjoyable evening with a cup of Turkish coffee (and some fortune telling)!

Hande Vatandost, Seray Ulucan Kanberoğlu, Vildan Yahni (left to right)
We had a lovely evening and it was great getting together and we promised to try to do this more often.

After our goodbyes, I stayed so that I could see the top floor of Baylan...

I definitely liked the bar too! Here you can enjoy cocktails at the bar or at the tables in the indoor as well as the outdoor (heated) terrace - affording a lovely lovely view of the Bosphorus. You can also dine here too and the bar menu includes sandwiches, salads, etc., but if you'd like, you can also order from the dinner menu.

  • the service is very efficient and the wait staff are very knowledgeable and friendly.
  • visit Baylan Restaurant if you want to enjoy a lovely meal in a casual, yet elegant surroundings.
  • The music does not "overpower" your conversations in the main dining room! You can actually hear each other talk without having to speak loudly!
  • Baylan is a good place for a business or casual dinner.
If you go to Baylan Restaurant & Bar and agree with my comments, make sure to share with your friends too!

Baylan Restaurant & Cafe
Cevdetpaşa Caddesi No. 52-54 Bebek
Tel: (0212) 358 07 60 (in Turkish only)

Bon apétit!


Baylan "in brief"...

Filip Lenas immigrated from Albania to Istanbul in 1919 and learned the art of pastry making from M. Moulatier and opened Baylan - then called "Loryan" in Beyoğlu in 1923. He opened his 2nd branch in Karaköy in 1925 and the name of the pastry shop was renamed Baylan in 1934. He opened his chocolate factory in Karaköy in 1939. In 1952, his eldest son Henry Lenas went to Europe to study pastry making. In 1953, the chocolate factory was moved to Gayrettepe. In 1954, Henry Lenas returned to Istanbul and opened Istanbul's first döner (similar to gyro) and pastry kiosk. In 1961, Baylan opened a branch in Kadıköy on the Asian side of the city. In 1967, Baylan closed their branch in Beyoğlu and their branch in Karaköy in 1992. In 2009, the Altınkılıç family (Altınmarka - purveyors of chocolae) purchased the Baylan brand. In 2010, Baylan opens a branch in Bebek and renovates the Kadıköy branch. In September 2011, Baylan Restaurant & Bar opened.  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Info on how to donate to the Earthquake victims in Van, Turkey

Dear readers,

As you all know, a devasting earthquake, registering 7.2 on the richter scale, hit the city of Van and its surroundings on Sunday, October 23 at 1:42pm local time.

As it is always the case with earthquakes, the inhabitants were caught off guard. Unfortunately, Van and especially the province of Erciş were hit very hard and a major portion of the buildings collapsed adding to the devastation!

Efforts are under way to find and extract the people caught inside (mainly woman and children as it was a Sunday and most were at home during the quake), but the news coming over the news wires are not very good.

According to initital estimates, more than 1,000 people will have lost there lives and the majority of the survivors have lost their home and all of their possessions!

There has been a major effort throughout the country to get provisions to Van as quickly as possible and rescue teams have been rushing to the scene.

For my "international" blog readers, I would like to share the following website if you want to make a donation...

If you live in Turkey, you can send a text message to the following organizations to make a donation. Each "blank" text message is 5 TL and all funds will go directly to these organizations.

Kızılay (Red Cross of Turkey)                   2868   (

AKUT                                                          2930  (

The people in Van are in dire straits... most are living on the streets or in the tents given to them by the Red Cross of Turkey and other organizations. The weather is really cold and snow is expected tomorrow.

It will take them a really long time to recover from this disaster and require warm clothing, heaters, blankets, diapers, shoes, boots and pre-cooked food (canned goods, milk, baby food, etc.) among others. There are several things you can do to donate these supplies. For the children, you can also send books, toys, etc.

1) If you live in Istanbul and want to donate any of the above goods, contact the Municipality of Şişli at (0212) 288 75 76. They have a long haul truck that will be departing this evening (October 24) at 6:00pm, but I am sure their efforts to send supplies will continue.

2) The following courier companies in Turkey will send care packages to Van free of charge:

  • MNG Kargo
  • Yurtiçi Kargo
  • PTT
  • Aras Kargo
3) The following are just a few more municipalities in Istanbul and Izmir that are accepting donations of supplies:

  • Municipality of Kadıköy Tel: (0216) 542 50 55
  • Municipality of Beşiktaş: Tel: 444 44 55
  • Municipality of Bornova in Izmir Tel: (0232) 388 29 64
Also... the Red Cross of Turkey's branch in Ataşehir is accepting supplies and the telephone number is Tel: (0216) 455 15 15

Finally, the following website includes a whole host of information on how you can help and what is needed.
Thanks to everyone in advance for their support! Our thoughts are prayers are with the inhabitants of Van!


Saturday, October 22, 2011

What's "UP" in Istanbul/1... an ongoing series

Dear readers,

Istanbul is such an ever-changing, exciting and lively city! I say this with total honesty and confidence... just like New York City, there is something to do 24/7 - the city just does not shut down! There are many clubs that are open until the wee hours of the morning and there is always a place that is open where you can grab a bite to eat a night of partying! You can also shop to your heart's content - 7 days a week because of the countless shopping malls around town and even some boutiques in certain neighborhoods are also open on Sunday! 

So, I've decided to prepare posts on just some of the happenings around town... this is just a drop in the bucket of course, but it will give you a flavor and hopefully peak your interest - whether you are a resident or plan on visiting Istanbul! 

Once again... this is not a "one shot" post and I will be preparing like posts from time to time... so enjoy Istanbul!!!

BUT... BEFORE YOU GET TO THE TOPIC AT HAND... as alwyays, I must digress and share some news with you!

On Thurday, October 20 ... Luka, my one year-old (it was his birthday yesterday!) started his own blog! I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree! He will be writing on a whole lot of different topics - from his perspective...

If you are interested in what he has to say (and I bet the kids will be interested too - already my nephew went nuts over the first post!), visit

"relaxing" after my bath yesterday
And... he would love to get some comments from you and promises to answer each and every one of them!


Located in a lovely restored historical building in Tepebaşı, Beyoğlu and established by the Suna & Inan Kıraç Foundation, the Pera Museum ( was established in 2005 and opened its doors to the public in June.

At the 5-story museum, the 1st and 2nd floor is allocated for their permanent collection while floors 3-5 are used for temporary exhibitions. In the basement, there is an auditorium used for meetings, etc. and there is a very nice cafe (Pera Cafe) and Art Shop on the main floor.

The museum has been home to many notable internationally recognized exhibitions - and in my opinion, the most important one was of the works of worldclass artist Botero a couple of years ago. But, each and every exhibit is important unto its own.
Currently, an exhibit titled Osman Hamdi Bey and the Americans: Archaeology, Diplomacy, Art" opened on October 15 and will be on display until January 8th.

An important orientalist painter, Osman Hamdi Bey (1842-1910) is most known for his famous painting titled "Tortoise Trainer" however, his life long contributions in the arts (paintings, archaeology, museology and art education) must also be remembered.

Organized in cooperation with the Pera Museum and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, the exhibit is curated by Prof. Renata Holod and Prof. Robert Ousterhoust from the University of Pennsylvania and focuses on the first excavations that American archaeologists conducted on Ottoman land - specifically Assos and Nippur.

The exhibit includes a vast selection of paintings by Osman Hamdi Bey, archaeological photographs, drawings (19th Century), letters, travel journals and archaeological artifacts that are being displayed for the first time. The collection is on loan from several museums and private collections and two unknown works of Osman Hamdi Bey, discovered at the Penn Museum, will be introduced to art lovers.
Finally, as part of the museum's new orientalist painting collection, an exhibit tited "Intersecting Worlds: Ambassadors and Painters" is on display at the Sevgi and Erdoğan Gönül Gallery at the museum and a special section has been allocated and includes the works of Osman Hamdi Bey from the Suna and Inan Kıraç Foundation's collection.
I have not yet had a chance to visit this exhibit, but plan to in the near future! The Pera Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10:00am to 7:00pm and on Sunday from noon to 6:00pm. The admission fee is 10 TL for adults (7 TL for groups of more than 10 people); free for kids up to the age of 12 and for the physically handicapped and their companion; 5 TL - children 12+, educators and senior citizens over the age of 65). (Meşrutiyet Caddesi No. 65, Tepebaşı - Beyoğlu)

Are you a fan of white Alba truffles? Meals prepared with this rare delicacy from the Piemonte Region in Italy are now available at Gina (; Tel: (0212) 353 54 52) Restaurant at Kanyon Shopping Mall and Da Mario (; Tel: (0212) 265 15 96) in Etiler until October 31. I highly suggest you make reservations (for lunch or dinner) before going to either one of these very popular eateries as they are always full!

Most Istanbulites familiar with the popular wining and dining venues around town must have heard of or must have visited Abracadabra located in a 3-story villa in Arnavutköy at one time or another! And... the same people were probably very very disappointed and sad when it closed last year!

But, its crazy (affectionately) and highly talented and creative chef Dilara Erbay is now back with a new restaurant! Called Datlı Maya (have no idea why this name, but as usual Dilara is playing on words.. "datlı" is a slang way of saying "sweet" and "maya" is yeast), Dilara's new eatery is located in Cihangir. Here, she is creating a whole host of down home hearty and delicious Turkish dishes (most prepared in a brick oven) - of course with her very own "twist"! She has a page on Facebook and everytime she posts a new dish, I realize that I have to make the time to high tail it to Datlı Maya as soon as I can squeeze it into my crazy schedule!
 Good luck Dilara! I know you will be just as successful and have a following here - just like at Abracadabra! (Türkgücü Caddesi No. 59A, Cihangir; Tel: (0212) 292 90 56-57;

This piece of news is right up my alley! Doluca, a major Turkish wine producer has organized the 6th Istanbul Kadeh Kaldırıyor (Istanbul is raising its glass) promotion which began on October 19 and will end of October 30.

75 brands of Doluca wines and international wines imported by Doluca will be available by the glass! If you want to try one of these wines without having to open a bottle, then visit Anjelique, Borsa (IstinyePark), Da Mario, Gina, Istanbul Modern, La Brise Brasserie, Masa, Mikla, Sunset Grill & Bar, Şans, Topaz, Vogue and X Restaurant & Cafe until October 30. As you can see, these are some of the better restaurants around town and just some additional info on some of them... Borsa's menu includes some of the best dishes from Turkish cuisines...make sure to try some of their cold olive oil dishes too; at Vogue, not only will you get a very good meal (Japanese & International), the view of the city, the music, and perfectlyprepared pre-dinner cocktails, just adds to the ambiance; La Brise Brasserie will make you feel like you are in a typical French bistro in France! The food is very good - prepared at the hands of Esen Hünal Blake, a young and talented female chef. Some even swear that her Steak Tartare is better than those served at restaurants in France! Sunset Grill & Bar just added some new goodies to their fall/winter menu! Şans is always a treat! Located in a lovely 2-story villa in Levent, you will always enjoy a lovely meal (Turkish & International) accompanied with friendly and attentive service!  
More news from the world of wine! Several years ago, the "then" F&B Director of the Four Seasons Hotel at Sultanahmet - and my very good friend (in 2011, she transferred to the Four Seasons Hotel in Texas) started a casual, yet informative "Wine Tasting" held at the hotel every Friday night. Every week, a different wine producer's (Turkish & International) wines were offered to wine lovers accompanied with cheese, olives, breads, etc. Well, as you can imagine, it took off! However, the wine tastings are not held during the summer months ... but now it's back!
The wine tastings are held every Friday from 7:00pm on and the cost is 40 TL/person. Reservations are a must! (Tel: (0212) 402 31 56). You can also call the hotel and have them add you to their mailing list and get updates each week via email on the wines that will be offered.
The other day, I got together for lunch with an ex-subordinate of mine from my days at The Guide magazines. She too had left her job earlier this year and her new office is at Akmerkez Shopping Mall, which also has office floors and a residence.
Akmerkez Shopping Mall/Ulus entrance
Since she didn't want to waste time in traffic during her lunch break, she suggested we go to Cookshop ( which is right across the street from the Akmerkez Shopping Mall.

I first went to Cookshop when they opened their first branch at City's Nişantaşı a few years ago and liked it very much for a casual meal. Since then I had been to the one in Etiler by the Akmerkez Shopping's Mall Ulus entrance many times in the last few months and always enjoyed my meal (but not the sometimes loud music they play!). So, I wanted to give you some info on this place if you are in the neighborhood shopping at the mall and want to grab a bite to eat outside the mall.
Cookshop has a very extensive menu, including breakfast treats, appetizers, soups, salads, pastas, mains and desserts and alcohol is also served. The prices are moderate and the portions quite satisfying. I have tried their soups (a soup of the day is also available) and my favorite dish so far is the Grilled Salmon with sauteed vegetables. My friends have had salads and say they are very good too. So, for a break from shopping - or to just have a casual meal, Cookshop is a good choice!
Even though I am usually not a big fan of "multi-location" cafes (unfortunately the quality & service is affected), Kitchenette breaks the mold. I have been to many of their branches (Bebek, Ortaköy, Taksim), but my favorite is their Kanyon branch. Recently I received an email from Kitchenette with two announcements. First, they have revised their website (, but secondly and more importantly, they have added new goodies to their menu! As a repeat customer, and even though I have my favorite dishes (i.e. Eggs Norwegian, Kitchenette Toast, Grilled Salmon salad), I do like to try new dishes from time to time!
Kitchenette Kanyon
Eggs Norwegin @ Kitchenette
Some of the new items on their menu include "Alaturka" Burger (I guess a hamburger prepared Turkish style); chicken with parmesan cheese; seabass filet wrapped in pastry; and a selection of detox beverages, among others. 
Like most women, I love jewelry! My personal favorites are rings and bracelets (necklaces come in a close 3rd and I don't wear earrings), but I am very set in my ways and usually do not change my jewelry according to my outfit and prefer "standard" items that can be worn with all outfits. That is why for the last few years, I prefer silver jewelry and wear at least 10 different bracelets - all from the same maker - and at the same time on my right hand. I only prefer to wear a watch on my left hand.
But, before my silver jewelry kick, I was a major fan of the jewelry produced by Swarovski and still to this day, one of my favorite rings that I own was designed and is from the Daniel Swarovski collection. And, a couple of years ago, a friend of mine gave me a Swarovski studded white pen for my birthday which I always carry in my handbag!
A couple of weeks ago, I ran into the Turkish distributor of Swarovski in Bebek and she had on the MOST gorgeous necklace! I immediately fell in love with it and found out it was from their Fall/Winter collection! She also told me that they totally re-did the decor of the store at Kanyon.
@ Kanyon Shopping Mall
I was at Kanyon several days ago - but on the run, so I was only able to take a photo of Swarovski with its new "look" and it looks fantastic! Thank God, I didn't have time to stop by, because I am sure I would have purchased something!
The Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul Hotel has organized a "Amateur 'Meze' Competition"!
You must be an amateur chef to enter this competition which ends on November 10th...
Laledan Restaurant @ Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul
Here's how it works... 3 meze or appetizers selected as winners will be included in the menu at the hotel's Laledan Restaurant for one year! So, if you are confident that you have a recipe for an appetizer that is a good accompaniement to seafood dishes, visit where you will be able to enter your recipe. The website is available only in Turkish. 
The amateur chefs recipes that pass the first round will be announced on Friday, November 18. Then, the finalists will be asked to present their recipes to a jury at the hotel during the first week of December. Afterwards, the top 3 appetizers will be selected. Also, other prizes await finalists to include a hotel stay, complimentary dinner, etc.! Good luck!  
Lately, the weather in Istanbul has been crazy! In the past two weeks, we had very cold weather, then heavy rains and now we are living an Indian summer! All of these weather changes have no doubt affected many people and more and more Istanbulites are starting to get a cold or a flu! Not fun!!!!
There is no "best" way to avoid getting sick, but there are things that we can do to keep our immune systems up! I am in no way a nutritionist or health expert, but like everyone, I do read up on the subject and have my own special tricks to hopefully avoid getting sick - even though it might be inevitable!
Recently, when I was talking to my sis about this subject, she told me that she eats honey every morning (all year) and that this helps her to keep healthy and strong! Made sense to me and I said why not? And... to boot, I had jars of honey at home that I hadn't even opened!
Last year while I was still working at The Guide Magazines, a major honey producer - Balparmak had sent me samples of some of their gourmet honey that had won international awards along with a press release.
The Balparmak gourmet series includes the  above along with those produced in Yüksekova and Muş.
So, for the last couple of weeks, I have added a tablespoon of honey to my breakfast regiment! And.. among the 3 above, my favorite is the one produced in Şemdinli. I have also noticed that I am feeling better and energetic!
Besides these jars, I also had a bottle of Balparmak honey at home that I had purchased at the supermarket. However, for some reason, I only used it when I got sick and put some in my tea!
So, if you have no health issues - like diabetes - you might want to try it too - can't hurt and it tastes good too!
Till the next time...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Swissôtel The Bosphorus, Istanbul & 20 Turkish Contemporary Artists join forces to support AÇEV...

Dear readers,

Tis' the season for all sorts of exhibitions that are being organized around Istanbul - from the streets (Stars of Istanbul - see earlier post) to major museums and galleries (i.e. The Biennale) to even a hotel! In fact, some of these exhibitions are being organized to support a variety of charitable organizations. Personally, I support any charitable organization that strives to make life better for those less fortunate, but when kids and animals are involved, I take my support one step further and do whatever I can to help promote the
organization(s) - let it be through personal donations or posts such as this!

This post is about such a cause and by "even a hotel", I mean the 5-star deluxe Swissôtel The Bosphorus, Istanbul ( located on sprawling green lawns in Maçka overlooking the magnificent Bosphorus strait and Asian side of the city.

First, I would first like to say HAPPY HAPPY 20TH BIRTHDAY SWISSÔTEL! Yes, it was 20 years ago that the hotel opened in Istanbul. A few months ago I was delighted to be invited to their 20th year celebrations which was a major success. I am also proud to count Gerhard Struger, GM, Yeşim Doğukan (Director of Marketing & PR) and a whole host of other staff members as friends and acquaintances. I had the opportunity to work closely with the hotel management during my tenure as the General Manager & Editor-in-Chief of The Guide Magazines and we have kept up our friendship throughout the years.

Without getting into the "behind the scenes", in cooperation with the Municipality of Şişli and as part of the Swissôtel's 20th year celebrations, an exhibit titled "20 angles for the future" to support AÇEV - Mother Child Education Foundation (, in coordination with Sinpa Inc. went on display in July.

So, here's what happened... 20 prominent Turkish contemporary artists (Adem Genç, Ahmet Oran, Alaattin Aksoy, Bedri Baykam, Bubi, Devrim Erbil, Ergin İnan, Ertuğrul Ateş, Gülay Semercioğlu, Hafize Uncuoğlu, Haluk Akakçe, İrfan Okan,İrfan Önürmen, Mevlüt Akyıldız, Mustafa Ata, Özdemir Altan, Suzan Batu, Şahin Paksoy, Temür Köran, Yusuf Taktak) happily agreed to participate by each designing a sculpture using the "hat" in the word "o" in Swissôtel. Now, the name of the exhibit makes more sense right? 20 artists, 20 angles and Swissôtel's 20th birthday!

Adem Genç

Bedri Baykam

Devrim Erbil

The exhibit was not only located at the hotel, but also on Abdi Ipekçi Street in Nişantaşı and Kanyon, City's Nişantaşı and Akmerkez shopping malls: in August, the entire exhibit was moved to the Swissôtel.

Ergin Inan
Hafize Uncuoğlu

Mevlüt Akyıldız
As I mentioned earlier, all the artists were more than happy to be part of this very worthwhile exhibit in support of AÇEV. You can read more about this foundation from their website, but to quote their "mission and vision"

"The Mother Child Education Foundation (ACEV), founded in 1993, is a Turkish non-governmental organization which has vast research, program development, program implementation and advocacy experience in early childhood and adult education. Through strategic partnerships, ACEV has been able to reach hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries with its scientifically-based training programs."

Also, to date (once again quoting from their website), AÇEV has:

  • trained 7,000 trainers and through them served 609,000 people through long-term, face-to-face education programs aimed at children, families and illiterate women

  • reached 7,500,000 viewers through television programs aimed at children, families, and women

  • reached an estimated 40,000,000 people through publications, research, and mass-media advocacy activities.

    Şahin Paksoy

    Haluk Akakçe

    Currently, all of these inspirational and innovative sculptures are on display at the Swissôtel and on Saturday, October 22nd, starting at 3:00pm will be auctioned off to the highest bidder at the hotel. Antik AŞ is organizing the auction and all are welcome to participate in the auction! Most importantly, all the proceeds from sales will be donated to AÇEV.

    Some of the faces behind this very important cause are below - kudos to all who have contributed - pictured or not!

    Hatice Süren (Sinpa AŞ), Yeşim Doğukan (Marketing & PR Director - Swissôtel), Mustafa Sarıgül (Mayor - Şişli Municipality), Hilal Kuşcul (AÇEV), Gerhard Struger (GM - Swissôtel), Ayşe Zorlu (Sinpa AŞ), Tuba Ezeroğlu (Kiraz PR) - from left to right 

    Also as part of the festivities surrounding the 20th birthday of Swissôtel and to further build awareness for the exhibition - Swissôtel has organized a contest which you can participate via their facebook page!

    The contest runs through October 21st and all you have to do is visit their page on facebook ( and answer any one of the two questions posted at 10:30am and 3:30pm to qualify (it's only available in Turkish). You can answer a question every day until the 21st to increase your chances of winning. At the end of the contest, 20 lucky winners will receive a dinner for two at Gaja Motto (private room next to Gaja Restaurant). Then, among the 20 winners, one person will be picked in a drawing to receive a one night's stay for 2 at the hotel!

    Good luck to everyone!


    Friday, October 14, 2011

    STARS OF ISTANBUL: The 'stars' are shining brightly on the streets of Istanbul!

    Dear readers,

    I decided to change it up a bit with this post ... and will do so more in the future too... and have decided to prepare some posts on major arts and culture activities in Istanbul!

    So... let's begin!!!!

    What do you get when you combine a diminutive (affectionately!) hardworking, socially conscious spitfire of a woman who has a heart of gold with a well-known and respected journalist/broadcaster/media executive/businessman who has probably been associated with an upteen of social and cultural projects, topped with an internationally recognized highly talented designer, coupled with the support of the Municipality of Istanbul - for a very very good cause - that is underpriviledged children under the auspices of UNICEF Turkey???

    The answer isssss... STARS OF ISTANBUL!!!

    Now... to share the names and faces of this talented core project partners - Zeynep Helvacı is the woman and someone who I am proud to say is a friend - has been involved in many many like projects. In fact, I met her many years ago when she worked on the CowParade project. Nuri M. Çolakoğlu has been involved in too many projects to list here, but is also someone I know and had the pleasure of meeting at many social gatherings and meetings. Ms. Helvacı and Mr. Çolakoğlu are responsible for the concept and implementation of the project.

    Duygu Bengi (staff member), Zeynep Helvacı, Mercan Dede (prominent internatinally acclaimed Turkish artist, Emir Sarısaç (staff member), Nuri M. Çolakoğlu, Metin Gürsoy (PR) (from left to right)

    The 3rd person on the core team is Aziz Sarıyer, a respected member of the international design community. Mr. Sarıyer founded his company Derin Design ( in 1971 and specializes in furniture design and production. He designed the 5-sided star (dimensions: height: 1.80cm, width: 1.87cm, diameter: 75cm).

    Aziz Sarıyer


    To quote Mr. Sarıyer, "The 5-sided star is a symbol of humanity and love. While the top side symbolizes the human head as well as spirituality, the other four corners represent the arms and the legs, but alternatively, they ar believed to signify the four elements - earth, air, fire and water - as well as the four seasons. Its meaning: the possibility to utilize the spiritual energy one possesses during daily life. Throughout the ages, the shiny objects high up in the heavens have represented success and fortune for humanity. I have designed the star form for all the children of the world. By trying to stay true to the 5-sided star's geometry, I've attempted to recreate a child star which is as abstract as possible".  

    Ok... now to the details of the project!

    The Stars of Istanbul exhibition is the largest multi-purpose outdoor arts event held in Istanbul to benefit UNICEF Turkey in order to, among other purposes, to provide a brighter future for children.

    Since the exhibition "opened" on September 1st, most Istanbul residents are now very familiar with these stars that adorn many streets and shopping malls throughout the city.

    Kanyon (Levent) Shopping Mall

    Büyükdere Street (in front of Kanyon Shopping Mall)

    Abdi Ipekçi Street (Nişantaşı)
    So... How does it work? Well... Turkish & International companies, individuals or artists paid a certain fee to "adopt" a star. Then they got together with an artist of their choice to design the star! On display on each platform that the star sits on is the name of the sponsor company/individual, the designer's name and a sign that indicates how you can do your part to support the cause. can you support and make a donation to the cause? Let's say you are walking down the street and you really like the design of a star you see... then just whip out your cellular phone (AVEA, Turkcell or Vodafone subscribers) and send a message to 3005 by writing the word STAR (add a space) and then write the Star's Code... by doing this you will be making a 10 TL donation - it's that simple! 

    Cevahir Shopping Mall (Mecidiyeköy) - photo supplied by Stars of Istanbul

    So... where are all of these imaginative and one-of-a-kind STARS located? Well, pretty much in all the major neighborhoods and malls on the European and Asian sides of the city (including the Atatürk International Airport and Sabiha Gökçen Airport on the Asian side of the city).

    So... how long will the exhibition be on display? The outdoor exhibition will be on display until November 30th. If you don't live in Istanbul and plan on visiting our lovely city - come before November 30th if you want to see them up close and personal!

    So... what happens to these STARS after November 30th? They will be auctioned off on December 17th... this is still a preliminary date and might change. So, if you are interested in buying one, visit their website as the exhibit draws to a close for up-to-date information!

    So...what will be the benefits of the exhibition? It is anticipated that the future of 90,000 children in Turkey will be brighter because of this project.

    Kudos to everyone on the core team, UNICEF Turkey, the Municipality of Istanbul s well as all the wonderful people behind the scenes who worked and continue to work very hard to ensure the success of this worthwhile project!


    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    From the Cotes du Rhône Valley/Paul Jaboulet Vineyards to "Down Under" and the d'Arenberg Vineyards...

    Dear readers,

    I had every intention of writing Part II of my 2-part series on travelling to Istanbul in the Fall/Winter season, but I got sidetracked and just had to give a wine break!

    Now that the Fall season is upon us, wine tastings organized by many Turkish wine distributors as well as Turkish wine producers have begun! So much so that I was able to attend 2 wine tastings  - organized by ADCO Fine Wines ( - was held a few days apart taking its participants from the rolling hills of the Cotes du Rhône Valley in the southeast of France with a visit to the "traditional" Domaines Paul Jaboulet Aîné all the way to the "new generation" d'Arenberg Vineyards in the McLaren Vale region in South Australia. And.. what a wonderful trip it was!

    Domaines Paul Jaboulet Aîné
    The Paul Jaboulet Aîné was founded by Antoine Jaboulet in 1834 and upon his death in 1864, was managed by his twin sons Paul and Henri. The "elder son" (aîné in French) Paul was instrumental in building the company and was so named. The vineyards were run and managed by the family until 2006 when the Frey Company purchased the vineyards.

    The Paul Jaboulet vineyards is a total of 114,2 hectares and the majority of the wines are produced with grapes harvested in the south of the Cotes du Rhône Valley while a much smaller portion harvested in the northern part of the vineyards located right above the 45th paralel of the Equator. In the northern part only Syrah grapes are harvested while in the southern region the majority of the graphes harvested are Grenache grapes along with Marsanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc, Clairette, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Muscat grapes. To be quite frank, except for the "better known" grape varieties (Grenache, Syrah, Muscat), I was not familiar with the other grapes, so this was going to be a new experience for me!

    The wine tasting was held on a lovely balmy and sunny afternoon on Wednesday, October 5th at the restaurant at the newly opened House Hotel in Ortaköy affording a lovely view of the Bosphorus.

    View from the House Hotel Restaurant
    The Paul Jaboulet vineyards produce 28 brands of wine and of the wine produced,  90% are red wines. At our tasting, we had the opportunity to taste 9 wines that are available in Istanbul.

    Our hosts for the day was Michat Bertrand, export manager for the Jaboulet Vineyards and Randolph Ward Mays, owner of ADCO Fine Wines, which was established in 1990. Mr. Mays is also the founder and chairman of the Sommelier Association of Turkey.

    Michat Bertrand (left), Randolph Ward Mays (right)
    After Mr. Bertrand gaves u a short overview of the company, it was time to taste the wines!

    The group attending the wine tasting was mainly made up of sommeliers and restaurant owners - except for a couple of "non-professionals" like me who were lucky enough to join the group! I am an Ordre du Mondial member and because of my interest in learning more about wines, these tastings are a god send for me!

    As with all wine tastings, you start with the white wines and continue with the reds and in some cases, ending with a dessert wine. And... the sequence of wines tasted start from the good (moderately priced), to the better (pricier) to the best (expensive)!

    In order, we tasted the following wines. I am not going to "judge" any of the wines as wine is a personal taste - I might like a wine, but that does not mean you will like it - you just have to try them to find the one(s) that suit you the most! I will just give you information on the grapes and alcohol content. All are available in Istanbul at select wine shops and you can get more information about them from Adco's "Vinum Wine Market" website ( Unfortunately, I was not able to take pictures of each wine label and only have a couple of samples.

    1) Cotes du Rhône Paralelle 45 (2003)/White (Grenache blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc, Clairette (13% alcohol) 

    2) Hermitage Chevalier de Sterimberg (2009)/White (65% Marsanne and 35% Roussanne) (13,5% alcohol)

    3) Cotes du Rhône Parallele 45 (2007)/Red (Syrah and Grenache Noir) (14% alcohol)

    4) Gigondas Pierre Aiguille (2006)/Red (80% Grenache, 10% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre (14,5% alcohol)

    5) Paul Jaboulet Aîné Chateauneuf du Pape (2007)/Red (75% Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault (15% alcohol)

    6) Crozes Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert (2007)/Red (Syrah) (13% alcohol)

    7) Hermitage La Petite Chapelle (2004)/Red (Syrah) (14% alcohol)

    8) Hermitage La Chapelle (2004)/Red (Syrah)

    9) Muscat de Beaumes de Venise (2007)/Sweet Wine (Muscat)

    Yes, it was definitely a lovely afternoon... the weather was perfect and the wines added a new level to my understanding and education of the use of different blends of grape! 

    Just as I was recovering from the "high" of learning more about different French wine (my all time favorites!) producers, I was further excited and thrilled to receive an email this past Friday asking me to attend another wine tasting organized by ADCO Fine Wines!

    This time we would be going "down under", the venue was Lucca... my ALL TIME favorite hangout and it was scheduled for Monday, October 10!

     d'Arenberg Vineyards
    Compared to the lovely and sunny day we had during our previous wine tasting, it was apparent that Fall had finally arrived in Istanbul over the weekend... it was literally pouring out of the heavens on Monday!

    I gave myself enough time to arrive for the 3:00pm wine tasting at Lucca as I knew the bad weather would further affect the heavy traffic problems we have in Istanbul! However, I was pleasantly surprised that I was immediately able to get a taxi from my neighborhood's taxi stand (on normal days I have problems!) and didn't run into as much traffic as I thought.

    Lucca was ready for us and had set up the tables just right including an assortment of "goodies" (cheese, figs, walnuts, etc) to accompany the tasting!

    This time, the hosts of the event were Claire Scott, d'Arenberg Vineyards Wine Ambassador, Cem Mirap, owner of Lucca and of course, Randolph Ward Mays, owner of ADCO Fine Wines!

    Claire Scott
    Randolph Ward Mays (left), Cem Mirap (right)

    According to the company profile, the d'Arenberg Vineyards journey into the world of winemaking was established in 1912 when the teetotaling Joseph Osborn purchased a 65 hectare property in the northern part of McLaren Vale in South Australia. His son Francis Ernest Osborn joined his father in the business and they expanded their property to 78 hectares, selling grapes to local wineries and when the winery facilities were finished, their first vintage occurred in 1928. In 1943, 3rd generation Francis d'Arenberg joined the family business, got full control of the business in 1957 and in 1959, he created the d'Arenberg brand.

    Fourth generation Chester d'Arenberg Osborn was appointed Chief Winemaker in 1984. In an article about Chester by respected wine writer Andrew Jefford for Waitrose Food Illustrated, he said "I have long nurtured a theory that the best wine creators are slightly crazy - that they inhabit a parallel universe to the rest of us and therefore work with a kind of focus and attention that eludes their more traditional couterparts".

    Considered a "bit" crazy, the company profile states that Chester is idealistic and labor intensive and that his "way" is an accountant's nightmare and a winemaker's dream... because wine quality always comes first with him.

    Before I start mentioning the wonderful wines we tasted, I also want to mention that both the red and white wines are basket pressed to ensure gentle extraction and red ferments are foot trod (about 45 minutes for each batch) to get the desired amount of tannin, color and flavor.

    Now... about the wines...this time I had a chance to take a picture of each wine we sampled and we tasted 8 wines that are available in Istanbul. During this tasting, I had the opportunity to taste Viognier, a grape variety that I had never tasted before. Also, I normally prefer red wines, but was very impressed with the series of white wines we tasted.

    1) The Stump Jump Vintage/white (2006) (Reisling, Sauvignon Blanc, Marsanne, Viognier and Chardonnay) (13% alcohol)

     2) The Hermit Crab/White (2007) (Viognier and Marsanne) (13,5% alcohol)  
    3) The Lucky Lizard/White (2007) (Chardonnay) (13,5% alcohol)

    4) The Stump Jump Vintage/Red (2007) (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) (14% alcohol)
    5) The Footbolt/Red (2008) (Syrah) (14,5% alcohol)
    6) Laughing Magpie/Red (2007) (Syrah and Viognier) (14,5% alcohol)

    7) The Wild Pixie/Red (2009) (94% Syrah and 6% Rousanne)
    8) The Deadarm/Red (2007) (Syrah) (14,5% alcohol)

    Even though the weather was not on our side, the wonderful wines and their amusing names made our day! Each name has a story and you can visit their website for the details.

    I would once again like to thank ADCO Fine Wines for inviting me to these wonderful wine tastings! It's always a pleasure to discover, explore and evaluate wines from around the world!

    I find it quite interesting that when I was preparing my Pendore Vineyards post, I stated that I was having a glass of Cotes du Rhône wine and right afterwards, I was invited to the Paul Jaboulet Vineyards (located in the Cotes du Rhône valley!) wine tasting... this time... I am having a glass of Bolla Valpolicella Classico (2009) wine... so what do you think, will my next wine tasting be Italian wines?

    One final note... Don't think I have forgotte about Turkish wines! They are also near and dear to my heart and will be writing about them too... as soon as I get invited to a wine tasting by Turkish producers too to be able to prepare a well-balanced post!