Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What's "UP" in Istanbul/3... an ongoing series

Dear readers,

There is so so much going on in Istanbul! Well, our lovely city is a major metropolitan and cosmopolitan city that can rival many cities in Europe and the USA!

Of course, I'm not preparing a magazine like I used to, so my info on Istanbul in What's "UP" is based on personal experiences and press releases that I continue to get from some PR firms... I will continue to share anything noteworthy to both residents and visitors - but with my own twist on the news - whether I received it from outside sources or whether I personally find the topic newsworthy!

This is Part 3 in an ongoing series... so here goes!

Compared to just a few years ago, the number of hotels that have opened and continue to open in all parts of the city is definitely on the rise. You can find anything from the 5 star deluxe to the boutique with a dusting of business and 3-4 star hotels thrown in for good measure....
One such hotel... Avantgarde Hotel Istanbul ( is literally under my nose in Zincirlikuyu, but I didn't "discover" it until last month!
Avantgarde Hotel (picture from their website)
I don't know when it opened exactly, but I believe it's been a little more than a year. It is located on the corner of Büyükdere Caddesi and is just a few short blocks from the Levent Metro, Metrocity and Kanyon Shopping Malls to the left and the Gayrettepe Metro station and Astoria Shopping Mall to the right!

I attended a party thrown by a dear friend of mine in December (I will be writing about the reason for the party at a later date as I'm still waiting for some new developments before I write about it) and really liked the hotel and had a chance to visit one of its suites too. I found the staff very friendly and efficient.
Deluxe room (photo from Avantgarde Hotel website)
The Avantgarde Hotel has a total of 84 guest rooms with 63 deluxe, 4 superior deluxe, 14 grand deluxe and 3 residential suites. All rooms are elegantly decorated and include all the amenities of a deluxe hotel. Additionally, all rooms have rain showers, coffee/tea service, laptop size safe and free high speed internet access.
The hotel has a a breakfast room, all day dining room, terrace lounge, indoor swimming pool, 1000 square meter SPA, fitness center, pilates/yoga studio, fully equipped business center and a ballroom and 4 meeting rooms among other features.

So, if you plan on staying in the new part of town by the business districts, you might want to consider the Avantgarde Hotel...
As of December 17, 2011... taxi rates in Istanbul increased....
Yet, compared to other major cities, taxi rates in Istanbul are still quite modest. According to the new rates,

              - The opening rate went up from 2.5 TL to 2.7 TL
              - Additonal charge for each kilometer therafter is now 1.73 TL versus 1.6 TL
              - The waiting period charge which goes into effect after 5 minutes is 0.27 TL per/minute versus 0.25 TL/minute.

So, make sure the taximeter is turned on when you get in the cab and you don't need to tip, however, it's best to round off the fare to the nearest TL.

The arts & culture scene is alive and kicking in the city! There is an exhibit at almost every single museum and gallery in town and you probably read about most of them from different sites or the local domestic and foreign newspapers and magazines... the following are probably less publicized events that are also very interesting....

The Çırağan Palace has been home to many prominent exhibitions ever since it opened on the mezzanine level of the palace many years ago. They organize a new exhibit almost every month except during the summer.
Currently the works of Fevzi Karakoç and titled "Bridge II Series" is on display until January 31.
Fevzi Karakoç
This is Mr. Karakoç's 34th exhibit. If you'd like more information on the artist, visit his website at
Just as I was preparing this post, I received an invitation to the next exhibit at the Çırağan Palace... just like the others, this will be a great one too!
As part of the Çırağan Palace's 20th anniversary this year (happy birthday Çırağan Palace!), a retrospective of internationally renowned Turkish artist Ismail Acar's works and titled "Love" will open to the public on February 9. Mr. Acar is also celebrating his 20th year in the art world too!
Ismail Acar painting
This special exhibit will not only include a selection of Mr. Acar's works, but also pieces that depict the love story of Sultan Abdulaziz, the main demigod of the Çırağan Palace and Napoleon III's wife Eugenie! The exhibit will be on display until March 28.
One of the great things about viewing exhibits at the Çırağan Palace is that it is open 24/7, so you can swing by anytime you have some free time! Admission is also free. Enjoy! For more info, you can call Tel: (0212) 327 00 12.
Besides there permanent collection and temporary exhibits, the Pera Museum located in a lovely multi-level restored historical building in Tepebaşı-Beyoğlu also organizes the Pera Film Events from time to time which are screened at the museum's auditorium.

Until January 29, you can view the films of the the Cinéma Verité Pioneers D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, renowned for their documentary films.

A total of 11 short and long documentary films are on the roster and from this point on (the events started on January 6), 3 to 5 films will be screened.
Kings of Pastry
All of the films are in English with Turkish subtitles. The program is as follows:
Day                                                Time                 Film Title
January 14 (Saturday)                   2:00pm             Don't Look Back
                                                      4:00pm              Monterey Pop
                                                            6:00pm              Alice Cooper + Little Richard
                                                      8:00pm              Jimi plays Monterey + Otis at Monterey

January 15 (Sunday)                    2:00pm               The War Room
                                                     4:00pm               The Return of the War Room
                                                     6:00pm               A Stravinsky Portrait

January 27 (Friday)                      7:00pm               One PM

January 28 (Saturday)                  2:00pm               The War Room
                                                     4:00pm                The Return of the War Room
                                                     6:00pm                Kings of Pastry

January 29 (Sunday)                   1:00pm                 Alice Cooper + Little Richard
                                                     2:00pm                Jimi plays Monterey + Otis at Monterey
                                                     4:00pm                Don't Look Back
                                                     6:00pm                Monterey Pop
For more information, prices, etc. call Tel: (0212) 334 99 00 or visit

While at the Pera Museum, make sure to visit their permanent exhibit as well as any temporary exhibit that might be on display. For a quick snack, you can stop by the Pera Cafe (prices modest) or do some shopping at the Pera Museum Shop!
Another very interesting and historic exhibit is currently on display at the Istanbul Research Institute, also a part of the Suna and Inan Kıraç Foundation like the Pera Museum.
From the Nile to the Bosphorus Exhibit
The exhibit is titled "From the shores of the Nile to the Bosphorus"  and includes paintings, photographs, political documents and objects tracing the Kavalalı Mehmed Ali Paşa Dynasty from Egypt to Istanbul. The exhibit is curated by Prof. M Baha Tanman and is on display until March 31. You can visit their website for more detailed information
Whether you're eating out/eating in... want your kids to take some cooking classes or find out the results of a cooking competition, read on!
Vogue, a lovely fine dining restaurant & bar offering a wonderful view of the Bosphorus is located on the top floor of the BJK Building in Akaretler...
Vogue (picture from the Istanbul Doors Group website)
Part of the Istanbul Doors Group (, Vogue has been open for 12-13 years and their menu includes a good selection of dishes from International/Mediterranean cuisine as well as sushi/sashimi.

Last year the IDG joined forces with prominent UK chef Tom Aikens and are now partners with Aikens notable restaurants in London. Now, Chef Aikens has added some of his touches to Vogue.. and new items have been added to the menu. Among them are Duck Soup with chestnuts, Risotto with mint pesto & goat cheese and Rack of Lamb. I haven't had a chance to go recently and must to try some of these new goodies!
Vogue is open daily from noon to 2:00am and Sunday Brunch is served between 10:30am and 4:00pm. Reservations for lunch or dinner are highly recommended. (Tel: (0212) 227 44 04)

I love to cook!! And, I'm quite good at it because I love watching cooking shows (not crazy about following recipes from cookbooks I hate to say!) and picked up tons of tips through the years. But, ask me how much I cook and I can say almost zilch!

I live in a nice sized apartment, but unfortunately my kitchen is tiny and because I have limited counter space, I find it easier to order out or just stick to eating "basic" foods (cheese... bread... salads...). But, this can get boring too... so I am a major fan of .... !!
In my neighborhood alone, I can choose from among over 200 restaurants and can order anything and everything from kebabs... burgers... pizza to chinese, japanese, italian cusines and more! I can just look at the selections and place an order without having to talk to someone and repeat my address each time and your order arrives in a maxiumum of 45 minutes, or you can schedule when you want it to arrive. So, why bother cooking for one?
I do have my favorite places and one in particular is Brooklyn Pizza.
Being an ex New Yorker, the name alone turned me onto BK when they opened several years ago. Their pizza is quite good and they also have Cinammon Rolls and corn dogs (very American!!). As time went by, they added new items to their menu... sure they had pizza, wings, salads - but then they added sandwiches... first the typical ones like tuna, mozarella, chicken... but then about a month or so ago, I noticed a couple of newcomers and went WILD!!! You really need to be a New Yorker to appreciate this... Brooklyn Pizza now has Eggplant and Chicken Parmiagana sandwiches on their menu!
Eggplant Parmiagana Sandwich (Brooklyn Pizza)
So, of course I had to order it and I have been hooked ever since (fattening... fattening .. ugh!!) Okay, the bread is different (and its homemade), but the ingredients itself are exactly the same and taste the same and only costs 11.5 TL! I haven't tried the chicken parm yet, but I'm not that crazy about chicken lately.

Although, this is not a new item... one day I also decided to order a salad. I'm usually not happy with the salads offered at most eateriesand I'm very picky about it! A salad is JUST not a salad and I usually find the ingredients lacking in quality and the dressings pretty mediocre. However, Brooklyn Pizza surprised me once again.
I ordered a small Caesar salad (6 TL)...
Caesar Salad from Brooklyn Pizza
The salad was delicious! Also, I was surprised at how "big" the "small" portion salad was... and, the pre-tossed dressing (I hate getting small dressing packets!) was just right and the ingredients very fresh. I would love to find out where they buy their romaine lettuce!

Brooklyn Pizza is located in Ulus, so if you live in the area, you can order from "yemeksepeti" or visit their pizza shop on Barış Sokak (I never went myself as I can order online).
This past Sunday when I was reading the daily newspapers (I think I buy about 6 newspapers on the weekend!), a leaflet fell out of one of them...
And... I thought what a great idea!!!! Piola (  is a great Italian restaurant and is located at the entrance of The Point Hotel in Esentepe... It opened about 3 years ago and the "original" is in Treviso, Italy. I had a chance to meet the owner and their Turkish partners when a group of journalists (including me) were invited to Treviso about 6 months before their branch opened in Istanbul. Then, I attended the opening in Istanbul and had dinner another time. Piola is also another one of my favorite places to order from (I usually order the bruschetta, pizza with mushrooms and the tiramisu is OUT OF THIS WORLD.. and probably the best tiramisu I've had in Istanbul).
Now it appears they have a "Kids Pizza Academy" which is organized every Sunday between 1:00pm and 5:00pm when kids can create their own pizza! The ad also says that there is a clown, to entertain the kids and balloons are given out!
What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon with the kids - especially considering that the weather is usually rainy or very cold and not conducive for outdoor activities right now! (Yıldız Posta Caddesi No. 29 Esentepe; Tel: (0212) 337 30 70)

If you had a chance to read Part 2 of What's "UP" in Istanbul, I had mentioned that the Çırağan Palace Hotel Kempinski had organized an "Amateur Meze (Appetizer) Competition". The top 3 winners were announced on December 12. The winning dishes are below. If you would like the recipes for these dishes, visit: (only in Turkish though!)
1st place - "Seafood Dolma" (Ayşe Gengönül)

2nd place - Squash with yogurt and walnuts" (Gökçe Karadeniz)
3rd place - "Hibeş" (Sibel Taşkan)
These 3 appetizers have been added to the menu at Laledan Restaurant and will remain on the menu throughout 2012. The Laledan menu includes a wide selection of hot and cold appetizers prepared with organic ingredients and fresh fish. The restaurant is open from 7:00pm to 11:00pm for dinner and to make reservation, call Tel: (0212) 326 46 46.

On the subject of the Laledan...from January 14 to March 31, a special set "Winter" menu at 145 TL/person is available which includes a selection of 14 wines from 7 countries (Argentine, Australia, France, South Africa, Spain, Italy and Chile) available by the glass or bottle.
Laledan Restaurant
Shopping... shopping... who can ever get enough of it!!! I know I can't as my credit card bills can prove! Below I will give you just two shopping/gift giving ideas ...

I think it's very rare or nearly impossible to find a woman who doesn't like jewelry! Sure, we all have different tastes... some like gold, while others prefer silver (like me!), some like the "real" stuff (very expensive), while others are happy as long as the jewelry was produced with quality products.

This leads me to .... Swarovski!

Swarovski - Kanyon Shopping Mall
In December 2011, I attended a cocktail party at Swarovski in Kanyon where they introduced their new goodies for the season...


I don't need to tell you how beautiful and delicate their items are and these pictures are just a drop in the bucket compared to all of their offerings!

Of course, besides jewelry, they have other items...


So, if you're looking for a "special" gift for someone... or to even treat yourself, definitely stop by Swarovski before making your final decision!
A couple of days ago, I received an email and press release from a friend of mine... the press release included information on Alessi an internationally renowned designer of top quality accessories and objects for the home and office.

Well.. Alessi has now opened a branch in Istanbul and is located on Nispetiye Caddesi No. 4, Apt. No. 8 in Akatlar (between Levent and Etiler).
The shop includes about 3,000 products and includes the wares of AdiAlessi, Alessi and Officina Alessi.


I don't know about you, but I can't wait to go and see all that they have to offer. I have no idea what the prices are, but I'm sure I'll be able to find something in my price range! Also, they also have a bridal registry service (!
The last section of What's "UP" in Istanbul includes some TIDBITS...

When I attended Swarovski's cocktail party in December, we were served two types of prosecco...(counterpart to champagne and sparkling wine)...

The first was your classic glass of prosecco.. but the other was pepared with Chambord...
And... I thought to myself - what a wonderful idea! So, if you want to perk up your prosecco, sparkling wine or champagne, add chambord to taste (I don't know the exact measurement to use - prepare to your taste and the color of the drink should be a light burgundy). It adds a nice little sweet kick! Chambord is available in Istanbul and can be found at gourmet markets and wine shops that carry liqueurs.

If you're in the market to buy a cover for your cellular phone, you might have noticed that the pickins' are quite scare at the shops selling cellular phones... however, I did find one place that has a HUGE selection at modest prices...
Cellular phone cover stand - Metrocity
This display "stand" is located on the main level by the escalators at the end of the mall right before Marks & Spencer. I just got a new cover for my iphone and it cost only 20 TL.



  1. Absolutely gorgeous food photos, I wish there were more of them in this post.

    1. glad you liked the photos! I try to add as much visuals as I can - some I take myself and of course the arts and culture photos were sent to me with a press release.