Saturday, August 10, 2013

ALAÇATI VACATION 2013 Part 6: FOGO Restaurant & Bar: Revisited...

Dear readers,

Greetings from another super hot day in Istanbul! Once again I stayed home and did the minimal stuff like housecleaning, laundry, etc., but this has got to be done too! 

I am winding down my posts from my trip to Alaçatı between July 10 and July 29 and although I wrote about this place before, it definitely warrants a second write-up and more details as far as I'm concerned...

Let's put it this way, I was in Alaçatı for 19 nights/20 days AND, I went to FOGO 12 times: 3 times for dinner and the other nights to hang out at the bar! Now, this tells you I really really enjoyed everything that FOGO has to offer and wanted to prepare a more detailed post on this fabulous restaurant & bar - not that they need an PR from me!! 

Just a short note before I continue: If you have been following my blog and reading my posts, you must have realized by now that I like the "good things in life"! Since I'm no spring chicken, I've done my fair share of dive bars, "off the beaten path" restaurants and the like, but I must say, I prefer "elegance, ambiance, good food, etc." much more! I am a "Leo", so I do carry most of the traits of my astrological sign! Some of you might not agree with my "tastes", but that's me... but, don't forget, I might surprise you from time to time by writing about other places you might not expect me to write about! 

Now... it's time to give you a more detailed look at Fogo! If you haven't read my previous post, I recommend that you do!

The location...

Open only since the first week of July 2013, Fogo is located right in the middle of the action in Alaçatı, off of Kemalpaşa Street on 3000 Sokak! 

That is, the main entrance to the restaurant is on this street! Fogo is located inside the newly opened super luxurious Alavya Hotel and can also be reached from the hotel entrance. 

The Kitchen...

Fogo has an open kitchen and at the helm is Executive Chef Carlo Bernardini accompanied with a young staff of chefs who have graduated from various culinary schools in Istanbul...

The "open kitchen" looks out into the dining area, so you can watch the chefs at work, a concept I absolutely love!

The restaurant...

The spacious restaurant and bar at Fogo was designed by popular Turkish designer Hakan Ezer and he has done a wonderful job! 

The dining area is divided into 2 sections: the main dining area is in front of the bar with long tables (sometimes used for communal seating) and oval tables in the center with additional seating for 4 to 8 people on a one-step up level adjacent to the tables in the center. Also, there are several tables by the main entrance where you can enjoy a "quieter" dinner. 

The restaurant is dimly lit with soft lighting and candles on most of the tables, but sometimes it is difficult to see what you are eating, but Carlo was looking for a solution to this problem.

The food...

As I mentioned earlier, I ate at Fogo 3 times and enjoyed my meals each time. However, my last meal at Fogo with my sister Meltem and brother-in-law Ibrahim was the piece de résistance, as Carlo and I who have been friends for about 16 years (please read my first blog post on Fogo, I don't want to repeat myself) invited me as his guest my last night in Alaçatı and he prepared a lovely 7 course dinner for us, which we thoroughly enjoyed at the bar (all the tables were booked!)
@ Fogo Bar (July 28) with sis Meltem and brother-in-law Ibrahim

Talk about a feast!!! 

Since Fogo is dimly lit, I don't know if the pics do the food we had justice, but the tastes were incredible! We first started our meal with "Burrata (cheese) with sea asparagus and raw tomato" (top center), followed with "Grilled octopus, Alaçatı leaves with cherry tomatoes and lime sauce" (bottom left); "Razor clams" (bottom right), which is not on the menu, but was out of this world!; "Grilled calamari with greens, baby oven potatoes & 3 sauces" (top left); "Homemade spinach linguine"; and "tenderloin of beef"! Talk about getting stuffed and totally overwhelmed with different flavors and tastes which worked well together at one seating!

Of course, all this wonderful food was accompanied with wonderful wine! Our first wine was from Piemont, Italy (Fontanafredda 2010) and the 2nd a lovely Turkish wine (Serena - a merlot), although it could have had a much better label! The other picture in the photo was a cherry liqueur served with our dessert...

Yup, on top of all this food, we also had dessert! 

Alessio Di Gino, manager of Fogo serving us sorbet!
I honestly can't remember what other desserts are on the menu at Fogo because I usually don't eat dessert right after a meal (although I am a major dessert addict), but no matter what else they have, I highly recommend that you order the homemade sorbet! They make different flavors to include strawberry, lichi, mango, melon, etc. and they are soooo refreshing and delicious! The person you see serving us our dessert is Alessio Di Gino, the manager of Fogo. Also an Italian, Alessio has been living in Turkey for a while too and is longtime friends with Carlo and he is in charge of making sure that everything runs smoothly at Fogo (not always an easy feat!), which he does with a smile and cracking jokes! 

Having a meal at Fogo is not cheap, but I noticed that their prices are either comparable or sometimes lower than some of its counterparts in Istanbul. On another evening I tried the "Bresaola" (a meal unto itself - a large portion) and "Shrimp Ceviche with avocado, mango & lime" which were also very good! In fact, one night some friends of ours ordered "Charcuterie Board of Serrano Ham, Tuscan Salami and Bologna" which was enough to feed 4 people! I also tried the "Fogo Beef Tartare", but since I'm a "traditional French style steak tartare" fan, it was okay, but not great...

The Bar... The Music

I'm sure that when Carlo opened Fogo, he knew that his restaurant would become a popular spot to visit in Alaçatı, but I don't think he had any idea HOW popular the bar would be!!!

When I first went to Fogo on July 10th (a week or so after its opening), the bar crowd was "so-so", but it only took about another week for the Alaçatı crowd to "discover" Fogo Bar! The bartenders - Altuğ, Eray and Erdem make excellent cocktails, always served with a smile and I swore off having any after going "overboard" with the Mojito(s) that Eray prepared for me one evening! I just stuck to rose or red wine after that (my choice of alcohol anyway!)! The price of the wines by the glass are between 14 TL and 20 TL and the prices of the cocktails start at 30 TL (all comparable to other places of the same caliber).

Fogo Bar has two DJs and they are both very good and have different styles and play both International and some popular Turkish tunes... unfortunately, since Fogo is in central Alaçatı, they really have to turn down the volume of the music by 12:30am (it's the law), but does remain open until the last customer leaves which can be around 2:00am!

The Crowd...
This is the best part for me and had us going back 12 times throughout my stay! I ran into a lot of friends from Istanbul and Izmir at Fogo and most of us are of "like minds" and ages... Fogo mainly attracts the over 30 crowd of Turks and foreigners who like to enjoy a night out in elegant surroundings with good music and where they will run into other friends! In a short time, the bar got so "clicky" as almost "everyone knows each other or knows someone who knows someone", etc. and I made some new acquaintances (too soon to call friends) as a result! I'm sure others have too!

1) Always make a reservation for dinner otherwise you won't be able to get a table...

2) Dress nicely... it is an elegant place, nice jeans, t-shirts or shorts are okay (for men and woman), but no sneakers! (they are not saying this... I am!)

3) The bar is crowded almost every night, so if you want to get a bar stool, get there before 9:00pm.

4) Have fun and go with the flow!  

As I was hanging out at the bar one evening, I mentioned to a new acquaintance that "Fogo was 'my Lucca' in Alaçatı" and he understood exactly what I was talking about because he too goes to Lucca in Istanbul (refer to my post on Lucca)

Lucca is my "home away from home" and I have been a customer ever since they opened nearly 7 years ago. The crowd is friendly, enjoys having a good time, the food and service are excellent and "everyone knows your name" after awhile (just like in the sitcom Cheers!). That's how I feel  when I go to Fogo.

Fogo will be closing for the season in mid-September, so you still have time to visit... and who knows, you might run into me there again... I'm going back to Alaçatı shortly for another vacation, but a short one this time (1 week). Make sure to say hello to me if you've read my post! 

Fogo Restaurant and Bar
Tel: (0232) 716 66 32

Stay well,

Friday, August 9, 2013

ALAÇATI VACATION 2013 Part 5: Kapari Atölye Kahve, Köşe Kahve & Taşköy Sanat Cafe...

Dear readers,

Greetings from a very very very hot day in Istanbul! The summer is in full blast (no pun intended!) and thank god for air-conditioning! Today is the 2nd of 3-day Ramadan (also called Şeker, which means sugar in Turkish) Holiday celebrated in the Muslim world after a month of fasting.

After spending a lovely afternoon/evening at the Swissôtel, Bosphorus Istanbul Hotel's Executive Lounge (my cousin and his wife and kids are staying at the hotel on the Executive floor and love it) with my cousins Hayri and Engin and their wives Aletha and Betül visiting from the USA (Richmond, VA and New York), I decided I would just stay in today and catch up on chores and write in my blog. Since most of my close friends are out of town for the holiday and 99% of my relatives live in the USA, I have the luxury of not having to make "holiday" visits to relatives!

In Part 5 of my post from my recent trip to Alaçatı, Çeşme in July for about 3 weeks, I want to write about the 3 cafes I had a chance to visit... once again, I will write about them in alphabetically order...

Kapari Atölye Kahve
If the name sounds familiar... it should! This quaint cafe/art gallery is owned and managed by the proprietors of the Kapari Alaçatı Hotel (see my post on this lovely hotel) where I stayed during my visit to Alaçatı.

Oluş Kızılagaç, besides running a hotel, for a time was into ceramics and took many classes to hone her skill and she did most of her work at the current Kapari Atölye Kahve, which used to be her art studio. When she realized she wouldn't be able to devote a lot of her time to her hobby,she decided to convert her studio to a gallery/cafe this past year and I'm so glad she did! 
Located in the lovely Hacımemiş Mahallesi away from the hustle and bustle of the main area of Alaçatı in Tokoğlu Mahallesi, I visit the cafe to see an exhibit that was organized to benefit the stray animals in Alaçatı. So, I too did my share and purchased a lovely necklace with dog figurines and then sat down to enjoy a glass of wine as I waited for my sister to come before we went to dinner.

I'm surprised at myself for not taking more pictures of this lovely cafe, so you will have to rely on my narrative and just have to visit for yourself!

The gallery is located in a modestly sized room in a restored stone house on the corner of 2012 Sokak (Street) at No.10 while the cafe is in front of the building with a few tables that can probably seat up to 20 people. All the tables are decorated with pumpkins and plastic colorful teacups which are actually ashtrays! 

The menu includes a wide variety of hot/cold non-alcoholic beverages, local wine (by the glass and bottle), beer, grilled toast sandwiches and local & international cheese platter - all at modest prices. 

Kapari Atölye Kahve is a nice place to stop by for a cup of coffee, quick snack, a glass of wine or a homemade lemonade before or after you go out to dinner and is open till around 11:00 pm during the high season.

Köşe Kahve
Köşe Kahve is a "classic" in Alaçatı and I make sure to stop by at least once during each trip (this time it was twice!)

Köşe which means "corner" in Turkish is an apropos name for this cafe as it is located on a corner on the ever popular and crowded Kemalpaşa Street in Alaçatı!

The majority of the tables are located on the main street and like above, there are tables on the side street as well as across the street on the side street where I am sitting below!

Köşe Kahve is open year round with indoor seating and has a very extensive menu that includes all sorts of non-alcoholic hot and cold beverages, a variety of cocktails, wines, salads, sandwiches, mains, etc. I don't know exactly how late it is open, but I have passed by after 1:00am and it was still open.

Taşköy Sanat Cafe
Now, it's time to take a trip back to Hacımemiş Mahallesi and the main street 2012 Sokak No. 46 to Taşköy Sanat (Art) Cafe...

Taşköy Sanat Cafe
To my delight and surprise, this quaint newcomer is owned by my 2nd cousin Sevim, whom I hadn't since in about 30 years (or so!) until I visited her cafe with another 2nd cousin (both on my mother's side) Ayla and her husband Metin after we had dinner at their home which is also located in Hacımemiş Mahallesi! 

So, we had a chance to have a "mini" family reunion as my sister Meltem was with me too!

Ayla, Sevinç (a friend of Ayla's), sister Meltem, me, Sevim (standing) and Metin (from left to right)

We only had Turkish coffee that night and unfortunately I only had a chance to visit one more time and just to take pics and get some more info on Taşköy. First, Sevim also owns Taşköy Hotel (, also in the same neighborhood as well as Ege Han Boutique Villa, also in Alaçatı but different neighborhood (, which from the website is absolutely gorgeous and available for short and long-term rent. 

As if she didn't have enough on her plate (did I also mention that she is an M.D.?), she decided to open her cafe this season! Taşköy Cafe serves breakfast daily, hot/cold beverages, desserts and award winning Turkish organic wines under their own brand and harvested in Foça! (I only took pictures of the reds, but white and rose are also available)

Additionally, while there you can also pick up organic olives oils and other products produced under their own brand as well as others!

Taşköy Cafe is open until about midnight (or until last customer leaves) during the high season and I highly suggest you stop by and try their wines! 


This rounds out the cafes I had an opportunity to visit while in Alaçatı... there are many many more places to try, but as always not enough time! 

I plan on writing a couple more posts from my trip to Alaçatı and should be finalizing them pretty soon - I hope!!!

I had so much fun on my recent trip to Alaçatı that I am planning another visit shortly, but will only be staying a week, so don't know how many new places I will discover because I'm sure I'm going to want to visit the places I went to the last time... we'll just have to wait and see!

Stay well,

Sunday, August 4, 2013

ALAÇATI VACATION 2013 Part 4: Lavanta, Mi Casa, Noni'nin Meyhanesi & 35'lik Meyhanesi

Dear Readers,

Greetings from Istanbul! After a whirlwind 20 days (started out as 14!) in Alaçatı, Çeşme on the lovely Aegean coast in Turkey, I returned to Istanbul late Monday night and I'm not kidding when I say that Luka and I were so wiped out after very little sleep (I don't go on vacation to sleep!) during our vacation (yes Luka was always up late too!) that I'm just getting my bearings although I've been back home a week now!

Luka and me on last day of vacation at Alaçatı Kapari Hotel
I had every intention of writing the remaining posts I've planned to write earlier on, but unfortunately other things got in the way - from housecleaning and running errands to preparing a project for a customer to catching up with my cousin and his family who came to visit Istanbul from the USA to it being my birthday yesterday!

In this post, I will write about 4 more restaurants I visited in Alaçatı during this trip. Except for one, I hadn't gone to the other places on my previous visits to Alaçatı (have been going every year since 1999) and I was happy to "discover" some new places... I am going to prepare this post alphabetically, so here goes! 

Lavanta, which means lavender in Turkish has been around for about 10 years. Two years ago they moved from the crowded Kemalpaşa Street to a lovely restored building right off of Hacımemiş on a quiet street. 
Lavanta Restaurant @ 2000 Sokak No. 24 Alaçatı
My sister and I (and most of our other friends) were notorious for not making reservations for dinner in Alaçatı (except at Fogo) because we never knew what time we would go out to eat! So, after some friends recommended Lavanta and after we found out that Şebnem, an acquaintance of ours was now managing the restaurant, we went to Lavanta for the first time on July 18. We enjoyed it so much that we went once again on July 21st after my brother-in-law arrived. 

First I want to give an overview of the eatery. Upon entering there is a small indoor bar and a private indoor dining room to the right... Since Lavanta is open year round, it makes sense! Also, it's a good space for a large group year-round.
Indoor dining room
From the bar, you enter the small outdoor alcove that can probably seat up to 20-25 people with a small open kitchen on the left hand side.

Since we were only 2 people and it was a week night, we were able to get a table. Don't let the pictures fool you... Lavanta is dimly lit, so I had to photoshop most of the pictures! Also, there is a door that leads out to a side street from the alcove and there are a couple of tables there too.

The menu is posted on the wall and my sister and I went to town ordering a whole bunch of appetizers and one main course to share...
Lavanta's menu posted on the wall

Unfortunately I was able to take only two pictures of the food - between the lighting and just devouring our food, I totally forgot to take pictures! We ordered "frambuaz soslu börülce (sea beans (samphire) prepared with raspberry sauce) - incredible!; "tahinli patlıcan" (eggplant in tahini sauce) - scrumptious!; "bahçe salatası" (garden salad) to die for!; "karides börek" (pastry stuffed with shrimp) - delicious; and "otlu anneanne köftesi" (grandma's meatballs with herbs), which was crispy on the outside and moist in the center - so good!! Lavanta has a young woman chef and she is a very talented chef! 

Garden Salad at Lavanta 

Of course after all this food, we didn't have room for dessert and I just had a glass of wine and my sister a beverage at dinner and then coffee to cap off our night. I can truly say we had an incredible meal that when we went back the second time, we did make a reservation to make sure we got a table and this time, we ordered everything but the sea beans and also ordered "enginar and kabak çiçegi tempura" (artichoke and zucchini blossoms tempura) very light and flaky and "bonfile dilimleri ispanak yatağında" (tenderloin of beef slices on a bed of sauteed spinach) cooked to perfection and very tender! This time we also ordered a bottle of wine (pretty decent wine list and moderate prices) and literally rolled out of there! 

Tel: (0232) 716 68 91

Mi Casa
Definitely make a reservation before going to Mi Casa because more than likely, you won't get a table!

Although Mi Casa is quite spacious and now with tables also outside of the main alcove, it is highly popular and always packed. You can also stop by for a drink at their expansive bar, but the bar is usually crowded too! Our first attempt, of course without reservations was unsuccessful, but the second time we tried on July 17th (Wednesday), we did luck out because we got there after 10pm and we were only two people! 

Mi Casa has been around for about 5 years and is also located on a quiet street off of Kemalpaşa Street (the main street in Alaçatı). I've been to Mi Casa many times through the years and in fact, celebrated my birthday there with a group of my friends.

I've always enjoyed Mi Casa for its atmosphere, good food, decent prices and excellent service. Since it was very late, my sister and I each had two appetizers and a glass of wine each...

Grilled octopus
goat cheese, beets, balsamic sauce and almonds
We each had grilled octopus, Meltem had a grilled chicken salad and I had the goat cheese and beets which was quite interesting, but I think it would have been better if the balsamic sauce had a bit more of a kick! (I do love spicy food)

1026 Sokak No. 3 Alaçatı
Tel: (0232) 716 60 75

Noni'nin Meyhanesi
If you haven't made a reservation ,f you want to go to a trendy or popular restaurant for dinner on a Saturday night, you are pretty much out of luck! Remember, I mentioned above that my sister and I are notorious for this, mainly because we go to the "beaches" in mid-afternoon and by the time we get back to house/hotel and get ready to go out, we can not make a reservation upfront as we probably wouldn't make it and only make reservations for nights we don't hit the beaches during the day.

On a Saturday night - July 20th, my sister, brother-in-law and I didn't get to downtown Alaçatı till about 9pm! That's when we discovered Noni'nin Meyhanesi!

We were going to meet friends at Fogo Bar later in the evening, but we were starving and wanted to have a decent meal. Also, we don't prefer eating at eateries right on Kemalpaşa Street especially on weekends, as the street is wall to wall people and you can't walk let alone enjoy a meal at a restaurant as people pass by right on top of you and jostle your chair!

But, the location of Noni'nin Meyhanesi on Kemalpaşa Street is away from the hustle and bustle of the main area and a short distance from Mi Casa...

Meyhane, which means tavern in Turkish is basically a place where you can listen to traditional Turkish music (live or recorded) and enjoy a whole host of appetizers, called meze and fish with rakı, the local alcoholic beverage of choice. One difference at this tavern is that Greek music is played and unfortunately from time to time, the cacophony of music from the next door bar also spills (typical in Alaçatı!) I guess you can say that the main difference between a "meyhane" and seafood restaurant in Turkey is the fact that there is no music at seafood restaurants and there are a bigger choice of appetizers at taverns...

The appetizers and fish in the open display looked decent, so we decided to try it out, and a "small world" that it is, it's owner Gökhan Tilkioğlu knows my brother-in-law from when he lived in Izmir in his youth! We found out from Gökhan that Noni'nin Meyhane is fairly new and not even a year-old and he manages the restaurant with his wife and daughter.

me, my sister Meltem and brother-in-law Ibrahim
I didn't get a chance to take pictures of the appetizers as we were too busy eating and had the typical "tavern" fare: white cheese (similar to feta), melon, eggplant puree, salad, etc. and we had the most incredible fried barbunya (red mullet)!

Fried Red Mullet at Noni'nin Meyhanesi
You would have thought they just caught the fish and plopped it in a pan to cook and served us! As you can see, the fish was served typical Turkish style: with a side of greens (usually arugula), lemon wedges and red onion.

So, with or without reservations, Noni'nin Meyhane is a nice spot to stop by for a quick (like what we did) or lingering meal away from the normal crowds on Kemalpaşa Street.

Kemalpaşa Caddesi No. 33 Alaçatı
GSM: (0533) 562 63 64

35'lik Meyhane

As you can see, I hit two "taverns" on my trip to Alaçatı and I went to this one twice!
35'lik Meyhane

35'lik Meyhane is on the other end of Kemalpaşa Street and once again on the "less crowded" side right next door to Sakızlıhan Boutique hotel. On July 24th, I made plans to get together with my dear friends the "Şahin" family. Didem is one of my best friends although we only met 1 1/2 years ago, her husband Selami is one of the most popular singers/composers in Turkey for over 30 years and I absolutely adore their 3 kids (two sons Lider and Emirhan and daughter Irem). We are neighbors in Istanbul and live in the same building. They too are major "Alaçatı lovers" and spend most of their summer vacation in Alaçatı and now are homeowners as well! 

35'lik Meyhane
On the night we got together for dinner, they took me to this tavern which they had discovered a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed very much. The tavern has seating on the street, but also has a lovely garden if you prefer more privacy and that's where we sat...

35'lik Meyhane Garden
As with other taverns, the appetizers and fish were showcased in an open display and I noticed that they had an incredible number of choices compared to others. I cannot begin to tell you how many types of appetizers (about 10!) we had and I didn't get a chance to take pictures of most of them, but did get in a few... I loved them all, but one of my favorites was the "kaşık salatası" (spoon salad) which was so so spicy but so so good! I guess they call this "kaşık salatası" because it is so juicy that you need a spoon to scoop up the juice or you can just dip your bread in it!)

Kaşık Salatası (Spoon Salad)
A couple of other pictures I took was of the "ahtapot tandır" (octopus tandoori) and "karides güveç" (baked shrimp topped with kasari (yellow) cheese)

We also had dessert and although the picture might not look so great, it was delicious and the house special although unfortunately I can't remember the name! But it was made with sponge cake, vanilla frosting and topped with almonds, pistachios on a bed of raspberry sauce and some chocolate sauce. Talk about decadent! 
House special dessert at 35'lik Meyhane
So, once again since I had an enjoyable evening with the Şahin family and my sister and brother-in-law stopped by after dinner to pick us up to all go to Fogo Bar (notice I keep on mentioning this place... I wrote about Fogo earlier on my trip, but will definitely be writing about it again later on) and they too wanted to try this tavern, so we returned the very next night! We didn't make a reservation and arrived late around 10pm and this time, we sat on the street side, but didn't go crazy overloading on many appetizers and ate lighter with more cold appetizers (white cheese, melon, eggplant puree, artichoke puree) and an order of grilled calamari which were all very good too.

One final note, it is called "35'lik" because when you order rakı by the bottle, it comes in two sizes: the small bottle is 35 cl and the large 70 cl! So, you would say, give me a "35"er or "70"er!

Kemalpaşa Caddesi No. 110 Alaçatı
Tel: (0232) 716 07 97

In Part 2 of my blog post I had written about Fogo and Ferdi Baba and added 4 more restaurants because throughout my entire stay, I only ate out at 6 restaurants, some twice and on other evenings either had dinner at friends homes or a quick bite at my hotel, Alaçatı Kapari Hotel (if you haven't read my post on the hotel, I highly suggest you do if planning on visiting the area).

In my next post(s), I will give you info on several cafes I visited for snacks or cocktails, a couple of beaches and will also do another write up on Fogo.

And... since I had such a fantastic time in Alaçatı where I also made some new friends, I decided to re-visit Alaçatı in the latter part of August instead of going to Bodrum, so I'll probably discover and write about some new places then... keep following me!  

Stay well,