As a national foodie, my tastes have been quite sheltered. My worldly tongue has been confined to the U.S. until now. I am on a quest to find the truly delicious. The perfect bite! I will scour the world until I have discovered this holy grail of cuisine. Beginning my travels in Turkiye, I shall broaden my tongue's horizons and become a true bon vivant!

Manti: The Experience

As one who has always had a deep appreciation for the art of rolling up meat and sorts into various shapes and sizes with a thin layer of dough, I instantly fell in love with manti (pronounced manta). I have found that with the international cuisine I have been exposed to, I have always been drawn to their dumplings. America: chicken and dumplings. Korea: mandoo. Italy: ravioli. And nothing changes when I get to Turkey...manti.  My first experiences with manti was my second night after arriving in Turkey.
"What is that fabulous smell?!" I excitedly inquired.

"Manta." My gracious host and dear friend, Muge, replied.
The combination of boiling beef and dough, coupled with the familiar aroma of tomato sauce reached my nose and tickled my hunger. I anxiously sat down as she served each of us a dish of magic. The bull's meat dumplings covered with, what other than yogurt, and then topped with the red sauce. I took a moment to let four of my senses relish this fabulousness in front of me before giving my taste the solace it was begging for. I examined the pasta with sheer curiousity, the lack of color confused me. All the other Turkish dishes I had before this point explored every color of the color wheel and even made new colors when mixed together. But this, I was afraid, would only be pink. I touched the soft round object and it was as my eyes told me soft but not too mushy. Then of course I smelled it, as I had been now for several minutes. The smell was more than delectable and I only hoped the dish lived up to its presentation. And finally I listened. My friend explained to me what it was and how she doesn't have it all the time but that its so easy to prepare.
                      Now. It is time to give into my mouth's desire and take a bite.
As imagined, it was everything delicious and more. Instead of mixing it all together for the pinkish hue I so wanted to consume, I ate it carefully, as to taste each ingredient separately. It was Heaven in a bite. The thin doughy infrastructure that held my precious bull's meat together, melted away in my mouth as if it were an ice sculpture in Florida. The contents inside were meaty and tender and felt much like the inside of a ravioli. The tomato sauce was tangy and hot and complimented its yogurt counterpart which was cool and delicate. This strange combination was the perfect balance of hearty and unique and was both home and foreign to me. The idea of a dumpling, whatever its contents may be, covered in sauce and satisfying, offered me some familiarity but was still something new.
I had it only once again while I was in Turkey. And while I regret not having it more often, I feel as if my lack of consumption makes it more desirable now and will make my next visit with manti that much more meaningful.

Dining at DinÇ

As I walk the busy streets of Izmir, I feel an intense rumble. Earthquake? No, just my hollow belly. I look around and am confronted with entirely too many choices! The scent of kofte tantalizes my tummy. The heat from the Doner shop is both welcoming and tempting. I hear "Hosgeldin" with every restaurant I pass, by an eager waiter searching for his next guest. Izmir simply offers too many choices and in such a state of hunger, I am not prepared to make such an imperative decision. So I close my eyes and wait. Which sense will give me the most feedback?...Ah yes: The spicy aroma touches my nose and I have found where I will dine. A lovely shop in Kucuk park called Dinc. I approach the restaurant saying "Merhaba" to my future server and take a seat outside. Although it is suffocatingly hot, I always enjoy dining al fresco.  I beg my server for water and he brings it quite promptly. I find out he speaks English rather well. I scour the menu quickly. Ah, I find the spicy scent that drew me in. Adana Kebap. My waiter warns me it is spicy and I say "Tamam" with a smile.

Moments later I am brought yogurt, some sort of spicy salsa that has minced peppers and tomatoes and a salad of shredded lettuce, cabbage and carrots. Two bottles of water later, I receive my meal. It is beautiful. Colorful and plentiful, I dig in. Taking a small piece of pide, I spread yogurt and the spicy sauce all over, add a piece of the kofte, some parsely and onion and fold it up nicely. The first bite is heaven. I prepare the next bite. This time yogurt alone and I add pilaf. The second bite is a whole new taste but still a bite from God. Each piece I prepare, I try some new combination from the accoutrement. It is just as exciting as delicious. My stomach thanks me with a small belch as I finish my plate and my 18 bottles of water. I ask the server for the bill, while practing my Turkish I say "Hesap, lutfen." He smiles and brings it to me. To my delight and surprise, it is only 8 lira. My server was very nice and wanted to know where I was from. Although I still have so many new places I want to try, I believe I will be back to Dinc in the near future.