It was sunny and windswept that morning on the mountains of Mediterranean Turkey. We were seaside and on our way somewhere very special. The scent of the sea drew me in and made me a little dizzy with anticipation. I closed my eyes and relished the warm sunshine on my skin and the thick mineralized wind that tousled my hair. It wasn't soft wind. I inhaled the salty air, tasting the ocean and let out a sigh of content. I was on my way dear readers, to a little place, nestled in an orange grove at the foot of Mount Olympos.
For the better half of one sunny morning, we had been winding our way up coastal mountain roads. These particular coastal mountain roads were very special coastal mountain roads (I know, I just love to say it). Specifically etched into these majestic rocks to enchant passers with a magnificent view of ethereal mountains plunging into an endless ocean, these particular roads were taking us to a restaurant (of course), in an orange grove (naturally), nestled on a beach (where else), at the foot of Mount Olympos (mais oui).
It was wild out there on those mountain roads dear readers. Seascapes turned into forests while you blinked. Groves of trees engulfed roads that moments ago had been boasting nothing but skyline. The air changed. It was a long way to our little restaurant. We drove deeper in and the roads became evermore narrow and I felt a little anxious. We were close now and a small wave of excitement peeked through as I took it all in. I drank in the the sun glinting through the dense sea jungle that opened up to a tiny road on top of the mountain we had just sumitted and prepared myself for the windy descent. The tiny, curvy, bumpy road down seemed endless. The jungle seemed to get deeper and darker, at some points completely blocking out the sun, while the sound of unseen waves crashing in the background made its way through the flora. Time dragged on on those windy roads and just as I was starting to doubt any village or grove (never mind restaurant) actually existed there and was dooming myself to starve in this forest by the sea, it disappeared. Just like that, the rocky bumpy road, engulfed by dense forest, became a tiny sand road, formerly engulfed by forest. At the foot of Mount Olympos dear readers, in the middle of this forest by the sea, lied a teeny, tiny, clearing. We had reached Cirali. A smattering of houses, on a sandy road and an orange grove.
Now, given our main objective (eat, plunge into ocean, drink, eat, ocean...you get the drift) we settled into said fragrant, shadowy grove and started the walk through the pebbled path, to the pebbled beach, on a pebbled cove. Unbeknownst to us dear readers, this particular pebbled cove was taking us to an old, magic place. A place that speaks of god's of fire and blacksmiths, knowing monsters and eternal flames with ancient wise fires of Chimaera, burning since the beginning of time. Of kings and battles and pixies and age-old ways. Quite by accident, in search of food (what else) we had stumbled upon a city, situated in a wild forest off said pebble beach that is a few thousand years old. We had found Olympos. I have a secret dear readers. For a split second, we actually considered going back because for sure, there was no Orange restaurant in said ancient ruin. Shameful (I never would have forgiven myself), I know. But we didn't go back. Instead we walked, crossed bridges, admired, sat in silence, pondered the first ships that had sailed and conquered, stood in awe in front of the magnificent architecture, walked some more, accumulated blisters, and then it was time. Time, to waddle our way back through all the pebbles. Time...to eat. It was dusk then and the age old sun set behind the horizon as it has since its flames started burning. The sky held its hands out and waves were softly rolling onto the shore, a cool, salty breeze blowing in off the water. We sat, tired, salty and sunburnished with wraps on at our table in the sand, starving and content. We drank Raki and ate the mezzes they brought us, one better than the next, and silently enjoyed the simple beauty of beans just picked and braised with sweet tomatoes and onions. Of cabbage leaves filled with ground lamb, so soft, fatty and succulent, of thick yogurt, oven fired bread and sheep's milk cheese and of the best simple salad around. We couldn't get enough and ate until we were too sleepy (and snookered) to go on.
The evening ends now dear readers. Night has fallen and the sky is black. We sleep with windows open, breathing in the ocean air and dream of tomorrow's breakfast.
**The breakfast's we ate in Turkey were not so much recipe based as they were a gathering of the most beautiful ingredients. Allow me now to share with you what we had the pleasure of eating.**
You made it! I'm so proud of you. How does it feel?!
Time to dish.
Here is what you need:
Goats milk feta, creamy, softly salty and oozing
Ripe, fragrant, sweet red tomatoes
Sun-dried, meaty wrinkled black olives
Cucumbers, seeds fat with juice
Pastirma, stinky, salty, cured delicious
Green melon, sweet, soft, beautiful
Honeycomb, whole and with bees still working in it (if you don't have bees, it's okay)
Fat creamy dates
Butter, freshly churned, creamy, salty
Inconceivable amounts of jams
Peppery olive oil
A variety of fresh breads
Black, astringent, fragrant tea
Here is what to do:
Place all gems, everything together, on a large platter (silver and curvy if you have one, any other if you don't) and paint your plate with all the beautiful colors, black's, white's, green's, red's and all the rest. Serve and enjoy with your dearest ones.