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Two Continents, Two Markets, One City: Istanbul Print E-mail
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Written by Michael Costa   
Tuesday, 10 May 2011 07:49

Istanbul Market

There’s only one place in the world where you can explore markets on two continents in a single afternoon: Istanbul, Turkey. It’s the only city to call both Europe and Asia home—the Bosphorus Strait and the Sea of Marmara separate the metropolis, with Europe on the left, and Asia to the right. There are approximately 12 million people living in Istanbul and, with a population that large, markets abound in nearly every neighborhood—lucky locals have access to a mind-boggling variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seafood, spices, and more. Turkish tomatoes and potatoes in particular are considered among the finest in the world.
I recently visited Istanbul, and spent a day with local cook and guide Selin Rozanes (pictured with me below) whose company Turkish Flavours specializes in all things culinary for visitors, from cooking classes to market tours. We explored the 350-year-old Spice Market (A.K.A. Spice Bazaar, or Egyptian Bazaar) in Eminönü on the European side, then took a short ferry ride to the Asian side, where we pored over the outdoor market in Kadıköy.

Costa and Rozanes

Because Rozanes is a resident, she knows many of the shopkeepers, so I had a chance to taste several items as we nibbled our way from stall to stall, including tiny Turkish green plums, gigantic grape leaves, and even steamed mussels stuffed with rice, known as midye dolma in Turkish. Above is just one of the photos I snapped that day at the market, with more available here on the Share & Learn tab. Maybe they will inspire you to plan a visit yourself -- or, in the meantime, inspire you try some dishes on your own that combine a taste of Europe with a taste of Asia.
Touring the Santa Ynez Valley with Sustainable Vine Wine Tours Print E-mail
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Written by Ann Shepphird   
Thursday, 28 April 2011 06:08
Richard Sanford at Alma Rosa

A trip to the Santa Ynez Valley wine country usually starts with visits to tasting rooms in Los Olivos, Solvang or Santa Barbara. And then, perhaps in an ode to “Sideways” (which was filmed there), it might move out to the wineries themselves to taste the wine (and hopefully not injure any spit buckets in the process). 


For those looking to deepen that experience, Sustainable Vine Wine Tours offers the ability to not only go out into the vineyards to learn more about the source of the wine -- this includes the grapes and, more importantly, the soil or (in wine terms) the terroir -- but also to spend time with the winemakers. On a recent tour, Sustainable Vine owner Bryan Hope took us through the valley (in a biodiesel van), where we stopped first at the Alma Rosa Winery and were able to visit with Richard Sanford (pictured above), who not only planted the first grapes in the valley 40 years ago but was also the first to go organic (inspired in part by his wife’s vegetable garden). 


Sanford is one of those people whose face is etched with a lifetime (or, at least, 40 years, following a stint in the Vietnam War and college at UC Berkeley) of doing something he loves. His philosophy: “Farm the grapes properly and let the wine make itself.”


Ampelos VineyardOur next stop was lunch, held under an oak tree on the Ampelos vineyard, where owner Peter Work helped explain some of the biodynamic methods he used -- and pointed out the barn owl box whose inhabitant helps keep the pesky predators in check organically and the new solar panels (beyond the vineyard right). The final stop was Demetria Estate, whose winery and vineyard -- also biodynamic -- is located on a gorgeous hilltop adjacent to the Zaca Mesa property. 


We learned something at each stop that not only illuminated the making of wine but also gave us tips that could be used in our home gardens (and vineyards, for those taking the plunge). One of the interesting facts I learned from the very-knowledgeable Hope is that many of the wines that are farmed organically are not labeled as organic because the USDA decided that if a wine contained added sulfites (naturally occurring in wine) it could not be labeled organic. I know I’m now going to be a lot more keen on checking labels for wine that was farmed organically and not so much for wines labeled simply as organic.


As a Santa Barbara Car Free partner, Sustainable Vine offers a $10 discount to those who show they traveled at least part of their trip car-free (easy to do with bikes and electric shuttles available throughout downtown Santa Barbara and Amtrak stopping right in the middle of town). Check the Santa Barbara Care Free website for more details.

A Hidden Gem in the Sierra Madre: Vallarta Botanical Gardens Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   
Friday, 15 April 2011 02:21

Vallarta Botanical GardenJust 12 miles south of Puerto Vallarta along the appropriately named Palms-to-Pines Highway lies an Eden for lovers of all things botanical. Opened a little over six years ago, the Vallarta Botanical Gardens features more than 3,000 different species of plants, including indigenous orchids, agave, tree ferns and wildflowers. The 20 acres of land also includes trails for hiking and a mountain river ideal for swimming.

As a nonprofit dedicated to the research and education of plant life, Vallarta Botanical Gardens has hosted a number of workshops, including a recent Copomo (Maya Nut or Breadnut in English) festival, where local producers turned the sustainable forest crop into eight different kinds of food. Plans for upcoming festivals include one for edible flowers.

Also on site is the Hacienda de Oro restaurant, featuring a brick pizza oven and Mexican favorites made (when possible) using local ingredients, including milk and cheese from the nearby town of El Tuito. Their tortilla soup was truly one of the best I’ve ever had and they were kind enough to give us the recipe. So enjoy! I know I will!

Sundays at the Ojai Farmers' Market Print E-mail
Written by Melanie Waldman   
Tuesday, 05 April 2011 02:10

Ojai Farmers MarketSurrounded by the enormous Topatopa Mountains and a few miles' worth of orange groves, the small Southern California town of Ojai is known for three things: meditation retreats, artisans and agriculture. To see how these three worlds mingle, stop by the downtown farmers' market any Sunday (rain or shine) between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The Ojai Certified Farmers' Market features stunning produce, locally made olive oils, vibrant cut flowers and orchid plants, hand-woven baskets, organic soaps and skincare. Local musicians come out to play, friends reconnect, and occasionally, a rousing game of hacky sack breaks out on the nearby lawn. At this community meeting place, you'll see theater folk telling stories with a flourish, spiritual ascetics shopping for organic produce and farmers educating kids about where their food comes from and how it's grown.

Ojai Farmers Market 2And speaking of food: Didn't grow up in the Midwest (or miss it terribly)? This is your chance to try some cheese curds from California. Want to sample some of the best baked goods in town? Stop by early at Knead's table to pick up a ribbon-wrapped package of cheddar-jalapeño scones or hearty chocolate-chip cookies. Here you can find organic eggs and free-range meats, fresh tamales, gluten-free breads and much more.

Before you leave, be sure to treat yourself to some citrus fruits, the staples that made this area so popular in the first place. You'll rarely find a sweeter orange than at the Ojai Farmer's Market.

Ojai Certified Farmers' Market, every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
300 East Matilija Street, just behind the Arcade on Main Street in downtown Ojai, California

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