Azerbaijan Day at the Textile Museum – June 4

OK, this event is not a Turkish event per se, but it definitely has some Turkish taste. So, read on:

Kardelen Turkish Dance Ensemble

Kardelen Turkish Dance Ensemble

Karabakh Foundation is presenting ‘Celebration of Textiles‘, an annul celebration organized by the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C. The event consists of three parts: An exhibition of Azerbaijani carpets, a kamancheh concert by Azerbaijani artist Imamyar Hasanov, and a performance of Caucasus dances by Nomad Dancers and Kardelen Turkish Dance Ensemble.

By now most of our readers must be familiar with the Kardelen Turkish Dance Ensemble. They perform at various high-profile Turkish Festivals including the Turkish Festival in Washington, D.C. Don’t miss the chance to see them this Saturday!

And since you are already in the area, you might consider grabbing a bite at Ezme or Cafe Divan after this event!

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A remarkable experience: Demet Sağıroğlu & NY Gypsy All-Stars at Drom NYC

The Turkspot team spent the night at New York City’s Drom on Saturday, May 14. The line-up, even though we weren’t really familiar with the band at the time, looked pretty promising: NY Gypsy All-Stars and special guest, Demet Sağıroğlu.

Drom - Bar AreaFirst, a few words on Drom NYC… This Turkish-owned and operated club offers a both cozy and chic atmosphere – doesn’t sound like your usual combination, right? The place caters to different crowds; featuring concerts and performances by soul&funk, electric, jazz artists and bands as well as famous Turkish performers (see the list of artists). Besides the glamorous musical experience, kudos to the interior designer of this place – nice bar area with a decent dance floor and stylish seating area with comfy seats and ottomans all around the place. We didn’t dine here, however according to their website, the kitchen offers Tapas style Turkish and Mediterranean dining. All in all, the ambiance is very pleasant.

Now, more on the stars of the night… Demet Sağıroğlu is a well-known singer in Turkey, a very beautiful, strong voice which we were fortunate to experience live! Demet started her music career as the back vocal to Kayahan, considered one of the masters of the Turkish pop music. Later in 1994, she released her first album, ‘Kınalı Bebek’, an immediate and long-lasting success. Listen to the most popular song from this album with the most brilliant music video of its time!

Demet SağıroğluDemet’s live performance is really worth watching, her singing is very soft and smooth and very adaptable to the band’s style.

Talking about the band… Wowww! NY Gypsy All-Stars is a wonderful combination of very talented musicians from Greece to Macedonia to Turkey and to Brooklyn. The lead of the group, Ismail Lumanovski, is a notable virtuosic clarinet genius. He is accompanied by Tamer Pınarbaşı, the fingers behind the beautiful Quanun; Panagiotis Andreou, the 2010 ‘Best Latin Jazz Bassist’; Jason Linder, the keyboard player who is also a composer and an arranger; and finally Engin Günaydın, the drummer who we got to meet in person and tried to trick into performing in the DC area 🙂

NY Gypsy All-Stars’ music, as the name implies, is Gypsy style – a theme from the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Hence, the melodies are very familiar to the Turkish crowd. One amazing fact is that they played almost all night long and never lost their energy and enthusiasm. During our conversation with Demet Sağıroğlu (yeah, we got to chat with her, too!!), she also expressed her admiration towards the band. That’s probably why she ended up going back to the stage after her gig. NY Gypsy All-Stars is one impressive band we’ll be keeping an eye on, for sure!

NY Gypsy All-Stars

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May 19th – Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day

Today, we celebrate the Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day on the 92nd anniversary of Mustafa Kemal’s arrival to Samsun to start the Turkish War of Independence. His travel symbolizes the start of a movement that fought a war against world powers, founded the Turkish Republic, and reformed a whole nation.

Mustafa Kemal (April 17, 1919)

Mustafa Kemal (April 17, 1919)

2 facts you may not have heard of:

  • Mustafa Kemal traveled to Samsun on a special mission assigned by the Ottoman government, to stop the local armed groups – the very groups that he  lead during the Turkish War of Independence. This mission was approved, and actually encouraged, by the allied forces.
  • When asked about his birthday, Mustafa Kemal replied that he did not know for sure – common for the day – but he continued to say “Why wouldn’t it be May 19th?” On official documents his birthday was then set to May 19th with his request.

Happy May 19th – celebrate it with pride!

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Chicago Turkish Festival

Chicago Turkish FestivalThe first major Turkish Festival of the year, Chicago Turkish Festival, is taking place in Chicago in the next few days.

The festival features all sorts of Turkish flavored exhibitions and performances: classical Turkish  music and folk music concerts, a performance by an Ottoman army marching band, whirling dervishes, silk carpet weaving, exhibition of Istanbul and Anatolia photographs, paper marbling and many other activities and performances will be waiting for you.

Chicago Turkish FestivalWhat you shouldn’t miss:

  • New York Gypsy All-Stars. They will perform music from the Balkans on Sunday around 11.30am and Monday around noon. We recently had the chance to see them live, and their performance was incredible! (More on that in our upcoming post about Demet Sağıroğlu concert in New York).
  • Orchid ice cream from Maraş. This delicious ice cream variety can simply be the best thing Turks ever came up with in many thousand years.
  • Ottoman Army Marching Band. You’ll have the chance to understand how the Ottomans could scare European armies even before showing up at the battlefield.
  • Finally, Turkish Coffee. Don’t confuse it with any sort of coffee from Starbucks. This espresso-sized drink is very strong, and you get to use the ground coffee left at the bottom to have your fortune read, and feel good about yourself the whole week with the knowledge that everything is gonna be OK ’cause the fortune-teller said so.

The festival is free of charge and will take place in the Daley Plaza in Chicago downtown between May 22 and 25 from 10am to 6pm.

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Cafe Divan – Review

After a long period of time, Turkspot team visited Cafe Divan two weeks ago with a gang of about 20 people. There is a lot to say… Here is a review from four of the gang members, straight from the horse’s mouth! But first, a little bit of background info on Cafe Divan:

Cafe Divan is located in a triangular-shaped corner building surrounded by glass walls with two separate dining rooms: one more of a cafe style with wooden tables and chairs alongside the glass walls; and one more of a bistro style with a more elegant interior design, furnishing and a bar section. The restaurant is suitable for any size of groups and many occasions: reunions, date nights, or drinks.

Now it is time to review the food. In short, no one in our group returned back home wishing he/she had eaten something else! I go first:

Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup

(age:28, female) : You may remember me from the older posts in which I was referred to as the “Hünkar Beğendi Expert”. Yes, I visit Turkish restaurants all around the US and try hünkar beğendi, chunks of lamb served over beğendi— smoked and mashed eggplant with a secret recipe–, more on this later…

Hünkar Beğendi

Hünkar Beğendi

I started my dinner with a cup of traditional lentil soup, which was very delicious. Whenever I miss lentil soup, like the ones Turkish moms make, I go to Cafe Divan. Then I ordered hünkar beğendi. It was delicious but different from the traditional hünkar beğendi you may have in Turkey. The lamb chunks were tender as they should be, but beğendi was a bit runny. As it is time-consuming to prepare beğendi; in general they dilute it or serve it in small amounts in the US. In Cafe Divan, my beğendi was partly replaced by large chunks of carrots and squash. It makes the meal lighter for sure but the lighter it is, the less delicious your kabob will be.

Finally, I ordered Künefe as dessert, alongside a cup of Turkish tea. Künefe is a traditional dessert from southern Turkey, made from shredded phyllo dough with a fresh cheese filling. It is baked and covered with a sweet syrup and served hot. It is usually a really heavy dessert but Cafe Divan served it with less syrup than usual and with no topping, making it lighter but, again, less delicious than it should be.

(age:28, male): I also had the lentil soup which was one of the better ones I had in the USA. The trick is to always add a hint of fresh lemon juice. I shared an eggplant salad with my wife and found it to be average.

Chicken Shish Kabob

Chicken Shish Kabob

For main dish I ordered Chicken Shish Kabob. The chicken pieces had an amazing taste. I definitely recommend it – 5 stars! Just like the hünkar beğendi, it was served with steamed vegetables (not part of the traditional Turkish Kitchen) and white rice. I wish there was a little bit more rice – all the rice was gone before I was halfway through the chicken pieces. The serving sizes were not very large, but it was enough for the night. I finished my dinner with a small glass of Turkish Tea – brewed from loose tea leaves by the way. The tea was OK, but it wasn’t worth anywhere the amount they were charging: $2 for an espresso-sized ordinary tea.

Overall, I had good food in a lovely ambiance. Two things I should add: First, Cafe Divan is never disappointing for large groups; they let you take your time. Second, the bread, oh the bread… I could go there just to enjoy the bread!

Kavurma

Kavurma

(age 24, male): I am a newbie in the DC area, but I have seen my share of not-so-good kabobs and Turkish food made in some other restaurants. So, I didn’t keep my expectations too high. Fortunately, I am looking forward to the next time I will be there!

Künefe

Künefe

As a starter, I ordered Sigara Böreği (Cigar Shaped Pastry), an appetizer served hot with cheese on the inside and crispy yet soft on the outside. It was not the best I had, but it sure felt nice. It was hot when served and the selected cheese was appropriate, although not the exact one you would use in Turkey. I selected Kavurma as my main dish: an authentic meal with lamb or beef cubes. It is traditionally served on a copper plate but Divan served it on a regular plate with rice and a sauce of onions, tomatoes, green peppers and the like. Although it was not exactly what you would get from a traditional restaurant in Turkey, it was delicious, and can be a nice alternative for those who like kabob.

Generally, without dessert, I don’t feel like I had a complete dinner, so after realizing others offered künefe (more info above), I could only resist the thought of ordering one for myself for a few seconds. It is a dessert you should probably share with another person, because it is large and very sweet. My tea was already cold until the dessert came, so I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I could with a well made hot Turkish tea.

Su Böreği

Su Böreği

(age:26, male): In addition to the great soup that has received compliments from fellow reviewers, I ordered Su Böreği – boiled flat noodles layered with feta cheese and parsley and baked- as an appetizer. It was better than expected. Then, I had the Döner Kabob (similar to Greek gyro) as my main dish. The slices are usually cut too thick in the US, and Cafe Divan was no exception — until this time. A recent change of the main chef may be the reason to a great improvement in the way this traditional Middle Eastern food was prepared: slices were thin and cooked thoroughly. However, I feel like the serving sizes get smaller each time I visit Divan (or is it just me getting greedy?). Even with the soup, appetizer and dessert, I didn’t feel full at the end of my meal.

Döner Kebab

Döner Kabob

Usually Turkish restaurants in the US make changes to the menu items to appeal to the local customers, making them less appealing to the Turkish folks! At Cafe Divan, our overall food experience was good, and we recommend it for your next Turkish food fix.

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Happy Children’s Day!

A child acting as the Speaker of the House

A child acting as the Speaker of the House

April 23rd is celebrated as the Children’s Day in Turkey. Celebrations take place in every city, and they have an international flavor: Children from all around the world take part in these celebrations!

The reason why such a day is celebrated is that the National Assembly of Turkey was founded on this date in 1920. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of this assembly and later the Turkish Republic, lead the way to celebrate this date as the Children’s Day. Since then, every year children take the top seats in major government offices and symbolically govern the country for a few minutes.

Opening of the National Assembly

Opening of the National Assembly

So, now you sure know what the deal is about this date. But did you know these?

  • After the World War I, Mustafa Kemal wanted members of the parliament to meet somewhere in Anatolia, away from the occupation forces. A specific event triggered the foundation of the National Assembly in Ankara: British forces ceased the existence of the Chamber of Deputies of the Ottoman Empire in Istanbul on March 18th, 1920, and arrested some of the representatives. Mustafa Kemal then decided a new assembly should be formed in Ankara and requested local elections to take place.
  • According to an article written by Veysi Akın from Pamukkale University, the reason this date is celebrated as the Children’s Day is that the Child Protection Agency started celebrating this date as Children’s Day to raise money for the children they were looking after. Mustafa Kemal showed full support for these celebrations and even had his car be used for the benefit of these children. This article can be accessed here (only in Turkish).
  • Erdal İnönü, İsmet İnönü’s son, was elected the most sturdy in one of these celebrations.
  • The official name of April 23rd celebrations did not officially bear the Children’s Day name until 1981 although by that date Children’s Day has been unofficially celebrated for more than half a century.
  • Children from other countries have been invited to the celebrations in Turkey by the Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) since 1979. This year this celebration is taking place in Bursa.
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Upcoming Concerts: maSKott (NYC, Boston) and Hadise (FL)

We are back with more concert news from maSKott and Hadise!

maSKottmaSKott, spun out from Kargo and formed by Koray Candemir and Serkan Çeliköz, will be performing in New York on April 22nd and in Boston on April 23rd. After performing in Seattle last year, they had a series of concerts in Turkey December through February. Now they will be entertaining their fans in the North East.

Down in the South, Hadise, who represented Turkey in 2009 at the Eurovision Song Contest with Düm Tek Tek, will play a gig at Hallandale, Florida on April 21st. She recently released a new album called ‘Aşk Kaç Beden Giyer?’ and will be introducing her new songs at this concert.

Now little bit of trivia:

  • HadisemaSKott members live in Seattle, WA, when they are not in Istanbul.
  • Kargo, Candemir and Çeliköz’s previous band, partnered with Mirkelam and released an album named RRDP in 2010.
  • Hadise was born in Belgium.
  • Hadise was in the USA last year when the Turkish National Soccer Team played friendlies in the USA. She even sang the Turkish National Anthem before one of these games.

You can tube maSKott’s latest video Melekler Şehri right here:

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