State Fairs are often an afterthought. A relic of times past when most of us lived in rural areas and guessing the weight of a pumpkin was the best entertainment of the month. They offer variations on the same rides, foods and entertainment that you find at your local Memorial Day Carnival or County Fair and, I mean, how many people even go to those? But the Minnesota State Fair is so far from an afterthought that it seems to be on the minds of Minnesotans for the 50 weeks of the year in which it is not in operation. Plans are made, new foods are devised and longed after; then, just like that, it’s over again. This year, however, the Unvegan paid a visit to see how it would all stack up.
Loyal readers may know that this food blog adheres to an almost exception-free policy of not re-reviewing restaurants. First impressions are the most important impressions and that is why this unwritten policy is in place. However, when a restaurant innovates or completely reworks a menu, they could be considered for another feature on the Unvegan. Typically, this has been relegated to Taco Bell, but another faux-Mexican restaurant called Mad Mex is continuing that trend. Namely, this innovation is called The Gobblerito and it means Thanksgiving in a tortilla.
Many of you out there have wondered whether a fictional character can be an Unvegan Hero and I am finally ready to answer that question with a resounding, “Yes!” But it isn’t easy – unless you’re Ron Swanson.
Although Thanksgiving is still a couple of days away, I’m already hungry for some Turkey. Luckily, Gayle’s BBQ sent me some of her BBQ sauces and a recipe for some turkey meatballs for free. Since I’m more of an eater than a cooker, I left my girlfriend to follow the recipe and make me some meatballs.
Over at the Pico-Robertson area is Factor’s Deli, a Jewish-style deli with delivery! Sometimes I wonder why more restaurants don’t deliver, but luckily I don’t need to wonder about that for Factor’s.
For some reason, I wasn’t in the mood for pastrami, so it took some time to figure out what I wanted to order. Eventually, I found the multi-meaty sandwich to conquer my hunger. This was the combination sandwich entitled No. 1, featuring turkey, corned beef and swiss cheese to ensure that it is un-Kosher. It also had Russian dressing and was served on triple-layer rye bread. As a bonus, it also came with a choice of two sides, so I chose the unhealthiest of all, fries and homemade chips.
For my final day of Turkish Food Week, I’d like to wrap up with a few more interesting dishes I encountered on my journey. We’ll return to my regular unvegan lifestyle next week!
Cigarette bread is a mysterious food that was first served to me at the Ban Ban Cave Restaurant in Cappadocia. Considering how many cigarettes Turkish people smoke everyday, I wouldn’t have been surprised if someone told me cigarette bread was just a new way they found to ingest tobacco. For all I knew, it could have been bread wrapped around an actual cigarette. I bit in with immense curiosity and found it to just a thin shell of bread, wrapped around ricotta cheese and fried. This is probably only slightly healthier than actual cigarettes. It quickly became one of my favorite dishes in Turkey.
In the frozen wasteland of Cappadocia, the man running my cave hotel recommended a restaurant close by, called Orient. It was a short trek, but froth with difficulties like ice and snow. After a few slips and close brushes with icy death, I made it inside.
I checked out the menu, remembering that the guy at my cave had recommended the steak. After a short glance, I found the “Minute Steak.” The name wasn’t terribly specific and I wondered what it could possibly mean. Did it take a minute to cook? A minute to eat? Maybe it was minute in the sense of being small? Perhaps it was Turkey’s version of Minute Maid? My curiosity got the best of me and I ordered.
Before I left for Turkey, a friend of mine told me I had to go to a restaurant called Doy Doy in Istanbul. Since he hadn’t been to Turkey in a couple years, I took him seriously. It’s not often that someone remembers the name of a restaurant they went to in a foreign country while traveling the world, even one with a name so memorable as Doy Doy.
I was told that I could find Doy Doy behind the Blue Mosque, which isn’t exactly a small building. In fact, it’s hard just to tell what the front of the mosque is, let alone the back. I encircled the building before I found a cobblestone street that I hoped would lead me to Doy Doy. I rounded a corner, and there in bright yellow stood a building with a sign reading Doy Doy. I finally made it, but would it live up to the expectations?
Where I come from, we have a very limited view of what we call “kebabs.” For starters, we spell them k-e-b-a-b-s and assume that is the only way they can be spelled. Believing that the Turks just couldn’t spell the word, I laughed my way through all of the restaurants in Turkey that said k-e-b-a-p-s. Eventually, I realized that it was just another spelling of kebabs. I guess the restaurants got the last laugh.
Spelling, though, is not the only difference in perception of kebabs that I have with Turkey. I have also always been under the impression that kebaps are pretty much just foods grilled on sticks. Again, Turkey proved me wrong…twice!
The first strange kebap I had was the “Pottery Kebap.” This was in the Uranus Cave Restaurant in Cappadocia, which was a stop on my guided tour. Before delving into this mysterious kebap, I’d like to go off on an unvegan tangent. Anyone who says it’s difficult to travel as a vegetarian is a bold-faced liar. In all my traveling, on all the tours I’ve been on, the guide always makes sure to ask if anyone is a vegetarian. This was no different in Turkey. Before arriving at the cave, my guide asked about vegetarians, but made no effort to accommodate unvegans. As such, I was stuck praying that the meal I was about to get would be fit for an unvegan such as myself.
Having just returned from a vacation in Turkey, I have decided to do a series of posts regarding my unvegan experiences abroad. Today’s review is about “pide” (pronounced pee-day), also called Turkish Pizza.
Eating something called Turkish Pizza really seems like a misnomer to me. I’m not sure if it is Turkey’s take on pizza, or perhaps they found that calling it Turkish Pizza makes it more approachable for visitors who may not have ever heard of “pide”. Either way, my first pide looked nothing at all like pizza. I got it at the Karadeniz Aile Pide & Kebap Sofrasi in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul. It was called the pide with spicy meat pieces and the waiter told me the meat was beef. When it came, it looked more like a calzone than a pizza, and true to it’s word, it was full of meat pieces. The pieces, however, were not spicy, as I think they meant to write “spiced meat pieces.” Regardless, it was delicious and made me want more.