Good Eats in Cappadocia

As we headed out for dinner, we ran into our new friend – Tom Brosnahan, whom we had met earlier in the day. Tom, an American, who spends a good portion of his time in Turkey now, is a travel writer, guidebook author, photographer, website developer, and consultant on travel information — so I was extremely excited to pick his brain. Tom arrived in Turkey as a Peace Corps Volunteer at the beginning of the 1970’s and fell in love with the country. Through his adventures there, he authored one of the first guide books to Istanbul which led him to become a leading travel writer for Lonely Planet and other outlets. The serendipitous meeting of people, in a place like this — being there at the right time, it’s moments like these that are truly magical. Tom inquired where we were heading to dinner and we cheerfully replied, “Ziggy’s!” Tom smiled, saying “I was there just last night. The best in Cappadocia, enjoy!” And oh, would we.

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A quick walk down a gravel path, we arrived at Ziggy’s in 10 minutes. Difficult to miss, the first sign one is greeted with is the famous ‘Ziggy’, a sketch of the owner’s beloved Airedale terrier, who the restaurant is dedicated to. Heading up the stairs, into an Ottoman style stone building complete with welcoming terraces and balconies, we entered into the ambient restaurant with warm lighting and a warmer fireplace. Ali, the co-owner, greeted us with the biggest grin, escorting us to a cozy table in the corner. From the aesthetic alone, I already liked this place – it felt like being in an elegant and cozy cottage, with the candles and lanterns lining the walls and little decorations here and there.

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And it only got better from there. Quickly serving up some of the house wine, grown and made locally in Cappadocia, Ali showed us menu but suggested we try the ‘tasting menu’ for a bit of everything. Kelsey and I happily obliged, as we are all for the chef’s recommendation or the most popular dish — I think this is the best way to get a taste of the local flavor and step out of the usual comforts of a Caesar salad or spaghetti and meatballs.

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The plates arrived, and seemed to never stop. Beautiful dishes of vibrant foods covered our tables and our eyes and bellies were so ecstatic. The aesthetic of the cuisine alone was enough to win me over, but then I had a bite, and another, and another — soon escalating into an almost food coma. Ali came over and warned us not to feast on too much bread, because more food was to come. My eyes got wide, thinking to myself “this isn’t the main course?!” Holy moly. I paced myself.

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-Ziggy Potatoes

-Garlic Chicken Skewers

Tasting Menu: 1. Fried & grilled eggplant (aubergine) 2. Broad Beans Purée 3. Vegetable of the Day 4. Potato Salad in Molasses & Pomegranate Sauce 5. Pepper Stuffed with Veggies & Rice 6. Salad of the Day – Watercress, Yogurt, Cucumber 7. Sheep Cheese Dish 8. Dipping Sauce for bread

-Pastirma – Deep Fried Pastrami & Cheese

-Pasta with Pastrami

-Lamb liver

-Dessert

After the myriad of tasting platters, a big bowl of colorful pasta arrived, only to be accompanied by another local wine. Buzz induced, Kelsey and I reflected on the day’s events: on life, on travel, on really embracing the present moment and not falling victim to the call of our cell phones or Facebook. Although I love to share my travels and let others in — to encourage, to enlighten, to engage and inspire — it’s so important to forget about that world for awhile and just be. Be in the present moment so you can see it in full detail later on, be in the present moment to let the peace wash over you, be in the present moment just to feel. Kelsey’s always good at reminding me of these things.

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We drank and cleared our plates (holding back our gluttonous burps – “TRYING” to be civilized when in public) and then dessert arrived. Quite possibly the tastiest dessert I have ever indulged in. Two different plates, one that was similar in flavor to delicious carnival funnel cake, covered in powdered sugar with an apple-y, pear, vanilla ice cream and the other, a traditional fruit from Turkey, called quince, made into a gelatinous cake.

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While everything was delicious and I would gladly scarf down the tasting menu again, my favorites included the grilled aubergine, watercress & yogurt salad of the day, stuffed peppers and potatoes in molasses & pomegranate sauce. I could have gone without the pastirma, partly because I’m not super keen on fried food and by the point it arrived, I was already super full. The pasta noodle was thick, unlike anything I’ve seen or tried in America and was a delectable combination with the savory juices of the pastrami.

Of course the plates are seasonal, as with every good restaurant that uses quality ingredients, but you can bet – if I’m ever in Cappadocia again, no matter what season, I’ll definitely be heading to Ziggy’s.

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History of Ziggy’s: Unfortunately the owners, Nuray and Selim Yüksel, weren’t in town to chat — we just missed them as they ended up in Istanbul while we ventured to Cappadocia.  When Nuray arrived in Cappadocia two decades ago, it was just one cave hotel and had a very small tourism industry. However, Nuray found the region ideal for her work and creative spirit, as she is a jewelry and clothing designer who loves to create original Turkish handicrafts. Purchasing a stone house to create a home-base and shop for Nuray, they quickly expanded as the place took shape and friends kept suggesting to open the space to the public. Initially, only cocktails, teas, coffee, cookies and cake were served, but as time passed, the menu evolved and featured dishes inspired by Cappadocia’s regional cuisine and produce. Ali Ozkan, the head chef, who we had the pleasure of chatting with for a majority of the night had previously worked in Istanbul (serendipitously at Bodrum – where we had dined for lunch only the day before!).

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Ziggy Café was named for after the owner’s beloved Airedale Terrier, who received his name after the David Bowie album (The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars), and his legend lives on.

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Topping off our night, Ali invited us to the restaurant’s gift shop, where all the items are handmade by the owner and local artisans. Such care and craft can be seen in each individual and unique piece and we marveled at all the creations. Before heading back home, Ali sent us on our way with the sweetest gift of a beaded pomegranate charm, instructing us to hang them in our homes in the kitchen for a place of prosperity, life and richness. The gift of the pomegranate — little gestures like this, filling my life with richness, and I can only hope to spread that richness to others.

I’d suggest making a reservation beforehand as the restaurant is very popular and caters to a small crowd, making sure to pay special attention to the needs of every guest.

Ziggy’s Shoppe and Cafe – Website 

TripAdvisor 

Back Lot Tour in Cappadocia
Istanbul: Old City

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