Turkish delight, otherwise known as Lokum, first appeared in Ottoman palaces during the 15th century. The delicacy was most often made from molasses, honey, flour and water. Tons of different varieties can be found in Turkey today–some made almost entirely of chopped dates or pistachio. Movie buffs and readers will remember the pivotal role played by the sweet in the story of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. This tiny boutique across the street from the entrance to the Pera Palace hotel sells the most beautifully packaged gift boxes of freshly made Turkish delight. You can sample a half dozen varieties from rose water to cinnamon and then pick from the many colorful boxes decorated with evil eye charms or golden hands of Fatima to be packaged while you wait.
There’s a second location in Levent at Is Bankasi Kuleleri Kule Carsi.
Just one more sign of how sophisticated Turks are becoming about their food and wine: the city now has a fantastic wine shop and wine bar called Sensus. Located in the up-and-coming Galata neighborhood, Sensus is a gorgeous suite of salons and wine rooms. The in-house sommelier Ilhan Olam keeps more than 350 different vintages available by the glass and at the perfect temperature. To accompany your tasting, you may order a variety of cheese plates and, of course, Mr. Olam will help you pair the wine with the cheese or advise on what bottle will best suit a specific dish you plan to prepare at home. In fact, Stamboulis have figured out that a stop here can provide more than a memorable glass of wine but a free tutorial as well. In fact, just one visit and anyone will come away knowing that Turkish wine has come a long way in the last decade; there are very good Turkish Chardonnays, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignons, including quite a few that have won international awards. Open daily, except Sundays.
Tip from painter and designer Madeline Weinrib, whose atelier is located on the top floor of ABC Carpet & Home:
“Visit here for little gifts like rose water, dried figs, saffron and organic Turkish apricots. I also always bring back caviar from Istanbul. The trick is to use cold packs that chill perishables for 24 hours.”
If you’re looking for fashion, jewelry, gifts, home wares and typical Turkish souvenirs, visit the Grand Bazaar.