Eating our way to Kenya

by spiceaholic on November 28, 2011

Consider this the (long) intro to our trip, if you will.

Our flight to Nairobi via Istanbul didn’t leave from JFK until nearly 11 pm, so most normal people would accordingly book their flight from Atlanta to NY so that they had a decent enough layover to account for weather, transit between Laguardia and JFK, and time for check-in/security.

Notice how I said most normal people.  Oh no, not us.   Our flight from Atlanta to NY got us there at 9:30 am, which left us with an 11-hour layover.  11 hours.  On purpose.  Our reason?  The ones I mentioned just now, plus we wanted to spend a few hours in NY.

Did I mention we had to figure out what we were going to do with our luggage for 11 hours?  And figure out how to get into the city and back in time to check in for our flight?

Well, the good news is that we were able to work it out in the end, it just took us a while to get going!

Does it surprise you that a good bit of our time-killing involved food?  This is me, after all!

I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say that getting to JFK from LaGuardia didn’t take that long, we were able to store our luggage at JFK, and once we figured out what we were doing, getting into the city wasn’t that bad.

We’ve both been to NYC plenty of times, so we weren’t interested in doing touristy things to pass the day.  Our first stop was Strand Books, which is the equivalent of book heaven to me.  18 miles of books? Yes please!  I think you can guess where I spent most of my time:

Cookbooks!  I knew I wasn’t going to be able to buy much since I didn’t want to have to lug books around on our trip, but I did manage to find a cookbook with Bengali recipes.  No way was I passing that one up!

I had quickly looked up a few places to eat if we could find them easily, but my plans fell through mostly because of the rain — we didn’t want to be walking around all day in the rain.  There was a place I wanted to try called Xi’an Famous Foods that served the foods we enjoyed last year in Xi’an, China. I thought it’d be a fun way to mark last year’s vacation as we started this year’s vacation.  Too bad the closest location to us was closed!  I don’t know if it was repair work or if it just wasn’t open yet, but when the cab dropped us off in front of scaffolding instead of a restaurant, we immediately got to work finding somewhere else to eat.

We ended up popping into Brick Lane Curry House, which was just a couple streets down.  Named after the famous street in London peppered with Indian restaurants, we were looking forward to a good spicy meal.

Pappadums to start things off.

Mr. Spice got the lamb shammi kababs, which he really enjoyed. I’m not a lamb fan but I took a small taste.

I ordered a chicken boti roll, which seems similar to a kathi roll, which is chunks of skewered kababs (boti kababs) rolled up in an egg-coated bread.  Sounded good in theory but not in reality.  The roll was smothered in a cilantro and tamarind sauce which coated every surface and rendered it inedible to me.  Cilantro and I are not friends. I ended up picking at what I got and eating up the naan that Mr. Spice had ordered to go with his kababs.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that I was still hungry later on.  We decided to find a coffee or tea shop to kill some time since it was still raining outside and ended up at Podunk Tearoom.

Some orange-ginger green tea for Mr. Spice.

Earl Grey tea and a chocolate chip cookie for me!

Fast-forward a few hours to after we checked in for our flight.  Guess what? I was hungry again! How appropriate that there was a place called “Eat & Go Istanbul” in our terminal that served sandwiches, munchies, and Turkish food!

There was a great selection of items to choose from, and I ended up settling on a cheese Gözleme, which is a hand-rolled, filled pastry.

I really liked this — the cheese was soft, a bit tangy, and went well with the pastry.  Mr. Spice remarked that it looked like a cheese-stuffed paratha, and that’s actually a pretty good description of the look and taste of it.

I wasn’t sure what the fruit situation was going to be in Kenya, so I figured it’d be good to have some before we left.  Except a certain husband sneaked into it and ate all the good pieces while I wasn’t looking.  I guess I can forgive him.

So now we’re finally getting to the part where we leave for our trip!  I don’t mean to ramble on so much, but this is my way of remembering everything that happened! 🙂

Our flight to Nairobi was on Turkish Airlines, with a brief stop in Istanbul. I’d never flown on Turkish Airlines before, and I have to say I was quite impressed.  A lot of it is due to the fact that we were flying on one of their new jets, so everything was still shiny and new.  But what I really liked was that even though we were flying coach, it really wasn’t too bad!  Each seat had its own entertainment system for movies and games, there were USB ports and outlets, and they handed out kits including eye masks, socks, lip balm, and some other stuff.  And I haven’t even gotten to the food yet!

I know, I’m such a nerd for getting excited about airplane food.  Whatever.

You will have to forgive the pictures — it was well past midnight and dark on the plane.

I got the minced beef and polenta ball, which came with spinach and eggplant/tomato lasagna.  There was also tabbouleh, yogurt with cucumbers, and lemon tart.

And in case you got hungry between dinner and breakfast, they had snacks in the gallery you could help yourself to. Not me, I attempted to get some sleep.

I have no idea what time it was when we got breakfast, but it was still dark.

Omelet with veggies, fruit salad, cheese + olives, and fresh rolls.

We landed in Istanbul for a layover of a couple hours and immediately set off in search of caffeination.  We found an Italian coffee shop and got some espresso for Mr. Spice and tea and a cookie for me. 🙂

Mr. Spice’s espresso.

My cookie.

Then it was time to catch our flight to Nairobi. Of course you can’t have an international flight without that panic of not being able to find your passport!! I thought it had fallen out in the coffee shop, so I was making a panicked trot back to the shop when thankfully Mr. Spice found it with his passport. Phew!

Guess what?  Time to eat again! I think we are so used to not being served food on domestic flights anymore that when we are on a flight that serves food (several times) it can be disconcerting.  I noticed this last year as well when we flew to China.

Just FYI — alcoholic drinks were free on the flight.  We didn’t partake, I usually got diet Coke or sour cherry juice which is my new favorite juice.

I wanted the chicken, but they ran out just before they got to us.  The salmon was pretty good though and I loved the potatoes.

I didn’t take an individual picture of the mousse, but I loved it — it had hints of coffee and hazelnut.

And that is how we ate our way to Kenya.   Up next is our first day in Kenya! Stay tuned!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Aiman Masud December 2, 2011 at 9:24 pm

what a food oddessy! Not a single boring meal on Turkish airline!!

Biz December 3, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Wow, so exciting! I’ve never been outside of the U.S., except for Canada. I hope you have a wonderful time!

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