We, as Osman Maaşoğlu photography workshop group stopped by Kars Kitchen, Hanımeli Restaurant for a dinner, in Kars,the first owner of ghazi appellation in Anatolia after the 1855 Kars Victory at the end of Ottoman-Russian war took place between 1853-1856.
As we went in, we saw a man the nameof whom we learned later as Mr.Çetin, was singing the song Sarı Gelin (Blonde Bride) while playing accordion. We felt a very warm welcome inside. As we seated on our reserved table, we had the oppotunity to meet Mrs.Dilek, the owner.
Only your mom can beat us in the kitchen!
Mrs.Dilek said: “Only your mom can beat us in the kitchen” and added that we were to be served in small portions so that we could be able to taste the dishes all. “We’re not imposing you a “today’s soup”, we cooked two different soup choices for you.” One of the soups were Ayran aşı Soup, made up of yoghurt and wheat. I preffered the other, Erişte Aşı/Hasta Aşı Soup which is a little bit chilly and with savour of coriander. A different taste!..
After that we tasted Şirin Pilav. This is basically basmati rice cooked with saffron. The difference of this sweet pilaf is that it ingredients dried fruits like grapes, plum, dates… We liked it!
Later on, Yaprak Sarma and Lahana Sarma was on scene. Sarma means wrap, Yaprak Sarma stands for minced meat with rice wrapped in grape leaves, and Lahana Sarma in colewort leaves. Awesome!…
It’s time for stewed meatballs of Kars kitchen… Also called Revan Köftesi, also a different taste, it is made of delicious meatballs as big as wallnuts with stewed potatoes… Liked it!.
Hangel was the last dish of the evening which I can shortly describe as Ravioli. Nice!..
After the meal we enjoyed Umaç Helvası a kind of dessert made up of caramelised sugar and flour. Just for me!..
And it’s time for Aşık Atışması, the minstrell show
During dinner Mr.Çetin begins to sing “Hoş gelişler ola, Mustafa Kemal Paşa (Very welcome Mustafa Kemal Pasha!” playing accordion, a bravery song about our former leader Atatürk which caused laud applauses. After that Aşık (minstrel) Ensar ŞAHBAZOĞLU and his collegue Arif TELLİOĞLU took place for the minstrel call-and-response show we have been waiting for.
(Despite my belief that poems are not meant to be translated I’m sharing an “I’ll take my chance ” attempt for that.)
Where the sun and the culture was born,
Fortune of Kars arises minstrels
Natural beauties, cool highlands,
Kars has lots of admirers in this world.
National unity is our oath,
As one, we feel ourselves.
Ani Ruins is our ancient city.
Everywhere is worth to be seen in Kars…
Not only did our minstrels perform a musical feast that night but also they helped us have a close look at the culture of Kars more closely.
They made our day!
While the minstrels are wandering through the corridor, you may want to hang a tip into loop at the and of the saz (the instrument). The custom is not to hang a tip lower than the very first one. If you happen to do so, you would be teased by ŞAHBAZOĞLU, kindly “not to change yours with the previous one”. We highly encourage giving tips.
At the end of the evening in Kars Kitchen, Hanımeli Restaurant, Mrs. Dilek and Mr.Çetin farewelled us with a big smile while we were leaving the restaurant; still remembering the taste of the dishes, having witnessed a wonderful music performance; both stomaches and souls filled.