“Cuz they were nomads, they ate on the floor”

If a chef had a finger in your guided tour of Istanbul, here’s what you’d experience: An exhaustive exhibit on the history of Turkish coffee, complete with a centuries-old flyswatter meant to illustrate indolence in coffeehouses. The newly opened kitchens at the Topkapi Palace, where the guards are so busy on their phones they don’t notice everyone ignoring the universal no-photos sign on every exhibit, and where the workmanship in centuries-old china and silver is extraordinary. A warm-up stop for Turkish tea and red poppy/rosewater/tamarind sherbets (more like juices) in the gift shop. A spin through the Spice Bazaar with more time spent outside, where the real food is for sale and the cheese and olive vendors can’t pass out enough samples. A stock-up stop in a lokum/Turkish delight shop dating from the relatively recent past (1777). Lunch at an unlikely power lunch scene in a gentrifying neighborhood with exceptional traditional food (if the usual watery manti) and with Noah’s Pudding for dessert, made with grains and beans and honey and pomegranate and walnuts. True Turkish coffee in a 1967 coffeehouse and a lesson in reading the grounds like tea leaves. Through it all, nonstop insights into Istanbul’s history and modern life. I usually find guided tours about as pleasant as actually being led around by my nose would be, but this was impressive. As our guide said: “No one person can ever finish Istanbul.” I highly recommend her; email if you’re interested in contact info.