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Saturday, February 28, 2015


Hot, hearty & Delicious Sahlep served at Koftecisi Cafe, near Istanbul's iconic Spice Market
Photo: Phyllis Shess, Pillar to Post, January, 2015
SO IT ISN’T COFFEE--Sahlep or Salep isn’t coffee or is it tea, but on a cold day after putting on ten miles walking around Istanbul’s Spice Market, the hot drink, a winter favorite in Greece, Lebanon and Turkey, was just the ticket.

"Sahlep or Salep?
Istanbul or Constantinople?"

Sahlep (I’m going with the spelling from the outdoor café where we first tasted this delicious concoction) is made from crushed tubers of wild orchids that are found all over Turkey.  The drink is non-alcoholic, which falls in line with the teachings of Islam.

Served from a brass samovar, we tasted Sahlep on both sides of the Bosporus adding a bit of intercontinental research to our trip.  If not smothered in cinnamon or other like spice for flavoring my Istanbul Sahleps had a hint of rice pudding and tapioca flavoring. 

Photo (top) was taken at the outside small table, lower left
corner of Beceren Koftecisi cafe, Istanbul
I’m told Sahlep is ladened with glucomannan, which reportedly cures everything except war, especially coughs.  Our Sahlepper (why doesn’t that sound right?) said the drink stops diarrhea adds zip to the heart and puts a buzz in your soul.

Having returned home I’ve discovered online libraries filled with Salep (Internet spelling) recipes and brands of instant good stuff.

Online, I ordered four packettes of instant Salep powder to see if I could recreate the magic of 25 degree weather in 70 degree San Diego.  Somehow it wasn’t quite the same.  But, if you close your eyes and play the right music the aura of Sahlep or Salep can be recreated.

For six people, mix 2 teaspoons of sahlep flour with 2,5 teaspoons of sugar. Slowly add 3.5 glasses of cold milk, and stir. Finally boil the mixture while stirring on low fire for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot in a cup dusting with grinded cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger on top.

Other Sahlep related images from the web:

Image by Yigal Schleifer

Proving Sahlep isn't just an outdoor
Sahlep vendor, Istanbul, circa 1890s
Sahlep vendor near the Blue Mosque

Classic tourist image at a Sahlep counter in Istanbul

Friday, February 27, 2015


BREAKING BEER NEWS: Cookies & Beer event at the end of this post on Fathom Cafe
Fathom Bistro on Shelter Island is San Diego's only tap beer establishment on the water.
GUEST BLOG—By Mike Shess, Publisher West Coaster Magazine and Website (“At the end of the day I’m the guy with a little hot dog stand on the pier,” states Dennis Borlek, proprietor of Fathom Bistro, Bait & Tackle. Armed with a simple menu and 15 taps on Shelter Island’s pier – the place isn’t large. However, Fathom and its owner occupies a special spot in San Diego beer lore. The pub has just celebrated its second year in business.

In 1989, Dennis was working at a record store by San Diego State and living in a house nearby. One of his roommates, Chenin Cilurzo, went to study abroad for a semester. Wanting to get out of his hometown of Temecula for a change of pace, Chenin’s brother Vinnie moved into her room – bringing with him cases of Cilurzo Family Vineyard wine. During a night of enjoying wine, the idea was hatched to start homebrewing. The following day, Vinnie & Dennis visited Beer & Wine Arts in El Cajon – which was then the only homebrewing supply store in San Diego. That night, a batch of beer was made. The laundry room of the house was promptly converted into a home brewery. The brewing bug took hold, and Danger Brothers Brewing was born.

After a few years, Vinnie went on to start Blind Pig Brewing Co. and eventually Russian River Brewing Co. Dennis remained in San Diego, frequenting Montana’s American Grill (now closed). “In 1989-90, Montana’s was probably one of the first restaurants in San Diego to really care about craft beer,” says Dennis. The late Beer Hunter and critic Michael Jackson was in attendance for one of Montana’s beer pairing dinners.

Working as a licensed vocational nurse full time, Dennis continued to work in the beer community part-time. In 2004, Dennis helped open Liar’s Club in Mission Beach with high school friend Louis Mello. When Hamilton’s Tavern opened down the road from his South Park house, Dennis approached owner Scot Blair for a few shifts. One shift turned into several, and eventually Dennis became the General Manager of Hamilton’s. He quit his nursing job at Grossmont Hospital at 2006: “I couldn’t work two full-time jobs – working at Hammie’s was way more fun and paid more money.”

Dennis Borlek on opening day,
February, 2013 photo
Dennis helped with opening up Small Bar, Eleven, and then also Monkey Paw. He then went off on his own. “I always planned on having a bar called ‘Danger Abbey’’, however, the name and idea for Fathom came to him in a dream. “My father was a submariner in the Navy and I’ve been a fisherman and scuba diver my entire life. I wanted something nautical, but not junky. I wanted something to reflect my interest and my family’s interest in the sea.” By chance, Dennis saw the “For Lease” sign posted in Shelter Island’s bait shop.

He made the call that day and then went to buy books on how to put together a business plan that night, submitting his business proposal to the Port Authority. Port officials accepted his proposal, citing that Fathom’s concept was the most unique use of an underutilized property. Fathom opened for Groundhog’s day 2013, February 2nd.

Thanks to connections made over the years, Fathom enjoys tremendous support from the brewing community. While the draft list is just 15 beers strong, there’s an emphasis on quality and supporting friends. “I try and keep beer on tap from breweries that I have a personal connection with,” nodding to the chalk beer list with offerings from established breweries like Russian River and Sierra Nevada as well as newer breweries such as Societe, Mike Hess and Fall Brewing.


Thursday, February 26, 2015


The deadly Upas
FOODIE ALERT. Amorcito Corazon (Sweet Heart) just opened in North Park offering Mexican fare, including the tasty Classico Carne Asada burrito (size of a football).  Interesting take-out menu.  New place is Torta-ed between Lefty’s Pizza and Smoking Goat on 30th just up from Upas.

TAG TEAM TACOS. Tacos Perla serves delicious food, but the stylish Mexican food emporium—albeit small is size—is extremely creative in its marketing approach.  Founded by the Pearl Hotel team and located in the new North Parker lofts, Tacos Perla has teamed with two of its 30th and Upas neighbor bars to deliver its menu items to Modern Times Flavordome and Bluefoot bar.  While visiting Modern Times with West Coaster magazine publisher Mike Shess, we tried the Tacos Perla take out service.  Ordering by phone (and paying) the tacos were delivered promptly by a Tacos Perla staffer.  And, the ordered carne asada tacos impressed the taste buds.  Pillar to Post blog world headquarters is only eight blocks from Tacos Perla, we’re tempted to see if they’d deliver.  Stay tuned.

WHAT’S A UPAS?  Now that 30th & Upas streets in North Park is synonymous for deliciousness, what on Earth is a Upas?  It’s a tree and San Diegans pronounce it you-pus.

In San Diego’s mid-to-downtown area east to west streets are named after trees starting alphabetically south to north from Ash Street to Upas.

The Upas is native to Malaysia and some species grow to 100 feet. Its main feature is its full leafy canopy.  Has a tropical reputation as a tree not to mess with because of its toxicity (ancient natives used sap to poison tips of blowgun darts).

RESTAURANTS SURROUNDING 30TH & UPAS (with more in the works).

--Smoking Goat, 3408 30th St., 619.955-5295.  French-American cuisine. Now open on Mondays.

--Alexander’s, 3391 30th St., 619.281.2539, upscale Italian where top cuisine matches the décor.

--Underbelly II, 3000 Upas, Japanese cuisine, outdoor centric in modern building.  Huge following.

--Zensei Sushi, 3396 30th St., 619.546.6172, lively sushi bar.

--NEW, Amorcito Corazon, 3442 30th St., 619.293.3569. More of a take-out but has seating inside.  So far the carne asada classic burrito is drawing raves. Menu offers wider range of non-Mexican/American items.

--Jack-in-the Box, 2959 Upas St., 619.295.8443. Since the 1950s.  Ultimate cheeseburger still rules.

--Influx Cafe, 3000 Upas St., 619.795.0680,, go for the coffee stay for the salads and pasteries (choose your poison).

--NEW, Bazinga Eatery, 3382 30th St., 619.255.8940, www., mac & cheese specialties.

--Tacos Perla, 3000 Upas St., 619.795.0700. Upped the ante on Mexican cuisine in North Park.

--Cardamom Cafe, 2977 Upas St., North Park omelette is tops, double latte in a mug won me over.

--Lefty’s Chicago Pizzera, 3448 30th St., 619.295.1720,


--Mosaic Wine Bar (new ownership/remodeling), 3422 30th St.

--Eddie’s Philly, 3501 30th St., latter is now defunct and site will soon be another Queenstown Public House...unless it isn't.


--WOW Waffles, 3519 30th St., 619.458.9211,, try Liege Street Belgian Waffles.  Located behind Laundromat. 

--Paesano, 3647 30th St., 619.291.4090, oldest Italian eatery in mid-city with same ownership.  Fastest to go pizza in ‘hood as well as an established sit-down menu.  Family. Good prices.

--NEW, The Good Life Eatery, 3620 30th St., 619.756.7566, sweets, sandwiches, salads and soups.