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A dinner table is a place where people come together to share a meal, engage in conversation and enjoy life. That is the idea behind Tawla in San Francisco. Tawla is an arabic word with two meanings, both backgammon (the game) and table. It is a word that is found in Turkey (tavla), Greece (tavli) and in Byzantine Greek (tabula). The game is shared across these cultures as is food. Greece, Turkey, Iran, Jordan, Syrah, Iraq, Lebanon and Israel have had centuries of cultural cross-pollination. While each of the cuisines are unique to their cultures, with different spices and herbs, there is a connection between many of the dishes. At Tawla in San Francisco, the cuisines of the Eastern Mediterranean are woven together for a delicious culinary experience. Located on the restaurant-dense Valencia Street, I went with a friend on a recent trip to San Francisco. We selected the Summertime Feast for $69 per person, thinking it would give us a broad sampling of the menu. And it did! We were welcomed with an amuse of plum slices with a smokey salt. The sweetness and tartness of the fruit with the smoky salt awoke our palates. Our tasting menu began with Three Labnehs, made by draining full-fat yogurt. One was za'atar and olive oil, one was hazelnut dukkah and the third was maris pepper and dried mint, which had a nice kick to it.
We don’t see a lot of Turkish food here in the U.S. but on a recent trip to Turkey, we discovered a lot of local dishes that definitely pleased the palate! Blending Central Asian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Balkan cuisines, Turkish cuisine is the heritage of the Ottoman Empire. And, while you may not have tried these dishes yet, perhaps they seem familiar to other dishes we know.  Here are our favorites that we hope to find in the U.S.: Borek A family of baked filled pastries made with phyllo dough and filled with cheese, meat or vegetables. We had fresh home-baked Borek made with spinach, cheese and onion for breakfast in Alaçati (on the Çesme Peninsula near the Aegean Sea). It was similar to spanakopita but the layers of phyllo dough were tender, not crunchy. Turkish Borek