Archives for posts with tag: grilling


On a chilly winter’s night a few years back, my hubs and I hit up Aya Sofia – a perennial favorite – for dinner. As we slid into the romantic crimson booth with the drawn-back curtains that hint of magical things to come, I knew, without a doubt, what I was going to order.

That is, until our waiter informed us of the specials; and the special that night was the Adana Kebap … or as he described it … meat on a sword.

Have I ever mentioned my weakness for food on sticks? Seriously, I get downright giddy over corndogs, and cotton candy, and fruit kabobs, and Vienna sausages on plumed toothpicks. There’s just something about skewering my food and gobbling it up.

So now I was going to get meat that was grilled on a sword? (Insert maniacal laugh and happy dance here.) Score!

For the purposes of my restaurant coverage, I don’t write about all the great “specials.” That’s not fair. I want you to love me for what you can get, not hate me for teasing you. So I’ve been patiently waiting, and the wait is over: The Adana Kebap has finally moved from “special” status to be a permanent fixture on Aya Sofia’s menu. Now I can reveal to you all the glory of this dish.

To get to the heart of what the Adana Kebap is all about, I spoke with chef-owner Mehmet Yildiz. Chef Mehmet explained that this dish is native to the city of Adana, which is in the south of Turkey.  The tradition is spicy and hearty, the Adana Kebap delivers a mix of flavors bite after bite.

The meat itself is lamb, beautiful lamb. Chef Mehmet, in the custom of Turkish cuisine, sources his lambs whole and creates the perfect grind and cut for each dish on the menu. For the Adana Kebap, he uses leg meat and fat from the lamb. He works to maintain a balance of 80% meat and 20% fat for a perfect ratio that wraps around the long, metal sword and grills to juicy perfection.

Meat grilling on a sword. Only at Aya Sofia!

Meat grilling on a sword. Only at Aya Sofia!

This dish is not for a person who prefers bland preparations, to be certain. Chef Mehmet seasons the lamb with salt, sweet paprika, and cayenne pepper. Yes, these are seasonings that you likely have in your pantry. The verve with which Chef Mehmet uses the seasonings, however, will make you think there is something super secret in the mix. The first bite bursts with flavor, and each subsequent bite builds on that first taste. The heat comes, but it is a heat that is born of deep, perfect balance; the Adana Kebap is not hot for the sake of being hot.

It’s complex. It’s spicy. Heck, IT’S MEAT ON A SWORD. That’s really all you need to know.

But there’s more.

Chef Mehmet serves the Adana Kebap with traditional accompaniments, which include a grilled banana pepper, cumin tomato sauce, yogurt sauce, sumac onion salad, grilled tomatoes, and pita. It’s a delight for the senses. I enjoy a dip-as-I-eat style so that every bite is just a little bit different from the last. To enjoy the Adana Kebap in a traditional manner, Chef Mehmet suggests drizzling each of the sauces over the grilled lamb before taking your first bite.

In addition to the grilled lamb, there is banana pepper, sumac onions, yogurt sauce, and cumin tomato sauce.

In addition to the grilled lamb, there is banana pepper, sumac onions, yogurt sauce, and cumin tomato sauce.

I mentioned the sumac onion salad. This is a delight that shouldn’t be overlooked. To be honest, at first I thought the onions were pickled because of their purple hue. Nothing could be further from the truth. The sumac offers light floral notes with an edge of tart reminiscent of cranberry. When it’s combined with the onion and parsley, the result is a classy, cool counterpoint to the spicy lamb.

The sumac onion salad is a perfect floral-tart counterpoint to the spicy lamb.

The sumac onion salad is a perfect floral-tart counterpoint to the spicy lamb.

The Adana Kebap serves up history and tradition on one big, beautiful plate at Aya Sofia. Whether you order this or any of the other Turkish delights on the menu, you’ll find that Chef Mehmet brings his passion for Turkish cuisine and culture alive with each and every one.

I can’t close out a post about Aya Sofia without mentioning Alicia Aboussie, Chef Mehmet’s wife,restaurant co-owner, and my dear friend. She has poured her heart and soul into the restaurant’s undeniably romantic interior, and her innate grace and charm is evident in Aya Sofia’s every detail.


My beautiful and talented friend, Alicia Aboussie.

The next time you’re looking for a dining experience that takes you away from the usual, head to South St. Louis, settle into the lovely Aya Sofia, order your meat on a sword, and Eat It, St. Louis!

Aya Sofia
6671 Chippewa
St. Louis, MO 63109

Aya Sofia on Urbanspoon


There certainly was no reason to stay home! On Wednesday, April 6, Maplewood Farmers’ Market kicked off the 2011 market season, and the glorious early evening provided an ideal backdrop for farmers and artisans to showcase their wares.  Encouraged by the warmth of spring and commerce in the square, people came out doors to peruse the offerings and say hello to their neighbors.

At the market’s debut, the stalls buzzed with activity as shoppers shook off the remnants of their winter cocoons and purveyors talked about their current offerings and what they are cultivating in their fields. So early in the season, the best fresh offerings were salad greens* and herbs, like the ones shown here from Deep MudRiver Farm.

Italian Parsley, Deep MudRiver Farm

For me, Beatje Farms was a favorite. Their sinfully beautiful artisan farmstead goat cheeses will be part of every cheese plate I assemble this summer. I’m thinking the gorgeous Bloomsdale, which has hints of blue cheese, will be the centerpiece of a deluxe offering that will include divine dark chocolate (check out the Kakao stand for a mind-bending selection), sweet green and red grapes, a lovely Pestalozzi baguette (Black Bear Bakery, here I come), and a big glass of cabernet.**

Baetje Farms

Another brilliant find was del Carmen Cuban style beans. Seriously … these beans bring crazy goodness to your table. Spicy and fresh, these beans deliver a complicated flavor profile with hints of cilantro, and cayenne, and all things Cuban.  I cannot do the flavor justice. You just have to trust me on this and get your container of Cuban style beans. You can thank me later.

I, myself, am wholly and unapologetically committed to getting my grubby little hands on my next dish of del Carmen beans. They add a saucy va-va-va-voom quality to any meal … or as a meal on their own.

Estie Cruz-Curoe, Queen Bean & Owner, del Carmen Cuban Style Beans

And have you heard that that Grandma’s Nuts are delicious? If not, I’ll tell you they are. These yummy bags of goodness – which Grandma Marcia dreamed up when her son decided he was going to be a vegetarian – include cranberries and cashews; raisins and soy nuts; sunflower seeds and almonds; and so much more.  You’ll never get trans fats, glutens, or peanuts.

It's Grandma Marcia, herself!

By the way: If you decide to mix Grandma’s Nuts into your pancake or cookie batter, don’t forget who may have given you that idea … I’m open to baked-good themed thank-you gifts.

There were many vendors I didn’t even get a chance to learn about, like Farrar Out Farms, the Farm-to-School program, Mangia Italiano, El Chico Bakery, and Claverach Farms. I’m really looking forward to my next trip to the market.

The Maplewood Farmers’ Market is a solid recommendation, my foodie friends, and I can prove it. I had a celebrity chef sighting! When Chef Gerard Craft is shopping the market, even beginners know they should Eat It, St. Louis!

I’m on my way to get more beans now …

Maplewood Farmers’ Market
@ Schlafly Bottleworks
7260 Southwest Avenue (at Manchester)
Wednesdays, 4pm – 7pm

*My intrepid husband — who stunt doubles as my photographer — and I had the most amazing dinner using most of what we purchased at the market.  Yes, the beans, but also salad greens from Deep MudRiver Farm. These were wonderful side dishes that added just the right zip to gorgeously grilled bratwurst and Schlafly Summer Lager. It was a great start to the grilling season!

** I do love a European dinner that is shopped for in European fashion. All that fresh air, leg stretching, and market chat always inspires me to approach my next meal a little differently!

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