THE BEST PLACES YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF
Scouting Report 2008: Gaziantep
Our third-annual rundown of the best new places—as determined by people lucky enough to have exploration be part of their job description.
Philippe de Vienne: Cofounder with his wife, Ethné, of Épices de Cru, a spice importation and retail business based in Montreal, Quebec (epicesdecru.com), and coauthor of the cookbook La Cuisine et le Goût des Épices.
After more than 20 years of running a catering business in Montreal, Philippe de Vienne and his wife, Ethné, decided to close up shop and become full-time spice importers and distributors. "I wanted to combine the two things my wife and I love doing most: eating great food and traveling," he explains. So, for the past eight years, the couple has spent at least a third of each year traveling to places such as Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Mexico, and Turkey in their search for new culinary inspirations and business suppliers.
One of the couple's favorite discoveries is in southeastern Turkey, near the border with Syria. "This region is a crossroads of Syrian, Kurdish, and Turkish cultures," says de Vienne. "Anywhere else in Turkey the cooks might use four spices in a dish. Here, they use 15. There's a wonderful depth of flavor in the food." De Vienne especially raves about the food in Gaziantep and, in particular, its baklava. The dessert's main ingredient, pistachios, abound in the surrounding countryside. "It's worth it just to fly to Istanbul, hop a plane to Gaziantep, eat the baklava, and go back home," says de Vienne. "It's that good."
Information: Round-trip Turkish Airlines flights from Istanbul to Gaziantep, thy.com, from $200; Anadolu Evleri hotel, 6 Köroglu Sokak, 011-90/533-558-7996, anadoluevleri.com, from $112 with breakfast; Imam Çagdas restaurant, 49 Uzun Çarsi, 011-90/342-220-7080, imamcagdas.com (Turkish only).