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Food & Drink

Istanbul’s menu of kebabs serves up the char-grilled flavors of summertime

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. I’ve been taking that advice literally for several days now, ever since the heat index climbed into triple digits and decided to stay there.

When it’s this hot, “stay out of the kitchen” also applies to my usual summertime sanctuary from the heat of cooking indoors: my backyard grill. I break out in a sweat at the very thought of cooking over flames in this sweltering heat.

But that hasn’t stopped me from craving the char-grilled flavors of summertime. If only there was a way, I wondered, to enjoy those flavors without having to produce them myself?

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Then the answer came to me, wafting up from my subconscious like fragrant smoke from hardwood coals: kebabs!

To put it in less metaphysical terms, I remembered the excellent kebabs I’d had at Istanbul, a Turkish restaurant I’d reviewed a few years ago. I’d sampled several different kebabs over the course of three meals, from beef to chicken to the house specialty doner kebab that was only available on Saturdays.

I called the restaurant, crossing my fingers in hopes that Istanbul was still open and offering curbside takeout. Turns out, they are and they do. Better still, Istanbul offers delivery via three services (including my favorite, locally owned Takeout Central, which isn’t yet listed on the website). I wouldn’t even have to brave the surface of the sun (aka the interior of my car) to enjoy my makeshift cookout.

And enjoy it I did, from the punctual delivery (alerted, as I’d requested, by a text message) to the mixed grill I’d ordered. Actually, I’d ordered the Super mixed grill, which raises the ante on the standard mixed grill by including your choice of beef of lamb shish kebab instead of kofta kebab. (Note: The Super mixed grill is listed only on the Takeout Central site.)

I opted for the lamb kebabs, which arrived hot, thanks largely to the fact that they were wrapped in foil, and were juicy and grill-smoky as I’d recalled. Same goes for chicken kebabs, and for Adana kebabs, made with a blend of lamb and beef seasoned with herbs and red pepper. Served with rice (a Turkish bulgur wheat pilaf is also available), the mixed grill was just what the doctor ordered.

Keeping with the sampler theme, a mixed cold appetizer platter primed our palates with hummus, spicy pepper spread, haydari (a garlicky yogurt dip), bulgur pilaf and stuffed grape leaves, served with a thick, sesame-spangled Turkish flatbread. A dessert sampler — baklava, trilece (turkey’s answer to Mexican tres leches cake), and a caramelized milk pudding punctuated with the piney notes of mastic brought the meal to a sweetly satisfying conclusion.

It’s safe to say this is the first time I’ve ever thought of a meal as a culinary cheat code. But it won’t be the last. You can bet I’ll use it again next time I want to level up to a swelter-free summer cookout.

Istanbul

914 Kildaire Farm Road, Cary

919-651-9608

istanbulrestaurantcary.com

Takeout Tales

Send me your experiences with restaurant delivery and curbside pickup at ggcox55@gmail.com. I’ll publish as many as I can (edited as needed for brevity and clarity) in this space.

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill

firebirdsrestaurants.com

Nanci W. discovers curbside takeout at a mall, of all places. (Note: Firebirds also has locations in Raleigh and Morrisville).

“My husband and I have ordered takeout twice from Firebirds Wood Fired Grill at the Southpoint of Southpoint in Durham, and it’s been outstanding. We order the Family Meal Deal, which serves four, and get the Baby Back Ribs for $49.95. We actually get six servings from all the food. You get three whole slabs of delicious ribs with sauce on the side, lots of seasoned french fries, a BLT salad with dressing (four servings), bread and dessert (three cheesecakes and three brownies).

“The staff is wonderful, and they wear masks and gloves. You can either walk in to pick up your order or use curbside service. We like to stroll the outside mall a couple of times for exercise and then pick up our food and head home (22 miles). The food is still hot when we get home, and it reheats beautifully.

“P.S. Thai Spoon in Durham is also great! And no matter where we order from, we always tip the staff.”

Salt & Lime Cabo Grill

saltandlimecabo.com

Sandy G. gives an enthusiastic Ole! to the food and service at Salt & Lime Cabo Grill.

“My husband and I picked up dinner from Salt & Lime on Falls of Neuse Road last night. The Cabo Rolls and guacamole (appetizers) were delicious as were the cheese enchiladas with chicken. The enchiladas were the best we have ever had. The bag containing the food was brought out to our car with a handwritten note of thanks for supporting local businesses. We recommend them and look forward to going again.”

ggcox55@gmail.com
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