Blue Ridge Country May/June 2020 - 62

F L AV O R S

TROUT OMELETS, TURKISH KEBABS AND SURPRISING PIE

Tempting Tastes in East Tennessee
The flavors of East Tennessee, both native and imported, are ever-changing.
Story and photos by FRED & JILL SAUCEMAN

ABOVE: Red Meze kebabs, like this chicken one, are always
accompanied by rice with orzo.
LEFT: Sengul and Bulent Yaman love introducing new customers
to their Turkish cuisine.
BELOW: Elke Hammer's German pastries are available at Boone
Street Market.

T

he aromas of yogurt, garlic and
roasting eggplant fill the air.
Gyro meat slowly roasts on a rotisserie. Coffee is made the old
way, in long-handled copper
pots.
These are the scenes and
scents at Red Meze, a new Turkish restaurant in downtown Johnson City, Tennessee. With exposed brick walls that hold
tiles, copper platters, bowls, dolls and
other pieces of colorful art, it is one of
the most attractive restaurants in the TriCities region.
Red Meze is owned and operated by
an enterprising young Turkish couple,
Bulent and Sengul Yaman. They've combined his experience working in the granite and countertop business with her knowledge from employment as a
cashier at a Turkish restaurant in Arlington, Virginia, and
they've blended in culinary skills remembered from their
mothers back home.
The menu is varied, but on every visit, we go for the
Turkish fare, beginning each time with an appetizer of
roasted eggplant served with tomato and yogurt sauce.
Then it's always a kebab-beef or chicken or iskender,
slices of gyro meat served over cubes of pita bread and

62

BLUERIDGECOUNTRY.COM

more yogurt and fresh tomato
sauce. And rice.
"Customers always ask us
why our rice is so good," Sengul tells us. "We use basmati."
But, Bulent adds, "The way we
cook it is a Turkish style."
Sengul learned the technique from her mother back in
Ankara. "We put orzo pasta in
our rice and cook it in butter,"
she says.
Sengul and Bulent did not
know each other back in Turkey. They met online in the
U.S. as Bulent was working
on a master's degree in international business at the University of North Alabama in
Florence, where he completed a bachelor's in business
management and marketing.
"It's been a journey," Bulent says as he and his wife
reflect on all the work it took to transform their aging
building into a welcoming space. But with the help of
customers who have donated Turkish treasures from their
basements and the Yamans' boundless energy, Red Meze
has become a major focal point in Johnson City's downtown revitalization.


http://www.BLUERIDGECOUNTRY.COM

Blue Ridge Country May/June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Blue Ridge Country May/June 2020

Blue Ridge Country May/June 2020 - Intro
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2020 - Cover1
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2020 - Cover2
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2020 - 3
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2020 - 4
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Blue Ridge Country May/June 2020 - Cover3
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Blue Ridge Country May/June 2020 - Cover4
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