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Turkey’s culinary revival

epicure 1 July 2010
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Tainted by cheap, high yield wines and low quality supermarket imports, a few chefs in Istanbul are fighting back with their own farm-to-table movement and introducing little known native ingredients to their restaurants.

Tainted by cheap, high yield wines and low quality supermarket imports, Istanbul is fighting back with its own farm-to-table movement and introducing little known native ingredients to its restaurants. Leisa Tyler gets the inside story.

Glasses clink as the sun slips behind a medieval stone tower. Below, groups of merry makers wind between beeping cars, gridlocked in the narrow winding streets. The view, soaring over higgledy rooftops of an ancient and chaotic city, is just as superb as the wine we are drinking¾a native grape from a little-known biodynamic vineyard that last year picked up an astonishing fourteen European wine medals. It is going down perfectly with a rare strain of delicately salted olives chilled on ice. Are we in Bordeaux? Reims? Florence? Welcome to Istanbul.

Once the capital of three grand empires¾the eastern Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman¾which together stretched from Morocco to Iran, Istanbul has long been blessed with a plump pantry of fine produce. But inundated with high-yield varieties and cheap supermarket imports, much of these foodstuffs have fallen into obscurity in recent years. Inspired by the Slow Food Movement, a coterie of chefs are now forging the beginnings of an organic, sustainable and traceable food movement. Tracking down many of these old ingredients¾some almost on the verge of disappearing altogether¾and focusing on what the seasonal harvests brings, they are now hoping to bring it all back.

Excerpts from July issue of epicure

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