Tour code: OPUS3412
04 Nights / 05 Days
Georgia Kofinas is
a food historian, food writer and culinary arts teacher. She was born
and raised in the United States where she obtained her BA degree in
history. Her interest in food history began when she moved to Greece
where she began researching traditional cuisines of the Eastern
Mediterranean. She has co-authored a cookbook on vegetarian cuisine
which has sold over 85,000 copies. She is a contributor to the Greek
version of the BBC OLIVE magazine where her recipes are based on
traditional Mediterranean cuisines.
For the past 13 years Georgia has been
teaching in the culinary arts department of Alpine Center, a
Swiss-based private school for hotel management and tourism in Athens.
Her theory classes include Food History, Gastronomy, Nutrition and Menu
Planning. She is also a chef instructor in practical kitchen classes
in Mediterranean Cuisine with a focus on Eastern Cuisines.
Georgia’s interest in Turkish cuisine stems from
the fact that her maternal grandfather was a Greek who immigrated to
Istanbul with his sons at the beginning of the 20th century and worked
in a restaurant in the Beyoglu area. Many of the dishes she grew up
with were common among the Greeks who had come into contact with the
multicultural cuisines of Istanbul and had brought them back to their
For many years Georgia has travelled through
Turkey including the regions of Cappadocia, the Aegean coastline, in
addition to its southeastern and northwestern regions. She has taken
part in various food festivals in Turkey where she headed a Greek
cooking team that shared the kitchen with their Turkish counterparts.
She travels to Istanbul regularly spending most of her time exploring
the culinary treasures of the city.
Turkish cuisine stems from the
amalgamation of the various cultures that have inhabited the land from
centuries past. Istanbul, in particular, has its own peculiarities
since it has hosted a multi-cultural population from the time of
Byzantium even up to its modern history. Greeks, Armenian, Italians,
Jews and Turks from Anatolia and native Istanbul lived together in the
dense neighborhoods of the city for centuries with an exchange of
gastronomic tradition that lingers on even in today’s cuisine of the
Opus 4 invites you to join them in a
culinary odyssey of Istanbul where you will be exposed to the city’s
most famous food markets, traditional Turkish street food, eateries and
sweet shops. You will be able to explore the back streets where the
locals procure their favorite delicacies. You can experience the
ritual of drinking Turkish tea—the natives’ favorite pastime. Savor the
one-pot meals of the tradesmen’s eateries which have been in existence
since the late 15th century. A short boat ride across the Bosphorus on
the Asian side of the city will take you to Kadikoy’s food market
which also hosts eateries serving an array of traditional dishes from
regional Turkish cuisines.
The culinary odyssey includes discussions with
well-known food writers and special tours to exclusive workshops that
produce Turkish delicacies such as lokum (Turkish delight) and
This is a 5-day program where the culinary tours
will begin in the morning where access to the markets and food shops
are within the hours of operation. Most tours will end with either
lunch or teatime where participants will be free until dinner. The
specific restaurants for dinner have been arranged to ensure
participants of an optimum meal experience.
Participants will be provided with a pamphlet
containing detailed information about the tour and a glossary of
Day 1: Beyoglu area and cooking school
Istiklal Avenue and Street Food
A walk down one of the city’s most famous
pedestrian streets located in the Beyoglu (Pera) district. Istiklal is a
showcase for Turkish street food that is either displayed in small
open shops or offered by vendors pushing carts of food. Some of the
typical street foods are crusty sesame bread rings and other baked
goods, “pide”(boat-shaped open sandwiches), fried mussels, “dondurma”
(ice cream), pickled vegetables, chicken with chickpea pilaf and
various juices and other drinks.
Tradesmen’s eateries (esnaf lokantası)
Originally, these were cook shops that catered to
the special needs of the merchants and craftsmen in the late 15th
century. They have developed into today’s most frequented eateries
displaying their daily specials on open counters through large glass
storefronts. Specialties served in these simple cook shops include such
dishes as meat stews ( “yiahni”), soups, casseroles, and stuffed
vegetables. These one-pot meals are especially nutritious and filling
rich in ingredients from the fresh vegetable, meat and fish markets of
the immediate area.
Fish market (Balik Pazar)
This lively colorful quarter halfway down
Istiklal is home to Beyoglu’s oldest fish market. It is a labyrinth of
loaded fish stalls offering the freshest catch of the day while colorful
stands of vegetables and fruit, pickle stands, spice and dried fruit
booths and bakeries complete the kaleidoscope of food shops. The food
market includes a number of curbside eateries serving the daily
offerings of the marketplace. Here you can savor the favored fried
mussels or a spicy chopped meat sandwich.
Beyoglu is dotted with numerous sweet shops
offering a wide variety of delicacies from milk puddings and profiterole
to Turkish lokum and rich syrup pastries. No sweet lover leaves the
city without visiting the famed Saray Muhallebicisi. While
the shop is noted for its milk pudding desserts (tavuk göğsü,
kazandibi, su muhallebi), it offers syrup pastries and fruit tarts as
well. You can also get quick savory dishes as well such as cheese pie,
chicken soup, döner and pilaf.
Istiklal also is home to the oldest pastry shop
in Beyoglu. İnci Pastanesi specializes in profiterole which was
introduced to Turkey over 50 years ago. In the same area is the famous Hacı Bekir
which specializes in a rich variety of flavorful lokum. Further down
the street on the way to the Tünel is a confectionary shop called Koska which mainly produces “helva” (pulverized sesame bar) as well as sesame cookies and other Turkish candies.
Culinary Institute of Istanbul
Hande Bozdoğan, owner and director of the Culinary Institute of Istanbul
invites us for a “hands on” experience in the school’s kitchen. She
will talk to us about traditional Turkish cuisine while allowing us to
participate in cooking our own lunch!
Day 1 tour will finish with dessert and tea at the Saray Muhallebicisi
Dinner: Hünkâr restaurant in Nişantaşı.
Serving fine Ottoman and traditional dishes from various regions of
Turkey. Specialties include an assortment of appetizers, meat stews,
an array of vegetarian dishes and traditional desserts.
Day 2: Galata and Karakoy docks.
Lower Beyoglu quarters and the docks under the
Galata Bridge. While its narrow streets are pegged with hardware shops
and street peddlers, the area offers an amalgam of eateries and sweet
Breakfast at Namlı Delicatessen
This is a gourmet’s paradise as the large shop
displays its specialties of sucuk (spicy sausages), pastirma (salted
beef) and a vast selection of cheeses, olives and mezze (appetizers).
Breakfast is a treat here as you can make up your own menu from the
buffet of delicacies and order piquant combinations of eggs and meat or
Güllüoğlu Baklava workshop and patisserie
Turkey’s most famous baklava producer is the
Güllüoğlu family who hail from Gaziantep, a city in southern Turkey
close to the Syrian border. The family has been making baklava since
1871 and in 1949 they opened their shop in Istanbul run now by the
fifth generation of the family. Here we will be invited see the actual
process of making baklava and savor its various versions with
pistachios, walnuts, almonds and cream.
Karakoy fish market and Galata
On the way out of the docks is a large fish
market where natives of the area get their catch of the day brought in
by the early morning fishing boats. Depending on the weather and season
you can see the numerous species of what the sea has to offer from
large turbots from the Black Sea to the smaller shellfish and
Lunch: Tarihi Karaköy Balık Lokantası. A
favorite spot for fish lovers, this old-style fish restaurant just
behind the fish market near the Galata Bridge serves the catch of the
day in two tiny upstairs rooms and an even tinier one downstairs.
Standard fish dishes include their special fish soup and sea bass baked
in paper. The restaurant closes around 15:30 or until their supply of
fresh fish runs out.
Day 2 tour finishes with the walk back through
Galata taking us to the famous Galata Tower whose large square houses
many food shops. We can enjoy tea on the terrace of the Anemon Galata
hotel opposite the tower where the view of the entrance to the
Bosphorus and surrounding area is breathtaking.
Dinner: Refik Restaurant. This is a
favorite Beyoglu meyhane (an eatery that also serves alcoholic
beverages) often visited by Istanbul’s politicians, artists and
literary figures. Refik specialize in flavors from the Black Sea with excellent mezzes and seasonal dishes.
Day 3: Fatih Neighborhood
Kadınlar pazar (“Ladies’ market”) is a
long mall-like street northwest of the Aqueduct of Valens lined with
the culinary riches of the eastern and southeastern regions of Turkey.
Grocery shops fill their stalls with various cheeses of goat, sheep and
cow’s milk in various sizes and shapes; spices , seeds and herbs
unfamiliar to the western world; yogurts and other milk products ;
unusual grains and cereals. Butcher shops display every part of sheep
and cows: floppy tripe, shiny livers and hearts, glaring flayed heads,
shiny "rams' eggs" (testicles), trotters. The Kadinlar Pazar
comes to a peak on Wednesdays when the streets are lined with stalls of
products from Anatolia and Kurdistan. Kurdish- and Arabic-influenced
dishes from southeastern Turkey are prominent in the numerous eateries
of the pazar featuring such food as büryan kebab, a kind of Turkish
version of the Texas pit barbecue. A side of a small lamb is slowly
cooked over coals in a deep hole in the ground, resulting in
exceptionally tender meat covered in a thin layer of crackling, crunchy
fat. Another tasty dish is the perde pilavi, a fragrant peppery pilaf
made of rice, chicken, almonds and currants wrapped in a thin bread
shell and baked until the exterior turns golden and flaky. You will
have ample time to shop around and purchase whatever food items you
wish. This will take us up to lunchtime where we will dine in one of
the traditional Siirti eateries.
Lunch: Siirt Restaurant in Kadinlar Pazar. Most of
these eateries serve the same type of food more or less. Some focus
more on the large joints of meat baked in a pit while others serve
other main courses and small plates of mezze as well. The flavors here
can be quite spicy and therefore meals are accompanied by ayran, the
yogurt drink which not only quenches your thirst, but also helps in the
digestion of spicy food.
Day 3 tour finishes with the Zeyrek hane tea room
This is a short walk from the Kadinlar Pazar
leading up to the magnificent Zeyrek Mosque, formerly a Byzantine
monastery built in the 12th century as a hospital and hospice for the
elderly. Next to the mosque is a renovated structure from the Byzantine
complex that serves delightful light meals and beverages. Both
traditional and nouvelle delicacies are offered here with a splendid
view of the bridges and lower Beyoğlu area with the Bosphorus in the
Dinner: Eleos Restaurant. A newer addition to the list of Beyoglu restaurants, Eleos
enters the scene with an Aegean flair. They specialize in fish and
seafood where the dishes are heavily influenced by Turkey’s western
neighbor, Greece. This is just an example of how the various bordering
countries continue to influence a country’s developing cuisine. There
is a magnificent view of the Bosphorus from the restaurant’s light airy
dining area adding to the delight of diners as they feast on the
delectable menu items.
Day 4: The Bosphorus and Kadikoy (Asian side)
A historical market on the Asian side of Istanbul
just a ferry-boat crossing away from the Eminonu harbor. Its winding
streets and small alleys are packed with specialty food shops of local
merchants and traditional goods. Many hard-to-find ingredients can be
found in this market such as rare cheeses, herbs and spices, various
teas and condiments from all regions of the country.
Eateries with regional dishes
Kadikoy offers numerous eateries that specialize
in the various regional cuisines. The most well-known are Ciya and
Yanyali which have established a reputation for their quality and
authenticity of their menu items. Ciya has two eateries within 20
meters of each other. The one specializes in kebabs (even vegetarian
kebabs) and the other in the regional specialties of Anatolia which
include soups, hot and cold mezzes, one-pot meals, pilafs and stuffed
vegetables. Waiters can accommodate plates from both restaurants.
Yanyali has been around longer, since 1919, established by emigrants
from the northeastern region of Greece known as Yiannena .
Day 4 tour finishes with lunch at the Ciya restaurant and the boat trip back to Eminonu.
Dinner overlooking the Bosphorus at kebab restaurant in Yenikoy.
The Kasibey restaurant in Yenikoy on the
Bosphorus is the ideal place to enjoy traditional Turkish food with a
magnificent view of the Bosphorus. Watching the boats riddle through the
Bosphorus Straits is indeed a treat for visitors to Istanbul and
coupled with the excellent food, it will be a memorable experience. The
restaurant specializes in the traditional Turkish cuisine from
Gaziantep near the Syrian border known for its kebabs, pides, spicy
ground meat dishes, legumes and, of course, baklava!
Day 5: The Old City
Egyptian Spice Bazaar (Mısır Çarsısı)
Situated in the heart of the city near the
Eminonu harbor, this 17th century edifice houses the city’s famous
spice bazaar. Originally designed to accommodate the fares of travelling
merchants, it gradually developed into the spice market for which it
is now known. As a tourist attraction the bazaar has now added all
kinds of touristy wares, but the smell of the spices still wafts
throughout the crossroads of the arcades beckoning ardent food and
spice lovers to bargain for their treasures. The spice merchants are
very friendly and can accommodate you with a special spice blend right
on the spot once you tell them where you’d like to use it. The main
entrance from the Eminonu harbor houses above it on the second floor
the famous Pandeli Restaurant. This famous eatery has fed many a celebrity as its walls lined with photographs will reveal. Pandeli was
named after its owner, Pandeli Cobanoglu, son of a Greek family from
the Anatolian city of Nigde. It was established in 1901 right outside
the bazaar, but later moved to the second floor. Almost seventy
different dishes grace the menu with poultry, fish and meat dishes from
Ottoman and French cuisine.
Outside the bazaar on the back streets winding up
to the Grand Bazaar, there are numerous shops that sell fresh ground
coffee and teas. The famous Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi brand of coffee
can be found here for those who would like to venture drinking such a
strong coffee. Further up the streets are shops will all kinds of house
and kitchen wares with some interesting pieces made from copper and
Inside and outside the Grand Bazaar
All the way up the winding road from the Egyptian
Bazaar to the Grand Bazaar are shops mostly with clothes, scarves,
linen and wedding attire. However, the picturesque streets are often
dotted with fresh fruit juice vendors and bread trolleys. Once inside
the Grand Bazaar with its multitude of arcades and alleys you can
capture the atmosphere of its significance both to the 15th century
when it was built and on up to today. Amid its sprawling labyrinth are
some very well-known eateries, mostly of the tradesmen’s style, while
numerous smaller eateries accommodate shop owners and shoppers with
small plates of doner, pide, salads and drinks. The small hans
(originally a large caravansaray for travellers) off the beaten track
behind the arcades also furnish “fast food” for those in a hurry.
Visit to the Nar Gourmet and lunch at Nar Lokanta
This is a newer food company that specializes in
natural Turkish-produced products such as various types of olive oil, a
wide range of organic vinegars, ekşiler (sour condiments), several
varieties of molasses, organic spices, organic teas, soaps, hazelnut and
pistachio oils, dried fruit, honey, traditional Turkish Delight, hard
candies, jams and marmalade. Here we will be taken on a tour of the
premises housed in the building of the famous luxury goods retailer,
Armaggan, located close to the Grand Bazaar’s Nuruosmaniye Gate. The
YESAM Culinary Arts Center is also housed here on the fourth floor
whose mission is to preserve Turkey’s rich culinary heritage by
reviving lost dishes and cooking styles.
We will then have lunch on the fifth floor at the
Nar Lokanta which features Turkish classic dishes covering those from
the Ottoman palaces dishes to the humble village food. There is a wide
choice of mezzes with a focus on lamb and beef for the main courses. An
extensive wine list features wines from Turkey’s boutique vineyards.
While we are having our lunch we will be honored by one of Turkey’s
well-known food historian and cookbook author who will inform us about
traditional Sufi cuisine.
Day 5 tour finishes with lunch at the Nar Lokanta
Restaurant. This 2-story restaurant is in the Besiktas area of the city
on the European shore of the Bosphorus. The second floor specializes
in kebabs and meats with an array of mezzes and main courses with a
mixture of Ottoman and nuveau Turkish cuisine. The first floor houses
the fish restaurant whose cuisine consists of fresh fish simply grilled
and accompanied by fresh vegetables. The view from either floor is
captivating as the night boats of all shapes and sizes sail up the