Anatolia is one of the oldest lands in the world.
For millennia, its peoples have milked livestock and made cheese in their villages. There it was aged, eaten, enjoyed.
Each village or region has its own way of making cheese from the richness of the land.
There its particular cheese stayed, a local curiosity and delicacy.
Today Turkey’s cheese-making villages are being discovered by gourmets both Turkish and foreign, and their artisanal delicacies are coming out of the villages and making their way into city shops and markets.
In the forefront of Turkish cheese gourmets are Istanbul's Ms Berrin Bal Onur and Ms Neşe Biber.
They’ve traveled to the villages, met the cows, sheep and goats, watched the cheeses being made, peered into the aging caves, and tasted, tasted, tasted:
They also supply Istanbul’s luxury hotels with supplies for their Turkish wine-and-cheese tastings.
This small boutique in Cihangir is a paradise of charcuterie, cheeses from regions all over Turkey and Europe, olives, olive oils, coffee and jams.
They even have a small wine range. The inviting green exterior will get you in – the mixture of appetising smells will make you stay.
There are local cheese varieties, like fresh Mihaliç and Saganaki Çörekotlu, regional ones like Ayvalık Basket Cheese, and imported ones to round out the selection, including Fior Di Latte, burrata and ricotta.
And there’s plenty of knowledge on offer when you visit to assist in your selection, which can be helpful whether you’re looking for something specific to match with wine, or you’re on the hunt for something new.
And there are plenty of new, delicious things to discover at Antre Gourmet Istanbul. Antre even hosts tastings and workshops for those who want to learn more. But if you’re just passing through, you can grab a sandwich and take it with you (or, if you’re lucky, claim one of the few seats). Pick up a bottle of olive oil. Maybe some charcuterie. A few olives, heady with aromatics and spice. It’s up to you. But you can rest assured that, like the cheese, the products have either been sourced or made on-site with an eye to serious quality.
There are few ways to get to know a place better than through its food. And Antre Gourmet Istanbul offers up a taste of Anatolia that’s both illuminating and addictive. After all, what’s not to love about artisanal, traditional cheese and all manner of gourmet deli-style goodness?
The most common cheeses in Turkey are fresh white cheeses, or "beyaz peynir" (bay-AHZ' PAY-neer). These cheeses are similar to feta. White cheese is a staple at breakfast, as a filling in layered pastries and other baked goods, in salads, and as an appetizer or cheese platter. The best white cheeses come from Thrace and the areas surrounding the Sea of Marmara, but white cheese is produced all over the country. It can be made with cow, sheep, or goat's milk.
Another popular cheese common in Turkey and Greece is called "taze kasar"(tah-ZEH' kah-SHAR'), which means kashar cheese that hasn't been aged. Fresh kashar is a smooth, firm, light yellow cheese usually made from cow's milk. It's a very versatile cheese good for slicing, melting, grating, or eating straight up. It most often accompanies white cheese at breakfast. It's also used on pizzas, in sandwiches and salads, and as the main ingredient in Turkey's classic comfort food, "tost." In English, it's called a grilled cheese sandwich.
The city of Kars, in the northeastern region of Turkey, is most famous for producing Turkey's best-aged kashar cheese, or "eski kasar" (es-KEE' ka-SHAR'). The Kars variety of this beloved cheese is usually made with pure cow's milk or a mixture of cow and goat's milk. As the cheese ages, it forms a crust and mold on the exterior. The inside becomes dry and flaky. Its flavor most resembles Italy's Romano cheese, with even more tang, rich odor, and flavor. Aged kashar is ideal for grating and is most often eaten at breakfast, as part of a cheese platter, or grated as a topping or filling in many dishes.
"Tulum" (TOO'-loom) is general term used for a pungent, soft, sometimes crumbly form of white cheese made from goat's milk that varies greatly between regions. Branded versions of tulum that are sold in the supermarkets are uniform in type and sold across Turkey. Tulum is best served as an appetizer before meat fare. The traditional way is to serve crumbled tulum with walnut halves, sweet butter, and piping hot lavash flatbread before a plate of spicy kebabs.
Smoked cheese is produced in the areas surrounding Duzce and Hendek in the Marmara region of Turkey. This cheese gets its robust flavor in special smokehouses that burn pine wood. This cheese has a wonderful aroma and rich, smoky flavor. It comes in wheels covered by a light brown, textured hull. Smoked cheese is normally eaten on its own or melted into sauces.
This fresh, white, stringy cheese, called "dil peyniri" (DEEL' pay-NEAR'-ee), must be eaten within a day or two. It's most often sold in rectangular logs and pulled apart in stringy strips or cut in chunks. Like mozzarella cheese, fresh dil is wet and has the best fresh, milky flavor in the first few days after production. Also like mozzarella, dil becomes very stringy when melted. That's why in Turkey, it's not the preferred cheese for use on pizza, taking a second seat to fresh kashar cheese. Fresh dil is usually eaten for breakfast. It's quite popular with children because of its mild flavor.
Plaited cheese, or "orgu peyniri" (euyr-GOO' pay-NEAR'-ee), began as a regional cheese from the areas near Diyarbakır in the southeastern region of Turkey. It is a hard, uniform, salty cheese made with cow's milk. It's a contender at the Turkish breakfast table and is used as an ingredient in some Turkish appetizers.
"Labne" ( lahb-NAY') is a bright white, fresh, spreadable cheese sold in tubs. It most resembles cream cheese but is much lighter in texture. Labne is yet another rich addition to the Turkish breakfast table and is especially loved by children. Like cream cheese, it is also used in many desserts, savory pastries, pies, and hors d'oeuvres.
The liquid we are talking is surely milk, but milk in Turkish culture also has this interesting connection with coffee.
At a recent panel on Ottoman cuisine, historian Arif Bilgin gave a talk on breakfast culture in Turkey. The Turkish word for breakfast is kahvaltı, coming from kahve-altı, literally meaning “before coffee.”
Originally the first meal of the day used to be around 11:00 a.m., before noon, but with the introduction of coffee as a wake-up potion in the morning, people started to take a bite before having their first coffee of the day, believing that eating something before coffee would ward off the possible harmful effects of the dark potent potion