Wow, what an excitement it was to have found the gastronomic event at SALT Beyoğlu just in time! I’d been planning to visit Kars, the city that is unknown to many Turks. I was first interested in this place solely because of the Kars eski kasar cheese, which I felt in love with. Later while doing a bit of research on other culinary aspects of Kars, I learned that the city is also very famous for geese, or kaz as called locally. I’ve come across so many interesting historical facts, websites, and blogs, one of which is Eating Asia. Reading the articles about their gastronomic adventures in Kars, I was getting giddy and impatient. I exchanged a few emails with the photographer and journalist, who very kindly gave me useful tips for my future trip.
As I was getting only a shrug and a dubious look, I was almost giving up the complicated journey to get there. However, “Following my passions will always get me to the places you want to be.” the encouraging words from the author made me stick to the plan.
Then came the Gastronomy of Kars event, and it felt like a godsend. I rushed over to Taksim with Mr.O as my interpreter.
After the introduction on the history and landscapes of Kars in the seminar room, everyone flocked to the workshop kitchen, Açık Mutfak (open kitchen) where they could have a taste of Kars, which was to many attendees the only reason they came.
Mr.O was getting annoyed with the Turks trying to push their way close to the kitchen and stay put. There were definitely people who hadn’t got over the period of “Free vinegar is sweeter than honey.” , which is a famous Turkish proverb.
That’s why Mr.O said it shouldn’t have been a free event in the first place. I was staying close to the kitchen, NOT in order to eat BUT to take photos. But I could sense the excitement of the people, who were about to taste goose meat for the first time in their life. I was surprised how relaxed the chefs were, serving hundreds of guests while having fun themselves.
After the starters, nettle and lentil soup and salty lokma, a kind of fried donut or pancake, people are getting so impatient to get more that the chef had to shout “Please each person takes one and move to the back.” Yes, that’s right. It’s not a soup kitchen. 😦
There was a long interval before the main dish, the famous Kars goose meat. I noticed even myself was swallowing excessive saliva while watching the shredded goose meat sitting on the trays. I felt the urge to jump over the counter, grab one of the trays and run, risking the chance of being tagged as a goose thief.
The secrets of the Kars goose meat is that the geese with insides removed are filled with salty water and buried under the snow-filled ground for two weeks, and then, dusted with flour, and finally hang for 40 days up to 3 months. The detailed descriptions can be found here and here, if you’re interested.
Would it beat the French confit de canard? I could hardly contain my anticipation. What was truly fascinating was the big turnout. Was it because it was free? Was it because goose or duck meat is so rare? Or did they think they would get some Kars kasar cheese? While the professionals and experts were explaining about the process of making cheese and Kars cuisine, most people were upstairs staring at the goose meat. So I guess they were more interested in the goose meat.
At the other end of the counter, a lady, claiming she’s from Kars, asked questions about the way the bulgur was prepared, and another lady complained that the food was getting cold, and I agreed. After the power struggle between the chefs and the hungry guests, the seminar ended with a big applause and the food was served.
Oh yeah, wow, I was almost ready to leave because Mr.O wasn’t doing his job as an interpreter, but it was really worth the wait. The only problem was that it was too little. 🙂 I assume that the idea of this event is to promote the awareness of modern gastronomy of Turkey in order to bring back the great culinary culture that Turkey once had due to the diverse geographical and ethnic influences but has been lost through the urbanization. Apparently, there is a movement to revive the culinary culture of the Kars region and increase the goose population so that people can have better access to this amazing food. Currently, because of the limited production, people who know people from that region can get hold of the genuine goose meat, and I’ve learned that there is one restaurant in Kadikoy that serves the meat during the right months, which are in winter. I will keep my eye out for that. Duck and goose meat is such delicacy and once you get the taste of it, you can never live without it.
I agree that Turkey has a great potential to be a country of gastronomy because of the abundance of fresh food produce. I give a big applause to Gastronomika for carrying out this great mission and I am looking forward to participating in their open kitchen one day. I only saw a glimpse of the dessert, which was made with cooked dried figs, eggs and butter, but we had to go to feed ourselves as it was getting late. Mr.O swore that he wouldn’t join any free events in the future, and well, yeah, I also thought it’d been better if it had been a paid event and people could enjoy and share opinions in a more relaxing environment.
So was this duck better than confit de canard? You bet! Everything that takes dedication and hard work to prepare is good. Buried underground for 2 weeks and hang for 3 months? Oh, who cannot be tempted?
Thank you, Gastronomika, for brining the taste of Kars to Istanbul. I’ll definitely go ahead with my trip plans. You can stay tuned for upcoming gastronomic events by following their FB page. Also, you can see insiders’ photos and compare with the outsider’s photos, which are mine. 🙂 It was all great in and out.