Kahvalti is driven from “kahve alti” meaning “before coffee”. That is what Turks call breakfast. In English you “break a fast” since you have not eaten all night. In Turkey, you need to eat first before reaching for your coffee. And breakfast is mostly served with tea, lots of Turkish tea in thin-bellied glasses. Then you can drink your Turkish coffee to digest what you have eaten.
Kahvalti is an experience in Turkey. At homes, for an average income family, you usually have feta cheese, kasari cheese, honey (sometimes with its comb), a variety of homemade jams, black and green olives, bread, butter, sucuk (a type of spicy sausage), eggs, tomatoes and cucumber. Based on your taste you can add variety of cheeses to this menu. But, feta cheese (Turks call it ‘white cheese’) is a must.
The jams can be made from any fruit such as apricot, strawberry, quince, orange, sour cherry, blackberry, apple, watermelon rind, orange rind, grapes, peach, cranberry, fig, pear, blueberry, date, currant, pomegranate, grape, raspberry, and kiwi. There are also some unusual ones: rose (really with rose petals!), chestnut, pine cone, mastic gum, rose hip, tomatoes, eggplant, walnut, pumpkin, ginger, olive, and carrot.
One Sunday morning in Istanbul, just a week after I arrive there, we go to Sütiş for breakfast. It is at Emirgan right on the Bosphorus. I usually do not like chain restaurants and fancy places. Somehow, I like the place. I guess because they have their own farms to produce milk and meat. Most of their ingredients are organic. Their jams are coming from an organic jam producer without any added sugar. They rest their meat for five days before they use to get the best taste. Their tea is from the tea capital of Turkey, Rize. They also rest their tea leaves for a year to get the best aroma. They also make their own bread, mostly sour dough bread.
If having breakfast at a home is an experience, having breakfast at a restaurant is usually a feast. In many cases, you go to a restaurant for their specialty in one area. Sütiş is famous for its “Kol Boregi”, meaning “Arm Borek (a kind of pastry)”. The delicate thin layers of phyllo filled with either cheese or ground beef comes to your table still piping hot.
During our two hours of feast, I probably drank ten glasses of Turkish tea (who is counting!), ate an entire simit, ate unlimited amounts of borek, tried every cheese and jam while keeping my eye on the dessert display. I am dreaming about them.
Unfortunately, I had way too much honey and clotted cream with simit (simit is another story). I have no space left for a dessert. It will be for next time, for my next food experience. And I am sure, there will be plenty.
Now, since I finished my “kahve alti” (before coffee), I can have my Turkish coffee and get out of here before I explode.