Saturday, June 11, 2011

Goreme for Gourmands (Cappadocia, Turkey)

If you are researching Cappadocia, you already know about its unique geological formations. That is what draws most travelers to the region. But for foodies, there is another earthworks of interest: testi kebab -- lamb stewed in clay jars. We were first alerted to this dish by the broken clay jars displayed in restaurant windows in the town of Goreme.

Intrigued and wanting to know more, we found ourselves at Kale Terasse restaurant -- not the fanciest in town, but a place of happy informality that seemed to be favored more by Turkish than western tourists. This is how the testi kebab was served:

The jar is cracked open at the table, just like the top of a boiled egg being removed. Our dish of lamb and red peppers was outstanding -- a local preparation much better than the more standard shish kebab (linguistic note: testi means jar in Turkish; shish means skewer). We washed it down with the very decent local Turasan wine as well as the ubiquitous Efes beer.

Other gastronomic points of interest: The Kelebek Hotel has an impressive breakfast spread, including turkish breads with toasted sesame seeds, cheeses, olives, and red pepper paste; dried fruits (figs, several types of apricots, raisins, sultanas and currants), and western favorites like french toast served with local sour cherry preserves. While I homed in on the savory, Chris favored the sweet. I was too busy enjoying feta cheese and red pepper paste to take a picture of it, but here is a shot of the preserves:

On our hike in the Rose Valley, a gentle walk among soaring rock formations and small farmers' plots, we encountered another treat: freshly squeezed pomegranate juice. The vendor's stand is modestly integrated into the landscape:

If you look closely, you can see more clay pots piled up at the foot of the stand, and yet more forming the boundary of the garden plot.


The Kelebek Hotel in Goreme offers reasonably priced rooms which include breakfast, arranges transport from and back to Kayseri airport, and can arrange a variety of tours, including a hike in the Rose Valley.

The Kalle Terasse is at Roma Kalesi Yani, Muze Cad, Goreme, but is most easily found by wandering around (Goreme is very small!). You can also email the manager at

You can learn more about pottery making in the region in the town of Avanos, about 5 miles from Goreme. It is located on the banks of the Red River (Kizirlirmak), which supplies the red clay for the pots. This photo at the Guray workshop demonstrates the working of the traditional, foot-operated potter's wheel.

For my post on Istanbul, click here
For my post on the Bodrum Peninsula, click here

Photo credits: Chris Svoboda

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