Turkey cooking vacations: Cooking on Turkey's Aegean Coast
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Cooking on Turkey's Aegean Coast
Ortakent, Bodrum

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About the location: Along the southwestern coastline of Turkey on the Bodrum peninsula, discover Ortakent, which means ‘middle town.’ The translation is an appropriate one here, for it’s a place where the Aegean Sea meets the Mediterranean, where gorgeous coastline meets sleepy hamlets and sun-dappled paths. Soak up the sun in this walker’s paradise, where the small village of Ortakent is full of hand-crafted stone houses that offer breath-taking views of not only the Aegean Sea but also Gokova Bay and the Island of Kos. Just 20 minutes from the city of Bodrum, Ortakent is the perfect place to relax and discover the wonders of Turkish cuisine.

About the accommodations: Your home for the week is in one of 23 unique villas built on a hill overlooking Ortakent. These hand-crafted stone houses are connected to one another with winding stone alleyways and stair streets, which were modeled after ancient Roman models back when Bodrum was known as Halicarnassus. Each stone-villa is different but complementary to the rest. Both exteriors and interiors are outfitted and finished with ornamental wood, ceramics, and tiles hand-made in the village. The complex also includes a restaurant, artistic outlets and artisanal ateliers.

About the cooking lessons: Turkish cuisine may be considered international — as it fuses Middle Eastern, Balkan, and Central Asian cuisine — but it does rely heavily on vegetables, olive oil and garlic. Traditions run deep here, and no one is better versed in sharing those traditions than your host and chef for the week, English-speaking Aslihan. As a graduate of Istanbul Bosphorus University, Aslihan majored in both business administration and hospitality management. After working as an executive in the hospitality industry for many years, Aslihan opened a restaurant in Ortakent and started organizing Turkish cooking classes. She will teach you all about healthy Aegean cooking, which includes a lot of vegetables cooked in olive oil, and traditional Turkish dishes with a twist.

Cooking on Turkey's Aegean Coast Itinerary

Day 1 - Saturday

During the summer, local cultural events may change this itinerary.

  • Transfer from either Bodrum airport or the cruise port to your home for the week, about 10 minutes away.
  • Tonight, a welcome dinner introducing you to the coastal cuisine of southwestern Turkey, where the essential ingredients are olive oil, herbs, fresh vegetables, and seafood.
  • Overnight.

Day 2 - Sunday

  • Turkish breakfasts are famous and full of variety. You will be impressed your first morning with eggs, fresh milk, many kinds of jams, cheeses, breads, and more.
  • Bodrum is the capital of the famous Blue Voyages or Blue Cruises, during which gulets – traditional wooden yachts – are used to cruise to small bays in the area, where guests can then enjoy beautiful blue waters of the Mediterranean. Today you will cruise along the bays of Bodrum on a blue cruise, and the captain will prepare a colorful menu that you will enjoy on the water. (In the winter, or during inclement weather, an alternate excursion will be substituted.)
  • In the evening visit a local vineyard that in 2015 won the price for best Shiraz of the year, and enjoy a fancy wine and food pairing dinner.

Day 3 - Monday

  • Breakfast.
  • Off to the local market of a small fishermen’s wharf, where small local farmers bring their produce. Help select the ingredients for the day.
  • Your first Turkish cooking class will include five recipes for “meze” (appetizers) and a “borek” (main course).
  • Lunch based on what you have prepared.
  • In the late afternoon, drive to a small village where local ladies make flat bread and homemade yogurt with milk from cows they have freshly milked.
  • On the way home, stop at another local vineyard and enjoy a tasting of local products.

Day 4 - Tuesday

  • Breakfast.
  • Although almost every day sees a farmers’ market in the area, Tuesday is “THE” market day for locals. Visit the most vibrant market in Milas, the ancient Mylasa. Visit the various stalls, meeting the fishermen, butchers, cheesemongers, and farmers, and taste some street food for lunch.
  • It would be a shame not to visit the ancient city of Mylasa while you are there, with its renovated archeological museum and Becin Castle.
  • This evening, your cooking class will feature Turkish Rice Pilaf with vegetables, lamb, and fish – and you will realize how similar it is to the Spanish Paella.
  • Dinner to follow with Bodrum wines.

Day 5 - Wednesday

  • Breakfast.
  • Morning cooking lesson on “dolma”, traditional stuffed vegetables filled with either rice or meat. You will make many variations and taste them all at lunch.
  • In the late afternoon, visit the Bodrum Peninsula, including the local museums, and finishing in the charming town of Gumusluk. This lovely town lies on the water and full of many seafood restaurants and live music. Depending on the time of year, you might visit a Jazz Bar for dinner and music or have dinner at a local restaurant followed by a Classic music concert.

Day 6 - Thursday

  • Breakfast.
  • Visit a local goat farm where you will meet the farmers and hear about their lives while tasting their cheese and wine.
  • On the way back, stop to visit a lady farmer on her small farm to pick up some vegetables and herbs from her garden for your lunch.
  • Back at home, you will learn about Turkish desserts, including baklava and milk deserts.
  • Dinner is on your own. You might wish to make something for yourself at home – the kitchen is open – or head out to dine in Bodrum or nearby.

Day 7 - Friday

  • After breakfast, depart for Bodrum’s airport or port.