I’ve wanted to write about Georgian food since I started this newsletter. My Kachnapuri (Georgian cheese bread) video was my most-liked Instagram story ever.
Last year Sandy and I decided to take a trip to Georgia. It’s a very hospitable country. How hospitable? Well, they’ve recently started gifting people a bottle of wine after passport control — JFK Immigration people, please take note!
All jokes aside, Georgia is a pure “foodie heaven” - their food is fantastic. We were not the first to find out. “The best-undiscovered Cuisine in Europe”, that’s how the chef of Noma, René Redzepi, describes it. The New Yorker named it the “Culinary muse of the Caucasus”.
All tough the COVID-19 situation is making travel a bit harder, I would recommend visiting Georgia. There’s a good book about the country, called Tasting Georgia by Carla Capalbo. It’s a combination of a travel guide and a cookbook, which is a smart idea on its own, but the content is also great. It talks about all the different regions, their history, and their cuisine. We learned a lot about Georgian traditions, how to make Georgian dishes, and we visited many of the restaurants it lists.
Did I mention most of the dishes in Georgia are vegetarian? They have very fertile soil, so their vegetables are incredible and often the centerpiece of their meals. I heard that in many regions, especially in the mountains, they’re not allowed to kill their cows and chicken, because they’re dependent on them for milk and eggs, so that forces them to focus on meat-free dishes too.
Eating Georgian at Home
If you have a Georgian restaurant nearby, you could try it out - and you probably should. But it’s even more fun to make this stuff at home. Fortunately, Georgian food isn’t very complex to make. I included three recipes here that are easy to make and super tasty.
These “cheese boats” taste even better than they look. Seeing people eating these on social media is what made me want to go to Georgia in the first place. They’re reasonably easy to make and will impress your guests. I’ve tried a lot of recipes and wrote one myself here.
Nigvziani Badrijani (Eggplant Rolls)
These are roasted eggplants filled with walnut paste. It’s a great side dish because it’s very nutritious and has a very bright flavor. I found a recipe here; the walnut paste filling is also good with crackers or chips.
Mushrooms with Tarragon
Both mushrooms and tarragon are very prominent in the Georgian kitchen. This dish is exciting because it tastes like chicken. It has a salty and oily flavor, which gets brightened up with tarragon. Definitely worth a try. I’m working on my own version of this recipe, but I was lucky and found one recipe on the web.
I can’t write about Georgian food without mentioning their wine. These people like the good life, so besides making incredible food, they invented wine. Seriously, the earliest evidence of wine was found in Georgia. They found 8000-year-old jars there, and the fun thing is that they still make wine in those types of pots, called Qvevri.
Unlike the western world, wine is not a fancy thing in Georgia. Everyone drinks it, and they drink it out of jerrycans or plastic bottles. It’s often made at home, families take great pride in their wine and will always offer you a glass (which usually tastes very good). Even in the cities, people grow grapes on their balconies or the street.
Just like their food, the Georgians are very traditional about winemaking; they let the grapes do their work and don’t try to control or add anything. This means that the stems and skins of the grapes are left with the juice during the fermentation process, resulting in more tannic and flavorful white wines. They call them white, but they look more orange, because of the skin contact. What we call “white wine”, they call “orphan wine”, because the skins get separated from their grapes too early. They keep their wines in clay Qvevris (clay jars) underground and drink it young.
When in Georgia, you should do a wine tour through Alazani Valley, you can visit a lot of wineries there and learn more about the process. If you don’t live in Georgia, order a Georgian bottle in a cafe the next time you see it, you won’t regret it.
That’s it for this issue. Thank you for reading this, if you want to help out, please share the newsletter using this button:
P.S: My next issue will be about how the whole COVID-19 crisis and how that impacts our food.
P.P.S: This issue wasn’t edited by the talented Juan Buis. If you think my writing is bad, please let me know. If not, please let me know as well, because then I don’t have to bother him anymore.