Georgian Delights

DSCN1948It’s fairly certain that everyone…in some way or another loves food.  I must admit that my palate is not broad or accepting of the more ethnic varieties or the more exotic choices.  I grew up in Texas and my three food groups when nurturing my young taste buds were steak, potatoes and beer(not that I had any beer :-)).  And to add to the mix, my folks were from Louisiana and drank coffee with chicory.  Need I say more?

Besides that, I can’t remember seeing anything GREEN….OK, maybe the fake green Easter basket grass but that was about the extent of anything green even close to my dinner plate.  Dining was fairly simple back “in those days”.

So when I travel to these far off exotic lands my palate winces slightly and puts on a brave front.  If I am “served”…as opposed to “ordering” my food I will timidly take a tiny taste.  If I find that my “buds” accept the flavors and my nose is not repelled…then I can usually enjoy the local cuisine.  I might even venture to ask what it is that I am eating.  If however the taste and smell is somewhat strange and off-color then I don’t dare ask “what is this”?  Nine times out of ten I won’t want to know…and will be sorry that I asked.  This happened rather frequently on a trip to China…suffice to say that I really enjoyed the beer and  rice was my staple.  It was probably the only trip that I did not gain any weight.DSCN2315

Once on a trip to London I saw a billboard advertising a local beverage and the tagline read “I don’t like it, so why should I try it?”  I could relate….

But for most travelers half the fun is enjoying the local foods and beverages along with the fantastic sights and culture.  Food gives depth and texture to the culture, to the people and how they live.  It’s an integral part of exploring far away places.  SO….when I tripped off to the Republic of Georgia I had no clue as to what kinds of foods might be presented.  Georgian dishes are very similar to many Russian dishes.  Westerners will think the food is somewhat salty and heavy with lots of homemade cheese, spices and vegetables. They also use a lot of walnuts in sauces and with their meats.

DSCN1952 DSCN4280Puri (bread) is very popular and is either made at home or bought in the market or at small stands along the highway.  They will cook the bread in stone ovens (furnaces) or wood burning ovens.

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Cheese will almost always accompany the bread and there is one common cheese – Sulguni that can be cured in various ways to provide a hard smoked cheese that can be pretty salty or as a fresh cheese that is soft and more subtle in flavor similar to a mozzarella .   Having the fresh bread with the cheese helps tone down the salt factor.

Their national dish is a “cheese pie” known as Kachapuri and it can be created in a multitude of ways.

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The bread is filled with cheese(think pizza) or sometimes the cheese is enclosed or some even offer a boat shaped bread with a raw egg and melted cheese and you mix them together to basically cook the egg with the hot cheese.

Every meal that I enjoyed (and I enjoyed them all) in Georgia was served family-style.  We would sit down at the table set with plates of freshly baked breads, bowls of fresh tomatoes/cucumbers/onions salad, and a kachapuri of some sort.  Once we got settled into the “starters” the waiters began bringing out one dish after another.

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Some were vegetables such as squash, eggplant, sweet peppers others were various meat dishes such as beef, veal, chicken and pork.  Meats were either stewed or grilled.

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Their most unusual dish is the “khinkali” which is a big dumpling.

There is a special art to eating one…grab the top knob, turn it upside down and bite into the bottom edge of the dumpling and suck out all of the juice(usually really hot) and then you can eat the “innards” which is usually some type of spiced pork or beef.  Any other method will assure a squirt of hot juices into your lap.

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 Needless to say….I did not go hungry in Georgia and my taste buds were delighted with all the variations to very “simple” foods that were hearty and flavorful.

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Georgia’s Capitals…old and new

It’s our first full day of touring and we are off to the ancient capital city of  Mtskheta. Enroute we drive to the top of a hill overlooking the ancient sacred capital and climb up to the church of Jvari perched on a cliff.DSCN1461

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Below us is the old capital town at the confluence of two rivers.. The old town has undergone a tremendous transformation due to the government’s initiative for upgrading various tourist regions for visitors.

They have done an admirable job and these areas are quite interesting.  There are new shops, restaurants, craftsmen demonstrating traditional ways of baking bread. After our visit to the sacred cathedral Sveti-Tskhoveli, the first Christian church to be built in Georgia. It’s reputed to be the place of Georgia’s conversion to Christianity in 337CE.

DSCN1512After lunch in one of the new restaurants near to the cathedral we return to Tbilisi to visit the main cathedral Sioni. This exquisite church contains the famed sacred cross of St. Nino.  It also serves as the seat of the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church.  It was quite a hike up the steps but the view was well worth the exertion. Plus it’s important to work up an appetite for these monsterous meals!!

After a bit of a rest…right!….we head out to the Black Lion Restaurant located in a rustic cellar in the city.  Many of the old houses had these cellars in the olden days when there was no refrigeration to keep their foods cool and to keep them from spoiling. Dinner was delightful and not quite as heavy as lunch.  Of the various dishes the main entrée was a delicious Georgian trout.

After dinner it was back to the hotel to repack for our first foray into the fabled GEORGIAN WINE COUNTRY.

Just when you thought…

So…
Here we go!  I’ve read as much fine print as possible for this upcoming flight to the old world. I’ve made sure I have the right size carry-on …the domestic carrier allows 40 pounds…and I think ” great!”… I’ll never be able to carry anything that heavy anyway. Shoot, even a 40 pound bag of cat litter is beyond my grasp. Checking in was a breeze…and off I go to my international gateway.

As it turns out my connecting flight has foolishly frittered away an hour due to thunderstorms…so  I find myself madly racing thru the airport to check in for the international flight. And yes…checkin I must so they can verify my docs and weigh my carryon?!   …”Lady, I am sorry but your bag is overweight”!  What? “Internationally we only allow your carryon to be 9 kilos.”  It takes me a few seconds to register that this is a measly puny19 pounds. My makeup bag alone is 5 pounds! I can either check the bag to my final destination….or I can take stuff out and put it in my backpack.  Well, since I only packed my “absolute necessities” in there…and I have an 13 hr layover in Munich with a lovely day room…I simply cannot part with the carry-on and “my lifeline”…sohere I am at the gate trying basically to redistribute the load. This seems an odd predicament to me…what difference is it to carry the same weight in a different bag?

“They” don’t know it but “they” have royally screwed up my meticulously organized arrangement of clothes, snacks, sleeping gear, headset, tablet and other parphnalia.  Why, it will take me the entire trip now to find everything.  By then it will be time to pack for the return flight. 

Is it just me…or do you find yourself unconcerned about getting all those dirty clothes back home?  Just shove ’em in there!

I hear breakfast being prepared back in the galley so it must be getting close to rousing the natives. So, Munich we are soon to be on your doorstep!