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shain

Traveling in Georgia 2018

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I'm just back from an 8 days long trip in Georgia. A beautiful land with kind people and a wonderful cuisine.

I want to share with you what I've seen and ate.

 

So until I get my photos sorted, this is a teazer:

 

 

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Edited by shain (log)
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Oh wow.  Beautiful!

 

I love the bread picture.

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24 minutes ago, shain said:

I'm just back from an 8 days long trip in Georgia (the country). A beautiful land with kind people and a wonderful cuisine.

 I bet @JoNorvelleWalker will be grass green with envy when she sees this. 😂

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Beautiful country indeed. Great people, food, wine and brandy. It's been about 30 years since I was there, but it remains firmly embedded in my memory.

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Great amuse bouche... can't wait for the meal to begin!

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Our trip started with a 3 hours long flight delay 😪

We were therefore gifted with a coffee and pastry of our choice from one of the coffee shops in the airport. I opted for a cheese filled filo bourekas.

The reason that I'm telling you this is because I later found it an interesting reference point for the Georgian khachapuri, which I couldn't help but compare to it.

Also, this was the last decent cup of espresso I'd have until visiting Tbilisi for the last 2 days of the trip.

 

We got some rest during the 3 hour flight, and after a short taxi ride, fall right into bed at the charming small hotel/guest house in Tbilisi.

 

The patio and some morning view of the city.

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I forgot to photograph the tasty breakfast until it was half eaten...

 

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Imeruli cheese - firm, somewhat salty, and somewhat sour from lactic fermentation.

Tasty tomatoes with sweet delicate parsley and minty purple basil.

A kchshpuri that probably had some time on the counter and slightly chilled and softened. Tender and rich, the cheese a little tart. But kachpuri has to be eaten fresh.

Hot meat filled khinkali, reported to me to be delicious, filled with loose meat in broth, loyalty spiced. The dough softer and thicker than ravioli or pelmani.

Tonis bread (tonis puri) - a ciabatta like bread, chewy with a soft interior. Crunchy at the thinner edge. Well salted.

Delicious eggplant slices, I assume steamed, meaty yet tender. Spread with a flavorful walnut paste with garlic and herbs.

Homemade apple cake.

Georgians seem to have a liking to instant coffee, often drunk sans milk. I packed with me some Turkish coffee for this reason, but this morning opted for tea.


Edited by shain (log)
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After breakfast we went for a short stroll in the city before heading north towards Gudauri. 

The small hotel is located in a quite area of the city, a walking distance from the main Rustaveli street.

 

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Grape vines everywhere, both in the neighbourhoods of Tbilisi, and in the villages. And they are all heavy with fruit at this time of year. Very sweet, but most seem to be wine varieties.

Grapes seem to be a very popular snack in georgia. We'll often see shopkeepers eating them while chatting with each other and find them complementary suggested at hotels

 

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Local bakery. The proximity and shape of the loafs on display makes me guess this is where our breakfast bread was bought earlier this morning. Bakeries are all using the cylindrical tone ovens (much like a tandoor), and sell nothing but tone bread (tonis puri) and, sometimes, a few types of khachapuri (though the bean filled lobiani is officially not a khachapuri). The bakers expertly shape the dough, stretching it into an elongated loaf over a dusted pillow called lapati (very much like is done with thinner saj breads). They then remove the baked breads with a pair of specialized long hooks. They are always very clean.

 

A loaf is sold at 0.5 GEL / loaf (that's 20 US cents). This bakery sales elongated but thin breads. Other bakeries we'd see will sell the more common wider and larger shape (at a slightly higher, but still cheap, price).

I'm not sure what are the sliced loaves in the bags are for. Maybe old bread or just a convenience product? Definitely not space-efficient.

 

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Apples, pears, pomegranates, grapes - sold at almost every street corner. And plums, such tasty plums. Roseheaps are also in season and are very pretty, but I don't like their flavour.

 

Many mini markets as well, in the city and villages. There are so many markets and fruit vendors that one can believe Georgians spend all their time shopping for groceries. I sure would with such produce.

Even the smaller markets have a large offering of beer and spirits. Often chilled and ready to drink. Including 2.5 liter bottles for sharing.

 

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Frozen dumping, including a few types of khinkali. As well as rolled dough.

 

We went back to pack our bags and drove off north towards Gudauri.

 

 

 

Link for the hotel we stayed at, in case someone will stumble on this page while planning a trip in the future - highly recommended.

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An eventful day of sightseeing and travel up North.

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The road sides are scattered with stalls. At some sections, every hundred meters or so. They are selling honey, fruits, churchkhela, homemade wine, and in this case also brooms. We were surprised by the vast number of those stalls, it's hard to imagine the sellers making much profit with so much competition.

 

We stopped for lunch based on online recommendations. Chveni Ezo.

Lovely and specious outdoor sitting, we sat under a walnut tree. Some pleasant Georgian music was quietly playing in the background. The place was near empty from diners at the time, but well stuffed. 

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We ordered two glasses of draft german wheat beer (the Georgian wine and beer will wait). 

 

A fresh, hot, crisp and tender tonis puri. Pillowy and fluffy like a good pita bread, crisp like a ciabatta. So very good.

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Lobio - a bean stew, traditionally served with mchadi - a corn bread, and pickles, served in a stoneware pot. I was impressed, this was a very good bean stew, rich and thick, boiling hot. Flavored with bay leaves and parsley. Maybe also celery. Just enough fat to give richness. I guessed the beans to be cranberry beans, or similar (later, we will visit the market and see that indeed, the beans sold are similar).  The corn bread was dry, and lightly corny. I mostly skipped it in favor of the bread, but as you sure know, cornbread and beans are a great combination.

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Kharcho soup.

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Shkmeruli - fried chicken in garlic sauce. They didn't skimp the garlic.

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Mushroom khinkali.

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Everything was very good and we were stuffed.

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Great photos and food. Was being vegetarian an issue at all?  

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9 minutes ago, heidih said:

Great photos and food. Was being vegetarian an issue at all?  

 

Thanks :) 

It wasn't an issue other than having many delicious looking dishes that I couldn't have, and rarely, a limited selection of dishes. Most restaurants had a vast selection of vegetarian dishes, Georgian cuisine makes vast use of vegetables, nuts, cheese and mushrooms. There are many meat free lent dishes, and also an impressive awareness of vegetarianism (much more than in some other eastern European countries that I visited), though I've still been suggested chicken, as a non-meat dish once 9_9 

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I have to say @shain, that I have visited two Georgian restaurants in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and I don’t recall much of what you’ve been eating appearing on their menus. I am guessing like so many restaurants representing other cuisines the menu caters a little too much to the demographics of the populace in which they are located. 

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19 minutes ago, Anna N said:

I have to say @shain, that I have visited two Georgian restaurants in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and I don’t recall much of what you’ve been eating appearing on their menus. I am guessing like so many restaurants representing other cuisines the menu caters a little too much to the demographics of the populace in which they are located. 

 

I took a look at your posts about said restaurants, and the food seems pretty authentic (though one perhaps having more Russian influence), many of the dishes we saw or ate. After all, it's impossible to fully represent a cuisine within the menu of a single restaurant, surely outside of the country of origin.

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11 minutes ago, shain said:

After all, it's impossible to fully represent a cuisine within the menu of a single restaurant, surely outside of the country of origin.

 I am sure that is very true. Something we notice in other cusines. 

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Posted (edited)

Gudauri.

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Later that day, we looked for a place to eat something light and some drink some wine. Gudauri, being a beautiful but sleepy village, had little to suggest in term of restaurants open late. We found a cozy looking place to sit at.

We ordered two glasses of red Saperavi wine, which turned out decent, but sweeter than I prefer.

 

Baked mushrooms with sulguni cheese served in ketsi (clay bowl) - I had doubts about this traditional dish, while I sure love baked cheeses and mushrooms at any form, the dish sounded one dimensional. At least this rendition of the dish profed me right, the mushroom, baked enough to be meaty but not browned, where OK, the melted sulguni cheese, chewy and salty, somewhere between halloumi, feta and fresh mozzarella, didn't provide complexity of flavor or difference in texture to make this into an interesting dish. I couldn't help but to compare it to a dish that I like, made of portobello mushrooms, filled with ricotta blended with toasted nuts (usually walnuts or hazelnuts), then baked on a tray so that moisture evaporates and they can brown. Thinking about it, it whould fit well in a Georgian meal.

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Nigvzit Badrijani - fried eggplants stuffed with a semi-coarse, yet creamy, walnut paste, flavored with garlic. It was sadly served near freezing, which I found muted all the flavors, other than the eggplants inherent bitterness, and made it unpalatable. A little creativity was in order and the eggplants found their way directly into the hot mushroom dish to take a sauna. They shortly became warm and mostly enjoyable, if a little moist with mushroom juice.

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So while the food wasn't impressive, we still enjoyed the atmosphere and the view.


Edited by shain (log)
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View from the hotel in Gudauri.

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And breakfast:

 

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Pretty basic, plain white bread (already missing my beloved tonis puri), smokey sausage. Some rough cut tomatoes and cucumbers (I always miss veggies at breakfast when traveling to Europe). Eggs to order.

Imeruli cheese, strong lactic fermentation flavor, too much for me - I just couldn't get past the spoiled milk connotation.

Quark cheese, sour cream, plum preserves - mixed together and filled into the blini.

Again, only instant coffee and tea were served. We opened the bag of Turkish coffee we brought with us and brew something more decent. 

 

We later drove to the Georgia-Russia friendship monument. 

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I was excited to find those tarragon flavored chips at the market, before leaving town (I love tarragon).

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But they just tasted like plain old scallion and sour cream chips :( 

 

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What a beautiful country.  I am really enjoying your posts.

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Lovely scenery, and the food doesn't look half bad!

 

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6 minutes ago, ElsieD said:

What a beautiful country.  I am really enjoying your posts.

 

Thanks, I'm glad to know this :)

And this is a beautiful country indeed, it left me with a taste for more.

 

4 minutes ago, kayb said:

Lovely scenery, and the food doesn't look half bad!

 

The food was mostly very good, other than the dinner I mentioned above, I recall that we truly enjoyed each restaurant we ate at during the trip. Breakfasts however weren't usually remarkable.

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Me too.  Loving following your journey.

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3 hours ago, shain said:

Breakfasts however weren't usually remarkable.

But they certainly beat a bowl of cereal or a bran muffin.

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I'd put in a plug for Carla Capalbo's Tasting Georgia (2017).  It is as much travelogue and wine book as a Georgian cookbook.  With a goodly dose of Georgian geography and history.  As Anna alluded Georgia is one of the few places in the world that I would love to visit.

 

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Tonight I was preparing my 30 second green beans but was inspired to make Mtsvane Lobios Pkhali.  Basically green beans in walnut sauce.  Mtsvane Lobios means green beans in Georgian.  Not sure how to say 30 second.

 

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8 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

Tonight I was preparing my 30 second green beans but was inspired to make Mtsvane Lobios Pkhali.  Basically green beans in walnut sauce.  Mtsvane Lobios means green beans in Georgian.  Not sure how to say 30 second.

 

 

Ohh, green beans in walnut sauce was one of the tastiest things I had on our trip. I'll get to post about it soon enough. I'm also sure to make it myself eventually, so I'll be happy to hear about the recipe you follow and about your results.

However, I only seen pkhali referring to minced vegetables with walnuts, so I wonder if I'm missing a whole range of dishes.

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