Georgian cuisine is likely to be a great discovery for gourmets. Georgians tend to lay a table for any occasion. The reason could be celebrating a wide range of events from becoming a student to baptizing a child, or just an occasional visit of a neighbor.
Traditional Georgian party lasts quite long, so the list of various dishes offered is usually impressive. It includes a few snacks, some sauces, fresh greens, vegetables, fruit, etc. Add to it 4-5 hot dishes served later one after another.
It is believed that the secret of high life expectancy in Georgia lies in unique balance of various food and moderate use of wine. The basic ingredients for each dish are simple products, like meat, cheese, vegetables, greens, nuts, fruit, etc.
Vegetables are served in various forms; spinach, egg-plants, Bulgarian pepper, tomatoes. Assortment of various vegetable snacks with nuts is called commonly as pkhali.
Cheese is much loved in Georgia. According to Georgian proverb, for a successful party even only bread, cheese and welcoming heart are enough. Cheese can be served as a snack, or boiled with corn flour. There are many types of cheese. The most expensive is sulguni. The most popular dish from cheese is called khachapuri. Each region of Georgia makes different kind of khachapuri. It could be round, triangle, with an egg on top.
Here is the shortlist of most popular Georgian dishes from meat and poultry.
Shkmeruli – a chicken in garlic sauce, from the mountainous region of Racha.
Satsivi – a turkey or chicken in nut sauce, traditional dish for New Year.
Chashushuli from veal – tenderly boiled veal with tomatoes, onion and greens.
Chakapuli – spring dish from lamb with tarragon and bitter tkemali.
Khashlama – boiled beef with parsley.
Mtsvadi – Georgian barbeque made on spit, often served with various sauces.
Khinkali – Georgian dumpling from pork and beef, usually eaten with hands.
As a rule, in western Georgia dishes are spicier. The Mengrelians, Imeretians and Rachvelians from the west are noted as the best cooks, though some of the dishes are now internationally acclaimed. The number of Georgian restaurants is rapidly growing around the world, especially in Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Greece, Kazakhstan, France and USA.
Not surprisingly, real gourmets should taste and fully enjoy Georgian cuisine only in Georgia to feel the unique atmosphere of its traditions, which have been cherished in Georgian families for centuries.
Georgia is the cradle of wine-making. The fact is confirmed with various historic and geological artifacts from Bronze Age.
Cultural sorts of grapes found on the territory of Georgia date back to 5000 BC. The vessels for drinking wine and other crafts, discovered by archeologists, belong to the same period. Wine-making proved to be the main field of agriculture. Furthermore, in 11th century, wine-making was taught as a subject at the Academy of Ikalto.
One of the most popular and widespread methods of making wine has always been, so-called, Kakhetian, during which wine is kept in a pitcher. It is usually hidden under the ground, touching the floor only partially. They are of different size. The quality of wine made in pitchers depends on the way the latter is made, as well as how they are looked after. The average temperature in the pitcher kept underground is about 14 degrees Celsius, which is ideal for keeping the liquid under stable temperature.
Farmers make and keep wine in a special basement, called Marani, i.e. wine cellar. It is situated partially under the ground, which guarantees optimal temperature for keeping wine as long as needed.
Although wine is mass produced nowadays and sold for reasonable price, farmers carry on preparing it at home and treat guests with homemade wine, as a sign of genuine hospitality. Taking care of vineyard is a very respected and ritualized occupation is Georgia. Almost every farmer has his own vineyard near his house, thus, growing his own vine. In autumn starts vintage when whole families, neighbors and, sometimes, specially invited relatives and friends from nearby towns collect grapes together. It is followed by celebration party.
Wine is the main ingredient of Georgian party. Traditionally, Georgians prefer dry and semi-dry sorts of white wine. Homemade wine is never above 9%. Bottled-dry, prepared by modern technologies, go up to 12-13%.
Besides wine, at a party one can come across Chacha, kind of vodka made of grape. It is similar to Italian Grappa.
Kakheti, in the eastern part of Georgia, is the main region of winemaking. Most of the Georgian bottled wines took names from various villages of that region. Some parts of central and western Georgia also produce good wine.
See the section ‘Georgian Wines’ to get familiar with famous Georgian wines.