Georgia Food and Drink
According to Georgian legend, when God was distributing land among the peoples of the world, the Georgians were so busy eating and drinking that they lost their place in the queue and there was no land left for them. But when they invited God to join the party, he enjoyed himself so immensely he gave them all the choicest bits of land he had been saving for himself. Georgians pride themselves, with some justification, on being the bons viveurs of the former Soviet Union, and their culinary tradition has survived better than most the dead hand of Soviet mass-catering.
The cuisine makes extensive use of walnuts, which are used to thicken soups and sauces (anything including the word satsivi will be served in a rich sauce flavoured with herbs, garlic, walnuts and egg). Cafés, restaurants and street-food traditions are all better established in Georgia than in many of the other former Soviet republics, and the markets are full of locally grown fruit and vegetables. Privately-run restaurants, cafés and bars, which began to thrive during the Gorbachev period, were badly hit by the post-independence breakdown of civil order, but in recent times have begun to bounce back. The future looks bright.
• Walnuts feature in sauces and soups. They are also used in desserts, coated in caramelised sugar, gozinaki, or in churchkhela, when they are threaded on string then dipped in thickened, sweetened grape juice which is subsequently dried into chewy, flavoursome 'candles'.
• Lobio (bean and walnut salad).
• Marinated aubergines, pkhali, made from young spinach leaves pounded together with spices.
• Khachapuri, consisting of layers of flat bread alternated with melting cheese.
• Basturma (cured meat and assorted fresh and pickled vegetables).
Things to know
More than 500 original varieties of grape are grown here, more than any other country. Both red and white wine is produced in Georgia.
For service in restaurants, cafés or taxis, the bill is usually rounded up.
Kindzmareuli, a fruity, red wine, is reputed to have been Stalin's favourite tipple.
Akhasheni and Teliani are two of the commoner red wines, fruity and dry respectively.
Tsinandali is a dry white wine, as is Gurdzhaani.