Posts Tagged ‘georgia’

On a Lazy Saturday and the Start of Spring: Khinkali (Georgian Soup Dumplings)

Khinkali (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Spring is coming to Berlin, and the cold, wintry mountains of Georgia are starting to seem like a far-off memory. Of course, spring in Berlin is a relative thing. I’m still wearing my winter coat most days, and bright patches of hopeful blue have only pierced the overwhelming gray long enough to make me crave a picnic blanket in the sun decked with crustless sandwiches and glossy bunches of grapes.

Dough for making khinkali (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Onions (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

On the last of these pretty blue days, I woke early to the sun shining through the windows and felt inspired. I haven’t been feeling that way a lot lately. I’ve taken on too much, and even weekends, I wake up, drink my coffee, and wonder what to tackle next. It’s exhausting, to work in the mornings before going to my job, to work in the evenings when I come home, to keep working on the weekends. I miss doing things that have no ulterior motive or eke me closer to a goal.

It’s hard when my home is a hive of productivity. My computer, my papers, the broom and mop – all grin at me with sharp, consuming teeth.

Rounds of khinkali dough (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Filling for homemade khinkali (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Dough for homemade Georgian soup dumplings (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Stacks of dough for making dumplings (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

What a blessing to wake up on Saturday morning and feel freed by the sunshine. I wanted nothing more than to wrap an apron around my waist and cook – preferably something new, preferably something time-consuming – just to flaunt how free I felt.

I put some podcasts on to play, and while David slept late into a lazy Saturday, I made dumplings.

Ground beef and pork mixture for khinkali (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Rolling out dumpling dough (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Making khinkali (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

One of the best things we ate in Georgia were khinkali, stuffed soup dumplings. The classic dumplings are filled with minced meat like beef, pork, or lamb, herbs, and onion. Others are filled with potato or cheese. We even had tasty, tiny khinkali bursting with caramelized onion and mushroom at a dumpling house overlooking the Kura River and washed them down with crisp, golden pilsner. » Continue reading this post...

The Other Georgia, Part II – Stepantsminda

Stepantsminda, Georgia (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The morning dawned weakly and dull the day we embarked for Stepantsminda – a village lying at the base of Mount Kazbek, the seventh-highest peak in the Caucuses. The riders in the subway were half asleep, and we ourselves only jerked awake outside the Didube station to the shouts of vendors hawking small lemons and nuts, hot khachapuri and coffee. Marshrutka drivers were looking for passengers to fill their vans. They shouted out destinations – Kakheti, Gori, Mtskheta – places we had seen the day before and places we had not.

A driver hustled our direction and asked where we were going. “Stepantsminda,” we replied, and he gestured toward his weathered red van. That was just the route he was taking, he said. “Are the roads safe?” I asked. It had been unseasonably warm in Tbilisi, but this was February after all, and there was no telling what conditions were like at higher altitudes. “I am from there,” he said. And while I couldn’t have known it at the time, I later found out that what he meant by this was, “No, but I’m used to it.”

We bought a quick breakfast from a nearby stand – crescent-shaped khachapuri stuffed with hard-boiled egg – and ate it as the van hobbled along the highway out of Tbilisi. We were tired and fell asleep, but soon woke to the jolt of the road, littered with potholes and dirty slush.

The road up the mountain, Georgia (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Monastery on the road to Stepantsminda (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

At a monastery, we scrambled out to take pictures. Snow patched the ground, and wet drizzle chilled my bare hands. Below us, the river sluggishly plowed along the banks, freezing in the shallows. The road continued to climb, and the next time we stopped, there were old women wrapped in headscarves and wool selling fruit leather and churchkhela hanging in long, burgundy rows. » Continue reading this post...

The Other Georgia, Part I – Tbilisi

Tbilisi, Georgia (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Tbilisi is a city of crumble and construction. The gondola sways up over the river, over close, claustrophobic streets seeming to fold in on themselves. Here, dented tin and red-tiled roofs cover haphazard buildings slouching into gray courtyards. There, a stunning twist of ultramodern architecture sits wrapped in glass. Bruised and dented cars give guttural chugs around tight corners, slipping past pedestrians who hug the sides of buildings where there is no sidewalk.

Tbilisi, Georgia (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

From above, it seems convoluted, but calm. A sleepy city, settling with dust. On street level, there’s clamor, construction sites and bridge beggars, vendors hawking homemade sour plum sauce and dark purple churchkhela – walnuts strung together and dipped in thickened grape paste. There are wine shops on every corner and little grocery stores with bins of fresh herbs, potatoes, and fruit.

But David and I are hungry. We curl down the twisted streets from our Airbnb apartment to the river and find a restaurant with big glass windows overlooking the water. It’s simple inside – rows of wooden tables and big picture menus, a TV playing an advertising reel in the corner, a case displaying sweets. But all around us, people are tucking into big plates of food – dumplings and stews, warm bread and parsley-laden salads.

Narikala Fortress, Tbilisi (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Flame-grilled kebab (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Cold stew with eggplant and potato (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

We order khachapuri – hot, chewy bread baked with rich, slightly sour cheese. It’s still bubbling when it arrives. David orders fire-grilled pork kebabs covered in slivers of sweet raw onion, and for me there’s a cold stew of eggplant, potato, pepper, tomato, and herbs.

Reinvigorated, we explore the city from the top down. Narikala Fortress is a well-kept ruin stretching along a low-lying ridge. Weather-worn stone steps turn into scraggly gravel and rock, which we climb to get a better view. To our left, Mother Georgia – silent and strong. » Continue reading this post...

He’s on the Move (a post by Josh)

Fried chicken dinner (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s been a minute since I’ve updated my travels, my eats, and frankly, my stomach’s adjustment to Southern Foods. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been living in the South for about three years now, but I don’t always choose to indulge in collards with fat back as my staple lunch item. But now – this summer – I’ve got to go big then go home and take a nap to “work off” that fried goodness. O! that fried goodness!

Well since I’ve last updated (on my travels, not my shameful meal), I’ve been to Sapelo Island, Charleston, a few surrounding areas (James Island, Mt. Pleasant), Beaufort, Athens, Atlanta, Watkinsville, and Birmingham. That’s where I sit right now, sipping a well roasted, full bodied black coffee – iced (to cut the 99 degree heat and 110 percent humidity).

With a list like that, I’ve had my share of experiences in different parts of the country. A few come to mind immediately. Like the time in Beaufort, SC where a man walked away from me after this conversation: “Where ya from” – “Well I was born in Virginia, lived in New York -” “Goodbye.” I kid you not. He didn’t even hear that I live in North Carolina now (clearly below that Mason-Dixon line).

But more than anything, my food experiences have been out of this world. And with that, I bring you two excerpts from my 26 days of travel (so far): one international delight and one stomach stuffing, sweet-tooth filling meal with eight perfect strangers.

***

At first I was a little hesitant to go to Atlanta. I mean, let’s face it – Atlanta is so internationally citified that traditional culture is hard to come by. Yes, you have the history of the Tea Rooms and the three P’s of Georgia (Pecans, Peaches and Peanuts). » Continue reading this post...

Here’s to You, Ms. Sallie Ann Robinson (a post by Josh): Pecan Crunch Cookies

Scenery in Savannah (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

By no means am I trying to beat a dead horse, but Savannah is a beautiful city that needs just a little more attention. So don’t stop if you’ve heard this before, its worth a second telling. I know I’ve spoken about how Savannah is my second home before, but this time around, I was able to appreciate Savannah in a whole new light. I think it was the fact that by the end of my week there, I could get around town without directions, go to a coffee shop that I grew attached to, or just mellow out in a square downtown.

But I was also doing research; let’s not forget that part of the summer deal. Lyz described some of the meals, talking about the flakey biscuits and the crunchy fried chicken, Sallie Ann Robinson’s food and life advice, and homemade breakfasts at a slower pace. I also took off some days, separate from the group, to check out some amazing places around Savannah.

First, we have Sallie Ann Robinson. Lyz talked about her briefly in her last post, but let me try to parse out a few more details. Sallie Ann was born and raised on Daufuskie Island – a barrier island just north of Savannah. She left Daufuskie back in 1988, just “to get off the island.” It wasn’t the right place for her. What she brought with her, though, were some warm memories of her childhood, some excellent life advice and a whole lot of passion for food.

Lyz and I met with Sallie on a Friday morning, just two hours after her twelve hour shift let out. Sallie greeted us at the door and welcomed us into her home saying “Now, I was told not to feed y’all, because if I did – y’all would never leave!” And I use the exclamation point judiciously. » Continue reading this post...

Savannahrama

Boats on Tybee (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s not that I’m following Josh around the South, but after an uneventful, rainy graduation, I drove down to Savannah to spend a week with some friends (Josh included) on the sunny coast. Though uncharacteristically rainy (a graduation curse?), Savannah remains one of my favorite cities to visit.

I love the hospitality of the South, and the role food plays in welcoming people. Everywhere I went, it was, Hi, nice to see you again or Hi, nice to meet you, can I get you something to eat? Fresh fruit, white wine, pecan shortbread cookies first – and if a meal followed, it was always more than we could possibly eat.

I was there for the meal Josh described at the end of his post. Simultaneously crunchy and moist fried chicken, tangy okra stewed with tomatoes and corn over rice, firm yet buttery field peas, all finished off with a butter-flecked biscuit so light that wildflower honey just disappeared inside it. I may not be doing any research, but it seemed to me that despite the peach cobbler and ice cream for dessert, the most Southern part of the meal was the gossip bantered over the lunch table.

Apparently, so and so, who’s very wealthy and over such and such an age, is being courted by so and so who just met her two weeks ago, and so and so’s children are having so and so sign some papers. And so and so, who owns such and such, just sold this and that to what’s his name. Bless his heart.

Grill at the end of the world (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Savannah is definitely a foodie city, but it is a strange one. You can find everything from infused balsamics and olive oils from Italy to mass marketed celebrities like Paula Deen and the Girl Scouts (think cookies). And everyone has an opinion on what’s real Southern cooking. » Continue reading this post...

Oh Sweet (Second) Home (Savannah) (a post by Josh)

Savannah, Georgia (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

For the past few summers, I’ve worked as a backpacking leader, tramping around the Appalachian Trail with rising college freshmen for entertainment and for some cash. This is all fun and dandy – I really couldn’t think of a better way to spend a summer – but the breaks in between the sessions (24 hours a day for eight days) don’t come soon enough sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong here: I love hiking. I love being with new people. I love cooking in the woods. But I think what I miss the most is the ability to pick up, go some where beloved, and chow down on some good food. I want to say, I can cook a mean gourmet-backcountry-meal. I just love eating fresh crab from the Georgia coast more.

It’s about a four hour drive from here to there (Davidson to Savannah), but when you’ve got four other compatriots, a loud sound system, and promises of going crabbing, the four hours fly. Along the way we stopped at small gas stations equipped with large pink elephants, a lot of opportunities to buy fresh Georgia peaches, which we hastily took advantage of, and even more chances to get some firecrackers. We all focused on the food, not the explosives, though.

My friend’s house, the one we were driving toward, is located out on a surrounding island of Savannah. It’s not only on an island, but on the inter-costal waterway. What this means is: lots of chances to go out on a boat and search for crabs.

“Hey, if y’all want to get your bathing suits on, we’ll head out to the boat soon.”

“How many can the boat fit?”

“About three.”

“But there’s six of us.”

“It don’t matter, we’ll make it happen. That boat’s a strong one.”

My friend’s optimism never ceases to amaze me. » Continue reading this post...