During our visit to Tbilisi in February 2013, we soon learnt that the term "lemonade" on a Georgian restaurant menu doesn't have the same meaning as it does in much of the world!
Ordering a lemonade gives no guarantee of getting a lemon flavoured drink. Instead, the term lemonade acts as a capture all for various flavoured soft drinks.
We sampled a variety of the "lemonades" produced by Natakhtari and Zedazeni brewing companies during our stay in the country. They ranged from apple, pear and orange flavours to a green tarragon flavoured lemonade, a bright yellow vanilla flavoured lemonade and a deep red saperavi grape flavoured lemonade.
I don't think we ever saw a lemon flavoured lemonade during our stay!
I had read in our guidebook that Borjomi is considered the most popular non-alcoholic beverage in Georgia, and that it is something of an acquired taste.
I must admit, the description of it as a "salty mineral water" didn't sound very appealing (I imagined drinking a bottle of sea water!) but I was determined to give it a try during our stay in Tbilisi in February 2013.
I first sampled it at a small restaurant called Metekhis Khidtan, accompanied by a plate of khinkali dumplings and a large helping of khachapuri cheese-filled bread. I really enjoyed it; it was more interesting than still mineral water, much less fizzy than carbonated water, and not nearly as salty as I thought it would be.
I drank Borjomi quite a few times during our stay and I began to understand why it is so popular. I found it to be a particularly enjoyable drink after spending an hour soaking in one of Tbilisi's hot sulphur baths.
As well as Borjomi, there is a slightly less salty alternative called Nabeghlavi, which I sampled one evening in a cafe next to the Royal Bath. While it was apparently less salty than Borjomi, I found it to be fizzier. Of the two, I preferred Borjomi.
People eat these all the time. There are people along the streets, almost always women, who sell sunflower seeds, and peanuts from little makeshift desks. They are everywhere. They have a little glass, measure out the seeds, and provide you your snack in a little rolled up piece of newspaper, or from the pages of a book.
Not a bit deal local custom tip, but just seems to be a part of the fiber of Tbilisi.
- Budget Travel
- Food and Dining
A popular sweet snack in Georgia is Churchkhela.
Nicknamed the "Georgian Snickers", Churchkhela is a string of nuts covered in a thickened sweet grape juice with a slightly rubbery texture.
You will find them hanging outside many shops or being sold at markets, from stalls in the streets or by elderly ladies in underpasses. When they are hanging together, they resemble sausages hanging outside a butcher's shop. You will find them in various shades of brown, red and black.
I tried Churchkhela a couple of times during our visit to Georgia in February 2013. First, I was given a piece to sample at "Coffee House" cafe in Tbilisi and then I bought a full one from a lady at a stall outside Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta.
We paid 3 GEL (£1.20) for the Churchkhela in Mtskheta and another 3 GEL for a folded sheet of grape candy, similar to the exterior of the Churchkhela but thinner. I suspect we were overcharged – not least because the lady we bought them from gave us a couple of complimentary smaller Churchkhela when we walked past her again a short while later!
They are very nice. If I lived in Georgia (or one of the other countries in eastern Europe and the Middle East that sell similar products), I would happily eat them as an alternative to chocolate bars.
Life is cool in Tbilisi and in the shade of the trees during the summer days people like to have a rest, relax a bit, playing trictrac, a variety of backgammon (picture 1). Ladies, generally do not play and prefer a chat on a bench (picture 2) and in general, in every park you see people in the shade, chatting, observing, laughing or having serious discussions (pictures 3 and 4), and even more serious (?), flirting is also an occupation in a shady place (picture 5)
The streets of Tbilisi are well known for the balconies which give them a real special character; you can see balconies almost everywhere (and certainly have seen already on some of my pictures on this page), but the most interesting area for balconies are the old city districts, in the small narrow streets of backyards.
In the old city, the houses and balconies are old too. . . . It is just a pleasure to look at some works of art, like this finely carved façade (picture 1).
Other balconies in this quiet isolated backstreet (picture 2), which is also a perspective to a church dominating from far. . .
There are tips about balconies in the “to do” section, but they are real local customs too, that is why you find some balconies here!
- Arts and Culture
It's hard to overstate the importance of wine to the Georgians. That, or beer, (and sometimes, vodka) seem to be drunk at lunch sometimes, and dinner (almost always).
Despite wine being important, it's hard to BUY a decent glass of bottle of wine in a restaurant. Most people make and bring their own.
In addition, people seem fond of Borjormi water, the sparkling kind. It's salty, and a bit of an aquired taste. The 'mineral' water variation, though, is just fine.
- Food and Dining
I must confess that I like to walk in places where I am sure I will have some nice unexpected (but I secretly expect, of course) encounter, meet locals far from the tourists herds; so walking in small streets, backyards, parks, river banks, visiting a “local” café or a hidden church. . . . all that gives me the pleasure to meet people.
This old lady (picture 1) was very curious about the foreigner who visited the backyard of where she lives and we tried to explain each other who we were, what we did and where we travelled; she was very happy to learn I liked her city a lot and she surprised me talking about Paris!
Elsewhere I met a young lady having a rest (and a smoke) in front of her little shop (picture 2) and another one decided to pose her profile for the tourist (picture 3); don’t these young girls (picture 4), at the entrance of a church look “typical”? And lets finish the “review” with older ladies dressed in black (picture 5) selling religious items not far from the cathedral.
Here are a few of the persons I photographed (asked for pictures); it is a pleasure to try to interact with locals, and photographs are generally the only contact we have with them, but sometimes it can be the beginning of a longer story.
- Arts and Culture
During Soviet rule religious life was not encouraged in Georgia, writing this is an euphemism. Way more than where I live, religion is still deeply integrated in every day’s life; you can observe people making cross signs sitting in a bus when passing by a church, of course, signing when walking past a chapel or a cemetery; churches are open all day long and there are always worshippers.
The Orthodox Church takes care the future generations will have their priests (picture 2), is “back in business” as far as marriage is concerned, and religious marriages can be observed in every corner of the city; here two pictures taken at Metekhi church ( pictures 3 and 4); priests seem to be important persons and one can see the respect people have for them in churches or outside.
We are here far from djilbabs, burkhas, abayas, hidjabs and other alike clothes protecting the women from the concupiscent glimpses of men; a simple scarf, and only near the church, or inside are religious signs and these simple headgear enhance the beauty of the persons (picture 1) who smiles at this handsome (oooops!!!) foreign photographer.
- Arts and Culture
During the Cold War there was a direct telephone link between Washington and Moscow, at least that is what we learned from the press and history books; the phones on both sides were red, as these phones were the last resort before the nuclear war could break out!
Here in Stalin’s country you can find this red telephone in some bar or restaurant and I cannot prevent myself of thinking they had, may be, red phones to call directly the NKVD. . . . but what the lady was telling in the wire had probably nothing to do with war, spying, or alike when I noticed her.. . . :)
- Arts and Culture
The district of Ortachala is where the bath houses using water from the sulfur springs are. There are several baths in town and most have also private rooms that cater for small groups and couples. I don't know how many there are today, but in the 13th century there were 65 mineral water bath housesin town.
In the past baths had three important functions: hygienic (to wash oneself), medical (to be cured from illnesses) and social (meeting friends and for women checking out prospective wives for their sons).
Today people go there mainly to relax and to have a massage. Watch out in summer - with an outside temperature of about 40C, a hot bath can be a bit of a pain.
Sidenote: some baths turn into brothels at night.
- Road Trip
Wine is the most popular alcoholic beverage followed by "vodka". Another Georgian specialty which is nonalcoholic are fresh juices where are sold at stands and kiosks throughout Tbilisi.
At a supra or dinner party one experiences the full extent of Georgian drinking. A toast maker or "Tamada" is selected and they'll conduct toasts throughout the dinner, and at certain points may ask guests to drain their glasses. A supra may last for hours and be followed by singing. The meals have a series of courses and usually liters of wine are emptied. In restaurants it is common for customers to individually order multiple bottles of wine.My Favorite is "Separavi" unforgettable red..
Try it )))
Historically,well known winemaking regions in Georgia is Kakheti,with Alazi river valley in it.Alazi Valley is located at 200-500m above the sea level and is spread from northwest to southeast at 110 km,its average width is about 20 km.
From the left bank Alazani Valley is walled by 3000-4000 m high mountains og Great Caucasus and from the right bank by Tsiv-Gombori mountain ranges.Such a unique geographical location and diversified soils,from clay mild fertile to low fertile sandy-stony,presents ideal terms for vineyards
- Wine Tasting
Georgian cuisine is especially unique and is surprisingly diverse. Each regions has its own specialties and almost all of them are represented in Tbilisi. Georgian cooking was seen as the "haute cuisine of the Soviet Union" and while most other republics lacked restaurants and cafes, the Georgians maintained their tradition.
Bakeries dot the city baking fresh bread and khachapuri (cheese pie, see photo at bottom of page) all day long. Despite the vast assortment of eateries the Georgians still pride themselves on home cooking. If one strolls the city on weekends they will find that courtyards and verandahs are full of families surrounding tables with plates of food stacked high. Georgians will spend time eating, enjoying their food and usually supplementing their healthy appetites with large amounts of wine and vodka.Georgians consider their cuisine the best and find it difficult to accept others ( I agree with them) . Due to this, foreign food is fairly difficult to find in Tbilisi.
Bardijani - Grilled Eggplant with yoghourt mixed with garlic is the best combination.
The one-two punch of garlic and salt melts into the subtle creaminess of eggplant in these addictive little morsels, which can be found on nearly every Georgian restaurant menu. They make a unique appetizer served simply on crackers or bread alongside a glass of red wine, but are rich enough to stand up to heartier fare like grilled pork ribs and cornbread.
Georgians make this dish with Chinese eggplants, which are long and narrow, with thinner skin and sweeter flesh than the elephantine “globe” variety found in most American supermarkets. Either will work for this recipe, but it’s easier to cut and fold the Asian variety, which are sometimes available at farmers’ markets in the US. Ground fenugreek imparts a slightly tart, nutty flavor and is worth seeking out. It can be found in Indian, Persian, and Middle Eastern grocery stores, purchased in small quantities from stores that sell bulk spices, or purchased online at Penzey’s. Georgian utskho suneli (“foreign spice”) also known as blue fenugreek (trigonella caerulea), is less bitter than its Asian counterpart (trigonella foenum graecum), the kind typically sold in the US. Use it in this recipe if you can find it (and let me know where you got it!)
The filling can be made up to three days ahead if stored in the refrigerator. The eggplant slices can be fried the night before combining and serving.
Fried Eggplant Rolls with Walnut-Garlic Filling (Badrijani Nigvzit)
Serves 10-12 as an appetizer
12 Chinese eggplants or 3 medium globe eggplants (about 1 lb. each)
Neutral-tasting vegetable oil (e.g. canola, sunflower or grapeseed) for frying
1 cup walnuts
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled
½ tsp. white wine vinegar or tarragon vinegar
1 tsp. ground coriander
¼ tsp. ground fenugreek (if you have utskho suneli from Georgia, use 1/2 tsp.)
¼ tsp. ground red pepper flakes or small pinch ground cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup water
Fresh cilantro, thin-sliced onion, and/or pomegranate seeds to garnish
1. In a food processor, grind the walnuts, garlic, vinegar, spices, and water together until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. (Ideally, do this several hours or up to 3 days before you plan to serve the dish, as the flavors benefit from time to meld. Store in the refrigerator if making ahead.)
2. Wash and cut the tops off the eggplants. Do not peel. Cut lengthwise into ½ in.-thick slices.
3. Optional but recommended: Salt the eggplant slices generously and let stand for 1 hour, then press out the dark juice, rinse, and pat dry thoroughly with a kitchen towel or paper towels. This is one common technique for minimizing bitterness in eggplant. Using very fresh eggplants will also cut the risk of bitter flavor.
4. Heat 2-3 Tbsp. of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Brown eggplant slices on both sides, working in batches so as not to crowd the pan and adding oil as necessary. Wait until both sides have turned golden brown, then remove eggplant slices to a plate lined with paper towels. (They should be floppy, not crisp.) Continue until all slices are fried and set aside to cool.
5. Spread a layer of filling on one side of each eggplant slice and roll up to enclose the filling inside. Arrange the rolls on a platter and sprinkle with fresh herbs, thin-sliced onion, or pomegranate seeds (if desired) to serve. You could also serve the rolls on top of crackers or crostini to make them easier to eat neatly as finger food.