Cuisines of Kakheti and Tusheti
KAKHETI AND TUSHETI CULINARY TOUR
This trip will take you to the cradle of wine production--Kakheti--where you will see the centuries-old, traditional way of making wine in vessels buried in the ground, and taste the product of some of Georgia’s more than 500 grape varieties. Sample shoti fresh out of the round stone oven or sweets as they are being made. In mountainous Tusheti--to some the most beautiful part of Georgia--you can taste the famous guda, a sheep’s milk cheese historically aged in sheepskin. In both Kakheti and Tusheti you may learn, hands on, to make local dishes.
Places to visit
Sighnaghi is situated on a hill overlooking the 25-km-wide valley of the Alazani river, with the Greater Caucasus range in the background. The town’s architecture is a unique mixture of Georgian and Italian Renaissance-era buildings. Sighnaghi has the distinction of being one of two cities in the world where marriage licenses are issued 24 hours a day. Hence its nickname of ‘love city’.
The Sighnaghi defensive wall that encircles the old centre of town dates from the early 18th century. From the 28 observation towers set into the walls, guards could see every part of the countryside around, from the Alazani valley to the western outposts. Each of the more than 20 gates has the name of the village whose inhabitants would rush in for protection during times of danger.
Bodbe is a beloved destination for many Georgians because the remains of St Nino, who brought Christianity to Georgia, are buried here. A beautiful garden surrounds the small church and monastery-turned-convent. A narrow path winds through the grounds and ends at a popular healing spring.
Nekresi monastery complex A town existed at this location in the second century BC. The monastery dates back to the 4th century AD. It sits on a hill that affords a sweeping view of the Alazani Valley. Abibos, one of the Assyrian Fathers, settled in Nekresi in the
6th century and established it as a centre of learning. Among the handful of churches of different antiquity is a 4th century church, among the oldest in Georgia. Of later date are an episcopal palace, a four-storey tower and a marani (wine cellar).
Gremi In the 16th and 17th centuries Gremi was the capital of the kingdom of Kakheti and thrived as a commercial centre on the ancient silk route. The town was razed by a Persian invasion in 1615 but the church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel with original frescoes, the royal tower and the marani (wine cellar) survive to this day.
Dishes to savour
Kakhetian mtsvadi Barbecued meat on a stick but with this difference that the stick is from a grapevine and gives a distinctive flavour.
Khashlama boiled meat with greens, spices and local vegetables, topped with fresh herbs. In Kakheti this would be made with veal, in Tusheti with lamb.
Chakapuli beef or lamb stewed in white wine, with sour plums, tarragon, leaf coriander and spices.
Chikhirtma a broth that is a favourite family meal (or hangover cure) made from chicken. Eggs are skillfully incorporated into the broth and fresh leaf coriander added as a finish.
Ghandzili at the right time of year, Alpine leek can be found. It is eaten boiled or pickled.
Kakhetian tolma ground meat wrapped in grape leaves
Kakhetian shoti a long, tapered bread baked in a toné (a round stone oven whose walls serve as baking surface).
churchkhela looks like a dipped candle but has nuts in the centre, dipped in thickened grape juice. Ages ago, when men would cover long distances on horseback, their wives would pack churchkhela as nutritious snacks for them.
tatara (known as pelamushi in other parts of the country) is grape juice thickened with flour.
The three basic ingredients of Tushetian cuisine come from local agriculture and the natural environment: mutton or beef, dairy from sheep or cows, and cereals.
guda sheep’s milk cheese whose quality is determined by where the ewes were pastured. Historically guda is aged in sheepskin which keeps the cheese at the ideal temperature and degree of moisture. Nowadays, unless the cheese is made for home consumption, it is aged in plastic.
choban qaurma (shepherd-style meat) Traditionally, whatever tools a resourceful shepherd had at hand would serve for cooking his meal. Meat was wrapped in a sac and set in a shallow pit. A fire was made over it and when the meat was ready, mountain herbs, salt and garlic would be the final complement.
kalti a dumpling stuffed with dried cottage cheese
khavitsi a high-calorie mountain-cheese fondue, most often eaten with spinach
gordila a dumpling that is especially popular among shepherds, because it is easy to prepare and very filling. The recommended drink to go with this dish is a good fruity vodka.
qva are small spheres of toasted, cracked barley and wheat made into a dough with butter, flour and cheese. Because it is full of vitamins it is thought to be especially good for children.
kotori khachapuri made with specially prepared cottage cheese
qaghi unsalted, dried lamb is accompanied with beer or boiled in beer, in which case it is eaten as a soup.
khinkali a dumpling twisted into a pursed shape and stuffed with meat
kvliavi caraway seeds are used to add a unique flavour to many dishes.
Beverages to savour
The art of making wine is thousands of years old in Kakheti. The many unique varieties of grape grown here yield wines to suit every palate: dry, semi-dry, sweet and red, white or amber coloured. The traditional method of storing wine in kvevri--large clay vessels sunk in the ground where the temperature and moisture remain constant--is still used.
aludi is the mountain village’s ritual drink. It is made from barley malt and hops.
Day 1: Arrival in Sighnaghi, transfer to hotel, excursion to Bodbe, free time, overnight in
Day 2: Master class in Kakhetian cuisine and sampling, wine degustation, overnight in
Day 3: Departure to Omalo, visit Kvareli, Gremi, Nekresi along the way, free time, overnight in Omalo
Day 4: Master class in Tushetian cuisine and sampling, degustation of beer and chipitauri, overnight in Omalo
Day 5: Departure from Omalo
Note: Price depends on type of accommodation and number of persons.
Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli (Lower Kartli) are located in the Lesser Caucasus mountain range. Elsewhere in southern Georgia the soil is of volcanic origin with semi-volcanic lakes scattered in the valleys. The cuisine, not unexpectedly, is just as different. Kartlian cuisine is dominated by vegetables and soups, Meskheti is famous for its breads and cheeses.
Samegrelo contains the land of Colchis where the legendary king Aeëtes, son of Helios, ruled. It was also the homeland of Medea, with whose help Jason obtained the golden fleece. As for Svaneti, because of its isolation among some of the highest mountain peaks of the Greater Caucasus range, it preserves an unwritten language and aspects of culture that are pre-Christian. The medieval Svan towers rise from the rugged terrain like sentinels. Because Samegrelo and Svaneti are neighbouring regions--one on the coast at the foot of the mountains the other in them--their cuisines are similar to some degree yet remain distinct. An attentive gourmet will, for example, easily taste the difference between sulguni cheeses from these two regions.
In Adjara and Guria, mountains and sea combine to present a unique natural setting and a mild climate, which also determines their culinary output. Cooks make liberal use of local herbs and spices in vegetable and bean dishes, corn bread (mchadi) and the Adjarian sweets baklava and shakar lama. Plentiful dairy products and nuts are at hand for richer dishes.
The Pshavi-Khevsureti region has always played a big role in the life of the nation. In times of danger the population would gather the nation’s greatest treasures and run to the mountains. Mountain villages were strongly fortified, often with defensive towers which during time of peace were used for domestic activity. The best example of such a village is Shatili. The geographic location and the way of life in this region have given rise to a unique cuisine. One of Georgia’s most popular dishes, khinkali, originated
You will travel through the two most beautiful regions of Georgia, neighbours Imereti and Racha. Much as they resemble each other in natural conditions, their character and way of life are distinct. Most of Imereti is lowland except for the norhth where it borders on mountainous Racha. The two regions have overlapping culinary repertoire (corn based dishes and sauces with nuts) as well as fare typical of each.