Thursday, 19 November 2009

A little something Caucasian...

In 2007 I spent a month in New York following the end of my finals. I spent every day exploring different neighbourhoods and their unique culture and culinary offerings. One day I went to Coney Island and ate the famous hotdogs from Nathan's on the boardwalk. I walked along the other side of the Atlantic a few blocks and ended up at the other Brighton Beach, a Russian enclave known as Little Odessa. All the street and shop signs were written in Cyrillic characters and when I went into a CD shop I was greeted in Russian. My trusty Time Out guide recommended a Georgian restaurant.

It was the most surreal meal of my life. The restaurant was cavernous and plush, like an empty Las Vegas casino. We were the only people in the restaurant, though the waiters were loading up a massive banqueting table behind us for a diaspora feast.

We started with a kind of Georgian mezze and it was then that I fell in love with Georgian cuisine. Positioned between Russia and Turkey, the influences of both cuisines were beautifully present in the dishes. Copious amounts of dill, parsley and coriander were in the spinach salad, pureed beetroot, potato salad and med veg salad, with ground walnuts adding a earthy richness to the former and dotted with gem-like pomegranate seeds. It really was a flavour explosion.

We drunk traditional Georgian semi-sweet red wine - the vineyards are supposedly the oldest in the world and the wine is just so beautiful, rich, complex, ancient. Fairly typical in Georgian cuisine is to serve food at room temperature - for my main I had spring chicken in a walnut sauce, one of the most exquisite and satisfying thing I've ever tasted. All the while a singer sang hi-NRG Slavic ballads to the almost empty room, adding to the otherworldliness of this periphery of New York City.

London has a couple of Georgian restaurants. For a traditional meal, go to Tbilisi on Holloway Road; a restaurant I love so much that I will blog about it in its own right some point soon. Little Georgia near Broadway Market is also good, though a little bit lighter during the day. My mum gave me a Georgian recipe book for Christmas last year and I try and cook a mini feast every now and then.

Recently, with the aide my lovely Magimix, I was able to re-create the chicken satsivi (walnut sauce). I served it with rice and a salad of roasted med veg, dressed in red wine vinegar, fenugreek, ground coriander and lots of fresh herbs. Delicious. Recipe here.

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