So here we are in our own little room half of us lounging, as well as we can against the six pillows we each have available. Our waitress arrives and distributes a menu that’s the size of the NY Times. Well perhaps not as many pages but certainly the same size. The menu contains wall to wall photos of dishes each looking yummier than the next. Thankfully, below the Russian description of each dish is a terse English translation. Mutton, rice, dried fruits. Eggplant, sweet peppers, onions in sauce. Lamb in clay pot with herbs.
We were like little children presented with a room full of gifts to choose from. We wanted it all and were having a hard time settling on just one starter and one main dish each, which we intended to share. It could also be that jet lag was setting in and we were just a little punch drunk tired. So our local guide said she’d do the ordering for the starters so we could have more time to decide on our main dish. Her conversation with the waitress didn’t take long. The waitress nodded and backed out of the room while we oohed and aaahed over the menu.
A short while later food started to arrive and arrive. It just kept coming. I think what our local host had said, so quickly, was “bring them one of everything.”
There were these small rounds pate of spinach and a sauce on one dish, the same type of pate rounds that were not spinach on another. I will research the names of these foods when I have more robust internet and update this with those. We had three types of eggplant rolled around a stuffing. There was the almond paste and pomegranate seed version which our crew member had remembered so fondly. It was this dish alone which resulted in our being at this restaurant. Fortunately it was as good a promised. I was afraid it would be sweet but it was spicy and rich. There was another dish with eggplant rolled around some cheese, almost every dish involved cheese – that must be a big thing with Georgians – and a third which I’m sorry to say I recall no details about other than it was tasty. There was a kugle type baked dish of layers and layers of thin noodles and cheese. It looked better on the menu that it tasted but it was very good. There was a really yummy dish of beans in a tomato sauce with onions and garlic and spices. It came with a flat bread which had been cooked on the fire we’d seen earlier. There was a platter of pickled foods – tomato, a head of garlic, something which resembled thin green beens but was a type of herb, cabbage and an unidentifiable food, which no one sampled, which looked like a mush of grass. There was a round cheese pastry dish which was as close to pizza as you can get without the red sauce and pepperoni, there was a large bread which was shaped like a small boat. In the center was steaming hot cheese melted into a sauce. The waitress cracked a raw egg into the cheese and started to mix the egg and cheese until the egg was cooked but still runny. Then she cut away chunks of bread which we dunked into the egg & cheese center. It was very rich because the bread, until the other which had been crispy and dense, was buttery and light. There may have been some other dishes which I’ve forgotten.
By the time we’d eaten all this, no one was interested in a main dish. We were happy to skip directly to dessert but our locals insisted we try at least one, oh come on you must have two, shashlik dishes. We patted our distended bellies and begged but once again our local spoke to our waitress. We feared what was in store but fortunately only two skewers arrived. We had a pork or perhaps mutton or maybe it was beef dish and a sturgeon dish. Out of courtesy I had a little of each. The mystery meet was amazing the fish was great. I realized too late that there was a sauce I was supposed to try with each but I was too full to take another bite, unless it contained chocolate.
Everyone who had been too full to try the shashlik, found that final corner of the stomach reserved for dessert. We had a honey cake which was eight layers of thin cake with a sweet honey filling only the cake wasn’t cake it was dense brown bread sliced ultra thin which had soaked up the honey. It wasn’t my favorite but everyone loved it. We had an almond torte which was incredibly good and had I found any more space I would have eaten more. I now wish I’d taken it back to my room (sad face) and lastly came the two small, round chocolate cakes with melted chocolate interiors and vanilla ice cream. It took all my willpower to hand off the larger half to the friend I had agreed to share this dish with. It was fabulous and, needless to say, nothing remained of either of the two once we’d had a taste.
My last trip to St. Petersburg I’d also had just amazing food.
As we were recovering from our dessert frenzy with coffee and teas a group came into our small room and took over the matching table on the other side of the room – except that they didn’t have a couch, they had seats all around. Within seconds we heard familiar English voices shouting out various dishes from the starters which they “had to order.” To their credit, they had selected the dishes we enjoyed the best – with no translators or local guides. I was proud of their ability to reach a consensus as moments later they had placed their starter order and had started on the main dishes. Perhaps had we been able to do the same, we would have had a chance to taste more of the delicious sounding dishes on the menu.
Before we left I had to go over and say hello to our fellow countrymen. They were from various states on the East Coast, Connecticut, New York, Boston and were on a river boat cruise. They were loving their trip and raved about the cruise line – which I don’t remember the name of off hand but would recognize if I saw it. Volga King or something like that. They weren’t much older than me. There was only one an in the group. That could be me, I thought. Who needs to be a couple to travel! I could do a cruise like this and meet new people. Something to look forward to a few years from now.
Sorry no time to add pictures (or proof read!), once again having to dash. Crazy how the time just flies!
Hi, here’s an update on the food:
The eggplant dish w/ground walnuts (not almonds) was Badrijani Nigvzit.
The spinach pate was Ispanakhi
The egg cooked in the bread is Adjarian Khachapuri (the national dish!) The cheesy pizza-esque bread is also Khachapuri.
The break cooked in the fire is Puri.
The thing that looked like grass – pickled flower stems!
There is a great website about the foods of Georgia at: http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/2007/07/georgian-food/ and http://helengraves.co.uk/tag/tbilisi-food-markets/ – check them out!