Thursday, January 27, 2005

Georgia on My Mind

Last night's Dinner Club, featuring food from the Republic of Georgia (and one neighboring country), was a hit. I know I was happy with the food and enjoyed seconds on a couple of dishes, as did some other folks!

The meal (cooked in part by my lovely sous chef Phoenix) included:

--a thick, bright-tasting tomato soup with finely chopped walnuts and broken bits of whole wheat vermicelli strewn throughout

--a borani that featured green beans sauteed with onions, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, and cilantro and topped with the usual garlicky yogurt sauce

--an Uzbek carrot salad with an Asian "vinaigrette" of soy sauce, rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil, garlic, sugar, red pepper flakes, and sesame seeds

--cheese bread (yes, there was still some left for the dinner... but no leftovers for me, alas)

--a tea cake, not too sweet, that had black tea and apricot-cherry preserves (in lieu of plum jam) in the batter

All of this was very satisfying, of course. (When are my dinner guests ever not satisfied?)

But the crowning touch came from the boiled walnuts, those mysterious little black orbs, glistening in a sweet syrup, that came directly from the Republic of Georgia, courtesy of the generous Mitch Heat. Those rich little morsels definitely pleased the palate at the end of a fine meal, and I think we're all agreed that we either need to find another couple jars of these delicacies (quick! somebody scour the ethnic groceries in the region!)... or we need to commission a certain someone to bring back more this summer.

I have to admit that one of the things I enjoy most about the Dinner Club is the opportunity to test and sample different cuisines. So far our meals have ranged from the Americas to Europe and all around Asia (China, Japan, Thailand, India), with field trips to enjoy other areas such as Africa (Ethiopia). It's been wonderful to explore different spice combinations and to appreciate some of the similarities between cultures (little dough-wrapped savory appetizers seem to have a certain widespread appeal). And it's been a delight to discover "new" cuisines and to expand my own culinary skills by traveling afar, at least through the kitchen.

It's all about the food, really. And it's the food, not some "old sweet song," that will keep this Georgia on my mind.

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