While sampling the local cuisine is an integral part of any travel experience, you’ll find that partaking in a traditional Georgian supra is much more than time set aside to simply eat. A supra, or feast, is how Georgians celebrate all kinds of events—from weddings and birthdays to the arrival of travelers such as yourself; supras are the medium through which Georgians showcase both the delectable cuisine and exuberant hospitality for which they are famous.
There are no courses in a supra; rather, a seemingly staggering number of entrées are spread before you at the same time. As the tantalizing aromas of garlic, tarragon, basil, and coriander fill the air, you may find it difficult to discern which dishes to try first. Once you take your first bite, well, you give in and accept you will just have to try them all.
Georgians have mastered elevating simple ingredients into exquisite culinary delights. While each region of Georgia features its own repertoire of edible tradition, the greatest difference in recipes is between west and east. Dishes served in the west, heavily influenced by Turkish culture, focus on vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and pumpkin. Walnuts are often used in place of meat, and some form of corn bread and cow’s milk cheese is served with each meal. Dishes developed in the eastern regions reflect Iranian culture; meat, particularly mutton and pork, is oftentimes the star of the show, while wheat bread and sheep’s milk cheese round out the meal.
A few dishes commonly found at a typical supra are:
- Barbecued pork with pomegranate juice and ajika, a hot, spicy paste
- Khinkali—folded dumplings of chopped herbs and beef, a national favorite
- Abkhazian—eggplant with walnuts and ajika
- Chahohbili—a stew of chicken and tomato sauce
- Gebzhalia—a cheese dish made with matsoni, a fermented food similar to yogurt
- Kalmakha—oyster mushrooms with rachuli bacon
- A variety of sauces, thick and fragrant, often made with fruit puree and spices
And a word about the wine . . . No supra is complete without countless toasts, oftentimes led by a tamada, or toastmaster, who finishes each with a joyful, “Gaumarjos!” Wine is an essential element to Georgian culture, and as Georgia has been making wine for approximately 8,000 years, it’s no wonder that the area has perfected the process. Fermentation takes place in large, beeswax-sealed terracotta vessels (kvevris) that are buried underground where it is easier to maintain a constant temperature. White grapes are fermented with the seeds, skins, and stems, or pomace, which imbues the wine with a gorgeous amber color and robust flavor that perfectly pairs with dishes traditionally served with a red. No matter what color the wine in your glass, however, you’ll raise it high, and often, as you experience the warm welcome of Georgia’s supra. Gaumarjos!
For more information on our upcoming expeditions to Georgia, visit our trip pages: