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GORGING GEORGIAN

The country’s chefs are keeping their culinary heritage alive by putting their twists on traditional recipes

@Wendell23

WHEN I FIRST went to Georgia in 1998, I stayed at Betsy’s, the only hotel in Tbilisi that was not full of refugees from the Georgian government’s wars with the breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It was named after Betsy Haskell, an indomitable American who ran the guesthouse for diplomats and aid workers. Bemused by my arrival, she declared, “A tourist! I think we had one of those last year.”

In those days of a post-Soviet flatlining economy, there was very little electricity, no municipal heat and few places to eat. The old apparatchik Soviet restaurants had closed and been replaced by roadside stands for pork barbecued over vine cuttings, and rickety cabins where grandmothers folded khinkali, wonderful topknot dumplings filled with herbed meat and slurpy broth. They were made fresh for every (occasional) customer, so they took an appetite-whetting age to arrive.

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