A guide to a Georgian feast: how to make a wedding menu in Georgian style

Georgia — a small country between Europe and Asia — can boast of truly gorgeous authentic cuisine. It is based on simple local products: meat, fruit and vegetables, herbs and dairy products. Thanks to the professionalism of the cooks (both in luxurious restaurants and ordinary kitchens), these ingredients turn into aromatic dishes rich in flavors.

Georgia is also famous for its ancient dinner tradition. One can hardly imagine a feast or an important occasion in Georgia without a full table where all the relatives and friends will gather. Sometimes even random guests might join such a dinner. A good Georgian dinner is when the table is full of food, various dishes change each other almost without a break, and all the plates are put as on a chessboard.

The sequence of the main dishes is strictly regulated and rarely violated. In this feature we will try to help you learn more about these exciting traditions, we will tell you about the most popular festive dishes and give you some useful advice considering the preparation of your traditional Georgian dinner menu.

Are there going to be khinkali?

The festive menu is a special set of cold and warm snacks and main courses which are served in a particular order. We are sorry to upset all the fans of khinkali: this traditional dish made of pastry and stuffed with spicy meat does not feat the festive menu. Firstly, khinkali are traditionally considered as very simple rural food and they are not usually included in celebratory dinners. Secondly, khinkali do not exactly match the format of a gala dinner, as the way you should eat them is quite difficult, the meat broth may stain the beautiful dresses and suits of your guests.

Any dinner starts with appetizers. In Georgia, it can be a Georgian cheese assortment, plates with vegetables richly covered with big bunches of herbs, tender eggplants with nuts, or pkhali. Pkhali may be made of spinach with the addition of herbs and walnuts, or they may be served as an assortment: pkhali made of beet and pickled cabbage with thick nut paste. Pickles are also classified as cold snacks in Georgia, and the main one is soft jonjoli (pickled flowers from Western Georgia), trouts fried in flour and cold grilled chicken. And of course, already at the very beginning of the dinner buckets with hot Georgian bread “puri” are served.

Almost right after the start of the dinner, salads with fresh tomatoes and cucumbers are served. They may be dressed with aromatic unfiltered sunflower oil from Kakheti, or a special sauce of oil, vinegar, and chopped walnuts. Sometimes a chicken salad with mayonnaise is offered as an alternative to a salad with fresh vegetables.

After the salad khachapuri is served — steaming, right out of the oven. Generally, it will be an Imeruli khachapuri (with cheese only inside) or a Megruli khachapuri (with cheese inside and on the top). You might want to have a break at this moment, but it’s time for the main course. :)

The main courses start with various types of roast: it may be chashushuli (soft veal stewed with vegetables) or osrti (beef stewed with tomatoes). Depending on the exact season, chakhapuli may be the main course — it is lamb or beef (and in a vegetarian variation it is mushrooms) stewed in white wine with lots of herbs and green tkemali. After that, shkmeruli is served — it is chicken in cream and garlic sauce, or blackberry sauce, or tkemali sauce. Then it is time for kebabs, covered in thin lavash, and barbeque from different types of meat and fish. The last dish is usually mushrooms stewed in ketsi (traditional Georgian pot). Sometimes they are covered with suluguni which roasts till soft golden crust. In addition to all this abundance, fried potatoes finally appear on the table!

In any Georgian restaurant or hotel where are may arrange your wedding, this menu set and serving order will be the same by default. Some managers and chefs will be very surprised if you ask them to change something in this traditional dinner rules. Anyway, this doesn’t mean that you cannot change it :) If you want to combine Georgian dishes with European cuisine, restaurant managers are usually glad to work out such a menu. You could also focus on vegetarian dishes, for example, as the recipes of authentic Georgia cuisine are often quite variable.

Will there be enough food?

This is the most popular question our couples ask us: everybody wants their guests to have enough food and stay happy over the entire dinner. We can assure everyone who is planning their wedding in Georgia: nobody will stay hungry here!

The main thing that you should remember about Georgian dinner is that every dish is calculated per five people. This only does not apply to bread and pastries from corn — mchadi and chvishtari. If you are planning to have 40 guests, for example, you should order 8 portions of each dish. As for the bread, it should be one puri for two people and one mchadi and chvishtari for each guest. Don’t forget that Georgian cuisine is very hearty! For many guests appetizers from vegetables, pastry, walnuts, and cheese will be already enough.

It is generally believed that there should be 1500-2000 grams of food for one person. Calculating the precise amount of grams of Georgian dishes is quite a challenge, as they are supposed to be shared between several guests at the same time depending on their tastes. While discussing the precise amount of food ask for a specific number of grams, but take into account that they will not show the exact amount of food for each guest.

What about wine?

At Georgian dinner people traditionally drink white wine, which often has a light amber color. It has such a unique tint because this type of wine is made on a very ancient technology: wine is stored in big clay vessels called kvevri. These pots are put beneath the ground where they are kept up to six months — together with the grape skins and the juice. That is the reason why this wine has such a rich color, tanninity and aromatic flavors of dried fruit. The so-called “orange” wine can be very helpful during the long festive dinner. It is considered that a person can drink more white wine than the red one: and average Georgian drinks up to three liters during the dinner. So we usually recommend our couples to order two glasses of red wine and one glass of a white one for a person. In any case, it might happen that you will need to additionally order more wine.

Almost every wedding venue we work with offers its own homemade wine, and it is always calculated in litres: there are 5-6 glasses in 1 litre. In case you prefer the bottled wine, it will be 4 glasses in one bottle.

Despite the common belief, people generally prefer dry wine in Georgia. It greatly fits the snacks and the main course which are usual at a big dinner. Of course, if your guests prefer the semi-sweet wines, you should provide a certain amount of this type of wine as well. And also keep in mind that Georgia produces not only amazing wines but also chacha — the famous Georgian vodka that is produced of grape skins after it is taken from a kvevri.

A good Georgian dinner is a combination of several aspects: happy emotions, great mood, delicious food, tasty wine, and warm soulful atmosphere in general. Choosing a wedding dinner in Georgian style you not just guarantee an unforgettable gastronomic impression for your guests and also a new experience of having dishes changing each other continuously without letting you to stop :) Trust your senses, discuss all the details with your wedding planner and do not forget about the guests who have specific preferences — children, vegetarians and people with allergies. All this will help you to take care of everything in advance and then just wait for this special day.

With love, yours Mandarini team