My original summer plans to travel across Russia via the Trans Siberian Rail had to change because I could not get the appropriate visa. I studied in St. Petersburg for three weeks. I cooked a special dinner for the Slowfood representative. My dinner was a mixture of past dishes that they had loved the year before and new innovations. I prepared a perch from Finland stuffed with ratatouille. It was caught by the man of the house. I also prepared a veil loin served with a mushroom creamy apple brandy sauce. I served the traditional chicken liver pate with truffles. I baked brioche for breakfast. We drank a lot of wine, we were a happy bunch.
My next city in Russia was Nizhny Novgorod where I prepared a dinner for the Official of the city of Nizhny Novgorod. Niznhy Novgorod is a sister city of Philadelphia. I baked fish smothered in fresh herbs, tomatoes, carrots, and eggplant. I added at the last minute a little gratin on top of it.
My next stop was Moscow. I met again with my friends from the language school. I stayed in the same room as last year. I was delighted that my left shoe was waiting for me since I had left it there the year before. On the 21st of June, I had to depart because of the date on my visa stamp. (I was very disappointed but I’m a good sport so I thought of good things that I love in life. One of them is wine. I thought of Georgia which is famous for its wine so I went on the internet, wrote vineyards of Georgia, a vineyard came up called Pheasant’s Tears. I love Pheasant, I love to eat it and I thought it was a good omen. I emailed them saying that I would love to come and cook with them and match my food with their wine. A gentleman called John Wurdenman replied “come and cook for us.”
It is in Eastern Georgia in the province of Kizipi overlooking the Alazan Valley and snowed capped Caucasus mountains. It is near the village of Tibaani in the shadow of the 6th century Monastery of St Stephen. The Georgian winery was founded in 2007 by John Wurdeman and Gila Patahshvila. John is an American painter who came to Georgia in 1996 bought a house in Sighnaghi. Gila is a winegrower with wine, which goes back 8 generations)
So, on the 21st of June, I’m in a plane to Tbilisi, Georgia where a driver from the vineyard is waiting for me. I arrive at the vineyard. There are different tables set by a beautiful open kitchen. I have no sooner put my bag down that a gentleman by the name of Paul ordered me to sit down and taste his wine. I obviously obeyed and was delighted to taste some organic wines.
My stay was extremely enjoyable. I cooked everyday in the kitchen with a very lively gentleman Gia. His wife Tamiro was the organizer of the different projects that Pheasant Tear’s run. (They are wine tasting, dinners, horseback riding, visits of the vineyard, historic visit of churches and monasteries, and so on.) I prepared my traditional chocolate mousse, my tajine which made 15 German gentleman feel in Heaven. I did fig custard pie, flourless orange cake and taught a little bit of the nuances of French cooking. We don’t put too much of anything, we keep a balance.