Satellite Republic: Street-Food Dumplings from Georgia

A year ago, when pastry chef Boris Portnoy left the high-end restaurant at Meadowood in the Napa Valley, he also made a break from the semi-Italian, quasi-French food that's ubiquitous around San Francisco. Portnoy was born in Moscow, but instead of embracing borscht and pirozhki, he was drawn to the Caucasus, the ancient region between the Caspian and Black Seas. And while Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Chechnya were all contenders, Portnoy settled on Georgia. “It has the climate of Northern California,” he says, “so it lends itself to exploration here.”

Earlier this year, Portnoy christened his new solo venture Satellite Republic, and hitched a mobile Georgian kitchen (including a tandoor-like clay oven for baking flatbreads) to a moped tricycle he rolls out for pop-ups and private events. Portnoy recently showed up in San Francisco at a neighborhood party in the Inner Richmond, making juicy beef dumplings called khinkali. “They are made everywhere in Georgia, but people say they’re best in the mountains,” explains Portnoy, adding that they’re typically made by women. “They say that when you can make 19 folds on each one, you are ready for a husband.”

Photos by Chris Rochelle / CHOW.com

John Birdsall is senior editor at CHOW. You can follow him on Twitter. Follow CHOW, too, and become a fan on Facebook.