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SUMMER RULES is a series where we ask people to share with us how they’re staying safe and sane during this very different summer season; from mask suggestions to soundtrack selections, we’ll take a peek into how others are making these challenging times work.

Today we’re joined by Jonathan and Laura Nelms, owners of Georgian restaurants Tabla and Supra; they’ve been keeping their cool by hiking, biking and more this summer:

How do you usually feel about summer, as a season overall, and how do you feel about THIS summer, by comparison?

Who doesn’t love summer?!  This one’s been a little different, a lot more challenging, but for all the weighty stuff that’s been going on all year we’ve found plenty of bright spots to keep our spirits up.

What is your summer shaping up to look like?

We opened up Tabla, our second Georgian restaurant, on July 1, so that’s been a highlight.  Not ideal to open up a new shop in the middle of a global pandemic for sure.  But as we learn every day, a lot of things aren’t under our control, so we just adapt and roll with the punches.  We keep getting up every morning, going to work at Tabla and Supra and doing our best.  We’ll get through this patch.

Is there anything in particular you’re actually looking forward to this summer?

There’s a lot we were looking forward to – some of it came through and a lot of it didn’t.  Like everyone else on planet Earth.  (So not like we can complain!)  

Specifically, we were planning on dropping our kids off at summer camp (the awesome Eagle’s Nest Camp down in Pisgah National Forest, NC – where I (Jonathan) went when I was a kid) and then taking off for Tbilisi to host a food and wine-oriented trip through Georgia with our friends from Living Roots, a Georgian travel company.  That was going to be shortly after opening Tabla.

Obviously camp and trip got cancelled, and Tabla’s debut got pushed back after COVID-19 shut down DC health inspections and all that.  But again, can’t complain since everybody on Earth is dealing with this thing, and we have it better than most.  

Coming to the end of summer, we’re looking forward to a ton of birthdays, anniversaries, first days of school and such.  September’s a busy month for the Nelms family!

What are some of your tips for staying safe and sane right now? 

Mainly we’re just trying to focus on what we’ve got to do today and trying to spend as little time as possible dwelling on “When is this thing going to end?!”  Our kids help.  They are almost-8 and 11 and are bummed about online school and missing camp, missing their friends.  But if they can work together and make brownies – as they did yesterday – without killing each other or burning the house down, then it’s a good day.

Try to keep things in perspective.  We know we have it better than 99% of the people in the world, so we’ll get through it, and we’re doing our best to make sure our staff at both places and our guests stay positive and healthy and safe until this thing does end, whenever that may be. 

And, of course, wear a mask! 

Go-to summer wellness practice advice? Any spots in particular that have been helping you on that front?

Get some exercise, inside, outside, however you can.  It’s hard to find time – especially with the two restaurants that require constant adaptation – but you never exercise and say, “I wish I hadn’t worked out just now.”  (Except for the other day when I pulled a muscle.)

Laura: I love bike riding–especially in Rock Creek Park.  I enjoyed it more at the beginning of the summer, when it wasn’t quite so humid (and rainy!). 

Where did you get your mask from? And what, aside from that, has been your more or less go-to summer uniform?

Jonathan: My masks are strictly utilitarian.  I lose things.  So I stick with the box of basic blue and white surgical masks down at Tabla.  We got some black ones from the city – when they were handing out PPE care packages to DC restaurants – so if I’m looking for something a little more ‘evening wear’ I go with one of those.

Laura: I made some for myself and my family (and, yes, Jonathan promptly lost his).  I’ll wear the blue surgical masks at Supra as they’re disposable and I don’t have to deal with mask washing all the time!  I also got some cute ones at Old Navy when I want to switch it up a little.

What (if anything) are you reading right now, and why do you recommend it? (Alternatively, just share a favorite book.)

Jonathan: I’ve been reading Mollie Panter-Downes’ London War Notes.  She was a novelist who covered WWII for the New Yorker, sharing the Londoners’ perspective on the Blitz and beyond.  Her weekly dispatches showed their mood and resilience over years of facing constant shortages of food, clothing, and just about everything else while – by the way – bombs were raining down night after night.  Some of the shortages went on for 10 years, well after the war.

So, yeah, if they could get through all that with a brave face and good cheer, we can all wear masks and wash our hands a lot.  Puts things in perspective.

Laura: Guns, Germs and Steel.  Nothing like reading about how disease (and other forces) have shaped society..  Definitely puts our current pandemic in perspective.

For something lighter, we both really enjoyed A Gentleman in Moscow.  It’s an entertaining story about a Russian nobleman who is forced to live in a hotel (rather than be executed, so not a bad trade-off).  Makes you appreciate that at least you can get outside during these socially distanced/isolated times!  Despite his confinement, the character manages to make close friends and live an interesting life, and even have some adventures. The book is set in Moscow, which also made it fun to read, as it mentions many of the places we lived near during our time there. 

Do you have a go-to summer hang-out recipe that still works for a socially distanced gathering? And/or just a favorite general summer recipe that’s still a go-to, even now?

Back when we had backyard BBQs we would do the usual stuff – hamburgers, hotdogs, etc. – but we always had some khachapuri handy from Supra.  Our friends always want it.  We’d usually have a bunch of Imeruli khachapuris, since those can be sliced easily and are better finger food than, say, the runny-eggy Ajaruli.

Now we’re mostly hanging out with ourselves, but Tabla’s got a new Elote (Mexican street corn) Megruli khachapuri, part of our ‘unconventional’ series of khachapuri.  It’s basically Chef Alfredo’s Mexican heritage combined by him and Chef Lonnie with the perfect platform for deliciousness, the khachapuri.  That’s our current bestseller at Tabla, and we’ll definitely be bringing that to some backyard BBQs next summer!

Laura: I’m a huge fan of Ina Garten’s roasted vegetable salad with orzo. I think it’s the perfect summer salad to highlight garden veggies (although, we’ve had to supplement quite a bit!) 

What about a great summer cocktail or mocktail recipe?

Jonathan: Jamey, Tabla’s GM, created what may be the perfect summer cocktail.  It’s a sweet – but not too sweet – fortified Georgian wine called Zigu combined with Luxardo cherry liqueur and St. Germaine.  A little soda and an orange peel lighten it up.  It’s like a grown-up fruit punch, sweet but not too sweet, great spirits but not at all too boozy, and very refreshing.  Perfect for our hot and humid summers here in DC.

Laura: I love our Mtskheta Mule (a mule with the Georgian spirit ‘chacha’ instead of vodka).  It’s the perfect summer drink to me! 

What’s on your summer playlist this year, or are there three songs that are permanent summer favorites for you?

Jonathan: I’ve been listening to a lot of old Talking Heads (the 70s New Wave Talking Heads) and Little Feat, so if I had to pick  three I’d say “Pulled Up” and “Life During Wartime” by the Talking Heads and “Willing” by Little Feat.

Laura: I don’t know.  Whatever’s on the Georgian playlist at Supra.   

Where do you wish you COULD GO this summer, if there were no restrictions or safety risks?

Well, Georgia obviously.  We go to the wine festivals every year to see what our friends have come up with over there.  There’s the New Wine Festival and the Zero Compromise natural wine festival, both in Tbilisi every May.  And we were looking forward to bringing a dozen or so friends to the Georgian wine country and some other great spots on our July trip with Living Roots.  We’re working on rescheduling for July 2021, so fingers crossed.

And is there anywhere you’ve been safely going that you could recommend for people who live nearby? Any day trips or local spots worth mentioning, for example?

We took the girls to Patapsco State Park near Baltimore.  There’s a waterfall with a swimming hole that they enjoyed.  You can also swim in the river.  It’s an escape that feels more remote and secluded than it is!

We’ve also done several hikes, although our girls whine about this!  One they didn’t seem to mind as much was at Schaffer Farms.  It’s actually mountain bike trails, but we went during the week and there were very few bikers.  It was a nice, shady trail and we topped off the day by grabbing an ice cream at the drive-thru at Rocky Point Creamery. 

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Tabla is located at 3227 Georgia Avenue NW
HOURS:
Thur, Fri, Sat – 10:00 AM – 11:00 PM
Sun, Tue, Wed – 10:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Closed on Mondays
Order online

 

Supra is located at 1205 11th Street NW
HOURS:
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thur – 5:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Fri, Sat – 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM
Sun – 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Order online

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