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Posts Tagged ‘Cheese’

Being a long-term expat gives a person a unique perspective, as you well may imagine – an outside eye with insider access – and in the case of these bloggers, the ability to be ambassadors to the world at large.  It’s been a while since I focused on food myself, and I want to highlight to whoever may be reading, a review of some incredible blogs – AND – their very special qualities.  I’ve chosen and linked some specific posts to shed a light on the diversity of boutique dairies and cheeses, markets, spices, comfort foods, and out-of-the-way corners/villages/eateries that guidebooks would never even know to mention.  Enjoy!

Milk, Dairies, and Cheese

Israelis love their cheeses, eaten (much to my chagrin, actually) very fresh.  For fresh cheeses, however, they’re extraordinary.  A huge variety of cow, goat, and sheep cheeses are produced by the largest and smallest boutique dairies all over the country.  Baroness Tapuzina told us about her visit to the Ein Kamonim goat far recently.  Sarah Melamed of Food Bridge posted about a comparison between camel, cow, goat, and buffalo milk, oh my!  To add my recommendations on Israeli cheese, I adore the Markovitch Dairy – run by a sweet couple, on their own, with their goats, near Petach Tikvah – they make a cheese very similar to Camembert, with a blue center – during events they cater, they stuff big majoul dates with a softer goat cheese – to die for.  A bigger better-known artisanal cheese-maker is the Jacobs Farm – they make a hard cheese with pimento and caraway seed that is so incredibly different – it took me a while to like it, but I adore it now.

Markets and Places

Pita with zatar

My friend Liz, of Cafe Liz fame, is truly a market connoisseur.  Actually, most of these bloggers probably are, but I as know Liz well and we hang out in Tel Aviv quite a bit – she has been my personal ambassador to some gems.  Here, she tells us about Ramle, an out-of-the-way melting pot of a little town near the airport with an incredible history.  Here, a foray into the Levinsky Street market, undoubtedly the best place to buy spices in Tel Aviv – a bizarre 2-3 blocks of storefront if you’ve ever seen one.  And in a post I highly recommend, Where to Buy Food in Tel AvivLiz compared the prices of several basic food items at the shuk (market), and several commercial and organic stores around town – with very interesting findings for the consumer.

Sarah has a whole page devoted to shuks (markets), that you should really check out.  She’s written about Nazareth on a couple of occasions, somewhere most of us urban-folk would never venture.  The food scene is incredible there, and the New York Times recently featured it in an article, “Nazareth as an Eating Destination.”  A great pictorial is Spice Up Your Life in Nazareth, and a more complete anecdote is Nazareth Shuk: A Kaleidoscope for the Senses.  Another great post is by Miriam Kresh, the veteran blogger of Israeli Kitchen, also littered with fabulous photographs.  Miriam’s knowledge of the natural foods around us and the making of such basic (yet to us, complex) processes such as wine-making, soap-making, lotion-making, olive-pickling, and much more is astounding.

Comfort Food Around Us

Stuffed peppers

The new Jerusalemite among us is Ariella, of Ari Cooks.  A trained pâtissière, I love reading through her recipes.  A recent post of hers focuses on soups, Soups for Thought, and it was so so so good. So apt for the winter, so cold this year, making up for last year’s heat wave.  She links to several other soup recipes, so it’s an excellent resource.  Miriam has a great post on pickling olives at home, a local staple, olives are.  Sarah is hands down the kubbeh expert among us, and if you don’t know what these lovely semolina dumplings stuffed with meat are, do click her link.  Here is also Sarah’s excellent, beautiful, and brief journey through Israeli foods, including the ubiquitous falafel, foreigners so know us by.

I have skipped so much and focused on too few blogs — the amount of recipes, the innovation of this cooking, this east-meets-west, foreign-domestic, old-new, always fresh outlook displayed by the food bloggers of Israel is inspiring.  If you live here, I hope you choose to eat well and eat interestingly.  If you don’t live here, when you visit, make food a priority.  It’s so special and vibrant and fresh here.

Have a great week, all!  Here’s to getting through the winter!

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My apartment is ready for its closeup

It’s been forever. I know.

Since I’ve written I have:

  • Created a wonderful wine tasting for a food bloggers’ dinner
  • Meditated until my butt and thighs and back no longer hurt from the experience
  • Discovered my sister’s grilled cheese sandwich press (sizzling behind me at the moment)
  • Returned to vegetarian tendencies given up ten years ago after being inspired by my Buddhist learning and reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. Read it, please.
  • Worked worked worked worked for my various clients
  • Been on a few first dates, which says something
  • Witnessed a near suicide bus-bomb in central Tel Aviv
  • Developed a beautiful friendship
  • Been filmed for 4 days for an international television show called House Hunters International (I don’t believe I can speak more about it for contractual reasons – but believe me – it was an incredibly interesting and awesome experience – made even more so by the most chill fab camera/sound/directing crew that ever was)
  • Broken up with my therapist
  • Drunk some really incredible wine (I adore the winery I work for, I really truly do)
  • Watched the entirety of FlashForward in about 5 days and was horrified to learn it was canceled (what is it with crappy TV execs who can the most exciting, thought-provoking shows, e.g. Firefly)
  • Had my poor Fischer cat in the hospital for nearly a week with a blocked up bladder – had to have surgery which turned him into a her – and it cost me a bloody fortune.
  • AND – now I’m flying to the United States for 3+ weeks! AND if you can believe it, I bought the ticket 3 days ago.  One of the most last-minute crazy-ass trips I’ve ever, ever organized (or not organized, as so happens).  Even when I went to India, I got the ticket 2 weeks before I went.  Ah, life

So…getting back into blogging sucks.  When you finally get on a roll, you’re on a roll.  That’s what I’m attempting to do.  I’m going to post some pics, have some laughs, and send me some love in the form of comments, my dears.

My Pretty Apartment

Our Rooftop Garden

I discovered the panorama setting...

And the collage setting...

And the frame setting...of my camera phone...I see fun in my future

Sunset in Jaffa in the Adjami neighborhood

Fischer after the sex change operation

Tons of herbs my sister's friends brought from kibbutz. This is a fraction of what I froze.

Quick vegan attempt at a lasagna type thing - that's a whole "Mangol" Leaf on top (chard?)

Pretty salmon as a mezze at Manta Ray

Antique coffee cup at Basta near the shuk

Amazing Israeli group playing classical Indian music at the close of a 2-day meditation retreat

Very satisfying and affordable grilled cheese at Segafredo on Frishman - ask for tomatoes inside

Best cheeses in Tel Aviv - Hinawi Carlebach

Wearing his heart on his sleeve? Time running out?

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A ripe, runny Camembert. At iGourmet.com.

I discovered the best place in Israel to buy cheese.  Shockingly enough, it’s in the wine shop I’ve worked at a half-dozen times — I simply never explored the other rooms containing the super-expensive butcher and deli, as by the end of a 5-hour shift talking, pouring, flirting, selling wine on your feet, you just want to get the hell out of there.  Yesterday after I finished polishing my wine glasses I was still feeling rather spry and curious (very good day for sales), and to tell the truth, I fancied buying some handmade un-kosher sausages for dinner (the shop is owned by Christian Arabs, so I thought I might snag some real pork bangers).  No luck.  I didn’t like what I saw at the butcher’s counter, so I made my way past the cheeses.  And stopped for a half hour.

Wine and More” – the Hinnawi family’s branch on Carlebach (Carlebach 25, Tel Aviv), is pretty awesome.  Cheeses so overpriced, I wanted to cry, but awesome.   The wines are reasonable, but I suppose when you’re the only one in Israel selling Epoisse and Brunost and Extra-Oud Goudsa Kaas, you can pick your price.  And boy did they.

Hinnawi Carlebach - the cheese section in the back

I came out with three cheeses I haven’t eaten in years and years — but paid close to 100 shekels (30 USD) after a 20% discount (b/c the cheesemonger was a nice guy who used to be a ballet dancer in NYC for 18 years before he came back to Israel to run a restaurant for twelve years that went out of business two years ago) for an amount of cheese that would have cost me maybe $15 at a Whole Foods or less than $10 at a regular grocery store (not that they would have these cheeses).  Seriously folks.  Three slices of cheese.  With a discount.  But I had to have ’em.  They were the best.

Bleu des Basques

A little bit about why I adore cheese — apart from the fact that cheese is delicious, and that I have yet to meet one I didn’t like (including Norwegian “rotten cheese” that smells like the worst 10-day-old socks and causes most people to vomit)  — for pennies, for the change beneath your sofa cushions, you can have the best.  The very best.  Because even though I paid through the roof for a few hundred grams of three cheeses — I could never have bought the finest bottle of Champagne for that amount.  I couldn’t have snagged any fois gras.  No truffles.  No Michelin-starred filet mignon.  Because folks, this is what this cheese is — the very best in the world.  My $30 bought me 2-3 days worth (if I’m lucky) of a ride in a Porsche.  I truly believe that.  Each and every one of these cheeses is handmade, by real people, with recipes that are hundreds of years old, are aged in locations specific to the type of cheese, and many many have been awarded AOC (regional and production approval – like for wines), or similar, and are true products of their terroir.

The incomperable Epoisse

Many of us may never get to drink a bottle of Cristal while wolfing down Iranian Caviar on a yacht off the French Riviera.  But with $5-10 in your pocket, your local cheese shop will send you home with the world’s best cheese.  Maybe not a lot of it.  But it’s the genuine article, and an incredible pleasure to behold. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have the Mona Lisa in their home for an evening?  AND get to eat it?

Norway's sweet & creamy "Brown Cheese"

I urge all of you to go to your local cheese shop, or even a Whole Foods, and taste (if they don’t let you taste, it’s not a good cheese shop — you should be able to sample almost everything before buying — with the exception of the soft cheeses that would fall apart and need their rinds unbroken to keep aging) — and buy cheese.  If you don’t know where to buy good cheese, go online, open the yellow pages, ask a friend.  There is no excuse for waxy grocery store Swiss and mild neon orange cheddar.

I can’t tell you what an awesome thing  it was to arrive at home with those cheeses after that long long day on my feet.  I put together a plate with small slices of Norwegian brown cheese, Bleu des Basques, and a super-white hard aged goat’s cheese, a few buttery crackers, a handful of organic dates (I live in Israel, after all), and a couple tiny clementines.  If that isn’t a feast fit for a king, I don’t know what is.  Add a glass of cheap Scotch, the last couple episodes of Firefly, and I achieved an hour’s worth of bliss.  Believe me, that kind of peace is worth its weight in gold.  Not that that sentence makes any sense.

Sent to me by a facebook friend – if you haven’t seen this video, you must:

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