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Posts Tagged ‘Tel Aviv’

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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Goodness gracious is it difficult to find a decent greasy breakfast in Israel.  As delicious and healthy as the standard Israeli breakfast fare is (eggs cooked any way, but usually as omelet or scrambled – accompanied by a large fresh salad, dips/sides – tahini, feta, cream cheese, tuna, fish roe in cream sauce, homemade jams – and fresh bread), I have been craving something more typically American or even British.  Something with animal fat, a mixture of creamy yolk, bloody juice, and spicy carbohydrates.  Oh, the agony!  My kingdom for a proper fry up!  And I’ve been coming up empty.

Not that Israelis don’t try.  But the couple times I have ordered the “Steak & Eggs,” slowly cropping up on trendier menus, I have been so sorely disappointed to the point where these eating establishments should be ashamed of themselves.   I won’t name names.  Just be wary.  I’m going to keep ordering it until I can create a more comprehensive picture.  Honestly, last week I was presented with three pitiful strips of “steak” that was as thin, tough, and stringy as boot leather (I refer to the classic Charlie Chaplin sketch below), topped with 2 overcooked “sunny side up” eggs (the yolks were almost solid), all over “hash browns” that embarrassingly consisted of what I can only describe as a giant lukewarm mound of ordinary fries cut up into smaller segments before being fried – with absolutely no seasoning.  Sadly, the best part of this dish was its name – “The Texas Hold’em.”  As you might imagine, I politely complained, and still insisted I pay for the entire meal.  I don’t believe in something for nothing.  It wasn’t the delightful waiter’s fault, after all.

Send me your recommendations for restaurants to try!

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Come one, come all!  From tonight, Saturday May 21 to Saturday May 28, the Golan Heights Winery is presenting their incredible yearly wine extravaganza at the port of Tel Aviv.   There will be 6 separate themed bars, and each cost only around 30 shekels to sample all four (or more) wines featured there.

All of the information online about the fest is in Hebrew.  However, it’s going to be fantastic.  The winemakers themselves are going to be there.  We’re opening top-end wines that are not yet on the market.  There are free workshops every night.  Blind tastings.  The works.

Day 1 was incredible! I got to open a Yarden Rom. That's right. Rom.

Basically, be there or be square.  You can come for 20 minutes, you can come for 4 hours.  It’s simple.  As it’s free to get in (it’s at the namal, after all), you can pick and choose exactly which of the 6 experiences you’d like to have.  Starts at about 7 pm every night (except Shabbat, when it’s after Shabbat ends, around 8 pm).

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Whether I like it or not, accept it or not, it’s what it is.  I’m working myself to death.  Much of the time I like what I do, but there is a good deal of time I dislike what I do.  The fact that I average 3-4 hours sleep, the fact that my university and creative work is suffering, the fact that I never see my friends – that is depressing.  And why am I writing about my misery (is it misery?) on this blog?  Well, I haven’t written in a while, and I know that when I force myself to write, I feel better, and I achieve a bit more order.  In fact, I only have about ten minutes to write right now.  Perfect.  Spitting it out.

Wine Update

Dixie – This fantastic top-rated Tel Aviv restaurant (near Azrieli – Yigal Alon 120) is hosting its annual Wine Festival in collaboration with the Golan Heights Winery and the Galil Mountain Winery.  You will find me there every lunch hour between today (well, I just finished my shift) and the 21st of May.  They are selling wines by the glass that just never get opened because they are so rare and expensive, as well as very popular wines at incredible discounts.  There is also a wine shop at the front of the store where you can buy these wines for prices lower than you can find at most wine shops.  So – for incredible meat (it’s a fantastic steak house, burgers, gourmet meat everything kind of place), and the best wine deals in town this week, head to Dixie.  To entice you, there is the Yarden Merlot from the organic vineyard Odem, available by the glass.  Brilliant wine.  Also the ever-popular and gorgeous Yarden Gewurtztraminer.

Piedmont MonthAlkalay (Alkalay 1, corner of Hashla, Basel Square), the wine bar/store at which I work is celebrating a month of wines from Piemonte, a region in northwest Italy, perhaps the very best growing region there is.  The three red varietals are Dolcetto, Barbera, and Nebbiolo.  We’ve got them all, including some fantastic Barolos and Barbarescos (if you’ve got a few hundred to shell out).  BUT there are several bottles of great stuff at great prices, 30-50 shekels per glass.  I especially love the Maria Gioana from Fratelli Giacosa, a spicy deep single vineyard Barbera, as well as a white wine, the first Cortese of Gavi I’ve ever drunk.  It is so flowery and delicious – could pass for a semi-dry wine, although it’s dry dry dry.

Person Wine News – soon to come.  I have big news, but I’m pretty certain I cannot share it yet.  I’m about to burst.

Finally, Personal Hell – I’m writing a short story I adore, and it was due two days ago – and I haven’t had a breath of time to finish a serious edit – it cannot possibly be read in its condition, despite the fact that I have the storyline down solid.  If I don’t get it done tonight, I’m in deep poo poo.  Wish me luck with finishing this story, my beloved main character Fatimah deserves her ending.

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The food I make at work. Except I improvised for a friend. I think this is prettier.

This holiday week was far too long.  Far, far too long.  No, I didn’t have a holiday.  I worked throughout the festival of freedom.  C’est la vie.  Frankly, although I was a little pissed about it all, I think I managed to be adult.  I did holiday-esque things.  I met up with friends.  Many of them.  Spent quality time catching up, drinking at cafes, taking long walks through interesting neighborhoods.  I got career advice, had girl talk, shared some meals, breathed fresh air.  I forced myself to start reading a non-fiction book.  I even managed to clean a large portion of my house.

But I still felt, and continue to feel, like a zombie.  For your viewing pleasure, images from my sleepwalking zombie Passover week.

Came upon a small, fascinating neighborhood. Maybe called the American Colony. Between Jaffa and Florentine. Lots of 19th century European and American buildings, getting renovated, a lovely church, and new condos, like this, being built. Notice the lower floors have a sort of stone finish & wooden shutters. I think it's sort of awesome.

The older buildings and the church in the distance. So lovely there. And so expensive.

Tiny hut from bygone years. In the middle of vast gentrification.

I never noticed this mural before. It's blurry, but you can make out a scene from the 1920's, a car, a horse, people. I doubt it was painted in the 20s, but I doubt even more that the convenience market put it there. Corner of Dizengoff and Esther HaMalka.

I LOVE this kind of car. It's a Subaru. Like a mad scientist's hybrid between a compact car and a pickup truck. Only Subaru, makers of safe and awesome, yet some of the world's ugliest cars. I was told by a friend that this model has the highest theft rate in Israel. Don't know if it's true, but the evidence is compelling. The Subaru is rugged and useful yet small and efficient. Bedouins use them all over the Negev desert. Oh - here's a punchline - the owners are too embarrassed to report their cars missing, as they would have to admit they actually chose to drive one of these! Badumdum. Oh well. Congratulations Subaru: the car of choice amongst Israeli auto thieves!

For one night, and one night only, ladies and gents, may I present, "used Korean car"!

Oh, no, a falling cow!

Oh, no, a falling cow AND a falling turtle!

By far the cutest cup of tea I have ever had, drunk with some great friends.

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Saint Paul's Cathedral during the London Blitz

I have gotten to the point where I cannot distinguish one day from another.  I didn’t realize it was Thursday – I only knew I had to be at work at 12 pm and that there was a lecture about Connie Willis‘s heroes at 9 pm at the Olamot Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival (sponsored by the Tolkien Society of Israel and the Israeli Science Fiction and Fantasy Guild).  I went.  It was the most normal thing I did this month, which is really saying something as a larger collection of fashion-clueless, absurdly costumed geeks I haven’t seen in a long time.  Tomorrow is the first day off in over a week.  The next day I work at 12 pm.  The next day I have a doctor’s appointment.  That’s how it goes.

Why have I become this clueless zombie?  Work and Passover.  We all complain about work.  Yet, I don’t hate what I do.  It’s just quite physically taxing, and my hours are long.  It can be demoralizing being a glorified waitress sometimes, but I’m getting over it.  I hope.  I’m quite proud of myself, I do have to admit.  It’s Passover, and pre-holiday wine sales are madness.  Wine sales the day before and of Passover are the highest of the year.  In fact I think most of the wine in the country is sold in those few days – but don’t quote me – I would need to find the stats.  In any case, I played my part admirably.  My sales for my winery were beyond fantastic, and for the most part, I had a great time.  Along with the wine bar work, I believe I worked I worked 45 hours in 4 days.  The haze I’m in is interesting.  The meaning of life, or rather, the search thereof, eludes me these days.  I don’t feel like reading at all.  I feel like I’m floating and not quite living.  Things like bills and taxes can wait, and I’m glad I’m not freaking…but this zombie phase has got to end.  Soon.  I want to look forward to reading a book, seeing friends with any sort of regularity, putting at least some attention into my studies (which I’ve basically abandoned for the last 3 weeks due to exhaustion), and perhaps…career, men, the future…and especially not feeling tired all the time.  Just realized it’s kind of ironic – my working like a dog, really slaving (worked a real 16+ hour day for the first time in forever) during THE holiday that celebrates freedom from bondage.  Yep.  Just my luck.

For the moment, I’m glad I did something other than sleep, watch reruns of Extreme Home Makeover (artificially-enduced emotional catharsis), and work.  It was weird paying 30 shekels for a 50 minute presentation on my favorite author that basically turned into a conversation with the audience of 20 that veered off at one point to Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel.  Yeah.  My kind of people.  I have to say, it was worth it to sit in a room with several others who had read, not even just heard of, Connie Willis, in Israel.  I adore Willis, and everyone who loves a good long read should pick up both Black Out and All Clear.  Especially if you’re a WWII buff.  It’s heartfelt storytelling crossed with extraordinary research – historical science fiction at its very, very best.

The bar at the corner of my street is playing dance/trans music so loud, I can feel the bass through the floor.  I live on the fourth floor.  And I’m at least 5 buildings down.  I don’t even play my own music this loud (relatively speaking – as it now sounds in my home).  Ugh.  Popcorn, green tea, and Extreme Home Makeover may be in the cards tonight.  Oh well.  I’ll have to find earphones first.  No rest for the weary.

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The European oyster - the native Oyster of France - "Huître plate" or "Gravette"

I could not resist.  Many know that for the past year or so I’ve been a de facto vegetarian.  I do believe it’s OK to eat meat – I simply do not want to consume the hormones and antibiotics that swim in our meat pool.  I’m for healthy happy animals.  Regarding seafood, I’ve been on the fence.  Overfishing is a big issue, and lots of species (other than the ones being targeted) are being annihilated in the process.  As I’ve not quite made up my mind, I have simply abstained from eating all animals this year.  Until Friday.

One each of five different kinds of oysters flown in directly from France

A guy in my yoga class, someone I’ve seen once or twice a week for over a year but have never actually spoken to, mentioned to our teacher after class that there was an event at his restaurant the next day.  Turns out he’s a chef at one of my favorite wine-tapas-y-bars in town, Basta, and they were flying in crates of oysters direct from France.  Free-for-all true-blue French oysters, best in the world, from 8 am until they run out.  I knew I would be there.

So after an excruciatingly long wine tasting (hot, little business, new high heeled boots), I walked about 20 minutes until I reached the Carmel Market area, a strange yet fitting location for this bistro.  Friday is my favorite day in the shuk – I can get the best deals – everyone wants to get rid of their produce before the Sabbath starts – and I know where the best vendors are.  10 minutes later, laden with all the fruit and veg I’ll need for a month – and I’m at Basta – looking at this:

Basta's oyster spread

France and oysters go way, way back.  From Roman times when France was known for the best oysters, all the way to modernity when France became the first country in the world to start cultivating oysters on a large commercial scale – the French take their oysters and oyster culture seriously.  This fantastic website I discovered, devoted entirely to oysters, quotes the poet Léon-Paul Fargue (1876-1947): “I love oysters. It’s like kissing the sea on the lips.” So here I was, thrilled beyond belief to be sitting at this charming Tel Aviv bistro – meters from the raging-pre-Shabbat shuk, (the vendors now screaming and lowering their prices every few minutes), about to consume these gorgeous, rare gems – about to plant a slobbering wet kiss on the lips of the sea.

I think they're just as beautiful on the outside

To tell you the truth, that expression is bang-on.  I’ve always told my curious kosher-keeping friends that eating oysters is like eating a mouthful of the sea.  But kissing the sea – on the lips – oh my – that injects the sexy passion into the act of eating oysters.  It feels so natural,  feeling the cold, creamy, briny loveliness slide into your mouth.  It’s like French-kissing your food.  A food that is the embodiment of French-kissing.  But cold.  Ice cold.  Weird, I know.

And so, my friends, the time has come, to talk of cultural oyster references.  The first that comes to mind is, of course, Lewis Carroll’s poem, “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” from Alice Through the Looking-Glass.  The most famous stanza:

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

However, my most favorite oyster scene is from Tampopo.  Please excuse the inane “commentary” from the person who posted the video onto YouTube.  Just watch the movie.

Ahh! So damned good.

"O Oysters," said the Carpenter, "You've had a pleasant run! Shall we be trotting home again?' But answer came there none-- And this was scarcely odd, because They'd eaten every one.

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