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Posts Tagged ‘Tel Aviv’

A Vogne-Romanee over my notes.

I’m thinking of changing the name to “Wine Wednesday.” The W’s go so well with the day I happen to write these posts.  Opinions?  I’m also not sure anyone is reading — my more quirky culture posts seem more popular — so give me a shout out in any case to let me know your thoughts.

What I Tasted:

I was invited by my employer to attend a private wine tasting hosted by a major import company, featuring the wines of M. Chapoutier.  It was held at the Institut Francais on Rothschild Blv in Tel Aviv.  I’m a big fan of Rhone Valley wines, Syrahs can drive me nuts, I swear.  But, they’ve got to be good, and it’s a region that exports a lot of mediocre stuff.  Apart from the exceptional blini being served along with excessive amounts of French cheeses, a knowledgeable representative of Chapoutier presented a long array of his wines.  The only ones of note to me were the “Ermitage” wines.  Ermitage (without the more common “H” – Hermitage – is commonly used to denote the better single vineyard wines) wines that were best included their “Le Pavillion” and  “L’Ermite.” At the time I didn’t know that they were priced at 147 and 176 Euro per bottle, but it makes sense.  These single vineyards are ancient, the Pavillion on the slope side of the larger pf the two Hermitage hills, and the L’Ermite at the top, where the soil is very poor, the ancient vines really needing to fight to survive, and producing a terribly small yield.  The Hermitage region is one I will be keeping an eye on.  These wines are bold and full of fruit, that gorgeous cassis I adore so much, that rich magenta color – so different from the Bourgognes we drink often at the wine shop. Interesting facts: Hermitage wines were the favorite of the Czars of Russia, and in fact, in the 19th century Bordeaux wines were “hermitaged” (mixed with Hermitage) in order to fetch a higher price.  Cool beans.

I also had the pleasure of drinking the above pictured wine this week, and it was wonderful.  The “La Forge de Tart” is the second wine, one of two, that this domain makes, and it doesn’t come out every year.  As a “second” wine, it’s laughable, as it’s as good as most grand cru Bourgognes out there.  This producer’s got a crazy awesome story, so here’s a little about the “Clos de Tart:”

A rare gem, Clos de Tart has been owned by the Mommessin family since 1932 — only the third proprietor of this historic domaine founded in 1141 by Cistercian nuns, the Bernardines de Tart. Located on the very best slopes of Morey-Saint-Denis in the Côte de Nuits, Clos de Tart, only 7.53 hectares (18.6 acres) in size, is the largest grand cru monopole in Burgundy, with a picturesque, 15th-century, stone wall surrounding the grand cru vineyard. Clos de Tart carries the distinction of being one of the few grand cru monopoles in Burgundy that comprises an appellation in its entirety. Clos de Tart makes just two wines. Low-yield, old-vine vineyards are harvested by hand and vinified in six separate lots, and the best lots achieve the bottled status of Clos de Tart Grand Cru. In some vintages, the domaine also produces a second wine called La Forge de Tart Premier Cru, which is typically made from the younger vines (25 years and under).

That’s it for me this week, I’m afraid.  I’m exhausted and expected at the wine shop in under an hour.  Night before last was an all-nighter, spent writing a short story I should have been developing for over a month.  Oh well.  I’m still very proud of what I produced.  Perhaps I’ll post it here…after a couple revisions.  Human milk has been in the news a good amount these days… Cheers to you all!  Always remember to drink good wines…life is far too short.

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Welcome to weekly fun stories, facts,and resources about wine – usually gleaned during the past week by me.

News

Hubert de Montille

 

Hubert and Etienne de Montille, granddaddy of Domaine De Montille and his son, are in Israel this week.  The wine store where I work carries a large and exceptional array of their family’s wines.  It’s a bizarre honor for us to have him here.  There is an exclusive wine tasting with them on Monday, March 14, at Delal Restaurant (in Neve Tsedek).  Information in Hebrew (google translation into English).  It costs 600 shekels, but if you have the dough, go!

LA MAISON LADURÉE macarons, Paris, brought by the de Montilles. Best I’ve ever had.

Domaine De Montille: Located in Volnay, just south of Beaune, this winery boasts some of the most prized red wine producing vineyards of the Côte de Beaune.  From their holdings in Volnay and Pommard, Hubert and Etienne de Montille (father & son) craft some of the most sought after Pinot Noirs in all of Burgundy.  Their wines can be found on the lists of virtually every three star restraurant in France.

Visit to the Golan Heights Winery

I spent all day yesterday up in Katzrin – through torrents of rain, hail, and the thickest fog I have ever seen.  All this for work, but it was more than worth it.  A long tour, a comparison wine tasting with one of winery’s senior vintners, Tali Sandovsky, viewing the bottling of Golan Cabernet Sauvignon, finished with a lunch at what could only be described as an Israeli-Cowboy-Chalet of a restaurant – it was fantastic.  I managed to pick up an elusive rare bottle of Gamla Nebbiolo.  Here are some snapshots:

Wine tasting in the winery's private tasting room.

Final L'Chaim before bracing the elements once again.

Links

A handy guide to wine-tasting terms.  Fantastic little resource.

There’s a new Israeli website on Bourgogne wines!  And it’s the mecca on this region’s wines, in the Hebrew language that is.  Actually, it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.  Those of you who struggle with or don’t have any Hebrew, use Google Translate.  A clear, detailed map, concise information on many domaines, descriptions of every vintage in recent memory, and much more.

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If I can muster the energy and discipline, I’m thinking of doing a weekly wine-oriented post. As I’ve been living and breathing nothing but wine, mostly trying to absorb as much knowledge on Bourgognes as fast as possible, I feel like I’m bursting. So without further ado:

Fun things I’ve learned:

  • Bourgogne wine families are, for lack of a better term, incestuous.  You know, like, this famous vinter’s daughter married this other guy from down the road who was an international playboy until his dad died and he had to take over the business who now makes world-class wine, and his sister-in-law’s cousin is the owner of the finest plot of grand cru in Beaune…. And on and on.  Hearing the stories is like watching an episode of 90210.
  • I would really, really, really like the opportunity to try a DRC.  Enough said.
  • I need to give Italian wines more of a chance.  Chianti be damned!  You give Italy a bad name.  No, no, I’m being too harsh.  Still…

Things you should read ASAP because it’s good and informative and entertaining:

Interesting tidbits either said to me or  overheard during a wine tasting I worked last week:

  • You didn’t succeed… (whispered a little old man to me with an evil wink in his eye as he walked out of the shop, not having purchased anything.  This after he told me he doesn’t drink anything but kiddush wine.  Yeah, I want your business, buster.)
  • You succeeded there… (posh middle-aged woman said to attractive 30-something man referring to his 4 year old son.)
  • People without money don’t like good wines… (said a really arrogant 40-something guy buying crap severely-overpriced Spanish Crianza with a fancy gold label.  You tell ’em.)

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Due in part to my ever-tentative decision-making, in part to terrified inaction, and in part to my asking for help (a brave gesture, I might add – something I rarely do because it scares me to no end), I have reached a scary-exciting and potentially happy-happy place: I will be making the majority, if not all, of my income through wine and food!

I got a part-time job in an incredible wine bar: Alkalay, in the Basel Square area.  It’s small, casual, and yet it has hands-down the best selection of Bourgogne wines in all of Israel.  This review says it all.  I feel honored to be working here.  I’ve learned so much, and I also get to cook!  Minor yet lovely little things.  Gourmet cheese plates, smoked and salted fish, charcuterie, crudites, bruschettas, and steamed dim sum, mostly.  I really think I’ll be happy here, and I can only hope the management’s feeling is mutual.  With other wine-and-food-business ideas I’ve got brewing on a few different levels, as well as my continuing work with the incredible Golan Heights Winery, I may actually be able to work, and succeed, doing something I love.  It’s going to be physically taxing.  Hard, hard work.  But it’s not eons away.  It’s here.  And it’s hard to believe.

Here are some photos and links.  Reviews of spectacular wines are forthcoming.  Hurrah for wine!  Indeed life is too short to squander.  If only it was easier to convince ourselves.

Ten things that can impair wine-drinking pleasure: a very sensible article.  Take a look.

Wine in Two Words: Sweet or Savory? Interesting article from yesterday’s New York Times.

Alkalay Wine Bar and Store, as seen from above. Isn't it beautiful?

The Burgundy section. Not the best photo, but you get the gist. Some of the best domaines are represented. Some mind-blowing grand and premier crus.

 

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UPDATE (23/12/2012): I wrote this a couple years ago, and my stats have proven it has been quite a popular and useful post. Please note, I believe the “Little Prince” has closed. Shame. It was quite a Tel Aviv staple.  A few other cafes I want to throw out there to make a more relevant list: Etnachta (Dizengoff just south of Arlozorov) – basic menu, very friendly staff leave you alone for hours, lots of electric plugs if you know where to look, good atmosphere.  Campanello (corner of Ben Yehuda and Nordau) is relatively a new place, and I hope it stays around – authentic Italian deli, incredible meat sandwiches, fresh and affordable pizzas, a cafe environment – again lots of electric outlets, good internet, friendly staff, and the food is far above average.  Finally Maker’s (Ben Yehuda 202) seems more like Tel Aviv’s best casual take out sandwich place at first glace, but at second glace, they have more electric outlets than any other cafe I’ve seen.  I’ve gone there for years for their incredible hot roast beef and goose subs with poached egg, and though I’d seen people working on laptops, I didn’t working there myself it until recently.  It seemed too casual (most of the seating is outside, but the enclosed glass structure around the sidewalk heats it adequately enough). I now think I can recommend it, and highly. Did I mention it’s also open 24/7 except Fridays?

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I’m at a favorite café right now, and I’ll be attempting productivity…right after my grilled cheese with tomato and cafe Americano with warm milk on the side appear.  The cafe lifestyle in Tel Aviv, and Israel in general, makes my existence more than tolerable.  It’s a real comfort.  At times a joy.  I’ve written some incredible articles, short stories, blog entries, and plowed through tons of work for clients on a binge when having procrastinated to the point of insanity.  I alternate between long macchiatos (incredible how you can drag out a long drink as opposed to a short), Americanos (best value for money), and occasional lattes (strong) made with soy milk (decadent and healthy).

As opposed to the US (and its prolific slew of Starbucks), internet is always free.  I thought it would be so stateside, but it’s not always so.  I’m out to lunch on the Starbucks phenomenon.  Their presence has been my savior many, many a time, but it’s awfully awkward to have to buy that gift card, use it, register it, and get a month of “free internet.”  I think there’s also a 2-hour time limit.  The busy blandness of SB is also uninspiring to the point of nausea, and don’t get me started on the prices and selection.

Without further ado, here are the Tel Aviv Cafés I work in and find to be at once affordable, inspiring, and possessing an understanding wait staff:

  1. Segafredo

    Segafredo, corner of Frishman and Dizengoff.  This is a bare-bones epitome of a cafe.  Their coffee is great, and in the true Italian tradition, they offer a nice selection of delicious yet simple sandwiches.  There is no “cooked” food.  The decor is almost nonexistent.  But the prices are lower than any other cafe I’ve encountered, mainly (I think) because of the lack of showy side salads and lunch specials.  Here, you order a sandwich, you get a sandwich, along with a small bowl of olives.  The take-away prices are cheaper yet.  The inside has a giant wall-length booth with electric outlets between almost every table.  When I discovered this cafe, it wasn’t for work that I chose it as a regular spot.  Right after I made aliyah, I found it pleasant to people-watch (it may very well be one of the best intersections in town) and write frilly letters and postcards to family and friends.  A bit later, I found it was within walking distance of my first therapist and right across the street of a Steimatsky bookstore.  The fact that they serve the closest thing to real American pies in Israel, and that these huge individual circles of either berry, cherry, apple, and caramel, on top of a layer of creamy white chocolate cost a whopping 19 shekels ($5), blew my mind.  When chocolate cake, tiramisu and tart tatin run between 33-40 shekels ($9-12) everywhere in town, and you can only get a lousy slice of dry carrot cake for 19 shekels anywhere else, there was no competition.  I would enjoy a leisurely walk after therapy, mulling the ideas, then stop at a bookstore and browse and/or buy, then head to Segafredo for a cherry pie and a creamy coffee which I slowly consumed while I read for an hour or two.  The waitresses are sweet, and they leave you alone.  It’s a prime spot for business meetings and independent workers by day, a neighborhood joint on weekends, and a pre- and post- theater must-stop for the Beit-Lessin Theater across the street.  All I can say is go.  Don’t judge a book by its cover.  Give it a try.

  2. Cafe DIZI

    DIZI, Kikar Dizengoff across from the cinema and Kabbala Center.  This is cafe is the height of cool.  A cafe & laundromat (it works, believe me), in a prime, sunny location.  It’s vegetarian (with fish), relatively reasonably priced, colorful, young, with the BEST MUSIC (I listened to Dylan, Dire Straights, Petty, and the Beatles all day yesterday), and the most comfortable sofa I have ever had the pleasure on which to rest my derriere.  The food is creative and satisfying across the board.  Affordable and yummy things to order: the crunchy toasted croissant grilled cheese with spicy salsa on the side (I ask them to put the salsa inside the croissant before they toast it) for 19 shekels; the egg salad sandwich, a very nicely made lunch, served with tomato and pickle on a toasted sesame kaiser roll with a lovely side salad, all for 29 shekels; and finally, a personal favorite – the garden sandwich – the vegan’s delight – roasted pepper and eggplant, shredded carrot and radish and cucumber, shmeared with avocado – heaven – healthy – and you really feel that energy while you eat it, also served with a side salad, all for 32 shekels.  With a 9 shekel Americano, plentiful outlets, and a smiling tattooed staff ignoring you for hours on end, I feel like I’m hanging out as I work.  It’s where I finished my novel, so DIZI is quite dear to my heart.

  3. The Little Prince, Simta Plonit off of King George near Gan Meir.  A rustic used bookstore-cafe the likes of which you’d expect to see on a college campus.  It’s in a classically old building, with wood floors, flea market furniture, very quiet, and outlet-plentiful.  Your fellow customers are more likely to be learned, cultured types as opposed to businessmen or social-networking mavens or visiting American students.  My recommendations: “The Princely Breakfast” is the most bang for your buck at 35-ish shekels – two eggs any way, a loaf of fresh bread, a side salad, and a selection of spreads and dips (tehini, jam, cream cheese, tuna salad), and coffee or juice; the “wrap combo” – a half-order of one of their wraps (one of the only places in town I’ve seen them – I get the Iraqi one with eggplant and tehini), a side salad, and a beverage, all for 20+ ish shekels.  They really leave you alone here, and I’ve gotten so much work done.  Be careful not to confuse the Little Prince cafe for their other branch around the corner on King George; it’s the same bookstore/company, but the other place is only a bookstore, carrying the majority of their titles, while the cafe has a more limited selection.  In the summer they have really fun outdoor seating in their back garden.
  4. Fresh Natural Lemonade at Loveat

    Loveat (several locations – Dizengoff & Jabotinsy; Nahalat Binyamin just south of Allenby; and Barzilai 1 across from Yehuda HaLevi in the Gan HaChashmal area).  Organic coffee, clean & modern design.  Some locations are more apt for work, but they are all really fun.  The food is not cheap, but it’s all really really amazing for cafe fare.

    Loveat Nahalat Binyamin

    The best place to work is the Nahalat Binyamin branch, mainly because they have a large variety of seating areas, one of which – a loft gallery with velvety booths and outlets – is perfect to hide away.  This branch also has a back garden, a side garden, and lots of seating out front, a very perfect spot to see and be seen on market days.  The Jabotinsky branch is the smallest, but they do a great job with makeshift seating on the sidewalk with a glass box placed over it during winter months.  I worked at Barzilai once and found it tolerable.  What to order: to keep the cost down, it’s best to go not too hungry.  That said, their baked goods are wonderful.  Get the bran muffin.  As far as sandwiches, ordering off the menu is expensive.  They have a number of pre-packaged (yet very fresh) sandwiches much like a remember in Ireland and England – egg salad, tuna, mozarella & basil, roasted veg, etc.  They look small and flat, but they’re cheaper and quite good and filling.  The sides.  I have made a meal out of the sides.  You can get a small soup (fresh every day, the size of which seems like the serving I’d give myself at home) for pennies (under 20 shekels), and you can order a side of bread and butter (a whole mini baguette) for 8 shekels.  A fun thing to have is their flavored lemonades – fresh and homemade, they come in glass jars and are naturally flavored with things like a whole cinnamon stick inside.  Be sure to take one of the cards where they give you a stamp for every coffee – it takes a long while, but when you complete 3 cards (30 coffees) they give you a free bag of fresh organic coffee to take home, along with the three free coffees you’ll have had at the end of each 10 cups purchased, of course.

  5. Tazza D’Oro

    Tazza D’Oro, Ahad Ha’am 6 at the northern edge of Neve Tzedek.  I LOVE this place.  It’s so charming.  You feel like you’re in Europe.  I’ve only worked here once, but I know it’s possible.  I simply had to mention it because it’s just the perfect date location, the perfect Friday afternoon with friends, the perfect late-night dessert, and yet also a wonderful early-morning breakfast spot.  Fridays there is live jazz in the afternoon in their big outdoor garden (even in winter, it’s almost entirely under a awning and umbrellas, and there are heat lamps everywhere).  The coffee is simply the best.  The menu isn’t cheap, and they stopped serving beer in tap, but there are ways to get around this.  There is one affordable salad, and the breakfasts are worth the cost (but not served all day).  That said, if you’re there anytime later, the only real choice for me is the egg sandwich.  It’s the cheapest thing on the menu (perhaps 29 shekels), and it doesn’t come with anything else.  That said, it’s the best egg sandwich I’ve had in Israel.  The bread is hugely thick cut, and it’s a kind of doughy challah or brioche, plentiful yet fresh mayonnaise, the egg is a kind of omelet, tomato slices.  It’s just good.It makes me happy to eat that.  You know that at this kind of place, they really put effort into their food.  Even the simplest thing on the menu.  Get a coffee, too.  It would be a sin not to.  It is after all one of the few places you can get this real Italian roast.  It’s home is a few meters from the Pantheon in Rome, one of my favorite places in the world, so I satisfy a little nostalgic nagging when I go.   So – mornings for work; Friday afternoons for jazz and beer and wine; every evening for a good date; and all the time – excellent coffee.

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Follow the Africans.  Or the Asians. Or the Indians.  I’m not being prejudicial here, I promise.  I discovered something fascinating last Friday afternoon.  I’ve taken to doing my marketing just before Shabbat – and I mean just before.  Entering the fray at its very worst, I’ve left the house around 3 pm to go Shuk HaCarmel (the Carmel Market), partly out of lazy Friday bad timing, and partly (when I recognized the pattern) for the prices, which I never would have discovered had I not noticed my fellow shoppers.  Maybe I should add – partly to experience this unique sort of excited chaos.

(Just realized I need to explain a bit: Israel until recently was pretty homogeneous, or well, all Jewish.  There are lots of different groups of Jews, but Jews nonetheless.  Arabs and Jews.  And that was kind of that.  Over the last 20 years, and especially the last 5 or so, we’ve had a huge influx of foreign workers as well as refugees and asylum seekers.  This has caused a lot of tension.  These people are needed in certain capacities, but they’re seen also as a burden.  It’s a touchy subject, and in my opinion, it’s brought out the worst in Israelis.  When there are no minorities present, it’s not apparent that there are racist tendencies.  But now…  In any case, I will blog more about this situation later.  All you need to know is that these foreigners live separately, in old, squalid neighborhoods.  They take care of our elderly.  They bus our plates and wash our dishes.  They sweep our streets.  They do our dangerous construction work.  And in many ways they are invisible.)

When I arrive at the market, the mayhem is overwhelming: huge crowds of people trying to push frantically through the narrow market, vendors shouting their brains out to make some last sales before they have to close, many vendors already packing up – using scary long metal hooks to lower high hanging items and noisily slamming heavy metal doors down over their stalls, tourists keeping things moving even more slowly by taking photos and lingering over cheap jewelry and mezzuzahs and Dead Sea cosmetics and za’atar covered pita breads (so cheap, let’s get some to snack on).

Then there are the real shoppers – people trying to get their Shabbat meals in order (and at this point, these guys are really pushing it with Shabbat starting so early – 4 pm ish maybe) or just get food for the weekend, or in my case, food for the week.  I’ve located the guy with the cheapest cucumbers (1.99 shekels per kilo), the cheapest tomatoes (3.99 per kilo), the cheapest and freshest cilantro (1.50 per bunch), the cheapest and most beautiful mangold – beet leaves – (3 huge packs for 10 shekels), and the only two stalls that sell sorrel (3 shekels per bunch).  These are my staples.  The rest of the good stuff this week was icing on the cake.  I got the most fragrant guavas I have ever smelled (and their taste ain’t so shabby, neither) for 7 shekels per kilo, really lovely persimmons (can’t remember the price, but I got a whole bag full for 5 shekels which is crazy cheap), and unbelievable deals on zucchinis and lemons and onions.

(I will always be amazed at the enormous gap between supermarket and shuk prices.  Are the stores nuts?!  Are the people, for shopping there?!  And in more “civilized” countries where there isn’t a real down and dirty market – we’re not talking local farmers’ markets – nobody has a choice!  Thank goodness we grow so much of our own food here in Israel.)

After I acquired the loot, I remembered I’d made a list of stuff to get if I had time, and it was good I remembered (because I really needed these things).  I was out of most of the cereal grains and pulses I rely on – rices, barley, buckwheat, quinoa, lentils, etc.  Not good.  So I decided to take a small street parallel to the shuk back north so that I didn’t have to fight my way.  And lo and behold, here was another crowd of people: the foreign workers.  Sure, they were in the shuk as well, but on the side street, it was like their territory.  There were more Filipinos and Thais and Nigerians and Eritreans than Israelis.  It wasn’t crowded, but it certainly was like walking into another world.  It was calm and “weekendy” – unlike the fracas I had just left.  The shop owners weren’t shouting.  People went on their way as if it were any other day.  The variety of the shops was fantastic – grain shops, spice shops, butcher shops, butcher shops specializing in pork, and Asian food shops.  Awesome awesome.  I picked the first dry goods place with adequate barrels of rices and lentils out front, and it was a good thing I did.  There were a good number of other shoppers, and I was the only Israeli.  You know what they say about restaurants  (and I suppose any business) – don’t eat there if it’s empty.  And vice versa.

I began scooping barley and soy beans and wild rice into plastic baggies when I realized I might not have enough money to pay.  The barley and soy were fairly cheap (10-12 shekels per kilo), but the wild rice was splurging on my part (16 per kilo).  Each of my three bags was sizable – at more than half a kilo each, and I was certain that I would be forking up 30-40 shekels, which was quite possibly all the cash I had in my wallet.  I make sure never to go out with a lot, because believe me, I will spend it.  Even if it’s on produce, I’ll spend it.  Buying exotic Korean cabbages and the like is not a necessity, no matter how much I convince myself it is.   But if the money isn’t in the wallet, I don’t spend it.  To my great delight, my bill came out to 15 shekels.  I honestly don’t know how that happened.  15 shekels for two week’s worth of food is pretty awesome.  The guy winked at me.  I don’t know if he gave me a great deal because of my, well, feminine charms (right), because it was the end of the week, or because that’s just the kind of guy he is.  The Africans and Asians kept on coming and going, and they seemed really happy too.

My shopping done, I continued north on the side street, and I passed what I can only describe as a ghetto butcher.  Back in Rome, hundreds of years ago, there were two kinds of butchers: the meat butcher, and the offal butcher (or as I’d like to think – “the everything else” guy).  Serious.  They had their own pushcarts, and they sold door to door or on the streets.  Rome is known for its offal dishes.  It’s probably one of the few places in the Western world that places tripe in a place of honor on all restaurant menus.  And the word “ghetto” is Italian – the place where they corralled Jews in – the first.  Jews being very poor, I’m sure they ate lots of the other stuff.  Hence, my ghetto butcher.

He was such a jovial chap, winking and cracking jokes with the customers around him, all of which were Thai and West African (which I ascertained after speaking with some in French).  And they were buying – and I’m not cracking jokes here – skin.  Skin and liver and especially (this really did seem to be this guy’s specialty) cow intestines.  This large rubbery and hairy looking monstrosity was hanging by two hooks.  My first thought was yes, this must be tripe.  Then I second-guessed myself.  It was so damned huge.  And the hairy looking bits did not look like villi.  It looked like shaggy hair.  It honestly looked like thick skin and hide of a cow.  I stared for ten minutes or so before asking on of the people standing next to me.  The butcher happily hacked away at it, using a sharp knife to strip yet another slithery 6-inch chunk off, packing it up for his satisfied clients.   Incredible.

I ended up spending a grand total of $20 for my groceries.  I’m quite thrilled.  And despite the fact that I had some other foodish adventures this weekend, this is what stuck.  Ask me to tell you about knafe another time…

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Golan Heights Winery's Gamay Nouveau Festival

Worries about finances, men, career, short story writing, reading long classic novels, applications, and the near-to-not-so-near future have not made for an easy couple of weeks.  It’s been a sort of sleepless treading of water.  My schedule has been impossible, and it doesn’t look like it will abate.  I’m not complaining.  I’ve made my bed.  I’m simply hoping that expressing some of this will alleviate some of the pressure, like poking some tiny holes in a balloon to make it leak instead of explode.  Notice how many “some“s I used in the previous sentence.  Oh well.  This isn’t the great American novel.

There are some things to look forward to.  Namely, big time wine events.   If you can make them, do so.

The Sommelier 2010 Wine Expo: November 8 & 9, 12-9pm

Sommelier 2010

This is the largest and most important annual wine show in Israel, and it will be held at Heychal Ha’Tarbut (the cultural center where HaBima Theatre is, at the top of Rothschild).  Some of you may wonder if it’s larger than the IsraWinExpo that happens every two years at the Exhibition Grounds, but it’s not, and I’ll tell you why.   This event is geared towards professionals.  The wineries know that they are dealing with wine store owners, chefs, beverage managers, high-end waiters, and yes, sommeliers, and the wine variety and selection show it.  I won’t divulge what the Golan Heights Winery is presenting yet (secrets, secrets), but I can tell you the lineup is impressive.

The event is open to the general public after 7:30 pm, and I believe it will cost 100 shekels.  It’s not such a steep price when you consider you can drink as much as you want (well, it’s a “tasting” quantity – but with dozens of wineries to visit, it adds up) while learning about the best of the best of the Israeli wine industry.  For those of you with even a remote connection to food and wine on a professional or semi-professional level (food bloggers and cafe waiters listen up) – you can try to register on the Sommelier website, and I’m almost certain you’ll be approved.  Important: you’ve got to write in Hebrew, your name, profession, the works, or the form won’t submit.  Get some help if it’s a problem.  The confirmation will most likely go into spam, and it will be in Hebrew, so also be on the lookout. Print it out and bring it with you if you can.  Today is probably the last day to register, so act now.  It’s free for you!

Israeli “Beaujolais Nouveau” Festival – 19 November, 12-4 pm, “HaTachana” in Neve Tzedek

2009 Gamay - designs by young artist contest winners

I know, I know, I should not use the word Beaujolais.  But I did get your attention, I hope.   The Beaujolais Day in France was a marketing ploy created after WWII, and it was seen as way to clear out the vin ordinaire (ordinary, simple table wine) at the very beginning of the season and make a good profit.  So, on the 3rd Thursday of November, the very first wines of the year (yup, the 2010’s – off the vine as little as 6 weeks ago) open up to the market (this is a legality – French wine rules are strict).  AND wineries compete in a race to get their wines to Paris from Burgundy first.  Lots of media hype over the years has made this race an international phenomenon.

The Golan Heights Winery has followed suit, and on the 3rd Thursday of November, they are releasing their 2010 Gamay Nouveau.  Yes the same varietal as the genuine article.  The method of production is also the same, using a fermentation method called carbonic maceration and preventing an malolactic fermentation from happening.  Basically, the wine is fermented inside the grapes, before pressing, preventing any harsh flavors, no tannins, etc.  It’s a fresh light magenta-pinky-purple wine, and you’ve got to drink it within the first year.  It’s great moderately chilled.

GHW’s Gamay Nouveau Festival (map)

Friday, November 19, 2010

12-4 pm

Building 3

HaTachana (map)

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Hit “play” and keep reading.  Just do it.  I’m aiming for some atmosphere here.

Another Friday, another wine tasting.  The wine shop had a decent soundtrack. Sade always takes me back to the summer of 1997.  I had just graduated from high school, I was about to start my first year at the University of Chicago, and life was just buzzing.  I found a great summer job at the Rand McNally store at the mall.  A combination travel bookstore, map store, travel accessories and luggage store, and fancy travel-related gift store (expensive globes, paperweights, penknives with compasses, etc), it was kind of a perfect place for me to work.  My parents were gone half the summer, I had my own car, MTV still played awesome music videos, grunge still clung, nobody had heard of Britney, summer festivals and parades were on the agenda, and the weather was fine fine fine. Not a care in the world.

And Sade.

So much of retail is the same.  You end up standing around a lot.  Today’s wine tasting, included.  I remember three states of being while I was at work: 1) bored; 2) frustrated and ready to go home, and; 3) so busy I couldn’t keep up with the customers and demands.  The time was broken up evenly between the three.  The store’s CD player (a boom box on the floor in the back) alternated between the Best of the Police and Sade.  Perhaps we had some Enya, too.  I was thankful.  The summer before I had to deal with fitting lingerie on fat old ladies while listening to “smooth jazz” (Kenny G and his contemporaries).  I can safely say this is perhaps the one genre of music I really loathe.  But when I hear Sade, I’m transported to that store, the awesome collection books I got to devour, the globes to play with, the funky trinkets like airplane ear plugs and bizarre “hidden” money belts, the word and number and geometry games I would invent for myself when it was slow.  No – it transports me further.  I hear Sade and I can even feel the clothing I wore on me (khaki trousers and bright polo shirts – oh yes it was rather ugly and rather butch), the first diary I ever kept with the cover of Monet’s painting of the woman with a parasol on the hill with the blue skies behind her (I would write dozens and dozens of pages every day, at home, on coffee breaks and lunch, it felt so important somehow), my first NC-17 film (The Pillow Book), and the pennies, yes, probably the hundred or so pennies I tossed up with wishes, one every day, into a large pseudo-rococo fountain in the mall near the store.

My journal cover

And Sade.

And today.  And then.  What a difference.  What little has changed.  I remember my general state that summer being one of sheer excitement.  My “whole life was ahead of me.”  I knew that I would be going away to four years of incredible adventures in universityland.  And four years was an eternity.  As scared as teenagers can be.  As anxious as teenagers can be (and boy was I anxious – those were the days before I knew what panic attacks actually were).  Anything was possible.  And everything was certain.  Now, nothing is certain.  Four years of knowing where you’ll be as opposed to not knowing what each day will bring.  Not knowing what work I will have.  Not knowing where I’ll up and move to.  Not knowing.  And lots of worries about practical things – money, transportation, bills, chores, money, veterinarian appointments, dentist, money, parents, work, work, work, money. Jeez. Is this life?

The funny thing is, I’m still OK.  I’m very OK.  I’m calmer.  I’m dealing.  I am a healthier person.  But boy do I wish I had that certainty again.  Four years.  Sure, there was anxiety up the wazoo, big time.  Mood swings.  Depression.  Self-confidence in the toilet.  But the rapture! College, books, writing, art, travel, the future.  Absolutely certain of the fact that things were about to get better and better.  I’m healthy now.  But I want that optimism back.  The energy.  The certainty.  With my deeper understanding of and perspective on reality, is it possible?  Is this perception even real?

It was a good tasting.  Sold about 10 bottles, 5 of which were really gorgeous, expensive single vineyards.  I haven’t lost it.  If I love something, really love something, I can sell it.  But only if people want to buy it, that is.  Boy was it amazing when I discovered that.  I could sell guidebooks, suitcases, globes, almost anything in that store, because I loved almost everything in that store.  I gave restaurant tips for people going to Paris, for goodness sake.  At 18.

And Sade.

This is no ordinary love.  How ethereal.  How evocative of… a time and place that you feel you remember intimately, but only vaguely, like a dream, like a Mr Holland’s Opus Bill Clinton is Sexy Manhattan Project Priscilla Queen of the Desert  Blade Runner The Real World Milan Kundera Pearl Jam Wimbledon and Chocolate Carmina  Burana Silver Cigarette Case Sunrise on Lake Michigan Womyn’s Bookstore Rocky Horror Endless Cup of Coffee Tori Peppermint Tea Rainbow Melissa Atom Bomb 1984 Washington DC Shakespeare Picasso Posters The Tempest Names Project Angel Hair Pasta Kate Winslet Borders Books Volkswagen Indigo Camp Visit Words Words Words and Heat, kind of place.

No ordinary love. God. What is that?

But.

What love is ordinary?

Retail is limbo.

Christ in Limbo, after Hieronymus Bosch (16th century)

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The Mad Dash

Whoever thinks life is more exciting and glamorous in the movies doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Yesterday, I woke up less than two hours before my international flight.  That’s right.  Re-enacting the Home Alone racing scene was no picnic.  The frantic getting dressed picking up the first clothing I found on the floor, the not peeing, brushing teeth, or washing face, the frantic taxi ride screaming at the driver that I’d pay whatever fine he got if he was ticketed.  The stupid Israelis (I know, I know, I shouldn’t go there) who wouldn’t let me go in front of them and thus I was the last person to check in on the flight.  God!!! The running through the airport.  The catching myself in the mirror and nearly losing it.  Especially the, “I know I forgot something…” feeling that consumed me for hours…

Other joys along the way from Tel Aviv to Chicago:

  • Sitting next to a weird know-it-all with a world clock as a watch who when I asked what time is it when we landed said it was impossible it was 12:45 exactly in Frankfurt – that with the rotation of the planet no time zone was actually one hour different from the previous – and that his watch indicated it was 12: 17.  When I pointed out that I didn’t care what the actual scientific non-daylight-savings, non-regulated-by-time-zones time was, he got huffy.

Being targeted for random special treatment in Frankfurt, aka getting my bags ripped apart by complacent airport staff. Thanks.

  • After repacking and composing myself, same airport security staff seek me out again (while I was in duty free buying a snack), asked me if I spoke Hebrew (um, sh*t, yes…), and told me to come with them.  As it happens there was an Israeli woman who spoke not one word of English or any other language besides Hebrew.  She was tres young (20), religious, scared, recently married, and pregnant.  I was asked to translate everything, including figuring out an embarrassing episode involving her trying to sneak some sort of specialized religious ink on board (they wouldn’t allow it), and forced her to check it (in a tiny woman’s black leather clutch purse), sealing it shut with a mile of tape. 20 minutes of this. I was not compensated for my trouble. Can we say upgrade? Miles? A smile? Kindness, even…?

No. This was the most terrible international flight of my life, courtesy of the bitchiest flight attendants known to man.  I don’t want to sound ageist but, hell, these women were more than 60 years old, fat, tired, grumpy, and they treated us all like mean 4th grade teachers.  I’m not kidding.  They were literally seconds from retirement, and they didn’t care how much it showed.  I was embarrassed for the airline.  AMERICAN AIRLINES, if you must know.  My seatmate was appalled, as she thought American customer service was a matter of pride to us.  So has the world changed.  One lady in particular repeatedly scolded us for the armrest sticking out and bumping her cart, shot us dirty looks, was huffy when I hesitated with my drink choice, and at the very end when I was helping said prepubescent pregnant religious girl with her customs and homeland security forms, actually yelled at us to get in our seats, that we “should have thought about that earlier, now it’s too late.”  Thanks American.

Colon Cancer Cell - the kind she studies

  • Must mention my lovely seatmate. Match made in airline seat assignment heaven. We talked for much of the 9 hours. A brilliant young scientist attending the American Association of Clinical Oncology conference being held this weekend in Chicago.  She will make waves in this field.  We talked about everything, including her cancer research and my writing and relationships and the world and travel, and goodness I’ll regret it if I won’t see her again in my lifetime.  Which isn’t likely as we’re planning on having drinks on Monday.

The famous four in Memphis, December 1956

Upon disembarking, I hit my shin somehow on a seat corner or door edge.  It started swelling so quickly, it felt the size of a golf ball protruding from my leg in under 30 seconds.  Deep Vein Thrombosis flashed across my mind and as idiotic as it was, I spent the next half hour waiting for passport check in an utterly paranoid state, wondering what to do about the throbbing and whether or not it was going to kill me.  Right.

  • My parents met me at the airport (pleasant), got me ice for my leg at McDonald’s (thankfully), whisked me away downtown to a musical called The Million Dollar Quartet, a show that is spun around a real-life evening where Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis all played together at Sun Studios, and which my dad swears is going to win the Tony. Despite exhaustion being what it is, the show was very entertaining, and by the time we got him, it was almost 24 hours since I began the ill-fated journey. Or not so ill-fated.

Now I’m just overwhelmed, tired, over-worked (time always ticks everywhere in the world and clients always email).  It’s good.  Work is good.  My head is just spinning more than I’d like.  And I’m still thinking, “what did I forget…I must have forgotten something….”  But the house I grew up in is here.  Huge, full of tchochkes, bursting with food (weird as it is – my mother offered me vacuum sealed guacamole from costco this morning, alongside a selection of 5 cheeses, a defrosted cake-loaf of some sort, and commercial “fresh” squeezed carrot juice that they buy every week).

Can’t help thinking of home, my sister, the cats, the beer olympics I missed last night, the birthdays I’ll be missing, my dear sweet friends who came over to see me off the other night.  No, no.  Let’s get this visit started.

Funnies for you:

Not Always Right: a website about crazy customers, recommended to me by my seatmate. Hilarious!

Home Alone in Hindi! Yes, that’s right. You don’t need to see the whole thing. When I was searching for the airport racing scene, this was the first one to pop up several times.

Who you gonna call? Check out Improv Everywhere’s latest mission.

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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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