Dec 31, 2010

Georgia on my Mind: Khachapuri

By Laura Goldstein
Namesake of the Restaurant: The cheese filled khachapuri
Just before coming to Israel in September I made the trip up from DC to New York to fly out of JFK. I arrived in the morning and had breakfast with my good friend Laura. Since she had spent the previous summer in Tel Aviv I asked her for recommendations of places to see, go out, and, especially, to eat. She proceeded to make a list of her favorite spots; prominent on that list was a Georgian restaurant on Nachalat Binyamin near the corner of Rothschild.

Every time I walked down Nachalat Binyamin I had it in the back of my mind to find this place but I always on my way to somewhere else so I didn't look too hard. Finally, after 4 months in Tel Aviv I set out to uncover the restaurant that Laura loved so much. I found it at number 63 on Nachalat Binyamin, walked in and saw the chefs working in the kitchen thorough  a big window in the front of the restaurant and went in to sit in the lovely courtyard in the back.

In the Kitchen at Khachapuri
I have never had food from Georgia, but assumed it would be incredible based on the cuisine it’s surrounding countries such as Turkey, Armenia, and Russia. Khachapuri proved me right!

 I scanned the menu and skipped over the breakfasts, salads, and pastas (though those looked great too) going  straight to the "Georgian Corner." The khinkali, handmade ravioli like dumplings, caught my eye. I ordered the combination which came with three different fillings, sweet potato, mixed cheeses, and spinach and nuts. Like many other dishes in the restaurant they came with sour cream on the side, who doesn't love that!

Mixed cheese khinkali and a tea infusion
When the waitress brought the khinkali they smelled of nutty, freshly made pasta. They were pretty little dumplings, each flavor having it's own shape. The khinkali were delicious, each tasting faintly of nuts in combination with the filling and they went perfectly with the sour cream.

I couldn't wait to try the other dishes and very soon returned to Khachapuri, draging a few friends along.
My roommate was very happy with her mixed cheese khinkali and a tea infusion. We also ordered the khachapuri, described on the menu as "baked dough with cheese", the version of the khachapuri with spinach, and a salad that came with wonderful spongy Georgian bread on the side.

The khachapuri reminded me of a calzone but the dough was soft, almost pastry-like, the cheese inside was rich and thick, and of course, on the side there was sour cream. So heavy but so good!

On the menu the food at Khachapuri is described as "Georgian Soul Food" and it does prove to be the kind of delectable stick to your bones kind of food that nourishes your soul. However, your soul will have to go without meat at Khachapuri as it is Kosher dairy.

Khachapuri is located at Nachalat Binyamin 63, open Sun-Thurs 8:00-23:00 and  Fri 8:00-17:00


Dec 29, 2010

A Chinese Shabbat by Andrea Mann


For most Jews, Chinese food is a Christmas ritual. We look forward to Christmas 364 days a year. Not necessarily for the same reasons as those who observe the holiday, but rather, we are counting down the days until we can happily stuff ourselves with wonton soup, chop suey, chicken lo mein, and vegetable fried rice. Why do all jews (at least in America) flock to the local Chinese establishments on December 25? Finding a nice jewish husband might be part of it... but more likely it's to kvetch to other Jews about how every restaurant and every store in town is closed. There's not much else to do on Christmas day.


Well, this year I experienced my first christmas in Israel. There were no bright lights illuminating the Tel Aviv palm trees to forwarn me of the approaching holiday and the lack of snow definitely didn't help alert me either. Every store and every restaurant in Tel Aviv remained open. And it wasn't until a friend pointed out that it was, in fact, Christmas that I realized I actually missed the festive music blaring from the speakers of every store in town. So, since I wasn't limited to chinese cuisine on Christmas, I decided to break tradition. Instead, I instated a new Friday night ritual: Chinese Shabbat.

Sweet and Sour Chicken
Every Friday evening as the sun starts to set, restaurants and shops quickly begin ushering out their last customers, sweeping up the remnants of the day, and locking up their storefronts. This past Friday as the city began to quiet down, my friends and I took it as our cue to head over to Long Sang for a Chinese feast. Apparently, we weren't the only ones with this idea. As we approached the entrance of the restaurant, located on Allenby near the intersection of Ben Yehuda, we noticed several other hungry patrons waiting to devour their own Chinese Shabbat dinner. When selecting a restaurant, I take a large crowd as a sign that the food must be worth the wait. Thus, we waited.



The restaurant is pretty small, without a proper entrance or waiting area. So, after standing outside on the sidewalk of Allenby for twenty minutes, staring through the large glass windows at everyone else's plates piled high with typical Chinese fare, we were finally called to our table. We immediately ordered some soups and appetizers to quell our hunger. I enjoyed the tangy Hot and Sour soup with chicken and mushrooms, which had just the right amount of kick to it. After wishing we could order every item on the menu, but knowing that we would never be able to evenly divide the leftovers among the five of us, we settled on a few Chinese classics like eggrolls, sweet and sour chicken, lo mein, vegetable fried rice and then added a chicken and cashew dish to even out our table of heavenly fried chinese deliciousness.
Vegetable Lo Mein
I'm not sure why I was surprised to find such authentic Chinese in Tel Aviv, nestled among the Falafal and Shwarma stands. Israel is, afterall, pretty damn close to Asia. Apparently, Long Sang offers two menus to it's customers. One for more "westernized" Chinese cuisine and one that contains more traditional Chinese items. 

My only disappointment? No fortune cookies came with our bill!
Well, and that there weren't any leftovers...

Dec 28, 2010

Explore Israel's Wineries: My Israeli Wine Tours


By Laura Goldstein
Israel is known as “ the land of milk and honey,” but dare I say,  "wine" should be included in that phrase. Wine is ingrained in the history of the State of Israel as the first modern winery was established by early Zionist settlers. It also features prominently in the culture of the Jewish people, used in blessings as symbol of joy. 

Today, there are 380 wineries spread across this tiny country. Many of the wine makers have been trained in different parts of the world, each bringing different styles and sharing them with their peers. This mixing of techniques creates an atmosphere of creativity and a lack of the pretension and strict rules that exist in other wine producing countries.  My Israeli Wine Tours, started by Esther Cohen, allows English speakers to experience the dynamic world of Israeli wineries and their products.

Esther's Story

Esther Cohen, CEO of My Israeli Wine Tours
Esther’s love affair with the sophisticated beverage began with a wine appreciation class that she took while studying abroad in New Zealand during college. The class awakened a passion within her and  when she moved back to the States she started attending wine events in the Boston area. 

In addition to wine, another passion of Esther's is the State of Israel. Before moving here permanently she worked as an advocate for Israel on college campuses. In 2008 she decided that the best way to demonstrate her commitment to Israel was making Aliyah. After a period of soul searching she decided to make a career out of her love of wine in the country that she so admires.

Her journey in the world of Israeli wine started when she was hired at Tishbi Estate Winery and lived in beautiful Zikron Yaakov in the Carmel. Tishbi  is a special place, it was commissioned by the famous Zionist Baron de Rothschild in 1882 and is run by Jonathan Tishbi, the grandson of the original winemaker. At the winery she worked as a waitress and tour guide and helped market the winery to English speakers. 

She soon noticed that after her tours the participants were left eager to explore other wineries in the region and around the country. However, it is difficult for foreigners to arrange wine tours, especially to multiple wineries, on their own. For non-Israelis arranging wine tours can be daunting due to a frequent lack of English speaking guides and signs in English not to mention the troubles that come with arranging transportation. 

Esther thought up My Israeli Wine Tours in order to help visitors to Israel experience all that Israeli wineries have to offer. With a mission to provide a service for her fellow wine enthusiasts she began researching Israeli wineries intensely and started her website in January of this year. 


Esther's brainchild is My Israeli Wine Tours. The company offers customized tours to clients according to their interests and needs. She offers tours in several regions and a choice between kosher, non-kosher, and boutique wineries. The length varies from 1 day to a week and the price varies according to the services provided. The tours mostly feature a look at the vineyards and distilling process as well as a tasting. Since many of the wineries are small and family run the winemakers often like to sit down and chat with the tour participants.

The most popular tours are to Mount Carmel and the Judea Plain and Hills near Jerusalem. These regions are both very close to the major cities of Israel and they have unique histories when it comes to wine. A wine tour of Mount Carmel tells the story of Zionist settlers in the late 1800's while a tour of the Judean Plain and Hills reveals a more ancient past. To arrange a tour e-mail Esther at MyIsraelWineTours@gmail.com.

Started only a year ago, My Israeli Wine Tours is a success, leading 60 tours with 425 participants as well as hosting monthly wine tasting events in Tel Aviv. 

Join My Israeli Wine Tours on January 11th at 19:30 for tapas and a wine tasting at Dorsia Restaurant (flyer below) and link to their facebook page for other upcoming events. 



Dec 22, 2010

New York Style Sandwiches at Ruben in Tel Aviv


By Laura Goldstein
In anticipation of the event tomorrow evening at 7:00pm (check out the event on Facebook!) on I went over to Ruben’s to see what it is all about.

The inside of the store smelled delicious, the scent of marinated and steamed deli meats. Yum.
A Beauty of a Sandwich, my lunch from Ruben's
I ordered my sandwich and the man behind the counter went on to shave off a fist sized portion of delicately thin pieces of meat with the meat slicer. He then laid the slices on fresh bread with deli mustard, onions, and tomatoes, it was a beautiful thing.  He placed two little crunchy pickles imported all the way from Poland next to the sandwich. 

The whopping sandwich instantly brought me back to the US and to memories of eating out in New York delis with my dad, a Brooklyn native. His philosophy is that the best food comes from New York, but I think that he would be overjoyed to bite into a sandwich from Ruben.
Yes! They have BBQ Flavored Chips!

 I took my sandwich to the outdoor tables, giddy with excitement for sinking my teeth into the mountain of meat and fix-ins .The meat was warm and juicy and the bread was thick and sturdy enough to support the mammoth amount of meat. Mid sandwich, I munched on the crunchy sour pickles that were more like the ones from the states than the typical spicy Israeli pickle. I finished my sandwich contented and savored the taste of the meat's spices in my mouth. 

I am ready to go back for some more tomorrow at our Taste TLV Happy Hour! It will take place at the Ruben location at Yerimyahu 32 from 7:00  to 9:00 PM and includes free beer with your sandwich and chips and half off draft beer. There will also be a raffle with exciting prizes from area restaurants.

Come taste a delicious Ruben sandwich, get a free beer, and hang out with Taste TLV!!

 
                                *Don't forget to friend Ruben on Facebook!                                      

Dec 20, 2010

Going Native and Other Mysteries

by Nicholas Belzer 


I have come to terms with the fact that decent Mexican food cannot be found in Jerusalem. The local version of the burrito can be spiced up with any amount of turkiye and schoog…in reality, it's all schawarma. My palate demands flaming satisfaction. My landlord, Paulos, happens to be the Ethiopian attaché to Jerusalem and I needed to my pay my rent to him at a moment of deep spice craving. I knew Paulos could give me culinary guidance. 

‘Paulos, I’m needing some spice in my life’. The gambit proceeds, “Paulos, I’ve come for a culinary visa. I want to know where you go to eat Ethiopian food.” Great success, ‘the best, I will show you’. He personally escorted me to town, to a narrow alley on Ya’abetz street, which is parallel to Ben Yehudah, running right off of Jaffa Street, right before King George. 

Up the green stairs of #2 Yaabetz, under the sign ‘Ethiopian Queen Restaurant’.  I was greeted by Alkalet, the small, pleasant lady who runs the joint. The menu is two sided, one in english and one in…"squiggly." The theme is very Ethiopian, with red, yellow and green umbrellas hanging from the ceiling, hides of small goats strewn about and a wall-mounted flat-screen displaying various Ministers of the Ethiopian Parliament . For a moment I was distracted by the television, but the obscurity of a French flag hanging at the side of the restaurant that I noticed to my side, brought me back to where I was. 

Although well-stocked with Heineken, Tuborg and Carlsberg, I pressed Alkalet to procure some genuine Ethiopian beer. Out of a secret compartment  she pulled out a Meta Beer, a 5.5% proof lager in a stout brown bottle. Bitter, and full,  as far as lagers go, that was right on the mark.

 I noticed that the English side of the menu offers 8 meat dishes, the squiggly side offers 10. They also offer 5 vegetarian dishes, but I came here for meat and spice. I inquired about these secret dishes, it was revealed that those two were made with butter and so weren’t kosher, apparently secretly reserved for the Christian Ethiopians. The secret dishes are kitfor and gorad-gorad. The extra gorad literally serves as a warning that this dish carries double the amount of black pepper, coriander and ‘spicy’. This triumvirate of seasonings is a common theme with practically every meat dish in Ethiopian cuisine.

I chose the combination platter, so that I could try a bit of everything. Twenty minutes later, the silver platter was presented on an Injerra plate with 10 portions piled upon it. Injerra is the Ethiopian answer to the crepe, and is simultaneously the plate, the silverware and napkin. It is brown, porous, and tastes like damp matza with more brown added- after a few bites, it certainly grew on me.  

First I tried kit’fo, which is minced, raw beef. It tasted soft, like a smooth black pepper residue and was not as spicy as the other meats. But the notable sensation in this dish is the blackness of the pepper, accompanied by an odd softness. Next the t’ibs, which are chunks of beef with onion, and reminded me of a stir fry. They were delicious and chunky, wrapped in with my injerra and treated like a burrito. 
This brings us to the dulat. Here we get serious on the hot front, a ground beef with flaming green peppers. 

Interspersed between the meat, there were piles of green lentils, red lentils, yellow stewed cabbage, purple celery, steamed orange carrots and mashed yellow chickpeas which were enjoyable by themselves. They served as light breathers between the spicy meats. 

I particularly enjoyed the Meta Beer, national beer of Ethiopia, as it served the purpose of whetting the appetite, and then graciously, as an effective tonic counteracting the grease fire liable to erupt in my mouth after each handcrafted injerra dumpling. 

Now as I understand it, there are eight to ten Ethiopian restaurants in Jerusalem but Ethiopian Queen boasts “The Best Authentic Ethiopian Food”. After all, this is where the Ethiopians go to eat Ethiopian. They say that Ethiopia is a land of mystery, and Ethiopian Queen is certainly a microcosm of this mysterious land. So many riddles, unanswered questions. From whence was the miniature French flag nestled between the bar? I fear I will never know. Perhaps this is the allure, that innocent novelty that is the Ethiopian Queen.

Dec 13, 2010

Mama's Cooking at Bat Artzi

By Laura Goldstein

I have been reading about Bat Artzi (Daughter of our Land), a women’s cooperative kitchen, for weeks. It is one unique Tel Aviv restaurant, everyday there is a different “mama” who prepares and serves specialties from her mother country. The mamas are from around North Africa and the Middle East and make pots full of delicious food made with their traditional family recipes.**

Bat Artzi from Outside
Today I braved the rainy cold weather and trudged my way down Nachalat Binyamin, turned on HaShomer, one of the side streets, and found the small restaurant. The tiny indoor space was full of Israelis hunched over their steaming plates heaped with comfort food trying to warm up after being in the unforgiving wet weather. The décor was simple, a funky tiled floor and framed photos of what I can only imagine were the mamas and their family life.
Moroccan Mama Food...yum
Wafting in the space was the delicious smell of simmering savory concoctions. Behind the counter were pots overflowing with meatballs, chicken, stuffed peppers, and stewed veggies. Today the “mama” in charge of the cooking and serving was an amiable Morrocan woman who gave me a smile as she ladled extra sauce on my meatballs. Next to the counter was a fridge full of beautiful salads of pickled vegetables and traditional sauces to accompany the main dish. Taking in the smells and sights of the home cooked fare I was full of anticipation as I sat down to eat. 

My meal of meatballs, rice, and cooked string beans was warm and comforting, perfect for the tumultuous weather outside. The meatballs were big and hearty and all of the sauces mixed harmoniously with the rice. This lunch reminded me of a recent Shabbat meal I had at an Israeli friend’s house. My friend's mother spent hours cooking the meal and invited friends and strangers alike to share the meal. This is how I felt at Bat Artzi. Even though I did not share a common language with the cook I felt that she had a vested interest in my nourishment and would continually pour food on my plate if she could, just like my friend's mother did at Shabbat.
Traditional Tea Set at Bat Artzi
 I finished off my meal with a piping hot glass of black coffee. It came with sugar and like traditional Turkish coffee, a lump of coffee grinds at the bottom. It was delicious and strong, keeping me buzzing for hours afterward. 

My meal at Bat Artzi warmed my stomach and my soul, because even far away from home in Tel Aviv Israel, sometimes you just need a home cooked meal from a mama.


 Bat Arzi is located at HaShomer 7, Tel Aviv and can be reached at 03-5177808.

**Bat Artzi is no longer a collective, normally there is one mama cooking, Miriam, who makes family recipes from North Africa and the Middle East. However, there are special events where they bring in other women to cook their homemade meals.

Dec 6, 2010

Discovering HaYarkon Park

By Laura Goldstein

My Lovely Urban Hike to HaYarkon Park
     This Saturday on a whim I decided to make the trek from my place on King George all the way down  to HaYarkon Park on the Northern edge of Tel Aviv, Israel. I had been wanting to check it out since I arrived in the city but finally, after three months I made the trip. 

     I set out with a book and my NPR podcasts on the hour walk down Dizengoff determined to find the park. Almost all of the many shops were closed but the Tel Aviv restaurants were packed with Israelis enjoying their day off. As I went further up Dizengoff there were fewer and fewer Israelis on the street and instead of people watching I admired the many bridal shops with beautiful dresses in the windows.

      When I arrived at the intersection of Dizengoff and Jabotinsky, right before the police station,  my path was diverted by a guard. He said that I could not continue on Dizengoff Street for the vague and ominous reason that there was a “dangerous situation” ahead. I did not push it any further and turned left on Jabotinsky and started walking towards the Sea. 

      I was pleasantly surprised at what I found at the end of the street. There was the lush and well-groomed Independence Park, a nice change from the dusty Meir Park on King George. 
My Vanilla Yogurt with Gummy Bears and Mini Meringues
     I walked up the hill through the park and found a stunning view of the Mediterranean and a pretty beach below. Despite the fact that it was December, the water was clear and inviting and the sun was showing. I envied the people on the beach with swim wear and wished I could take a dip as well. 
     I looked to my right and I was surprised to see the Namal (port) and continued down the path towards it, pleased with myself for what I had stumbled upon by accident. The port was overflowing with people, and it was a challenge to navigate through the crowds shopping, eating ice cream, and heading to the ports swanky restaurants. I saw Yogurt Bar on the pier and decided to stop and cool down with a frozen treat. 

In the Park: the bank of HaYarkon
     Finally, at the end of the port, I was out of bustle and I could relax again. Then I found what I had set out on my little journey to find,  HaYarkon River! I knew at that point I was basically in the park. Heading away from the sea I followed the river over several very steep but pretty bridges and I saw what I knew to be the park. 

 HaYarkon Park is basically a green space on both sides of HaYarkon River. On Saturday it was full of families and groups of friends picnicking, playing sports, and relaxing on the grass. It looked like the perfect way to spend a lazy afternoon. Content with myself for finally reaching the park after several hours of wandering,  I started heading home. Now that I figured out how to get to the park I plan on returning to run and bike on the path along the river and picnic with friends on the lovely grass.

Dec 3, 2010

If you can't buy it at the Shuk, don't eat it By Andrea Mann

While enjoying some time to myself, I decided to mix a little business with a little pleasure and read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. Firstly, this book is definitely not a beach read. (Who wants to be in a bikini while reading about why you shouldn’t devour a box of Kraft Mac n Cheese?) And secondly, this is not a book to read the day after you stuff your self silly at a delicious Thanksgiving feast.  Or maybe it is because, after a third helping of stuffing, it made me seriously start to consider what it is we put into our bodies everyday.

Throughout the entirety of the book Pollan strongly criticizes the Western diet while heavily complimenting the diets of people in Mediterranean regions. So what is it that makes Mediterranean food so superior to food consumed in the Western diet? Well, Pollan imposes a few new food rules that he believes everyone should follow, such as: only shop in the outskirts of a supermarket and avoid the overly processed food piled ceiling high in the middle aisles, and, if possible, avoid the supermarket altogether and shop at the local farmers markets. Sure, in some places this may be difficult, but here in Israel this may be the easiest task ever assigned.


Shuk HaCaramel
In Tel Aviv I find it is easier (and a lot more fun) to buy all of your groceries from one of the several fruit/veggie stands that line the streets or from the huge Shuk HaCaramel at the Allenby and King George junction. As you follow the narrow and crowded center aisle South through Shuk HaCaramel you will be amazed by the abundance of stalls boasting a rainbow display of produce. Within the maze of food stalls you will be able to find any vegetable and fruit that you could possibly want (as long as it is in season), more types of cheese then you can even imagine, displays of meat that may make you quickly turn your head away, and so many bags of spices filled to the brim that your nose will likely begin to tickle. Seeing as all of the food is fresh and bright and all of the vendors are proudly rattling off cheap prices in deafening decibels, the only difficult task is deciding with which vendor to do business.

Shuk Ha Caramel
Shuk HaNamal
Although the Shuk HaCaramel is mostly under cover, there is also an Indoor Food Market that just opened its doors for the Tel Aviv winter. Even though it is 80 degrees in December, people are still trying to convince me that there is winter in Tel Aviv... I’ll believe it when I see it. But either way, the Indoor Food Market is located at the Tel Aviv Port in a brown building that reads “Shuk HaNamal”. Although it is much smaller then I had anticipated it is definitely adequate. I found the products, displays, and the indoor atmosphere to be much more gourmet than that of the Shuk. With an olive bar, a fresh pasta selection that was almost as colorful as the pepper variety, a butcher, which proudly hung its sausages from the ceiling, tasty fruit smoothies, and an impeccable spice collection, the Shuk HaNamal definitely had some delicious smells wafting through the enclosed building. On Tuesdays and Friday evenings an additional farmers market sets up right outside of the building, so you can buy your fresh produce while enjoying the crisp Mediterranean air or step inside for a little coverage.



Now this is real food. It's fresh and its in season. There is no middle man (giant supermarkets).You can ask the vendors as many detailed and perplexing questions about their products and they will surely provide you with an answer. To paraphrase Pollan’s “avoid supermarket” rule, “If you can’t buy it at the Shuk, don’t eat it”.

After finishing the book, I realized it was time to change my ways a little bit. So, I set out to pick up some fresh fruit and veggies for the week. The only downside of shopping outdoors in a big city? The bags weigh me down and very quickly begin to cut off all circulation in my wrists. I think it’s time to invest in one of those handy little shopping bag trolleys.

Dec 1, 2010

Eight days of Sufganiyot

My menorah at home
  By Laura Goldstein  

     I didn’t quite know what to expect from Chanukah in Tel Aviv, Israel. Back in the US for me is part of the holiday season, always celebrated amidst chilly weather, Christmas carols, and icicle lights on all of the houses in the neighborhood. Tonight is the first night of the holiday and the holiday cheer that I'm used to is nowhere to be found. The high today in Tel Aviv is 80° F, it has been so warm lately that some of my friends have been going to the beach. As for Christmas carols, understandably there are none being played in this Jewish city, but I was surprised to hear a Chanukah song being played in the supermarket. And you can just forget about the icicle lighting in steamy Tel Aviv.
      
     To celebrate Chanukah at home, we light the candles every night and  my mom makes her delicious latkes and homemade apple sauce. For our eight days of gifts my parents,always practical, usually give my brother and I sweaters, school supplies and socks. Here in Tel Aviv,  I am going to try to light every night and I am planning on making my version of my mom's latkes for my friends.

Dulce de Leche filled sufganiyot
     Lighting and latkes aside, from what I gather as I peek into the bakeries and restaurants in Tel Aviv, Chanukah here is all about the sufganiyot. The traditional sufganiya is a deep fried starchy donut filled with jelly and covered in powdered sugar.  The frying is reminder of the miracle of the oil lasting eight days in the Chanukah story.   

    In addition to the classic jelly filled donut, bakeries have gotten creative with different fillings and toppings. One of the most popular sufganiya spots, Roladin, is offering countless mouthwatering flavors such as double chocolate, halva, and pasticcio. After passing the Roladin store full of people getting their Chanukah sufganiyot I had to go in and get a taste of what all of the hubbub was about. 

Chanukah display at Roladin
  
    I got two of the special edition flavors, marshmallow vanilla and whiskey caramel. The whisky caramel sufganiya is topped with chocolate and filled with a sweet caramel filling with the slight kick from the whisky, but what I mostly tasted was the heavy dough. The vanilla marshmellow sufganiya is frosted with vanilla and has two strawberry flavored marshmallows on top, there is a curious pink filling that is sweet and fruity. After eating these two innocent looking little donuts I was ready to roll home.  Honestly I prefer my mom's savory latkes to the heavy, guilt inducing sufganiyot that are all over the restaurants in Tel Aviv. I am glad that I tasted them as part of the Tel Avivian experience but I believe I have filled my quota of sufganiyot for this Chanukah. 

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday!

Happy Chanukah! 
!חג שמח

Nov 23, 2010

Sweet T-LV: Kurtosh Hungarian Pastries

By Laura Goldstein
   
     Walking on Bograshov from the beach towards King George scanning the restaurants of Tel Aviv I always linger outside of a small bakery called Kurtosh to smell the aroma of buttery baked goods and look longingly at creme filled pastry that is advertised on the street . Today I succumb to my sweet-tooth  and ventured in to the store to see what they have to offer. What I found was an interesting story and some delectable desserts.

Kurtosh's Pallerina
     The pastry that is displayed on the advertisement on the street is the pallerina. The pallerina, a delicacy from Naples, is a new addition to the bakery. It looks like a cross between a croissant and a cannoli, layered, crispy, and filled with French vanilla creme.  I have heard raving reviews about the pallerina, however it is not what Kurtosh is known for.

The towering kurtosh
       Kurtosh is named after it’s specialty, a particular looking Hungarian pastry. The kurtosh is cylindrical, hollow, and looks like a flaky delicious Tower of Pisa. It is gargantuan so most people share them with a friend. I asked the man behind the counter how they were made. He explained that first the dough is layered around a stick slightly bigger than a rolling pin and then it is cooked in a sort of rotisserie oven. There are ten different flavor combinations available including plain cinnamon, chocolate and vanilla, nutella and cashew, and the popular chocolate and halva. After that explanation I just had to try a kurtosh! 

A kartosh in it's pretty package
     I chose the dulce de leche and coconut kurtosh to take home with me. He handed me the gigantic but nicely wrapped pastry and I thought about how perfect it would be for a unique birthday or hannukah present. 

         Though the specialty at Kurtosh is it’s namesake, they also offer a host of other Hungarian, French, Italian, and Israeli confections.I scanned the rest of the cakes, cookies, and donuts and my eyes set upon a lovely box of multicolor macaroons. I had to try these as well!  The container had four flavors; chocolate, pistachio, coffee, and strawberry.
Kurtosh's Delicate Macaroons
     I left the store with my bag full of goodies and I was excited to share them with my friends in my apartment building. When I arrived, my hands full of sweets, their faces lit  up.

     First we tried the macaroons, they were delicate, flavorful, and would be wonderful paired with a cappuccino. Then I showed them the kurtosh and they looked at it curiously. However, once we started eating it we all enjoyed it immensely. It was fun to eat, the pieces came off in a curly-q’s, the way they were wrapped around the stick before baking. It tasted heavenly, caramelized and crunchy on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside. The toasted coconut on the outside was a great compliment to the sweet cinnamon roll type pastry.

Kurtosh's Sufganyot (donuts)
      I am so glad that I finally went into Kurtosh to see what it is all about. Now I need go back and try of their other confections. I can't wait for Channukah so I will have an excuse to devour their delicious looking sufganyot!

Kurtosh is kosher (dairy), and located at 39 Bograshov. You can reach them at 03-5280606.

Nov 22, 2010

A Taste of Neve Tzedek by Allison Gay

Here in Tel Aviv, it is hard to find a place that will take you from the loudness of the city to the quiet, from the busy to the calm, from the rather unattractive aesthetic to the picturesque aesthetic. However, there is one place, which I have just discovered, that was created just for this type of escape: Neve Tzedek.

Picture this...

It’s 3:00 in the afternoon on a Friday, just hours before sunset and Shabbat.   You are standing outside and the sun is still strong, lingering in an almost cloudless sky. There is a perfect late summer breeze, even though it is early November.

You are walking down a small street, with cars parked bumper to bumper on the sidewalk, looking like a mouth with too many teeth.

Along the sidewalks you see colorful shops and restaurants, blending into cafes and antique stores, all unique in their own respects. The colors are so strong and saturated; it is as if the blue sky itself was there just to flawlessly contrast these colorful buildings.

While standing in the middle of that street, you can smell both the delicate ocean air and the harsh scent of the city. But while walking on the narrow sidewalks, close to the stores and restaurants, you can smell a mixture of perfumes and coffee, food and baked goods.

So… Here you are, happily strolling among trendy tourists and locals alike, most of whom have shopping bags swaying from their wrists while eating ice-cream cones, and all of the couples you see swing their arms hand in hand.

Everyone looks… relaxed. And the whole area is very, very… quiet.

Now, this delightful area that you have peacefully and quietly found yourself in, is just south of central Tel Aviv. Only minutes away from the crazy Shuk HaCarmel food market, only minutes away from the busy highway along the beach, only seconds away from downtown skyscrapers.

But, for some mysterious reason, there is this calmness where you are. It is as if the charm and beauty itself is providing a magical silence, which ultimately takes you out of your element. And it puts you into a place that can be found nowhere else on earth.

When I first experienced this, I was confused. I was so close to the noise and hustle, that if I took a wrong turn I could easily find myself back on the mean streets of Tel Aviv. Did I literally convince myself to feel like this? Or was this area really as magical as it felt?

Well, it turns out, this tiny area of Tel Aviv is called Neve Tzedek. And from direct Hebrew to English translation, Neve – an oasis, Tzedek – of justice.

As far as it’s history goes, Neve Tzedek is placed here for this exact reason. The founder of Neve Tzedek, who goes by the name of Aharon Shlush, supposedly created this area to be a getaway from the neighboring crowded city of Jaffa. Neve Tzedek is the first Jewish neighborhood of Tel Aviv. It was founded in 1887, twenty-two years before the actual city of Tel Aviv was founded.

Although Neve Tzedek is now one of the most expensive areas to live in in Tel Aviv, and has become rather commercial and ‘touristy’ because of it’s central location and old charm, you can still feel the quaintness in the colorful winding alleys. And on a Friday, you can feel that almost enchanting stillness that comes with Friday’s late afternoons here, moments before the Sabbath.

All in all, this is a place where you can get away from the crowd of Tel Aviv while you’re still in the middle of Tel Aviv.



Nov 17, 2010

Tel Aviv for Veggies

A Tribute to my Vegetarian Friends in the White City

By Laura Goldstein 

   Many of my friends here in Tel Aviv are vegetarians and I have dedicated this blog post to them as a pursuit of tasty meat-free meals. Fortunately it has not proven hard to find great veggie food in this city. This may be due to the popularity of vegetarianism in Israel. The European Vegetarian Union sites a study by the Israeli Ministry of Health in 2001 that concluded that a whopping 8.5% of Israelis are vegetarian. Vegetarian restaurants also cater to the religious crowd as well because they are usually kosher by default. I myself am not a vegetarian or nor do I strictly keep kosher but I appreciate good meatless meals as they usually leave me feeling healthy and refreshed. 

     The first place I looked to find some veggie places was on the Taste TLV website. The strictly vegetarian restaurants listed there are Café Birnbaum and Buddha Burger, which is vegan. I have heard wonderful things about both places from vegetarians and meat eaters alike. 

      There are many other vegetarian options available in Tel Aviv as well. In the mood for soup, I made my way to Soupizza (formerly Hamarakiya) at 56 Yehuda HaLevi. Soupizza is vegetarian and, as the name suggests, specializes in soup and Italian fare. It is a small restaurant with classic round tables topped with checkered tableclothes and simply decorated with Italian accents. Soupizza offers a host of mouthwatering soups everyday, around 4 in the summer months and 6-8 different soups during the winter. They also offer salad, pasta, and pizza fresh from the oven.

Pea Soup at Soupizza
     When I made a visit, the soups of the day included minestrone, pumpkin, pea, and tomato. Yearning for my mom’s comforting concoction, I opted for the pea soup. The soup was just what I needed, spiced right and full of tender chucks of carrot. I also enjoyed the breadstick fresh from the oven that comes with every order of soup. As the weather gets colder, I will absolutely be returning to Soupizza to get some of their warm and delicious soup. I would also recommend using their delivery service and getting the soup or pizza delivered directly to your place!

     Another great place with vegetarian options is a little place in Florentine called Cafe Kasbah. It is situated just off of Vital Street, the hub of nightlife in the neighborhood, at 3 Florentine. I chose to sit on the beautiful porch covered in greenery and bathed in soft sunlight. Cafe Kasbah is not exclusively vegetarian but they offer an array of veggie friendly dishes. The vegetarian dishes include tofu and sweet potato curry, fried rice with tofu and vegetables, and various other salads and sides including sweet potato fries (yum!) You can also substitute tofu in many of the chicken dishes.
Cafe Kasbah's Quinoa Salad

     Recently I have had an obsession with quinoa, a couscous like staple originally from the Andes, so I was overjoyed to see quinoa salad on the menu. My love of quinoa started this summer with a recipe for corn and quinoa salad from Lucie Snodgrass’s cookbook that utilizes local ingredients from my home state called Dishing Up Maryland. I made that salad so much that my family nearly got quinoa-ed out.

The Porch at Cafe Kasbah
     The quinoa salad at Cafe Kasbah had a similar flavor to the Maryland recipe and it satisfied my long going craving. The salad is made of quinoa in combination with various veggies, raisins, dried cranberries, and pumpkin and sunflower seeds. It was delectable with a subtle acidity, sweetness from the dried berries, and a good crunch from the cucumbers and seeds.
     All of the salads come with warm bread, oil and vinegar, and pesto on the side. The bread was tender and beautifully soaked up the oil in the pesto. All in all Kasbah is a great place to have a vegetarian meal and enjoy the funky atmosphere of the Florentine neighborhood.

     So, my veggie friends, and friends with vegetarian tendencies, Soupizza and Cafe Kasbah are just two out of a wide range of options for meat-free food. For other vegetarian and vegan restaurants go to Veg Tel Aviv, where they list everything from radical leftist vegan collectives to traditional Indian buffets.

Nov 16, 2010

Little Country, Big Appetite by Andrea Mann

I was relaxing on the gorgeous sandy Tel Aviv beach, enjoying the 90 degree cloudless skies in November, and skimming an article in Glamour Magazine about a blogger who took on a difficult weeklong food-frenzy mission. She had promised Glamour to only eat foods advertised on TV for an entire week and after about four days of sugary doughnuts, over-salted fast food, and processed frozen meals, she reported, “I had 2 hunger modes: (1) Desperately starving and (2) uncomfortably stuffed." Well, as I read this article, I too was recovering from a self-induced food coma. So, Glamour blogger, welcome to my life.

Israel may only be 8,000 square miles and not much larger than the state of New Jersey, but judging by the portion sizes at restaurants, I could easily mistake my locale for Texas. Prior to living in Tel Aviv, I thought big portions was a very Americanized concept. I can now attest to the fact that Tel Aviv restaurants have outdone American restaurants.


Take the Israeli breakfast for example. In America, it’s common to speed through the drive-thru for an Egg McMuffin that you will scarf down while sitting in highway traffic on your way to work. But in Israel, breakfast is serious business. Every café in Israel is sure to have some variation of the standard Israeli Breakfast on their menu and it is most likely served all day long. A typical Israeli Breakfast consists of: eggs prepared by your choice, an Israeli salad (finely diced tomatoes, onion, cucumber, parsley), an entire loaf of freshly baked bread accompanied with an assortment of spreads (butter, cream cheese, feta, laboneh, guacamole, tuna, olives, jam), a shot of yogurt, a freshly squeezed juice of your choice, and a hot beverage. And yes, as proved by the additional “Israeli Breakfast for Two” item on the menu, the standard Israeli Breakfast is meant for just one person.

While it’s easily sharable (and I recommend that you do), I had woken up in hunger mode #1, “Desperately Starving”, and felt the need to immediately satiate my growling stomach by driving into hunger mode #2, “Uncomfortably stuffed”, so I opted to order the wonderful Israeli Breakfast from Saquella’s for myself.

Having previously lived in Barcelona where tapas (you know, those teeeeeny-tinyyyy little bite size things) were the cities claim-to-fame, I must admit that I love eating in Tel Aviv. Between the Israeli take on bagels, in which the circumference closely resembles that of a plate, the all-you-can-eat replenishable pita and hummus at local hummus joints like Abu Dubi, and the mezze salads that are often set on the table before you even open your menu, what's not to love? 

Since moving to Tel Aviv, the terms "Food Baby" and "Food Coma" have officially entered my everyday vocabulary.


Nov 8, 2010

A Quiet Place in Chaotic Tel Aviv

The Backyard of Little Prince
By Laura Goldstein
    
     Ever since moving to Tel Aviv Israel I have been searching for a quiet cafe to have a moment to think and work on my assignments for Taste TLV. It has proved harder than expected considering the copious amount of cafes in this city. Most of these cafes are constantly filled with people, humming with activity, and completely open to the street. The many Tel Aviv cafes are a great place to catch up with friends and grab a great cup of coffee but all of the noise is distracting if you want to get some work done.

       After searching for a quiet place for a few weeks I was told about a café called the Little Prince. It is peaceful and secluded from the usual rush of people; I find it ideal for working on my computer. The Little Prince is tucked away just off hectic King George Street, but it feels worlds away from the busy thoroughfare.
     

Nov 3, 2010

That's just not kosher by Andrea Mann

It’s 90 degrees and sweat is dripping out of every pore of your sun-kissed body. You reluctantly decide to retreat from the beautiful Tel Aviv beach to refresh and rehydrate at a café a little ways away. You hear ice-cold water calling your name as you walk the few blocks in the dreadful heat. You sit down; the waitress greets you, places empty glasses on the table, and proceeds to take your order. You ask for a glass of tap water (which you must specify so as not to be charged for bottled water), your friend orders a diet coke, and you both place your sandwich order. Your friend’s diet coke arrives. You politely remind the nice waitress that you’d really love some water when she gets a chance. “Yes, 2 minutes”. Your sandwiches arrive. “Please, some water?” Halfway through your sandwich, a glass of lukewarm water, no ice, is set down. You gulp down every drop and pray she comes back with more. But, deep down, you know not to expect another glass of water until she brings the check.

Welcome to Israel. Where ice cold water with a freshly sliced lemon doesn’t appear magically before you, where dress codes rarely apply, and where strangers don’t hesitate to tell you how they really feel. Some may take pride in the laidback nature of Israeli way of life; others may argue that the directness and lack of customer service is a little too abrupt. Either way, there’s no doubt about it, Israel is definitely a fascinating and unique place.

Here’s just a little taste of Israeli culture:

Nov 1, 2010

Halloween in the Holy Land

Halloween night with Taste TLV at Mezcal

 By Laura Goldstein

Spending Halloween in Israel as an American you miss the carved pumpkins and crisp fall air that usually characterize the holiday. Halloween is not a big deal in Israel as the night of costumes and debauchery is the holiday of Purim in the spring.
 
The Bar at Mezcal during Halloween
As we walked from my apartment to the Taste TLV Halloween party my friend and I were conspicuous in our costumes. She dressed as a Greek goddess with a wreath of flowers on her head and I was a fairy, wings and all. We got some weird looks at my wings and her flowery headdress. Then we finally found Vital Street, it was alive with revelry with many bars overflowing with Halloween parties.
 

Oct 28, 2010

Cashier vs. Dog by Allison Gay

Tel Aviv, which is a mix of everything and everyone from everywhere around the world, is obviously bound to be a really interesting place filled with many interesting characters. But, with all of this diversity aside, I can assure you that the encounters you will have with the people here are unlike anything else in the world. And most of these encounters happen while you are grocery shopping.

Often times, Israelis are compared to Sabras (cactus fruits), which are spiky on the outside but sweet on the inside. For example, the person who steps on your foot and hits you with his cart in the grocery store without saying he is sorry, will be the same person to chat you up while you’re waiting in line and you will end up at his family’s house for Friday night dinner.

Here is one of the encounters I have witnessed so far, that I quite honestly do not think would happen anywhere else in the world.

Since when do you have to be hungry to eat? By Andrea Mann

A little well-known fact about Jews... we love to eat. Put a Jewish family together in a room and I guarantee there will be food involved. It’s no wonder the thousands of restaurants in Tel Aviv continue to thrive.

Another well-known fact (or at least a seemingly true stereotype) about Jews... Jewish mothers and Jewish grandmothers demonstrate their love by relentlessly overfeeding their children and grandchildren. You might not be very hungry, in fact, you’re probably not even the least bit hungry, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be eating.

Oct 26, 2010

More than just Borsht: Eastern European Restaurants in Tel Aviv

By Laura Goldstein
One of the first things that I noticed when I came to Tel Aviv, Israel the first time a few years ago was the ever-present Cyrillic in store windows and the incredible amount of Russian spoken on the street. After the fall of the Soviet Union over 1 million ex-Soviets immigrated to Israel. In recent years the flow of ex-Soviets has died down but is still steady. According to the Jewish Agency 1,381 olim arrived from the Former Soviet Union (FSU) from January to March 2010 alone. These immigrants changing the culture of Israel and bringing with them their unique cuisine.

I have always had an interest and a certain affinity for Russian culture. Most of my family immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe in the beginning of the 20th century and from an early age my mom would tell me bubbemiesas (old wives tales-Yiddish) about the “Old Country” and talk about how my grandpa loved his borsht. My connection to my family’s Russian past has always been strongest through traditional Ashkenazi food from the Pale of Russia. My grandma preserved the family recipes for blinzes and mondel bread and passed them down to my mom and I. This is why, when I returned to Tel Aviv to live, I was excited to explore the food-ways from the explosion of recent Eastern European immigrants.