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.