Nov 29, 2011

Get to Know Betty White

Along Ben Yehuda there is a section that is dominated by hip art galleries. A welcome and innovative addition to this area is the newly opened Betty White. Billed as “Bistro and Art,” this eatery allows the patron to have the feeling of enjoying sumptuous food while inside an art gallery.

Betty White (Frishman 22) opened last week by three friends in there 20’s. The fact that young people know what’s up is reflected in a well thought out menu, reasonable prices, and high-class originality. The name is intended to invoke the image of a vintage character. In fact, most Israelis do not know who Betty White is and thus the name creates a sense of mystery.

The interesting architectural space is what will strike you first about Betty White. There are three distinct levels, the lowest being the bar and kitchen, a middle seating area, and an upper seating area. The color scheme for the inside is a simple black and white but this is contrasted with eye popping and colorful art pieces that adorn the walls. This interior is augmented with a selection of well-picked tunes including LCD sound system, David Bowie, and Lou Reid; making for an unbelievable atmosphere.

We started our Saturday afternoon off right with Mimosas made with freshly squeezed OJ.

The menu boasts an all day breakfast section as well as a decadent pastry selection. However, my companions and I chose to enjoy lunch items.

I ordered the Cannelloni served in a piping hot Iron skillet. Pesto, mushroom, and a generous amount of mozzarella cheese made this dish filling and delicious.

Susannah selected the frittata sandwich on artisan bread; sophisticated yet down to earth. She declared it to be, “the best sandwich I've had in Israel.”

Rachel, went with a gourmet take on a sloppy Joe. She remarked, “It was better than the American version.”

I unfortunately forgot to bring my camera and phone on this outing, but you can check out food pictures and more on the face book page:

Bottom line: go get to know Betty White

Nov 24, 2011

Falafel Gavi: Soup In November

Eating has always been the pinnacle of enjoyment for Dylan Stein. Eating good food is an essential and indispensable part of Dylan's life. Living as a student, unfortunately, prevented his culinary adventures from being as lavish as he would have hoped and he had to ask himself, " How can I stretch each dollar? He finds himself again in Tel Aviv asking himself the same question and he's finding the places to eat that will make his stomach AND wallet happy... The Hungry Canadian is happy to share these thrifty and delicious finds with us... Welcome to "Cheap Eats Tel Aviv"

It’s November in Tel Aviv and winter has (sort of, not really) come. The seven consecutive days of rain was one of the longest streaks on record, and this uncomfortable dampness combined with the final departure of beach weather has people scourging their air conditioner remote controls for the ‘heat’ setting.

There is an essential connection between cold weather and the food one eats. Having endured sub-30°C bitter cold winters in Ontario, Canada, I can tell you how a hearty stew or a slow cooked for seven hours, cut across the grain and reheated the next day in its own gravy so it melts in your mouth, brisket can lift up your spirits. So in this quasi-early winter I wanted to find something to eat that would warm up the soul.

While sauntering down the sometimes so-trendy-it-hurts Borgochov ave, enjoying the light rain on my skin and gawking openly at the Israelis who felt it was chilly enough to be wearing a parka and tuque, I came across Falafel Gavi (25 Borgochov). The cast iron pots hanging from the ceiling suggested that there was something more going on here than just your average falafel stand.

Falafel Gavi is the home to a selection of delicious soups. The varieties change daily and on my visit they had four choices that the friendly staff allowed me to sample. There was a Moroccan soup, a tomato-based soup, a bean soup that contained noodles, lentils, hummus-berries, barley and a veggie soup that contained zucchini, barley, cabbage, onions, spinach and celery.

My comrade and I selected the tomato soup, probably the ultimate soul-warmer and the Moroccan soup, which had a delicate hint of spice. Besides the flavorful, heartwarming, scrumptious soup the best part was that a sizable bowl of soup, unlimited free bread refills and Falafel balls drizzled in tehina will only set you back 20NIS.

Head to Falafel Gavi, there is also a location at dizengof 269, if you need a pick me up in the cold.

Chew Cheaply and Smile On.

Nov 23, 2011

Hertzeliya's New Tayelet

Hertzeliya is like a second home to me.  It’s where I remember spending long, hot days reading and lazy evenings eating and watching TV with family over the summers.  Its beaches are the ones I frequented as a child, eating Glidat Ariyeh (an Israeli ice cream chain) and splashing in the warm waters of the Mediterranean.  I remember walking to my uncle’s house, which was nearby, to play with my cousins.  I still have images of being woken up by my parents outside my grandmother’s apartment after long car rides from various places.  The nostalgia is almost overwhelming.

But thankfully, nostalgia is not the only sensation I feel when visiting Hertzeliya.  On a recent visit, I had the chance to visit the new tayelet (pedestrian walkway).  It was refreshing and rejuvenating to see the beautiful addition to the already amazing town. Not only is the tayelet attractive and fun, but so are the seemingly endless new restaurants and bars that line it.
Bars along the new tayelet in Hertzeliya
I liked the tayelet so much that I ended up visiting it three times in two days.  After the initial visit, I re-routed my running course so I could run along it and then decided to visit a bar that sat alongside it later that same evening.  It was all perfect… the first visit full of wonderment and excitement at the new construction, the first run along it which felt less rushed and hectic than my runs in busier and more crowded Tel Aviv, and the first experience at a bar on a cool Israeli eve.

Picking a bar wasn’t too difficult—Doug and I spotted our evening destination (whose name I can’t remember!) earlier during our run and chose it because it had lush and comfortable-looking seating.  We snuggled up on a cozy cabana facing the ocean and ordered a couple of beers.  The bar played relaxing, mellow music, a pleasant change from the over-loud club music often played in city bars.  We talked, laughed, and dozed (well, I dozed, anyway), simply enjoying the chance to relax while watching the waves break and crash ashore.
Snuggled up on a cabana
Despite my love for Tel Aviv and the fact that I’m a city-girl at heart, I couldn’t help but feel that I’d be willing to hop on a bus from Tel Aviv to Hertzeliya any day of the week simply to visit the tayelet and frequent the establishments along it.

Nov 16, 2011

The Pasta at HaPizza ("The Pizza")

I was hesitant to get pasta while eating out since my absolutely amazing experience at Piccola Pasta (see blog post).  I thought, “Well, no one can do it better than they did… and if I’m going to get pasta at a restaurant in Tel Aviv, I should get it at Piccola Pasta!” 

But during my first visit to HaPizza (51 Bograshov, Tel Aviv), the pasta options were too appealing to deny.  I had to ask the (incredibly sweet and friendly) waitress to make a recommendation between four pasta dishes I was considering! Thankfully, I was with three other people, so I still got to try four pasta dishes (none of us could resist the allure of the restaurant’s pastas, despite the fact that the restaurant’s name means “The Pizza”).

While the pasta wasn’t quite as heavenly as the pasta I got at Piccola Pasta (where I got pasta with hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, asparagus, and garlic topped with cream sauce and parmesan cheese), it certainly held its own.  I ordered the papperdelle with artichoke and a rosé sauce topped with basil and chives.  The tomato-based sauce was perfectly creamy and was complimented beautifully by the gently aromatic basil and mild onion flavor of the chives.  The artichokes gave everything a nice tangy flavor and gave texture to the dish of satisfying homemade papperdelle.

Papperdelle with artichoke, basil, and chives with rosé sauce

Two of the people eating with me also had dishes with homemade papperdelle.  One had ordered a dish with artichokes, zucchini, garlic, butter, basil, and parsley, with a spicy tomato sauce.  The dish was simple and rustic, combining the earthy flavors of zucchini and basil with the sharper flavors of artichoke and garlic.  The butter melted away into the light tomato sauce of the dish, which was not as spicy as expected.  Nevertheless, it gave the dish an added kick.

Papperdelle with artichokes, zucchini, garlic, butter, basil, and parsley with a spicy tomato sauce

The other papperdelle dish included asparagus, tomato-butter, and parmesan.  The sauce was slightly different than the rosé sauce on my pasta—it had a slightly spicer element to it that gave each bite a touch of heat.  The pasta, covered in creamy, warm sauce, had us all stealing bites throughout the meal.

Papperdelle with asparagus, tomato-butter, and parmesan with rosé sauce

The final pasta dish on the table was different than the others: it was comprised of ravioli. Spinach-ricotta ravioli with rosé sauce, to be precise.  Like all the other dishes, it was fantastic.  The homemade raviolis were generouslly filled with spinach and ricotta and had a fulfulling sharp cheesy flavor, tempered by the gentle rosé sauce, in each bite.

Spinach-ricotta ravioli with rosé sauce

We left the restaurant filled by the delicious homemade pasta.  Even so, I couldn’t help but feel that I should have tried the food the restaurant is named for: pizza. And so, my list of restaurants in Tel Aviv to return to grows longer.

Nov 15, 2011

Chicken and Hot Sauce

Eating has always been the pinnacle of enjoyment for Dylan Stein. Eating good food is an essential and indispensable part of Dylan's life. Living as a student, unfortunately, prevented his culinary adventures from being as lavish as he would have hoped and he had to ask himself, " How can I stretch each dollar? He finds himself again in Tel Aviv asking himself the same question and he's finding the places to eat that will make his stomach AND wallet happy... The Hungry Canadian is happy to share these thrifty and delicious finds with us... Welcome to "Cheap Eats Tel Aviv"

Having a craving for some comfort food from home, I set out on a search for a personal favorite of mine: grilled chicken. I found two eateries that served up some mean, home-style chicken. These joints were small, eat-on-the-go-type places; so don’t expect a fancy meal.

Tipico Grilled Chicken is located at 1 Nachalat Benyamin and makes Rotisserie-style chicken. A half chicken with wedge fries or rice will cost you 45 shekels, while a quarter chicken will cost you only 35. At Tipico, you will find a well-seasoned bird rubbed down with a mix of spices. The highlight for me was the exceptionally crispy skin. (I couldn’t resist ripping off a big piece of skin before I snapped a picture.)

The next place, Shimon Chicken, is a bit harder to find-- located at 6 Tchernichovsky St.

Behind the store’s modest exterior is a real gem. A place like this gives you the small thrill of feeling like you found a ‘locals only’ spot. Shimon has some deliciously greasy and affordable chicken. I got a full bird for 48 sheks and accepted the option to have it liberally brushed down with garlic. It came with a pile of fries, kissed by the grease goddess herself, and included a hearty helping of pickles and hot peppers.

So for all you grease-lovers stranded across the Atlantic, both of these establishments are sure to put you in fried food-coma bliss.

Continuing with the idea of foods that bring you comfort, let’s discuss an absolute staple of mine. If you are not already familiar, let me introduce you to probably the best hot sauce in the world: Sriracha. This sauce can be described as “ a delicious blessing flavored with the incandescent glow of a thousand dying suns.”

Quote taken from

You may have been exposed to Sriracha.without knowing it. Ever had “spicy sauce” at a sushi restaurant? The ingredients in spicy sauce are Sriracha, mayo and sesame oil.

I add Sriracha to many of my regular dishes and have found that this versatile sauce segues beautifully into Israeli cuisine. “Spicy hummus” and “spicy feta” have become instant favorites and truly will take any pita sandwich to the next level.

You can pick up a bottle of Sriracha at the Asian grocery store in the shuk.

If my praise has not yet convinced you to go out and immediately pick up a bottle, go sample it for yourself. Head to Il Pizzaiolo at 123 Dizengoff where they are nice enough to put a bottle on every table.

Incidentally, this goat cheese, olive, and green onion thin crust pizza was wonderful.

Chew Cheaply and Smile On.

Nov 10, 2011

The Many Faces of Kikar Rabin

With Ibn Gvirol Street on its east side, Hen Boulevard on its west side, and Frishman Street on its south end, Kikar Rabin is central Tel Aviv’s largest open public city square.

Kikar Rabin (Rabin Square), formerly Kings of Israel Square, was renamed after the assassination of then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at a peace rally in 1995.  To this day, the square is a popular gathering spot: in a single week, the square would have hosted a social justice movement protest, the beginning of the Nike 10K Nightrun, and the annual memorial to the square’s namesake, had it not been postponed because of bad weather.  

And so, as I try to experience everything Tel Aviv has to offer, I find myself time and again at Kikar Rabin.

The Social Justice Movement Protest (October 29, 2011)
The protest was the first in just under two months.  The one prior, held on September 3, brought approximately 460,000 protesters to the street nation-wide.  Prior to the September 3rd culminating rally held before the onset of the Jewish holiday season (which, from Rosh Hashanah to Simchat Torah, usually spans about a month’s time), rallies and marches were held since the start of the movement in mid-July.  At first only attracting about 1000 participants, the movement swelled to hundreds of thousands within a month.

The October 29th rally that Doug and I attended, which brought about 20,000 people to the streets, was consequently a rather disappointing turnout from perspective of the movement’s organizers.  Beyond that, people who had the opportunity to go to the earlier rallies said that something was missing from the one held on October 29th (a fire, a fervor, an electric current of passion for social change, if you will).  People were not chanting the movement’s mottos at the hosts’ promptings, they were not loudly calling for justice, and they were not incredibly engaged in the rally.  From what we’ve read, it seems the October rally served as more of a social event which people attended merely to see friends and say they were there.
At the protest on October 29, 2011. The sign to the left reads: "The nation demands that the budget be increased" (it had been voted on by the Knesset prior to the protests)
From my perspective, it was still fascinating and powerful.  While only 20,000 people attended, I’m inclined to say they represented many more who simply couldn’t attend on the late-October eve, which happened to be the night before fall semester classes began for students. 
It's estimated that about 20,000 people attended the October 29, 2011 rally
To put the protest into a more concrete perspective for those unfamiliar with life in Israel: it’s expensive to live here.  Apartments, food, childcare, etc.—they all carry New York City price tags.  But Israel does not boast salaries similar to those paid in New York City.  In fact, the average annual salary of Israelis ($28,320, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, April 2011) is only slightly above what America calls the poverty line ($22,314 for a family of four).  Long story short, many in the middle class find themselves living paycheck to paycheck.  Young families struggle to save any money in the hopes of being able to afford buying their own home one day. 
Protesters' signs
It is worth mentioning that Israel has socialized health care and education.  Everyone has access to health care (albeit to doctors with varying degrees of quality).  Obtaining a bachelor’s degree or attending professional schools costs students only a few thousand dollars a year, a far cry from the $40,000+ a year it costs to attend college in the United States.  In this regard, if nothing else, Israelis are fortunate (although if you ask them, they would say attending college is expensive).

With all this said, I personally don’t know what the government can possibly do on a short-term basis to alleviate financial difficulties.  Subsidies, housing allotments, and the lowering of the minimum age for children to receive free education, will only go so far.  At some point, salaries must rise to meet the increased price of living.  Until then, I sympathize with the protesters and hope that, whatever the outcome, the living standard of middle class Israeli will rise.
At the protest on October 29, 2011
Nike 10K Nightrun (November 2, 2011)
A lighter gathering than the social justice movement rally, thankfully!

Doug and I signed up for the Nike Nightrun in early October. I was hesitant to at first—at that point I hadn’t run more than 3 miles at one go, and the race was over 6 miles long.  Besides that, running was kind of grueling for me. 

And then one day I ran with my friend Alexis.  By the end of the run, I realized that not only could I run the 10K, but I would also have someone I would want to run it with.  And so began the training process. We ran together as much as we could before the race.  What with Career Israel trips, holidays, and starting our internships, it wasn’t easy.  Nevertheless, we gradually increased our running route until we hit 5.3 miles, only about one mile shy of the race distance. 
With my lovely running partner, Alexis, before the race
On the day of the race, Kikar Rabin was filled by a moving mass of neon yellow.  People were stretching, chatting, and taking pictures. Despite all attempts at creating order, things felt rather disorganized as runners from all starting times gathered by the start line to await the beginning of the race. Doug, who was supposed to be in the second starting wave, ended up in the very front of the pack waiting to start.  Alexis and I roamed about with a few other friends from the group who were running the race.  We watched as the first waves started running. Doug sprinted off, ultimately finishing 67th in the race (out of more than 12,500 participants!) 
Doug zooming off from the starting line
Doug finishing the race 67th!
He ran the 10K in 39:10. Amazing!
Alexis and I, meanwhile, ran the race at a more leisurely pace.  Both of us were determined to run the entire 10 kilometers.  We weaved past other runners as the route wound through Park Hayarkon, a 1000-acre park in north Tel Aviv.  As we neared the finish line, we both sped up, excited to have completed our first race.  And it was exciting! My name was called out on the loudspeaker as I crossed the finish line, announcing (to me and everyone else!) that I completed the race. 

Post-race: victorious! We even got medals!
Thinking back, I can’t help but be thrilled by the entire thing.  When Doug and I first arrived to Tel Aviv, I told him my goal was to be able to run to Yafo (about 3 miles from our apartment) by the end of the program in January.  Not only did I manage to run the distance to Yafo and back by November, but I also managed to run a 10K race and enjoyed doing it. 

Annual Memorial to Yitzhak Rabin
On November 4, 1995, Rabin was murdered by Yigal Amir, an extreme right-wing religious Zionist who opposed Rabin’s peace initiatives and the signing of the Oslo Accords.  After the assassination, thousands of young Jews visited the square to mourn and pay their respects to the late Prime Minister.  In 2005, he was voted the greatest Israeli of all time in a poll by ynet, an Israeli news site.  Yet, fewer and fewer people attended the annual memorial ceremonies held in his honor.  This year, the group that usually organizes the memorial decided to simply cancel it, seeing it as a drain of funds that could be used to maintain the Yitzhak Rabin Center; while another group adopted the responsibility and was to hold the event on November 5, the memorial has been suspended “until further notice.”

Doug and I intended to go.  We tried to find information about the memorial event prior to its postponement but found nearly nothing online.  We hardly managed to find out that it was canceled due to “bad weather” (it was certainly chilly out, but not raining or anything). 

Memorial to Yitzhak Rabin, located where he was assassinated on November 4, 1995
As we wait to find out when the memorial will be held, I’m willing to bet that in the meantime, we’ll find ourselves taking the short walk to Kikar Rabin for other random events.

Nov 9, 2011

Jamilla Means Beautiful

Eating has always been the pinnacle of enjoyment for Dylan Stein. Eating good food is an essential and indispensable part of Dylan's life. Living as a student, unfortunately, prevented his culinary adventures from being as lavish as he would have hoped and he had to ask himself, " How can I stretch each dollar? He finds himself again in Tel Aviv asking himself the same question and he's finding the places to eat that will make his stomach AND wallet happy... The Hungry Canadian is happy to share these thrifty and delicious finds with us... Welcome to "Cheap Eats Tel Aviv"

With a hunger exaggerated by the previous evening’s sixth annual Nike Night Run (which incidentally, I highly recommend) and a hankering for a new style of cuisine, myself and five comrades set off to find a place to satisfy our growling appetites. As a point of clarification, I would like to add what qualifies as a true ‘cheap eat.’ I am looking for meals $15 or less, which is equivalent to about 55 shekels.

After a walk down Nachalat Binyamin, home to a plethora of tempting Tel Aviv vendors and restaurants, we hit Gruzenberg and spotted people eating on a patio in what looked like ceramic bowls. Intrigued, we sat down at Jamila Morrocan restaurant. (31 Gruzenberg)

These bowls turned out to be the bottom half of a Tajine. This earthenware slow cooker is used all across North Africa, and is especially associated with Moroccan cuisine. The base of the Tajine is used as the serving dish.

Tajines allow for cooking at low temperatures. This permits rich flavor of different foods to meld together and promotes the creation of a delicious sauce. Most importantly, this special cooking device creates succulently tender meat.

Every dish at Jamilla includes a Moroccan salad; consisting of small dishes of beets, tehinaandcabbage, as well as endless bread. I really enjoy how in Middle Eastern cuisine food is often placed in a variety of small dishes. It causes the eater to constantly get to mix, match and customize foods; described by one fun-loving foodie as a “snack-tivity”

I had the Tajine chicken of the day (44 sheks,) a chicken breast in lemon sauce and olives. I found myself mopping up the lemon sauce with the continuous refills of complementary bread. Funny how in the land of pita, a simple loaf of bread with a nice crunchy crust becomes such a treat.

Other dishes that adorned our table included beef couscous (43,) stuffed red pepper (40,) and Moroccan soup (38.)

A practice that I have noticed at a number of  restaurants in Israel is that a hot beverage is included after the meal. This really should be adopted everywhere. It ties the meal together and is the catalyst for some post-meal lounge time and conversation. Jamilla served up some delicious green tea with nana.

All in all, Jamilla did the trick. This sentiment was articulated by my ever-eloquent roommate as he stated, “I’m, like, super full right now.” And I still have enough money in the wallet to go out again tonight.

Chew cheaply and smile on… Next stop, fried chicken.

Nov 6, 2011

Cheap Eats: Eat Meat

TasteTLV is proud to introduce our new weekly article Tel Aviv Cheap Eats by our newest contributor Dylan Stein better known as The Hungry Canadian... 

Eating has always been the pinnacle of enjoyment fo Dylan Stein. Eating good food is an essential and indispensable part of Dylan's life.  Living as a student, unfortunately, prevented his culinary adventures from being as lavish as he would have hoped and he had to ask himself, " How can I stretch each dollar? He finds himself again in Tel Aviv asking himself the same question and he's finding the places to eat that will make his stomach AND wallet happy... 

After graduating from Queens University last April, I was unsure what direction I wanted to take in regard to my life goals. The vague notion that I wanted to embark on some kind of adventure, and experience a different part of the world transformed into a concrete plan when I discovered the MASA program called Career Israel. This program allowed me to call downtown Tel Aviv my home for 5 months.

Eating has always been the pinnacle of enjoyment for me. As a kid I never went through a “picky eater phase;” eating spinach and scallops at a time when vegetables and seafood would make most of my friends break down into tears.  This continues today, as I place eating good food as an essential and indispensible part of my life. I am always keen to try new places and new foods. Needless to say, this epicurean endeavor constantly puts a smile on my face.

Life as a student, unfortunately, prevented my culinary adventures from being as lavish as I would have hoped. Throughout my four years of attending University, I was forced to make my dollar go as far as possible.  I quickly learned that more inexpensive restaurants can still serve up some mean tasting dishes. In a city as expensive as Tel Aviv, it takes skill to eat well and cheap. The economical Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Chinese food restaurants that where my eatery staples in Vancouver, are almost completely absent from the Tel Aviv landscape. This has inspired me to devote my time in Tel Aviv to finding Tel Aviv restaurants that will make my stomach AND wallet happy. And for your reading pleasure, I will share what I find. 

Upon landing In Israel I set off at a furious pace to answer the age-old question, “can one eat too much falafel?”  Although this search continues, I am finally ready to step out of my original “falafel only” diet.  My first foray out of the falafel world was at EATMEAT.

Located on 68 King George, across the street from Abu Dhabi hummus (if any one has not been here, you should go) EATMEAT is a very small place with some outdoor seating.

Looking in you will see crowded faux wood counters, delicious smelling meat on a grill, and some very good-looking Tel Aviv sandwiches being made assembly-line style. The sandwiches, which will set you back a mere 31 shekels, are made on round ciabatta buns heated to a crispy golden brown.  The small grill, which was constantly crowded, combined onions, jalapeños and meat.  There is an option to add an egg for an extra five shekels, which I was all over.


Three sauces are used on the sammies: mayo, dijon mustard and chimichurri sauce. Chimichurri sauce is an argentine sauce that is used for meat and consists of finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, sunflower oil, vinegar and red pepper flakes. This concoction is very good and adds just a little bit of heat.  In addition to this, tomato and lettuce are added. There is also the option of getting all of these ingredients in salad form, which costs 28 Shekels.  The end result is a hearty, quite gourmet looking sandwich. 

We ate at the crowded bar which allowed us to observe and enjoy a constant flurry of sandwich-making activity. Due to the limited space, most people took their meats to go. “It’s way better than I expected,” remarked my female companion who was fully content after half of her sandwich.  I left EATMEAT full and happy and would recommend this to anyone who is looking for a fulfilling and inexpensive meal.   

Chew cheaply and smile on.

Nov 3, 2011

While Tel Aviv Napped

Tel Aviv is a city that never sleeps.  I concluded this early on, shortly after arriving in Israel and making unending parallels between Tel Aviv and my former home-city, Manhattan (I talk about it in an earlier post, too).  The biggest difference, as my car-less and bike-less self is ever-conscious of, is the lack of 24-7 public transportation.  As much as I hate on the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the New York subway and bus systems) while I’m in Manhattan, it’s definitely doing something right.

Israel’s public transportation system stops running on Shabbat and holidays for a combination of religious and political reasons that I won’t go into right now.  I’m more interested in talking about what happens on Yom Kippur, Judaism’s most solemn holiday during which people fast, refrain from using lotions and perfumes, and abstain from physical relations.  All the usual Shabbat and High Holiday restrictions apply, as well: using electricity, driving, and writing are all taboo.

Yom Kippur, also known as The Day of Atonement, is widely celebrated in a way that other Jewish holidays are not.  Even unobservant and secular Jews tend to do something differently on Yom Kippur (even if it’s just taking the day off work in the United States, fasting for a short time, or going to synagogue for a few hours).  Non-Jewish friends have told me that Manhattan’s rush hour seems far tamer on Yom Kippur, given the significantly decreased number of commuters.

The difference between rush hour in New York on a normal day and on Yom Kippur, however, pales in comparison to the difference between life in Tel Aviv on a normal day and on Yom Kippur.  Tel Aviv, a city far more secular than Jerusalem, usually doesn’t miss a beat.  The majority of restaurants, bars, stores, pharmacies, supermarkets, and movie theatres stay open throughout Shabbat and holidays.  But Yom Kippur is different.  Everything stops running.  Well, almost everything—the traffic lights keep working, but it’s not like they do much since driving is illegal and the only things on the streets are people and bikes.  It’s as if the city’s inhabitants are taking advantage of their child’s (Tel Aviv) nap.  Rather than stay in and watch TV (which I heard from others is also limited as many networks simply put up messages wishing people happy holidays), Israelis go out en masse.  They seem to embrace Yom Kippur as a time to spend time with friends on the streets, since they have no way to get to anywhere and no where to go to in any case.

I can’t express how strange it was to walk along one of Israel’s largest highways or how cool it was to dance in the middle of a huge intersection.  It was truly a once in a lifetime experience (for me, anyways—Israelis get to experience it annually!)  While the streets were pretty packed with people in the early evening, by 1am most streets were relatively deserted. 
Dancing in an intersection next to the Azrieli Center. Picture compliments of Justin Ellis.
An empty highway.  Picture compliments of Justin Ellis.
I personally don’t use electronic items during Yom Kippur, so unfortunately I don’t have many pictures documenting the transformation of the usually bustling Tel Aviv into an eerie ghost-town.  One of my friends, however, took pictures and videos of our journey through the city.
In an intersection next to the Azrieli Center.  Picture compliments of Justin Ellis.
Hanging out on an empty highway. Picture compliments of Justin Ellis.
By the next night, as Yom Kippur concluded, the city awoke.  Cars were back on the streets before we could even finish the 10-minute walk from synagogue back to our apartment.  Tel Aviv’s restaurants and bars opened shortly after as people milled out onto the streets to break their fasts, go to parties, or simply revel in Tel Aviv’s reawakening.  Tel Aviv’s annual nap was over and its Israeli parents were ready, as always, to play with it once more.

Nov 2, 2011

A Taste of France in Tel Aviv!

Last Friday afternoon, my lovely and esteemed coworker, Kassandra, invited me to meet her at Gourmet Shop for a wine and cheese tasting date.  (Each Friday, the shop owner, Michael, offers complimentary wine tasting, so we took the opportunity!) I left my apartment at approximately 11:30, and on my walk, I feasted my eyes upon the extraordinarily busy streets of Tel Aviv.  For some reason, I thoroughly enjoy the chaos that precedes Shabbat every week.  People young and old scurry about the city, carrying beautifully braided challah, lugging pomegranates and other produce, eating street shwarma dripping with tehina, and shopping for whatever they may need for the night.  This distinctive storm before the calm of Shabbat reminds me that I am indeed in Israel… 
Upon reaching my destination at 148 Ibn Gvirol, Florence, the young lady at the cheese counter welcomed me with a warm smile slathered in the signature Israeli red lipstick.  She kindly offered me a glass of ruby-colored Bordeaux to enjoy while Kassandra came from around the corner.  

Once Kassandra arrived, we tasted a plethora of delicious cheeses imported from France and crafted in northern Israel on the farms near Tzfat.  Florence kindly gave us a generous sampling of various cheeses, including perfectly salty parmesan, buttery brie, smoky gouda, and others.  

I mentioned to Florence that I loved anything and everything with truffles, so she kindly cut off creamy slice of Brillat-Savarin infused with black truffles.  With a brie-like consistency and the magical earthy flavor of highly coveted mushrooms, this cheese was remarkable! We also tasted the “Butter De Poetry” cheese that had a buttery yellow color, a soft and delicate texture, and a hazelnutty taste.  Under the regulations of the AOC, this cheese comes to Israel in wooden barrels, relics of Old World European style.  In this small Tel Aviv food shop, Kassandra and I tasted world-class cheese.

After our cheese tasting, we explored the quaint shop a bit, noticing the artisanal goods lining the walls. 

We feasted our eyes upon packages of beautiful spaghetti, handcrafted pesto, truffle oil, raspberry-infused Dijon mustard, aged balsamic vinegar, and other specialty items imported from France.  My eyes naturally drifted to the bars of dark chocolate with honey and chili, almonds and sea salt, and other unique combinations. YUM.  
Florence also offered us a panini to enjoy for my first visit to the shop.  Israeli hospitality with French products—we were lucky ladies! She made us a panini on artisan bread with creamy Brillat-Savarin cheese, oil-soaked artichokes and sundried tomatoes. 

I cannot wait to go back to the Gourmet Shop for their grand opening soiree on November 14th! RSVP with me!!
Wishing you a week of pesto, proscuitto, and parmesan,