Jul 5, 2012

You Know You're in Israel When...

There is a phenomenon that has swept Israeli beaches. I can not tell you historically how long this phenomenon has been around for, but I can say, it doesn’t look like it’s leaving any time soon. It’s called “matkot”, and at first, it seems like the Israeli national sport. But I think there’s more to this game than meets the eye. 

Matkot is essentially ping-pong without the table. The paddles and ball are a bit larger, and the game is often more intense. There is no way to avoid matkot on the beach. Usually men play it at the very edge of the shore so that you have to dodge matkot balls in order to get into the waves. (In fact, I’ve been hit quite a few times, leaving glorious bruises on my arms. If only they weren’t so rough...) You can’t fall asleep in the sun without the sounds of the balls hitting the wooden paddles. And of course, it is impossible to not watch the men at play. Why? You know the answer. If there’s anything Israeli men do better than flashing you a smile and delivering a hopeless pickup line, it’s playing matkot. 

"Matkot" injuries. : )

Their sweaty bodies drip with each smack of the matkot ball. They grunt as they reach for a hit. And then when the ball drops... well they have to bend down to get it, naturally. (And since most of them are wearing underwear as bathing suits, it’s usually a good show.) 
But I think there is more to matkot than some athletic sport. In fact, I think matkot is a plumage demonstration, a peacock show if you will. It gives the men an opportunity to show off, not only their skills, but their bodies. And it works! Because how do we respond, ladies? We sit and we watch! (And we drool, and we breathe hard, and we stutter when our friends try to elicit responses from us.)

We whisper to our friends, “Oh, he is CUTE!” And after each ball drops we stick out our chest, flip our hair, and pray, “look at me, look at me, please look at me”, as they run over to get the ball, without giving us the smallest glance. Another missed opportunity. 

To the ladies who sit and watch matkot all day, with the prayer that one of these studs will put down the paddle and sweep you off your feet... you’ve been sitting in the sun too long. This won’t happen; stop waiting for him to come to you. The days of lying on your towels and waiting for your hunk of Middle Eastern glory to notice you are no more. There are hundreds of girls just like us on the beach, nothing differentiating us from the beautiful Israeli girl lying next to us. (Except for the fact that she is a beautiful Israeli girl. And since she will steal the show... get up and do something!) 

So here is it, my solution to your daydreaming woes: volleyball. I realize that not everyone has the “bump-set-spike” down pat. Don’t worry about it, this is not about your skills. It’s about... your feathers. You’re going to want to make sure that you do NOT play this game in your t-shirt. Remember, this is about sticking out... so stick them out! Take your hair down, head into the shallow water, and with a friend, commence the game. 

Since you are in the shallow water, you will be awfully close to those matkot men. The ball will roll away, and they will have to stop to get it for you. Furthermore, now that there is actually something to watch other than matkot, many eyes will be on you. Put on a smile. Let the ball fall in the water as you crash into the waves. Say “todah” when your knight in shining armor rescues the rogue ball for you. And when you are done, walk back to your towel, lie down... and wait. They’ll be there in a few minutes. 

Gentlemen, the beach is the world’s largest catwalk. And I’ll be damned if I let you steal this show. So, ladies, when you have to compete with delicious Israeli men, grab the bigger balls (the volleyball that is) and assume the position. You'll get the attention you want. Don’t forget to dodge the matkot balls on the way into the shore. They will be there; that’s how you know you’re in Israel.

Jul 4, 2012

Cooking with ONE Hot Plate

If you've just moved to Israel, will only be staying for a short time, or simply haven't gotten around to buying a stove... you'll want to know how to cook with nothing but a hot plate (which is likely the only thing you have). Fortunately, I've created a video that details the perfect hot plate meal, and what you can do with your extra time while that meal cooks. (For the record, "Beit Leni" is the name of an apartment building in Tel Aviv. This will make more sense once you watch the video.)

Enjoy this short clip, and of course... "beteavon"!

Jul 2, 2012

Baby Bites: Child friendly places to eat in Tel Aviv

Cafe Sonya
Simtat Almonit (off King George) Tel Aviv

Highchair availability: Yes
Price: Moderate
Kosher: Not Kosher

Ahhh, Summer in Tel Aviv. Whether you are a native or an import, it means one thing for sure: guests. There are always weddings and occasions in Israel over the Summer that means overseas guests will be around and about and of course, need to sample the local fare, but not in a falafel/shwarma sort of way - more in an ice coffee, limonana barad sort of way. For anyone who has made an international trek with a toddler on board, they deserve the very best, most relaxing experience possible. 

Now, everyone always wants to go to the landmark places; Dizengoff, Sheinkin, Shuk HaCarmel. That's fine. But when you need a bit relief from the sun and craziness, Cafe Sonya offers quite a treat. It's a beautiful, very family friendly little oasis just down the road from all of these ventures. Located on a tiny alleyway called Simtat Almonit, just off always-manic King George Street, Sonya offers a huge, shaded courtyard out the back of a small storefront where you can enjoy a wide range of goodies, with an excellent kids menu too. 

On my most recent visit a few weeks ago, I was with my son and had met with friends of mine visiting from Australia with their 1.5 year old in tow, or "Hurricane Tal" as they liked to refer to him. We had just been at the shuk and were looking for some cool, quiet, tasty relief. The staff immediately showed us to a table out the back with ample space for both strollers. Though it was a little difficult to move them around the stone covered courtyard, we could be sure they weren't going anywhere. They brought us menus in both Hebrew and English and again, like any good place should, brought water straight away. A particularly lovely element of Sonya is their kids menu, which is part of the larger menu and has some really cute drawings in it. Often, kids menus can mean staple crap - plain noodles, shnitzel (or nuggets) and chips - Sonya instead offers the kind of food you would rather see your kids eat -  sliced veggies and a hardboiled egg or omlet, toasted cheese sandwiches on whole wheat (which my little one devoured), sliced fruit, and shoko (chocolate milk) in those awesome plastic cups everyone had when they were little with the inbuilt straws. So three iced coffees, a toastie and a shoko later, we were set. 

I have the privilege of a kid who likes to sit on my lap and eat. Most likely just because he isn't quite walking yet so eating is the next most fun thing to do. My friends' son, however, IS already walking and is super curious and excited, so he was enjoying the garden and his shoko on-the-go. No problem; the staff helped him navigate his way around and gave him a napkin to wipe off his milk moustache. When the little explorer came and joined us for a cuddle and some toastie, we managed to have a little accident with the shoko. My son loved it, licking the sweet treat off his hands and sucking on his shirt. I was just drenched. The staff was great; they came to help clean me and my handbag off and even refilled the little monkey's shoko because he lost a bit of it. The way it should be. Truly family friendly with a smile!

Sonya's menu is diverse and delicious; their shakshuka, lasagne and salads, from my experience, are always fresh and beautifully presented, and they offer several kinds of each, as well as vast array of huge sandwiches, gorgeous cakes and a variety of other baked goods. They also have a great breakfast and strong, fresh coffee, all set upon a bright and colorful stage with stylish Tel-Aviv vintage architecture in the background. As a mum, this a quite a nice place to be able to eat and relax and take a quick breather from the madness of the city just outside of the shaded walls of the courtyard. Although not the most immediately accessible place for a bite, its a great "hidden secret" amongst the many little laneways and side streets that so often get missed by tourists in the grander scheme of enjoying the city for a few days. Highly recommended with or without guests or kids, but totally worthwhile for both as well.


Written by Kassandra Grunewald; Photos by Karen Cohen.



In celebration of #pieweek, we thought we would add a twist by posting one of our favorite recipes. This recipe is meant to please a crowd and is just as good warm, room temperature, and even cold. We love the elegant aroma of the rosemary to make this pear danish an unforgettable treat.

Adapted Recipe from Contest Winner on Food52 by hardlikearmour


Recipe Calls for a 13x9 inch pan, but we didn't have one so I did some research* and found out that you can also use two 9' pans. This way we can make two and share :)  Before you decide to go this route, make sure two 9' pans will fit in your oven at one time - otherwise you'll have to do rounds.

Mathematical Research

The volume of a 13x9' pan is 9*13*1.5 = 175.5 
Volume of a 9' round pan is 3.14*4.52*1.5 = 95 

-- So a 9' round pan will hold about half the batter of a 13x9' pan.

RosePear_TasteTLV_05Onto the goods


1 cup unsalted butter, chilled

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 & 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 large egg


Pear Rosemary filling:

2 1/2 to 2 3/4 pounds firm-ripe pears

1 Granny Smith apple

2 to 3 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon finely chopped lemon zest

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

3 to 4 teaspoons sugar


2 tablespoons unsalted butter



1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons whole milk or half-and-half


  1. Cut butter into 1/2-inch cubes and place in the freezer. 

  2. RosePear_TasteTLV_07

  3. Chop enough rosemary for the crust and filling. Preheat your oven to 400º F with a rack in the lower middle position. (Can't chop too small)

  4. Combine sugar, salt, and rosemary in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 60 seconds to further break up the rosemary, and infuse the sugar with the oil. (Chop in short bursts to let the oil infuse) Add the flour and process for 20 seconds. 

  5. Scatter the butter cubes over the flour mixture, then pulse to combine, about 12 to 15 one-second pulses. The mixture should resemble wet sand, with some pea-sized pieces of butter. (this took us a bit longer - depending on the strength of your machine). Transfer mixture to a medium sized bowl.

  6. In a small bowl whisk the egg and 2 tablespoons of water to combine.

  7. Sprinkle the egg mixture over the flour mixture and fold to combine. Use your hands to mix and bring the dough together. You may need to add another tablespoon or so of water to get the dough to come together. It is a fairly soft dough, but it should not be overly sticky.

  8. Divide the dough into 2 unequal portions, the larger being about 2/3 of the dough. Wrap the smaller portion in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.

  9. Flour your counter top or a piece of parchment paper. Use a generous amount of flour to prevent the dough from sticking from the counter. Sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with flour as needed to prevent sticking to the rolling pin. Roll the larger portion of the dough out into a rectangle that is large enough to fit into the bottom, and up and slightly over the sides of a 13- by 9-inch baking pan. (About 17 to 18 inches by 13 to 14 inches.)

  1. Roll the dough onto your rolling pin, then transfer the dough to your pan by unrolling it off. (very useful tip) Press into the bottom and sides of the dough into the pan. If needed patch tears with some of the dough overhang or by pressing together with your fingers. 

  2. Set pan aside, and make your filling.

Pear Rosemary filling: 
  1. Quarter and core pears. Cut each quarter into 4 or 5 chunks. Place in medium sized bowl.

  2. Grate apple on the large holes of a box grater into the bowl containing the pears. Add the rosemary, lemon zest and juice, sugar. Toss until well combined.

  3. Transfer pear mixture to the prepared crust. Distribute evenly. Sprinkle with salt. Dot with butter, and set aside.

  1. Roll smaller piece of crust dough into a 13- by 9-inch rectangle on a floured surface. Transfer to the top of the pear mixture. Fold or roll the bottom crust over the top crust and flute the edges or use a fork to press the edges. Dock the surface of the crust with a fork.

  2. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, turning the danish 180º after 25 to 30 minutes. The edges of the crust should be nicely browned and the top of the crust should be golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack.

  1. Whisk the glaze ingredients together, and drizzle over the danish after it has been cooling for 10 to 15 minutes. Cool at least several hours or overnight before cutting and serving.
B'te Avon!