Israel Dec – Jan 2015

December 31st

When we arrived Jessica and Tal met us at our airbnb to grab sabich, something similar to a falafel sandwich but omg better. The fresh-made pitas are stuffed with lots of pickled vegetables, hummus, and other spreads complete with thin slices of eggplant. We ate at Effe Sabich, near the Carmel Market, that Tal shared was his favorite.

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We ate at an Israeli’s house that Tal arranged for New Years with an incredible spread of food. It was the best New Years celebration I’ve had, complete with two dogs! They also gifted us a small painting of a dog that looks like Joey. The place was Habanot and was an incredible way to start the trip.

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January 1st

We were jet lagged so we met up with Tal and Jessica around 1 for a late brunch – at one of the cafe’s where Ottolenghi got his latke recipe from! The sweet potato latkes were out of this world amazing, as was the fresh garden salad with herb dressing. Here’s the recipe for the latkes and here’s the restaurant – Orna and Ella.

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We then walked through Carmel Market, which is right next to our airbnb and the largest market in Tel Aviv. They sell lots of clothes and trinkets but the best part is the produce section – the tomatoes were all sorts of beautiful colors, the strawberries incredibly small but packed with flavor, and so many schwarma and falafel stops.

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We grabbed dinner in Jaffa at Kalamata, a restaurant that faces the ocean and – of course – has incredible seafood. We ordered the farmers bread (amazing), the ceviche (best ceviche either of us had ever had), artichokes on a bed of black lentils, fresh fish fillet, and kanafe with strawberries (o. my. god.)

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January 2nd

We grabbed breakfast at Dallal Restaurant, a famous in Neve Tzedek, where we had delicious white beans in ragu sauce with poached eggs – it had interesting and unique spices in it. Next time I’ll get the shakshouka and strawberry dessert. I stopped by later and grabbed some baked goods from the bakery next door – the line went out into the street. I also ventured to the market nearby in the old train station – really great local shops, including a huge Ahava store and American Vintage.

Then I met Jessica and Tal at their favorite falafel shop, Hakosem, near King George Street. Amazing – fresh ingredients, lots of veggies, made to order falafels.

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And Kiehl and I grabbed dinner at yet another outstanding recommendation from Tal – Basta. Tucked into Carmel Market, the place has a cozy atmosphere and incredible food. We got a half liter or cab sauvignon – delicious – and started off with Jerusalem artichokes topped with almonds, fresh bread with (lots of) butter, and baked cauliflower with tahini and chili. Kiehl then ordered himself slow-cooked lamb with yogurt sauce and I ordered baked crabs that were the most incredible crabs I’ve ever had – they were baked in ginger, hot peppers, peppercorns, rosemary (the surprise but fantastic ingredient), and a pool of butter. By the end we were both just dipping our hands into the sauce. And to end the night, we had knafe – again. Incredible.

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There has been no shortage of food on this trip , but the amazing thing about Israeli food is that it includes so much fresh produce you don’t feel terrible afterwards. Or at least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.

January 3rd

Nazareth

Alreda or Cafe Reda where we tried traditional Palestinian food. This included frekeh soup (delicious), mushrooms stuffed with sweet potatoes, cheese, and …, and baby salad.

Then we walked around Nazareth to visit the Basilica of the Annunciation, where Mary was told that she had immaculate conception by the angel Gabriel. The church was stunning – I’ve never seen one like it. It was very traditional and very modern, a really unique combination. We also stopped by St. Joseph’s church where Joseph reportedly ran his carpentry business.

We got dinner at Uri Buri, located in Acre and a famous restaurant for seafood as it’s right along the beach. We opted for the tasting menu where they ask for your food preferences and then you tell them you’re full and to stop – in other words, the price can be controlled by you. We had creamy crab soup (good but rich), ceviche marinated in olive oil, lemon, capers and onions (yummy), rare shrimps on persimmon (also good and interesting), baby St. Peter fish (not my favorite but Kiehl liked it), sea wolf in a reduced balsamic rosemary sauce with chestnuts pumpkin puree (very good), salmon in panko (also very good),  incredible scallops in cream, ginger, white wine and seaweeds (Kiehl and I liked this the best), and of course – finished with khanafi.

We then drove back to Tel Aviv to get ready for our next trip!

January 4th

We drove with Jessica and Tal to Jerusalem, which is almost like visiting another country. We got a tour that while a bit biased was really interesting – it was supposed to be a 4 hour tour but it was more like 8 hours. Some of the stops included the wailing wall, a view of Mt Olive, each of places represented by the stations of the cross, where Mary and Joseph are buried, where Jesus died and was resurrected, the last supper room, etc. etc. In the Arab quarter we also had incredible hummus with fava beans. It was fascinating to learn about the history there that involves so many different cultures, countries, and religions – the tour guide said it’s the most interesting city in the world, and after today’s tour my interest has certainly been peaked. Even with 8 hours of straight walking and discussion, I feel like we barely scratched the surface.

We got dinner (after a khanafi stop – I don’t know if I can do anymore) at Machneyuda – where we did another tasting menu. The food was, no surprise, incredible. Some of the dishes included mushroom risotto with truffle oil, steak tartare, crabs cooked in spicy tomatoes, t-bone lamb chop with Israeli artichoke, cauliflower soup, polenta with truffle and salmon, filet mignon, tuna tartare, and a huge dessert sampler. Favorites were the risotto, polenta, crabs, and cauliflower soup. We also really liked the gin and tonic cocktail with mojito.

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