Food and Wine
By: Sandy Katz - Dec 19, 2015
In the past few years Israel has earned itself a name in gastronomical world. All travelers plan to eat while traveling, but a growing number of them plan to travel specifically to eat.
Wine and food are two independent lovers in a culinary tango! Wine nurtures food and food in return accentuates wine, enriching its flavor.
Introduction to Israel
Israel, the Promised land of the Bible, is today a modern, thriving, bustling and vibrant country. In today’s Israel, cities, towns, villages, fertile farms, green forests, sophisticated industries and well-developed commercial enterprises have replaced barren hillsides, swamps and desert wilderness.
Israel is located in the Middle East, along the eastern coastline of the Mediterranean Sea. It borders Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt and lies at the meeting point of three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa.
The small country of Israel is about 290 miles in length and, at its narrowest point, only about 9 miles wide.
Since Israel’s birth in 1948, its population has grown five-fold. Its 6.5 million inhabitants come from various ethnic backgrounds, religious and traditional. Jews make up 77.2% of population, while non-Jewish citizens, mostly Arabs account for about 22.8%
Most Israeli citizens are required by law to serve in military once they have reached age 18. For men, service lasts three years, for women, two years.
Despite enormous challenges, Israel has become a vibrant democracy, a scientific and cultural capital. Israel has persevered, defending its right to exist while maintaining a profound yearning for peace.
After checking into David International Hotel, Tel Aviv (www.intercontinental.com/telaviv), we went to dinner at Pasha (8 Ha’Arbaa St. 03-5617778) for authentic Turkish food. My experience was so overwhelmingly enjoyable and delicious that I declared that this restaurant will be standard for all the rest on this trip. This kosher restaurant was a local favorite with a festive atmosphere. The flavor of the potato pancakes still is in my memory. It was made with leeks and mashed potatoes.
Next morning, I experienced my first Israeli-style buffet breakfast with foods from fancy eggs, to all kinds of cheeses, several salads, pastries galore, all kinds of olives and usual breakfast foods, too. A meal like this is almost enough to satisfy you for the day, but I was on a food and wine tour, so I had to pace myself.
Tel-Aviv on the Mediterranean coast was founded in 1909 as the first modern Jewish city and is today the center of Israel’s business and cultural life.
We ate brunch at Manta Ray, the quintessential beach restaurant that looks out on the gentle surf of a serenely beautiful stretch of Tel Aviv’s coast, with an unobstructed view of the ancient city of Jaffa, and it is perfectly positioned to catch the sun setting over the Mediterranean .Our mouth-watering small plates of 12 different Middle Eastern-style appetizers could have filled me up, but much more was to come. There was the variation of foods that I experiences as appetizers in most of the restaurants: Tehina, eggplant, hummus, , vegetable salads, avocado salads, and much more. The Balkan bread was a big hit as well as contemporary and exotic variations. Its many varieties of fish, accompanying wines and desserts have made this restaurant a classic favorite. Even Madonna dined here! (03) 5174773 www.mantaray.co.il
Our mid-day dining experience was at the home of Chef Erez Stern (www.erez.stern.co.il) This style of dining is popular in Israel. His comfortable living room/dining setting was homey, cozy and a delight. Nice to be able to visit an Israeli home. His citrus-spices hot punch was one of my favorite beverages of my Israeli trip. He so kindly shared his recipe: Combine freshly squeezed orange juice with pulp, Kosher Kiddush (sweet) wine, sugar and whole spices such as cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, vanilla stick and cloves. His meal presentation of lamb was superb, however, his desserts upstaged the meal and were well-worth the calories (cinnamon cheesecake and poppy-seed Tuile, Chocolate fudge cake, milk chocolate ganach, lavender crème-brule’, strawberries and blueberries soup, lemon curd sandwich, dried fruits yogurt) were all served in sample size fancy dishes so we could enjoy them all.
Tonight we went to Old Jaffa, a municipality of Tel Aviv, and a fascinating port city with old-world charm. First we visited the wine-man Shaul Evron at Yoezer Wine Bar who educated us on the wine industry in Israel. Jewish traditions were always toasted with Kosher red sweet wine. Today Israel has mostly Boutique wineries producing fine wines for consumption in Israel at the finest restaurants. However, the larger wineries are exporting wines around the world
Cordelia Restaurant in Jaffa is a perfect example of where you could get the best Boutique wines Israel can offer. Chef Nir Zook provided us with an array of foods to tempt a Turkish Sultan, who actually did build this restaurant as his home, but never lived in it. We dined on Wolf fish with Turkish Spinach, eggplant ravioli with Jerusalem artichoke cream, Beef filet & Truffle gnocchi to mention a few dishes. www.cordelia.co.il . This restaurant is considered among the finest in Israel.
Tel Aviv is famous for its nightlife. Brasserie is where one needs to see and be seen and its open 24/7-365 days a year. What I saw was a happy bunch of diners meeting and greeting each other for a fun evening. Israelis are known to enjoy their dining-out activities and having fun!
Next morning we drove north from Tel Aviv along Mediterranean Sea to Carmelim region to Caesarea, the ancient port built by King Herod. We viewed a multi-media presentation of this Crusader City, climbed the Time Tower where I saw an amazing animated presentation of how Herod built the port; toured Roman Theater and Roman Aqueduct. As you walk through the ruins of Caesarea by the seashore, you can catch glimpses of ancient glory, fallen pillars, slabs of marble and rubble. www.caesarea.org.il
In this region we found Tishbi Winery , our first Boutique Winery. We watched a local couple fill their bottles with Tishbi wine, a convenience I never saw before. They also make olive oil and are planning entering the jam and jelly market. We tasted their wares with delight. www.tishbi.eu
Ein Hod-Artist Village was on our way to Haifa, so we stopped for lunch at their Argentine restaurant Dona Rosa. What a feast was set before us of every delicious meat that we could cook on our own little table-top stove. www.dona-rosa.israel.net To walk off our meal, we had a tour of the artist village with a special stop at a home of artists, where their work was on display like a mini-museum.
We arrived in Haifa just in time to check into Holiday Inn Hotel Bay-view (800-945-3777 www.holiday-inn.com/haifaisrael) and have dinner at Aldiyar Restaurant where kabobs, falafel, fish, steak and seafood were on menu along with the variety of Middle Eastern appetizers, so delicious they could have been a meal in itself. 55 Ben Goryon Ave. Haifa 04-8528939 . This was our chance to see the night-time view of magnificent Baha’i’s garden complex, which dominates the cityscape.
Haifa is a city of fairly steep slopes, which reward the visitor with vistas of Mediterranean at every turn. And thanks to beneficence of the Baha’is, you can see a stunning garden from the crest of the city at Mt. Carmel to the German Colony below. This is the centerpiece of Haifa, where the Shrine of Bab brilliantly gilded dome dominates as well as illuminates the city’s skyline. Haifa is the world’s center for the Baha’i faith founded in Iran in the 19th century.
We also had time to visit Carmelite Monastery and Stella Maris Church. As we walked through downtown’s narrow streets, we slipped into a falafel shop and had the treat of the day. Haifa info: email@example.com 1-800-30-50-90 www.tour-haifa.co.il
Continuing tour of Western Galilee, we stopped at Akko (World Heritage site-one of the wonders of the world) , whose history begins 4,000 years ago and it was always worth fighting for because of its well-protected harbor. Its outstanding attraction includes 12th century subterranean city, Crusader vaults and halls, which unfolds beneath the 18th and 19th century buildings you see today. Arrows point the way through vast rooms filled with ongoing construction work, huge marble columns and a myriad of archeological pieces from the past.
Before getting to Turkish Bath-house, we took a quick walk through Akko shuk where I bought a bag full of Israeli spices from Kurdi & Berit Shop 9916188
Then we visited Akko’s remarkable Turkish Bath-house built in 1781, was used until 1947. The sound-and-light show called “The Story of the last bath Attendant,” is set in the beautiful bath-house itself and shouldn’t be missed. www.akko.org.il
Lunch at Uri Buri Fish and Seafood Restaurant was a gourmet delight. The chef has no menu. He just fixes what he feels like and serves the same meal to all his customers family style. His all-fish restaurant was quite inventive in creating remarkably delicious fish delicacies. Uri, the chef’s cookbook had so many lovely pictures and his delicious recipes.
We drove to Tiberius that night and checked into Sheraton Moria Hotel (04-6713333) www.sheraton.com and then went to dinner at Tzel Tamar restaurant, kibbutz Ashot Yaakov. The atmosphere was family-oriented with large tables filled with young kibbutz families dining with fun and enthusiasm. The Mid-Eastern fare was now familiar and quite enjoyable in this rustic casual dining restaurant, where we were mingling with locals. I was soaking in the atmosphere and people-watching as a visitor interested in being with kibbutz crowd of mostly young people. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Israel’s northern region boasts beautiful countryside, forested mountains, vineyards, olive groves, kibbutzim, Arab villages and the remains of ancient cities and holy sites.
On the way to Nazareth, we stopped at Mount of Beatitudes -traditional site of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
Here in the Golan Heights was also a Boutique Winery, Chateau Golan Winery. They welcome visitors and will give you a tour by appointment only by contacting Shuki Shai, director at 972 466026 e-mail: email@example.com . This winery was once headquarters of Syrian Army and is located at Moshav Eli-ad, Ramat Hagolan. While doing some wine-tasting, we experienced the thrill of a helicopter landing here with customers to purchase their wine. www.chateaugolan.com The aesthetic beauty of this winery is well worth the visit!
We drove next to Nazareth-childhood town of Jesus. The big attraction, which opened in the year 2000, is reconstructed Jewish rural community life of 2,000 years ago. Guided tours of its indoor visual aids and its outdoor replicas of buildings, crafts and artifacts are offered. They have a delightful gift shop and an authentic outdoor restaurant featuring costumed waiters in Jesus-type clothing and the foods he ate. Simply delicious was the pita baked in round oven, only baked on top. Here was hummus and tehini so popular in Israel. www.nazarethvillage.com
At Mahroum Sweets-Nazareth we treated ourselves to best sweets in Israel including every imaginable variety of halvah and baklava. Then we had a snack at Casanova restaurant of Middle Eastern appetizers (04-6081203). The Alreda Restaurant and Cafe on top of a steep hill was well worth the climb. The food was a feast of glorious dining treats so original and tasty. Just when we thought we had enough, the owner brought on more and it was always presented lavishly and tasted delicious. I could mention all the foreign names which won’t mean much to you, but believe me it’s a restaurant you don’t want to miss when you visit Nazareth on Albesharah St. 04-6084404 For Nazareth information: www.nazarethinfo.org
Tonight we arrived in Jerusalem at The David Citadel Hotel, where we were to spend our last three nights in Israel. www.thedavidcitadel.com. The location was perfect, within 5 minute walk to Jaffa Gate in Old City.
Jerusalem is known as the “City of Gold,” and encompasses many worlds: modern and ancient, Jewish and Arab, religious and secular. The walled Old City, with more than 4,000 years of history contains some of the holiest places of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam-the Temple Mount with the Dome of the Rock and the El Aksa Mosque atop it, the Western Wall and Church of Holy Sepulcher. Outside of the Old City is the haunting memorial and museum , Yad Vashem.
Modern Jerusalem is Israel’s Capital and largest city and seat of Israel’s President, Cabinet, Parliament (the Knesset) and Supreme Court.
One of the main attractions of Old City is Ramparts Walk. This walkway atop Old City walls offers unique panoramic view of Old City. We also walked the Stations of the Cross and the Christian Quarter with the Church of Holy Sepulcher.
Next we visited Rebuilt Jewish Quarter and cardo-ruins of Main Street from Roman times and Arab Market (Shuk), where I had a few minutes to bargain for some souvenirs.
The Western Wall (Kotel) was our next stop in Old City where I was able to come to wall and put blessings for my family and friends in the nooks and crannies of this sacred wall. This is the most important existing Jewish shrine
Security was the tightest here. First time I saw Israeli soldiers. Last time I visited Israel; Israeli soldiers were visible on the streets patrolling everything. Now high-tech cameras help with security. I really felt safe the whole time I was visiting Israel.
We ended the day with a visit to Yad Vashem. This National Memorial and Museum of the Holocaust victims was most memorable and grabbed at my heart. The experience of the Holocaust-the annihilation of six million Jews by the Nazis during WWII-is so deeply seared into the Jewish National psyche that understanding it goes a long way toward understanding Israelis themselves. www.yadvashem.org
The next day we visited Shay Zeltser’s goat cheese farm in the Jerusalem Mountains. The only way to purchase his cheese is to go up the mountain to his home to buy the cheese. Mountains in Sattaf.
Chef Moshe Basson, owner of The Eucalyptus Restaurant in Jerusalem met us in the mountains, so that we could experience herb collecting, which would later be used in special meal he made for us. This dining experience including a rice dish with a flare and opportunity to get your wishes answered as you open the pot. 917-2-59000007 www.the-eucalyptus.com
After our mountain experience, we traveled ten miles to Domaine du Castel Winery in Ramat Razel in outskirts of Jerusalem. This boutique winery strives to make high quality fine wines in Old World Traditional methods with modern technology. www.castel.com.il
We came back to Jerusalem by way of Ein Karem, where we stopped to visit picturesque village, birth place of John the Baptist, with the church of the Visitation. There was a juice stand where we enjoyed a snack of burekas, phyllo dough (turnovers) filled with spinach, so delish!
Israelis are lucky to have Mahane Yehuda Market in the heart of Jerusalem with large alley-ways full of vendors selling fresh produce. What a special treat going through this area eating up the treats with our eyes and then finding a Persian vendor, who produced a Persian feast for us to enjoy.
From the traditional casual foods like falafel, burekas and shawarma served by vendors on the street to all the fine dining opportunities and finest selection of wines available, Israel is indeed a place to be wined and dined!
If you go
1-800-77-Israel www.goisrael.com www.tourism.gov.il
www.2eat.co.il is leading and largest food and restaurant website in Israel presents information on over 5,000 restaurants, bars, coffee shops and cooking schools all over Israel.
Airline: El Al It’s not just an airline, it’s Israel. As the national airline of Israel, El Al continues to be the premier choice for air travel to Israel after 58 years of proud service. Their state-of-the-art fleet offers personal TV screens at every seat on all 747-400 and 777 aircraft, a wide selection of in-flight entertainment options and an impressive menu, including authentic Israeli and international cuisines, as well as new health-smart meals.
And now passengers with e-tickets can check in online when flying from JKF, Newark, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago or Toronto. Print boarding passes at home or the office to save valuable time at the airport.
Call 212-768-9200, 800-223-6700 or any travel agent. Visit El Al online at www.elal.com for details.
Best Israeli guide: Yuval Russ enhanced my trip to Israel with his kind, helpful , very informative and professional manner . firstname.lastname@example.org I would highly recommend engaging his services and he will be driving you in the comfort of an air-conditioned vehicle. Tel: 09-7460251 Fax: 09-7444060 Cell: 052-2237714