Hi everyone – I am back from Israel! Hope you have been enjoying all the amazing guest posts while I ate my way through Israel the past few weeks!
We landed yesterday morning at 5:30 am, and the first thing I am missing? You guessed it – Israeli breakfast! Is there anything more delicious to the eyes (and mouth) than a huge spread of salads, freshly baked breads, cheeses and fruit!? The Israelis sure know how to do breakfast.
Coming back from Israel always has a bittersweet feeling to it. On the one hand, you are eager to return home. And on the other hand, you feel like you are leaving the other part of your ‘home’ and family behind. In some ways this is an appropo feeling to be carrying with me for the next 24 hours, as we commemorate a number of tragedies that befell the Jewish people on Tisha B’Av.
I will be missing the beautiful beaches and sunsets of Tel Aviv; and missing the rhythm of a Jewish week: the excitement and busy-ness before Shabbat, and the quiet, calming atmosphere that takes over even Tel Aviv. And most of all, I will be missing the wonderful food of Israel.
So what did we eat? I imagine you have been waiting to find out. More accurately? What DIDN’T we eat!? I will share the highlights.
With the Summer Israel heat, keeping cool and refreshed is a top priority, and so one of my favorite uniquely Israeli treats I enjoyed was an iced limonana. Limonana is a minty lemonade very common throughout Israel. But the iced limonana was so refreshing, I just couldn’t get enough – it was like a slushy! Thankfully The Shiksa has a recipe so I can recreate it at home soon! Want to take it up a notch? Add a shot (or 2 – hey I won’t judge) of Arak, also known as Raki, an anise-flavored liquor.
Since it opened, I have heard so much about the famed restaurant Mahane Yehuda, inspired by and close to the Mahane Yehuda market (shuk) in Jerusalem. The restaurant is not kosher, in fact, there are many obviously treif (or non-kosher) items on the restaurant’s menu. But it’s actually one of the things that I think is so cool about it. Not everything in Israel is kosher, not all Jews keep kosher, but we can all be inspired by the same culinary influences of Israel.
The food itself is incredible and diverse. And equally stand-out is the atmosphere – an open kitchen allows you to experience the food from start until it hits your plate; loud, lively music pipes through the restaurant while the host and waiters dance along smiling; and the décor inside includes baskets full of fresh fruit and vegetables, reminding you precisely of the shuk nearby that inspired.
There were so many dishes to choose from, but we chose three items that were either highly recommended or seemed a bit ‘different’ from typical Israeli fare, including creamy truffle polenta, sautéed sweetbreads with malawah and a Persian stew similar to gormeh sabzi, made with swiss chard instead of spinach!
Heading to Jerusalem and want to check it out? Make sure to make a reservation well in advance! We actually got lucky, showed up early for lunch and they were able to seat us. They may have regretted that decision after our daughter ran around the restaurant and I kept snapping photos. But we enjoyed, so thank you!
When I was in Israel a year and a half ago, a friend recommended I visit the Olia stand at Ha Carmel market in Tel Aviv – and wow was I happy that I heeded that advice! I came across their Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette which is addictive as a salad dressing. So on this trip, I made sure to send the husband to stock up some of our favorite products including three different kinds of olive oil, the fig balsamic and a pomegranate balsamic. Hoping this will last us, at least until the next trip! But you don’t need to go all the way to Israel to enjoy – you can actually order Olia products online too.
There are so many other amazing treats we enjoyed on this trip, but they will have to wait for now. For those fasting during Tisha B’av, I wish you an easy fast. I will definitely be thinking about Israel in the coming days as we reflect on Jerusalem.