Monthly Archives: September 2012

Israel in Pictures – Haifa and North Coast

Day 1

Our amazing Israel adventure started at the Dan Panorama in Haifa.   Arriving on Saturdays means good luck getting your room on time.  Brunch at Habank right next to the hotel and off to see the Haifa sites…

The first major site was this thing called Shoko, chocolate milk in a bag.  Shoko quickly became our favorite travel companion for the next 14 days.

Dan Panorama is conveniently located near the ‘Tayelet’, a promenade leading to magnificent views of the Haifa Bay and the Bahai Gardens.   You can also nice views of the gardens from the bottom, the German colony area.

Bahai gardenHaifa Bay

Went for a walk at the arab neighborhood of Wadi Nisnas which included a great falafel from Hazkenim and then off to the beach promenade.

Day 2 – Akko

After experiencing our first tastes of the famous Israeli breakfast, we headed to Acco.  First stop, Lohamei Hagetaot (The Ghetto fighters house) originally founded by Holocaust survivors in which among them were members of the ghetto underground.  The main museum is the world’s first Holocaust Museum built in 1949.  We were here to see Yad Layeled, a memorial commemorating the 1.5 million children perished during the Holocaust.  The picture below came from a room filled with stained glass works which are based on children’s drawings during the Holocaust

Yad LayeledYad Layeled I should also add is suitable for the entire family including younger kids, unlike Yad Vashem which does not permit kids under 10.

We spent the rest of the day in Akko which is not short of historic sites…

Turkish Baths

Akko has it all.  The spectacular Knights Halls, a vibrant Shuk, a colorful port, and some of the best Hummus Israel has to offer.  Not to mention one of Israel’s most renowned seafood eateries Uri Buri.  A full day is required here.

Day 3 – Carmel area and Caesaria

Started day 3 in Beit Shearim, an archeological site of ancient tombs (catacombs) dating back to the 2nd century.  It is believed that the main author of the Mishnah and a key leader during the Roman occupation, Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi was once burried here.

After Beit Shearim we climbed back the carmel mountains to visit Beit Oren for some off road ATV-ing.   Needless to say I was a very dirty boy.

Lunch was in the Druze village of Usafia courtesy of Usafia Hospitality where we learned about the Druze way of life.

Beit ShearimBeit ShearimBeit Oren

2000 year old great roman city of Caesaria was more enjoyable than I imagined.  King Herod went to great extent to impress master Caesar (hence the name Caesaria).  The park really did a great job bringing the city back to life.


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Top 15 things we ate in Israel

       In the land of Milk and Hummus, incredible flavors were running wild.  2 weeks of touring and eating some of the best Israel has to offer in the North, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, produced some heavenly results.  Here are the best things we ate in no particular order

1.  Hummus from Suhila/Abu Suhil in Akko

A silky smooth, creamy, ’no frills’, amazingly fresh Hummus, served warm with boiled chickpeas.  Simply amazing 

2.  Sashimi salmon with wasabi sorbet from Uri Buri in Akko

Best Sashimi Salmon with Wasabi Sorbet I ever had 😉   Yes, ordered it because I was curious (not a big fan of salmon) and glad I did.  An original and yummy creation of contrasting flavors.  Photo courtesy of Mark H. Anbinder

Sashimi Salmon

3.  Hazkenim Falafel in Haifa

Some of the best Falafel we ever had in a narrow little alley in the Wadi Nisna.  ‘Old People Falafe’ made me feel young again.  That and the procedure I recently had.

4.  Baked trout from Dag Al Hadan in the upper Galilee. 

Baked with Pesto and other spices, delicious fish in an incredible setting 

5.  Lachuch from the Lachuch guy in Tsfat

Whether you want it like a pizza or a wrap, master Ronen will dish out a wonderful snack of Yemenite spongy flat bread with tomatoes, zaatar, onions and fresh cheese.  Add a spoonful of the spicy Z’hug and you got yourself a meal.

6.  The plate from the Ussafia hospitality lunch.

Fresh pita with zaatar, hummus, kabobs, fresh salads and more.  I’ll let the picture do the drooling…  

7.  Hummus with meat from the Lebanese Restaurant in Abu ghosh

Rich, wonderful hummus with nicely seasoned meat with pine nuts.  The rest of the salads were not too shabby as well in this village just outside of Jerusalem

8.  Kibbeh from Rachmo in Jerusalem

If this cafeteria style establishment makes it that day, get it as a meat dumpling in tomato soup or fried like a fried meat patty (I prefered the soup).  I could have easily mentioned their amazing Hummus instead here.  A must while visiting Mahane Yehuda 

9.  Coffee bean Halva from the King of Halva in Mahane Yehuda in the Jerusalem

Halva is something I eat a lot (I had some this morning – Feh!).  This is fresh, melt in your mouth, savory nutty Halva.  Absolutely delicious.  Now I’m drooling.  Cant get that in NY

10.  Shawarma from Turk Lahmacun in Tel Aviv

Veal, lamb, turkey Shawarma, or go Meshugenah and have all 3 inside a Lahmajun, flat bread topped with meat and spices baked in their taboon oven.  Add some Amba (mango condiment) close your eyes and enjoy the show.  p.s open your eyes occasionally to see if you need more Amba or if your finger is bleeding

11.   Pargit from Dr. Shakshuka in Jaffa/Tel aviv

The Shakshuka may be the famous dish here but we found their tender and juicy Pargit (boneless chicken thighs) irresistible

12.  Spicy Halabi Kabob from Haj Kahil in Jaffa/Tel Aviv

A piece of art.  Wonderful meat stuffed with herbs and nuts served with roasted tomatoes in a soup like tomato broth covered with pastry dough with zaatar.  Simply delicious!

13.  Malabi from Haj Kahil in Jaffa/Tel Aviv 

The Knaffe may be the popular dessert here but this milk pudding with pistachios stole the show. Couldnt get enough of this Panna Cotta like deliciousness

14.  Sabich from Sabich Frishman in Tel Aviv

A glorious and flavorful sandwich of Eggplant, hard-boiled eggs, tahini and spices in pita.  Very tasty

15.  Brioche French toast with jam from Benedict in Tel Aviv

C’est Magnifique!!

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Eating in Tel Aviv – Goodnight Schnitzel!

“The capital of Mediterranean cool” was the last stop of our 2 week culinary adventure in Israel.  The goal was more of the same. Street food, arab food and anything else not easily available back at home in NYC.  Authentic Italian food and fresh seafood is also always desirable wherever we go but fell a little short here.
With that said however, the feeling at the end was mutual – Mission accomplished…

Turk Lahmacun – Also spelled “Lahmajun” and pronounced “OMG this is some good joon!”.  This is glorious Shawarma not for wimps.  3 different meats spinning:  Veal, lamb and turkey.  I got a combo of all 3 in a Lahmajun bread, flat bread topped with meat and spices baked in their taboon oven.  Like Hazan shawarma in Haifa they really stuff a nice chunk of meat there and the result is one outrageous and delicious sandwich.  And that Amba mango sauce compliments it very well.
This place is on Nahalat Binyamin.  When coming from the independence hall, turn right on Nahalat Binyamin and it’s on your left a short block away.

Dr.  Shakshuka – you know you made it when the new antique store next door calls itself doctor Antika.  The Shakshuka here is as good as Shakshuka can get, I guess.   Problem is for breakfast I normally don’t touch this stuff as I like my eggs a bit more simple.  Besides their famous Shakshuka, other goodies rose to the occassion like their terrific salads and in particular the spicy eggplant.  But the best thing we ate here wasn’t the Shakshuka, it was the Pargit.  Israelis love their Pargit, which is either a young chicken, a boneless thigh, or a boneless thigh of a young chicken, not sure.  But you see this Pargit everywhere and here it was the best one we ate during the trip. Tender, juicy, well seasoned grilled chicken on skewers.  Highly recommend this doctor.

Hakosem Falafel – Best falafel since Hazkenim in Haifa.  You know when you are tasting good falafel when you pack the pita with irresistible chips, tahini, salads and more, but the flavors of the falafel still dominate.

Sabich Frishman – Another tasty snack.  Sabich is Falafels not so good looking sister. You know, the one that only calls when she needs money.  Eggplant, hard boiled eggs tahini and spices in pita pack in a lot of nice flavors.  This I was told is one of the better Sabich places but there’s one particular in the Tel Aviv suburb of Givataim where there are lines around the block, called Oved Sabich.

Cafe Noir – the 110th reminder that no matter how great they taste, I just can’t get excited over a Schnitzel.  Veal, chicken, camel schnitzel, no matter.  I suppose if you opt to have one this is the place to go.  Cafe Noir is known to make the best schnitzels in the nation.  The schnitzels have been written about in various publications.  The recipe of the Schnitzel has been well publicized.  Children’s fairy tales have been written about it like “The Princess and the pea, and the veal Schnitzel”, “One-Eye! Two-Eyes! Three-Eyes! Schnitzel!” and my personal nighttime favorite, “Goodnight Schnitzel!”.  Anyway so you get the idea.  In Cafe Noir, you still need to rely on great complimentary sauces with your schnitzels and here you are given 3 good ones.  I should also say that the rest of the family enjoyed it and declared it one heck of a Schnitzel.  We also had some nice Druze bread and Some succulent shrimp in bread-scooping-worthy sauce.  We liked Cafe Noir

Benedict – The “good morning” sign at 7 in the evening wasn’t an indication of laziness.  Benedict serves only breakfast all day long.  This is the type of place I had no desire to go to before the trip when I heard about it, but I had every desire to eat there once we saw it while walking on Rotshchild blvd.  Reason being was that I (perhaps in the minority) was somewhat tired of the legendary Israeli hotel breakfast.  

Benedict delivered in a big way.   The omelette I was so struggling with the previous 12 days, from the greasy to the overcooked, to the burned while the cook discusses Matkot (paddle ball) strategies with the head waiter, has arrived.  A gorgeous, hefty and (finally) perfectly cooked potato, cheese and cauliflower omelette.  We shared all kinds of goodies including nice home fries, and the juicy “benji” sausage. The best thing was probably the brioche French toast with jam, something I haven’t enjoyed this much since my last visit to Maine and its amazing blueberries.  Well done Benedict!  Finally good breakfast.

We had some memorable meals in Israel.  From the famous (Uri Buri) to the not so much (Lachuch guy in Tsfat).  But there was one in particular that stood out as the best meal of the trip…

Haj Kahil – After the initial recommendation from Shoshi on TripAdvisor, and reading writeups on SeriousEats and the excellent David Lebovitz blog, this was the most highly anticipated meal of the trip.
The small salads here were amazing and different. Plenty of fruit which I don’t normally like in my meals but really enjoyed it here like the delicious figs with walnuts. Hummus here was top notch. Nice Iraqi bread, the usual eggplant suspects, tomatoes in spicy tahini sauce, simple, nutty, and absolutely delicious.
The meats here were spectacular. We shared the lamb neck stuffed with rice, ground beef and almonds. They also have the lamb shoulder which was a bit too much for us (says its serves 6 but looks like it serves 26). Also tried a wonderful Synia (sp?), ground beef, veggies and spices covered in tahini sauce.  But the star for me was the spicy Halabi kabob, tender, juicy ground meat stuffed with herbs and some nuts served with lovely slightly spicy roasted tomatoes in a soup like tomato broth covered with pastry dough with zaater.
 For dessert we enjoyed their Knaffe, but absolutely devoured the Malabi, a creamy but silky milk pudding with pistachios. It’s Panna cotta on steroids!  We’ve had the Malabi a few times on this trip but not like this.  A glorious finish to a glorious meal.
Take a look at the map below for the exact location and the locations of the other places mentioned.
There were other less memorable meals like in the White Pergola in the touristy Hanamal area, and another one at a popular Italian, Amore Mio.  With that said however, the little glimpse we got of the wonderful flavors of Tel Aviv, has left us heading to Ben Gurion full with memories and.. full.  Goodnight Tel Aviv! Goodnight Schnitzel!

Related:  Eating in the North   Eating in Jerusalem

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Eating in Jerusalem – Hummus envy

      Yerushalaim Shel Zahav has yielded some golden results during our Israel culinary adventure.  Who said in Israel you can only eat well in Tel Aviv, Moshav Livnim and gas stations outside of Rosh Pina?  Although we only scratched the surface in Jerusalem, that was one heck of a tasty surface.

Our guest editor the Hummus Whisperer, who although likes Ikea food and knows only what he reads in the NY Post (old ‘top secret’ joke) knows a thing or 2 about the art of Hummus and should probably skip this post.  Just like eating lobster after Maine, hummus in NYC may never taste the same.  And we couldnt even get to some of the best Jerusalem has to offer like Abu Shukri and Hummus Lina in the old city.  Here are our the highlights from Jerusalem…

Lebanese Restaurant in Abu Ghosh.  Friday night in Jerusalem can be a tough draw for foodies so we opted to leave the city for the nearby arab village of Abu Ghosh.  This was one of the those meals.  80 shekels (about $20) per person got us more food than we knew what to do with.  Before I even adjusted my chair I was looking at a huge array of salads including various eggplant salads and some of the most delicious hummus we ever had.  There were 3 types of hummus — with meat, with oil and plain.  The meat hummus plate in particular was a memorable one.  Outstanding stuff all around!  The only caveat was that the meat dishes came way too soon but I noticed similar behaviour in other establishments.  The meats were nice chunks of various chicken, liver and lamb kabobs but the highlights were clearly the amazing salads here.  Highly recommend the Lebanese.

Abu Ghosh is known for its Hummus and terrific food but not for creativity as far as restaurant naming is concerned.   The “Lebanese Restaurant” is not a description.  Thats the name.  Another one is simply called Abu Ghosh, another one is you guessed it… Elvis Diner.  And then there’s the famous Abu Shukri, except that there are 2 other famous Abu Shukris in Jerusalem.  Still, I am told this is the Hummus capital of the world.  Dont believe me?  Ask Rihanna


Adom – I was somewhat apprehensive about eating here I must admit since this is the type of place we dont have a shortage of in NYC.  You may even call this ‘American’ with this kind of an eclectic menu.  But what we got was another terrific meal.

Started with some nice and salty veal carpaccio with a hint of truffle oil.  The “Fresh Pasta” was perfectly al dented Ballerina shaped with zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes white wine.  I noticed more of that fresh Ballerina pasta on the streets of the German colony while walking with my new friend and Jerusalem resident Shaul.  I really enjoy well made pastas and this was done right.

The highly recommended Adom burger was perfectly cooked, fairly large and juicy.  Comes with nicely seasoned potatoes.  Succulent sautéed shrimp comes sizzling with the pan with chickpeas, other veggies and oil.  The seafood risotto was creamy and a big hit as well with the group but a bit too heavy for me.  Adom in this blogger’s opinion would do very well in New York City.  Love all the veggies that were served with some dishes.  Loved the freshness!  Loved Adom!!

The only minor issue was finding Adom.  If you look at its location in Google maps its not exactly there. Its about where I marked it in the map below, about a block closer to the old city on Jaffa street.  Look for an entrance to a narrow alley (see picture)

Rachmo – This is authentic home cooking cafeteria style dining at its best.  From the cafeteria trays, the window where you place your order, and the looks that you get while having your feet on the chair you saving for your spouse so no one would snatch it.  This is a popular little spot and I can see why.  Some claim this is the best Hummus in the city.  Creamy, grainy and very pleasant tasting Hummus with beans, definitely a”best hummus” of the trip contender.  Another specialty is the Kibbeh, comes either fried or like doughy dumplings stuffed with meat, onions and spices in tomato based soup.  A tremendous lunch.  If my school cafeteria served food like this, I would still be in school.  Rachmo or Rahmo is a MUST!

Problem is its right near foodie heaven Mahane Yehuda.  At least the original Rachmo as they have another location.  You want to come at least a little hungry to Mahane Yehuda and Rachmo makes it very difficult.

Other eats:  Lunch in Crown Plaza in Ein Bokek (Dead Sea)  – surprisingly a fine buffet.  Nice Sabich-like sandwich at a cafe in Israel musuem.  Beef kabobs from Eretz Bereishit – a biblical experience that involves midlife crisis camels and biblical characters with Australian accents.

Mahane Yehuda – Like a kid in a candy store,  Like Mike Tyson in an Orecchiette factory (orecchiette is baby ear shaped pasta – get it?).  Amazing melt in your mouth fresh Halva (Halva king has 2 locations).  Hairy fresh Baklava (Kataifi?), not so hairy Baklava (I prefer no hair :roll:), Israeli seeds, figs, dates, fresh pasta and much much more.  I will let the pictures do the talking…

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