As I explained in my last post, I recently spent 10 days in Israel with my mom. My best friend since high school, Adit, graduated med school (she did an American program in Tel Aviv), so I built a nice long vacation around her graduation, with a week in Tel Aviv followed by four days in Jerusalem. It was incredible, much needed, and so happy and stress-reducing.
Here’s how you know my trip to Israel was truly wonderful: I didn’t even remember to take pictures of most of my favorite things that I ate because I was just too busy eating them, too busy being relaxed, and too busy being mostly unplugged from social media to think about sharing them. Therefore, my apologies for not capturing for you the wonder that is Israeli salad with chunks of fried haloumi cheese, which I ate three times in 10 days, the glory that is an Israeli breakfast, and more. But here are some highlights of the food I did manage to capture, much of it chock-full of gluten as I enjoyed my last month hurrah with it (and it was a good idea because oh my God the bread in Israel, you guys):
We took an overnight flight that left NYC late and thus didn’t get in to Tel Aviv until around 4pm, which was actually perfect, because we definitely wouldn’t have had energy for a full day after uncomfortable plane sleep (extended legroom seats may be good for pillow-on-the-tray-table-sleep position, but still isn’t comfortable). We took a long walk and ended up at the gluteniest sounding restaurant for dinner (that’s a basil brioche up there, kids), but it actually had a note on the menu that they offered gluten-free options!
The froyo craze is alive and well in Israel too, but their toppings are different than those in the U.S. They have way more fruit options (my mom loved the dates), and assorted crunchy cereals rather than the crazy candy options you see at Pinkberry or 16 Handles (I still got chocolate chips though, don’t worry).
Adit took us to one of the best fish restaurants in Tel Aviv, Benny Hadayag. Before you even order, they bring you this spread of vegetables, dips, and salads. This isn’t even all of them–they literally could not all fit in the photo frame. My favorites were the fried cauliflower and the carrots, both toward the bottom of this photo, but everything was incredible. You then order fish based on the weights of the fish available and how many people you are, which lead us to order “sea wolf.” I still don’t know what it is, but it was good, despite it staring at me for half the meal.
Oh, and in case we hadn’t eaten enough yet, it came with smashed baked potato and onion rings.
All the coke bottles in Israel have popular names on them (this one says Daniel). Obviously no Alies, but I bet if they did this in the states I’d get one.
I know they recently started selling Magnum ice cream in the U.S., but it still feels like a special foreign treat to me. When I spent a week in Barcelona with my friend Sharon in the summer of 2009 we worked our way through everything they offered. In this particular instance, I sat there for a few minutes trying to guess the bar flavor by the wrapper color before I just randomly picked these. As soon as I paid I a) remembered that I can read Hebrew and that chocolate is the same in both languages and b) realized that if you lifted the flap they had the flavor in English. Luckily I love chocolate. We ate these at the Dead Sea (pictures to come in my next post), and all the super skinny girls were staring at me and my giant ice cream, I assume out of jealousy. Fact: calories don’t count on vacation.
I can’t believe I never took a full set of photos of Israeli breakfast. And yes, photos, plural, is necessary. Here’s what Israeli breakfast includes every morning: an omelet station, shakshuka (eggs baked in spicy tomato sauce), pancakes, savory pastries like cheese-filled bourekas, sweet pastries like croissants, assorted coffee/pound cakes, many different salads, hummus, yogurts, lots of different cheeses, any kind of bread you could want (including pita), fruits (both fresh and dried), cereals, and coffee and juice. It truly puts American continental breakfasts to shame. Everything (like all the food) is fresh and delicious, and you can have as much of everything as you want. I may or may not have made an egg sandwich using bourekas one morning…and clearly one morning I had hot chocolate cake.
Obviously, they love chickpeas in all their forms in the Middle East. This hummus and falafel were from a restaurant in the Arab Quarter in the old city of Jerusalem, a place I probably never would have gone if not for the guide we had hired for the day (when I went to Israel on Birthright five and a half years ago we were forbidden from entering it, but that’s a discussion for another day). It was some of the best hummus I’ve had, but what I found most interesting was that the Coca Cola cans sold in this part of Jerusalem are in Arabic, not Hebrew, while we were maybe 100 feet away from the Jewish quarter. I’m sure you could use that as a metaphor for Jerusalem as a whole, but that’s a second discussion for a second other day.
While Tel Aviv barely has any kosher restaurants (I ate crab ravioli at a French restaurant called Brasserie, with the best bread of all of the Middle East, there one night), almost every restaurant in Jerusalem is kosher, which means they either serve a dairy-based menu OR a meat-based menu. This is from one of our meat meals at a restaurant called Joy. The lamb kabobs (aka meatballs) were really good, but that bulgur you see there had some sort of white berry in it and was truly fantastic. I think I ate every single grain. (Not pictured: our chocolate souffle which came with soy ice cream, which even with vanilla bean flecks is really just not even close to the real thing.)
This, you guys. This is my new favorite place to buy snacks in the entire world. It’s a small Jerusalem chain called English Cake that sells every kind of pastry you could want. One counter has savory ones (pictured here), with bourekas and other treats with every kind of (vegetarian/dairy) filling you could want, while the other side has sweet ones. I tried lots of different pastries of both varieties, but my favorite by far was the pizza rolls on the bottom left. The reason so many are missing in this photo is because I bought 8 or so to bring home with me. If going gluten-free works and I stick with it, the next time I go to Israel I might have to cheat briefly with these alone (and the bread at the French restaurant).
Next post: all the cool stuff I did while in Israel! I miss it already.