Saturday, November 13, 2010

Give me rugelach or give me death.

If you ask anyone, and I mean ANYONE, who has been to Israel where the best rugelach is, 9/10 will say Marzipan Bakery at the shuk in Jerusalem. My friends have shipped their rugelach home, brought it back on plane rides, and have even asked others who are going to Israel to bring them back some (yes, my mother is included in that category). You know, that if this small stall in the shuk has that big of a pull, they must be doing something right.
My first time in Israel, 3 years ago, I was told of this magical place and told that I needed to seek it out. Since I was on Taglit (birthright) at the time, I was given a very short amount of un-supervised scouting time in the shuk...and unfortunately I never came across this small piece of heaven. However, the following summer I retuned to Israel to live for the summer months. I was lucky enough on that visit to be brought to Marzipan and introduced to the wonders that come from their large industrial pizza ovens. Ever since, I won't eat rugelach from anywhere else -- and the only other challah that even comes close to theirs is Cheryll Ann's.
This small, unassuming open aired store front on the top of Agripas street, a corner turn from Machane Ya'Hudah, would probably never be on a passerby's radar. To be honest, it looks like any other bakery stall - with fresh bureka's, donuts, and challahs displayed outfront - but it's what these delicious creations taste like that has Marzipan so packed on friday afternoons. Lucky for me though, I went on a thursday afternoon -- a time when you can actually walk through the shuk without worrying about being toppled over by the massive crowds of people shopping for shabbat dinner.

During my free afternoon in Jerusalem, I decided the only real place I wanted to go was to the shuk. After my glass of fresh squeezed pomegranate (rimon) juice, I set off on my journey to Marzipan. And as always, Marzipan never disappoints.

The chocolate rugelach is laid out on these GIANT metal baking sheets surrounding the inside of the storefront. Usually, during the shabbas rush, the 15 year old boys who man the operation have the rugelach pre-boxed and ready to go. Luckily, since I got to the shuk at a time when no one was really around, I got the fresh rugelach packed for me. For a box of about 25-30 pieces - costs 28 sheckles (about $8). It is the best $8 one could ever spend.
The rugelach itself is moist, gooey, and has just the right amount of chocolate and sweet in every bite. Smothered in butter as they leave the ovens, you can smell their deliciousness as you walk up the street. No matter how much time I have in Jerusalem - Marzipan is ALWAYS a required stop.

The box was devoured in less than 24 hours.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Kosher Capital.

On wednesday I felt the need to get out of Tel Aviv for a bit, escape the heat and craziness. I ended-up in Jerusalem to spend some time with my friends there, and obviously eat at my favorite restaurant.
Caffit -- the small unassuming restaurant, located in Jerusalem's posh German Colony on Emek Rafi'im, is probably the best kept secret in the city -- besides the bookshop cafe. Half outside, half inside - the restaurant draws a crowd from locals to tourists. And why does everyone come? Well, for the salads of course! Since in Jerusalem, it is VERY hard to find a non-kosher restaurant (a restaurant is either meat or dairy -- or they have separate parts of the restaurant for either type of food, complete with different menus), Caffit boasts a menu of mediterranean influence (including fabulous dairy salads, fish, and some of the most amazing sweet potato pancakes I have ever eat)!
I was first brought here 2.5 years ago by friends while I was living in Jerusalem -- and I was quickly coming back for seconds. I even brought my mother here when she came to visit, and she too, fell in love.

Rachel and my meal began with a nice glass of wine over some much needed shmoozing, as all young Jewish women need. It also was our time to fiddle around with my new camera...Rachel got very artsy (picture, compliments of Rachel).
We decided that we were hungry, but since we were meeting friends afterwards, we didn't feel the need to look like bloated pigs -- so we decided to split two salads.

Our first salad was a seared tuna, crusted in sesame seeds, over a bed of tomatoes, peas, green beans, bean sprouts - dressed in a teriyaki like thick brown-sauce. The fish was slightly too fishy for my taste, but was cooked to perfection. The salad was delicious however. The crisp of the beans with the sprouts made a delightful crunch in your mouth.

However, the piece-de-resistance, as it always is at Caffit, was the sweat potato salad.  Lettuce, tomato  and cucumber covered in a massive heap of pan sautéed nuts (sunflower seeds, almonds, and cashews) mixed with bulgarit cheese and crispy delicious slices of sweet potatoes -- this dish is HEAVENLY. With no dressing besides the cooking oil from the nuts and potatoes, the salad doesn't even need  additional flavors. As Rachel and I downed the salad, picking out toppings from the actual salad itself  and kibiitzing - it was the perfect girls night out dinner two 20 somethings could ask for.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A burger a day will keep the doctor away...I wish.

A few weeks ago, before my debilitating injury, a friend and I were contemplating our dinner options one night after heading back from test driving electric cars at an amazing Israeli company called, Better Place. They are integrating the first national system for electric cars in Israel. As Aaron and I sat on the bus together, still riveted from our driving experience (we had been out of the US for about 3 weeks at this point), we had a hankering for some meat. Sitting on our phones, we started googling burger joints in Tel Aviv. After finding a suitable list to go on, we started narrowing down based on location -- it was still about 94 and humid at night and we were not looking to sweat on the walk to dinner. After finding a solid review, and a mouth watering picture of a burger, we settled on a small chain called Agadir - with a location right down the street from our apartment. 
After jumping off the bus and freshening up a little, Aaron and I walked the 5 blocks or so to the restaurant, on Nachalat Binyamin. Opting for sitting inside in a ale house/pub sort of feeling decor, the restaurant also boasts an outdoor seating area that on my last two trips there, has been very nice. Seated on bar stools at a high table in the corner, our mouths started to water as we perused the menu. The review we had read said the Diana Burger - a patty of half lamb and half beef with tomatoes and aioli - was the way to go. Being a lover of lamb, I graciously accepted the task of ordering the Diana to fulfill my craving, adding the toppings of sauteed onions and mushrooms. Aaron opted for the sliders -- three mini beef burgers each smothered in a different topping of your choice (Aaron got guacamole and sautéed onions, I cannot remember the third). We decided on splitting an order of shoestring french fries as well.
Now let me tell you, I am a burger scholar. I have been eating the best cheeseburgers in the world since I could chew. My father, in one of his crafty ways to spoil me with the best food-wine-alcohol-cars-travel he could provide so I can never find a man to marry who can provide the same, has done an amazing job with serving me some of the most delicious burgers I have ever eaten. Kobe beef, lamb, spiced -- everything you can think of topped in countless sauces, cheesed and toppings...I've had it all. I have never been a fan of fast food, and pretty much refuse to eat beef unless it comes from a trusted source - leaving me to only enjoy In-and-Out and Shake Shack as fast food burger options. While Agadir does not in any way serve as fast food, the chain aspect relegates it into this realm somewhat. 

I have never had a burger like the Diana burger from Agadir in my life.
Let me say that again, NEVER have I had a burger like the one from Agadir.
The burger is a perfect balance of lamb and beef and spiced to perfection! The beef adds the classic burger taste, while the lamb adds a refinement and flavor level that is not like anything I have tasted before. Combined with the toppings (there are countless ones to choose from, including cheese AND bacon -- we later tried the bacon and were BIG fans), this burger was mouther watering and required to be cut to eat. The home made russian dressing added the perfect overflow of flavor combined with the aioli and a hint of hot sauce from the home made harif (spices in Hebrew). The fries, crisp to perfection! Smothered in the russian dressing and harif - the perfect compliment to the overflowing juicy burger.

Are you drooling yet????

Aaron, a native of LA, agreed completely. As a lover of In-and-Out, he was even blow away by the delectability of the burgers. He had to finish my burger, along with his own - but totally worth it. And the two best parts - the burgers + a beer (during happy hour) + a larger fries + tip ran us both about 100 NIS (relatively 25$). Pretty damn good if you ask me...oh, and they have free delivery!
I have returned to Agadir twice since being able to walk again - and I have ordered the same burger each time. It was also the first solid food I ate when I returned home from the hospital. That says a comfort food list is very small and I'm very picky abut it. The take-out burgers are just as good. If you like burgers, this is the place for you.

A foodie plug -- A friend of mine here works for a fabulous company called TasteTLV. They have a website for english speakers in Tel Aviv with restaurant reviews and information on where to go out. They also have a baller blog which Andrea writes for. Check them out for more suggestions and information. And my blog is also linked with theirs so feel free to click the link on the side for direct access.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Out with the old, in with the new.

I have decided to change the name of my blog. After having spent practically a month bed ridden without actually experiencing Tel Aviv, I wanted a new start. Also, the shuk in Tel Aviv is nothing near as amazing as the one in Jerusalem.
The new title comes from a brunch date yesterday with my friend at a renowned Tel Aviv restaurant called Benedicts. Located on he corner of Allenby and Rothschild, the white washed, heavily windowed, old-styled, corner building is very unassuming to the naked tourists eye. However, turn the corner and you are immediately transported to a zoo of humans jostling to get to the hostess to put your name down for a table. Amongst a wooden swinging bench, window planters, and the occasional cat; a dozen or so people are waiting for the hostess to call their name to be allowed entrance to this Tel Aviv landmark.
Benedicts heralds its name from "Eggs Benedict". The cute story on the backside of the menu details how "eggs benedict" came about in the wee hours of the morning at the Waldorf Astoria in NY. It has become a staple in the Tel Aviv dinning scene, the non-kosher one. Open + serving only breakfast items 24/7, yes even shabbat, Benedicts is the home to the family brunch, the breakfast for dinner young crowd, the 3 am drunk, and the hung-over 20-somethings.
After walking, like the hunchback of Notre Dam, about 25 minutes in blistering heat, we finally arrived. We sipped on lemon and mint flavored ice cold water as we cooled our selves off, perused the menu, and waited for our names to be called so we could begin our mid-afternoon banquet.
After having a fabulous seafood dinner two nights prior, we obviously could not say no to the idea of ordering something with pork in it. As NY+LA jews...we have bonded over our love of pork products, shellfish, and not covering our shoulders and knees. So many options jumped out to us, we didn't know where to start!
After being seated in a corned windowed table, we set upon the task of narrowing down what we really wanted for breakfast. Before we could even get as far as that, we were enchanted to find a steaming hot breadbasket in front of our noses accompanied by fresh butter, Nutella, and apple butter. The breadbasket included multi-grain, olive, sourdough, and brioche rolls. The breadbaskets are bottomless, always steaming hot fresh from the oven...enough said.
We decided on the brioche with a hint of butter and apple butter as our favorite...two refills later we still thought the same. The multi-grain was another hit with the apple butter.
Ordering was a tough we had narrowed our hunger pangs down to 4 choices. The addition of fresh juice, a champagne cocktail, iced coffee, or hot coffee to all breakfasts didn't make the choice any easier. What was finally decided upon was eggs Florentine with ham for Rachel and bacon and gouda shakshuka for myself (with obvious license to taste each others included).

The eggs were smothered in a rich Hollandaise that even Julia Child herself would have kveled over. Rested upon brioche toast (notice a theme?), the eggs were perfected cooked and the spinach was rich enough to put Rachel asleep at the table promptly after our meal.
The shakshuka was just the perfect amount of spicy, with the bacon being of the perfect smokyness to add another flavor dimension to an already flavorful dish. The added surprise of the shakshuka was a pesto cream-paste. Alone, was enough to make your heart stop - but added to the shakshuka made your head melt trying to deduce the amazingness of the bite itself. 
Only halfway through our meal - Rachel turned to me and instituted the Benedicts visit rule : every time she came up from Jerusalem to stay with me, we had to come to eat here at some point. I obviously agreed, sighting that we had many other menu options to try including huevos rancheros, typical English breakfast, and dulce doleche pancakes.
Yes mom&dad, we will be eating here when you visit. And no mom, you don't have to eat the bacon. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

ani mitz'taeret.

sorry i have not kept up with posting...I am not used to blogging or keeping people apprised of my life 24/7 - probably why I am so averse to "tweeting"/using twitter. as much as my parents would like to think - not everyone of my generation needs to tell everyone what they are doing every second of every day...yes we do need to be connected to know what is going on, but we don't need to broadcast ourselves.
I will work diligently this weekend to put together a few blog posts for everyone. One about Yom Kippur, another about some food I have come across (keeping up with anthony bourdain), and another about my Israeli hospital+surgical experience.
I'm hoping to have enough time tomorrow to drill out at least one.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Shana Tova

Rosh Hashana in Israel...definitely not what a normal American Jew is used to. However; due to my secular/hippie take on Judaism upbringing, I was ready for it!
I spent the first night at my friend Adar's family's Kibbutz, Kibbutz Ruhama. I have never been to a Kibbutz before, so the experience was doubly exciting. After a tour of the kibbutz by Adar, and a quick history lesson from one of her grandfathers (the Kibbutz was privatized in the early 90's, so it is not what one would think of as a traditional Kibbutz, it's more like a gated all-inclusive community), we arrived at her Aunts house for one of the most amazing meals of my life. I was not prepared, and didn't have my camera on me to take a picture of the heaps of food on my plate, very reminiscent of holidays at my house as well as at the Nidel-Novick residence.
About 16 of us crowded around a dinner table, yelling in Hebrew and laughing as we started in on the feast: Stewed beef, roasted chicken, fish with lime, rice with almonds, salad with rimon (pomegranate) seeds, cabbage salad (salat kruv - my favorite Israeli side dish), chopped liver (the best I have ever had), and countless other tidbits covered our plates...a real smorgasbord! After the food coma set in, everyone sat in the living room and participated in a tradition I think I'm going to keep from now on. Everyone was asked to write a brucha, or belssing, for the upcoming year. Whether it be for the community as a whole, for the world, or just the family...and then put it into a basket. Everyone then draws a brucha and reads it aloud -- and people try to guess who wrote it. Some were funny, some were written by the children, some were very touching...but it was a way to connect with the holiday without involving religion, something I have gotten very used to after living with Hazel&Jordan as parents. Next year, I'm beginning this tradition as my own.
After spending the night at Adar's house in Rehovot, we spent the next day at...THE BEACH! We drove to Rishon L'Tzion, one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever been to. Who goes to the beach on Rosh Hashana one might ask...well - almost all secular Israelis.
We found a cute little beach cafe and indulged in some breakfast at 12:30pm. I was immediately drawn to the shakshuka. Shakshuka is a spicy tomato and fried egg stew of sorts that is baked in an oven and served wit a variety of other ingredients. It is an amazing breakfast/brunch food, and also for late-night drunk eating. Since Israeli dairy products are the most amazing in the world, I had the Shakshuka with Balkan cheese. Balkan cheese is a sour, goats milk cheese, very similar to goat or feta cheese. It is delicious. it was served with a side of white hard crusted bread that was sprinkled with zatar, a middle eastern spice mix which I put on almost everything because it is so delicious.

 how amazing does that look??

Living in Tel Aviv, a secular multicultural modern city has been the most amazing week. I have grown to love this country more and more just from living here, instead of Jerusalem. As much as my father hates to hear this, I really do feel at home here. Especially in Tel Aviv, religiousness hidden away from public view.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A tale of two cities.

A quick preface before I begin -- For the first time since I arrived in Israel on September 1st, I have been able to get on the internet. So I apologize for my lack of connection, America.

Yesterday we arrived in Tel Aviv, the modern and exciting Mediterranean coastal port city, of Israel. To quote Hannah, "Tel Aviv is HOT." Truer words have never been spoken. But TLV is also the exact opposite of Jerusalem, a city I had spent the last 5 days of my journey living in. TLV, with its large boulevards, modern shops, and lack of an obvious religious cloud hanging over the would think you were in Miami. But aside from the beautiful beaches, the fantastic nightlife, the non-kosher  food plethora, etc; its the people of TLV that set this city apart from Jerusalem, in my mind at least. Jerusalem, a city that holds the holy sites for the worlds 3 largest monotheistic religions, is a choking and stifling place. Not covering your shoulders? Well ladies, you won't be allowed to enter some places, let alone will a religion woman sit next to you on the bus. You never see Arab's interacting with Jews; in fact, the Hassidic population that lives in the Old City built an over-ground walkway, on the roofs of the houses in the Arab Quarter, just so they wouldn't have to walk through in to get to their houses or Yeshiva's. G-d forbid there is some interaction between the two.
My experiences in Jerusalem would be overwhelming to describe, and would also be highly uninteresting to many. The city is beautiful however, and I always have enjoyed visiting the city. The Hassidic population has always put me in a very uneasy situation. Am I less of a Jew because I don't look like you, don't keep kosher, don't keep shabs? Do you need to force your views of Judaism upon me, in a city I feel just as home in as you? Must I conform to your rules and regulations of Judaism for you to even think of interacting with me? These things always pass through my mind when I am in Jerusalem. Watching the Hassidic "guard" women at the Kotel (Western Wall), checking each and every woman who passes her, for modesty of their outfit, is sickening. The screaming and ensuing rush to cover a woman who's shoulders are not covered enough, or who's skirt is too short is one of the most enraging sites I have ever come across.
As a minority of the population of Israel, and diaspora Jews in general, who gave the Hassidic the immense power they have? Why can they control who prays at the Kotel and how one can be dressed (Reform minions are relegated to a separate section of the wall to pray, as well as The Women of the Wall)? There used to not be a mechitza - separation barrier between men and woman - until a Reform minion was planning on coming to Israel to pray at the Kotel, and the Hassidic community was so outraged that they built the mechitza to stop the women and men from holding minion together. To this day, the size of the women's section at the wall is about half the size of the mens.
It is only my second day in Tel Aviv, and I already love it here. Modern, de-segregated, bustling, loud, rich with city smells...this is a true city. I am in the process of moving myself in, unpacking, and getting to orient myself in this new culture and city I have only ever spent 72 hours in before. It helps that my apartment is a 10 minute walk to the shuk (market), a block away from the mall (yes, it's pathetic...but there is a gym and when moving somewhere, it's nice to have easy conveniences near by), and most importantly - a 15 minute walk to the most amazing beaches in the Mediterranean. Of course, even on 3 hours of sleep, we trekked out to the beach last night to walk along the shoreline and walk with the waves. The warmest water and most serene feeling in the world.
I know I am going to love it here.