Emek Refaim Food Finds

As mentioned previously, Emek Refaim is the  main road going through the German Colony in Jerusalem. The street is packed with shops, restaurants, cafes, and people from places including – but not limited to – the United States, France, England, Germany, and of course Israel.

Emek Refaim is only about a 10 minute walk from my apartment, and the Ulpan that I’m attending is on Emek, so it’s been easy enough to check out some of the enticing eateries lining the street. Last week, I went to a couple restaurants on Emek with a friend.

Despite the long-standing joke about American Jews loving Chinese food, there are not too many Chinese restaurants here in Jerusalem. There is, however, lots of sushi! An exception to the hard-to-find-Chinese-food rule is Soya, located on the corner of Emek Refaim and Rachel Imenu.

IMG_4661 IMG_4662

Many Israeli restaurants have lunch time specials that include salads or other appetizers free with your meal. So, since we were there for lunch time, our meal started with a small salad. We also shared an order of vegetable eggrolls.

IMG_4663 IMG_4664

For our meals, we ordered mandarin chicken and a house chicken dish served with tomatoes, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, and a honeyed date sauce. Both meals were served with rice that seemed to have been cooked in soy sauce.

IMG_4668 IMG_4669

The food was good although there was a lot (especially for lunch!) so we took home leftovers.

At the same intersection of Emek Refaim and Rachel Imenu is also Marvad Haksamim. Marvad Haksamim specializes in traditional Israeli cuisine and soul food: lots of hummus, kubbeh, kebabs, stuffed vegetables, salatim, and pickles (to name a few). After being seated, we were brought a Middle Eastern version of a bread basket:

IMG_4670

Salouf (a Yemenite flat bread) was served warm from the oven with a tomato dip (almost like salsa except not spicy), cucumber pickles, and pickled carrot salad. We also got a side order of hummus because clearly the salouf was in need of a delicious chickpea/tahini mashup…

IMG_4671

For the meal, we ordered chamusta kubbeh soup (ground meat filled dumplings with celery, summer squash, and a flavorful broth) and an appetizer sampler which came with fried kubbeh (balls of dough filled with ground meat and fried), moroccan cigars (ground meat wrapped in phyllo dough), vine leaves stuffed with rice, and something that seemed like a fried wonton but I don’t know exactly what it was! The appetizers were served with a sweet tomato sauce and tahini.

IMG_4672 IMG_4673

Every Friday, Marvad does a take-away buffet for Shabbat where people can buy breads, desserts, and all sorts of prepared appetizers and entrees to have and serve over Shabbat. I recently realized that there’s a coupon book in my apartment which includes a 10%-off coupon for Marvad Haksamim Friday take-away…so maybe I’ll have to try it sometime!

 And for coffee…The Coffee Mill is a welcome sight for anyone who likes a plain old cup of coffee. While espresso beverages and cafe culture are in top form, a plain cup of coffee seems to have been left behind in Israel. If you want just a regular, non-espresso coffee beverage, then you’re generally faced with either instant Nescafe of Turkish Coffee which – despite having gone through a more complex roasting process – is extremely similar to Nescafe except with smaller grounds.

The Coffee Mill, however, offers a wide selection of espresso AND coffee beverages. An entire wall of the shop is devoted to beans in multiple flavors and from all across the world for people to buy by the kilo and take home.

photo 3 (20)

But don’t worry – lest you think plain coffee makes things boring – The Coffee Mill still has a wide selection of exciting espresso beverages and yummy treats.

photo 4 (16) photo 2 (27)

And the final stop on the Emek food tour…

photo (12)

…an impromtu lemonade and popcorn stand set up by some kids in front of a supermarket! I got a lemonade (with mint leaves!) for 2 shekels. Totally worth it. :)

Tiyul to the Shuk

For my first month in Israel, I am doing an ulpan. An ulpan is an intensive Hebrew-learning program, designed to help olim (new immigrants to Israel) learn the national language quickly and practically. There are many places to do ulpan in Jerusalem and throughout Israel, and in addition to multi-month classes for new olim, there are week-long and month-long classes that are popular with students and tourists. Traditional ulpan is a huge time commitment, with participants being in class for 4-8 hours each day. I am doing ulpan through Ulpan-Or, and I am in class for 3.5 hours every day (besides Friday and Saturday – the Israeli weekend).

In addition to the daily classes, once a week I go on a tiyul (trip) with the ulpan. The idea of the tiyul is to familiarize ulpan students with an important area of Jerusalem as well as to give them the opportunity to use their Hebrew out on the street. This week, we went on an incredible tiyul to the shukShuk means market in Hebrew, and a visit to the shuk is an absolute must-do for any visitor to Jerusalem. The shuk is heaven on earth for any foodie, cook, bargain shopper, people watcher, or human being with a decent appreciation for fun. Most of the food is sold by weight, and the colors at every fruit and vegetable stand are enough to make you stop and stare:

IMG_4708 IMG_4704

salatim

salatim

Nuts and dried fruit also make a strong appearance:

IMG_4694 IMG_4706

As do tea and spices:

IMG_4707

And things that used to be alive:

IMG_4701 IMG_4705

The shuk is full of amazing bakeries, featuring bread, pita, bourekas (baked phyllo dough pastries), and many other types of gluten-filled goodness.

IMG_4698 IMG_4699 IMG_4709

A trip to the shuk also necessitates a visit to Marzipan – Jerusalem’s most loved rugelach shop:

IMG_4696 IMG_4697

With all the fabulous ingredients available, it would be easy to overlook the amazing eating to be done in the shuk itself…but this would be a great mistake! Ima is a Jerusalem restaurants with a few locations that specializes in kibbeh soup (seasoned ground meat dumplings served in a rich broth).

IMG_4702 IMG_4703

Uzi Eli’s juice bar offers a remedy for everything, and if you go in to say ‘hi,’ Uzi is likely to tell you about his family whose Yemenite secrets he inherited as the key to his profession. Oh, and that if you are optimistic between the ages of 9 and 17 you will have a longer life. And that you should laugh for no reason.

IMG_4714 IMG_4715 IMG_4716

Mousseline is an ice cream shop offering homemade and unusual flavors – and featuring ingredients bought in the shuk! Flavor highlights include Grapefruit with Basil, Masala, Cinnamon, and Tonka (a South American vanilla bean).

IMG_4713

Visiting the shuk got me excited to make a regular routine of finding new and fresh ingredients to use in cooking; I definitely want to make it a habit to buy food there each week.

In closing…

SPOTTED: A GIANT GOURD!

IMG_4711

The Grand Cafe and Shakshuka

Running at 7:30am in Jerusalem is much better than running at 10:30am in Jerusalem. Holy cow, it’s hot!

photo (10)

But…sleeping until 9:00 is much nicer than sleeping until 7:00. What’s a girl to do?!

In other news, I have thoroughly enjoyed my first week and a half of exploration through my area of Jerusalem. I am living in the Baka neighborhood – southeast of the old city.

IMG_4603

There are a lot of French and American immigrants in Baka, and it is neighbor to another Angl0-area, HaMoshavah HaGermanit (the German Colony). The German Colony has a lot of Americans, Germans, and Europeans in general, and the cafes and languages heard on the street in both areas reflect peoples’ roots.

IMG_4642

Bagel Cafe in the German Colony

Both neighborhoods are fairly upscale and trendy, and the two areas are connected across a pedestrian walking and biking path called the rekevetRekevet means train in Hebrew, and the path is a tracks-to-trails project.

IMG_4640 IMG_4641

Derech Beit Lechem is the main road in Baka while Emek Refaim is the primary thoroughfare cutting through the German Colony.

IMG_4645

While both are lined with cafes, restaurants, shops, and falafel joints, Emek Refaim is more bustling and has more establishments lining the road.

IMG_4644

This week, I went for lunch with a couple friends at The Grand Cafe – a lovely spot for any meal of the day. The cafe is right on Derech Beit Lechem in the middle of Baka, only a couple of blocks from my apartment.

photo 1 (23)

My friends both ordered the green shakshuka.

photo (11)

Shakshuka is a popular food in Israel and throughout the Middle East. Traditionally, shakshuka is made by poaching eggs in a tomato sauce, often with onions, spices, and perhaps a little cheese on top. There are several variations, however, and this green shakshuka included spinach, leeks, and roasted tomatoes. The meal also came with a heaping basket of bread:

photo 2 (26)

Everything on the menu looked good, but I went with a fruits and vegetable salad that came with fresh fruit, roasted nuts, fried gnocchi, cheese, and a balsamic drizzle:

photo 3 (19)

The real reason I didn’t get shakshuka though was because I had plans to cook shakshuka with a friend later that night!

photo 1 (22) photo 2 (25)

We made a more traditional version with tomatoes, yellow pepper, and onion. Good food, good friends…yeah, I can get used to living here. :)

CIMG1887

Pirot v’yerakot: adventures in Israeli Dining

Oh Israel, your food is a splendor.

IMG_4633

Here’s the breakdown…

Foods that are better in the USA: pizza, yogurt, plain black coffee

Foods that are better in Israel: everything else

No, I am definitely not using hyperbole. Just look at this banana:

IMG_4656

I rest my case. 

One of my great Israeli adventures so far is venturing to pirot v’yerakot (fruit and vegetable) stands, selecting a few things I’m unfamiliar with, taking them home, putting them in my mouth, and consulting google to learn what I’m eating.

Last week I shared my encounter with prickly pears. This week, I mystery grabbed these:

IMG_4637 IMG_4639

Turns out this is what a passionfruit looks like! I had only ever had passionfruit as part of a juice or smoothie – not on its own. You can eat it by scooping out the insides with a spoon (don’t lose the precious juice!). The outside shell is hard and relatively easy to separate the fruit from:

IMG_4638

Salatim (salads) are also a great part of Israeli cuisine. Salatim doesn’t refer to simply the mix of lettuce that we Americans refer to as salad. In Israel, salatim refers to a wide array of appetizer-like spreads, dips, pickled vegetables, and overall deliciousness. Nearly every Supersal (a large grocery store chain), mikolets (smaller grocery stores – almost like convenient stores), and small specialty shops (cheese, meat, bread, etc.) sells a selection of salatim that you can buy in various sizes. This week, I picked up a few salatim to try:

Matbuha (a spicy tomato dip, also sometimes called Turkish Salad):

IMG_4649

Eggplant with tahini:

IMG_4650

And I am now on my first second third tub of hummus (also considered a type of salatim). In defense of my hummus consumption, however, I will point out that one entire tub was consumed by Shabbat guests on Friday night. I had a group over for Shabbat dinner where I got to break out my kiddush fountain (you pour wine from the main kiddush cup into the ‘fountain’ which distributes the wine into several smaller cups):

IMG_4647

And purchased challot from the popular Jerusalem bakery, Marzipan:

IMG_4648

Also before Shabbat, I popped into a shop near my apartment that sells prepared meats, salatim, and side dishes. Observant families don’t cook on Shabbat, which requires a lot of preparation in advance for the weekly holiday. As a result, it’s common for many families to buy some prepared food to lighten the amount of preparation that’s required.

When I say prepared food, I’m not talking frozen meals or processed faux-meats. There are freshly cooked meats, vegetables, appetizers, and soups. I decided to buy a mystery foil-wrapped cylinder because for once in my life I don’t have to worry about what sort of meat could be inside (halleluyah for kosher everywhere!!).

When I got home, I opened up the foil and discovered this:

IMG_4634

It was some sort of phyllo dough encased ground meat/potato/onion dish. I cooked it in the oven for about 30 minutes and this is what came out inside…

IMG_4635

Yum! I had it with some very delicious (and long) green beans as well as the aforementioned salatim.

IMG_4636

And…what is more appropriate to close out my Israel food rave than Tim Tams?

IMG_4657

Okay, so they come in a package. And they’re actually made in Australia. And they are a far cry from any semblance of healthy. But ask anyone who has participated in an Israel summer program, Birthright, or school trip, and you will quickly learn that Tim Tams are an essential part of the Israel experience. The double-layered wafers with a chocolate cream center can be found on the front shelf of each Supersal, mikolet, and every other food-selling establishment. But, the magic of Tim Tams goes far beyond chocolate or cookie. The true love of a relationship with a Tim Tam comes in the consumption.

There is really only one right way to eat a Tim Tam.

Step 1: Get a glass of milk. Coffee is also acceptable and tea might do in a pinch.

IMG_4658

Step 2: Take a small bite from one corner of the Tim Tam:

IMG_4659

Step 3: Take a small bite from the opposite corner of the Tim Tam:

IMG_4660

Step 4: Dip one open corner into the milk/coffee, and put the other open corner into your mouth. Use the Tim Tam as a straw and suck until you taste the milk.

Step 5: Eat the Tim Tam – whose chocolately wafer has now absorbed the milk and become oh-so-juicy-and-delicious.

Step 6: Ecstasy

And, because I am not completely oblivious to the state of the world, some brief comments about life in Israel over the last week.

The mood was very heavy at the beginning of last week. Last Tuesday was Tisha B’av, an annual Jewish fast day that is described in the Torah as a day of crying and misfortune for all generations. This damnation is in response to the report of 12 spies who were sent to take a peek at the promised land and report back to the newly-freed-from-Egypt Israelites. While the land was indeed flowing with milk and honey, the spies came back with a negative report, saying that the people in the land were great and fierce and the Israelites should just turn back now since they would surely never be able to truly enter the land. Furious that the Israelites would so easily fall into grief and despair when the land had, in fact, been promised to them, God decreed that the Israelites would not enter the promised land until that generation died out, leading to the subsequent 40-year wander in the desert. The tragedy of the day – the 9th (tesha) day of the Hebrew month of Av – would also continue indefinitely through all generations. Hence, Tisha B’av. 

Interestingly enough, the day truly has been one of great sorrow for the Jewish people throughout history. It is on this day that both the first and second temples were destroyed in Jerusalem (some 657 years apart), Jews were expelled from England in 1290, from France in 1306, and Spain in 1492 (Columbus sailed the ocean blue…no? different theme?), Germany entered WWI in 1914, formal approval was received for the Nazi “Final Solution” in 1941, and mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto began in 1942.

Clearly, it’s not a good day. The mourning of the day is also intensified because of safety concerns resulting from the day being used as a target for terrorist attacks in recent years. This past Monday, just before the start of the fast, there were two attacks in Jerusalem including one that involved a stolen tractor plowing over a bus and killing one person. Monday also marked the day that Hamas resumed rocket attacks on Israel, breaking yet another ceasefire and resuming the war that many Israelis had hoped and believed was coming to an end. Beginning tonight at midnight, another ceasefire is supposed to go into effect…hopefully this will last.

In closing, I recommend this op-ed by the always brilliant and ever insightful Thomas Friedman.

“3,000 years with no place to be and they want me to give up my milk and honey. Don’t you see, it’s not about the land or the sea, not the country but the dwelling of his majesty. Jerusalem, if I forget you, fire not gonna come from me tongue. Jerusalem if I forget you, let my right hand forget what it’s supposed to do.”
– Matisyahu

City of Gold

I made it!

IMG_4591

My travel to Jerusalem went pretty smoothly. I had some time to kill in the international terminal at JFK, but a delay there meant I was running to catch my connection in Moscow. Hence, I had no time to see what a Russian airport has to offer. cry me a river. 

At JFK, the international terminal is pretty swanky. Although I cannot for the life of me understand who does serious shopping while at an airport:

IMG_4580

Duty free is another phenomenon that I haven’t really caught onto, but it sort of reminds me of Costco.

IMG_4581

The other interesting thing about the international terminal was that alcohol was served from the cooler cases just like juice or water!

IMG_4582

I did not partake…but I wonder what ID rules are about how old you have to be.

I flew a Russian airline, Aeroflot. The flight was comfortable and all the flight attendants wore bright orange. Even their shoes! The best thing about the flight – which I haven’t seen before – was that they gave you a ‘do not disturb’ sign for your seat.

IMG_4586

You were supposed to put one of the stickers on top of your seat, and then the flight attendants would know whether or not to wake you when they came around with food. I put in a special meal request for vegetarian meals on the flight, and it was actually edible – although definitely not good compared to anything besides typical airline food.

After a solid day and a half of travel, I finally arrived to Israel!

IMG_4613

Even though it’s been a while since Jerusalem was thought to be the literal center of the world, it seems like all eyes are often still on it today. The current matzav (situation) has placed Israel in a spot of global focus, and the conflict certainly is visible in the general atmosphere here. All men and women have compulsory army service for three years here, meaning that essentially everyone has family or close family friends in the military. Many of the men are stationed in Gaza. The news is constantly playing, and overheard pieces of conversation often contain reference to the matzav.

That said, Jerusalem has been able to maintain a level of normalcy that other areas of Israel have not. While the conflicts weighs heavy on the minds and hearts of all here, the schedule of daily life is largely uninterrupted. Since being here, I’ve settled into my apartment in the beautiful neighborhood of Baka:

IMG_4603

Visited Pardes, where I will be studying for the next year:

IMG_4597

Enjoyed coffee and Israeli breakfast at the ubiquitous Israeli version of Starbucks (but way better!!!!), Aroma:

IMG_4598 IMG_4600

And that’s not to mention that Jerusalem is, quite simply, the most breathtaking city in all the world. :) Jerusalem is often referred to as ‘the city of gold.’ Obviously, it’s a treasure, but the nickname is also attributed to the unique Jerusalem Stone (a white limestone) that has been used for buildings here since ancient times. The bright sun on the white stone causes a beautiful brightness – almost a reflection – that can often make the city look as if it has a golden tint.

IMG_4602 IMG_4594

If that doesn’t convince you, imagine seeing this splendor on your walk home:

CIMG1990

Like any city, Jerusalem has little quirks that anyone visiting gets used to. For example, Jerusalem is full of stray cats.

IMG_4616

They’re completely docile but are best not approached – basically like squirrels in the US.

Israel also grows incredible fruits and vegetables; some familiar and some unfamiliar to westerners. Produce is best bought at small fruit and vegetable stands were you can get everything from avocados to Jaffa oranges to prickly pears!

Speaking of…I tried prickly pears for the first time:

IMG_4617 IMG_4618

They are soft but full of hard seeds which, technically, can be eaten, but I preferred to spit them out. Now I know what the Jungle Book‘s been talking about all these years!

And…one final note on the matzav. I don’t want to get very political or focus too much on the conflict (and, God willing, the current ceasefire will lead to a more permanent one!), but if you are interested to read more, here are two articles that have done the best job from what I’ve read of fairly and sensitively analyzing the conflict. Both articles are from The New Republic (thanks, Papa Bear).

From a couple weeks ago – about questions of morality within the war

From a few days ago – about the difficulty of asymmetrical warfare, as seen in the Gaza-Israel conflict

Yappy Hour

Our first week in Boston, Noah and I learned about an amazing event called Yappy Hour. During the summer months, Yappy Hour takes place each Wednesday evening at The Liberty Hotel in Boston proper. The building that holds the hotel was a prison until the 1990’s. Now, as a hotel, it maintains some stylistic influences from its prison days. Such as these barred windows:

IMG_4385

The hotel also has several restaurants, bars, and lounges with such inspired names as Alibi, The Clink, and The Yard. 

Back to Yappy Hour…

Yappy Hour is like Happy Hour. Except better because it’s with dogs! From 5:30-8:30pm on Wednesday evenings, people combine their love of dogs with that daily desire to get happy through reduced-price appetizers and booze, head to The Liberty’s outdoor patio called The Yard, and enjoy the wonder that is Yappy Hour.

IMG_4377

Noah and I don’t have a dog, but clearly this is an event that would be well suited for spectators.

After waiting in a long line to get drinks (which also involved being slobbered on by a huge St. Bernard), we found a table and did some doggie-watching.

There were cuties:

IMG_4381 IMG_4390

Dogs who were sleepy:

IMG_4387

Dogs who wanted to hide by their humans:

IMG_4408

Dogs getting rowdy:

IMG_4409

And dogs doing what dogs do best:

IMG_4398

I also saw a beautiful Great Dane derivative (Great Dane and Dalmatian mix, maybe?):

IMG_4411

Bottom line: Yappy Hour was super fun(ny). I would definitely recommend to all dog lovers – whether or not they have a furry friend to bring.

Vacation Weekend

After the long bike trip on Friday, we were overdue for some serious relaxation. On Saturday, we  woke up and prepped a breakfast of oatmeal, fruit, and coffee:

IMG_4473 IMG_4474 IMG_4478

I sported my new gear from Menemsha Blues:

IMG_4475

After breakfast, we plotted out our day:

IMG_4479

The plan was to relax at the house, visit the towns of Chilmark and Menemsha, and make dinner at home. The house had three beautiful porches:

IMG_4489

and we enjoyed taking in the incredible views and looking at boats through the binoculars:

IMG_4505 IMG_4491

After enough time at home, we headed into the nearby town of Chilmark. We grabbed a quick lunch at the Chilmark General Store (they had pizza, sandwiches, salads, prepared foods, and a small grocery and convenient store):

IMG_4515 IMG_4519

After lunch, it was time to head to the towns main attraction: Chilmark Chocolates. Chilmark Chocolates is – you guessed it – a chocolate shop selling homemade chocolates, truffles, toffee, caramel, and general forms of decadence. Not only is their chocolate universally praised, but they are also a socially-conscious organization, employing many people with special needs and partnering with the local community to give back. The only downside is that their hours are limited, so when they are open there’s a long line!

IMG_4510

The line moved quickly though, and before long we were in and out the door with this beautiful box:

IMG_4514

After safely tucking the chocolates into our bike bag, we were off for a second visit to Menemsha. We were exhausted and it was dark during our first visit to Menemsha, so we were excited to go back and get a better look at the town. Menemsha is a fishing village, and there was a lot to look at between the personal and commercial boats, gorgeous water views, and fishermen going through their day’s work:

IMG_4523 IMG_4529 IMG_4536

We even saw a special bike ferry to carry bikes between Menemsha and the nearby Aquinnah.

IMG_4526

Also, ice cream. Obviously.

IMG_4524(from the Galley)

The last stop before leaving Menemsha was at Larsen’s Fish Market.

IMG_4533

Larsen’s sells fresh fish and seafood (all caught that day) and also serves up lobster sandwiches that appeared to be quite popular (judging from the length of the line!). We bought some halibut which we had with summer squash and potatoes that night:

IMG_4534 IMG_4539

After a glorious day of relaxation, it was time to hit the road again on Sunday. Rather than reversing the trip from Friday, we took an alternate route that included two buses to get to Vineyard Haven, a ferry to Woods Hole, biking 20 miles to Bourne, and a 45-minute trip on the Cape Flyer back to South Station.

The CapeFlyer is a special train that runs only on the weekends and brings passengers between the city and Cape Cod. The train is very bike friendly; check out this special bike storage room onboard!

IMG_4542

When we finally arrived to South Station it was late, dark, and we were exhausted, so we took the T home. I’m already missing my vacation weekend. :)