Cafe Life

Cafes abound in Israel. Walk down any main street in Jerusalem, and you are likely to see a smattering of cafes – often with both indoor and outdoor seating areas – busy with customers at any time of the day. Popular for breakfast, lunch, dinner, as well as just a coffee or dessert, meals at cafes are often long and leisurely, fitting with the Israeli taboo of bringing the check before bringing directly asked.

In the last few weeks I’ve been to a few cafes (also see posts about The Grand Cafe and Fresh Kitchen). The weekend here is Friday-Saturday, aligning with Shabbat. In Jerusalem, nearly all stores and restaurants close down for Shabbat, so I’ve enjoyed going out for a Friday midday meal at a cafe to enjoy getting out around the city during the weekend before settling in for a restful Shabbat.

Two Fridays ago, I went with friends to Kalo. Kalo is another Baka neighborhood establishment very popular with both Israelis and visitors. While some cafes may be known for a particular dish or inventive menu item, the overall food line-up at each cafe is very similar: shakshuka, an assortment of omelettes, salads, cheese/eggplant/tomato/egg sandwiches, and the classic Israeli breakfast. Ordering an Israeli breakfast is a (deliciously) filling experience, and the meal typically comes with two eggs, cheese, salad, jam/cream cheese, a small serving of tuna, and bread. Something that I’m not used to from the USA is the inclusion of a hot and cold beverage with a breakfast meal. Typically, juices and basic coffee options are included for this option, and if you want to upgrade to a smoothie or shake there’s a small upcharge.

At Kalo, I ordered their version of the traditional Israeli breakfast and chose orange juice and a cappuccino for my beverages:

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Other noteworthy items at the table included a fruit smoothie and a ‘green burger’ salad:

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We enjoyed a relaxing couple hours at the cafe chatting and eating before asking for the check and heading out to do some Shabbat shopping and preparations. We especially got a kick out of watching a very human-like dog at a nearby table:

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This past Friday, I went to Tmol Shilshom for lunch (with my brother, Samuel, who is also here in Jerusalem!). Tmol Shilshom is near Ben Yehuda street. The restaurant is both a cafe and a bookstore and has become somewhat of a cultural establishment due to the fact that many Israeli writers have conducted readings of their work at the cafe. In fact, the cafe was mentioned in my Ulpan book! I also read online that their Shakshuka was voted ‘top 10 breakfasts in the world’ by Lonely Planet Travel Guide – a fact which was reiterated on their menu. 🙂

The cafe itself is on the second floor of a building, and the entrance is tucked away in a back alleyway so we followed a series of signs from the main road to get there:

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Eventually, we found our way to the stairs and made our way into the cozy cafe interior:

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BIG bonus points to them for quoting Joni Mitchell on the placemat!!

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It seemed like the right occasion for a luxurious meal, so my brother and I both got milkshakes…

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… and Noah got a decked out version of the Israeli classic: ice kafe. Unlike iced coffee in the USA, ice kafe in Israel is more like a frappuccino – a blended sweet coffee drink. To get the American version of cold coffee with ice, you would need to order a kafe kar, literally, cold coffee. Noah basically got the super version of ice kafe which added ice cream and whipped cream:

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After all the buzz about it, we obviously all ordered the shakshuka.

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Delicious!

Halva Banana Cake

Today was my first baking experiment in Israel! I think it went pretty well. 🙂

I bought some halva (a Middle Eastern dessert/candy made out of sesame and honey, often sold in large bricks) earlier in the week, and quickly realized that it would be an incredible feat to eat the whole amount of halva straight.

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So…I decided to incorporate it into a baked good! The result: halva banana cake! *full recipe below

First, I mixed together 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup white flour, a scant 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon:

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Next, in a separate bowl, I mashed 3 small bananas:

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With the bananas, I mixed two eggs, 1/3 cup applesauce, 1/3 cup greek yogurt, and 1 tsp. baking soda:

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I combined the wet ingredients with the dry ones:

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And then added 3/4 cup crumbled halva to the batter:

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Once the halva was stirred in, I poured the batter into a buttered cake pan and added another 3/4 cup of crumbled halva on top:

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I baked for 40 minutes at 350º and…

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YUM YUM YUM! The little hole is from where I put the knife in to test it before it was quite done…

Ingredients

 - 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

 - 1/4 cup white flour

 - scant 1/2 cup sugar

 - 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

 - 3 small mashed bananas

 - 2 eggs

 - 1/3 cup applesauce

 - 1/3 cup greek yogurt

 - 1 tsp. baking soda

 - 1 1/2 cups halva

 Method

 - Combine flours, sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl and
stir to combine

 - Combine bananas, eggs, applesauce, greek yogurt, and
baking soda in a bowl
 and stir thoroughly

 - Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and
stir to combine

 - Stir into the batter 3/4 cup crumbled halva

 - Pour batter into a buttered cake pan

 - Sprinkle another 3/4 cup of crumbled halva on top

 - Bake for 30 minutes at 350º F (175º C - useful temperature
conversion for my Israeli oven!)

Making a Home

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I’m in Jerusalem for a year of Jewish learning at Pardes, but moving to a new home – especially in a new country! – takes some adjustment to make things feel comfortable. Tomorrow, I will have been in Jerusalem for three weeks, and I’ve definitely started to feel at home.

Eating meals at home helps me to feel settled. On vacation, I’m usually eating out all the time, and while I plan to do plenty of eating out in Jerusalem, there’s something that feels comfortable and “I actually live here” about having meals at home. While I’ve gone out for a few meals with friends, I’ve mainly eaten from the comfort of my own kitchen. And the food has still been great!

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It’s been especially fun to eat at home since there continues to be so many fresh fruits and vegetables that I want to enjoy straight from the fruit stands.

This week: mango and kiwi!

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Taking all of my stuff out of bags and making sure that everything has a place in the apartment also was a big step for making the apartment homey. In some instances, this tooking getting a little creative. For example, I brought all my jewelry here in a ziplop bag (and then spent about 30 minutes getting it all untangled when I got here!). Earring trees don’t travel so well, so I had to find a solution for how to store my earrings while I”m here. The result: egg carton earring stand! 

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While I didn’t want to buy a new earring stand here and then feel compelled to fly it across the Atlantic later, there were some things that are worth buying…

…such as a new yoga mat! Having the mat has enabled me to do some yoga at home; I’ve done a few YouTube lessons by Lesley Fightmaster. Her last name might not sound very yogic, but her videos are a good workout and I’ve felt really rejuvenated afterwards.

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I’ve also visited the Pardes building a few times to get my bearings and see where I’m going to be studying for the year…so excited!

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and the most essential part to feeling at home here…

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LOOK WHO ARRIVED ON TUESDAY:

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Yay. 🙂 This is really starting to feel like home.

Tahana Rishona

The Tahana Rishona (First Train Station) is a historical site that has now become a center for culture, music, and socializing in Jerusalem. Service on the train tracks that used the First Station ended in 1998, and after that it stood abandoned until renovation started to open it as a cultural center in 2013. Part of the initiative was also turning the train tracks into the rekevet pedestrian and bike trail. As planned, in 2013, the station – called The Tahana for short – reopened and has since become a great location for both Israelis and tourists to soak up Israeli culture, enjoy a good meal or drink, or even go to the ‘beach’ (there is a sandy area with a volleyball court and wave simulator!).

The Tahana features several full-service restaurants as well as places to get a drink, an ice cream shop, and a smoothie/juice joint. A couple weeks ago after Shabbat ended, I went with some friends to Fresh Kitchen for some coffee drinks and cookies.

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Fresh has a lovely outdoor seating area and a broad menu with lots of appealing dishes – so appealing, in fact, that I went back for a real meal last night.

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The Tahana also features a rotating schedule of events for people to enjoy fitness, music, and dancing. Every morning there is yoga, Friday mornings there is a running team, on Sunday and Wednesday nights there is dancing, Tuesday nights feature a live Jazz Trio, Thursday nights there is Zumba, and every Friday at 5:00pm there is a musical welcoming of Shabbat!

Last Friday, I went to the Tahana’s musical welcoming of Shabbat to see the prayer/music group, Nava Tehila. The group playing Shabbat music at the Tahana rotates each week, but I assume that – similar to how it was with Nava Tehila – it is generally a lively playing of Shabbat songs with lots of singing along and dancing from the audience. This past week, there was quite a crowd for the welcoming of Shabbat, and it was a lot of fun to see all the people and families there – happy to enjoy the music and excited for Shabbat!

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Beyond the music and events, the Tahana also features rotating art exhibits…

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…stores where you can by Jerusalem gifts, jewelry, and knick-knacks…

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…and, during the summer, a daily arts and crafts fair as well as a farmers’ market on Fridays:

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Overall, the Tahana is a great spot for pretty much any activity, and I’m definitely planning on visiting more of the restaurants and taking advantage of more of the cultural activities in the near future!

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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And the final stop on the Emek food tour…

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…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:

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Nuts and dried fruit also make a strong appearance:

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As do tea and spices:

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And things that used to be alive:

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

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

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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).

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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.

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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).

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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!

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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!

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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.

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There are a lot of French and American immigrants in Baka, and it is neighbor to another Anglo-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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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My friends both ordered the green shakshuka.

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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:

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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:

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

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

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