Jerusalem Cafes: Round 5

Continuing my Jerusalem Cafes series, here are a few more places I’ve been to in the last several weeks. Enjoy the pictures of delicious food…where do you want to go out to eat next?

First, I tried a cafe on Emek Refaim called Ben Ami. I had heard several times that Ben Ami serves allstar drinks and desserts and also has a nice ‘real’ food menu. To drink, we ordered sahlab (an Arabic drink made with flour from a orchid, rose water, milk, often topped with coconut, cinnamon, and nuts, and popularly sold during the winter months in Israel) and a hot apple/wine cider.

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For the meal, we shared toast (in Israeli menu jargon, this means an open-faced sandwich) with pesto and mozzarella and a potato dumplings dish:

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Next up was Colony. Colony is a restaurant tucked off of Derech Beit Lechem near the entrance to the rekevet. The burgers coming out of their kitchen looked amazing, but I ended up ordering homemade gnocchi instead. How could I resist this?!

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My dining partner ordered a pesto stuffed chicken breast, and we shared a dish of mushrooms in puff pastry:

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Since I’ve been living here long enough to have some *favorites*, I also returned to a couple places I’ve posted about before.

Kalo on Derech Beit Lechem is only a few short minutes from my apartment, and it is delicious for any meal of the day! You can see my post from a previous visit to Kalo here. Their outside patio area is bursting every Friday morning (and most mornings besides!), and I am personally a huge fan of the delicious grain bread they bring to the table with every meal. Noah and I went to Kalo for dinner a few weeks ago and ordered an eggplant focaccia and salad (with fried cheese, beets, apples, and walnuts) to share:

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I also returned to Caffit on Emek Refaim. I think Caffit is now tied with the Grand Cafe for my most-visited restaurant. I posted about Caffit before here, and Noah and I liked it so much we went there for Noah’s last breakfast before he left for a big trip a few weeks ago (yes, I have been ALONE!!!). Noah went for the Israeli breakfast:

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Classic.

I ordered a toasted bagel sandwich filled with hard-boiled egg, cheese, zaatar (a mediterranean spice with a distinctive green color) and veggies:

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I also ordered a lemonana (a blended lemonade and mint beverage that’s popular in Israel – nana means ‘mint’ in Hebrew):

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If you missed them, check out my other Jerusalem Cafe posts here:

Round 1
Round 2
Round 3
Round 4

Made In the City and WAFFLES

A couple weeks ago, Jerusalem had a “Made in the City” Festival. The festival was intended to showcase various forms of music and art from the different sectors of life around the city. The festival highlighted both Jewish and Arab cultural contributions to the city, and exhibits/shows were intended to draw people from both groups.

Noah and I went to one of the festival’s events called Just Singing. Just Singing was a concert featuring Jewish and Arab performers. In addition to music, the big appeal of this particular event was a FOOD TRUCK! Remember food truck days back in the lovely state of Minnesota? See here and here. The food truck at Just Singing was advertised as having been imported (?!) from the USA and having a menu created by Jewish and Arab chefs.

The event was held on Shushan Street. Shushan Street is located near the Ben Yehuda area, and the street is lined primarily with bars. This was my first time to that area, and it was definitely a different feel from the other parts of the city I usually spend time in! Check out some of this crazy graffiti/art:

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Of course, stopping by the food truck was essential.

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In addition to the food truck, several of the bars along the street were open and serving drinks:

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Eventually, we made our way to the stage area. At first, there was hardly anyone near the stage, but as soon as the performers came out, quite a crowd gathered:

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We stayed for about an hour of the music and then headed home, passing this great mural on the road:

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The mural shows a map of Jerusalem as the center of the world, and it’s based on an actual map from the 1500s, depicting the belief of the medieval time period that Jerusalem was, in fact, the center of the world. Even though our maps have changed, I sometimes think the notion remains.

In others news…WAFFLES!

Jerusalem has a thing for waffles. Restaurant chains called Waffle Bar and Waffle Factory abound, and dessert waffles are on the menu of many other restaurants. While you could probably find a savory waffle or two if you really tried, the basic Jerusalem waffle formula is as follows:

ice cream + whipped cream + delicious sweet waffle + toppings of choice = GET IN MY BELLY

I have partook in two waffles during my time in Jerusalem so far. The first was a banana/white and dark chocolate sauce/vanilla ice cream waffle from Waffle Bar:

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The second was a nutella/chocolate and vanilla ice cream/POUND of whipped cream waffle at Landwer Cafe at the Tahana.

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Waffles are pretty dang good. I think they are best enjoyed, however, as a ‘sometimes’ food. 🙂

Malcha Mall and lunch at ‘Greg’

Last weekend, Noah and I went to Jerusalem’s largest and busiest mall: Malcha Mall. The mall is located in the Malcha neighborhood, southwest of central Jerusalem. The mall is HUGE with nearly 300 stores and, according to their website, 400,000 square feet of shopping area and another 32,000 square feet of office space.

The interior of the mall looked fairly similar to any typical American mall, and there were tons of familiar American-brand stores (American Eagle, H&M, Gap, etc.).

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There were, however, some telltale signs that we were still in Israel. For example, there were several ‘shuk‘-like stands scattered in between kiosks and many stands selling challah (we went on a Friday before Shabbat):

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There were also some (ultra) religious folks walking around handing out Shabbat candles to the women (to make sure they lit that night!) and asking the men they saw if they had already put on tefillin. If the answer was “no,” there was a handy-dandy table set up with several sets of tefillin for men to put on and say the appropriate blessing. Side note: tefillin are cube shaped boxes worn on the head and left arm that contain the words of the Shma – the central faith statement of Judaism. It is considered a mitzvah for men to put on tefillin each day, typically during the morning prayers.

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candles I was handed while eating lunch – intended to be lit that night to welcome Shabbat (I was already planning on lighting)

 

I was theoretically looking for boots at the mall, but the sheer number of shops and my indecisive attitude preventing that initiative from making much progress, so I ended up mainly just window shopping and oohing and aahing at the size and eccentricities of the mall.

After enough walking around to work up an appetite, we went to a restaurant called Greg for lunch. IMG_5620

One thing that we noted while walking around the mall was that there were a lot more sit-down service restaurants than what you might find at a typical American mall.

At Greg, I ordered an Israeli breakfast (I know, I’m getting predictable). The breakfast, as usual, came with eggs, bread, spreads, salads, and drinks. For my drinks, I ordered a carrot juice and a special coffee drink made with date syrup and soy milk. Noah ordered the shakshuka and a grapefruit juice.

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Yum!

 

Jerusalem Cafes: Round 4

Israel…land of milk and honey, land once thought to be the physical center of the world, now “only” the spiritual and emotional center of the world.

Also, land of cafe culture and a quite-possibly-perfected leisurely breakfast….

So, it’s time for another ‘Jerusalem Cafes’ post!

The last few weeks involved two visits to The Grand Cafe. Grand Cafe is practically next door to my apartment AND delicious, so it’s proved to be a great go-to place for any meal of the day. I went for lunch with Noah and we ordered eggplant lasagna, open-faced mozzarella toast, and a cappuccino:

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My next visit was with friends for breakfast so, of course, we ordered the signature Grand Cafe breakfast. This included the Israeli breakfast standards of eggs, bread, a hot drink, cold drink, and salad. While many Israeli breakfast come with fixed sides including some combination of cheese, spreads, tuna, avocado, and other vegetables, the Grand Cafe breakfast lets you select your own sides from a lengthy list. Around the table, we ended up with jam, tapenades, eggplant (with and without yogurt), roasted zucchini, gouda cheese, and yogurt with granola:

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The waitress we had at Grand Cafe was super sweet and brought us coffee mousse with a chocolate ‘espresso’ bean after the meal!

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Grand Cafe is definitely a favorite. Everything on their menu looks great, and everything from their coffees to salads are really tasty. Also, their dessert case looks amazing. 🙂

The next cafe we visited was Cafe Hillel. Cafe Hillel is an Israeli cafe/coffee shop chain – somewhat similar to Aroma – but slightly fancier. Noah and I met there for lunch during the week and had a nice meal. Many restaurants around Jerusalem offer a ‘business lunch’ which includes a lot of extras with an entree order if you go for lunch during the work week. I ordered eggplant/goat cheese ravioli with pesto cream sauce and it came as a business lunch with bread, salad, and juice (I chose carrot juice). Noah shared my business lunch extras with me and also ordered a caprese pizza (although there didn’t seem to be any basil) and a fruit shake:

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I really liked Cafe Hillel and there were a lot of salads and drinks that looked appetizing – I definitely hope to go back and try another dish!

Lastly, we went to Tomas Masaryk for dinner. Tomas is on Emek Refaim and has a fairly brief menu: salads, sandwiches, pizza, pasta, and a few fish dishes and starters.

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I liked the atmosphere of this restaurant, and we had a seat where we could see a little bit into the kitchen and saw the chefs working their magic with the pizza oven. For our meal, we ordered a pizza with spinach, tomatoes, stracciatella, and olives, a salad with sweet potatoes, mushrooms, and feta, and focaccia with eggplant, pesto, and mozzarella.

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The food was good, but I don’t think Tomas is a new favorite. If I’m eating on Emek, I’m still partial to Caffit!

Other Jerusalem Cafe posts:

Round 1
Round 2
Round 3

Jerusalem Cafes: Round 3

Continuing my series of posts about Jerusalem cafes (see here and here), Noah and I went to a couple more places in the recent weeks.

For dinner, we went to Focaccia Bar Hamoshava – a meat restaurant on Emek Refaim.

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As the name implies, Focaccia’s specialty menu item is focaccia. The menu offers a range of uniquely Israeli focaccia varieties (such as eggplant/egg/tahini), as well as pastas, meat entrees, and a small collection of salads and sandwiches. The restaurant was very nice with an extremely friendly waiter! To start, Noah and I shared the basic focaccia with spreads (it came with egg salad, tapenade, eggplant, sun-dried tomato paste, and something vaguely resembling non-spicy salsa).

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Look at their beautiful ceramic plates:

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The focaccia reminded me more of a flat bread than the thick focaccia I am used to in the US…I liked this version a lot better!

For our main dishes we ordered salmon fettuccine and eggplant mousaka (fried eggplant with ground beef and lamb) to share. Everything was delicious, but it was a lot of food and we couldn’t finish everything!

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After the meal, our very friendly waiter treated us to coffees (I ordered decaf, Noah got Turkish coffee). I would definitely go back here again!

The other new place we tried in the past couple weeks was Caffit. In fact, we went there twice! The first time was after a slightly disastrous morning buying Rav Kavs (Israeli bus passes). Noah and I had intended to get bus passes and then treat ourselves to an Israeli breakfast.

Rav Kavs are only available at the Jerusalem central bus station and a smaller station called Davidka (which we believed to be closed on Fridays). So, we headed out to the Central bus station in the morning. The Central Station is ENORMOUS! In fact, it is practically an indoor shopping mall combined with a transportation hub:

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After getting our bearings, it was a little bit of a treasure hunt to find where we were supposed to buy the Rav Kavs – we were directed from one window to another until we finally ended up in a back room of the station devoted specifically to the production of new Rav Kavs. We had to take a number and wait about 20 minutes until it was our turn. Once inside, it went pretty quickly, but by the time we were done and leaving it was already past 11:00am. We started to take the bus home but got stuck in a big traffic back-up that eventually led us to get out and walk.

Originally, we planned to go to the Scottish Guest House for breakfast. The Scottish Guest House is located near the intersection of King David and Emek Refaim and is a beautiful bed and breakfast up on a hill, overlooking Jerusalem’s old city. I stayed there my first time in Jerusalem about five years ago, and I still remember the great breakfast spread they serve each morning! According to their website, breakfast is available to the public from 11-3 on Friday and Saturday. Since it was Friday, we thought this was a perfect opportunity to go! Unfortunately, their website appears not to have been updated in a while because when we finally arrived we were informed that they actually stop serving breakfast at 9:30….NOOO! At least we got some pretty views out of the detour:

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By this point, we had been thwarted by Rav Kavs, public transport, and the Scottish Guest House, so when we finally reached Caffit on Emek Refaim and learned they were no longer serving breakfast, we were too tired/hungry to be all that disappointed. Despite the day’s mishaps, we enjoyed a delicious lunch (I ordered the signature oreganato salad with fried zucchini and Noah ordered a pizza):

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We also ordered a fresh squeezed apple juice and iced chocolate milk:

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Caffit is a Jersualem favorite amongst both restaurant reviewers and locals and our lunch was great, so we were eager to return again for breakfast.

When we came back for breakfast, we made sure to get there when it was still breakfast time! Noah and I both ordered variations of the standard Israeli breakfast: bread, eggs, spreads, tuna, cheese, hot drink, cold drink.

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So much food deliciousness. This was amazing. If you find yourself in Jerusalem, go here soon. 🙂

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!

How to learn from a loved one

The title of this post was inspired by an article I read online about how to increase blog traffic. I can’t remember where the article was or I would link to it…so forgive me!

The article said that making post titles that are highly searchable (ie, ‘how to…’) is a good strategy for directing more people to your blog. I’m happy with my readership and like writing primarily for friends and family, but if tons of people start reading my blog, it might lead to a new car and free trip to Hawaii. So, why not give it a shot?!

It’s probably pretty rare for two people to have the same set of interests. And, if I did have the exact same interests of someone else, what fun would that be? So, this post is devoted to two things I have learned more about and come to enjoy through someone else.

1. Games

2. Cheese

To me, games always fell into distinct categories: sports, computer games, video games, board games.

I love sports and have had a lifelong affinity for Clue, but my video and computer game involvement never got much past Mario Kart and Pajama Sam. Noah knows a lot more about games than I do and has taught me a lot about types of games that I never even knew existed.

Dominion, for example, is a deck-building game with a slightly medieval twist.

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The object of the games is to buy provinces (victory cards), but to do so requires accumulating treasure cards (like money), often obtained through action cards. The game is a lot of fun because it’s different every single time depending on what cards you purchase and have in your deck. In fact, the action cards available each game change because only 10 action cards are available for purchase each game.

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I’ve had a lot of fun learning something new, and it’s a good excuse to work on getting my competitive spirit in check.

The second new thing that I’ve been introduced to is cheese. Growing up, my family never ate cheese on its own (ie, cheese board style). I have a couple memories of eating cheddar cheese on Ritz crackers, but that’s about as far as it goes. Noah, however, is really into cheese (remember The Wedge & Wheel?). We were so impressed with the Wedge and Wheel that we wanted to look for someplace similar in Minneapolis. After a little research, Noah thought that France 44 would be a good place to check out for dinner.

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France 44 is at the intersection of France and 44th (der) in the Minneapolis (but almost Edina) area. They specialize in wine and cheese:

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In addition to cheese, they also sell an assortment of specialty foods:

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They sell a wide array of cheeses which are all cut to order and available to-go or as part of a snack/meal at the shop:

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The selection of constantly changing cheese-inspired deli items are also a highlight:

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There were a lot of great looking items, so making a choice on what to order was difficult, but eventually we settled on a cheese board (selected by the cheesemonger with input from us), mac and cheese, roasted vegetables, and a roasted garlic chevre sandwich. For the types of cheese in the flight, there was cheddar, gruyere, and gouda.

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Everything was delicious! Now that I’m discovering the great world of cheese, I’m actually starting to notice that there are a gajillion different types, and it’s a lot of fun to try different varieties, figure out likes and dislikes, and go visit fancy cheese stores (obviously).

So glad I have someone great to teach me about new things. 🙂