Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Did I Mention That It's Hot?

Greetings from Israel. It's just under a million degrees here...
Celsius that is.

So, let's talk about food.

We scheduled a guided tour with a woman that does food-related tours of the Galilee.
CGG and I left Uncle Ilan in Petah Tikva and drove to Nazareth to spend two nights at a little hostel recommended by CGG's cousin. (The Fauzi Azar Inn)

Our guide, Abbie met us and took us through the "Souk" and we tasted a variety of tasty things from spices to sweets, spiced coffee to Knaffe. We walked to El Barbour, (sp?) an ancient spice shop that used to be the local wheat mill. What an aroma that hit us as we walked in!!

We then travelled to Yodfat for a lingering lunch at a goat farm where we were treated to fresh Labaneh and about six other cheeses that are made from the milk of the resident goats. There were some salads and other non-meat dishes that were all delicious. The cheeses are made in a nearby village as the farm has no electricity and is essentially "off-the-grid". We had some slightly aged versions and some that were more aged. The flavors were somewhat familiar to us yet, there were some cheeses that had been flavored with local spices and aged about five months that were truly delightful.

We arrived back at the Fauzi and started to work on our dinner plan. We had been given the advice of "Diana" as being one the best restaurants in all of Nazareth.
We got directions and made our way out of the Old City, walked down "Pope Paul VI", (the local main road). We arrived at Diana to find it closed! CGG got out her trusty CellCom Phone (Israel's primary celluar company), and using her "better-than-rudimentary-Hebrew" called the number on the door to find that this was the daytime location and the evening version was about 2-3km farther west.
At which point the nice man on the phone told her to stay there and he would come pick us up.
And he did!!!

We started with the Mezze, (appetizers), that included 17 different little plates of goodness! Each was good and most were very good and a few were simply exceptional.

I was feeling a little meaty, so we ordered the beef Kebobs we had seen the chef preparing in the open kitchen. A large pile of ground beef had some spices and other items added to it and the chef hammered away with a very large two-handled knife to mix it all together. Each kebob is a knob of beef, a hunk of onion, another knob of beef followed by a wedge of tomato and some more beef. Three kebobs per order; he steps them over to the grill and in a moment or two they're done.

Simply put, the finest ground beef dish I have ever eaten!
It was so juicy and tender and full-flavored I'm thinking that Nazareth really isn't that far away in a country this small, we could be there, (from Tel Aviv), in about an hour and some change! It was that good!
(And then, when we asked for a cab, our server said he would take us back!!!)

The next day Abbie met us at 9am in order to go to Rosh Pina, for a brunch type meal at a place owned by a guy that was originally from the Midwest of the United States. (He never did say exactly where...) His wife makes all the breads and they make a variety of cheeses, mostly goat's mik varieties. When Abbie introduced us to Mark and his wife I thought he looked like the typical Israeli hippie. Long beard, breezy pantaloons, a scarf wrapped around his head and chatting in what sounded like perfect Hebrew.
Then he addressed me directly in accent-less English and I thought maybe he was from Madison, WI.! We sat at a table and the goodness started to arrive, breads and cheeses and it was followed by a mushroom quiche that was incredible. We ate for the better part of an hour and sat for a while after that.
If you find yourself anywhere near Rosh Pina you should find these two and go to their house that has become the best restaurant in the area.

We finally drifted out of there and decided to visit Tsfat, Safat, or Zefat depending on who is doing the spelling! CGG had been there a week before and thought I should see it and Abbie said there was a cheesemaker there that was the seventh generation of cheesemakers in the family. While it took some effort to find the place, we walked in and sampled a variety of cheeses and bought three. A type of Ricotta, a Kashkaval-type and one more I simply can't remember. We arrived back at the Fauzi and later found our way to Al-Rida for dinner.

Al-Rida was really only steps away but we struggled to find it in the maze of streets that is Nazareth's Old City. We ate simply, a series of tasty Mezze's that were excellent and even though it was an Arab restaurant, they had alcohol and I really wanted something cold to drink and the giant (500ml) Carlsberg did the trick.
We found our way back to the Fauzi without much trouble at all.

Exhausted, we slept well, (there is no A/C) and the next morning drove back to Petah Tikvah with a stop in Acco along the way.

Tonight it's dinner with CGG's cousin and family in Tel Aviv.


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