Jacko’s Street: A Winning Combination

Jacko’s has all the right ingredients for a memorable dining experience

If eating at a restaurant was just about the food, then I don’t think the restaurant industry would survive. A dining experience is not just about the food but rather the whole experience, including the service and the ambience. Many restaurants in Israel fail by not considering the experience they offer diners.

Jacko’s Street opened four years ago in Jerusalem and was the first kosher chef restaurant in the Mahaneh Yehuda market area. As the small streets around the shuk started to fill with more and more eating options, the popularity of Jacko’s also grew. In my opinion, the success of Jacko’s Street is due to its understanding that it is important to offer people more than just great food.

Click here for the full review in The Jerusalem Post

Asado Credit Sivan Shuv Ami

Asado Credit Sivan Shuv Ami

Goose Liver Semolina Cake

Beef Fillet Credit: Sivan Shuv Ami

Beef Carpaccio Credit: Sivan Shuv Ami

Fish Bruschetta

A new French Café near Abu Ghosh

Although it has been open over a year, Les Jumelles in Beit Nekofa has only been gaining notoriety in the last few months since they have made a push for more people to hear about them.  The small French style café is located just inside the entrance to Moshav Nekofa, a few minutes from the highway turn off to Abu Ghosh.

We knew they did not take bookings on a Friday but having arrived at 12noon, we only waited about 5 minutes before a table became available and this gave us the opportunity to admire the wonderful selection of baked goods they had available to take home including both dairy and parev cakes and biscuits.

We were sat in the outside conservatory that overlooks the street (they do not have real outside space).  Unfortunately this area does not have air-conditioning and another diner had insisted on closing one of the large windows, so it was very stuffy with little fresh air – I would not want to sit there in the height of summer.  There was also a group of 20 in this section and although they were not too noisy, they were mostly kids and made some speeches which was not ideal.  We should have insisted on waiting for a table in the main café room which was significantly quieter and cooler! It was much more pleasant once the window was eventually opened, but the inside section is still nicer.

The main menu is varied and there are also daily specials.  We all chose from the breakfast menu, which included various options of eggs Benedict and shakshuka.  I made the mistake of getting the simple house breakfast (NIS 58) which was a very average Israeli breakfast and lacked any interesting dips or breads – quite surprising for a French style cafe and the eggs themselves were overcooked.  Others were happy with their orders of the Eggs Benedict with Spinach (NIS 58) with a hollandaise sauce and a special Eggs Benedict with mushrooms, parmesan and truffles.  Both said they were delicious but the eggs were also slightly overcooked and not runny as poached eggs should be.

For me the pastries were the redeeming factor! We tried the Gluten Free Hot Chocolate Cake which was rich and indulgent but not overly sweet.  The Cheesecake was perfectly creamy and also not too sweet and the accompanying tart berry sauce was a wonderful pairing. Finally we enjoyed the pistachio cake which was rich although not overpowering but I personally thought it didn’t need the cream topping. The ice-coffee was also a perfect compliment to the cakes.

They do not have a menu in English which will hopefully change if they want to attract English speaking clientele but here is the link to the Hebrew menu.

I am personally a big fan of going for Friday brunch outside the city so I will be sure to go back but next time I will stick to the more interesting French dishes or maybe just the cakes!

Les Jumelles Café, +972(0)2-930 9991, Mehadrin

Foodie score 7/10, FODMAP friendly score 8/10

Jerusalem in Our Hearts – the Celebrations Continue

The opening ceremony of the Jerusalem at 50 celebrations was probably one of the most uplifting events I have ever been to but luckily some of the magic from that night continues with the “Jerusalem in Our Hearts – Sound and Light Show” that is taking place for 50 days to celebrate 50 years of United Jerusalem.

Click here for a full post about the Jerusalem at 50 opening show, including my first vlog.

The beautifully choreographed show is projected onto the outside walls of the Old City, between Jaffa Gate and Kikar Tsahal (towards New Gate) and includes spectacular graphics depicting the story of the Old City of Jerusalem over the centuries, interspersed with video clips of some of the music performances from the opening ceremony, including Sarit Hadad, Avraham Tal, Ben Snof, Idan Amedi and Amir Benayoun (the links are to songs by each artist, some from the opening ceremony)

The show starts at 8.15, 9 and 10 pm every weeknight (not Friday or Shabbat) and lasts for about 35 minutes. It is free of charge and does not require tickets, but make sure you get there on time as the beginning is the most impressive part.  Very limited information in Hebrew can be found here, www.unitedjerusalem50.com (ignore the times on the website – the first show is at 8.15 not 8 pm) but you have all the information here and I am happy to answer questions if you comment below.

I highly recommend going to see it sooner rather than later, it was so good, I want to go again!

Here is a video montage of the opening celebrations from the production company.

Brunch and mini hike in Tzuba

With the days getting longer but before it gets too hot, I try to plan some fun Friday day trips outside Jerusalem that include two of my favorite things, good food and exploring the Israeli countryside.

Buffet Brunch at Tzuba Hotel

I had heard about the brunch buffet at the Tzuba Hotel on Kibbutz Tzuba for a long time and kept meaning to go and try it.  They recently re-launched with a new taboon oven, which gave me an extra push to check it out.  The cost for the buffet is 95 NIS per adult or 115 NIS including a wine tasting tour at Tzuba Winery.  I have been to the winery before so just went for the brunch option.  It was not easy to book, I called a few times but there was no answer, I sent an email which went unanswered but eventually I got through by phone.  Even though the brunch runs to 2pm, the lasting booking slot is 12 and by 1pm the omelet and focaccia stations closed so make sure you arrive on time.

The setting was beautiful but we couldn’t sit outside on the balcony as it was in use from a private event for about 60 people – something I think they should have mentioned when I booked.

The buffet was a typical Israeli breakfast buffet, with the addition of more hot food like fish, lasagna other oven-baked dishes.  The focaccia from the taboon on the balcony was fresh and delicious and definitely a great feature but I felt uncomfortable going out to get food there as it was next to the private party.  I also felt that the omelet station was very standard and lacked any exciting fillings.

Most of the food was replenished as it was finished and we particularly liked the cheese selection which was more unique than an average hotel breakfast. The dessert section was also varied and interesting and we enjoyed having unlimited fresh coffees.

Overall the food was very good and it was a pleasant atmosphere for a brunch in the country.  We probably ate our money’s worth and you certainly pay a premium for the section a buffet offers, but I personally prefer less food and higher quality.  We enjoyed the meal but I wouldn’t rush back unless I was in the area.

Brunch at Tzuba Hotel, +972(0)2-5347090, Kosher Rabbinate Mate Yehuda

Foodie score 7/10, FODMAP friendly score 8/10

Belmont Crusader Fortress – Tel Tzuba 

A few minutes’ walk from the main hotel building is the beginning of a hiking trail of Tel Tzuba, which is believed to be the site of an ancient Jewish settlement in the days of King David. In 1170 the Belmont Crusader fortress was built there to guard the route to Jerusalem and it was conquered in 1191 by Saladin. The Arab village of Suba,  built on the site of the ruins, was the scene of fierce fighting during the 1948 War of Independence due to its strategic location overlooking the road to Jerusalem. In July 1948 most of the inhabitants fled before the fighting and moved to Jordan or the nearby village of Ein Rafa. In October 1948 a group of Palmach veterans established Kibbutz Misgav Palmach, 1 km south of Suba, which was later renamed Palmach Tzova (known as Tzuba).

The receptionist at the hotel gave us a helpful map of sites in the Tzuba area (which includes various walking trails around the kibbutz and The Cave of John the Baptist) but the entrance was very badly sign-posted and even though you can access it by car, we advised it would be better by foot.  We followed the road that winds up the hill past some incredible looking cactus plants.

The small path that goes up the castle  and village ruins was not signed and was also closed off by a barrier but we soon realized that this was the only way up and climbed over the barrier to go exploring.  We didn’t make it all the way to the main ruins as the path became a slightly precarious and we were not prepared for a proper hike, but the views from where we reached were incredible and well worth the climb. We could see over to Kiryat Anavim and Maale Hamisha in one direction and to Ein Kerem and Hadassah Hospital in the other. There was not much to see among the ruins we passed but it was still a beautiful mini hike. I believe there was more to discover on the other side of the hill but we didn’t get that far.

Apparently Tel Tzuba is in the process of becoming a national park which will hopefully make it more accessible and clearly signed.

Once again I found very little information online in English about this location even on the Tzuba tourism website, so hopefully this post will be helpful to other people who are planning short day trips from in the Judean Hills surrounding Jerusalem.

Click here for another post about a day trip in near Jerusalem, followed by a delicious lunch.

Celebrating Jerusalem 50

I am asked on a regular basis why I choose to live in Jerusalem, rather than the more cosmopolitan Tel Aviv.  There are many reasons for my love of Jerusalem and living in proximity to the Old City and thousands of years of Jewish history is one of them.  So often I drive past the Old City walls as part of my day-to-day life and I force myself to pause for a moment and appreciate how lucky I am.

So celebrating 50 years of united Jerusalem on “Yom Yerushaliyim” (Jerusalem Day) is particularly meaningful and despite the disruption to the proceedings caused by Trump’s visit to the city, the opening ceremony was truly spectacular and I couldnt resist trying to capture some of the magic in the video and photos below.

I am not a vlogger and this was my first attempt at editing video clips together, so please excuse the poor quality and the top of people’s heads!

The new sound and light show will continue to be shown on the Old City walls between Jaffa Gate and Kikar Tsahal (towards New Gate) until July 17 (50 days to celebrate 50 years).  Read more about it here.

The Best Jerusalem Pick Up Bars – Take Two

Of all the information on this blog, the most read post by a long way is one I wrote in 2011 about The Best Jerusalem Pick Up Bars (mostly via the search term ‘pick up girls jerusalem’).  Since two of the bars mentioned have now closed, I decided it was about time that I wrote a new post.

Mirror Bar

Mirror Bar

Mirror Bar in the Mamilla Hotel, which appears in my original post, is still one of the most stylish bars in Jerusalem.  During the week it is a quiet hotel bar, popular for dates and groups of friends, but on a Thursday night it gets much busier and often has groups of men and woman looking to be sociable.

The ultimate Jerusalem pick-up bar is Dublin Irish Pub in the city center. There is always great music and a fun atmosphere – I just wish they would serve better wine!

On both Thursday and Friday night the bar is full of local Jerusalemites and ex-pats looking for a fun night out.  The age-range is typically 28+ and although there is a non-smoking room at the side, the action is in the main bar so be prepared to leave stinking of smoke from head to toe!

If you are looking for more of a club atmosphere then Toy Bar is the place to be.  The upstairs bar is always busy at the weekend and typically with a slightly younger crowd, although it is suitable for all ages.  In peak times, the action overflows to the club downstairs doubling the fun.

Other popular Jerusalem bars are Monaco Bar, which attracts mostly students but always seems to be busy; Haschena, which is a local hipster bar near the shuk but can have a party scene on a Thursday night and Yudale Bar (the little sister to popular restaurant Machneyuda), a fun restaurant/bar most nights of the week but the action overflows onto the street on the warmer months and even on some colder weekend nights.

Shining a Light on the Jerusalem Art Scene

Although Jerusalem is not typically associated with a large art scene, there are numerous galleries around the city, and you have probably passed many of them without even realizing they were there.

Jenna Romano founded Contemporary Art in Jerusalem (CAIJ) to try to bring these hidden art gems to the fore and make the capital’s art scene more accessible, especially to those who do not live in that world.

Click here for the PDF of the full article in The Jerusalem Post.

The full article on The Jerusalem Post website is for subscribers only but it can be read by non-subscribers on a mobile device with this link.

Rosenbach Contemporary by Dor Kedmi`

A trip of remembrance and lunch in the sun

It is always a challenge to find new interesting things to do close to Jerusalem on a Friday and of course every day trip has to include yummy food.

As this week is Yom Hashoah, we decided to head to the Martyrs Forest in the Jerusalem hills. This KKL forest includes six million trees as a memorial to the Jews killed in the Holocaust.

At the heart of the forest is the Scrolls of Fire memorial, created by sculptor Nathan Rapaport, a Holocaust survivor who also designed the monument in the Warsaw Ghetto and several sculptures in Yad Vashem.

The scenery on the drive was beautiful, especially in the spring while everything is still so green. There is a sign post to the Scrolls of Fire from road 395 near Kisalon or here is the link for Waze.  You can park directly next to the memorial and the access road is suitable for all vehicles.

The memorial was not only a beautiful piece of art, it was also thought provoking and you can walk inside the scrolls which was eerily silent.

Our second stop was the Anne Frank Memorial which is also in the Martyrs Forest but about 15-20 minutes’ drive from the first stop, this was less well sign posted so here is the link for Waze. Again the memorial can be accessed by car but it is also a lovely place to take a walk/hike.

This memorial was a gift from KKL-JNF Holland and is a sculpture created by Dutch Holocaust survivor Piet Cohen.  It is in the form of a room made of rusted steel with a stool in one corner, from where the viewer can see an engraved image of the famed chestnut tree which Anne Frank wrote about in her diary.  The memorial is also surrounded by quotes from Anne Frank’s diary.

After a morning of remembrance and exploring, it was time for lunch so we headed to Derech Hagefen, a favorite with all the family.  For those who don’t know it, Derech Hagefen is a picturesque dairy restaurant in Moshav Beit Zayit, which is about 15 minutes outside of Jerusalem.  The restaurant is set in the grounds of a garden nursery and includes tables inside two large conservatories, as well as outside in the gardens.

Luckily they take reservations on a Friday and although the restaurant was busy, it was not overly packed. Breakfast is only served until 12, even on a Friday and we got there later, but the main menu has plenty of delicious options.  We all chose different dishes so I was able to try a bit of everything.  I was in the mood for fish and had a very well cooked and generous portion of Grilled Sea Bass (NIS 105) served with potato gnocchi, carrots, Portobello mushrooms and green beans in a turmeric and caper butter sauce. I loved the gnocchi and the vegetables but I am not sure turmeric sauce worked so well with the delicate taste of the sea bass.

The rest of my family went for pasta dishes and were all very happy with their choices – particularly the Gnocchi with Asparagus and Chestnuts (NIS 65) and the Tortellini Porcini (NIS 66) which were both beautifully presented.

For dessert we shared a large slice of Apple Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream, as well as some very rich and creamy Chocolate Truffles (NIS 15).

Derech Hagefen is a great place to go both during the day and at night and the food and service is always very good. They were also pretty helpful with our requests to have certain dishes to accommodate food intolerances.

Foodie score 8/10, FODMAP friendly score 7.5/10

Pesach Jerusalem 2017

I first started this blog because friends coming to Israel for Pesach would ask me where to eat and I thought it was easier to write one post, than repeat the same thing to everyone.  Since then, my Pesach posts have been some of my most popular so I hope this one is helpful too.

Best Jerusalem Foodie Experience

Anyone who knows me well, knows that Jacko’s Street is my favorite restaurant in Jerusalem and always top on my list of recommendations.  Jacko’s Street embodies the term fun-dining and offers an eclectic, vibrant menu in a relaxed and fun environment.

The Pesach menu (click here) is very similar to the normal menu and includes many must try dishes including the Asado Bruscetta and Fish sashimi Bruscetta as starters and the Entrecote, Goose Breast or the Burger for main course.

They are also opening for lunch just for Pesach.

Jacko’s Street (No- Kitniyot) 02 581 7178

Best Dinner with a View

For the most unique “Jerusalem” setting, Rooftop Restaurant, Mamilla Hotel is a must.  The view over the Old City is incredible and the menu is always interesting.  The prices are definitely on the higher end and the service is slightly hit or miss in the whole hotel, but the view and quality of the food make it worthwhile, in my opinion – click here for a full review.

The Sirloin Tataki, Iron-rich Salad and Grouper Schwarma are all great starters and although the Entrecote is my go-to main course, the fish dishes are always really good – click here for their full Pesach Menu and the desserts menu.

Rooftop Restaurant, Mamilla Hotel (No-Kitniyot) 02 548 2230

Best Street Food

People never seem to know what to each for lunch on erev Pesach – clearly they don’t live near the shuk and have the option of having schwarma!

A few years ago I discovered that one of the best schwarma bars in Jerusalem, Jerusalem Steak House on Agripas,  is not only open for Pesach but the laffa pitot they make are super thin and tasty and, in my opinion, better than the ones the rest of the year.  Since then it has become my tradition to have  lunch every erev Pesach.

Jerusalem Steak House (Kitniyot) 02 625 2745

Best Bar

Mirror Bar in the Mamilla Hotel is still the most stylish bar in the city and always has a good vibe over Pesach.  They have an extensive wine menu and a very good kosher meat bar menu.  They also have an impressive selection of Pesach spirits including the coveted Trump Vodka – here is the full wine and drinks menu.

Mirror Bar, Mamilla Hotel (No-Kitniyot) 02 548 2230

Best Dessert

If you are looking for a Pesach desserts which taste as good as the rest of the year, head over to Waffle Factory.  I went last year and could not believe how good the waffles and pancakes were.

The savory food is also really good (only at Emek Refaim branch this year) – my pasta loving nephew was very impressed and they also have a huge selections of milkshakes and fruit shakes.  Everything you can think of to make kids happy!

Waffle Factory Cinema City (desserts and drinks only- Kitniyot with no-kitniyot options) 02 625 5906
Waffle Factory German Colony (full menu – (No-Kitniyot) 02 567 2049

Although the selection of restaurants open for Pesach is limited this year, there are some other good options, like Gabriel if you are looking for a traditional steak restaurant, Zuta (full review here) if you want a smaller intimate bar experience and Corky’s for cheese and wine.

If I hope that this post helps you find some delicious Pesach food experiences in Jerusalem. Wishing everyone חג פסח כשר ושמח.

To read some of my previous Pesach posts, click here.

Seeing Jerusalem through the eyes of its visitors

I was fortunate enough to attend the Travel Blogger Exchange (TBEX) International conference in Jerusalem last week, which is pretty much a conference for professional travelers.

Many of the 400 attendees manage to make a living out of writing about their travels. The sessions I attended included tips on how to monetize your blog, appeal to sponsors and improve your content to generate more followers.

Click here for the PDF of the full article in The Jerusalem Post.

The full article on The Jerusalem Post website is for subscribers only but it can be read by non-subscribers on a mobile device with this link.

Uzi Eli Etrog Man(Credit Noam Moskowitz)

Uzi Eli Etrog Man(Credit Noam Moskowitz)