Debbest: Tasting Tour of the Shuk

Although I am not a tour guide, I love showing visiting friends and family around the shuk area and sharing all its hidden treats. The following is a list of my top ten things to eat in and around Shuk Machane Yehuda.  It is too hard to list it in order of favorite, so instead I have created a self-guided food tour of the shuk.

I learned recently that the shuk officially includes the row of shops which start on the corner of Agripas Street and Ki’ach Street so that is a great place to start (click here for a map) .

  1. Potato Bureka @Burekas Ramla (Kosher) – 44 Agripas Street

Like many traditional local foods, you will never get everyone to agree on their favorite version, but for me these are without doubt the best burekas I have ever tried.  Unlike the burekas you find in most bakeries around Israel that are made from puff pastry and come in different shapes, these Turkish burekas are made from filo pastry and all have a standard large sausage shape.   The tiny stall on this busy corner is an off-shoot of a bakery in Ramla and has a simple choice of potato, cheese or spinach.  The crunchy burekas can be eaten alone but I would recommend having it cut open and lined with hard-boiled egg, schug and tahina, for the ultimate comfort food delight.  My favorite is the Potato Bureka, but they are all delicious and are large enough to be a full meal.

Conveniently next door is my favorite juice bar in the city and trust me I have tried them all. Don’t be confused by the addresses, many of these places are tiny stalls which are part of the same building and this place is also very badly signed.

  1. Carrot & Ginger Juice or a Fresh Fruit Smoothie @Schutim (Kosher) – 44 Agripas Street

Don’t let looks fool you, this shop might be small but they have a wonderful selection of fruits and vegetables and the prices are much better than the juice places further inside the market.  I normally go for a spicy carrot and ginger juice or a fresh fruit smoothie.  The guys who own it are also really friendly and you will always get service with a smile!

Walk down two stores for the next stop.

  1. Chocolate Rogelach @Marzipan Bakery – 44 Agripas Street

Famous the world over for making the best chocolate rogelach, this Marzipan Bakery is always full of locals and tourists filling boxes of rogelach as soon as they come out the oven.  Although the bakery sells many other delicious goodies, including other flavors of rogelach, the original chocolate are the most popular.  The secret ingredient is the sticky sugar syrup that is poured over them as they come out the oven and this also helps them last longer. Not only do they freeze really well, they are also really tasty straight from the freezer.   Pick up a few as a snack as you walk around the shuk or save them for later.

#marzipanbakery #bestrugelachs #areyouachocolatelover #orcinnamonlover#onetasteisallittakes

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Walk along the street and take a right into the covered shuk to the second store on the left.

  1. Moroccan Cigars and Spicy Carrot Salad @Ma’adanei Tzidkiyahu (Kosher) – 70 Etz HaChaim Street

One of the oldest and most famous delis in the shuk, Ma’adanei Tzidkiyahu  serves the crispiest Moroccan cigars and the best selection of take-away dips and salads in the city.  My personal choices are the Spicy Grated Carrot Salad and the Sweet Eggplant and Peanut Salad. I am also partial to their Schnitzel and Kubbe (meat or vegetarian).  A great place for buying takeout food on a Friday but be prepared to wait in line.

There is also a dairy deli diagonally opposite with a great selection of cheeses and there are other branches around the city.

Continue into the shuk, two doors up on the right.

  1. Sumac & Za’atar @Pereg Spices (Badatz) – 79 Etz HaChaim Street

The secret ingredient in many authentic middle-eastern dishes is usually the mix of spices so when tourists ask me for recommendations of things to take home with them, I normally suggest Sumac and Za’atar. Sumac is a wonderful slightly sour burgundy colored spice that can be used to season salads (especially Fattoush), grilled fish and meats. Za’atar is a mix of herbs and spices that typically includes ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, together with sesame seeds and sumac but can vary.  It can be sprinkled on white cheese, salads or used as a dip for bread.

Although the shuk is full of great spice shops, Pereg sells a particularly diverse selection and their pre-packaged jars travel well.  Other recommended products include shawarma spice, Sumsumiya (sesame, nut and honey spread) and a variety of rice seasoning mixes.

The next stop is diagonally opposite on the left.

  1. Coffee Halva & Chocolate Tahina @Halva Kingdom (Badatz) – 46 Etz HaChaim Street

Not many places in the shuk offer free tasters but Halva Kingdom always have someone standing outside their stores (there is a second one further inside the shuk) offering small squares of their Coffee Halva.  Tasting a sample is not an obligation to enter the store, they are used to passersby grabbing a morsel for a quick sugar fix.  The store has a selection of around 100 flavors of halva and they will normally let you try before you buy.  My personal favorites are the coffee and Belgian chocolate flavors and they just started selling pre-sealed jars so it can be easily transported.

They also sell various savory and sweet flavored tahina – the chocolate tahina is delicious and makes a healthy alternative to chocolate spread. I regularly take the halva and tahina as gifts for friends when I travel but make sure you pack it well so it doesn’t crack and leak all over your case (yes that happened!).

  1. Stinky Cheese @Basher Fromagerie – 53 Etz HaChaim Street

If cheese is your thing, then look no further than Basher Fromagerie for the best selection of cheeses in the country.  The Basher brothers are the main cheese importers in Israel and they stock cheese from all over the world that cannot be found in many places.  The friendly staff are always happy to let you try before you buy but they are also good sales-men and always try to give you more than you want.  Not all the cheese in the store is kosher, so if that is an issue, make sure you check.

Keep to the left side to the corner of Etz HaChaim and Ha’Afersek Street.

  1. Cortado Coffee @Roasters (Kosher) – 20 HaAfarsek Street

Coffee lovers will be glad to know that one of the best coffee shops in the city is in the middle of the shuk.  Roasters offers the traditional selection of coffees as well as some more unusual ones, like the Spanish Cortado, which is a shot of espresso with an equal amount of warm milk to dilute the acidity but still remaining a strong short coffee.  Summer specials include cold brew coffee and Affogato (vanilla ice cream with a shot of espresso). There is also a selection of cakes and pastries to accompany your coffee or freshly ground coffee to take home.

Cortado and cake @roasterscoffebar #foodieisrael #shuk #coffee

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Walk to the end of HaAfarsek, turn right onto Machane Yehuda Street (the open shuk).  Keep to the left and take the last turning on the left, HaTut Street, before you reach Agripas (ReBar will be on the left corner).  Walk straight ahead to the end of that street and the next stop will be facing you on the right.

  1. Rambam’s Milk @Uzi Eli Etrog Man (Kosher) – 10 HaEgoz Street

One of the more famous stands in the shuk is Uzi Eli – the Etrog Man.  Uzi is a Yemenite healer who sells various Etrog based products to cure aches and pains.  The shop also sells a variety of freshly made juices including Etrog Gat for energy and apple with ginger for a sore throat.  My favorite choice is the Rambam drink which is almond milk with dates and other goodies.  They will always let you try before you buy or you can go for a taster shot of each one for only five shekels each.

Head back out to Agripas Street and turn right heading down the hill.  Continue down crossing over 2 side street until you reach the third side street, Beit Yaakov.

  1. Falafel @Falafel Mullah (Kosher) – 82 Agripas Street (corner of Beit Yaacov)

A visit to the shuk wouldn’t be the same without falafel and the best store to get from is Falafel Mullah. As soon as you approach the stall, the friendly staff will be offer a fresh falafel to taste and if you are already too full from all the grazing along the way, there is always the option for half a pitta.  Although some argue that Falafel HaAchim Levi at the entrance to the open shuk is better, I prefer Mullah and it is located on a quieter corner and you can sit and enjoy you falafel in peace.  The falafel is Gluten Free but the bread isn’t.

That concludes my tasting tour of the shuk.  I hope you found the information helpful and please let me know if you want any other information about eating around the shuk.

For more information about shops in the shuk – take a look at the official shuk website (although it is very out of date!) and a helpful map of the shuk by tour guide Fun Joel.

Click here to read more of Debbest.

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September Foodie Roundup – news on the Israeli culinary scene

I decided to write the August Roundup post as a way to easily update those who are often asking about new places opening or don’t know about places closing.  It was purely an experiment – but apparently a good one as in just a few days it became one of the most viewed posts on my blog and three different restaurant owners go in touch with me wanting to make sure I had the information I needed about their business.

So, it looks like this will become a regular feature and as always, I would be happy to hear feedback, but I cannot promise that I will follow it 😊.

Jerusalem News

JLM Local Sushi (Kosher) – the owners of 1868 have decided to close Marvin Wine & Food and replace it with a sushi restaurant. They officially opened this week with a fish and meat menu but vegan and vegetarian dishes are clearly marked – click here for the dinner menu. I am sure the food will be just as delicious and creative as the rest of the restaurants in the 1868 group (1868 review and Zuta Bar review).

Villa Brown (Hashgacha Pratit) – a boutique hotel from the Brown hotel group has opened on Ha’Neviim Street and includes Cave Bar, a cocktail and wine bar in the basement of the hotel.  Rumor has it that the hotel serves high-tea, I plan to visit soon and will report back.

Valero (Not Kosher) – new chef restaurant and bar from Chef Aviv Moshe (Messa & Quattro) on the corner of Agripas and Beit Yaakov has finally opened.  The name Valero is apparently the originally name for the shuk area. It is a soft opening with a trial menu and 20% off – click here for the menu in Hebrew. The place is beautifully decorated and well laid out and I hope the food is as good as his other restaurants!

Orient Jerusalem – Isrotel have finally opened a hotel in Jerusalem at the crossroads of Emek Refaim and Derech Bet Lechem.  The hotel has a dairy café in the lobby and buffet breakfast and dinner.  The food at the Isrotel Exclusive Collection hotels is normally excellent and reports so far have been very positive.

Urbun (Mehadrin) – Urban café near the shuk, which opened at the end of June, has changed its name to Urbun and will focus only on desserts and pastries.  People are raving about their Cinnamon Buns.

Babka @Urbun

Tel Aviv & Merkaz News

Bar B Que – Australian Grill (Kosher) – a new restaurant in Herzliya Pituach industrial area, focused all types of meat. The owner is Australian with South African origins so expect amazing flavors and sauces! The picture below says it all!

New smoker the journey begins..#smoker #meat #lowandslow#sirlion #asado #טלה #חזה

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Cà Phê Hanoi (Kosher) – it may have been open for a few months already but this Vietnamese restaurant with a French and Israeli twist is definitely the hot ticket in town. If you can actually get through to make a booking, then apparently it is worth the wait, so far I have not been so lucky.  Apparently the service is hit or miss but the creativity of the food makes up for it.

Our version of love ❤

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Upcoming Foodie Events

Round Tables by American Express, October 31- November 17, 2017 – which includes Mona in Jerusalem and one kosher option at Hayakron 99 at the Dan Tel Aviv – full details here.  It is nearly sold out so book fast!

Maido Peru - Vegan Cheesecake

Maido Peru – Vegan Cheesecake

Open Restaurants Jerusalem – 14-18 November 2017 – some of the events are already listed on their website but the full schedule, including some events in English,  will only be up in early October and booking starts on October 15 so there is plenty of time to have a look and decide what you want to go to.  Here are my posts on Open Restaurants 2016 and a cocktail workshop I attended last year.

Coming Soon

Memphis Burger (Kosher) is planning to open a Jerusalem branch on Agripas after the chagim. Those who have been to the Tel Aviv branch, will know how exciting this news is.  Even though there are already a number of burgers places in that area and I am a died hard Josef Burger fan, the taste and quality of the burgers at Memphis is amazing.  Last time I was there, I had the 250g burger (NIS 55) which was thick and juicy, with a great crust on the outside, something you don’t get in the other places.

Memphis Burger

In other news, Israeli Social Eating company EatWith has been sold to European rival VizEat, read the full story here.

To read previous monthly round ups, click here.

August Roundup – latest changes to the Israeli culinary scene

As the restaurant scene in Israel is so dynamic, I thought it would be helpful to start writing updates on recent openings and closings.  The focus will be on my hometown Jerusalem, but I will also include other news from the last few months.

Jerusalem Openings 

  1. Urban Café (Mehadrin) – a small dairy chef cafe near the shuk with elevated salads, sandwiches and pizzas.  The ingredients are fresh and the menu is creative.  I loved the tuna melt and their brownies and cookies look delicious.
  2. Bakshish (Kosher) – the sous-chef from Jacko’s Street has opened a tapas and cocktail bar in the old Jacko’s Street location.  Very much a bar with food, the decor is beautiful, the bar is very well stocked and the tapas dishes are nicely presented and executed.  Mostly an Israeli crowd, but it is good to have a fancy bar in the shuk area.

    Roast Beef Bruschetta @Bakshish

  3. Ofaimme (Kosher) – Ofaimme Farm has opened a second branch in Beit Hansen serving organic farm to table produce with a focus on cheese and pastries. There is also a shop attached to buy produce to take home.

    משק עפאים – הבורקאסון. צילום: @asafkarela

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  4. Rachel ba Sdera (Kosher) – thanks to Rachel from MasterChef, Jerusalem finally has its own Boulevard cafe on Sderot Ben Maimon in Rehavia.  The small kiosk sells salads, sandwiches and drinks.
  5. Amster Bar (Mehadrin) – Dutch style chips/fries in the shuk (Rehov Haegoz) with loads of interesting sauces including chocolate, peanut butter and alfredo. They also have sausages and a large selection of beers.
  6. Hatch – a craft beer taproom with artisanal sausages which is directly opposite Amster Bar (where Steam used to be). Not been myself but reports so far have been very good.
  7. Hamotzi (Kosher)– moved location and is now on Rehov Yafo, right next to the entrance to the closed shuk.  The location is much bigger with an upstairs gallery and lots of tables outside.

Crispy desserts from Hamotzi opening party

Tel Aviv Openings 

  1. Kukuriku (Not Kosher)– Chef Ran Shmueli of Claro fame, has opened a rotisserie chicken stall in Sarona market.
  2. Calypso (Not Kosher) – Tel Aviv finally has a chef restaurant on the beach, thanks to Omer Miller of HaShulchan and Susu & Sons.  The traditional seafood tavern on Frishman Beach is open day and night.

יום שבת, חביבי, אתה לא מפחיד אותנו #calypso_beach

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Closings

  1. Fish and Chips by Fauchon in Sarona Market has closed down – the setting and concept never seemed to work.  It will be interesting to see what opens instead in such a prime position. Netachim inside Sarona Market has also closed but Fleishman Deli is still their sandwiches are delicious.
  2. Crubis and Tahrir in the Jerusalem shuk have both closed down, leaving two more stalls for new places to open in.

Coming Soon

Chef Aviv Moshe, one of Israel’s best chefs, is opening a bar and restaurant on the corner of Beit Yaakov and Agripas called Valero. He is most well known for his restaurants Messa and Quattro in Tel Aviv so I am excited to see what the concept will be for this new venture in Jerusalem.

My Recent Reviews

  1. La Padella brings a taste of Europe to the Jerusalem Shuk
  2. Hotel Review: Ultimate Urban Style at Ultra
  3. Jacko’s Street: A Winning Combination
  4. Les Jumelles – A new French Café near Abu Ghosh

Let me know if you like this style of posts and if there is anything else i should include in the future.

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, Kosher Mehadrin

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

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.

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.

Idyllic country café in the Hula Valley

As I have mentioned in other posts, I like to do research before I travel to make sure that I know about all the hidden foodie gems that I would never find otherwise.  This is one time when that research really paid off. Having been in the Hula Valley area before, I knew there were not many exciting options for lunch, especially with my parents who only eat kosher.

We had spent the morning at Agamon Hula (read my post How the Hula valley made me a bird watcher) and had built up quite an appetite. My father was insistent that we try the new Hotel Galilion as who can go wrong in a nice hotel but we were told very rudely that there were no dining options unless we were hotel guests or pre-booked. It turns out that this was very fortunate for us, as otherwise we would never have found my back-up option Beit Ha’ugot. I don’t remember how I heard about Beit Ha’ugot but I am pretty sure it was from a Facebook group.

It was already nearly 2pm so I called to check that they were open and the very nice owner said that she would keep the kitchen open if we arrived in the next 15 minutes.  One of my favorite things about these obscure places is the anticipation of not knowing what you are going to find.  I wasn’t sure if had the right address but the moshav was fairly small and we followed numerous signs, weaving our way through a small residential neighborhood until we eventually found the oasis that is Beit Ha’ugot.  Set in the lovely garden of a family home, I don’t think any description I give will really do it justice.

We were lucky that it was warm enough in late February to sit outside on the wooden decking, surrounded by various citrus trees.  The back of the garden, which backs onto various fruit orchards, is lined with a number of cages filled with chickens, guinea fowl and various brightly colored budgies.  Here is a Facebook live video I shot from the garden – sorry it is a so blurry.

My mother and I both ordered the quinoa salad which was served with finely chopped vegetables and garnished with seeds.  My father opted to the shakshuka which he said was the best he has ever had and we all enjoyed the freshly baked wholegrain bread with tahina and home-made garlic butter.  The cakes all looked amazing but we resisted but I had a lovely jam biscuit with my macchiato and I regret not buying some of the biscuits and cakes to take home with us.

If the café wasn’t closing, we would happily have spent the afternoon relaxing in the sun in such tranquil surroundings. The owner was delightful and was so happy that we had stumbled on her cafe. The couple at the table next to us had come from Tiveria especially for lunch.

Considering the lack of good dairy restaurants in the area, I am not surprised this place is so popular. In case it is not clear, I would highly recommend a visit to Beit Ha’ugot and it is even worth a special trip – next time I plan to order the full Israeli breakfast as it looks great.

Beit Ha’ugot, Kosher Mehadrin, 052-651-0881 – call in advance to check timings.

Foodie score 8.5/10 FODMAP 8/10

Exploring nature with good food along the way

I recently took a 3 day trip in the north of Israel which combined some quality family time, historic sites, beautiful nature and of course some great hidden foodie gems.

When it comes to traveling I am a researcher, especially for restaurants. Although it can be fun to be spontaneous and find somewhere nearby to eat, I have too often been disappointed this way and when you are trying to pack lots of activities into a relatively short time,  I prefer to know in advance what is around and discover new food experiences. However, I will often have a few options to choose from, depending on what we are in the mood for at the time.

We started our trip up north with a quick stop at a Lavido visitor’s center in the agricultural Moshav Nahalal in the Jezreel Valley.  As well as the Lavido factory shop, there is a beautiful herb garden and a peaceful refreshment area where you can make your own tea infusion using the herbs from the garden.

Lavido natural beauty products are now Vegan Friendly and we particularly like the Lavender hand cream and body lotion which is especially nice to put on before bed.  Unfortunately I had an allergic reaction to their award winning eye cream and the sales assistant was not very helpful and tried to blame me for not knowing that I might be allergic to some of the products, but that aside, I recommend a visit.

Time for lunch in nearby Ramat Yishai at a small coffee shop named Eva Batya which was recommended by someone in the Restaurant Club Israel Group.  It is a very simple coffee shop in a strip mall overlooking a parking lot so the setting is very unexciting but I was with people who only eat in kosher places and the choices in that area are very minimal (the products have a hechsher but the coffee shop doesn’t even though everything is dairy and they are closed on Shabbat).  The menu is limited with a few pre-made filled savory croissants, quiches and salads.  The salads were all freshly prepared and the bread that came with it was delicious.  I had the endive salad (NIS 52) with toasted almonds, poached pears, blue cheese and a tangy citrus vinaigrette which I enjoyed. The coffee was also very good and came with a lovely linzer torte cookie. Over all the food was nice, but I would not recommend going unless you only eat kosher as there are much nicer non-kosher places in the area (like Limousine)

Following lunch we drove to Zippori, a national park which contains the remains of an ancient city that was once the capital of the Galilee, the seat of the Sanhedrin, the place where the Mishna was completed and it is also believed to be the home of the parents of Mary and possibly where Mary and Joseph first met.

The park includes Roman, Jewish and Christian buildings and ruins.  It happened to be a beautifully sunny spring day and the site is very spread out so we enjoyed walking around and exploring the various excavations.  We particularly enjoyed the Dionysus House, a Roman villa, containing a mosaic floor describing scenes from the life of Dionysus, god of wine in Greek mythology, as well as several other elaborate and well preserved mosaics.

The city Synagogue dates back to the end of the Byzantine period and also contains an impressive mosaic floor which depicts the Sacrifice of Isaac, the signs of the Zodiac, a description of the Tabernacle in the desert and the Arc of the Covenant in the Jerusalem Temple. The floors have been beautifully restored and the synagogue ruins are housed inside a building to protect the mosaics.

Signs of the Zodiac – Synagogue at Zippori

There are also breathtaking views, especially from the roof of the Crusader Castle that sits on the top of a hill. As the park is large with many interest building, you do need to allow a few hours to see everything, including a very nice introductory video.  As it was still officially winter when we visited the park closed at 4pm (which they failed to mention when we arrived at 2.30pm) so we were rushed at the end to get out before they closed and I could have happily spent more time exploring.

From there we drove to our B&B Nofesh Baharim in Moshav Ramot Naftaly to check in and freshen up, before heading for dinner at Ahuzat Dobrovin.

For those who are interested in visiting wineries, there are several great ones which we passed nearby on our journey but we just didn’t have time on this trip to do everything.  I am mentioning them here as suggestions of alternative itineraries in this area. The Jezreel Valley Winery is close to Zippori and the Netofa Winery is about 30 minutes away, on the road up  to the Hula Valley.

Here is post about the second day of our trip in the Hula Valley – How the Hula Valley made me a bird watcher.

Getting Steamy in the Shuk

UPDATE: March 2017 – Steam is currently closed until further notice.

Over the last few months, new eateries have popped up in and around the Jerusalem shuk, so it is sometimes hard to keep a track of them all. One of these new places is Steam Kitchen and Bar, owned by a young US oleh, Chananya Rosenthal.  As a lover of fast food, Chananya has planned to open a place in the shuk for some time and was lucky when a small shop became available on Rehov Haegoz (up from Fishnchips and opposite Shuka Bar).  This strip is particularly busy at night when the fresh food stalls close and the bars and restaurants take over.

According to the Steam Facebook page, they serve steamed buns filled with classic American sandwiches but Chananya recently decided to change to classic Israeli fillings for his steamed buns.  I’ll be honest, I was disappointed as I was looking forward to a Reuben, kosher BLT and quails eggs that others had raved about.

For now the menu is very limited, soup of the day to start, shawarma or pargit steam bun sandwiches (NIS 27) or schnitzel salad (NIS 30) with steam bun croutons. Steam’s selling point is that all the ingredients in their sandwiches are high quality and homemade – which I am in favor of, but I didn’t taste enough of a difference to make me want to come back to Steam, rather than going to my favorite local shuk guy across the street to get a huge laffa for around the same price.  There is no doubt that the quality of the steam buns served are great.  The dough is made fresh every day and they steam the buns to order, but in my opinion, they need to create a menu that differentiates themselves more clearly from that which is on offer around them, in order to attract customers who have so many delicious places to choose from.

Now let’s talk cocktails, because to me, that is Steam’s USP (Unique Selling Point) and something which will have me going back for more.  The popularity of cocktails is growing at a rapid pace in Israel, with new cocktail bars opening up all over the place and restaurants have also caught onto the trend and are improving their cocktail menus. However, until recently, you couldn’t get real cocktails in the shuk itself – well you can now!  The Steam cocktail menu features 10 fairly classic cocktails, all for NIS 37, and lovingly prepared using high quality ingredients.  The simple Gin and Tonic uses Bombay Sapphire gin with Fever Tree tonic – a must for any true G&T lover but very rare to find in the shuk, let alone most restaurants in Jerusalem.  The Bourbon Lager with Jack Daniels, Drambuie, lemon juice and lager is a great cocktail for anyone averse to sweet drinks. The Sweet Arak is a delicious mix of arak, lemon juice, dry martini and mango syrup but what makes the drink are the caramelized lemon wedge and burnt star anise served on-top.  I found it a tad too sweet but I will definitely try it again and request less mango syrup.  They also have a selection of beers from Moscow Microbrewery near Bet Shemesh.  The best news is that Steam run a happy hour from 3-7pm with buy one get one free on cocktails per person.

Steam is still in the development stages and I really hope that they manage to find their niche in an increasingly competitive market but one thing is for sure, Chananya has a real passion for what he does and his aim is to serve Jerusalemites with food that they enjoy and makes them happy.

He is open for both lunch and dinner and although there is currently no hechsher, he is planning to get Hashgacha Pratit.

FODMAP friendly score 2/10, Foodie score 6/10.