Saturday, 4 December 2010

Israel (and Jordan), a mouthful

Kate came for a 10 day visit. This was always going to be an ambitious project, us trying to squeeze a diverse, ever changing, constantly evolving rich foodscape that is made up of dozens of different cuisines, local and from the various Diaspora; Street food, gourmet, cheap and expensive, simple and pretentious, fresh and seasonal, slow and traditional, we had it all.

This was a week of chicken, turkey and lamb shawarma, good hummus and bad, cheap borek, good borek and luxury crab meat borek, brains on toast, kibbeh soup, shakshuka, mujaddara, sweet knafe, mild Malabi and a sour sweet tamarind juice.

The new covered market at Tel Aviv port was the place we had a fluffy kebab and an inspiring gelato, at Levinsky spice market we collected spices, from dried Persian lemons to white Yemenite coffee, a mediocre borek and an unforgettable pomegranate orange juice. Lastly, we made a pitstop at HaCarmel market for some succulent Medjool dates.

Ali Karawan’s mind blowing hummus in Jaffa was a Friday breakfast appetizer, but then we simply had to stop at the doctor for a spicy shakshuka, a taste of his shawarma and a cuscus (Dr. Shakshuka has a Phd in shakshuka, in case you wondered).

A visit to Jerusalem's Mahne Yehuda market began with coffee and a visit to 'Marzipan' patisserie for their gooey dripping Rogelach and boreks before we headed to Azura for a taste of Kibbeh soup and okra cooked in tomato sauce. We had no time to waste and so we headed to the old city, for more food and some spirituality at the wailing wall and the church of the sepulchre.
It was late afternoon, and we had already sampled the local Knafe (fried kadaifi with sweet sheep's milk cheese, rose sugar syrup and pistachio) when the search for the best shawarama began. We didnt have an address as such, or a name for that matter, but we knew what we were after. Eventually we made it to a fluorescent lit dining hall, and were greeted by a large shawarma and several men with a smile that says: " I know you made quite a way to get this far and its well worth it". We were sat down and were served some salads, pita bread and two heaped plates of freshly carved shawarma. It was thanksgiving in the US and the turkey meat cooked in sheep fat was appropriate for the occasion. And it was wonderful too. Dinner was a disaster so I wont go into it. Suffice to say it didnt change Kate's mind regarding eggplants or tahini, both of which were badly made and expensively charged.
As part of the' once in a lifetime' experience we made plans to visit Petra. Although Jordan is the closest thing to abroad from Israel, this was to be my first time. A taxi ride, flight, border pass, and more taxi ride later we were in Wadi Mussa, ready to see the wonder. It may have been the end of November but you couldn't tell from the heat wave. We saw the wonder and even saved our packed lunch to have in it's presence. Several hours later, after marvelling at the landscape and trying to avoid the donkey rides that kept appearing in front of us we had dinner at a restaurant specializing in typical Jordanian cuisine.
Despite a few glitches like a random apple mayo salad, we were served local dishes such as stuffed zucchini and a fragrant lamb Maqluba, fresh yogurt, Hummus, bitter olives and beet salad. However, we both agreed that apart for the cold beer and free nuts at the Movenpick hotel lobby it was the 1 Dinari falafel and fried shawarma wrap that did it for us.

As a fitting finale to our Jordanian adventure, our taxi driver shared with us a freshly baked bread he picked up in a bakery on his trip back, still warm and humid from the taboon.
Dipped in fromage blanc and a bottle of beer it made for dinner, Biblical style.
There were many more dishes and meals, from 'North Abraxes', to 'Shila' and a hedonistic meal at the 'Basta', a Russian breakfast at 'Cafe Mersand' and a sabich finale at Tchernichovsky.
Now that I have caught on my sleep and the workload and had some time to ingest the week and digest the copious amount of foods I feel I must mention some of the catastrophes, mishaps and general cloud of strange coincidences that came flying our way from all directions and at all times, from dentists and mormons, to a fringe, a spilled jar of tahini in a suitcase, lost chargers, unstable bikes to one very bad film, to name but a few (all of which added to the experience and the taste of the food). I'd do it all over again kate.
Till the next time, however, there is no rest for the wicked and I have landed directly in the hands of Hanukah (thats code for fried latkes and more fried doughnuts).
Must. carry. on.

1 comment:

  1. Hi there.

    I just found your blog via Sarah Melamed - and I'm glad I did. I can't wait to follow more of your gastronomic adventures! Kol hakavod on following your passion.