Summer Fun in Israel

After spending three months back in California welcoming two beautiful new grandbabies into the family, it was still wonderful to get home to the tranquility of the beautiful North of Israel.

Summer has come to Israel in all its glory. Schools are almost finished, and many cities have already started hosting their summer festivals. Lailot levanot- white nights are back. This means the cities are up all night turn by turn with food, wine, dance, art, cultural and historical street parties. Each city showing off its diverse cultural and regional specialty. Total fun!!!

So, last week we took the train with a group of friends down to Tel Aviv for the Eat Tel Aviv fair. Held in lovely Charles Clore Park bordering the Mediterranean at sunset, the setting couldn’t have been more perfect. There were scores of pop-up food stands serving up tasty dishes for reasonable prices. Tables were set up for the crowd to enjoy their food in a relaxed, casual atmosphere.

There were just so many options! Because Tel Aviv is our food capital, and because of the diversity of the population, there was everything from gourmet chef restaurants to street food. Lots of international food too. Kosher as well as non-Kosher were represented.

Our friend stopped off at Mexicana first so we could all sample her fresh fish tacos. They did not disappoint, ranking right up there with the tastiness of Southern California, served with chips & Pico de gallo. Ron decided to try Vong, a Vietnamese Restaurant on the chic Rothschild Boulevard, moderately priced and always packed.

He had an amazingly tasty cold salad topped with coconut, grilled fish and dill. It helped to know Hebrew, because almost all of the restaurant menus were written exclusively in Hebrew. But- it added to the adventure…

One of the chef restaurants featured was Magdalena (chef Zuzu) from Migdal in the Galilee. Not Kosher, but it looked interesting. Dough balls stuffed with spiced meat and covered in warm goat yogurt and a chicken kebab with a tomato based burgil.

I had heard about the seafood chef restaurant, Manta, for quite some time now. Right on the Tel Aviv beach, this pricey gem gets consistently rave reviews – so I was more than disappointed to see overly greasy fish and chips offered.

Hopping from booth to booth, I just wanted to see everything ( impossible in our time frame) and get pictures and comments from the people. Wildly popular Asian, Namu Namu was serving up fresh and tasty noodle bowls with fresh grilled veggies and papaya & mango chunks. Yum.

Eat Tel Aviv opened its gates (with very high security!!!! Assuring!!!) at 6pm. By 8 pm things were beginning to get hopping. Several local bands were playing on various stages, and a DJ was setting up for dancing later that evening. On to more food. More barbecue joints than I could even imagine in Israel! Chef Market looked interesting.

There was the Georgian (as in former Soviet Union) Tasch and Tasha serving up atcharuli (eggs baked with cheese and spinach in a pizza pocket; dumplings; and rice stuffed eggplant rolls. Really curious about the “hanging things” from a string, the man told me it was a very sweet delicacy. A dessert with grapes in the center. So…. I tried one. It was like eating a mouthful of the wax found on the outside of cheese with a chewy booger inside. No thanks!

Ah!!! HaTarnegol HaKahol!!! The Blue Rooster, a very pricey upscale Tel Aviv hotspot, ranking among the best in the world!!!! And who was there but Master Chef, Shaul Ben Aderet!!! Surely he would be cooking up something amazing!!! Wrong!!!! Instead of urban five star meats and veggies prepared in creative ways, it was street food. Pastrami sandwiches and brisket on baguettes with chimichurri. My husband tried it, and neither of us were thrilled. As far as I’m concerned it was a missed opportunity to show off iron chef brilliance-

Nitan Thai was there as well as Iceberg – my favorite artisanal ice cream shop in Israel. Instead of the inventive passionfuit, mango, banana or lavender rose or even sweet violet or espresso crunch, they were dishing out vanilla, kinder cookie, chocolate and other non-interesting scoops. So sad. Chef restaurants, Messa & Quatro (Italian) only offered gnocchi and fettuccini alfredo type selections.

But then I saw it!!

Texas BBQ! Butchery de Bariloche. Hmmmm- sounds intriguing. Smells heavenly. Generous portions of smoked barbecue brisket chunks, fries, pickles – and a Guinness! All for 45 shekels! That’s about 12 bucks American. Could it even come close to LA’s Wood Ranch or Chueys??? You bet!!! Succulent! Tender bits of perfectly smoked awesomeness!! So worth the 30 minute line. By this time, the park was packed, the lines incredibly long, but with ocean breezes, great tunes, great friends and food, it made for a perfect welcome home for us.