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“The Land of Milk and Honey”

By Miriam Marcus and Will Blunt

Food, and fresh produce specifically, is so ingrained in the national culture of Israel that a native-born Israeli is affectionately referred to as a “sabra,” derived from the Hebrew word tzabar, the name of the prickly pear or cactus pear. The thick-skinned thorny desert fruit when seen from the inside reveals a sweet and soft flesh – an analogy often associated with the national character of Israelis.

 

RESTAURANTS
JERUSALEM:
Chakra
Cavalier Restaurant & Bar
Arcadia
Abu Shukri
Magic Fruit Juice
Mo’adoniyot Abu-dod
Nissan’s
Evo
CAESAREA:
Helena
NAZARETH:
Diana
TSFAT (SAFED):
Muscat
TEL AVIV-JAFFA:
Dixie Grill Bar
Mul Yam
Raphael Resto-Bistro
Yo'ezer Wine Bar

CAFES
TEL AVIV-JAFFA:
Soidelson Café
The Nest
Loop Noodles

WINERIES
BETWEEN JERUSALEM AND TEL AVIV:
Domaine du Castel
SHOMRON WINE REGION:
Carmel Winery
Saslove Winery

HOTELS
JERUSALEM:
Inbal Jerusalem Hotel
King David Hotel
TSFAT (SAFED):
Mizpe Hayamim Resort Hotel and Health Farm
Ruth Rimonim Hotel
TEL AVIV-JAFFA:
Dan Tel Aviv Hotel

MARKET
JERUSALEM:
Machaneh Yehudah

   

 

 
Sabra fruit, also known as the cactus pair or prickly pair, and the term affectionately given to native-born Israelis, on StarChefs.com

Despite being a predominantly Jewish nation, Israel is diverse and multicultural. Jews both Ashkenazi and Sephardic, Arabs both Christian and Muslim, the Druze, North Africans, Russian and Ethiopian immigrants, Bedouins and Palestinians – all provide for a varying landscape of ethnicities, cultural traditions, and not suprisingly, cuisines.

The chefs of Israel reflect this diversity, establishing Israel as one of the world’s most interesting destinations for the food-savvy individual or the curious culinary professional. Even France’s highly influential Gault-Millau restaurant guide, which features very few countries outside of France, published its first Israeli edition in the late ‘90s.

Hummus (a dip of mashed, seasoned chickpeas and sesame paste eaten with pita bread), falafel (fried ball or patty of spiced chickpeas or fava beans, typically eaten with hummus and tahini in a pita bread), and chicken schnitzel, though still symbolic of Israel’s culinary identity, are increasingly taking a back seat to more progressive, wide-ranging styles of cooking. Some have taken to calling it “Med-Rim Cuisine.” Since the mid-1980s, regional specialties from around the Mediterranean, as well as California, France and Italy, have contributed to this revolution of food in the biblically prescribed “land of milk and honey.” A direct result of Israeli people’s love of travel, cuisines of the Far East, India and South America have also infiltrated Israeli menus, and receive a warm welcome.

Wine:

Growing and enjoying wine has been essential to Israel since biblical times, with references dating as far back as the book of Genesis. Modern plantings began in the 1870s by Eastern European Jews who immigrated to Palestine, before Israel was an autonomous state.

For many years, the reputation of Israeli wine suffered from its association with the cloyingly sweet American Manischewitz. However, its direct correlation with Israel lies only in the fact that Manischewitz is one of the largest producers of kosher wines in the world. The real challenge of Israeli wines has been the strict laws of producing kosher wines, which dampened the quality and creativity of Israeli winemakers. As such, Israeli winemakers had a long road to hoe in achieving the respectability that Israel’s fine wines now enjoy.

The Carmel region in the north of Israel has a climate and terroir similar to that of Northern California’s Napa Valley, providing incentive for a series of well-to-do Silicon Valley investors putting money into the makeover of Israeli vineyards and wineries in the early ‘90s.

Other boutique wineries are making their mark elsewhere in the country: the regions of Shomron, the Judean Hills, and the Upper Galilee all produce fine wines. Further attention (and money) has been paid to Israeli vineyards in correlation with its people’s increasingly more sophisticated palates. And the investments are paying off; Israeli wines are continuously getting better and they’re even beginning to catch on with wine connoisseurs beyond Israeli borders.

Background:

Israel is a young nation with millennia of history, culture and agricultural practices. Political sovereignty, after less than 60 years, remains a novel experience to the Israeli people; the degree to which they appreciate their very small land (roughly the size of the state of New Jersey) is profound.

David Ben-Gurion, elected Israel’s first prime minister in 1949, challenged the Jewish people to “make the deserts bloom,” to ensure a prolific future and establish their strength as a nation. The Israeli people have done more than that. What began as an agricultural society in desert and swampy lands has – through cultivation, engineering, and the invention of drip irrigation – evolved to consistently generate an extreme abundance of high quality produce, meats and dairy.

Map of Israel on StarChefs.comContrary to common belief, the Israel we experienced does not appear to be paralyzed by the on-going Arab-Israeli conflict. There is a visible reality to the situation – there are security guards and soldiers in all public places, and bags and parcels often get searched upon entry to public venues, such as bus stations and malls, but the people remain resilient; they go on living life, performing daily routines – and enjoying fine cuisine.

The landscape of Israel is as diverse as its cultures, politics and cuisines; the small area of land is a “degustation” of the world’s topographies—the mountains of the Golan Heights and Mount Hermon, the lush greenery of the north, the rocky hills of Jerusalem and surrounding savannas, the beaches of the Mediterranean and Red Seas, the infertile but mineral-rich Dead Sea, the ever-humbling Negev desert of the south, and the bustling metropolitan cities such as Tel Aviv. The cliché that “there is something for everyone” rings true.

Getting Around:

Renting a car is a great way to get around Israel, particularly if you have culinary pursuits in mind. Nearly all road signs are printed in Hebrew, English and Arabic. The best spots are not always in the cities, so driving is often easier than taking multiple buses or trains to arrive at your destination. Use caution when mapping out your route. Pick roads wisely, paying attention to the news for information on safe and unsafe areas to travel.

JERUSALEM

The Jewish Quarter of the Old City on StarChefs.com
The Jewish Quarter
of the Old City

Arguably the most spiritual city in the world, Jerusalem is home to three of the world’s major religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—and their most revered sites, respectively. The 3,000-year-old city, paved in gleaming white Jerusalem stone, hosts a number of culinary destinations to satiate the appetite you will inevitably build while perusing the city’s many neighborhoods, museums, and holy sites.

View of the Kotel (Wailing Wall) and the Dome of the Rock in the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel on StarChefs.com
View of the Kotel and the Dome of the Rock
in Jerusalem
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RESTAURANTS:

Chakra
18 Shlomtzion
Jerusalem
972. (0)2.625.2733

Chef Ilan Garousi serves wide-ranging, bistro-style ethnic cuisine, taking influence from locations as varied as Morocco, Uzbekistan and Thailand. As you approach the restaurant, the outside of Chakra is totally unassuming. It is far from the touristy areas of Jerusalem and is considered a high-end local hangout. It's small, smoky, lit by a nostalgic crystal chandelier, and you might feel like you’re in a small neighborhood in Paris. The bar is well stocked with spirits and a thoughtful selection of whiskeys. Try the Dashpera, a goulash-like Uzbekistani soup made of a beef and tomato base with meat dumplings. Hatsilim Baladi im Labaneh, or Roasted Village Eggplant with Goat’s Yogurt, is sweet without the high acidity that is a common pitfall in eggplant dishes. Fresh sardines are marinated in—and accented by—fresh sage and bay leaves. Not overly complicated, Chef Garousi’s menu allows his fresh ingredients to shine.

  • Recommended Dishes:
    Dashpera
    Lamb Kufta Kebab
    Sole in Thyme Butter Baked with Tomatoes
    Fresh Sardines in Sage and Bay Leaves
    Roasted Village Eggplant with Goat’s Yogurt
  • Hours:
    Dinner: Sunday-Thursday, 7:00 pm-3:30 am; Friday, 8:00 pm-3:30 am
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Cavalier Restaurant & Bar
1 Ben-Sira Street
Jerusalem 94181
972. (0)2.624.2945

SabraChef Didi Benarosh learned to cook in France at Guide Michelin-rated restaurants, and apprenticed at Nobu in New York City. He comes from a Moroccan family and he prepares straightforward European-style food with a Mediterranean/North African twist. The restaurant maintains a lightly formal but easygoing atmosphere. The service is good and the wine list is substantial. Reservations are essential. The bar stays open until the last customer leaves, often hours after the kitchen has closed.

  • Recommended Dishes:
    Filet of Veal in Wine and Shallot Sauce
    Chocolate Volcano
  • Hours:
    Lunch: Daily, 12:00 pm-3:30 pm
    Dinner: Daily, 6:30 pm-12:00 am
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Arcadia
10 Agrippas Street, Jerusalem
972. (0)2.624.9138

This is a hidden, hard-to-find place, so call for detailed directions and/or ask your taxi driver to walk you through the maze of narrow alleyways to get there. Arcadia, which received a very favorable rating in the Gault-Milleu, is housed in an old, stone-arched building, and has a distinct Mediterranean feel of Greek stucco and vaulted ceilings. The Iraqi-born chef, Ezra Kedem, who studied in the US and France, is a prime example of the mix of cultures within Israeli society. His imaginative, contemporary cuisine is prepared mainly with local ingredients, usually from no farther than thirty miles away, showcasing the wealth of Israeli produce. The menu is vegetable-intensive and meat is often cleverly used merely as a compliment. Try the smooth and rich artichoke soup with nutty walnut accents or the perfectly undercooked house-made pumpkin ravioli with a sage and currant-citrus sauce.

  • Recommended Dishes:
    Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Walnuts
    Pumpkin Ravioli in Sage Oil Sauce with Black Sesame Seeds
    Baby Lamb Cannelloni on Warm Wild Spinach Salad
  • Hours:
    Lunch: Monday-Friday, 12:30 pm-3:00 pm
    Dinner: Monday-Friday, 7:00 pm-10:30 pm; Saturday, 1:00 pm- 11:30 pm
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Abu Shukri
63 Al Wad Road, Near Damascus Gate in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City
Jerusalem
972. (0)2.627.1538

The Shuk, or 
                                          market, in the Arab Quarter of The Old 
                                          City on StarChefs.com
The shuk, or market,
in the Arab Quarter
of The Old City
For a taste of authentic, old-school Israeli dining, visit what many consider to be the best hummus and falafel joint in Israel. It’s inexpensive but make sure you have cash on hand as they do not accept credit cards. Dip your warm pita (freshly baked next door and included in the price) in hummus with a healthy-sized garnish of whole chickpeas and olive oil, or black beans, or fuul (roasted pine nuts). Chickpeas are mashed by hand at Abu Shukri, as they have been for decades, to make the spicy falafel balls. Fill your pita with a full sampling of falafel, tahini (pronounced ta’hinah), hummus, and Israeli/Arabic salad (diced tomato and cucumber in fresh lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and za’atar/hyssop spice). End your meal with a steaming cup of Nana tea—the Israeli answer to spearmint—complete with fresh nana leaves in your glass. Note: If you have trouble navigating your way around the Old City, simply ask any local who will gladly offer directions to the well-known Abu Shukri.


  • Recommended Dishes:
    Falafel in pita, with hummus and Israeli salad
    Nana Tea
  • Hours:
    Lunch: Daily, 8:00 am-4:30 pm; later on Saturday
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Magic Fruit Juice
Corner of Ben-Yehudah Street and King George Street
Jerusalem

There are a number of places to get a refreshing juice on the midrachov, the open-air pedestrian mall typically referred to by its main street, Ben Yehudah. Magic Fruit Juice at the top of the hill is the best for a cup of any combination of fresh fruit and vegetable juices squeezed to order. Choose among fig, mango, orange, watermelon, guava, beet, peach, carrot and strawberry, to name just a few.

  • Hours:
    Sunday-Thursday, 8:00 am- 10:00 pm; Friday, 8:00 am-Sunset
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Abundance of fresh fruit and nuts for sale at Machaneh Yehudah on StarChefs.com
Abundance of fresh fruit
and nuts for sale
at Machaneh Yehudah

Machaneh Yehudah

Stroll through the open-air market, or shuk, of Machaneh Yehudah, west of the city center, between Jaffa Road and Agrippas Street, to view an eye-popping abundance of fresh produce, meats, fish, breads, pastries and baked goods. The shuk – a lively farmer’s market – is an exciting destination for any foodie. An attractive exhibition of the range and quality of Israeli produce, this market is far from boutique; it’s a vibrant food center that local chefs and home cooks rely upon daily. Familiar Western fruits and vegetables are side by side with the exotic – gargantuan radishes, huge fresh piles of parsley, celery and oranges share cart space with pomegranates, persimmons, pumellos (shaddocks), “Abraham’s fruit" (sour plums) and Lebanese artichokes.

  • Hours:
    Sunday-Thursday, 8:00 am-8:00 pm; Friday, 8:00 am-Sundown
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Mo'adoniyot Abu-dod
41 Etz Ha’Hayim Street
Shuk Machaneh Yehudah
Jerusalem
972.(0)2.624.2049

While marveling at the plentiful display in Machaneh Yehudah, step into Mo’adoniyot Abu-dod for a fine assortment of cheeses, olive oils and pickled fish.

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Nissan's
119 Jaffa Street
Jerusalem
972.(0)2.625.2008

As you walk out of the shuk, exit onto Jaffa Street. Turn into this unassuming spice retailer that supplies dried goods of all kinds and pulls a great espresso. Try their café hafukh, translated to “upside down coffee.” This Israeli colloquialism for cappuccino got its name because coffee – espresso, in this case – is added to the milk instead of the other way around.

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A butcher shop in Machaneh Yehudah, a marketplace in Jerusalem, Israel on StarChefs.com
A Butcher shop in
Machaneh Yehudah

Evo
5 Shamay Street
Jerusalem
972.(0)2.623.4676

Head east on Jaffa Road from Machaneh Yehudah to Evo. Avi Ben-David is the owner of this butcher shop and international delicatessen, where “it’s all about the quality of the meat and the product.” He carries a wide selection of cured meats and salamis, seafood, cheeses and other dairy products from Europe. His high quality meat is sold in cuts made for steaks, stews, roasts and carpaccios.

  • Recommended Dishes:
    Goose liver pate with port or cognac
  • Hours:
    Sunday-Thursday, 9:00 am-7:00 pm; Friday, 9:00 am-4:00 pm
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HOTELS:

The Inbal Hotel lobby in Jerusalem on StarChefs.com
The Inbal Hotel lobby
in Jerusalem

Inbal Jerusalem Hotel
Liberty Bell Park
3 Jabotinsky Street
Jerusalem 92145
972.(0)2.675.6666
www.inbalhotel.com

Centrally located in Jerusalem, the hotel is relatively modern with a traditional feel from the use of natural white Jerusalem stone throughout the lobby. There is a coffee shop in the flowery interior courtyard of the building and an Italian dairy restaurant adjacent to the lobby. Rooms are available with scenic views of the Old City.

  • Rooms: 294
  • Rates: $230-$540, up to $1,500
  • Featured Amenities: Indoor/outdoor pools, sauna, jacuzzi, beauty salon, massage and health spa, sports facilities, hi-speed/wireless internet in guest rooms
  • What to Do: Spend time at the national Israel Museum, and at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum.
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King David Hotel
23 King David Street
Jerusalem
For reservations click here.

The King David Hotel in Jerusalem on Starchefs.com
The King David Hotel
in Jerusalem

Arguably the most famous and elegant hotel in Israel, this flagship of the ubiquitous Dan Hotels Group hotels hosts many world leaders and celebrities. Built in 1931 with locally quarried pink sandstone, the hotel is centrally located within walking distance of the new and old districts of Jerusalem; when reserving a room, you can opt for either view. The building is surrounded by expansive private gardens. Guest rooms are furnished with king-size beds and hi-speed Internet access. There are a number of dining options within the hotel: La Regence Grill Room serves meat and Middle Eastern fare, the King’s Garden Restaurant serves dairy, fish and vegetarian options, and The Oriental Bar, open only in the evenings, boasts an impressive Scotch selection and serves small plates.

  • Rooms: 237
  • Rates: $326-$426, and up
  • Featured Amenities: A/C, minibar, baby crib, laundry services, free parking, sports facilities, business center, in-room fax/modem/PC connection
  • What to Do: Taking a walking tour of the nearby Old City to view religious sites of Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
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BETWEEN JERUSALEM AND TEL AVIV

WINERY:

Domaine du Castel
Ramat Raziel
Haute Judee 90974
972.(0)2.534.2249
www.castel.co.il

Call ahead and make an appointment to visit the Domaine du Castel winery, started in 1992 by self-taught Eli G. Ben Zaken in a town called Ramat Raziel in the Judean Hills, just 17 km west of Jerusalem. Grapes here are planted at 700 meters above sea level, on hillsides and in deep valleys, enjoying cool temperatures and short hours of sunshine for good maturation. A leading Israeli boutique winery, Castel produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, and a few other varietals, such as Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc—all suited for modest aging, peaking a few years after release.

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Ancient Crusader Fortress in Caesarea, Israel on StarChefs.com
Ancient Crusader
Fortress in Caesarea

CAESAREA

The dramatic setting of King Herod’s first-century city, this very-much-in-tact archaeological beach town, ranks up with the best Roman ruins to be seen anywhere in the world. The recently renovated visitor’s center is helpful, and in general, this state-run national site is surprisingly un-institutional. The ruins are fairly isolated, but just off the main highway.

Ancient Roman Aqueduct on the beach in Caesarea, Israel on StarChefs.com
Ancient Roman Aqueduct
on the beach in Caesarea

Especially notable are the acoustics in the Ancient Theatre where concerts are still held regularly. In the “village” there are plenty of artist studios where you can shop, and the restaurants themselves are worth a visit. Visit this site in the late afternoon or early evening to watch the sunset over the Mediterranean Sea.

 

 

 

RESTAURANTS:

Helena Restaurant at Caesarea Harbor in Israel on StarChefs.com
Helena Restaurant
at Caesarea Harbor

Helena
Helena Ben Amal
Old port of Caesarea
972.(0)4.610.1018

Chef Amos Sion is a “sabra,” and received formal culinary training at the Tadmor Hotel School in Herzliya, a small town outside of Tel Aviv. The service at this picturesque and exclusive fish restaurant is impressive, and the food is modestly priced. Helena offers a variety of Middle-Eastern cuisine, highlighting fresh fish and seafood, meats, focaccias, and homemade ice creams. Enjoy Chef Sion’s tasting menu as you dine on the outdoor waterfront patio.

  • Recommended Dish:
    Whole Grilled Fish
  • Hours:
    Daily, 12:00 pm-Midnight
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SHOMRON WINE REGION
The largest wine growing region, Shomron, stretches from Israel’s eastern and western borders, north of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and south of the Galilee. This region has heavy, limey soil and typical Mediterranean weather; the rainy season is from October to March, and the summers are very warm and almost totally dry. With breezes off the Mediterranean Sea, the Carmel Mountain range provides an ideal climate for growing grapes. The region receives more grapes at harvest than any other in the country.

WINERY:

Carmel Winery

P.O. Box 2
25 HaCarmel Street
Rishon Le’Zion 75100
972.(0)3.948.8851/54
www.carmelwines.co.il

Carmel has vineyards in several regions throughout Israel, but none as prolific as those around the town of Zichron Ya’acov in the Shomron region in northern Israel. Carmel is the first, oldest and largest winery in Israel, founded in 1882 by Baron Edmond De Rothschild. Carmel wines are exported to over 50 countries, and have won numerous international awards.

Saslove Winery
Kibbutz Eyal, near the town of Kohav Yair
972.(0)9.749.2697
www.saslove.com/pub/home.htm

Saslove Winery on Kibbutz Eyal in Northern Israel on StarChefs.com
Saslove Winery
on Kibbutz Eyal

Built in Kibbutz Eyal in 1998 by Canadian-born Barry Saslove, this is a young, up-and-coming winery. Visitors receive a tour of the winery, a selection of wines for tasting, and explanations about wine pairings for food. A new vineyard was planted recently in Kaditah in the upper Galilee, providing a venue for the Saslove family to showcase their organic growing techniques. Wines can be purchased directly from the winery.

  • Vineyard Visiting Hours:
    Saturday, 11:00 am-4:00 pm; Sunday – Friday, call in advance to make an appointment
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NAZARETH
Spending any significant amount of time in the safe but charmless Nazareth, a city unkind to the eyes, is not highly recommended. You might go for religious purposes—it is the birthplace of Jesus Christ—but be aware that this center of Arab life in the southern Galilee is an uncompromising display of poverty found in many of the Arab towns and cities throughout Israel. Many choose to visit the religious sites here via the numerous Christian package tours, however they are disappointingly unauthentic; you are better off in your car or with a private guide.

RESTAURANTS:

Diana Restaurant in Nazareth, Israel on StarChefs.com
Diana Restaurant

Diana
51 Paulus the Sixth Road
Nazareth
972.(0)4.656.8203

The best alternative to the myriad cookie-cutter falafel and shawarma stands in Nazareth is Arab Chef Dokhol Safadi’s highly authentic Diana. The food here is the epitome of Middle Eastern cuisine, with a wide array of mezze dishes: various salads, hummuses, and grilled meats. Chef Safadi uses a special knife, called a Seekh in Arabic, similar to a long and sharp skewer, to cut the lamb for kebabs and shishlick—marinated and grilled lamb medallions. Don’t be fooled by the dingy entrance and atmosphere of Diana; the breads are baked daily in a brick oven, the food is fresh, and the service is excellent.

  • Recommended Dish:
    Lamb Kebabs
  • Hours:
    Daily, 12:00 pm-12:00 am
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TSFAT (SAFED)

On one of the highest peaks in Israel, Mt. Kena’an, the ancient city of Tsfat upholds centuries of Kabalistic mysticism. The name Tsfat can be translated to either “vantage point” or “anticipation,” because of its panoramic views or because of the city’s inhabitants’ steadfast expectation of the arrival of the Messiah. This tranquil city is the center for Jewish tradition and spirituality in Israel. It’s inevitable that you will get lost in the charming alleyways and winding streets of the artisan colony, lined with artists’ shops, synagogues, yeshivas (religious schools), stone buildings and turquoise-colored doorways. Tsfat’s mysticism is paired with glorious natural surroundings of lush greenery of the Galilean Hills. The cuisine of Tsfat, however, is unfortunately not as well paired. Spend a night in Tsfat, preferably during the Sabbath—the Jewish day of rest, beginning at sundown on Friday and ending after sundown on Saturday—to get a real taste for this charming city. If you’re walking around on a Friday afternoon, chances are likely that a family will invite you in to share their Sabbath meal, a great way to rest and revel in the spirituality that is Tsfat.

RESTAURANTS:

Muscat
At the Mizpe Hayamim Resort Hotel
P.O. Box 27, Rosh Pina 12000
972.(0)4.699.4555, extension 537

If you’re not lucky enough to get invited into someone’s home for a meal while in Tsfat, take a short drive to Muscat at Mizpe Hayamim Resort Hotel in the town of Rosh Pina. Chef Chaim Tibi grills meats and fish in a tabun oven over a wood fire open flame, paired with seasonal fresh herbs, produce and dairy products grown on the hotel’s organic farm. Dine at this romantically intimate restaurant while enjoying a view of the Upper Galilee. Reservations are necessary.

  • Recommended Dishes:
    Liver and Zucchini Tart with Lamb Sauce
    Herbed Mushrooms from the Charcoal Grill with Smoked Goose
    Grilled Veal Neck Part with Marrowbone Sauce
    Organic Duck in Pomegranate Caramel Sauce and Five Passion Spices
    “Magholl” Dates filled with Pistachios and Peanuts, Silan Sauce, Rum-Raisin Ice Cream
  • Hours:
    Dinner: Monday-Friday, 6:00 pm-10:30 pm; Saturday, 1:00 pm-10:30 pm
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HOTELS:

Mizpe Hayamim Resort Hotel and Health Farm
P.O. Box 27
Rosh Pina 12000
972.(0)4.699.4555
www.mizpe-hayamim.com

Chef Chaim Tibi takes advantage of the organic farm of Mizpe Hayamim Resort Hotel and Health Farm which supplies most of the dairy and produce for the on-site Muscat restaurant in Rosh Pina, Israel on StarChefs.com
The Farm at Mizpe Hayamim

A member of the Relais & Chateaux Association, Hotel Mizpe Hayamim was originally founded as a health center, and now includes a hotel, spa, dairy farm, organic garden and private vineyard. Make sure to take a tour around the hotel’s farm, taking in serene views of the Hula Valley, the Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee. It is not a kibbutz—a collective community based on the principle of joint ownership of property, equality and cooperation of production, consumption and education—but there is a sense of completeness and of a self-sufficient eco-system within the 37 acres of farm, dairy, abundant fruit and nut groves, and walking paths that surround this “Edenic” hotel and spa. Do not sleep through breakfast; the dining room serves breakfast between 7:30 and 10:00 am. It’s an ideal opportunity to experience the bounty of Israeli breakfasts, famous for the freshest of fruits and vegetables, cheeses, eggs and juices.

  • Rooms: 83
  • Rates: 828-2193 nis (New Israeli Shekel) Click here for currency converter.
  • Featured Amenities: Spa Center, fitness room, farm shop/wine store, organic farm and dairy, bakery, art gallery, library-coffee shop, pool, Muscat Restaurant
  • What to Do: Take a day trip to the Golan Heights where you can hike and see gorgeous views of Lebanon and Mt. Hermon to the north, the Syrian plains to the east, the Jordan River to the south, and the Sea of Galilee to the west. Alternatively, stroll the tranquil, beautiful hotel grounds, shop at the farm store and arts and crafts gallery, and take in a full range of spa treatments, including massages, facials and Dead Sea mud packs.
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Ruth Rimonim Hotel
Tel Zayin Street
The Artist Colony, Tsfat 13110
972.(0)4.699.4666
www.Rimonim.com
The Ruth Rimonim Hotel in Tsfat, Israel on StarChefs.com
The Ruth Rimonim Hotel

This hotel, a reconstructed 17th century inn, is recommended not

The Bread and Fish Church in Tabha, Israel on StarChefs.com
The Bread and Fish Church

for its rooms or amenities, but for its location and views. Ruth Rimonim is made up of big, long, stale, outdated hallways—almost institutional—like an old dormitory, but is located on the side of a hill overlooking the breathtaking landscape of Mount Meron. The hotel is within walking distance of the artisan colony, old synagogues, various historical sites, and the touristy but beautiful Safed Candle factory.

  • Rooms: 81
  • Rates: 600-1000 nis (New Israeli Shekels). Click here for currency converter.
  • Included: A/C, mini bar, cable television, in-room telephone, Israeli breakfast buffet
  • Featured Amenities: Outdoor swimming pool, “health spa,” laundry, restaurant
  • What to Do: Take a day trip to the Bread and Fish Church in Tabha, a remote, awe-inspiring spot with incredible views of the Sea of Galilee at sunset. Admission is free, and the church is open Monday-Saturday, 8:00 am-6:00 pm; Sunday, 10:00 am-5:00 pm.
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TEL AVIV - JAFFA
Tel Aviv, Israel at night on StarChefs.com
Tel Aviv, Israel at night
In the main shopping district of Tel Aviv, there are signs welcoming and thanking European and American tourists for visiting – both a testament to Israeli standards of hospitality and a sign of the challenges businesses face because of the threat of terrorism. Tel Aviv is far and away the most cosmopolitan and richest city in Israel. Accordingly, Israel’s largest consumer base has enough money to support an ambitious and eclectic mix of chefs and fine dining establishments.

Tel Aviv sits on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, a nutrient-poor body of water. Contrary to popular belief, the seemingly prolific azure-colored water is a sign of a lack of life in the water. Until the Suez Canal was opened to traffic in 1869, bridging the waterway between the Mediterranean and Red Seas, there had been even less sea bounty for cooking.

RESTAURANTS:

Mul Yam
Tel Aviv Port
972.(0)3.546.9920

This restaurant is reminiscent of a casual San Francisco Bay Area café. Its presentation is fairly modest. Fish tanks are visible to the patrons and cookbooks line the wall. Chef Yoram Nitzan “knows his fish.” Mul Yam is perhaps the best restaurant in Israel with the freshest and finest seafood selection. The irony, however, is that all the fish is imported, highlighting the ambition and tenacity of this young chef. Mul Yam is the only restaurant outside of Europe to be included in The Purple Guide, and was chosen as Gault-Millau restaurant of the year.

  • Recommended Dishes:
    Sea Flavors (Lobster, Scampi, Shrimp and Scallops)
    Red Mullet on Black Pasta with Olives
    Grouper with Smoked Eggplant Puree
    Brandied Cream of Crabs
    Tiger Shrimp with Jerusalem Artichoke and Lobster Stock
  • Hours:
    Lunch: Daily, 12:30 pm-5:00 pm
    Dinner: Daily, 7:30 pm-12:00 am
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Raphael Resto-Bistro
87 Ha’yarkon Street, next to the Dan Tel Aviv Hotel
Tel Aviv 63432
972.(0)3.522.6464

This restaurant is in a luxury hotel, and serves bistro fare focusing on local ingredients with a distinctive French and Moroccan influence. Chef Raphael Cohen is a native of Tel Aviv but comes from a Moroccan Sephardic family, a fact highly evident in his ever-shifting menu. The main dining room is modern and upscale but casual with a European sensibility, adorned by brass and orange colors with ornamented tables and a well-framed view of the Mediterranean.

Attached to the restaurant is Hamara Bar, a bar/lounge where small portioned mezze dishes are served. On Friday afternoons from noon to 4pm, Hamara Bar sets up a small Oriental pre-Sabbath meal, blending flavors and traditions from South Africa, Morocco, Israel, Palestine, and Turkey. Pillows are arranged around the lounge, providing an intimate middle-eastern setting for this affair. The first course is served family-style, and then Chef Cohen recommends ordering a tasting menu beginning with fresh sardines stuffed with grouper and coriander with dried pepper, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke and Moroccan paprika. Sample Chef Cohen’s mastery of offal – his Curried Spleen or Baked Bone Marrow with Ragout of Duck Gizzard are examples of the culinary sophistication of this young chef. Do not miss the featured Rosetta Cocktail of anise, almond milk and mint. Reservations are highly recommended.

  • Recommended Dishes:
    Lamb Paprika Spleen and Celery
    Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Black Osetra Caviar
    Baked Bone Marrow with Ragout of Duck Gizzard
    Veal Sweetbreads with Mediterranean Spice
    Rosetta Cocktail
  • Hours:
    Lunch: Daily, 12:00 pm-3:30 pm
    Dinner: Daily, 7:00 pm-11:00 pm
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Yo'ezer Wine Bar

Yoezer Wine Bar in Jaffa, Israel on StarChefs.com
Yo'ezer Wine Bar

2 Yo'ezer Aish Habira Street (near the Clock’s Square)
Jaffa, Israel
972.(0)3.6839115
www.rest.co.il/yoezer

The oldest port and historic gateway to Israel, Jaffa, pronounced “Yaffo” in Hebrew, hosts the romantic Yo'ezer Wine Bar. “SabraChef Eytan Zanzuri serves standard French-inspired cuisine prepared with local Israeli ingredients, and complimented by arguably the most exhaustive wine selection in the country. The location and atmosphere of this spot are what makes it so special. Hidden away from the street, the candlelit restaurant is in an old Arabic stone house that looks like a cellar, with thick walls, vaulted ceilings and arched doorways. Try Chef Zanzuri’s signature “40 Eggs Pasta” with Bottarga, a traditional Turkish and Portuguese delicacy.

  • Recommended Dishes:
    “40 Eggs Pasta” with Bottarga
    Crudo of Veal Tartar with Truffles
  • Hours:
    Sunday-Thursday, 12:30 pm-1:00 am; Friday-Saturday, 11:00 am-1:00 am
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Dixie Grill Bar
120 Igal Alon
Tel Aviv
972.(0)3.696.6123

Owned by Haim Cohen, Israel’s original “star chef” and TV personality on the show “Garlic, Pepper and Olive Oil,” this is a well executed American restaurant – a burger joint of sorts with the atmosphere of French brasserie. It serves everything from mussels and wings to pasta, burgers, sandwiches and breakfast. A favorite of students and a taste of home for American tourists, Dixie is open 24 hours a day, and serves more authentically American food than you would ever expect to find in Israel.

  • Hours:
    Daily, open 24 hours
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CAFÉS:

Soidelson Café
252 Ben Yehudah
Tel Aviv
972.(0)3.544.4154

Tel Aviv’s version of SoHo is the area around Allenby, Ha’Yarkon, Ben Yehudah and Nahalat Binyamin Streets. As you stroll around this neighborhood full of cafés, trendy bars, street food stalls, produce merchants, and art vendors – a nice place to stop towards the end of Ben Yehudah Street is Soidelson Café to sample their well-crafted cookies and cakes, and sip a hot cup of “café hafukh.”

  • Hours:
    Daily, 7:30 am-Midnight
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The Nest
7 Yeremiau
Tel Aviv
972.(0)3.546.1998
www.nest.co.il

A great place to go online, this is a pub and Internet café with live music and a beer selection of close to 100 different brews from countries all over the world. It’s very close to Tel Aviv’s warehouse/nightclub area around Allenby and Ha’Yarkon Streets. The menu is a standard Israeli mix of salads, small plates, soups, chicken and some shrimp dishes.

  • Hours:
    Daily, 8:00 pm-2:00 am
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Loop Noodles
177 Ben Yehudah Street
Tel Aviv
972.(0)3.544.9833

Another spot on Ben Yehudah Street, just one block east of the tayelet (beach promenade), is this friendly noodle shop. The food is unpretentious, simple, and a relatively authentic version of far-eastern cuisine. It is reasonably priced and take-out is also an option.

  • Hours:
    Daily, 12:00 pm-12:00 am
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HOTELS:

Dan Tel Aviv Hotel
99 Hayarkon Street
Tel Aviv, Israel 63432
972.(0)3.520.2552

A member of the Dan Hotels Group, this large hotel sits across the street from the main beach, on the tayelet/promenade. The hotel is centrally located, and the spa is newly renovated. All suites have sea views.

  • Rooms: 286
  • Rates: $208-2,000
    Featured Amenities: Indoor/outdoor swimming pool, fitness center, newly renovated spa, laundry/dry cleaning service, childcare, business center, barber/hairstylist
    What to Do: Lounge poolside, or walk across the street to the (often crowded) beach. Eat at Raphael Resto-Bistro next door.

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  •    Published: April 2006
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