The Jew And The Carrot

Food Touring in Israel

By Anna Hanau

  • Print
  • Share Share
Courtesy Of:

It’s no secret that the kosher-keeping set in America often look longingly at the options available to our non-kosher-keeping friends. Gooey ripe cheeses. Local meats. Restaurants with certain character and flair. Even fresh-baked bread isn’t as easy to find as we might like. So when the chance came to take a vacation – the first in several years – my husband and I immediately knew we were headed to Israel. To eat.

The trip did not disappoint, and for a couple of foodies – albeit already well-connected in the kosher sustainable food world – we found delight after delight of kosher foods that we just can’t get at home, many of them also local, sustainable and reflecting the specific palate of Israel. Here are a few highlights:

The Eucalyptus – a new restaurant in the Artists Colony offered a 9, 12 or 15-course tasting menu. The chef focuses on local, seasonal ingredients, minimally dressed up so you can really taste what you’re eating. A highlight for me was a hubeza salad. Hubeza is an Arabic word for a plant in the mallow family that grows wild all over Israel, and is particularly lush in the wet winter months. It has been harvested for centuries by fellaheen (Arab agriculturalists with a fascinating story, told in Abbie Rosner’s Breaking Bread in the Galilee). The chef also came and shared a d’var torah with us about the lentil soup, which was featured in that week’s parsha in the story of Jacob asking Esau for some of that “red red stuff please (na)”. “Na” also means “rare” (as in, the opposite of “well-done” meat) and the chef pointed out that red lentils, which are usually cited as the contents of this “red red stuff”, when cooked, actually aren’t red at all, but more of a yellowy-brown. Instead, we might understand that Esau was cooking a meat stew, and even though the meat was still rare (“na”), Jacob was famished and wanted to eat it before it was cooked. Who knows, but it was a nice touch on a delicious dinner (so was the bottle of herb-infused arak brought to our table as a complimentary after-dinner drink for us to imbibe freely.)

Ein Cammonim – a goat farm and cheesery in the Galilee, west of Tiberias, offers a tasting menu on their grape-canopied terrace. They brought out ten exquisite cheeses on a beautiful wooden board, and we nibbled each one with anticipation. Some with a little blue. Some soft. Some hard, really hard, with the tangy punch of a Manchego but richer. When we called the waiter over to ask about the names of some of the cheeses, and she saw that we were making a list of the ones we wanted to purchase, she asked, “Would you like to try some more cheeses?” Would we! Another wooden platter appeared, this one with even more exotic cheeses – a “Master” that reminded me of the stinky stinky epoisse; a camembert-style cheese wrapped in grape leaves; a comte with green peppercorns, and more. We spent the better part of the afternoon there, and the better part of our cheese budget for the year in the gift shop (which also sold local olive oil, fig/honey spreads and passion fruit sorbet).

Makom B’Sejera – a restaurant in the Galilee that specializes in rare kosher meats. Housed in an old farm house built at the end of the 19th century (thick stone walls, a wood-burning stove, and a curious collection of faded photographs of Ben Gurion), the menu featured pigeon, quail, pheasant, bison, deer and more. The food was outstanding, each dish prepared with local flavors like dates, za’atar, pinenuts and olive oil, and the host was friendly and welcoming even on a dark and stormy night (yes, these happen in Israel).

Rish Lakish Olive Press – This family-run press in Zipori picks olives from 2,000 year-old trees and presses them on a stone press in a special cob-building built to house the production and a tiny shop. Outside, a garden flourishes with pomegranates, hyssop (za’atar), rue (the herb used in olive curing) and vegetables. We learned that with olives, it’s a matter of hours between the harvest and when the processing must begin, otherwise the ripe fruits oxidize and the oil produced is bitter. Our host was extremely knowledgeable about world-wide olive production (apparently Spain offers major subsidies to its olive growers, affecting prices worldwide) and the health benefits of olive oil (she takes a spoonful every morning, to help with everything from arthritis to brain development). We tasted several different kinds of olive oils, from the buttery to the bright and fruity, and one special blend with rosemary (where the rosemary was actually added to the press, extracting essential oils, rather than a sprig of the green plant stuck in the oil, which can cause rot).

Although we spoke with all the owners about “how nice it would be if we could get this kind of food in the States,” in fact there is also something refreshing about some foods just not being available everywhere. There are still some foods you have to travel for. And once every three years (or ten, or…?) it’s worth it.

Want to go on your own Israel Food Tour? Learn more about the Hazon Israel Sustainable Food Tour

Anna Hanau is the Associate Director of Food Programs at Hazon, and co-authored “Food for Thought, Hazon’s Sourcebook on Jews, Food and Contemporary Life.” She and her husband Naf Hanau founded Grow and Behold Foods, and they keeps a flock of chickens in their backyard in Brooklyn. In accordance with Hazon’s conflict of interest policy, Anna does not work on Hazon’s meat or meat-related projects.

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sustainable, Israel, Israel Sustainable Food Tour

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  •'s Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight":
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.