The West Bank is often in the limelight making political headlines, not gastronomic ones. But hidden beneath political and religious agendas, are a small group of artisans turning out various boutique edibles.
Located only half an hour outside of Jerusalem, the Gush (short for Gush Etzion: settlement areas that were built after the 1967 war) is host to vineyards and endless fields of olive trees. Members of local communities are utilizing ingredients that are grown nearby to create and sell organic wine, small-batch ales and brined goods. Small coffee roasters are opening as are companies making hand-crafted chocolates.
While accessible by bus, the best way to get into Gush Etzion is with a car. You can easily eat your way through the “block.” Try to arrange ahead of time, as many of these businesses are small and require reservations.
Lone Tree Brewery
Brewer Susan Levin says there were two things she missed when she moved to Israel from the U.S. almost seven years ago: Sundays and good beer. While there was nothing she could do about Sundays, she and business partner David Shire opened up the Lone Tree Brewery to help bring artisan beer culture to Israel.
The nano-brewery, churns out four types of ale and always has two on tap for visitors to taste. Try Lone Tree’s seasonal ale: the Pomegranate Date Ale that is available during summer through sukkot (the first batch is set to be tapped at the beginning of July). It’s made with pomegranate juice and silan (date paste). For a different flavor, check out their California Steam Ale, which is made with a yeast that is traditionally cultivated for stouts. Alternatively, try a bottle of their Oatmeal Stout — available for 15 shekels.
Tours of the brewery must be pre-arranged and 10 shekels covers the tour and a beer tasting. Contact Susan Levin (972) 54 234 5439 or their facebook page.
The only organic winery in the Gush, Ferency grows grapes for their four varietals (two whites and two reds): sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, merlot and cabernet sauvignon and other yearly blends. Vinter Gershon Ferency, who hails from New England, says he is “basically self-taught” and his philosophy is to tinker as little with the wine as possible. Try a flight of their kosher and organic wines after a tour of the winery. They’ll even take you on a short trek to a nearby winery that dates back to the Second Temple Period.
Reservations are highly recommended. Call (972) 2 9932490. www.gershonferency.com.
Even though Israel has a great reputation for coffee, many Israelis turn to instant as their go-to. Yakir Hyman is determined to change that with his “micro-nano” roasting plant. Buying unroasted (green) coffee beans in the Shuk (outdoor market) in Jerusalem, Hyman roasts beans from the Limu region in Ethiopia and makes custom blends for local customers.
At 42 shekels for 230 grams (about $10 for half a pound), this is the type of coffee you can use in a French press, espresso machine or percolator. The specific coffee he has perfected has a smooth full-bodied not acidic taste, and as Hyman says is “freaking good.”
When you need a break from touring, stop by Gavna restaurant for a meal. The bistro has stunning views and serves up delicious breakfasts, vegetarian dishes and fresh fish. For the appetizer course, check out Gavna’s polenta dish with corn, sweet potato, goat cheese and pesto, served on baby greens and topped with tangy labane yogurt. For the main dish, try the Korean-style steamed salmon wrapped in mango leaves that is served with steamed vegetables and risotto cooked in coconut milk.
Open Monday 8:30am-11:30pm, Tuesday-Thursday 8:30am-11pm; Friday 8:30-12pm, Sunday 8:30am-11pm. (972) 2-5336036, www.gavna.co.il.
Run the husband and wife team Sarah and David Gross, Cookie Crave has made their name by turning out American sweets in the Holy Land. Their repertoire includes cake pops — a dense cake on a stick dipped in chocolate — and cookies with edible photos among other options. Everything is baked fresh, so call ahead to place your order. They also deliver their sweets to Jerusalem hotels and sometimes as far as Tel Aviv.