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Eating Israel – A Culinary Adventure. A Few Highlights …

Post Date: May 31, 2017 by josiemounsey


Our group  tour from February 27 to March 6, 2017, was led by friend and food writer, Bonnie Stern, and was an amazing whirlwind of visits to historical sites, hands-on cooking workshops and demonstrations, visits to food markets and food/wine operations, not to mention the delicious array of food served to us.




Started in 22BCE by Herod the Great, the city was once one of the great ports of antiquity, rivalling harbours such as Alexandria and Carthage. Over time, the city fell into ruin and was swallowed by shifting, windblown sands. In 1940, with the establishment of Kibbutz Sdot Yam, farmers found bits and pieces of the old city while tilling the land, and archaeologists moved in.


















Akko (Acre)

Green domes, slender minarets, towering ramparts, deep moats, church towers, secret passageways, and subterranean vaults, seduce visitors. In 638CE, the Arabs conquered Akko, taking it from the Byzantines.





















Zichron Ya’akov

Our two-night stay is at the stunning Elma Arts Luxury Hotel, where our accommodation is mostly in ‘cottages’. The main building was originally a sanitorium, but in 2005 Lily Elstein purchased it and turned it into a center for the arts and a boutique hotel. The town of Zichron Ya’akov is named after Baron Edmond de Rothschild’s father, Jacob, and is best known for its pioneering role in Israel’s wine industry (Carmel Winery).



















In Magdala, the birthplace of Mary Magdalene, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Father Juan Solana, papal appointee, explains that in 2009, during mandatory archaeological tests required for building a guest-house for pilgrims, a remarkable discovery was made. A 1st Century city, synagogue, and the remains of a once-prosperous fishing industry, were unearthed. Jesus is thought to have taught here. Excavations continue, with new discoveries being made. Part of the Magdala complex, Duc in Altum has been called “the most unique spiritual centre in the Holy Land”. With its unique boat-shaped altar and view of the Sea of Galilee, this chapel commemorates Jesus preaching from the boat.






























A visit to Magdala isn’t complete without sampling some of the delicious Arab-Palestinian dishes at Magdalena.
























Ein Kerem
This former Arab village in the Judaen Hills, where John the Baptist is said to have been born, is my favourite place in Israel. Our first visit to the village was to Chef Ezra Kedem’s kitchen.



































Later in the tour, we returned to Ein Kerem, this time to enjoy a delicious lunch cooked by Chef Tomer Niv of Rama’s Kitchen which was based in Nataf in the Judaen Hills. In November 2016, Rama’s Kitchen burned down in the fires sweeping the area, so lunch was at Tomer’s temporary location in Ein Kerem, where he continues the vision of serving local, seasonal ingredients.





























Josie and Joe enjoy the sunshine in the courtyard at the beautiful Inbal Hotel, where we stay for two nights.

























Our tour of the Old City is led by Chef Moshe Basson, one of Israel’s most renowned chefs and the owner and chef of Eucalyptus, Jerusalem.
























The historic Vatican-owned Notre Dame of Jerusalem Centre, where we have a light supper in the enclosed roof-top restaurant. Over 40 types of cheese are served here.































On Friday, March 3, after checking out of the Inbal Hotel, we head to the Israel Museum, founded in the Givat Ram neighbourhood of Jerusalem, where knowledgeable Museum guide, Deborah Applebaum, leads us on a special tour depicting the history of food in Jerusalem. The middle picture above is of Zedek ve Shalom synagogue from Suriname, which is one of several synagogues housed in the museum. In the grounds of the museum, an urn-shaped building, the Shrine of the Book, contains the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest biblical manuscripts in the world, dating back to the Bar Kochba Revolt (132-135CE). Understandably, photography is not allowed in there.
































Tel Aviv

Shabbat Dinner is at the home of Keren and Yael (shown standing) of Habanot (the girls), Tel Aviv. We chomped our way through seven courses, with multiple dishes in each course! To work off the food, Josie joined a group walking back to the Dan Hotel!






























Sunday morning, our walk along the seafront to the north Tel Aviv port, takes us to our workshop and lunch at the Bulthaup Academy with MasterChef winner and microbiologist, Dr. Nof Atamna Ismaeel.











































Late afternoon, it’s time for a hands-on Challah and Babka workshop with Uri Scheft, founder of Lehamim Bakery, Tel Aviv, and Breads Bakery, New York.





























On the last day, after a tour of the Levinsky Market, Gil Hovav, a leading culinary journalist and Israel’s first celebrity chef, takes us to Maiar, a new Middle Eastern restaurant in the boutique Alma Hotel. The young Chef, Osama Dalal, creates a fusion of classical dishes, many of which he learned from his Palestinian grandmother.



































Our Farewell Dinner is at the stunning new Danon Cooking School in the north Tel Aviv port. Considered the mentor of many Israeli chefs, Chef Sabina Valdman shared her recipes and invaluable tips.



The delicious dinner was a fitting way to end our tour. Our grateful thanks to Bonnie Stern for a fabulous, delicious, and interesting tour, and to our amazing guide, Judy Goldman, who really is the best. In the words of Bonnie Stern:  “Our tour is over, but our memories will last forever.”.

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