Thursday, January 31, 2013

Brasserie M&R, Tel Aviv

Brasserie M&R is so trendy ('how trendy is it?!') -- It's so trendy that it doesn't have a sign outside. And I probably never would have set foot in it, except that we're old friends with chef Gidon Horton. Openers: a salad with boutique lettuces and fat shavings of parmesan, and excellent home made crostini to sample with two spreads, a little Middle East (babaghanoush) and Eastern Europe (chopped liver). The babaghanoush: they just do it better out here. Smooth, smoky... I think it's the tahini paste, and fresh local lemons. Mediterrannean air. Something. The chopped liver: chicken livers, egg, carmelized onion, salt and pepper, not much else. Also smooth, just like in the old country. Neither lasted long. Walking on the wild side -- for Israel, anyway -- I ordered moules frites and fried calamari. The Calamaretti Fritti: spiced breadcrumb coating, perfectly cooked--al dente like pasta -- over a salad like tabouleh, except pearl pasta instead of crushed wheat. I have to take exception with the moules frites, though, because they don't actually come with frites. The waitress, when gently pressed on the issue, said 'well, they would be good with frites'. Of course they would. Dessert, well, dessert was hand picked strawberries -- probably from the fields between Tel Aviv and our house-- whipped cream, and some sort of 'Death by Chocolate' cake. With chocolate sauce. And espresso. This is trendy with backbone: good location, good eats, good service. They don't need the sign.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Kfar Saba, Israel: If I Had A Hammer

So a neighbor comes over with a couple pounds of pecans off the tree in her back yard, small but perfectly good. My boys are sizing them up, wondering how to crack them, and Aunt Shoshana behind them starts yelling, 'Patish! Patish!' My kids didn't know it meant hammer, and I saw no point in translating; Aunt Shoshana didn't anticipate or didn't care about the mess that will result from the conjunction of two boys, a hammer, a several pounds of pecans. But great heart shall not be denied, as Tolkien said, and the language barrier was crossed, pecans were eaten, and the mess was eventually cleaned up.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Dinner in Nazareth

At Diana's, which 'everyone has heard of', started as a concession stand for a movie theater, long since gone, now an upscale, wine-bottles-along-the-wall-in-cool-diagonal-bins grill. Glass fronted kitchen where we watched the cooks sear, spear, and form kebabs onto skewers to order. Palestinian staff and clientele, but except for the headscarves -- and bitter, local, homemade olives -- you really couldn't tell. The hummous was fresh, excellent, strewn with chickpeas and buttery olive oil. The tabouleh, contrary to what I'd expect, was mostly scallion and parsley, with just a scattering of cracked wheat. The abovementioned bitter local olives next to pita fresh from the oven, with a texture soft like cotton candy. Lamb grill plate, with salad and rice with lentils, followed by a child's sized cup of coffee strong enough to remove paint, spiced with minced ginger, and I think cinnamon and cardamom.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Machne Yehuda Market, Jerusalem: Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

Sometimes, you see a giant cracker that looks like a three foot tongue in the baker's window, and you think 'I must have that'. It happens to me, anyway. Honestly, if I really understood what that thing looked like, I might have had second thoughts about that picture (but posed for it anyway).
Savory, probably pita dough, with a sprinking of sesame seeds and spread single layer thin. The ends cracked like crostini, and the middle had some chew. The first move (pity) was to fold it into my backpack, so I wouldn't injure fellow shoppers. I worked this over slowly, wandering markets and alleys, for two days.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Arab Market Near Akbara, Israel

Field trip with my brother in law around the Galilee, swinging by an Arab market for road snacks, middle east style: salted and fried fava beans instead of chips. And a selection of pastries for the folks back home, scraped off the tray with putty knives. Several kinds of baklava were filled with nuts, others with sweetened goat cheese, and all soaked with a sugar and cinnamon syrup sweet enough to freeze your teeth, which didn't stop me from eating them out of hand. The orange pastries on the tray are filled with goat cheese, and colored with beta carotene.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Kfar Saba, Israel: Orthodox Juice

There's a park adjacent to the farmland behind my mother in law's house in Kfar Saba, Israel. It's got beautiful cactus, aloe, and trees, plus a medium size citrus orchard, with lots of grapefruit, plus oranges and some kind of tangerine. The heart of the park has been saved, but part of the perimeter, like much of Israel, is rapidly becoming a cluster of high rises (I call them hives for humans). During this time, the grapefruit orchard has simultaneously been prolific and totally neglected. Fruit clustered in the trees, and in various states of freshness and rot on the ground. So, since I can't read the signs that probably say 'no trespassing' or 'don't pick this fruit', and since it's pretty clear no one cares, I made several trips and came back with a found grocery bag with half a dozen or so grapefruit. Sliced to ruby flesh that bled copiously, and juiced like a sponge full of water, the quickest way to get the most value from grapefruit. As Wonka swore by mixing chocolate with a waterfall, they say nothing softens citrus like a good juggle.