Israel Food Tours Blog - Israel Food Tours
 

(Posted by Ben)
A few months ago I came across a great recipe in the NY Times for turkey necks. I love!!!! turkey necks, and unfortunately so many people throw them away when preparing their turkey. The neck is one of the tastiest parts of the bird and can be eaten on its own, in a soup, or is a great base for a stock. One of the workshops Israel Food Tours offers is a Yemenite cooking evening, and turkey neck soup is the star of the meal. 

Recently, while visiting my folks in Portland, we made this dish and it turned out amazing. The necks are really juicy, and the tomato vegetable broth is full of flavor. The best part? You get to eat with your hands! Here's the recipe and pictures:
Ingredients:
3 large turkey necks, cut crosswise into thirds. (If using chicken necks, use six to eight necks)
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 1/4 teaspoons black pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalk, chopped
1 large onion, chopped chopped
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 large rosemary sprig
3 sage sprigs
2 thyme sprigs

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest.


Instructions:
1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Season the necks with 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook the necks, turning occasionally, until dark golden, about 10 minutes, then transfer to a plate.

3. Add the carrots, celery, onion and 4 of the garlic cloves to the skillet. Cook until the vegetables are soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Season with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until darkened, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in the wine and simmer, scraping up any browned bits at the bottom of the skillet, 2 minutes. Add the broth, rosemary, sage and thyme (tie herbs together with kitchen twine if desired). Return necks to the pot. Bring liquid to a simmer. Cover pot and place in the oven. Cook, turning necks occasionally, until they are very tender, 2 hours.

4. When the turkey necks are done, transfer to a serving platter. Bring the liquid in the pan to a boil over medium-high heat; simmer until thickened, 5 to 10 minutes. Pour the sauce over the necks. Combine the remaining garlic, parsley and lemon zest in a small bowl; sprinkle over the turkey.

An alternate preparation could be to put a few turkey necks, garlic and vegetables (once prepared as described above) into an aluminum pouch. Put the pouches in an oven pan, place in the oven and cook for 2 hours. Each person will get their own individual portion this way. 
 
Many summers, while growing up in Portland, my family would go to Black Butte in Central Oregon for a week. Central Oregon in the summer, with temperatures in the high 80's, green everywhere, view of five mountains, hiking/biking/swimming, is basically the most perfect place on this planet. One of the traditions that made each visit special was our dinner at Kokanee Cafe in Camp Sherman. My family likes the restaurant so much we once drove there from Portland (a 3.5 hour drive each way) for Father's Day dinner and headed back to Portland right afterwards. I was just in Oregon for a short visit, and after a 10+year absence I went back to Black Butte and Kokanee Cafe.

Camp Sherman is a really small town on the banks of the Metolius River, and Kokanee Cafe is small unassuming place that very much fits in to Camp Sherman. What's not unassuming about the restaurant is the awesome food they make. Growing up I would always get their quail dish, which I can vividly remember the taste of to this day. While they no longer offer this dish on the menu, they still make some great food. 
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Metolius River and Mt. Jefferson
Our dinner on this occasion started with a really nice Pinot Noir from Westland Vineyard, an Oregon winery. My first course (and probably my favorite dish of the night) was an asparagus dish presented on top of a phyllo dough pastry, topped off with a poached egg and cheese that is a cousin to parmesan. Our main dishes were all excellent. I had a duck with mushroom risotto and a lemon broth. We also ordered some delicious lamb shanks and ribeye steak as well. My brother and his girlfriend Brit split chocolate mousse and creme brulee for desert. After such a long break I had very high expectations and Kokanee Cafe came through again as it always has.  With a simple yet elegant atmosphere, a stunning location and a great locally sourced food, Kokanne Cafe really is the perfect restaurant. I just hope that my next visit comes sooner than ten years from now. 

- Ben 
 
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(By Guest Food Blogger Ariella Amshalem)

This week I was thrilled to receive an invitation to the Inbal Hotel for a private tasting of Sofia Restaurant’s completely revamped menu, created by new executive chef Moti Buchbut. Having little idea of what to expect, I put on one of my foodie girl-about-town outfits and set out excitedly. Once there I met up with three of the hotel’s executives and four other food & culture bloggers, and we were led to a beautifully set round table with a view of the hotel’s gardens, where the bright flowers lent a pleasing accent to the subdued gray, silver and natural wood tones of the room. No detail is accidental in this five star establishment -- everything from the napkins to the floral arrangements indicates someone (or a team of someones) with a fine eye for cohesion and atmosphere has been there first. 

Chef Moti, who looks exactly as you would expect -- a classically Sephardi-Israeli with a sweet smile but a manner that is all business -- greeted the table and explained that today’s tasting would be a demonstration of how the new menu was “still Italian but more right-now.” The first example was the homemade brioche with three different tapenades, in which the combination of sweet and savory was meant to arouse the appetite before the meal. The enormous brioche were unexpectedly light, just sweet enough, and went very well with all three spreads: black olive, green olive, and red pepper. Although I had needed little convincing, I could tell we were in capable hands. 

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The first course, Chef explained, was a smoked eggplant melanzana with roasted peppers, pesto, and mozzarella, wrapped in baked filo and served with a wine cream sauce, a balsamic reduction, and a fillet of tomatoes with Atlantic sea salt. The ingredients worked extremely well together, the filo’s crispness juxtaposing the eggplant’s texture very nicely and the sea salt was a great touch. The balsamic reduction got lost in the sauce, however, while the mozzarella was a bit too prevalent, making it a heavier first course than I would have preferred. 

The next course was the star of the menu: a tuna ceviche that was so beautiful it looked as though it had been arranged by a florist. Iridescent tuna dotted the plate along with radish, jewel-colored beets, sunflower sprouts, and fresh citrus. This dish tasted like summer and was accentuated with sea salt crystals and notes of white wine. All the things I love about food were present here, the use of local produce, simple preparation, flavors that are familiar yet surprising when combined, each ingredient distinct but complementary to the whole.... If I were to come back to Sofia, this would be my order. 

After the ceviche came a couple of rather forgettable courses, which isn’t to say they were not tasty, just un-special. The first was a baked mushroom plate. Attractive, but unexciting, the mushrooms were filled with cheese and fresh herbs, each atop a bed of Swiss chard -- which, I will say, was cooked to bright green perfection. The next was a cream of broccoli soup with mushrooms and garlic crostini which, as another blogger pointed out, was something easily made at home. The presentation, though, did win my heart: it was served in a white mug and topped with a dollop of steamed milk, and anything reminiscent of a cup of coffee is a winner with me. 

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The next dish was unforgettable, but not in the same way as the ceviche. Chef described it as a fatoush salad with fresh herbs, lox, grissini and smoked mozzarella, topped with a dollop of cream and kalamata olives. Unfortunately, lox and smoked mozzarella are not my favorite flavors, but I could see this being a good feature on the restaurant’s brunch menu, if the salad had a little more zip -- maybe more pepper or lemon -- and the grissini were thinner and crispier, less like old fashioned bread-sticks. Also, the presentation, with the mozzarella wrapped around the over-sized grissini, felt a bit tacky compared with the elegance of the other courses. Overall, the general consensus at the table was that this salad was not on the same level as the food we’d seen thus far.

The next course (if you can believe the food was still coming), was linguine made by hand in-house, with a creamy herb sauce, snow peas and magda squash. The pasta had a great texture, just thick enough, and the sauce was not too heavy, allowing the flavors of the herbs to come through noticeably. I loved this dish, a great one to share with your dining companion along with a glass of crisp white wine.

Although pasta on top of pasta seemed a a little redundant, I was also happy to taste the canalone with spinach, Roquefort, mozzarella, bulgarian and french cheeses, served with coulis of red pepper and tomato, a bit of cream, and a small sunflower sprout salad. This plate was another example of the chef’s attention to elegance of composition, and when the hotel manager revealed that Chef Moti had first trained as a pastry chef it was evident that he had brought his pastry-eye for beauty and color to his plating style.

Sadly, it was time for me to leave as the tuna course was served, but I did manage to get a glimpse of a healthy portion of red tuna beside a delicate parmesan crisp. I understand there was a salmon dish as well and, though I don’t think I could have manged it, I was a little sad to miss out on dessert. From what I heard meringue, passion fruit, and berry coulis were involved...and that it was all quite delicious.

Thank you to the Inbal Hotel and to Chef Moti Buchbut. Your new menu is certainly recommendable, sophisticated, and does our beautiful city justice as a culinary hot spot.  

(By Ariella Amshalem)

For more information and bookings, Inbal Hotel
They can also be found on Twitter: @inbalhotel
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1. What are we supposed to do with THAT!? 
[overheard from one of the chefs (who will remain nameless) while eyeing a massive tray full of chicken livers]

2. Will you marry me?
 
[2 out of the 4 chefs proposed to their girlfriends while in Israel! Jewish Agency, how about paying for their honeymoon here?]

3. Is the roux brown enough?

[a roux being central to just about everything they cooked]

4. Who knew, creole can be kosher AND taste good?

[said by, well, everyone who tasted the food, in awe of the good tasting Kosher creole food]

5. When are we eating falafel?
[a common chant from the chefs looking for authentic street food]

And a special addition, overheard from a staff member:
"The next delegation we are hosting will be a dietitian exchange!"

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Chefs John Besh and Alon Shaya
Trip Highlights
As it turned out, a one week visit is all Rosh Ha'ayin needed to assure lifelong relationships and support from 4 celebrity chefs from New Orleans. The goal of unifying the two communities was simplified by bringing a group of people together with similar values and a shared passion for food.

I was personally inspired to continue with this kind of bond - it is exactly the concept that I have for Israel Food Tours - sharing what we love with people we appreciate.  I am working hard now so that Israel Food Tours can help replicate this type of meaningful experience for other chefs. 

At the end of such a positive experience, as personal toast after toast highlighted on the last day, the only thing left to say is L'chaim Jewish Agency Partnership 2gether Rosh Ha'ayin and New Orleans - let this project live, breath, and continue to connect Kosher Creole!


Here is a brief recap of an amazing with and trip highlights:


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"Every man needs to know how to make a roux. Every girl asks her guy if he can make a roux and only then will she accept him as her boyfriend. So now I have 4 boys and you can be sure they are making some fine roux!"

The southern charm that oozes out of Chef John Besh was widely appreciate on his recent visit to Israel.  Although he worked his way through a week of cooking in steamy Kosher kitchens, I couldn't help but notice that his blue eyes remained wide-eyed and cool, constantly engaged with the people and scene around him.  His presence left a strong impression in the Rosh Ha'ayin and Israeli community, and we were lucky that he also left behind his Kosher Creole Jambalaya.  

Why did you choose Gumbo and Jambalaya as the dishes to cook in Israel? 
I wanted to share the New Orleans style one-pot country cooking with the people of Israel.  The majority of creole cooking stems from these two dishes - they serve as the basis for creole cuisine.  I have learned that the one-pot cooking is common in many ethnic cuisines in Israel, so it is nice that we could share this.  The New Orleans Jewish community has adapted creole cuisine to meet Kosher laws, and I have made replacements in my dishes to suit this community; some of this I brought with me to Israel. 

Besides the one-pot cooking, do you notice other similarities in Israeli and New Orleans cuisine?
Yes, quite a few similarities. Because we are a port city - just like Tel Aviv - many cultures come together from all over the world. Each culture leaves their piece in the cuisine, like a base of our cooking is the Spanish sofrito and paprika.  Gumbo comes from an African influence.  Our food has a reputation for being spicy, and that is not necessarily the case, we just really believe in seasoning our food, which is true in the food here from what I can taste.  

Also, there is also a lot of abundance in NOLA, just as there seems to be here. We are approximately the same latitude, but in our neck of the woods it rains all the time. The fields are very fruitful all year with okra, peppers, collard, mustard and other greens.  Our Creole tomatoes are the most delicious in the world.  I love the way Israelis use tomatoes in many of the dishes. 

What is the best part about being a chef?
The common bond you get to share with those around you.  Recently I had the chance to work with the Make-a-Wish Foundation.  An 11 year-old girl came all the way to New Orleans from Wisconsin because she wanted to cook with me in my restaurant.  That was such a powerful experience.  It was really more rewarding than any other visit from a “famous person” combined.  Each of us has been given a great talent and it is such a pleasure for me to be able to use my talent to make people happy.  It is ideal to spend my days this way.

Where else would you like to visit in Israel?
I would love to spend a little more time everywhere, in particular Eilat, the Galilee and Haifa areas.

What has been the most rewarding experience in Israel?
Getting to cook for the Israel Defense Force soldiers.  I am not sure whether it is the same in this country, but attention to our soldiers is often left to the side, and it will be rewarding to give them the attention (and good food) they deserve for their hard work.

Have you had any new food experiences here?
I have spent a significant amount of time in the Mediterranean, so the flavors are familiar to me. I did experience combinations of flavors, like Moroccan Harissa using pepper and olive oils, that were done is such a simple way that it tasted like a fresh experience.  The combination of Za’atar, sumac, olive oil and garlic is done passionately here and really creates rich flavor in the foods.  

What would you like to cook for an Israeli politician?
Well, I did get to cook for Ehud Barak when he was in New Orleans.  He ate at Domenica and he was pretty excited that Chef Alon is Israeli also. 

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Recipe: Chicken and lamb sausage jambalaya 

Yields 12-15 servings 
Ingredients:
3        pounds lamb sausage, diced
8        skinless and boneless chicken thighs, cut roughly 1 inch cubes
1/2    c   olive oil   
6        each   large onions, diced
4        each   bell peppers, diced
10      stalks  celery, diced
12      cloves garlic, minced
9        cups parboiled/converted white rice
6        cups crushed canned tomatoes
6        cups rich chicken broth
2        teaspoons dried thyme
2        dried bay leaves
3        Tablespoons smoked paprika
1        Tablespoon cayenne pepper
2        tablespoon celery salt
1        tablespoon black pepper
1        tablespoon celery salt
2        bunches green onions, chopped

Preparation:
Heat a cast iron pot and start rendering the sausage in the olive oil, while stirring slowly over medium heat. While the sausage is rendering, go ahead and season the chicken thighs with salt and black pepper. Add the chicken to the pot and continue to stir intermittently. Cook the chicken until it becomes golden brown in color.

After the chicken has browned add the onions to the pot and allow them to brown as well, prior to adding the bell peppers, garlic and celery. Be sure to continue stiring from time to time in an effort that will ensure everything in the pot cooks evenly. Next add the rice and remaining dry ingredients to the pot while stiring frequently for the next 3 minutes. Raise the heat to high once again and add the tomatoes and chicken stock to the pot. Bring the liquid to a boil before reducing the heat to medium/low and covering the pot for 15 minutes.

After the rice has simmered for 15 minutes go ahead, remove the lid from the pot and fold in the green onions. Turn the heat off and cover the pot again for an additional 10 minutes. 

Remove the lid, fluff the Jambalaya and serve!

 
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While on the recent visit of the New Orleans chef delegation, I had the pleasure of chatting with Liatte Nicole Miller at the Flam Winery.  Liatte and I spoke a lot about the personal touch the winery takes care to include in every aspect of the wine-making process, and I could feel this even in our conversation as her genuine passion for the wines shined through her words.  

Tell me a bit about the Flam Winery
Flam is a family-owned boutique winery that was started in 1998; we produce about 120,000 bottles each year, and all of the bottles produced since 2010 are Kosher.  There are five vineyards throughout the country, three in the Judean hills area and two in the upper Galilee. The winery was founded by the brothers Golan and Gilad – Golan is the winemaker and Gilad is in charge of business development.  Kami, their mother is the CEO and Israel Flam, the father, has been in the wine industry for 35 years and does the tours as well as consults throughout the process

Boutique is a very trendy word these days, what does it signify for the winery?
Boutique wine-making in Israel does not just mean "small", it is about being specialized. For us it means being particular and artisanal. We have a high-class product because of the care and resources that go into making the wine. At the big wineries you will find industrial processing, which has an obvious effect on the taste of the fruit and the results.

Golan Flam, the winemaker says that good wine starts in the vineyard. Just as with delicious food, it is all about the origins.

Golan goes to check the vineyards all the time to make sure that the vines are doing well and that the farmers are playing out his vision for the vines.  He really treats the vines as his babies - making sure to give them attention and, in a way, training them. The large vineyards have automatic systems that water and treat the vines, but this does not maximize the potential of the vines. For example, if we know there is a heatwave coming, we will wait a few days to water the vines. The same mentality of personalization and care is how we treat all aspects of the process - human resources, technology (ie our high end bottling machine), tanks with cooling jackets, brand new American and French barrels that we only keep for 3 years. Even our labels are made by a wine label designer in Italy.  

We would like to be able to keep everything local, but we just don't have oak, corks, or certain grape varietals - so we have to get some things abroad in order not to compromise on quality.  Everything is based on making lots of careful choices and on trust and building foundations for this trust.

Even our blog is specialized - we focus our posts on what we believe to be relevant for our wine-appreciating audience.  For example, we recently wrote about our testing of various corks and the differences between the corks - some seal better, some helps the wine breath better.  This is information that we believe our audience can enjoy and will be of use to wine-lovers. 

Are Israelis drinking more wine these days? 
Only in recent years is the market in Israel expanding enough that people are really identifying themselves with a certain wine label or region. People are now going to restaurants and being able to say 'I want a Golan heights wine'. 

I also hope for another trend in Israel will be learning to really appreciate the wine-making process. That when people are paying for their wine they will be able to imagine the long line of events and people that went into it. So many people work hard to make something that can be appreciated in Israel and abroad. We are not yet Australia or Napa but we are on the right track! Golan was trained in Italy and Australia and was influenced by his traditional Italian training, yet brings to the wine-making process many new techniques due to the hot climate we have in Israel.

You are very passionate when you speak about the wines, where does this love of wine come from?
Wine is an art that I can continue to learn about and figure out forever.  I am an enthusiast because it used to be just a hobby and now I realize that the amount of knowledge and tastes are endless. There is something new about it yet it is also so primal.  Wine-making started thousands of years ago when people picked grapes and just left them outside by mistake.  It is a cool scientific process that we are refining.  

Also, it is amazing the amount of energy and manpower and attention that goes into making the wine at Flam – we are making a product that I enjoy and respect.  I wouldn't drive back and forth every day from Tel Aviv into the Judean Hills if I didn't feel this excitement.

Is Flam a socially responsible winery? 
I make sure to only work in places that are socially responsible - for instance my last job was at the Farmer's Market.  I believe that our society does not emphasize that we should learn more about what we are putting into our mouths and where it comes from. Although we are creatures of comfort and it is easier not to, it is our obligation to start asking where our food is coming from.  If we do this, we can have a positive impact on everything from the soil we eat from to the bees we are destroying to global warming. Flam is socially responsible in the sense that our vine-growers and farmers can make a solid living with good wages and benefits. We could easily find cheaper labor, but this company will not compromise in that sense. Besides, farming is important in itself – keeping green lands, producing good Israeli products and recycling wastewater instead of just wasting it.

What is Flam's biggest hit?
The Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.  The wine was aged for 1.5 years in new French oak barrels, then another year in the bottle.  This wine will be excellent until 2020. 

The Flam Classico - it is about 60% of what we make.  One of the reasons the Classico is such a hit is that it is an easy wine to drink without too much complexity. Perhaps there will be a trend in Israel for more complex wines.

What is the biggest challenge Flam faces in the future?
Our biggest challenges are in a few areas – in marketing we need to reach out to new international audiences and be recognized as a quality country for producing good wines.  To continue to develop the highest quality vineyards, which is still relatively new here, finding new vine growing areas and making sheer wilderness into vineyards, and finding and inventing a high standard for Israeli varietals. There's always place for improvement – but just to keep making elegant Israeli wines, despite the heat.

When we are trying to think ahead and plan for 2013 and beyond, we have to consider that some of our vineyards may not be ours anymore [in part because of territorial disputes] - survival comes into every aspect of our story. We don't know what story we will be telling in a few years. In Israel we are telling a story of rich land and Zionism, and we really just can't predict what will be. It is an existential issue that Napa doesn't need to address.  
In short, if you like our wine , buy it now and put it in your cellar, we don't know if the cab reserve will be available after 2010. 
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"I would love to see the day when Israeli wines are not congregated in the stores under the label "Kosher", but rather under "Israel" just as the other wines are gathered by region. ~Alan Franco (pictured here, right, with Israel Flam, left)
 
There is nothing better on the food tours than when we find a new, interesting recipe.  This recipe was provided to a wonderful family visiting from my hometown (Washington, DC) by Ori, one of the spice sellers in the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv. 

Ori the Spice Guy's White Bean Soup Recipe
Ingredients:
White beans, soaked overnight and rinsed thoroughly (both before going to sleep and before using the next day)
1 potato 
1 onion
1 cup canola oil
10 cups of water
2 tsp Moroccan Paprika
Small package of tomato paste (88%)
2 tbsp of soup seasoning (or bouillon cube)
2 level tbsp of Hawaij seasoning for soup
1 green chile, chopped to small pieces
1 tbsp salt
8 garlic cloves

Preparation
1. Cube the potato and onion. 
2. Using a large pot add 1 cup of canola oil and cook the potato and onion in the oil until the onion is browned. 
3. Add 10 cups of water and the white beans to the large pot. 
4. Cook for approximately 50 minutes, checking the beans for softness after 50 minutes.  Cook longer as required. 
5. Add to the pot the Moroccan paprika, tomato paste, soup seasoning, Hawaij, salt, crushed garlic, and green chile.
6. Cook for another 15 minutes. 
7. Serve bean soup with parsley, if desired, as garnish 
 
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All good things must end, and this one ended with a multi-course lunch at chef Chaim Tibi’s restaurant Muscat in Mitzpe Hayamim. (There are worse ways to end things, no?) After touring the organic farms on Mitzpe Hayamim’s premises, members of the delegation bid their farewells to their new friends over dishes that included freshly baked focaccia, filo dough filled with spiced veal and pine nuts, homemade sausage with mustard and duck in pomegranate caramel sauce. 

Chef Jacques Leonardi astutely noticed that I would not be finishing my leg of duck, and before I could blink, it had been swept away to a more appreciative audience. He and I both agree that it’s a pity to see excellent food go to waste. 

Chef John Besh told the group that beyond having a chance to learn more about his faith, the visit to Israel had brought him past the small talk that so often dominates conversation at home. People had opened up to him about things that mattered to them, and he felt the connections he had forged were genuine, he said. 

Moved by the impact of the visit, the group members promised each other that there would be more such collaborations in the future — and soon. 

(By Liz Steinberg)


 
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Chef Jacques Leonardi at the Golan Heights Winery
9:30 A.M. isn’t too early for wine, especially not when you’ve been up since 4 A.M. After a sunrise artillery demonstration at the base in the Golan Heights, the group headed to the Golan Heights Winery in Katzrin for a tasting. On the table were 10 wines, including two that won the winery top awards in Europe earlier this year: the 2009 Yarden Chardonnay Odem Organic Vineyard, a rich, oaky white; and the 2009 Yarden Heights Wine, a sweet dessert Gewurtztraminer with a surprisingly large array of fruity flavors. Crowd-pleasers included the HeightsWine; the 2007 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon El Rom Vineyard, a single-vineyard wine; and the 2010 Yarden Gewurtztraminer, a dry wine with a sweet tropical fruit smell.

The winery, for the record, doesn’t consider 9:30 A.M. too early either — they’ve started as early as 6:30 A.M., said Michael Avery, the winemaker leading the tasting.

Chef Alon Shaya told the group that he saw Israeli wines catching a foothold — if not in the United States as a whole, then at least in his restaurant. Customers come in and ask for “a chardonnay,” they’re served an Israeli wine, and the next time they come and ask for that specific Israeli chardonnay, he explained.

There are inevitable side effects to any good wine tasting, and the bus ride away from the winery was a joyous one.

“I don’t understand why everyone’s happier than before,” guide Miri Cohen said jokingly.

(By Liz Steinberg)

 
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It’s one of the hottest topics on the Israeli culinary scene. Nearly every panel discussion with chefs and food personalities addresses the matter — what is Israeli cuisine? Does it even exist?

And plenty of the country’s most renowned chefs say that it doesn’t. It’s too early to call it Israeli cuisine; there is no such thing; it’s beginning to form but it’s not there yet, they say.

Alon Shaya feels otherwise.

“I’ve heard a lot of chefs say since I’ve been here . . . that there’s no Israeli cuisine,” he explained. “I know why they say that,” he added. “I don’t’ know how many times [Israel] has doubled in size in the last 50 years,” but every time that happens, things are bound to change.

“I crave shwarma, falafel, labaneh, Israeli salad. That’s what I crave when I’m here. And that’s what I consider Israeli food,” he said. “The people are what make Israel Israel, and the land is what makes Israel Israel. Not the name.

“The food that exists here is Israeli cuisine – food that people eat every day. What everyone loves about food here.

“The more people discount that, the less special that becomes,” he said.

These are the things people should embrace and work with — chefs need to turn these dishes into something.   “The more they try to manipulate ingredients, technique, history, the less Israeli cuisine you’re going to have,” he said.  Shaya qualified his words — he’s speaking as an outsider, not a local. This also gives him a less jaded perspective, he said.

Sometimes it takes an outsider to see the forest for the trees.

(By Liz Steinberg)