The Best of Food, The Worst of Food
If you are at all a Foodie (a term I'm not fond of - but what the heck) then you are probably aware that Israel has any amazing restaurant scene. With the freshest ingredients at hand Israeli Chefs have become some of the most adventuresome and inventive players on the scene. But like everywhere else in the world, better - meaning higher quality ingredients, freshness, presentation, unusual combinations and very little on the plate - means higher prices. Tel Aviv is especially exciting because many restaurants are not kosher and seafood is a main staple.
My good friend Yael and I like to treat ourselves once in awhile and try out different places. We always sit at the bar thinking we will not indulge too much. Never works. Below you can see some photos taken in the past couple of years.
This dish is from the Hotel Montefiore, a small boutique hotel with great ambience and even better food. For some unknown reason this is called Moules Mariniere. It is certainly mussells but the saffron and the cilantro are not traditional - but the dish is all the better for it.
At The Norman, another boutique hotel in Lev Tel Aviv, we sat at the bar and although you don't see any food, some was consumed. The bar tender knows how to make a proper cocktail and the best part - the bar is called the Library Bar with comfortable chairs and books.
Yael and I were happy to sit at their beautifully polished mahogony bar. I am not adventurous in my cocktail choices. I like greyhounds, martinis...end of list.
And then of course there is dessert. We usually share one, but this time it had to be two because berries were in season and Yael needs her chocolate. Another great restaurant, Downtown - David and Yossef. The cake was a perfect phere and when the hot sauce was poured on it erupted like a volcano.
There is very good food in Israel that is not expensive and is healthy and readily available. The best סביח (sabich) on the planet is to be found at Effi's on Tchernikovsky Street (more on that in another post altogether). Vegetables and fruits are inexpensive in the shuk. Every coffee bar and reasonably priced venue includes salad - with everything. Fresh juice stands can be found every 50 meters. There is no excuse for what follows.
Mall and supermarket fever hit Israel in the 80s replacing many small one room markets called מכולת (mekolet) or כול בו (kol bo) which have been around for a very long time. Then the unthinkable happened. Following on the heels of the success of large freezer sections and processed foods, the convenience stores arrived. I will not name them. They are numerous and each gas company has its own store right beside the pumps. They profer every manner of food product that does not require any thought or work - just unwrap and eat.
What is most surprising is that these stores have successfully entrenched themselves in medical centers. In Israel, hospitals rarely stand alone. They are usually part of a large campus of diagnostic and treatment centers which often include housing for families of patients. Almost everyone onf these campuses has a mall and each mall has a number of convenience stores.
Tel HaShomer boasts the םופרמרקט (Supermarket) with its very own כלאב זול (Club Zol - Cheap Club) brought to you by Pillsbury.
Best yet, there are no Pillsbury products that are available for sale. No cinnamon rolls, no crescents, nothing. On offer are baked goods that the market makes that are supplied by Pillsbury. So you can buy pizza at the counter which has been made out of Pillsbury products. You can buy microwave brownie mix and all sorts of "pastries" that are impossible to distinguish one from the other. And you can buy soda and chips and "bagette-im" - and luggage. Truly terrifying.
I hope this trend disappears. I hope it goes the way of Walmart in the States. But I fear easy, bad food is here to stay. I read yesterday that after a 6 year hiatus Burger King is returning to Israel. בתאיבון ya'll.