Yesterday afternoon we took a short walk from the house to Florentin with some good friends visiting from New York. We walked across Herzl through the “furniture district” past the stores with lamps and closets and couches, cross Eilat Street and into a maze of factories. But the factories are really "manufacturers" who work in small storefronts with perhaps one or two employees, if that. Tailoring, sewing machine repair, shoe repair, watches, plastic piping, lumber, everything – a microcosm of industry as it was in the 30s.
Within seconds we could smell the bourekas (בורקס) - pastry filled with potatoes or spinach and cheese. The kind of food found all over the Middle East but nothing like what you can get in Israel – bourekas with a boiled egg, skug and pickles. Heaven, just heaven.
We stopped and picked up a few and ate them on the way. Ten meters later we were in Shuk Levinsky standing in front of our first spice store. Then the tea and herb store. Then the coffee store. Then more and more of the same. Heady aromas and wild colors. Merchants compete cheek and jowl with many of the same products but each with a slightly different feeling. The Moroccan merchants carry a few different brands from the Algerians and the Tunisians. The Yemenites and the Ethiopians entirely different grains.
Finally we reached my favorite spot, Shuk California (שוק קליפורניה), located on the corner of Levinsky and Halutzim. It has the best pistachios and apricots but it also has Persian spices and fruits. I go there to buy zoresh – tiny, sour berries to add to rice.
On the other side of the street are the date honey (סילאן), halva, tahini and and everything sweet imaginable stores. Next are the coffee stores where the coffee is ground with cardamom (הל).
Because of the proximity to beans, pulses, nuts and fruit, the market has its fair share of non-traditional restaurants as well. Some of the vegan and vegetarian places in Tel Aviv are located here.
We made it out of Shuk Levinsky with just 5 kgs of food. I carried it in my backpack and when we reached Rothschild Blvd. it was time to buy coffee for the Chemex. We managed to leave with 1 kilo of coffee and cookies. Then on course, it was time to sit down and have coffee around the corner.