I spent last week in Israel, mostly Tel Aviv, with some stops in Jerusalem and Haifa. It wan an amazing experience on so many levels. The food? Strange and unusual at times, but mostly delicious. Here’s a look at what I ate:
We had a lot of falafel in Israel. It’s their “food on the go” the same way you might grab a fast food burger in the United States. This was one of the better ones. For those of you have never had falafel, they’re little balls made of chickpeas stuffed in a pita with garnishes. This one had really great veggie slaw and pickles in the middle and tahini over the whole thing. It was delicious, and I’m usually not a huge falafel fan.
Almost every dinner in Israel began with a bunch of miniature salad dishes like this, including cole slaw, carrots, beets, and baba ganouj. They give your table enough for everyone to try a spoonful of everything, but not so much that you ruin your appetite for the main course (you can, however, get refills on anything you really like).
Because I was there as part of a delegation and thus went to a lot of catered receptions and meetings, meals were often served buffet-style. This was one of my favorites because the buffet line was filled with lots of yummy veggies, kebob, and – one of my favorite Israeli dishes – shakshouka. The shakshouka is the pouched egg in red sauce you see at the top left in the above picture. This dish was sometimes also served at breakfast.
I didn’t take a picture of it, but the Israeli style breakfasts were not my cup of tea. They typically serviced diced fruit, veggies, cheese, and yogurt. Of course, they had some western-style options as well, like cereal, so it was fine, but I just don’t have a taste for the more savory dishes like cheese and veggies in the morning. They did always have tons of croissants which was delish.
One of the best meals we had was lunch at this little restaurant which served everything on a grill top. After the traditional salads, they brought out streak, chicken, lamb kebob, and sausages all over a bed of rice and baby potatoes. So good!
Almost every meal was followed by dessert – usually either fruit, sherbert, or a chocolate souffle. Many of the restaurants we went to were kosher, which means that dairy and meat are not served in the same meal. So, desserts can be tricky (most have milk in them). The parve ice cream (non-dairy ice cream) was pretty gross. But I usually went for the chocolate souffles or fruit, where were really good!
Speaking of fruit, my absolute favorite food experience in Israel was all the fruit juices and smoothies. Everything is made fresh over there and the Jaffa oranges are second to none. In Tel Aviv, where we spent most of the trip, there was a fruit juice and smoothy stand every two or three blocks. They’d ask you what you want as a base (orange juice, milk, etc.) and then which fruits you’d like to include (apple, kiwi, pomegranate, banana, grapefruit, etc.) and what other flavors you’d like on top (ginger, mint, etc.). Then they’d make it right in front of you. No sugars added, just fresh, delicious juice. I’m still dreaming about the yummy fruit juice over there. Yum! And every business meeting I went to, there was always fresh orange juice on the table, which tastes nothing like the OJ you get in the United States.
While in Israel, we also had a ton of fish, lots of yummy homemade bread, and brisket at this one little restaurant in Jerusalem that is making my mouth water at the mere thought of it. The food was definitely not what I was used to eating, but it was pretty darn tasty!
Big thanks to Consulate General of Israel in New York and the Israeli Ministry of Trade for organizing and inviting me to take part in this trip!