|Spice shops in Tel Aviv's Carmel market show a Moroccan influence
When I told my office about my trip to Israel, one coworker predicted lots of gefilte fish and bagels, while another said he had heard the sights were great, but not so much the food. Well, sorry, but wrong and wrong. Whether you've heard the food in Israel is great or middling, it's actually even better (though a taste for hummus and falafel is helpful).
There's very little bland Jewish-grandma food -- instead it's a spicy stew of cultures that's predominantly Middle Eastern (hummus, pita, tahini, tabbouli), with significant North African flavors (harissa, couscous) and a dash of Eastern European and Russian influence (schnitzel, dumplings, lots of beets). Add a zillion salads of imaginatively-prepared fresh vegetables, a huge variety of breads including the best pita ever, and some typical Mediterranean seafood (excellent branzino, lots of squid) and you've got Israeli food.
I was invited by Friends of Tel Aviv University and the Israeli Ministry of Tourism to meet up with folks from the bustling Israeli film and TV businesses as well as tour the sights, and I'm already missing the country's fresh, healthy food culture. In fact, I'd love to go back for a more in-depth explanation of the country's Druze, Arab, Yemenite and Egyptian foods, as well as the kibbutz-to-table farm restaurants I heard about. And the famous eggplant-egg pita sandwiches.
|Nissim's Turkish burekas are stuffed with cheese, spinach or potato, with a tender crust made with yogurt.
|Tasting a mellow Israeli goat's milk cheese resembling gouda
|heavenly halva at Carmel market
|Egpytian cook Julie at her Tel Aviv restaurant
|North African style spices
Here's a good article on the markets of Tel Aviv.
|Tel Aviv's Dallal restaurant has a shady patio and several airy rooms inside
|Shlomoh Vdoron's hummus: smooth, creamy, spicy and smoky
Here's more on Yemenite bakeries and restaurants and here's more on top hummus spots of Tel Aviv.
|Shlomo Cohen is Tel Aviv's operatic coffee seller
|Vicky tapas restaurant at the old Jaffa train station complex
The Carmel market area, Yemenite quarter, Neve Tzedek and the train station are all very walkable if the heat and humidity are at tolerable levels. Just remember that although Tel Aviv is a very secular city, not much is likely to be open from Friday evening until Saturday evening.
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