I graduated college with a practical and highly useful degree in English literature. Unsure about what to do next, I decided to take a gap year traveling. I love learning about different cultures mostly through food. I hit the usual spots that American kids go: England where I ate bangers and mash, fish and chips and clotted cream. I do however, admit to eating my scones with coffee instead of tea. France is all about goose liver. Italy is made for foodies like me but I didn’t stop there. I headed on to Greece and ate all sorts of things wrapped in phyllo dough and dipped fresh veggies in tzatziki. It was in Greece where I met a group of travelers who were planning to head to Israel. Having no other idea of what to do I decided, why not?
From Cyprus you can take an 11 hour ferry boat to the Port of Haifa. After getting off in Haifa I decided to tag along with the group who were heading on to Tel Aviv. Their goal was the beach and music clubs.
I need to make a pretty bold statement here but I think it’s warranted. All foodies need to put Israel on their travel radar. I almost don’t have words for the culinary explosion in Israel. Firstly, it’s a middle eastern country, so as you can expect there is a whole lot of hummus, fresh lafa bread drizzled in olive oil and fragrant spices. Israel is also an agriculturally aggressive country so the local produce is insane. There are seriously banana plantations growing out of the Negev Desert.
The component that sets Israel food places apart, is that it is a new country inhabited by immigrants from all over the world who bring their food history with them. There are turkish pastries in the marketplace and Italian restaurants in Tel Aviv (Like Uno Italian Pizza restaurant). Hummus bars and falafel joints stand alongside sushi restaurants and and a full out French Bistro.
And to round off the experience, Israel has about 300 wineries, so quite a bit of my time was spent hopping around boutique wineries and eating fresh goat cheese. And lest you think that the wine is subpar, Israeli wines are globally competitive. I toured some bigger wineries like the Golan Heights winery and Tishbi, and also some small boutique wineries. Standouts here were Domaine du Castel and Bat Shlomo.
Here are just some suggestions if you are in Israel: In Jerusalem, Eucalyptus. The shtick here, is that all the ingredients and dishes are sourced from biblical sources. A cool concept that works in the Holy City and the food is also fantastic. Also if you are in Jerusalem and looking for cocktails, I highly recommend Gatsby. What to say about Tel Aviv? There is too much of good food. But I like Blue Sky and Herbert Samuel at the Ritz. These two restaurants are on par with anything you’ll find in Manhattan or Paris. Traveling around Israel, you can’t go wrong if you find a Hummus Eliyahu. Up north there is Zigel in Katzrin and in Netanya might I suggest Dizengoff 67? So much awesome food. So little time.