h1

Lechem Artisan. The World’s Best Kosher Bakery

November 12, 2007

I recently read on the Chowhound kosher forum the thread under “Best Kosher Bakery in the World- Willing to Travel” People tried to help this fellow out with their top picks in Brooklyn, Silver Spring, Miami…

Surprise, surprise the best kosher bakery in the world is actually in Israel. It is called Lechem Artisain and it is out of this world. The walls are covered floor to ceiling with wooden shelves with an endless variety of European style breads. Hearty, thick-crusted, artistic and needless to say delicious. They have many kinds of sourdough, a range of whole wheat, sundried tomato, walnut raisin, olive, rye, baguette, corn… They have great challah too, but we find it too boring in comparison.

Last year we stocked up on bread, 9 loaves, had them sliced for the freezer and only on our way home realized we had a little over a month till Passover. Let’s just say we didn’t have to sell any of this bread.

Bread aside, there is a beautiful selection of desserts, pastries and quiche. Brownies, cheesecake, babkas, strudels, fruit tarts, croissants, Danish, cookies, crackers. The best part is that these are dairy- that means NO margarine. Butter is used and therefore everything tastes that much better. If you are going to do dessert, do it right, too many kosher bakeries use margarine in everything, even goods that are dairy for other reasons.

Actually, THE best part is the gigantic wooden table in the middle of the store with tastings of EVERY product they sell- really everything. The cheesecakes, brownies, quiche, cookies – all there for self-serve sampling. Every kind of bread is piled on there too, with a crock of butter to make sure you get the full effect. Store employees float around to make sure that you properly match up what youa re tasting and want to buy with what you pick off of the shelf. There is no shame in eating from everything, twice if you want. They have an espresso machine to help you wash it all down. This is great business, everyone leaves the store with a stockpile. It is such a pleasure to go there and celebrate your taste buds. They get very busy, so it is recommended to arrive early, but it is also fun to see the hum of shoppers as they taste their way around the table.

I know of two locations, one is Raanana and the other is in Netanya. Word on the street is they are in Petah Tikva as well. It is worth the drive, don’t think twice.

Advertisements
h1

Yoko Uno

February 23, 2006

Best Sushi in Israel award. This is an amazing restaurant, that sits firmly in our top five list.   The décor is well thought-out, with a nice collection of photography hanging on the walls, asian themed, with contrasting in and out of focus figures.  There is the option to sit at the sushi bar, at cozy tables – well spaced from each other, and the intimate sofa lounge seating with low tables.  Sitting at the bar allows you to watch the chefs whizzing about their business of rolling and cutting up the sushi, they do make time to chat though.  The service is excellent and the waiters are well versed in the offerings and the preparation involved. The menu has many fish and pasta dishes that are creative and tasty.  We come to Yoko Uno for the sushi, it is the best in Israel.  As we understand, from a friend working in the diamond district, the restaurant was started by a very wealthy diamond merchant, who fancies sushi, and needed a classy place to bring his clients.  He himself keeps kosher, and found nothing in the area suited his needs, so, decided to start the restaurant himself. Also, If you are lucky enough to live or work near the Boursa in Ramat Gan, you can order take out or delivery.

Go ahead- drool over these pictures, (they are coming!)that is what they are meant for.
 

We started with the appetizer sampler for one, and wished we had ordered for two, later when we saw the larger variety presented to the table next to us.  This included tempura shitake mushrooms, tempura salmon, a breaded and fried fish and a spring roll.  We savored every bite and it was the perfect way to whet our appetite.  My husband ordered a Choya plum wine, which we’d had here before and enjoyed immensely.  Served in a martini glass, the wine is chilled and a seductive little litchi fruit sits at the bottom of the frosty glass.  It is delicious and we highly recommend it.

Then came our sushi.  There is the combo platter called John and Yoko, meant for two, but we go for the family platter.  No shame there, we were ordering this as our dinner, not an appetizer and we are big sushi lovers.  The selection in the combo platter is perfect.  There is a tempura roll- with cooked fish and crusted in black and white sesame seeds, it has an extra crispness to it and has its own sauce dribbled over it.  There are six pieces of nigiri, with tuna, salmon, and sea bream.  There is a variety of maki rolls.  This, for us at least, is the perfect amount of sushi, we are completely full, save for a little bit of room reserved for dessert. 

Bringing us to the end of our meal, we asked for the dessert sampler.  The waitress explained that this changes all the time.  On this particular night it included, passionfruit sorbet, halva wantons, a pear poached in wine and two chocolate truffles. We nibbled together, rotating in a clockwise manner around the plate, until there was just smudges of sauce and sorbet left. 

Delicious.  The prices here are very fair, and worth every agura.  We are already looking forward to our next visit, may it be soon.

h1

Darna

February 23, 2006

Make reservations for a dinner here!  We walked in off of the street and were very disappointed when the hostess said the kitchen was closed.  Seeing the looks on our faces, she said “just a minute,” checked with the kitchen staff and said they could accommodate us.  We did feel a bit rushed while ordering when she reminded us several times of the “favor” they were doing for us.

This is one of the priciest restaurants in Jerusalem.  There are some prix fixe menus that might very well be worth it, depending on your appetite and crowd.  We felt we ordered well without.  The bill for four, with a round of beers came to approx. 900 shekels. Check it out at http://www.darna.co.il

Start with the mixed salads selection.  Two kinds of marinated olives, Moroccan carrot salad, rose water cuke salad, rose water tomato relish, beet salad, beet green spread, potato salad and hot green peppers. In the middle sits a round homemade whole wheat bread sliced into thick wedges. Salt and white pepper sit in cute mini tagines on the table.

Follow the waitresses’ advice! She knows what she is talking about and guided us through the menu.  We were beyond grateful ordering the advised pastilla fassia filled with Cornish hen.  This could have been a dessert, we were all licking our chops and seriously considering ordering more, but hesitated knowing there was much more food coming.  This little meat pie is crusted in a perfectly crisp phyllo shell with top.  It is filled beautifully seasoned meat, stringy and in chunks, not ground.  Then the kicker- it was topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon.  At first I passed on it, thinking it was too weird.  This is a must.  I would go back and just order a couple of these!

We also ordered what she said was their best main dish, the mechoui.(310 shekel for 2)  The best cut of lamb(roasted baby lamb shoulder) with crispy potatoes and almonds.  This takes a while to prepare but is well worth the wait.  We also ordered an atlas mountain couscous with beef and vegetables (100 shekel).  We shied away from the tagines, which were probably excellent, and any stews with fruits.

Dessert was incredible!  Fancy – candied dried fruits and a plate of different traditional Moroccan cookies, and a third plate was a pile of what must have been toasted/probably fried individual sheets of phyllo with syrup and powdered sugar on top.   We looked down at our watches when we finished and realized it was just about midnight, and we were the only diners left in the restaurant, so we finished up with the mint tea and the bill.  Always close a meal like this with the mint tea (10 shekel a person), it just borders too sweet and gives completion. 

There was tons of food, and we took home leftovers that will provide a round 2 at home.  I am sure this food is far tastier when it is fresh out of the oven.  More than that, we will not be seated in the breathtaking décor of this Moroccan establishment.  The furniture is all imported from Morocco, and they didn’t skip a beat.  Everything is upholstered in rich thick textiles, there are ottomans, sofa seating along the walls, private rooms with inlaid tile tables, rainted wood furnitures.  The floor is all Moroccan tiles.  The lighting is all lanterns, with tons of little cutouts, so the light plays ornately throughout the room, on the walls and ceilings with patterns.  We will eat leftovers at home and dream of a future visit.

h1

Sweet Treat – Cream & Dream

December 13, 2005

We found our way over here, trying to satisfy our sweet tooths – on a budget.  That meant not sitting down and ordering dessert in some restaurant or cafe.  What do you know, we did pretty well for ourselves! 

Various people had dropped the name of this gelateria to us, and we thought it was time to check it out for ourselves.  Across from the original Big Apple Pizza, at 3 Luntz st. (right before it connects to Jaffa from Ben Yehuda) Cream & Dream had recently hoisted up an outdoor tented seating area, which is heated.  That means their ice cream is not just for the hot summer – no, it is meant to be eaten 365 days a year. If only my figure could get away with that.

Cream-N-DreamThe eye-pleasing rainbow of flavors, each one sitting in its own cubby behind the thick glass window, called to us.  Without kitschy names, they were labeled by what they were, no chubby hubby or chunky monkey – this was Vanilla, Mint Chocolate, Strawberry and so on. 

My husband knew exactly what he wanted and didn’t hesitate to order it right away. Pistachio for the man.  I, however, took the indecision as an opportunity to ask for some samplings.  I asked for three: Tiramisu, Chocolate Hazelnut and Dark Chocolate.  I went with the Dark Chocolate even though the other two were very tempting.  I always feel like I have to go with one of the flavors I try so that the sampling, from the stores’ perspective, was not in vain. 

One scoop in a cone is just 7 shekels.  I was tempted to get more but sided with moderation. In retrospect, I don’t think I could have handled more. The gelato was so rich, so creamy, that it took me over 20 minutes to finish the cone.  My husband had finished his two blocks away from the store.  He lamented the lack of chunks in his pistachio, “like Ben & Jerry’s has,” but conceded that the delicate flavor of the gelato was of superior quality. This place gets our highest recommendation.  Don’t wait, go out and get some!

h1

Tmol Shilshom. Those were the days.

December 13, 2005

When Ticho House disappointed us with a very last minute cancellation of their wine and cheese Tuesday Jazz night, we got up, annoyed, and turned to something more reliable: Tmol Shilshom.

Tmol Shilshom is cozy. Like Ticho House, it is housed in an old stone Jerusalem domacile – three of them actually. Its name is the biblical idiom closest to the word nostalgia – literally meaning “yesterday and three days ago” but used to mean “the good ol’ days” in the parlance of our times.  We usually opt for the non- smoking side.  Both sides are quaintly decorated with plush sofa chairs, upholstered mohagany chairs, antique tables and tealights shining throughout. The walls are covered with bookshelves, stuffed with books of all subjects and languages.

               Tmol

First off, they make the best commerical shakshuka in Jerusalem so far. The Best Shakshuka in Jerusalem has yet to be determined equivically – we are systematically examining the competitors – but Tmol’s is certainly high in the running.

shakshukaShakshuka is hebrew for eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce. At Tmol they ask you if you can handle the “charif” when you order, offering a mild version as well. They also serve theirs with an excellent fresh salad (with herb vinnaigrette and a dollop of labane) and with their delicious home-made bread – full of flax seeds and sesame. We took the waitress up on her offer of a special selection of dips and spreads for 12 shekel instead of the usual twenty-something and she brought them out with the delectible bread straight away. There was a pesto, a sun dried tomato spread, a bean dip and a balsamic dip.  All were tasty.

 

dips2The shakshuka arrives in a steaming hot cast iron skillet.  It will burn you, let it cool.  Wait and it will not disappoint, the yolks will run when you prick them with your fork.

 

Ordered a beer. The bottle was cold, but the beer was not. I have to assume this was a one-time oversight.

 

salmonThe Salmon in the white wine and fig sauce came with a side of baked sweet potato and green salad. The salmon was dry and we don’t recommend it.

 

If you are there to eat, stick to the hearty salads, the pastas or the shakshuka. Coming specifically for dessert is a good idea too- or with an old friend to sit and drink coffee, or the hot cocoa with marshmallows.  They have a nice selection of hot drinks.  And best of all, they are perfectly used to folks sitting around for hours with a mug of something, that turns from steamy to cold as they while away the time chatting or reading.  You will not get any rolling eyes or subtle hints about vacating. 

  For the record – we do keep kosher, and have no complexes about it.  Tmol is under the Jersualem Rabbinate.

So overall, this place is awesome.  It is a Yerushalmi treasure and we will always go back, specifically for the atmosphere, it is romantic and heartwarming, only missing a fireplace!

 

h1

Pomegranates (רימון).

December 7, 2005

 

pom-smallThis is just a really sexy fruit. Deep red, shiny, beady seeds hiding beneath a tough leathery skin. Once you get inside, just like a heart, the seeds are stored in chambers. It can be labor intensive plucking out all of the seeds before eating, so some people just bite into the clusters, juicing the bits and pieces in their mouths and either spitting out the pulp or, as one of your bloggers does, swallows – seeds and all.

You first see them right around Rosh HaShana – the Jewish New Year, but that is just the start of their season. To truly experience pomegranate ecstasy, one must hit the shuk now: November-December.

This is when you can get these holy delectable delights by the kilo for between 6 and 10 shekels a kilo (approx. .70-$1.00 a pound). They are at the height of their flavor, firm and bursting with juice. Their are two kinds, sweet and tart. We like them both, equally, though the tart are usually a bit more expensive for some reason. Having tasted pomegranates internationally- India, Italy, France and in the US, we can confidently say that those grown right here in Israel taste infinitely better.

pom-holdingPomegranates are known to have all sorts of health benefits. When we volunteered at a kibbutz that grew organic poms, they would sell the skins and seeds that remained after juice-pressing to a pharmaceutical company that used them in a cancer drug. They are energizing, and are thought to be an aphrodisiac as well. Pomegranate juice has more antioxidants than green tea, is full of folic acid and has antiseptic uses.

La’Briyut- To good health!

*** Bonus Fact – The French and Spanish words for hand grenades are the same as for the pomegranate. For its similar shape and the inner shrapnel’s original seed resemblance. Similarly, in Hebrew, Rimon is the word for pomegranate and grenade.

How to best open a pomegranate (first seen implemented by Yaron from Yavniel):

bowl-o-pompom-cutCut the top off, make a deep X in the top of the fruit and then dig your fingers into the intersection of lacerations and pry it open.