Category Archives: Restaurants

Dining In The Dark

New York City, November 1965

Even though I was just shy of being three years old I have some vague memories of the Northeast Blackout of 1965.  I remember being in the house with my mother, the kitchen lit with candles.  My mother was worried about my father, most probably trapped in the bowels of the New York subway system.  She and I sat in the kitchen, and she fed me spoonfuls of something (sorry, my memory is not that great) by candlelight.

I can say that my meal with Ju-Boy the other night was a bit similar, except that there was no candlelight, but there were spoonfuls of something…

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Suspended Reality: Escape to the North — Part 1

Once again Ju-Boy and I packed our bags, made sure children and dog were safe and snug, made sure there was good music in the car, and escaped.  We do this often, at least twice or three times a year.  With both of us in the Chapter Two of our lives this is something that is not a treat, it is a necessity.  Ju-Boy explains this very well:  we each have baggage, and we each have packages.  The baggage is the flotsam of our previous life without each other that we are still dealing with, sometimes on a daily basis.  The packages are the jetsam that we have each brought into the marriage, children, philosophies and political beliefs.  As happy as we are with our lives, sometimes we need to escape…

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Suspended Reality



I may have mentioned once or twice, or twenty times, that Ju-Boy and I are the parental units of a blended family.  Sometimes we can be one big happy Brady Bunch, and at other times we resemble the Manson family.  With a large cast of characters, we all have our ways of dealing with the situation.  Ju-Boy and I prefer to deal with our reality by running away from it.  Every now and again we will find someone to watch the dog and just disappear…

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Theory of Relativity

Once upon a time About three months ago I had a birthday.  I woke up to presents, birthday cards, and even baked my own cake.  But way off yonder, in the Frozen North (London), my daughter Sassy and her Sabraman had their own idea for a present.  In the most clandestine of operations, money was transferred into Ju-Boy’s bank account, and he was supposed to take me out for dinner.  It was meant to be a surprise.  And… it was meant to be for my birthday.

As is the case of most of my life, man plans and God laughs.  Dinner plans were made.  First I canceled, then Ju-Boy canceled, then I canceled again.  At one point Ju-Boy decided to almost fly over the handlebars of his bicycle, and instead of going out to dinner I watched him get a few stitches in his leg (he asked the nurse for a lollipop for being such a brave boy).  What I didn’t know was that all this time Sassy was waiting for a report as to how I enjoyed her birthday present.  Ju-Boy finally confessed, and plans were made again, and canceled, and made again.  And canceled…

Do you have a wish list?  I do.  Spending a few days at the Carmel Forest Spa was at the top of the list.  That’s been checked off.  I’d been wanting for years to go to Stonehenge.  Ju-Boy made that dream come true in 2005.  One of my mini-holy grails has been to eat at MC², a gourmet vegetarian restaurant in Bitan Aharon, just north of Netanya.  Reservations were made, and canceled, made again, canceled again.  Finally, this past Monday, which just happened to be Valentine’s Day, it looked like this was going to get checked off my list as well.  We don’t normally celebrate Valentine’s Day, Jews have their own lovers’ holiday, Tu Be’Av, and we celebrated that back in August.  But I wasn’t going to let a little kid in diapers carrying a bow and arrow ruin my birthday evening, no matter how many months after my birthday it was.

The restarant was offering a special chef’s tasting menu that night in honor of Valentine’s Day — 15 courses.  We thought we were going to be in for a night of gluttinous gorging, but the courses were small, tiny, even miniscule, and yet by the end we were stuffed.  And so it began:

 

We started with some crostini with tri-color peppers, and what the restaurant called a "wheat shot" on the side

 

(Coarsely) julienned carrot sticks with a pomegranate sauce. We were underwhelmed by this dish.

Hot foccacia with a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dip -- at this point we were still hungry and fought over the dip.

Each table had a menu printed out specifying each of the courses.  At this point, consulting the list, we realized that the restaurant had skipped a course, the almond pate.  We asked the waitress and she said she would bring it immediately.

It seems that we thought immediately meant right now.  The waitress wasn’t using our dictionary, it seems.

 

The restaurant called this dish Enamored Eggplant. It was topped with tomato sprouts which tasted a lot like coriander. The cheese was feta. This was quite possibly my favorite dish... so far.

Rothschild Salad -- wilted lettuce leaves, tasteless boiled beets, bland ricotta cheese and a few caramelized pecans. I enjoyed the pecans. That's about it. Ju-Boy declared this the worst dish on the menu.

Little circle of goat cheese with nigella seeds, and a dab of pepper puree. We were starting to get bored.

Did I mention that each course, each tiny course, was brought to us and then cleared away before they brought the next course?  It started out as cute.  By the time the goat cheese dish had arrived we were losing patience.

 

Grapefruit and Campari Sorbet — this replaced the eggplant as my favorite dish. I so need to find a recipe for this!

Um… we’ve just had our palettes cleared by the sorbet, we’re ready for the main part of the meal, but where’s that almond pate?  Once again, we asked a passing waiter.  He promised to bring it out…. immediately.

 

Pea soup with walnuts, creme fraiche and chili oil. Ju-Boy loved this! You could just taste the fresh peas, although considering the fact that it was February, you could just taste the frozen peas.

At this point Ju-Boy decided to excuse himself (you know what that euphemism is for).  He came back and told me I just had to check out the restroom, so I went to freshen up (yet another euphemism).

Isn't the bathroom pretty?

This is what happens when you have a restaurant in an old building on top of a nature reserve.

I returned to our table to find that the soup had been cleared away and that Ju-Boy had inquired yet again about the almond pate.  It was coming… immediately.

 

Ravioli in a pear and cream sauce -- delicious! This is probably the one portion I would have liked supersized.

 

Basmati and wild rice, with marinated tofu, sunflower sprouts and a mint and yogurt sauce. This was delicious! Ju-Boy cleaned his plate (and a bit of my plate) and he's not a tofu lover at all!

It was just about now that a very large and beautiful beetle crawled across our table.  It was very colorful and looked like a piece of Egyptian scarab jewelry.  It was quickly whisked off our table by our waiter who apologized and said, “That’s what happens when you are right in the middle of a nature preserve.”  I was fascinated, but unfortunately, our unexpected dinner guest was gone before I could take a picture.

Surprise, surprise! Almond pate! It was NOT worth the wait.

 

The end of the “main course” part of our meal: Root Vegetables in silan (date honey) and olive oil. This was delicious, although we did get into a discussion whether a tuber is a root vegetable or not. Such a romantic meal… hmmmmm…

Dessert was not listed as a course on the menu, but we knew it was coming, and we were ready!

Fruit skewer with chocolate and vanilla sauces. We had to fight over share this. It got ugly.
Affogato: vanilla ice cream and whipped cream with some hot espresso to pour on top. Nice, but nothing to write home (or blog) about.

We had started our meal with a nice glass of shiraz each, which I didn’t photograph.  Ju-Boy ended his meal with an “upside-down” coffee.  We  well-fed and ready to go home.

On the way home, cozy and warm in the car which was lightly pelted with rain, I called Sassy and Sabraman to thank them for my birthday present.  It’s nice to still celebrate your birthday three months after the fact.  Do you think I can drag the event out for the whole year?

Holy Grail

A very unique Do Not Disturb sign

Have you ever wanted something that was just out of reach?  Sometimes it’s just there, over the horizon, you can almost taste it, but it’s just… out… of… reach!  Such is the case with the Carmel Forest Spa.  Ju-Boy and I had been wanting to go there for the longest time, ever since we first got married.

We go away at least twice or three times a year.  Living in a blended family is not as easy as the Brady Bunch made it seem.  Everyone in our family has issues, both pre-and post marriage.  Every so often Ju-Boy and I tell the kids we’re disappearing for a while.  They either stay with their other parent, or with friends, or they have a bayit rek (empty house), where they invite all their friends to come have an adult-free Shabbat together (can you spell Risky Business?).  Believe me, this is much cheaper than marriage counseling!

Taking your bicycle through Egyptian customs evoked scenes from Midnight Express

We’ve been to Eilat (and bicycled into Egypt), the Dead Sea, twee little tzimmers (bed and breakfasts) in the north, even an Alpine cottage on the Lebanese border, but we have always chaleshed (yearned as only Jews can yearn) for the Carmel Forest Spa.  I’ve been squirreling away the shekels, and we were finally able to achieve this Holy Grail of alone time for our fifth wedding anniversary.

This place was everything we had imagined.  The solarium was peaceful, the massages and treatments blissful, the meditation class relaxing (we both fell asleep and snored in class) and the food… the food was divine!  Flying to Venice for the week would have been cheaper, but this was at the top of our To Do List.

When you go to a hotel, have you ever been tempted to take away a souvenier?  You know, a towel, a robe, plumbing fixtures, plasma televisions?  Come on, fess up!  This time I was desperate to take something home with me.  Actually, not something, someone!  I wanted to make room in my suitcase for Uriya, the spa’s patissier.  All the food in the spa was amazing, but the desserts, OMG the desserts!  By Day 2 I had started pacing myself at each meal just so I could have plenty of room for Uriya’s handiwork.  The pecan pie!  The tri-chocolate pyramid!  The lemon meringue pie!  And most special and delicious of all, the halvah parfait!

Well, I didn’t get to take Uriya home with me, but I stalked him enough while I was there and he generously offered to give me the recipe for the halvah parfait.  I don’t think I could have brought Uriya home anyway, I already have Ju-Boy eclipsing my culinary talents on the savory dishes, let me still be the Queen of the Sweet Stuff at home.

Man Plans God Laughs Department:  Uriya and I spent about a month emailing each other back and forth, but in the end, unfortunately for me, the Carmel Forest would not release its halvah parfait recipe as it is still in rotation in their dining room.  So the story of my Holy Grail has a secondary Holy Grail to it, my search for halvah parfait.  It’s taken me all of July and the beginning of August, three different recipes and my own tinkering with the variations, but I think I finally got it.  It’s not exactly the intense pleasure I experienced with Uriya’s parfait, but it’s as close as I am going to get without an industrial ice cream machine… or a kidnapping.

I had to put this in a bowl and have this for breakfast just to take the photograph -- oh, the things I have to go through for my readers...

Miriyummy Halvah Parfait

  • 1/2 pound (400 grams) halvah, any flavor (I used vanilla and chocolate marbled halvah)
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cups cream (I used a non-dairy version)
  1. Grate or grind the halvah and heat it over a low flame with the water until melted.  Cool.
  2. Beat the yolks an add the sugar.  Beat for about 4 minutes until creamy and light.
  3. Beat the cream and fold into the yolk/sugar mixture.
  4. Beat the whites and fold into the mixture.
  5. Fold in the cooled halvah mixture into the fluffy creamy mixture.
  6. Freeze according to your ice cream machine or in a Tupperware.  After about 3 hours remove the parfait from the freezer and fold it all together again, as this might separate in the freezer.

So what do you do when you’ve achieved the top of your To Do List?  Slot in another Holy Grail — what do you guys think of Venice?

Man plans, God laughs, but I got a good recipe out of it in the end

Happy Days

This past Monday was Tu B’av, the Jewish holiday of love.  A lot of people call it the Jewish version of Valentine’s Day, but personally I hate comparing such a happy day in the Jewish calender to a holiday represented mainly by a baby in diapers shooting arrows at young lovers (why is his mother letting him play with arrows?).  I’m also not crazy about comparing the two days because on St. Valentine’s Day in 1349 thousands of Jews  were killed in the Strasbourg Pogrom.  I can hold a grudge for a long time.

In Biblical and Talmudic times young, single girls would dress in white and go dance in the fields in order to attract potential husbands.  A Biblical JDate, so to speak.  Today in Israel the holiday has been “Hallmarked” — it’s one of the most popular days to get married, television programming is overflowing with romantic movies and cozy little restaurants make a killing by offering a special Tu B’Av menu, with complimentary champagne.

For the past six years that Ju-Boy and I have been together I have always mentioned something about Tu B’Av.  He, the typical British alpha-male, rolls his eyes and mutters, “yeah, yeah, yeah…”  But this year… he came home early and in British caveman style, knocked me on the head and dragged me out the door by my hair.  In other words, he politely asked me to get in the car for a surprise drive.  And drive we did, and drive, and drive, and drive.  Two and a half hours later we ended up in Nahariya, a sweet but sad little city on the northern coast, spitting (and rocket) distance from Lebanon. 

Why sad?  Because Nahariya has so much potential to be a quaint little town.  There’s a man-made canal running down the center of town, beautifully gated and promenaded, but all you find in the canal is a puddle or two, and a lot of algae.  I realize there’s a water shortage going on, but the canal runs into the ocean, couldn’t the municipality just have the ocean running back up the canal at high tide to give the impression of water?  Moreover, the hotels on the main street have become run-down, looking more like the type of establishment that rents rooms by the hour, not the day.  The most expensive of these hotels is located right across the street from a well-know sausage and lunchmeat factory.  As we drove down the main drag, the smell of salami and mortadela invaded the car.  Urgh.  Add this to the three (count ’em, three) hansom cabs with bored horses parked right in the middle of the street, and I just felt so sad. 

We drove on to the beach, which was incredibly humid, but lovely, and Nahariya’s saving grace.

View of the pier from the beach

Romantic canal, romantic algae

If you're hot and thirsty, slushies to the rescue -- pick a flavor, any flavor...

View of the sunset from the pier -- nothing but sea until Malta

After walking on the beach, just one couple holding hands amid the families out to cool down and a few other romantic couples who came to watch the Mediterranean sunset, we headed eastward to a moshav called Netiv Hashayara and Arnold’s.  A restaurant with a name like Arnold’s conjures up (at least for me) images of Joanie and Chachi sharing a milkshake in a cozy booth while the Fonz polishes his jacket nearby.  Not this Arnold’s.  Run by French gourmet chef Uri Arnold, this restaurant is one of the perfect places to take your honey for a Tu B’Av meal.  Which is exactly what my honey did.  The restaurant had scrapped its regular menu in honor of the holiday and was just offering a special Tu B’Av tasting menu for NIS 188 per person (roughly US $50).  And special it was…

We started with sparkling white wine

Then the meze arrived, including the house foccacia and fatoosh

The eggplant cream was a bit bland...

... but the goose liver pate with caramelized onions was divine

Just as we thought we were almost full, the chicken and beef tortilla rolls arrived

Lamb kebabs on a bed of tehina -- I loved this, and I hate lamb

Appetizer course brought to an end with nectarine sorbet to cleanse the palate

Entrecote steak -- this is a tasting menu? Each one was huge

Beef stew in a poyke (cauldron) -- we were underwhelmed by this dish, although it could be due to the fact that we had already eaten enough for three meals, each!

Did I say we were stuffed? Our appetite was renewed when the spare ribs arrived. Ju-Boy was very, very, very happy!

We pounced on dessert before I could remember to take a picture first. Halva mousse and an ice cream cookie sandwich. We were underwhelmed, but not enough to forego devouring it all

Just when we thought dessert and the meal were over, more dessert! Dark chocolate mousse in a chocolate cup, with alien vomit sauce (sorry, I meant passionfruit). There was also a glass of mint tea (unpictured).

We were each given a parting gift, an Arnold's bottle opener/key chain

Dinner over, we waddled back to the car, groaning with both pleasure and overstuffed stomachs.  Ju-Boy knows me so well, the way to my heart is through my stomach.

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