Famous New York gourmet food store Dean & DeLuca is on its way to Israel: If all goes as planned, the Israeli branch of the upscale grocery store chain in the central city of Herzliya will include a café with a sitting area and a bar, as well as a delicatessen.
Harel Wizel, owner of the Fox clothing chain, considered bringing Dean & DeLuca to Israel several months ago and opening stores in local malls, but eventually decided to back down on the deal.
The negotiations with the food chain are currently being led by gastronomist and food journalist Michal Ansky together with businessman Shlomo Tzfania.
The Israeli store, which is expected to measure 690 square meters (7,427 square feet) in size, will open on the ground floor of a new office building being constructed by the Canada-Israel and Acro group, which was planned by architect Moshe Tzur, in the industrial area of Herzliya Pituach.
The building was meant to be used for offices and commerce, but Ansky appeared before the District Planning and Construction Committee and asked to extend the building’s commerce area for the establishment of the “gourmet house.”
The committee members accepted her request and approved, in an exceptional manner, the extension of the commerce area while narrowing the office space. The decision was not unanimous.
“Michal Ansky came to the committee, and surprisingly managed to convince its members to accept a concrete plan increasing the commerce space in s building in the industrial zone, just because she wants to bring some delicatessen from New York,” said committee member Dror Ezra, a representative of the Green faction who opposed the change.
Even for a veteran filmmaker whose widely praised documentaries have explored subjects as diverse as the O.J. Simpson trial, the classic American Chevrolet, the Kennedy assassination and the life of Broadway musical giant Richard Rodgers, this could be considered a rather unlikely topic.
And that might explain why Roger Sherman tends to bubble over with excitement when you get him talking about his latest project: a four-part special on Israeli cuisine scheduled to be broadcast across the United States on Public Broadcasting Service affiliated channels in 2014.
Make no mistakes about, cautions Sherman − it’s not what you think. “This is not going to be a cooking show and it’s not going to be a food show,” he says, as he sits down for a break during a recent jam-packed pre-production trip to Israel. “What I’m doing is looking at this country through the lens of food. It’s going to be part travelogue, part biblical history and part food tour.”
In the series, which will be divided into four 30-minute segments, Sherman will follow Israeli-American celebrity chef Michael Solomonov, crisscrossing Israel with him, as they search out ethnic, immigrant and regional specialties. During their journey, says Sherman, they will sample dishes at Tel Aviv’s most exclusive eateries, nibble at street food in backwater holes, and enter the kitchens of Israelis from all walks of life to discover what’s simmering in their pots.
Solomonov, the chef and owner of Philadelphia’s widely acclaimed Zahav restaurant, was born in Israel but grew up in the United States. His deep ties to both places, says Sherman, made him the perfect candidate to partner with on such a project. “He’s of both countries and both worlds − he can talk to the people in Israel in their own language but then also interpret it for American audiences.”
PBS, which has already broadcast several of Sherman’s documentaries, has committed to run the series once it is completed, but in line with its standard practices, the public broadcaster requires that filmmakers come up with their own funding for projects. Part of Sherman’s recent visit to Israel was therefore devoted to trying to interest government institutions and Israeli food companies in providing sponsorship for the series, which he says could reach 20 million viewers through PBS’s 240 affiliate stations across the United States. He also recently held what he described as a successful fundraiser in New York.
As with most of his films, Sherman will serve as the producer, director and cinematographer on this one as well. His documentaries, which have won an Emmy, a Peabody and two Academy Award nominations, are produced and distributed through Florentine Films, a company he founded with his old college roommate, Ken Burns − one of America’s best known and most successful documentary filmmakers, whose iconic film “The Civil War” was seen by 40 million viewers when it was first broadcast on PBS in 1990. Sherman’s own repertoire includes more than 15 documentaries on themes of art, music, history, science, social issues and the environment. He has also written a practical guide for making home videos.
Although born Jewish, Sherman says that until recent years he had “zero interest” in Israel and only joined a congregation for the first time six years ago. “For me, Israel was Sunday school and myths, definitely not on my Top 10 list.”
But then three years ago, his good friend Joan Nathan, the celebrated Jewish cookbook author, was leading a food tour to Israel and invited him at the last moment to tag along after another participant suddenly dropped out. Sherman had already developed a keen interest in food, thanks to his wife, Dorothy Kalins, an award-winning magazine editor who founded Saveur, a publication that specializes in essays about world cuisines.
He was well into his fifties when he first set foot in Israel and was smitten at first sight. “I was absolutely knocked out,” he recalls. “I couldn’t believe this place − the history, the beauty, the food. I had known that it’s about the same size as New Jersey, but that’s completely misleading. There’s so much complexity, so much going on here on so many different levels, the geography that encompasses so many different climates. What really interested me was that the U.S. has been called a melting pot for years, but Israel is a melting pot as much as the U.S. ever was.”
It was then that he came up with the idea of shining a light on the country by exploring its culinary diversity. As he began striking up conversations on the food tour with many of those immigrants who were part of the melting pot, he learned something even more intriguing. “For many of them, food may be one of the few happy memories they brought with them from other places.”
Sherman says he’s particularly intrigued by how many young up-and-coming Israeli chefs are taking their grandmother’s recipes and reconfiguring them today with a modern twist, including recipes for dishes that in the past they would have been ashamed to eat publicly for fear of giving away their ethnic roots.
Is Israeli cuisine really a subject that could interest millions in the American heartland? Absolutely, says Sherman, who plans to return here in September to begin shooting the series. “Most Americans are shocked to learn that Israel is one of the hottest food countries in the world,” he says. “They’re also shocked when you tell them that Israel has 250 boutique wineries. What I’m going to be telling is a different kind of story about Israel − not the story you typically see on the news. This one’s going to be a story about the merging of different cultures, a story about preserving heritage and a story about immigration. Where else in the world do you have a place this tiny with so many different food traditions?”
And if it helps improve Israel’s image abroad, he adds, all the better. “It’s definitely not my intention to make this into a commercial for Israel, but if this helps the country look better to the outside world, that’s a great side benefit.”
Hummas and Pita.
The National Football League has declared hummus the official dip of the NFL, promoting the Middle Eastern delicacy to the vast population of football fans that exist across America.
Specifically, the league chose Sabra Dipping Co., owned by PepsiCo Inc., as its official dips sponsor.
The decision comes just as the company approved its first batch of US television commercials, most likely part of a substantial campaign to bring hummus to the American masses.
Ronen Zohar, the Israeli-born CEO of Sabra, is confident that the hummus trend will catch on in the States, and that hummus will take over mayo as the next big dip to accompany cold cuts and vegetarian sandwiches.
One commercial, labeled “a guide to good dipping,” displays the different kinds of hummus Sabra offers, and the variety of items you can dip, including chicken wings, carrots, celery, and chips. Coincidentally, the typical Monday Night Football smorgasbord. The commercial goes on to advise viewers to “dip life to the fullest.”
Zohar realizes, though, that his work is cut out for him.
Currently, salsa is (obviously) the most popular dip for NFL gatherings and Super Bowl parties, producing double the sales hummus does.
However, hummus-like spreads have been growing by 14% in the States.
“Most of the people in the US never tasted hummus,” Zohar told Bloomberg. “You have to change their mindset that even if the name is strange and the brown color of the hummus is not as appetizing, it tastes wonderful.”
Mezze is a lovely little café on the corner of Balfour street, and athough it’s not exclusively vegan it offers a to-die-for all vegan breakfast.
Their “omlet” is made of tofu, chickpea flour, fresh herbs, and it comes with fresh whole grain bread, cream “cheese” made of ground nuts, and my favorite: the beetroot-sesame cream spread.
Pick a hot and a cold drink with your all-inclusive breakfast: the soy cappuccino is just perfect, and the home made herbal ice tea is probably the best one of it’s kind.
Address: 51 Ehad haam st., Tel Aviv, Israel. Tel: 972-03-6299753 Don’t forget to like their Facebook page.
Legendary Buddha Burgers were the first vegan restaurants in Israel, and by now they have restaurants in four locations, including Haifa.
These guys have just about everything on the menu what you can feel irresistible cravings for: goulash, lassagna, tacos, shniztlel, smoothies, and of course burgers of many kind. Tough choice, huh?
That’s why the happiest day is Friday, when the flagship restaurant on Herzl street holds an all day buffet brunch, offering you to try almost everything from the menu.
Address: Yehuda HaLevy 21, Tel Aviv. Tel: 03-5101222 / 333 Full English menu on their website.
Just off Allenby, taking the abandoned place of Tel Aviv’s once celebrated lesbian bar called Minerva, Zakaim is with no doubt the Queen of vegan restaurants in Israel. You got to start with an almond-arak cocktail!
While you’re sipping the liquid heaven, the open kitchen gives you the opportunity to see how the professional and friendly chefs burning the hell out of the tomatoes and eggplants for their signature tomato soup, or their famous eggplant dish – which comes with a chunk of sweet chala bread.
Surprisingly the most incredible dish is the most simple one: the fried potatoes. They are so crispy, so heart and tummy warming, that they’ll take you back in time and space to the home of your Israeli grandmother (I sadly never had).
Address: Simtat Beit HaSho’eva 20 (Alenby 98) Tel Aviv, Israel Tel: 03-613-5060 Check out Zakaim’s Facebook page.
Cheap and delish eat on King George, just by Dizengoff Center, offering Israel’s signature dish, shawarma (or gyros for the Greeks) in a vegan version.
Just as the original version, this one comes wrapped up in a pita or wholegrain tortilla, loads of fresh veggies, hummus, tahini, and amba – which is Middle-East’s answer to mango chutney. The guys also offer super satisfying burgers – my favorite one is the double cheeseburger, made with lentils, fried mushrooms, and melting veggie cheese.
As the place is open untill pretty late, it’s always the best option to cure your developing hangover after a hardcore party in Tel Aviv.
Address: King george 81, 64337 Tel Aviv, Israel, 1-700-700-358 Check out their lovely food at the Facebook page.
Un voyage en sol hébreu peut en réalité commencer ici même, au Québec. Dans une succursale de la Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ).
«Vous avez du vin d’Israël?»
«Vous voulez dire du vin casher?», répliquerait quasi immanquablement l’employé de la SAQ.
Dans l’esprit de bien des Québécois, en effet, qui dit vin d’Israël dit vin casher, en référence à un produit spécial élaboré par et pour des gens de religion juive.
Pourtant, les vignerons de cette partie du Proche-Orient cherchent à s’affranchir de cette perception.
Leurs vins, disent-ils, peuvent être bons, tout en étant par ailleurs casher.
Lorsqu’on passe quelques jours là-bas, notamment sur les hauteurs du Golan, alors qu’on entend résonner au loin les tirs d’obus syriens, on réalise que les gens de Golan Heights Winery, de Galil Mountain et de Ella Vineyards n’ont effectivement pas à rougir: leurs vins, bien que généreux en alcool, sont d’une fraîcheur inattendue. Les blancs surtout – notamment le viognier -, se comparent avantageusement à ce qui se fait par exemple en Australie ou en Californie.
L’ancien et le moderne
La scène viticole d’Israël se distingue en mariant, pour ainsi dire, l’ancien et le moderne – surtout aux yeux de gens comme nous, à peu près complètement sécularisés.
Ainsi, chez Galil Mountain, se côtoient par exemple le rabbin, vêtu et coiffé de manière très orthodoxe, et le winemaker Micha Vaadia, 46 ans, jeans, t-shirt, cheveux longs, air cool…
Lorsque le visiteur circule dans le chai en compagnie de ce dernier, on prend garde de ne toucher à rien, pas même de caresser une barrique du bout des doigts – au risque de rendre le vin impur aux yeux des juifs pratiquants.
Micha Vaadia se fait alors rassurant : il n’est pas pratiquant et il ne porte d’ailleurs pas non plus la kippa. Le bon Québécois laïc se sent déjà un peu mieux, surtout qu’il n’y a pas de rabbin dans les parages, juste quelques ouvriers religieux.