This past summer, I had the amazing chance to spend six weeks in Israel with my family. We really got to see what it was like to LIVE in Israel. We arrived toward the end of June and two weeks later we heard our first emergency siren. The siren didn't really worry me or my kids, but all the calls from friends and relatives helped me realize that my Israeli cousins weren't worried for our safety, but for our sanity. We readjusted to this new normal with a profound faith in our Army and the people of Israel who were remarkably resilient during these difficult days.
We made some changes to our trip and moved north where we got to spend more time with family. The events of the summer didn't hold us back from all the eating we had planned. Before the trip, I had been researching all the Israel food tours that have popped up in recent years. There are many companies that offer all kinds of culinary tours, here are a few I have been in touch with (feel free to add any that you have used in the comments below:
Due to timing, I did my own tour of the Tel Aviv Carmel Market and Machaneh Yehuda. Pictured here is a Hummus shop in the Carmel market. I heard great things about this Hummus shop that looked like an old synagogue, but I didn't get a chance to eat there, because we were too full from an Israeli breakfast.
Machaneh Yehuda was a zoo and not easy to navigate with three kids, but our favorite stall was the halva guys. They offer plenty of free tastes of the multitude of flavors they sell and my kids had a ball picking out some to take home. Next time I plan to try the Shuk Bites tour, where you take a self-guided tour that points you to the best tastes at the market. I also won't go on a Friday.
Our best tour this trip was the Tel Aviv tour by Delicious Israel. Delicious Israel is a food tour company run by Inbal Baum, an Israeli who was brought up in the US. She gave up a promising career as a New York lawyer for her lifelong passion for food and history. She has started a successful business organzing food tours and cooking classes in Tel Aviv. Inbal introduced us to her favorite shops and sites as we walked from the Jaffa Port to the Levinsky market.
Upon leaving the Jaffa Port we had our first bite, and it was an unbelievable hummus that will forever change the way I think about hummus. While I loved the whole experience, I particularly loved dipping raw onion into the dense, creamy spread. It allowed me to eat more without filling up on the pita (as much).
We had a few other tasty treats and learned about Jaffa oranges and walked through the Jaffa flea market, but the real highlight for me was our visit to the historic Levinsky market. The market has been around since the 1920s and is recently enjoying a resurgence of interest by Israeli foodies and tourists. It has a unique mix of old and new shops for spices, baked goods, cheese, delis and more.
I’m still dreaming of the soda guy! Everyone that experiences Benny's sodas get hooked on the amazing natural flavors he concocts in his closet-sized laboratory. Fellow blogger, Shulie shares her experience and a recipe on the Forward here. We loved it so much I came back with my kids (check them out on Instagram) and now have my oldest son working on his own sodas – look out Benny!
We also loved the antipasto platter from one of the local gourmet shops. They had the most unbelievable olives and homemade stuffed grape leaves. We tried crispy potato borekas right out of the oven and an interesting frozen dessert drink called Faloodeh, made with rice vermicelli, sugar and rose water. Definitely a one-of-a-kind experience!
A food tour is a wonderful way to experience the history, culture and cuisine of a city. They can be customized for your taste, kashrut level or family interests and can really personalize the travel experience.
I highly recommend trying a food tour next time you are in Israel.
If you have done one in Israel or anywhere else, please share your experience in the comments below.