Kosher Travel

 

Hummus: Israel’s Hidden Treasure?

 

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Before I moved to Israel five years ago, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what was considered to be the “national food” of Israel.  Even though I grew up in the United States, far from the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, I remember my mother telling me that falafel was sold on almost every street corner in Israel. She described it as being similar to the hot dog vendors I would see on every corner in New York City, or the soft pretzel vendors you would see on the streets of Philadelphia.

What my mother didn’t tell me was that Israeli falafel was NOTHING without its “partner in crime”, hummus. Even in the fanciest of restaurants or the most unusual events here in Israel, hummus somehow becomes part of the menu.   From hummus served with meat, at the Basarim restaurant in Tiberias; to hummus with mushrooms at Marvad Kasamim (The Magic Carpet) in Jerusalem; to the local hummusiyah (hummus vendor/restaurant), the flavor of hummus is ubiquitous in Israel.


 

Mardi Gras and Jewish New Orleans

 

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New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA) is a city steeped in history and influenced by Europe, the Caribbean, Africa and beyond.  It is known for gumbo, late night Jazz, historic neighborhoods and amazing festivals throughout the year.  Mardi Gras is one of the most well known celebrations in New Orleans that will be celebrated on February 21 this year.  It is just a few weeks before the Jewish holiday of Purim, often referred to as the Jewish Mardi Gras, and can be a great theme for your Purim seudah.

Jewish life in New Orleans is complicated.  Legend has it that an unknown Jewish peddler came to New Orleans many years ago.  While there, his horse died, so he decided to stay and that was the beginning of Jewish New Orleans.   History tells us that there were three waves of Jewish immigration to Louisiana.  The first Jews came in the 1700s and were Spanish and Portuguese traders.  The next wave came in mid-19th century mostly from Germany and Alsace-Lorraine.  The final wave came in the late 19th and early 20th century consisting of mostly Eastern European Ashkenazi Jews.  Still, the Jewish community remains small and by 2005, there were 10,000 Jews in New Orleans, the smallest Jewish population of any major city.


 

An Inspiring Trip to Thailand

 

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About 8 years ago, before I started a family, I traveled to Thailand with my husband.  It is a trip I will never forget and if I have a chance to go everywhere else on my bucket list I would definitely go back.  For those interested, there is an active Chabad network all around Thailand where you can find a warm meal for Shabbat and Shabbat services.

One of the highlights of my trip were staying in a really fancy five-star hotel for less money than a 2 star hotel in the US.  Another was accidentally taking a non air conditioned train on a two hour trip to see the Bridge on the River Kwai.  It was one of those crazy fun experiences, which required multiple showers upon returning to the hotel to get the soot out of my hair and off my face, but the experience of bonding with the locals who didn’t speak a word of English and couldn’t understand why we would be traveling on a second class train (neither did I, to be honest) but they were so kind and sweet to us.  Maybe it was pity?


 

Food of Istanbul for Tu B’Shevat

 

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The smells and tastes of the fresh spices, herbs, vegetables and fruits in the Turkish market linger in my nose, on my tongue and in my mind. How better to retain these memories my recent travel to Istanbul than by recreating them in my own kitchen. Starting with this inspiration, I then realized that Tu B’Shevat begins on the eve of February 7, 2012. Tu B’Shevat celebrates a New Year for the Trees-specifically the fruit of the tree and the vine. It’s a celebration of renewal and ecological awareness.  I picked up a non kosher cookbook I had bought before my trip about the food and customs of Turkey; and there, in the beginning pages, is a column referencing the publisher’s Ethical Trading Policy. They acknowledge that they use a lot of wood pulp to create the paper for printing their books. To balance that, they have a program to plant new trees to replace the ones they are using in order to assure that forests are maintained in an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible way. I decided to work with this book and a Sephardic Kosher cookbook I bought in the Zulfaris Museum gift shop, in Istanbul, to bring you recipes that are delicious, can be made in kosher kitchens and that also reflect the characteristics of Tu B’shevat.

Tu B’Shevat is all about the seven species (Shivat Haminim) that are plentiful in Israel and are mentioned in the Bible. They are: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. To mark the holiday in the simplest way, many people make a point of eating from this group of fruits and school children plant trees. Another custom, observed by many, is to prepare a Tu B’Shevat Seder modeled after the Passover Seder and which includes four cups of wine: both red and white. This custom began in the 17th century with the Kabbalists from Safed and spread from Safed to Sephardic communities from Turkey, Italy and Greece to Europe, Asia and North Africa.


 

A Trip to Istanbul

 

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I don’t know why I had always wanted to go to Turkey, but my husband agreed to go for our 40th anniversary. It was incredible!


 

Jewish Italian Cooking

 

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I hope you enjoyed traveling with me, with a taste of Jewish Rome, Jewish Florence and Jewish Venice.  I want to share with you a wonderful experience I had cooking in Rome with Lisa.

Lisa is an amazing woman who knows her way around the kitchen — even if that kitchen is no bigger than my bathroom, with a tiny oven and no microwave!   I guess I can’t complain anymore about my “small” kitchen.  Lisa does everything with a small paring knife in her hand, refusing the cutting board below.  Talk about knife skills!


 

A Taste of Jewish Venice

 

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Venice is a magical city.  It seems to float on water.  Boats pass through the Grand Canal.  Small tributaries navigated by colorful gondoliers flow between medieval stone buildings awash in faded pastel.  Hidden bridges lead you to narrow cobblestone streets filled with tourists and eager merchants selling masks, decorative glass and, of course, pizza.

Venice is also home to a remarkable Jewish community that can trace its history over five centuries.  On March 29, 1516, a growing population of Jews, including many refugees from Spain, were required to live in a relatively sparsely populated section of Venice used primarily for manufacturing.  By law, Jews were restricted from most occupations, except medicine and money lending — inspiring Shakespeare’s Shylock.  Jewish men were forced to wear a yellow hat as a form of identification and Jews were not permitted to leave the locked square after dark.  Thus, Venice became the first ghetto.


 

A Taste of Jewish Florence

 

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The renaissance is still very much alive in Florence.  A medieval city preserving its unique place between the Uffizi and the iPhone.   From the Ponte Vecchio to the doors of Ghiberti, the awe inspiring David and the Duomo Santa Maria Del Fiore, I walk through the cobblestone streets and wonder if life would have turned out differently if I paid a little more attention during arts and crafts in kindergarten.

Beginning in the 15th century, the nascent Florentine Jewish community began to assert itself in banking and lending at the invitation of Lorenzo the Magnificent.  Conditions worsened during the following century and Jews were confined to a ghetto and restricted from most trades.  In 1848, the walls of the ghetto were opened and Jews were free to live wherever they pleased.


 

A Taste of Jewish Rome

 

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In the shadow of St. Peter’s Basilica, against the backdrop of the Coliseum, it may seem crazy to think of Rome as a Jewish city.  However,   after four days here, I could not help but think about how much Jews are inextricably bound up in the history of ancient Rome, how Jews were central characters in the drama that would capture the imagination and faith of millions from the halls of the Vatican and how Jews emerged from the ghetto to become a vibrant minority in modern Rome.

To come to this understanding, it helped that I was in the hands of an expert storyteller and historian, Roy Doliner and his equally gifted associate David Walden.  Their cultural association, Rome for Jews, has been guiding Jewish visitors on tours of the great sights of the eternal city for 15 years.  Together, David and Roy led me on a two-thousand year old journey from the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE, depicted in the famous Arch of Titus standing amid the ruins of the Roman Forum near the Palatine Hill, through the halls of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel where numerous Jewish references are found on the painted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the dramatic busts of Roman emperors discussed in our very own Talmud.  Talk about history coming alive!


 

A Culinary Trip to Panama City

 

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When two single Jewish women travel in Panama City for a much needed vacation, they can expect to be wined and dined every single evening. And when there are enough good kosher restaurants, over a half dozen, you can bet that these two single girls were happy to oblige. Our friend’s parents alerted the neighborhood of our arrival and every night, there would be a knock at the door and gentleman would sweep us away to a different restaurant. Unfortunately, none of these gentlemen was memorable enough.

But the food was.


 

Ten Best Jewish Travel Sites in Las Vegas

 

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Photo Credit: misterbisson

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas and despite the deep recession that has sapped a great deal of strength from this city, there is still a whole lot happening in Vegas. The collapse of the new construction market and a general decline in tourism and convention business have made Vegas more affordable than ever before and midweek rates at four and five star hotels are available at prices so low you will think a zero is missing. If you are able to pry yourself away from the sportsbook or roulette table, you can take advantage of the many “only in Vegas” experiences that are offered daily and nightly and make Las Vegas a fantastic getaway. Another thing that is happening in Las Vegas is the tremendous growth of the Jewish community – nearly 100,000 Jews call Las Vegas home. Although (unfortunately) there are no synagogues walking distance to the hotels along the Las Vegas Strip, the surrounding area has twenty synagogues, two mikvaot and about a half dozen Kosher restaurants (many which will deliver food for those staying over Shabbat or Yom Tov).


 

Top Jewish Travel Sights of Chicago

 

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Although Chicago is known by some as the “Second City” it is a destination of choice for travelers drawn to its world-class cultural attractions, diverse neighborhoods and architectural wonders. Chicago is known for its world-famous museums, fantastic shopping, lively nightlife, world-class sporting events and a thriving theater scene that is now spoken of in the same breath as New York’s Great White Way.  The Chicago Theatre, Goodman, Bank of America Theatre, Cadillac Palace, Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University and the Ford Center have made Chicago a must visit for theater lovers everywhere.

Visitors from around the world who come to Chicago leave in awe of its architectural marvels. From historic landmark buildings to contemporary masterpieces, Chicago is the home to some of the most unique and innovative designs that have ever shaped American architecture. The city is a living museum of architecture featuring the work of such greats as Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Helmut Jahn and others.


 

Best Jewish Travel Ideas for Boston

 

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On the evening of April 18, 1775, the sexton of the Old North Church climbed the steeple and held high two lanterns as a signal from Paul Revere that the British were heading to Lexington and Concord (just a few miles from Boston) by sea and not by land. This fateful event sparked the American Revolution and assured Paul Revere’s place in American history.  No matter what means of transportation you take to get to the city of Boston, you will love the time you spend here.

The Boston area ranks seventh in Jewish population among U.S. metropolitan areas.  The surrounding communities of Brighton, Brookline, Cambridge and Newton have vibrant and well-attended synagogues, restaurants, day schools and community centers that are enriched by a highly educated lay and professional leadership – many with ties to the large number of prestigious colleges and universities in the area, including Harvard, MIT, Tufts, Hebrew College, Boston University, Boston College and Brandeis University.


 

ln Honor of Israel’s Independence Day

 

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If you can eat only one meal in Israel, choose breakfast. Preferably at a kibbutz.

If you can’t find a kibbutz, the morning spread at an Israeli hotel should do the trick. This lavish dairy buffet, an event everyone remembers even if the rest of their trip to the Holy Land is a blur, originates from the kibbutz.


 

Good Bye Desert, Hello Hawaii!!!

 

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For 40 years the Jews traveled the Sinai desert in search of a future, now Jews around the globe are in search of a place to relax. There’s one problem: No kosher food. Search no further because we have found the solution: Yeahthatskosher.com. Dani Klein, author of the “Yeah That’s Kosher” blog, has created a source of information for the kosher traveler. With a narrative description of his personal voyages, Dani shows us how to travel, the Kosher way. In his last trip to The Galapagos Islands, Dani explains how, “There are no kosher restaurants in the Galapagos Islands, not even vegetarian or vegan ones.” He mentions joining a kosher tour, but there is one more solution. Kosher.com has a variety of kosher meals available online. Travelers have the option of having there meals shipped to there destination, or bringing them along. Don’t get stuck or change your planes because you can’t find kosher food. Plan ahead with Yeahthatskosher.com, and kosher.com.