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10.03.2015

A kosher dinner with strangers

10 places where you can try Jewish home cooking

Israeli cuisine is incredible, and not trying it is a crime against yourself. Of course, when you come to the Holy land, you can order something local in a restaurant, but for full cultural immersion it would be a good idea to go to a hospitable home nearby for supper. And if you don’t have friends who prepare genuine humus, forshmak, shakshouka, falafel or kugel, then you probably do have a smartphone and wifi, which means that you have access to meal sharing services.
Strangely enough, it’s extremely hard to find users from Israel on these sites who hold open dinners or suppers in their homes. On Mealsharing.com you can only find two cooks (without reviews or details) and on the popular EatFeastly.com, CookApp.com, PlateCulture.com and Kitchensurfing.com there isn’t a single one. Only EatWith.com comes to the rescue, which incidentally has Israeli roots.

There’s a very respectable choice of options for Jewish home dinners (lunches and breakfasts), but JewishNews has picked the 10 most interesting. They are your entry pass (even if it’s not a very cheap one) to Jewish home cuisine. Joining your hosts to try the Jewish dinner they have prepared costs $50 on average.

1. Traditional Shabbat supper (Jerusalem)

Every evening at 8 o’clock, the married couple Alon (a linguist) and Chen (a professional chef) hold a real Shabbat supper for their guests, and 2 to 15 people can join in, including the hosts.

The two-hour banquet includes fish as an entrée, couscous with chicken or other meat as the main dish, and deserts. The guests’ reviews also mention such dishes as a soup with meatballs in semolina, white fish in herbs, grilled vegetables, stuffed artichokes and many others.

The hosts provide an appropriate atmosphere: prayers and songs are heard at the table. A Shabbat supper in this house costs $52 per guest. The next Friday banquet is planned for the 13th of March, and there are only six places left.

2. Religious suppers with Orthodox Jews (Jerusalem)

A group of friends, young Orthodox Jews who share an apartment, invite you to share a kosher supper with them every Friday. The hosts are not professional chefs, and so they prepare rather simple and traditional dishes, which their mothers and grandmothers prepared before them.

The guests are offered everything that a typical Jewish housewife puts on the table: humus, tahini, stuffed chicken, rice with onion and marrows, tuna fish pies, home-made salads, red lentils with chili pepper, hallah, apple pie, and also red and white wine. The informal atmosphere of the friendly supper in the religious style includes Kiddush, and also religious singing and prays.

Each guest pays $42, and a total of 2 to 20 guests gather at the table.

The next date is the 13th of March, and guests assembly at 7 p.m.

3. 10 steps to happiness – dinner in Neve-Tzedek (Tel Aviv)

Not far from the beach in Neve-Tzedek, a happy young couple, Keren (an artist) and Yael (a confectionary chef) hold generous dinners for good people several times a week. The menu depends on the season, and the hosts buy all the ingredients (fresh vegetables, meat and fish) at the Carmel market.

The hosts say that they bake bread themselves, and make spreads with herb butter, coriander, mint and forest nut pesto, red pepper and oregano. For a starter they prepare chili peppers stuffed with white fish, a salad of green herbs, burgul with cauliflower and dried cranberries. The main dish is beef from the local butcher, a salad of Armenian cucumbers with mint, and feta with pita bread. For desert home sweets are served.

You can join them for $54 per person, with 10 to 14 guests taking part. Although their dinners are held quite frequently, usually twice a week, they are often booked out.

The next available date is the 11th of March.

4. Breakfasts with a Jewish flavor (Tel Aviv)

While most hosts invite you to join them for dinner, Ranom and Noa invite you to breakfast. They have a large three-storey house, which can fit a huge number of guests. But the breakfast format does not involve lots of people, so the hosts are prepared to invite 4 to 10 people.

Their table is usually covered in various little plates with incredibly delicious local food. The hosts promise that guests will be served matias fillets, Lebanese cheese with olive oil and zatar, tahini, shakshouka, Arabic vegetable salad, baba ganoush, freshly baked bread, Middle Eastern coffee and baklava.

The breakfast costs $43. There aren’t any available dates on the hosts’ timetable at the moment, but you can book by messaging them from the website.

5. Gastronomic excursion to Carmel market and brunch (Tel Aviv)

Nurit, an experienced chef from Tel Aviv, will guide you around her favorite market Carmel and the Kerem Hatemanim quarter next to it. After two hours of experiencing all the nuances of the local ingredients, scents and absolute culinary bliss, guests go to have brunch at Nurit’s home, where they can try everything they bought at the market.

The menu features home-made bread, all kinds of spicy pastes and olives, jakhnun (prepared overnight), humus, home-salted fish, cheese cuts, three types of colorful and filling salads, deserts and herbal teas.

The meal usually lasts 1.5 hours, and the cost of the culinary tour with a continuation in the form of brunch costs $45. Nurit organizes gastronomical excursions for groups of 6-16 people.

6. Farmer’s meal in Galilee (Metula)

Einat is a produce farmer, growing vegetables and fruit just like her grandfather and great-grandfather did. With her husband Gidion, once a week, usually on Saturday, she holds small but very atmospheric dinners for 2-9 guests.

The special feature of these hosts is bread and salted vegetables of their own making. They prefer local seasonal ingredients: they like trout from the Jordan river, citrus fruit and olives. Einat bakes bread on hot stones at home, and she buys the flour for the bread in an Arab village not far away. The main dishes of her table are Lebanese taboulleh (essentially a local dish, as Metula is on the Lebanese border), humus and tahini. Einat emphasizes simplicity: grilled trout, juicy steaks, stuffed vegetables (for vegetarians) and various vegetable salads. The deserts are also quite straightforward: usually fresh fruit with hand-whipped cream, home-made jam and biscuits.

The meal starts at 1 p.m. and lasts 2.5 hours, and costs $46 per person.

7. Shabbat dinner at home with a gay couple and their son (Tel Aviv)

Sammy and Dan, a couple from Tel Aviv, invite you to share a Friday dinner with them. Besides the hosts and their young son Eddi, 10-20 of their friends are present, and also up to four guests, who can join in by making a booking on the website.

The menu favors vegetarian dishes and dishes with a low carbohydrate content. Given the number of guests, the dinners are held buffet style. The choice of dishes is huge: from traditional chicken soup and egg salad to fresh vegetables from the market, curried cauliflower, home-made pies and tahini, eggplant cooked in various different ways, rice and many other delicious things.

Sammy and Dan are happy to see everyone without exception. They invite couples, singles, straight and gay – in short, absolute everyone who wants to experience the atmosphere of modern Shabbat. The hosts speak Hebrew and English fluently (and a little French).

A three-hour meal costs $36 per person.

8. Dinner with a Jewish mother (and grandmother) (Tel Aviv)

Anat, who has three children and two grandchildren, invites guests to share a classic Jewish dinner with her. She also prepares Shabbat dishes on Fridays and holds master classes of Jewish dishes on Tuesdays. And on Wednesdays her guests can enjoy an ordinary, non-festive dinner.

Anat is not a cook by profession, but by her life, so to speak (it’s hard not to be with three children). Her Wednesday dinners start with a glass of Israeli wine or beer, and continue with a series of Jewish dishes including liver pate, eggplant, seasonal snacks, chicken or vegetable (for vegetarians) soup, and chicken stew with Ben Gurion rice or chulent with potatoes, onions, beans and meat, meatballs with fresh tomatoes and green peas with Persian-style white rice, a fruit platter, coffee, tea and homemade cookies. Of course, the menu may change at the hostess’s wish.

Dinner with Anat costs $52. She and her husband invite from 4 to 20 guests.

9. Home-made Hallah (Jerusalem)

If you don’t just like to eat, but like to cook as well, chef Atalya will tell and show you how to make traditional hallah just like real Jews do.

The one and a half hour master class takes place in an old house in the village of Ein Kerem. Atalya reveals the secrets of preparing dough (the techniques that help it come together ideally), and makes hallah along with her pupils. When the master class comes to an end, they try the freshly-baked bread with various snacks. Unfortunately, the host does not offer the guests drinks during the tasting session, but everyone can bring their own wine or beer. Of course, all participants can take the hallah home.

The next master-class will be held on 12 March. The lesson which costs $30 is suitable for 6-18 people.

10. Kosher dinner with a rabbi (Hollywood, Florida, США)

Rabbi and chef Avi Levy has been cooking all his life. He may not live and work in Israel, but his dishes are full of the Jewish spirit, with an emphasis on modernity.

As a child he learned to cook almost everything: from eggs and fish to meat on the grill. His mother didn’t like spending much time in the kitchen, so he had to learn to make his favorite dishes himself. Avi has worked as a kosher butcher and chef at several restaurants, so he knows absolutely everything about food. In his menus he combines Spanish and tropical culinary traditions with the American and Israeli culinary style.

The menu that Avi offers is very diverse and modern. He makes it clear that his workspace is an “no kugel zone, which has nothing in common with your Jewish grandma’s kitchen”.

You can dine with Rabbi Avi on the 18th of every month for $51 per person.

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