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Beating the summer heat

by michael July 23 2010
WeatherFoodThings to do
Hot weather
It's brutal out there - just ask this dude

It's almost August in Jerusalem. This can mean any number of things - watermelon season is in full swing at the shuk, the Beer Festival is coming to town - but for many of us in Jerusalem, one thing will be most noticeable: It is really, really hot. Sure, the relative height of the Judean Hills and the occasional mountain breeze means that during the hot months Jerusalem residents suffer less than their compatriots in the Levantine bayou that is summertime Tel Aviv - but when it's 90 degrees and there hasn't been a cloud in the sky since March and the desert sun is glaring fiercely off the glowing white Jerusalem stone, the difference can seem at times to be mostly academic.

Jerusalemite doesn't want you to melt out there. Jerusalemite wants you to have only good feelings about Jerusalem - not a parched mouth, sunstroke and an unnecessary intimacy with local medical care. So here's some information about keeping yourself in the cool and out of the Hadassah emergency room.

  • If your skin is any lighter than the fuul on your hummus (not a scientific gauge), and you're going to be outside for awhile, put on some sunscreen. If your skin turns to bacon, you may run into trouble with some locals who have issues with that particular meat.
  • Wear a hat. Hats are spiffy, and they keep your head from sucking in an undue amount of sun.
  • Keep hydrated. This is damned important. It's easy to forget just how quickly the baking sun of the Middle East can deplete your body's vital water supply. Always carry a big 1.5 liter bottle of water (only 6 NIS usually) for everyone in your party if you're going to be walking around outside for any significant length of time.
  • Many stores, restaurants and hotels are air-conditioned. Take advantage of this fact. Step inside. Have a smoothie. Cool down. Take life slow. For what should you hurry?
  • If you're staying in an apartment without air conditioning (yes, these still exist), keep these key Hebrew words in mind: kivunei avir. It means "directions of air [flow]," and refers to a central concept in better Jerusalem construction. Unlike apartments in cooler countries which limit their windows to one wall and heat up like a pizza oven during summer, Israeli apartments almost always have windows on at least two sides to facilitate air flow and exchange. Open these windows. Put a fan in front of one. Feel sweet relief.
  • Eat an ice cream cone. You are in Jerusalem, and you deserve it.

Stay cool out there, peoples.

Image courtesy of noneck from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Matza hits the big time for Jerusalem

by ben March 25 2010
HolidaysFoodMunicipal newsNewsReligionThings to do

biggest-matza-ever-jerusalemite.jpg

With just four days to go until the big holiday, Passover fever is sweeping Jerusalem, hard-core.

Preparations are underway for an extremely festive week, when Jerusalemites will be celebrating the Exodus in style, complete with loads of cultural offerings, an arts-and-crafts street fair, and even a festival showcasing the city's most impressive English-language performance ensembles.

But first, we need to burn our chametz and bake our matza (click through to check out awesome videos).

Speaking of baking matza, pictured above is the honorable Mayor Nir Barkat, posing with a world record-setting largest piece of matza ever. The oversized cracker measures over 3 meters in diameter and weighs in at 60 kilo. It was made by a team of 40 people, two of whom wore rappelling gear to be able to reach the edges while hanging from above. Try hiding that afikoman.

The matza went on display at Safra Square today, as part of a pre-holiday "toast" (nyuk) for City Hall's employees. Barkat is posing with Aryeh Goldberg, one of the owners of the Irenstein Matza factory, which spearheaded the baking, and Racheli Ivenboim, the CEO of the Meir Panim NGO, whose headquarters plans on displaying the matza to the general public through the end of the holiday.

Of course, this is hardly the first world record set in Jerusalem. In recent months, we've witnessed the unfurling of the world's largest flag, the grilling of the world's largest serving of meurav Yerushalmi, and the whipping of the world's largest plate of hummus. The jury is still out, though, on which of the four world record-breaking events is least nightmare-inducing.

Happy Passover, lovers of Jerusalem, from the Jerusalemite team.

Photo courtesy of Yossi Mor for the Municipality of Jerusalem.

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It's pretty much Passover time in Jerusalem

by ben April 07 2009
HolidaysFoodFor the kidsMusicPop cultureReligionThings to do

baking-matza-jlmite-0704.jpg

That's right. The harvest moon swells, and soon we'll be singing the Song of Songs. The smells of abrasive detergents and overdone toast waft. The bees are a-buzzing and the ants are a-crawling everywhere.

And hundreds and thousands of pilgrims are ascending to the City of Gold, where the feeling that big things are happening is palpable. Schools are on vacation, tourist season is gaining momentum, and virtually every cultural institution is gearing up to offer the best in springtime high art and lowbrow entertainment.

Over at our sibling website, Jerusalem.com (read more about Jerusalemite's relationship with that site, if you'd like, here), we've got heaps and heaps of unleavened content relating to the holiday....

  • For our picks of the most tempting kosher restaurants that'll be open on Passover, broken down by cuisine style, check out this article.
  • For our coverage of City Arts Encounter, an exciting visual art project taking place in unexpected places all over the city all month long, check out this piece.
  • For comprehensive listings of Jerusalem chol hamoed Passover events, check out the calendar on the right-hand side of every page on the site. It's constantly being updated, too.
  • Our roundup of the most worthwhile children's-themed Passover events should be ready for publication on Wednesday, when it should appear at the top of this page.
  • Our coverage of Birkat Hachama, an ancient Jewish ritual that has the whole world tantilized and focused on the Western Wall on Wednesday morning can be found here.

And that's just the beginning. Loads more of Pesach-riffic content is still in the works. Happy matza time from Jerusalemite.

Photo of shmura matza baking courtesy of elibrody from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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The top five Jerusalem soup joints

by michael December 10 2008
Best of JerusalemFoodThings to do
Dinner at Mordoch
Makes you want to sing that Sinatra classic: "Three kubbeh in a soup bowl..."

You look a little damp. Come inside or you'll catch a cold. Here, sit down. You know what'll make you feel better? A nice steaming hot bowl of soup, just like mom used to make. You're in the right place for it.

Welcome, readers, to the soup capital of the world. Maybe you think Jewish soup begins and ends with soggy matzah balls bobbing in chicken broth, but that's as much a misconception as thinking Italian food begins and ends with spaghetti. When the Jews flooded back into Israel from the far-flung corners of the Diaspora, each of them came bearing soup, and from the crimson beet-flavored borscht to the...uh...crimson, beet-flavored marak kubbeh adom, every one is uniquely delicious. So strap on your bibs, shine your spoons and prepare for a Biblical deluge of broth as Jerusalemite reveals the top five soup joints in Jerusalem.

The sign says it all: "At Mordoch, we roll kubbeh." What are kubbeh, you ask? Why, they're an entire class of meat-stuffed bulgur and semolina dumplings, often deep-fried and crispy, but in the context of soup, they're big soft globes of pure epicurean pleasure. Coming to Israel courtesy of the Jews of Kurdistan, kubbeh soup is wildly popular all over the country, and if its Mecca is the heavily Kurdish Jerusalem neighborhood around the Machane Yehuda market, its Kaaba is the modest family-run restaurant Mordoch. While every stew, meat dish and mezze Mordoch makes is wonderful, their reputation is built on their kubbeh soup, which comes in three varieties: marak kubbeh adom, "red kubbeh soup," a sweet and savory deep red soup based on beets and other hearty root vegetables; kubbeh hamousta, "sour kubbeh," featuring a sour broth made greenish from an abundance of chard and hinting at its northern Iraqi origins with its Aramaic name; and kubbeh shel pa'am, "old-school kubbeh," similar to hamousta but more garlicky. And the regular old meat soup is pretty rad too. And here's a bit of Jerusalem trivia: Mordoch's kubbeh-rolling motto comes from the time generations ago when legions of Kurdish grandmas from Nachlaot would descend on Mordoch and roll kubbeh in the kitchen all day as a way of hanging out and sharing gossip (with Nachlaot rapidly turning into another glitzy, vacant foreign-absentee-landlord playground, those days are sadly behind us).

HaMarakiya
There's something about soup that goes hand-in-hand with funky DIY sensibilities, and a city can hardly claim to be home to a thriving underground scene without an indie soup joint. Enter HaMarakiya (more or less, "the Soupery"), a soup haven frequented by both Jerusalem's young and trendy and the city's LGBT community. The cozily eclectic Goa-meets-Little House on the Prairie decor tells you exactly what to expect: a rotating selection of hearty homemade-style vegetarian soups as well as a few fixed favorites, including Jerusalem standby marak batata (sweet potato soup) and shakshuka (not a soup, but still tasty). Space is limited and what few seats there are have a tendancy to fill up fast, so try to arrive right as the place opens at 18:00 sharp.

AzuraAzura
Competing with heavy-hitters Mordoch and Rachmo for the lofty title of Machane Yehuda's finest Israeli soul food joint, Azura is hidden away at the far end of the grubby Iraqi Shuk (an aisle of Iraqi vegetable sellers within Machane Yehuda), right in front of a mountain of discarded produce boxes and trimmings. Don't let the grungy ambience deter you: this is serious Jerusalem food, and the lunch lines snaking through the Iraqi Shuk bear daily testament. Although mostly known for its hummus, Azura dishes out quite the kubbeh soup - its seasoned sixty-something Iraqi regulars would accept nothing less.

 

Marvad HaksamimMarvad Haksamim
Someone visiting Jerusalem for the first time might find it hard to believe, but not too terribly long ago, King George Street landmark Marvad Haksamim ("The Magic Carpet") used to be just about the only sit-down restaurant in downtown Jerusalem. Things have changed, and so has Marvad: the restaurant has gone chain, with satellite locations on Emek Refaim and in Malcha. The menu, mostly Yemeni but with a pronounced streak of culinary ecumenism, is famously hit-or-miss: the hummus is terrible, but the lineup of soups is killer. Yemen represents with a don't-miss beef and coriander soup, and the hardcore-but-tasty calf's foot soup; other standouts include red and hamousta kubbeh, Moroccan lentil, hearty bean and a surprisingly competent (considering the Middle Eastern source) chicken noodle. Every order comes with all-you-can-eat tzaluf, a crispy/chewy Yemeni flatbread perfect for soaking up those wonderful soup dregs.

The Village GreenVillage Green
The most vegetarian-oriented of Jerusalem's many soup eateries, the Village Green is also perhaps the least Israeli. One of the city's only cafeteria-style restaurants, the Green's clientele is mostly comprised of English-speaking visitors and residents, people who are attracted to the Western-style vegetarian fare and not put off by the relatively high prices. But Anglo ambience and pricey food aside, the soup is undeniably excellent all-around. Chunky gazpacho is great in the summertime, and in winter you can cozy up around a bowl of butternut squash, cream of broccoli or whatever else is bubbling away in the pots on any given day. As a bonus, soup orders come with the restaurant's excellent bread and butter.

Honorable mentions go out to the family-friendly Ima, the trendy/slightly upscale Kubiya, Heimishe Essen for the Ashkenazi end of things, and Jerusalemite's favorite lunch spot Ta'ami for a fine chicken soup. And if you can't enjoy Jerusalem soup in your current place of residence, check out some simple recipes for authentic kubbeh and marak kubbeh adom.

Photo of a full Mordoch spread (top) courtesy of rbarenblat from Flickr under a Creative Commons license; photo of Mordoch, photo of Marakiya and photo of Marvad Haksamim by Asaf Kliger for Jerusalemite; photo of Azura courtesy of Gad Shoshan from Flickr under a Creative Commons license; photo of soup at the Village Green courtesy of veggiefriendly from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Wander no more, frugalista

by josh November 28 2008
Food

azura.jpg

Just like momma used to make

Don't let the popular Jerusalem business lunch fool you. While some may cater to the suit and tie set (OK, no tie), most of the time, the budget meal option has nothing to with your profession and everything to do with bringing in the mamon (hence "business") to whatever establishment decides to implement the much beloved menu scheme. Nowhere is that more true than in Jerusalem's abundance of misadot poalim (laborers' restaurants), the Israeli equivalent of America's lunch diners.

This isn’t the kind of place you bring a date or a potential client. But when you need to get your snack on with no pretensions at all, these blue-collar hummusiot, falafel shops, sandwich bars and Mizrahi strange stew joints serve up the perfect Israeli lunch that won't break your piggy bank. Even if you do dress up like something other than a video game character to go to work, don't worry, you'll find plenty of your lantslaite also eating on the cheap, something of a Jerusalem (or, day we say, Jewish) tradition. An electrician and an accountant dining together? The end times truly are upon us.

Speaking of end times, just in time for the collapse of the economic system as we know it, Mapa has released a feature listing the restaurants that offer cheapo - as in, under 30 NIS - business lunches, 74 throughout the country with nine in our own Jerusalem:

(Not included in our guides but coming soon)

  • Haptiliya  - Beit Yisroel 1, 02-624-8801
  • Rochelle's sandwich - Derech Beit Lechem 17, 02-6713918
  • Tozeret Haaretz - Yaffo 212, 02-5022711
  • Morris - Machane Yehuda
  • Chen - Yaffo 30, 02-6257317

They haven't added a handy way to search for these establishments on their own website, so you either have to click here or type "misadot poalim," in Hebrew, into their search box to get the list.

Mapa, which started off as little more than map printing house, has made the leap to the internet age with surprising alacrity, developing a number of products designed to do more than just get pabulum into Jerusalem's hungry mouths. The site has developed into a kind of a Hebrew Jerusalemite on steroids, with maps, events, guides, reviews and more and more niche offerings across the land. But do they have a wifi hotspot map? We didn’t think so.

Photo of Azura by Asaf Kliger for Jerusalemite.

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The top five Jerusalem foods you've never eaten

by michael November 19 2008
Best of JerusalemFoodThings to do
Sweet kanafe at Jaffar's

Jerusalemite does not care for the word "foodie." It is a silly name for a serious passion: seeking out and consuming the very finest in comestibles. That passion is given ample outlet in Jerusalem, currently in the midst of the classed-up peasant food culinary revolution that has swept the world - but every self-respecting gourmet, gourmand, gastronome, epicure or (sigh) foodie knows that experiencing a city's edible best requires looking beyond the guidebooks, the restaurant reviews and the temples of modern haute cuisine to the humble workingman's establishments that feed residents from teething babies to toothless old-timers.

Sometimes the food within is weird, or at least unfamiliar. But as any traveler who's sampled raw sea urchin gonads in Tokyo, whole late-term-embryo-filled duck eggs in Hanoi or, uh... a garbage plate in upstate New York can attest, it is by embracing the new and strange that one truly experiences the soul of a culinary culture.

So put down the Lonely Planet and let Jerusalemite show you real Jerusalem food with this list of the top five Jerusalem foods you've never eaten before:

MeoravMeorav Yerushalmi
You can't really be a New Yorker without lox and a schmear. You're hardly Edinbourgeois if you eschew fish and chips. And you're no kind of Jerusalemite until you've tucked into a pita or plate full of meorav yerushalmi, a dish so identified with Jerusalem that it's named after it. Meaning "Jerusalemite mix," and often called "Jerusalem mixed grill" in English, the concept is simple: every edible-but-unappealing part of a chicken heavily seasoned with Middle Eastern spices and seared on a griddle with onions. Hearts? Yeah. Lungs? Sure. Liver? De rigueur. Spleens? Pray to God you don't forget them spleens. Don't be a sissy. Meorav is generally chopped up into a fairly uniform mix, and if you've ever eaten a hot dog, you've stuffed your face full of offal before - and it wasn't nearly as good as the signature meorav at Agrippas Street landmark Chatzot (pictured), just down the street from Machane Yehuda.

 

Sabich
Not so long ago, Jews were Iraq's cultural elite, a full one-third of Baghdad's population, vastly overrepresented in commerce and the arts. Then they were expelled, and made their way to Israel to become this country's culinary elite. Anybody who's eaten falafel is familiar with the Iraqi laffa, a large chewy flatbread, but more obscure, and more delicious, is sabich, a dish either invented or popularized by Iraqi immigrants in Ramat Gan (althought the jury is still out when it comes to the origins of the name). It's true poverty food: a pita dramatically overstuffed with slices of fried eggplant; long-cooked, brown hard-boiled eggs; hummus; cucumber and tomato salad and spicy charif, then topped with amba, the pickled mango sauce adored by Iraqis. A whole rack of lamb wouldn't fill you up as full. For sabich in Jerusalem, there is no better choice than the aptly named Sabichiya on Shammai Street.

MaqlubaMaqluba
First, learn how to pronounce it: urban Palestinian Arabs pronounce the Arabic letter qaf as a glottal stop, so "Al-Quds" (the Arabic name for Jerusalem) becomes "Al-'Uds" and "maqluba" becomes "ma'aluba." No matter how you say it, though, it's tasty. Meaning "upside-down" in Arabic, and often called the Palestinians' national dish, maqluba is a casserole made from rice, sliced eggplant, sliced tomato, onion, cauliflower and mountains of savory lamb (or sometimes chicken). Plenty of east Jerusalem and Old City holes in the wall offer their versions of this homestyle fare, and upscale locavore bistro Eucalyptus is famous for its gussied-up version.

KnafehKnafeh
Desserts rarely make an appearance in weird food lineups. As much as human tastes vary from culture to culture, sweet is sweet, and what's sweet is rarely surprising - unless it happens to be neon orange shreds of phyllo dough drenched in syrupy sugar water and filled with gooey, salty warm goat cheese. Oh, confounding knafeh. It's a combination just about as incongruous as ice cream in a hamburger bun, but this Nablus delicacy is hugely popular in Jerusalem - especially during Ramadan, when feasting on pastries, dried fruits and nuts at night is traditional - among both Arabs and Jews. For the real deal, head over to Muslim Quarter landmark Jaffar's Sweets, where the knafeh is made fresh every day.

SahlabSachlab
When it gets cold in Jerusalem, forget eggnog, brandy, or hot cocoa: the real restorative drink is sachlab. Called "salep" in English, and perhaps familiar to European readers if not North American ones, sachlab is a hot, sweet, perfumey drink, thinner than pudding but thicker than whole milk, derived from the powdered extract of certain species of Middle Eastern orchid. It doesn't quite taste like anything else, but topped off with a mountain of coconut shavings, ground nuts and cinnamon, it will let you temporarily forget that the city is 45 degrees, pouring, and a single, unbroken shade of gray-brown. All-night cafe Mifgash HaSheikh is famous for its sachlab, and no winter nighttime shuk shopping trip is complete without an invigorating dose from one of several sachlab samovars.

Now doesn't that all sound tasty? And after you've gorged yourself on Jerusalem's unique delicacies, don't forget to head to our friendly neighborhood witch doctor for one more only-in-Jerusalem refreshment: khat smoothies. Mmmm. Eat well, and stay tuned for more Jerusalem best-of lists in the coming weeks.

Photo of knafeh-making at Jaffar's Sweets by Ben Jacobson for Jerusalemite; photo of meorav madness at Chatzot by Asaf Kliger for Jerusalemite; photo of maqluba from Wikipedia under a GNU Free Documentation License; photo of knafeh courtesy of Tololy Tutunai from Flickr under a Creative Commons License; photo of sachlab by Harry Rubenstein for Jerusalemite.

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A conversation with Assaf Rizi, restaurateur

by simone November 16 2008
InterviewFood

 Assaf Rizzi warming the bar at Colony

As far as Jerusalem restaurants go, you can't get more involved than Assaf Rizi. A native Jerusalemite, Rizi co-owns Adom, Lavan and Colony, key hangouts for Jerusalem's hip and hungry. Rizi got into the restaurant business, along with his brother Noam, because he wanted to spend his time in a job he enjoys and that brings joy to others. The brothers opened their first restaurant, Adom, seven years ago, timing that unfortunately coincided with the start of the second intifada. The brothers, and the restaurant, nevertheless managed to pull through, and three years later opened Colony. The latest restaurant in their empire, Lavan, opened last year.

Your three restaurants are very different from each other. For the uninitiated, would you please explain a bit about the concept behind each one? And what is the common thread betweeColony with a briden them, aside from the ownership/management team? Adom has the most complicated food - the cuisine is a combination of Jerusalem and France. Colony is a more populist place with simpler food, food that is more understandable to people. At Colony people know before they get there what they want to order - there are no surprises. Lavan is Italian and dairy - it's more like a coffee shop than a restaurant. It's a place to go to relax at the Cinematheque (where it is housed), with views of The Tower of David.

Only small things connect the restaurants: our service style; the way our staff treats the customers. There are not things you see on the outside - they're more internal.

One of the elements of Jerusalem's character that is so distinctive is the city's mixture of high-class poseurs and working-class grit. How has this mixture influenced the foodie scene here in recent years, and how has that affected your businesses? We try to connect to both these elements in each of our restaurants. Each restaurant has a range of prices, so anyone can eat there. We have very expensive dishes as well as cheaper ones, so that we're open to all Jerusalemites, from people coming to celebrate with a fancy dinner or people just coming in to drink beer and order a carpaccio or pizza. We want our waiters to treat all our diners as if they were their [personal] guests and as people deserving of attention no matter what their background or how much they spend - whether they're getting a big meal or just coming in for a glass of wine and a bite to eat.

Since your three restaurants in Jerusalem are so successful, have you felt any pressure to open one in Tel Aviv? Many people have asked us if we plan on opening a Tel Aviv restaurant, and many people have requested that we do so, but right now we're very comfortable here, both with our businesses and with the city. If we open a restaurant in Tel Aviv, it would only be because one of the partners [only the Rizi brothers are partners in all three restaurants, but each restaurant has additional partners as well] moved there, which can happen, but it won't happen until somebody moves, because we don't want....(For more questions with Assaf Rizi click here).
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The top five Jerusalem falafel joints

by michael November 04 2008
Best of JerusalemFood
Moshiko
Moshiko Falafel and its mighty salad spread

It's not originally an Israeli food, or a Jewish food - its origins are lost to history - but Israel runs on falafel. Along with its cousin hummus, the savory, deep-fried chickpea balls are a common denominator, a food that unites Jew and Arab, religious and secular, native and immigrant, rich and poor. It's cheap. It's filling. It's delicious. It's everywhere. But the sheer number of falafel kiosks can be daunting to Jerusalem newbies. Sure, any falafel in Israel is better than the abortive just-add-water abominations they call falafel in the West, but there's good falafel, and there's great falafel. And as always, Jerusalemite is here to help you separate falafel from fal-awful (ouch).

There is a simple test for gauging falafel quality, which Jerusalemite calls the "paper bag" test: do the falafel balls stand on their own, without their hummus, tehina, amba (mango chutney) and kruv (cabbage) co-conspirators? Is a grease-spotted paper bag of plain falafel just as good as the full pita-or-laffa monty? Just as a pizza could be dressed with the freshest sauce and the finest Italian buffalo mozzarella and still fall flat if the crust is sub-par, a stuffed laffa (like a tortilla wrap but much doughier) with all the fixings is nothing more than soggy bread without perfect falafel. Rest assured, all of the following pass the paper bag test with high-flying colors. Below is Jerusalemite's list of the best falafel in Jerusalem.

MoshikoMoshiko
Usually, restaurants in heavily-touristed areas are terrible, aimed squarely at foreign palates and shunned by locals (try getting a good meal in the Jewish Quarter). But Moshiko, in the midst of the tchotchkes-and-frozen-yogurt bustle of the cheesy Ben Yehuda midrachov, reliably serves Jerusalem's finest Israeli-style falafel. The falafel themselves are large and deeply green, and with Moshiko's non-stop traffic, almost always fresh. The side salads are abundant, and include the rarely-seen Turkish salad, a highly-recommended mix of tomatoes, onions and herbs. The ability to apply your own tehina from a squeeze bottle is another plus... but the French fries, predictably, are terrible. Hey, even the best isn't perfect.

Yemenite Falafel CenterYemenite Falafel Center
There are two schools of falafel in Israel: Yemenite and everything else. Most falafel is green from cilantro and parsley and fairly moist, but Yemenite falafel eschews the herbs for a drier, golden fritter. The most prominent Yemenite-style falafel establishment is Shalom Falafel, which attracts its fair share of devotees despite being awful, but the real deal is at the unassuming Yemenite Falafel Center on HaNevi'im Street in the Russian Compound. When you walk in, the proprietor hands you respect in the form of a piping hot falafel ball fresh from the frier - even if you don't wind up ordering. The falafel is delicious; the fixings are standard but solid, and the spicy charif is the hottest and most flavorful in town (as you would expect from an authentic Yemenite establishment). The real fun starts if you show up before closing time on a Friday, when you'll have the chance to cast aside pita and laffa in favor of either the crispy tzaluf or the spongy lahuh, traditional Yemenite breads. Tasty. Different.

Ta'amiTa'ami
Ta'ami is known for its hummus above all else, but Jerusalem falafel connoisseurs know that its mastery of chickpeas doesn't end with spreads. Ta'ami's falafel is dense, moist and intensely flavorful - perhaps the best on-its-own falafel in the entire city. The restaurant's major weak point is that they don't offer the full complement of salads - you can order a falafel to go, but all you can get in the pita is the falafel, hummus and tomato-and-cucumber salad. Still, it's Ta'ami falafel and Ta'ami hummus, which means that essentially anything else would be an unwelcome distraction. 

 
 
OvadiaFalafel Ovadia
A classic unassuming workingman's falafel kiosk in the heart of Baka. Unlike the previously mentioned joints, Ovadia doesn't shine bright in any one area, but it's all-around solid. Good falafel, good pita, good salads, and the good feeling that you're eating the kind of humble lunch that's sustained countless cabbies and hard-hats before you. And it's definitely the best and cheapest workingman's lunch you'll get in this increasingly upscale part of town.

 

 

AdirFalafel Adir
Not unlike Ovadia, The German Colony's Adir is an oasis of falafel authenticity on an increasingly hoity-toity block. Pizza Hut might have come and gone on the corner of Emek Refaim and Rachel Imenu Streets, but Adir remains. At Adir, the garlic-heavy balls and the crispy (for Israel, anyway) fries are made in small batches, so your sandwich is guaranteed to always be served hot.

And now that Jerusalemite has clued you into the best, you should know the worst. No matter what your supposedly "veteran" friends tell you when you first arrive in Jerusalem, do not waste your time at the quantity-over-quality Melech HaFalafel, or the pedestrian Shalom Falafel, or the running-on-nostalgia-and-stale-cooking oil Maoz Falafel, or the simply sad From Gaza to Berlin. When you're in this city, there's no excuse to settle for second-rate.... At least not when it comes to chickpeas.

Photo of a laffa-in-progress at Moshiko (top) by Ben Jacobson for Jerusalemite; photos of other felafel joints by the Jerualemite team.

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Dancing in the Emek

by michael October 24 2008
Things to doArtFoodFor the kidsMusicShopping
Emek Refaim
Ain't no party like an Emek party, cuz an Emek party don't charge admission.

One day in the not-too-distant future, the anti-gravitational effects of a thousand constantly puffing cappuccino steamers and ten thousand constantly lightening wallets will lift Emek Refaim completely above the more pedestrian streets of Jerusalem, whereupon those lucky enough to be carried heavenward with the street of the gods will shower the less fortunate with great torrents of upscale kosher dairy bistro fare. But hopefully that won't happen before you can hit the annual Emek Refaim Street Fair on Tuesday.

What's the Emek Refaim Street Fair about? Well, uh, imagine Chutzot HaYotzer...good...and then imagine it smaller in scale and taking place on Emek Refaim. The Emek, as nobody should ever call it, will be lined with dozens of local artists displaying and selling their pieces, including paintings, pottery and glass works, with avant-garde assists by the Hagigit collective, who will be taking photographs of the merriment around them, futzing with them on computers and then displaying them on a giant screen. Meta.

Then there are, of course, the bands: homegrown Balkan-booty-stomping brass band Marsh Dondurma and that band they get for every festival in the city, Ethnika, as well as some lesser names. Oh yeah, and fire dancers.

And if all that art and photo-twiddling and Balkan brass and fire-twirling makes you want to get a burn on, stop at one of several wine stalls for a glass or four of the red (or white, or...pink) stuff. Sop that up by stopping in any one of the many, many, many restaurants lining the street, all of which are running festival-only discounts. It's the cheapest mountainous Mediterranean salad money can buy!

Festivities last from 17:00 until the decadent hour of 23:00, and entrance is blissfully free.

Photo courtesy of the Merkaz Tarbut HaAmim.

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A conversation with Itzik Ozarko, Marzipan bake-master

by simone October 19 2008
InterviewFoodShopping

Worth Putting on the Pounds For?

The Marzipan Bakery's uber-chocolaty rugelach have been known to cause traffic jams on Agrippas St. as first-year yeshiva students crowd around to buy the treats for themselves, for their friends, for the people who tolerate them for Shabbat. While the rugelach are the bakery's main draw, especially amongst the Anglo crowd, Marzipan is a Jerusalem institution. Jerusalemite talked with Itzik Ozarko, the man behind the magic at the Marzipan Bakery.

Many proprietors of shops in the shuk are part of families with strong ties to Nachlaot. What's your connection to this neighborhood and what are your feelings on how it has been changing? My father, who moved to Israel from Turkey as a young child, opened Marzipan in Machane Yehuda in 1986 after learning the trade from some of Israel's finest bakers. Today, he's retired and I run the business with my brother. I'm in charge of the baking, and my brother does the business side. Our family also has strong ties in the neighborhood, and I've lived in Nachlaot for many years.

Regarding the changes, I think that both the neighborhood and the shuk are finally getting what they deserve: lots of honor, fame and glory. Nachlaot is famous, and it deserves to be famous. There are artists living there, government people. People used to run away from Nachlaot, and now they're running to it.

Machane Yehuda also deserves its fame. It used to be a simple place, and now it's getting fancy, as it deserves to. The vendors there work hard for their money - they work from early in the morning until late at night. They work on holidays when everyone else has off, they work on Fridays on erev chag (holiday eves) all the time. These people are the salt of earth, and the time has come when Jerusalemites have begun searching out the truth, searching out people like the vendors at Machane Yehuda. We're beginning to value not just the people who work in hi-tech and computers but simple hard workers.

In the English language, many brand names are so strong that they have become synonymous with their product categories over time - Band Aid, Kleenex and Xerox come to mind. Your rugelach are so popular, that many - especially English speakers who don't know what marzipan is - refer to them as marzipan. How do you feel about this? What's a good way to distinguish between actual marzipan and yChocolate Goodnessour bakery's rugelach? This sounds funny, but it's true. We used to think Americans called the rugelach marzipan because they thought there was a trace of marzipan in the rugelach. At first, we tried to correct this misunderstanding, but it didn't work, and there's nothing we can do it. Even though most Americans don't even like actual marzipan, they like to call our rugelach marzipan and not rugleach. At least now we know what they are talking about. If someone comes and orders marzipan, we give them rugelach.

Of course, there is no marzipan in the rugelach, and marzipan does not mean rugelach, but we work so hard and his is one of the ways we reap the fruits of our work. We don't have a lot.... (for more questions with Itzik Ozarko of Marzipan click here).
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