The history of Israeli pretzels.

A short history of flat, flavoured pretzels (bagele) in Israel… true story!

If you don’t understand Hebrew subtitles or (exaggerated?) Yiddish, here’s a quick and dirty transcript:

The Bagel-Bagel Factory in Poland, 1880

Son: “Father,  mother – I  have an idea! Thin pretzels – in flavours!”

Everyone: “What?!”

Son: “Yes, with pepper, chedder, spices!”

Father: “Pepper?! This is for Moroccans!”

Mother: “Flavor? In food? We’re POLISH!”

Father: “My dear, when the little Ben Gurion becomes Prime Minister of Eretz Yisroel [notice the kid in the corner], then we’ll make pretzels with flavours…”

Coming to Israel? Things to do.

Recently wrote up some off-the-top-of-my-head Israel tourism ideas for a friend coming in the summer (with a 6-month-old baby).

So, while I’m at it, why not share, right?

Short-term rentals

There are quite often short-term rentals of apartments in Jerusalem and elsewhere, which is probably a better bet than hotel if you’re coming for a ‘longer’ term, staying in the same city, or coming with kids. Lotsa people are doing it nowadays. Janglo and Flathunting have listings, and homeless.co.il might also. A coworker of mine found a place for two weeks on Israel-local Craigslist, which was impressive to me since I never heard of anyone actually using it.

Activities

GroopBuy and Groupon are available here if you want to take advantage of deals for restaurants/activities. You can watch the lists in advance and snatch up the deals for your trip.

I recommend taking hikes around the Ein Kerem/Jerusalem forest/Mazleg area. Gorgeous nature for just walking around freely. Good thing to do with 6-month-old too, if you have a good carrier or backpack.

Tzimmers are awesome, and with baby – well, if you’re baby’s a good sleeper, hey, who knows, you could enjoy some romantic secluded quiet in the north. I’d ask for recommendations on Twitter/Janglo. Many come with access to pools, so find one with a pool or on a farm or somewhere where there are nearby activities.

A coworker of mine bought on GroopBuy passes for hot-air ballooning; I think it’s somewhere near the center, near Modiin but not totally sure.

With a baby, the activities get tricky. I remember I came to New York with mine at about that age. We did a lot of strollering through parks. So if you’re into things like museums, parks, tours, hikes, it’s good with a kid that young because they just chill, if they’re calm babies. We took him to the Biblical Zoo around that time too, though it was more for the walk around and ourselves than him. Herzliyah has a nice boardwalk area with shops and food and beach.

Modiin has a relatively new park called Anava Park; they created a lake and have boating there. It’s near the mall. Thing is, with the baby, it’s tough; we tried with ours at a year old, and the sun was too hot and it was kind of miserable. And if you’re not going to Modiin in any case, not necessarily worth the trip.

Food

Things to do and eat… Well, lately I’ve been hanging out in Ein Kerem, which is gorgeous in spring. It’s an old-style Christian area and on the outskirts of Jerusalem, so it’s a quiet funky place to hang out and get something to eat. There is a relatively new kosher meat place called Charlotte I’ve heard good things about, and an excellent dairy place called Beit HaMaayan.

Oh, there’s also an awesome dairy restaurant by the windmill in Jerusalem – it’s called Montefiore. Gabriel is a meat restaurant with French flair in town (on Shlomtzion Halmalka or near there). I also favor Buffalo steakhouse on Emek (South American-ish). I highly DON’T recommend La Guta on Emek – had two terrible experiences there, food-wise and service-wise.

Also, if you want the whole Israeli grill experience, my favorite is Tzidkiyahu on Yad Harutzim in Talpiot – all you can eat salad course (salads, felafel, fries, rice, and more) with your choice of shishliks (skewers) – chicken, lamb, steak, pargit, etc. Lots of places do this but they are by far the best in my opinion.

I recommend looking up info on the restaurants on rest.co.il. You may already know about eluna and that you can get 15% discounts when you print the coupons for specific restaurants.

Nesiya tova!

פיצונקה would like your attention.

Since moving to this area, we’ve watched local restaurants come and go. They usually aren’t kosher or attention-grabbing enough to get us interested. And the latter is probably mostly why they don’t survive.

To service (and survive) the Matte Yehuda area, I suppose you have to be pretty damn good, considering you’re competing with an evening out in Jerusalem – the big city with lots of choices – as opposed to a little local eatery with nothing else around it.

There are a few that thrive though, or evolve enough to thrive. I’m hoping the following is one of them.

In the last month or so, we’ve seen signs crop up along the country roads and yishuv entrances advertising פיצונקה (Pichonka), a kosher meat restaurant in nearby Nes Harim prepared to serve pareve brunches on Fridays,  parties of 300, deliveries in the immediate area, and a complete and robust menu. They are even daring enough to lure Jerusalemites outside their paradigms.

Intrigued, we decided to check it out last night; surely it takes beitzim to open a higher-end restaurant in this economic climate in the backwoods of Jerusalem.

The place was already on the way to getting an A+ before we walked in. Location is great for us country folk and close/far away enough to make it intriguing for Gushniks, Beit Shemeshites and Jerusalemites. The venue is nice on the outside, and very classy on the inside. Spacious with two outdoor areas. And you don’t have to worry about parking.

The food was really excellent, but more than that, the menu choices were intriguing and well thought-out. The kind of thing where you choose what you want but you know you’ll be back again to try the other things you didn’t order. I’m not a food critic, so I won’t go into depth, but my husband is qualified and we can say we’d go back there (food-wise) before other places in Jerusalem (especially Emek Refaim). Check out theirrecommendations (more importantly, the photos of the recommendations).

Perhaps the most impressive thing, so rare in Israeli restaurants: a good, appropriate soundtrack. Seriously. The sound system was set up properly, small speakers in different locations instead of blasting a couple huge ones in one corner. The music was light and the level was right. Never underestimate how your venue’s music could turn off your customers.

I’m talking to you, Israeli bar owners.

Prices were decent, or as expected. See them on the menu. In my opinion, it’s worth not eating out for a while so you can save for a real quality meal and pleasurable experience in the hills instead of wondering why you fork out your cash for mediocrity in Jerusalem.

Here’s hoping it actually survives its first year and sticks around a while.

New age doughnuts.

Happy Chanukah! The kid-oriented yet historically-fascinating holiday has officially begun tonight, and I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit I totally didn’t get the memo and thought it started tomorrow. Even with the Hebrew dated agenda book I keep. 

I did have some clues that Chanukah was quickly approaching though: sales on candles, this year’s edition of cheap chanukiyah sold in the supermarket, party invitations, and of course – doughnuts. 

Sufganiyot – the Chanukah edition of doughnuts – are everywhere, as they always are. This year, I actually found them in a new spot: my supermarket freezer.

Oh, man, really? Frozen doughnuts? Shufersal, you know I love and cherish your homebrand, but this is a first as a product you’ve done that I wouldn’t buy.

I will note that they came with their own packet of white sugar to put on top after you’ve ‘baked’ them.  

I will also note the sadness I feel that as I am writing this, a Christmas song was on the Israeli radio, followed by a commercial that used Chanukah music to advertise a product. Oh, diaspora, you follow me everywhere.

American Pie Pizza. Only, not.

American-style pizza of true cheesy quality is not as easy to find around Jerusalem as you’d think. Big Apple Pizza (which just opened a new branch on Ben Zakai, my old hood) has done a good enough job, but they’ve grown so much you get that American sold-out feeling.

If you want a small, colorful pizza joint, I’d highly recommend American Pie Pizza on Bet Lechem street. I’ve had it before today, but today was the first time I actually went into the place.

The odd thing about walking into American Pie Pizza, though, was that as soon as we heard the other customers speaking, we realized everyone in the store was… French. Then we turned to the pizza guys and started ordering in Hebrew, and they told us to hold on and turned to the French and answered them… in French.

Quoi?

Ok, odd nationality-food mixes aside, the pizza was delicious and I learned how to say ‘mushroom’ in French. Highly recommended experience.

So that's what they do with your tonsils…

In case all that talk of crabits made you hungry, how about some tonsil skewers? C’mon, they’re a great source of unnecessariness:

Courtesy of Tzidkiyahu, a Talpiot Israeli grill joint I still love even if they serve Tonsils for 72 shekels. Unfortunately, I can’t remember what the Hebrew side of the menu said.