Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Bits & Morsels

Hummus and fresh warm pita at Decks in Tiberias.

"Bits and Morsels" by Jordana Z, is an ongoing collection of information from the world of the foodies and foodblogs:

Come fly with me. For the past two weeks I've been traveling around Israel, seeing the sights and exploring all of its Middle Eastern flavors.

All shuk up! Mahane Yehuda is the main open-air market in Jerusalem. When you are there you are transported to a time long before Fresh Direct and Food Emporium.  Visiting this authentic shuk and negotiating with the vendors is one of those quintessential Middle Eastern experiences.

A view of Mahane Yehuda, aka the Shuk.
In the shuk, they sell everything from shawls and silver to freshly baked breads and meats. There are dozens of street food vendors selling falafel, shawarma and other spicy treats.

I sampled the falafel and the shawarma and both were unlike anything I have tried before. The lamb shawarma was served in piping hot lafa bread and garnished with cool cucumbers.  Lafa is basically the Middle  Eastern version of a wrap. The falafel was very fragrant and served with tahini sauce and a pickle. 

If you want to try some street treats in this part of the world,
check out these five vendors who are competing to be the best of New York. [The Daily News]
Mahane Yehuda, the main open-air market (shuk) in Jerusalem (Clockwise from top left): Fresh Falafel with tahini sauce and pickles; lamb shawarma in piping hot lafa bread garnished with cucumbers; Freshly baked Israeli bagels and breads; And can't forget the Ruggelah when in Israel.
Another highlight of my trip was my visit to Tzfat, which is in the north. Tzfat is one of the four holy cities in Israel, together with Tiberias, Hebron, and of course, Jerusalem.

Tzfat cheese, the signature cheese of the Hameiri dairy.
The Dairy's version of mac and cheese.
Tzfat is a very spiritual place being the home of kabbalah or Jewish Mysticism. My favorite part of Tzfat was our tour and meal at the Hameiri Dairy. The Hameiri family has been making cheese from sheep’s milk since 1840.

All of their sheep roam freely and graze in the hills of the Galilee. It is interesting to note that sheep’s milk is easier to digest and richer in vitamins than cow's milk. The signature cheese of the dairy is the Tzfat cheese, which is aged in wooden bread baskets.

Today, Yaniv Hameiri is the 6th generation of the Hameiri family to maintain the dairy. The Hameiri's know well that secret to good cheese lies in the quality of the milk.

We also visited Dereh Hahalav, a completely computerized dairy located in the north of Israel where everything from how much milk each cow produces to its temperature is tracked. The dairy offers a modern perspective of the dairy industry.

So much of food media today is fixated on farming and improving the conditions of farm animals. Dereh Hachalav is no exception and although technologically ahead of the curve, they are still very nurturing to their cows. The stalls were not overcrowded and all of the calves had there own pens and were bottle-fed fresh milk.
The Jerusalem limestone exterior and the dining room at the Hameiri Dairy.
Milking cows at the Dereh Hahalav.
HIgh-tech milking area at Dereh Hahalav.
Unhealthy granola? When granola was first invented in 1860 by Dr. James Caleb Jackson it was closer to Grape Nuts than anything else. While it was not very palatable it was rich in nutrients, fiber and antioxidants. In the 1960s people began to add fruits and nuts to it and since then granola has gone from health food to health hazard. One cup of Quaker Granola has almost as many calories as a Quarter Pounder from McDonald’s! Check out this BlogSoop post about the history of granola. [The Blog at BlogSoop]

Earlier this year the New York Board of Health tried to implement a plan which would require all fast food restaurants to list the calories in the food that they serve. The New York State Restaurant Association went to court to prevent this from happening. The court ruled that New York City could not force fast food restaurants to list the calorie content. The purpose of this law was to make calorie content more salient so consumers could make healthier dining choices when they dining in fats food food restaurants. This is very upsetting news. The fact that they would rather go to court than list the calorie content on their menu is a turn off from ever setting foot in a fast food establishment again. [Crain’s]

The business of donuts. The front page of the New York Times Business section this weekend featured an article about the Canadian donut chain Tim Hortons and their plans for breaking into the U.S. market. Tim Horton was a Canadian hockey player who died in a car accident in 1974. Tim Hortons has saturated the Canadian market to the point where there is no room for them to grow except for outside of Canada. Watch out Dunkin Donuts. [The New York Times]

Hot dogs and waffles. Imagine enjoying the essence of hot dogs and waffles but with none of the guilt. This latest idea in food is a recipe for hot dog stock. Imagine crispy hot dogs with mustard, sauerkraut, relish and the works in liquid form. Ideas in food is a creative food blog that always offers interesting and novel ways to think about food. And this is about as novel as it gets. [Hot Dog Stock] & [Waffle Stock]

Till we fly again,
A view of Jerusalem from Mount Scopus.

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