Like the MamaLand Empire!

Have you joined the MamaLand Empire?
      Oh, yeah... and BUY MY BOOK, The Family Torah!

Friday, February 22, 2013

One last, truly fabulous meal in Israel – uno, Tel Aviv (and a not-so-fabulous beverage in the air)

IMG_00000760Not only didn’t we have a reservation, we weren’t even planning to end up in Tel Aviv.  Yet we ended up having what was – while I won’t call it “the meal of a lifetime” – a truly mind-blowing, delicious food experience.

We got to the airport from Nahariya by train four hours early for our flight, hoping to at least check our bags so we wouldn’t have to shlep them around.  But it turns out Delta didn’t open up until 9 pm (for a 12:40 flight), so we were stuck with the bags and time on our hands.

So… off we went, by train, back into Tel Aviv.  Not knowing the city at all (having done zero research), I picked a station (one of 4 stops in TA) that sounded central:  Tel Aviv Savidor Centre.

IMG_00000774In the five or ten minutes we had of good-quality Israeli train wifi, I pulled up a map of the station (not as easy as it sounds on my little BlackBerry Playbook!!!) and googled “Top Five Kosher Restaurants Tel Aviv” and came up with this article, which listed five addresses, none of which I had ever heard of.  Three of the restaurants listed, it turned out, were practically back to back, near the corner of Shaul HaMelech and Weizmann Sts…. and about a ten minute walk from the train station I’d picked.  Awesome!

We had been hoping for a scenic route and were disappointed by the darkened streets of hospitals and offices that we ended up shlepping past.  Still – bright lights, big city.  Coming from Toronto, I can say that Tel Aviv easily felt the most like home of any of the Israeli cities we’d visited, just because of the tall, gleaming office towers and busy city people and buses rushing past.

And then we found the restaurant we’d been dreaming of:  uno.

IMG_00000770

At the base of a really tall office building, it is a gleaming jewel from the outside, and inside, a cozy bistro / bar feeling place with lots of mood lighting, cozy wood accents, and a really well-stocked bar.

IMG_00000766

This was nothing like ANY kosher restaurant I’ve ever been in – in Jerusalem, New York, or anywhere else.  It was just a restaurant, period.  I did check the teudah (kosher certificate), partly not believing my eyes.  Lots of srugi kippot in the house, including one kippah-wearing guy apparently on a date with a lovely woman in a skimpy spaghetti-strap top… nothing you would see in chutz la’aretz (outside of Israel), that’s for sure.

After chiding us for not having a reservation, the hostess happily seated us at the long bar.  The bar stools were comfy but very high, so I felt a bit dwarfish… but never mind.  We ordered (to share) an individual pizza and the creamy ravioli, along with glasses of wine.  The food arrived quickly enough and while the portions were not extravagant, neither were the prices.

My first bite of the pizza was, honestly, mind-blowing.  Now, I bake a LOT, and I make good pizza – really good pizza.  But this was GREAT pizza.  Just picking it up, I knew I was in for something extraordinary – the tell-tale grit of semolina, the rigidity of a solid crust that doesn’t droop, the crunch of an excellent cracker.  But then – wow! – inside the crust (which was very thin) was just a hint of the moisture and spring of a really, really excellent bread.  At the same time, I was being blown away by a) the best pizza sauce I have ever tasted, infused with fresh basil and so many other flavours, along with b) the best pizza cheese I have ever tasted… just unquantifiably, indescribably delicious.

IMG_00000763

It doesn’t look like much, but I assure you – utterly delicious!  The pasta was excellent, by the way, but I wouldn’t describe it as mind-blowing in the same way as the pizza.

As we ate and sipped our wine in total satisfaction (a difficult state for me to attain!), the bar guy presented us and the others at the bar with two little strawberry-mint mini-daiquiris (in shot glasses) that he’d just whipped up.  Don’t know if this is a regular thing, but it was a NICE touch.  I have been hankering for a strawberry daiquiri, well… since the summer.  Just too lazy to get out all the stuff and make one.

 IMG_00000765 

Since they did such a great job with the pizza and pasta, I decided to trust them with dessert.  They apologized that the dessert menu was only available in Hebrew, but I managed okay, since “tiramisu” is the same in both languages.  We shared it and it was utterly perfect, creamy and rich, with a bit more of a chocolatey note than we usually hit with ours at home:

 IMG_00000767 

The bill for all of this, when it finally came, was under 200 shekels – making it an $80-$90 meal, all-told (not including the tip).  Not the most filling meal in the world, but by far one of the most satisfying we’ve had in a long time. 

(On a side note, my invaluable Berlitz phrase book says you’re supposed to ask at restaurants in Israel if the service / gratuity is included (“zeh kollel sherut?”), but the two times I tried it, the waiters looked at me like I was nuts.  Any Israelis care to enlighten me?)

IMG_00000775

We weren’t so stuffed that we couldn’t shlep back to the train station.  Indeed, given that the next day was a fast, we actually ate the supper we were offered four hours later when our plane was finally in the air (serviceable food, but no comparison, of course!)… and the breakfast seven hours after that (mediocre egg thing – the less said, the better). 

And then… just in case we thought Hashem wanted our trip to end on a high note, culinarily:  our Badatz kosher breakfast trays included, instead of the amazing fruit juice Israel is famous for, a cute pouch of this Bambi-inspired “Mami” grape drink, labelled entirely in Hebrew, that turned out to be entirely artificially flavoured and sweetened with both saccharine and cyclamate.

After decoding the Hebrew label, I puzzled over the big words on the front for a while until it came to me:  No food colouring.  Yay!  But still, disgusting.  And when I asked a flight attendant for juice instead, she said, “there’s juice included on your tray.”  To her credit, once I’d explained that there actually wasn’t any juice (with Ted clamouring in the background, “no-one cares!”), she came back with what she claimed was the only orange juice container on the entire plane. 

It was from some indeterminate European country and was utterly delicious.

And now we’re back here… dreaming of returning, of eating at uno again, and the world of delightful eating opportunities that we may never be able to afford again.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cranky Complaints Lady takes on… Tevye!

You tell me.  Maybe I’m just especially tired, but I’m not sure if I was right to complain or if I should just drop this.  Read on and let me know.

I got an email the other day from the Stratford Festival, which is a Big Deal here.  Toronto has plays and culture and whatnot, but Stratford, an hour and a half away, is one of Canada’s premier cultural festivals (with such a long season - from April to November – that it feels more like a permanent fixture).  Anyhoo.

Last year, I took Elisheva to see Much Ado About Nothing there, because I got a notice of $10 school and homeschool performances.  $10!  It was fun.  The drive was long, yes, but my mother stayed with the little kids and we had a decent time.

So yesterday, I got an email from them and noticed that one of the $10 shows was Fiddler on the Roof

Well, yay!  Right?  I emailed my family right away asking who wanted to come with us.  A Thursday in May, easy!  I even checked to make sure it was after Lag b’Omer so we could listen to live music.  (Yes, I realize there are many aspects of the play that are not entirely appropriate, on several levels.  Its rosy portrayal of the shtetl – well, things were never like that.  And the daughters rebelling, even intermarrying – not sure I wanted the kids to see that but decided the younger ones probably wouldn’t know what was going on anyway.  And (note to Tevye) I want my kids to know that you don’t have to dance with your wife to show her you love her!)

But then my mother emailed me back to say that the date was NOT fine… it was Shavuos.  Oy.  So naturally, I emailed to kvetch.

You probably didn't realize when you made this offer, but the date of the Fiddler on the Roof performance, May 16, is actually one of 3 major Jewish festivals throughout the year.

Since the play itself is of such great interest to a Jewish audience, and since (as homeschoolers on a single income!) I'm wondering if it might be possible to extend this offer to another date which does not conflict with Jewish observance so I could share this wonderful play with my kids.

(we did attend a Shakespeare performance last year and loved it!)

Nice, polite, not really all that worked up… until I got their reply (emphasis mine):

Thank you for your email.

The Stratford Festival is aware of all major Jewish Festivals and we can appreciate that May 16 is a date that will not work for you and your family. We will continue to email you Home School ticket offers which may include other performances of Fiddler on the Roof throughout the season. All weekday matinees of Fiddler in April, May and June are priced at only $29 for students and for all other performances children under 18 are priced at $36.

In the meantime, please continue to check your inbox for future Home School offers.

After a few deep breaths, here’s what I sent back:

Thanks so much for getting back to me quickly.
I'm sure no offense was meant, but I was nevertheless taken aback that you referred to the entire spectrum of observant Jews - millions of Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews worldwide who observe this day as sacred - as "you and your family."  Jews are indeed a family, but it is one I felt was also an important part of Canada's cultural milieu.
(Also, I suppose I was giving you the benefit of the doubt in suggesting, initially, that you were not aware that the date of this offer coincided with a Jewish holiday.  Your response suggests that it was intentional - or at least, that this fact was considered and ultimately disregarded.)
I did already know that we could spend three times the price for each person and come see the show on another day.  We are a homeschooling family of six, getting by on a single income, and that will not be an option for us.  That's why I emailed asking for special consideration, given the nature of this particular play.
Thank you anyway,

I guess you could say I’m in a huff.  But be honest… would this have offended you? 

Was I right to take offense, or should I have dropped it???

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

An oBLOGatory visit...

Always both bizarre and fun meeting f2f with blog-friends, whether those who simply read mine or those I read and enjoy.

Batya of me-ander (no good way to paste links, so here you go...  Find her yourself here: http://me-ander.blogspot.com) blog fame (among other things) has been a longstanding fixture in my blog world if only for making life in Israel seem so beautiful mundane and yet a more purposeful (if I may) meandering than one might experience outside of Israel - or perhaps in some other parts of Israel.  A longtime olah, Batya is passionate about where she lives, which is Shiloh, in what the international community would have you believe is a "settlement" and not a home.  Her other blog (and oh, it is so hard to paste a link, so please find it yourself) is called Shiloh Musings, where you can read all about that particular passion.  Batya's also the lady behind the weekly Haveil Havalim and monthly Kosher Cooking Carnival blog carnivals.

But enough about Batya... Oh, wait - I never did tell you why I mention her.  You probably never would have guessed in a million years, but yes, it's true... We MET.  F2F!  On a sunny afternoon on my way into town and her way out, our paths just happened to cross.

And it was a beautiful thing, despite Ted asking repeatedly how I knew this person we were waiting for and sort of sighing like, oh, another one of these goose chases, when I said I didn't...


But now I do - and here we are!

We made her late for her grandkid and she was gracious enough to pretend it was Egged's fault... So all in all, a lovely and successful f2f!  She, by the way, was totally blase about the whole thing (sorry french people - cannot type accents on this thing!).  Like the Eiffel Tower of the Israel blog scene,  everybody loves to have their picture taken next to her. ;-)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Kosher Cooking Carnival: Mishenichnas Adar Edition

imageWelcome to the Adar 1st / February 11, 2013 edition of kosher cooking carnival-kcc.  

I think this is my FIFTH time hosting the kcc and I assure you, it will be my most slapdash, despite the infinite and amazing potential of an Adar-themed carnival. 

However, it would not be complete without a theme at all.  Rather than reaching around to come up with one, which would take more than thirty seconds, I’m going to pick the most obvious:  this month’s theme is… costumes!  Specifically, pictures of me and my family in costumes that I can find in one quick Google search.  Sort of like… the many faces of US.  Enjoy!

 

general kosher cooking

Quick lazy-mama tip:  Just throw a whole bunch of orange things on them and tell them they’re a BIG carrot!

Lady-Light presents Tikkun Olam: Don't Eat to Live, Part II posted at Tikkun Olam, saying, "Doesn't seem to relate to any category; it was suggested I post to KCC, so I am. Maybe the information can be used by someone."

Lady-Light presents Tikkun Olam: Dont' Eat, in Order to Live posted at Tikkun Olam, saying, "No category. Just info on what's happening to me, health wise"

Ester presents Chocolate Bread Recipe posted at Frugal and Kosher, saying, "I hope you don't mind my submitting one more! Thank you"

Nancy presents Meet My New Friend, Kohlrabi at My Kosher Kitchen @ COR, saying “I guess there is always reticence when it comes to experimenting.”

desserts

(yes, that’s me in a beard – my famous kohein gadol costume!!!)

Ester presents Simple Cake (that's not chocolate) posted at Frugal and Kosher.

From the “Cannot Believe It’s Pareve / I love coconut” department, here’s my take on decadent Pareve Chocolate Caramel Cookies for Shabbos over here at my bread and baking blog, Adventures in BreadLand, where I say, “they are a most delightful cookie that will probably wow your Shabbos table attendees.”

For the taste of cinnamon buns without the potchke of rolling them up, Gourmet Kosher Cooking presents Cinnamon Bun Bites.  Yummy!

Here’s one from my “must try” list:  yogurt-based chocolate mousse that looks utterly decadent!  From The (horrifically named and I apologize because this is a word I never use) Shiksa Blog comes Greek Yogurt Chocolate Mousse, where she writes, “I had a deep, insatiable desire for chocolate mousse. Trouble is, it’s so terribly unhealthy… Then, an idea came to me– why not use Greek yogurt to make a healthier version of chocolate mousse?”  Like I said – it’s on my list to try!

Naturally, like everything from the Our Shiputzim blog, you’ll want to drop everything to try this Freshly Baked Goods Friday: Applesauce Crumb Cake Edition posted by Mrs. S., who says, “Please stop by and taste the results.”

Finally, and I’m sorry to make this post soooo dessert-heavy (I just couldn’t find much else, and you people really need to submit more!), another one from my personal must-try list, Chocolate Peppermint Pudding Shots by Shoshana at Couldn’t be Parve.  They’re not soy-based, they’re coconut-based, and righ tnow, I am all about the coconut.

kosher cooking lite

If you’ve never made Israeli salad, you should… and here’s just the recipe to inspire you, over at Gourmet Kosher Cooking in Israeli Salad.

anything kosher!

This is EC – now 17 – back when I could throw a brown shirt on and tell her she was a horsie (see “orange/carrot” note, above; dress them in black and you can tell them they’re a ninja… or green for a turtle!)

Ester presents Price Controlled Foods in Israel posted at Frugal and Kosher.

In case you’re keeping kosher but missing the taste of creamy, meaty pasta sauces, Nina Safar presents Creamy Chicken Alfredo Pasta at Kosher in the Kitch!  Soy-based, and it calls for a cube of frozen Alfredo sauce from Dorot.  We can buy their spices here, but don’t believe I’ve seen the alfredo sauce cubes… intriguing (and, apparently, pareve!).

economical use of left-overs

Sharon's Table presents Shredded Chicken | Sharon's Table posted at Sharon's Table, saying, "Please look through my site and let me know what you think."

Bamitbach by Irene Saiger presents a great way to use up leftover soup chicken with Chicken Taquitos, saying, “My mother used to serve the soup chicken as a main course… and my mother-in-law used it as filling for knishes or shepard’s pie.  I decided to make Chicken Taquitos.”

everyday meals

Me and my sister Sara.  She’s an angel and I’m… well, some sort of feline thing.

I (yay, me!) present Quick, Easy Corny Skillet Cornbread – with Recipe over at my bread blog, Adventures in BreadLand, saying (yup, I’m quoting myself again!) “This really is one of the few recipes that I’d never try without a cast-iron skillet.”

From Busy in Brooklyn by chanie comes a tasty treat we’ve actually tried here a few times with different seasonings… Smoked Paprika Popcorn Cauliflower.  She says, “what I really loved most about [smoked paprika] popcorn, wasn’t the popcorn at all. It was the amazing smokiness of the paprika.”  These surprising bursts of cauliflower capture all that and more.  Or, for another yumm-licious take on cauliflower, why not try Roasted Cauliflower with Turmeric & Ginger from Kosher in the Kitch?

 

kosher to go

Moi as earth mother, at left.

Batya presents me-ander: "Homemade" Kosher When Traveling posted at me-ander.

restaurant / cookbook reviews

The big kids – when they were little.

Batya presents me-ander: A Nice Meal Out With My "Study Group" Friends posted at me-ander.

Batya presents me-ander: The Worst Soup Ever! posted at me-ander.

a6traditional food

And lastly but not leastly, here’s Ted (the husband), left, dressed as Elvis… for his very first Purim ever, and right, most recently, with GZ, dressed as Sergeant Pepper (last year?).

JPix presents Sculpted Fish Recipe - Fish with Tehina posted at Here in HP, saying, "Variation on Syrian Jewish recipe"

Nancy presents Smoked Turkey in Honour of Tu Bishvat? at My Kosher Kitchen @ COR, offering “Slices of smoked turkey [with a] fresh fig jam.”

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of kosher cooking carnival-kcc using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Technorati tags: , .

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a plane to catch… Happy Purim from me and mine to you and yours!!!

!!!חג פורים שמח…וכשר!!!

Sunday, February 03, 2013

And… we’re live!!! Come buy THE MARROR MAN for Pesach!

Thrilled to bits to announce that my first REAL book, The Marror Man, is now for sale live on Lulu.com.

The Marror Man

I was looking for other ways to distribute it, but at the moment, due to the small size of the book (under the 24-page minimum), Amazon isn’t possible.  In any event, since it would take 6-8 weeks to get it up on Amazon.com, this is what it is for the time being.  I have been amazed both with the print quality and the shipping speed from Lulu.  That’s thanks, in part, to their distributed printing network – they print books you order, on demand, as close to your address as possible.  Mine have been generally arriving within a week.

Torontonians:  I am working on local sales channels, and if you have any ideas or would like to place a bulk order, please let me know.

Funds raised from the sale of this book will be earmarked towards our upcoming aliyah expenses.  So you’ll be doing the tremendous mitzvah of helping our family do the tremendous mitzvah of “dwelling in the palace.”

Pretty please.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Pesach book – The Marror Man – COMING SOON!

IMG_00000009I am SO excited to be working on this amazing Lulu book project that I couldn’t wait until after Shabbos to tell you about it!

I wrote this story for Pesach last year, but it’s been almost completely overhauled and I’ve had awesome professional illustrations created to go along with the text.

It is being professionally printed on demand at Lulu.com and will be available for sale there hopefully by the end of the weekend along with another book by moi.  I have been very impressed with the print quality of these Lulu books, PLUS, because they ship from various locations, I hope you’ll be able to get it cheaper than if I was having to mail everything via Canada Post.

Check out this beautiful glossy cover:

 IMG_00000013IMG_00000009

The interior is printed in black and white to keep costs down:

 IMG_00000011 IMG_00000012  IMG_00000014

As a bonus in the weeks leading up to Pesach, I will also be offering free PDF colouring pages of all the illustrations with proof of book purchase.

Oooh… in case you can’t tell, I’m really excited!!!