I am slowly making my way through Israel’s markets (Hatikva, Hanamal, Machne Yehuda, Hacarmel), and today was a day for Florentin’s Shuk Levinsky. Its an area of general mayhem and traffic, and I think perhaps the highest concentration of angry Tel Aviv men. There was a bit of Tu B’shvat madness going on as well and lots of dried fruit purchases, but I got lured into this one deli - מעדניית יום טוב - Yomtov’s Deli.
The story goes that Yomtov, the grandfather, opened the doors to his Istanbul deli in 1947. When he moved to Israel in 1967, he brought the store along. The store is now run by his grandsons Eitan and Yomi (though the patriarch still does a few hours here and there) and they stock all manner of delicacies - the best looking olives that this city has seen; inviting oversized jars of homemade pesto and jams; a modest but impressive selection of cheeses; and a stock of salami that made even this avowed vegetarian nostalgic for once-upon-a-time. The store is heady with aromas and eyepopping colour - a veritable treasure trove of goodness and indulgence… and the most velvety and perfect vine leaves that I have ever tasted. Well worth the visit!
If you head down that way stop by Rahamim, the juice man on the corner of Nahalat Binyamin and Levinsky. Rahamim has been around for forty years and still occupies the storefront where he traded in knitwear until he was pushed out of business by the great forces of globalisation. He is supersweet and squeezed me a delicious red grapefruit juice. Not quite sure why it has taken me nearly two years to get to that part of town, but I will certainly be heading back.
Tzfon Abrexas צפון אברקסס - homage to Eyal Shani #1
There are no two ways about it. Eyal Shani, for all his kookiness and quirk, פשוט יש לו את זה (he just has it). I have now eaten at both Miznon (on numerous occasions) and Tzfon Abrexas, and even - perhaps especially - as a vegetarian, I am bowled over every time. He just knows what to do with vegetables. I maintain that it is less a chochma (that means “less telling” for non-yiddish/hebrew speakers) to prepare meat and fish, but if you know what to do with vegetables - you clearly know what it means to work with food.
Eyal Shani’s tomato thing (sorry no translation) may have made people laugh, but seriously - there is something to it. Anyone who can serve me a plate of standard looking spaghetti as seen above yet still win the table over (it was a six-tomato sauce), has my heart and my belly. I am even willing to forgive him (and his establishment) for the ridiculous sprinkling of coarse sea salt on the tabletop, delivered with the meal.
I have written about him before - he is a key influence on my approach to food photography, and when I heard him speak on the topic I shared this quote with him (which he rather liked) because it was so fitting: The day is coming when a single carrot freshly observed will set off a revolution (Paul Cezanne). This man is good quality!
Miznon מזנון - homage to Eyal Shani #2
There will be some people who think that it’s no big deal to sell everything in a pita, and that it’s highway robbery to charge anything more than 20 shekels for it. But when done this well, you just have to give it a try. I have a friend who saves himself from eating in the leadup to a Miznon visit and then chows down at least three pita packed with all sorts of fleshy bits. He swears that there’s nothing quite like it. As a vegetarian, my options are a bit more limited but I tell you - Eyal Shani does kavod (coll. respect!) to the humble cauliflower, he makes eating potato and sour cream in pita totally and utterly acceptable, and he does an omelette which is simply excellent. And to top it all off, you can order lines of pita-tops with caramelised banana and good old shahar chocolate spread. Pretentious, perhaps; brilliant - absolutely! The place is pumping, the staff are cute and do their thing well. Fun all round, the perfect place to start - or end - a good night.
Country fresh air made sweet with flowers , butterflies, and delightful wafts of breakfast from Rama’s kitchen|Rama’s Kitchen, the Nataf|Jerusalem hills