I’m one of those, who created the Food and Wine Tour for Shalom Israel. I don’t know if you know that I create tours. Anyway, I wanted to test this one. To summarize it already here, you will gain weight!
Our group had 15 people in it from all over the world. This was the final beta test for the tour and we were all looking forward to what was to come.
If you are curious how much this tour cost, click here for the price list. It’s costly, but the food is exclusive and extraordinary in quality and uniqueness.
The Russian Feast
For those who don’t know this or never experienced a Russian feast, well … read this first then.
I came well prepared and I skipped lunch and arrived at 7 PM at the family with the rest of my group. The table was already made with many dishes and of course the traditional Vodka! They taught me to drink Vodka the Russian way. First eat something fatty or oily (like fish), then drink the Vodka in one go (use small Vodka glasses). Indeed, this did help. It took 10 seconds to make me super tipsy instead of immediate. That was mistake number one.
I planned to skip the Vodka and that was good, wise and smart (so I thought). But I was hungry, and during talking I continued to heap food on my plate. The best fish ever! And then there were some of those dishes with sweet food, my absolute favorite. But I was tipsy and could not understand all those Russian names except the Caviar.
Do you know that there is red and black Caviar? And yes, Caviar with a capital ‘C’! Why? It’s so unbelievable tasty! Especially with toast! I tried it with normal bread, there was even a pita and tried that too. Then with sauce, pink and black and green sauces mixed with the black and red Caviar. I think I’m a barbarian or worse. Whatever you can call me, I felt great and satisfied and full.
Then our host came and took away many dishes from the table and I expected some nice cake or something sweet or maybe the famous Russian coffee!!! To my everlasting shock, the table was full again with the next round! I think that my eyes almost popped out of my skull and didn’t know what to say.
After a while I asked our hosts how many of those things would appear on the table and the host answered four! Four! Four times this, and I was full and in danger to explode!
I still don’t know how I survived, but I did. I almost fainted when the meat came! Did you ever see meat, stuffed with fruit? It was amazing. It also made the meat sweet! Oh my god, I regretted my big mouth. If I knew what was to come, I reserved space in my stomach. At the end, my normally favorite deserts came. Ice-cream, ice-cream with mocha, all of that burning, and coffee, and chocolates. And I could only stare at the goodies until I indeed fainted. Bah.
Rosh Pina chocolates
Oof! Did you know that there is heaven? And do you know that it has a name? Let me tell you, that heaven is being called Rosh Pina chocolate factory. Factory is a misguided name, because for sure it’s not a factory, it’s a place where the angels are working making their creations called chocolate in all kind of flavors and forms and tastes and colors, one more heavenly then the others.
Before the bus finally could leave, they were forced to drag me against my will away, otherwise I would be still there. After they held me in my chair, the bus hurried to the next sight, and I became depressed. Really!
But when we reached the next destination Tzefat, they gave me a box with chocolates from Rosh Pina.
Acre and its coffee!
Sorry that I skipped the minor parts of no food and especially not sweet food and drinks, but here comes another milestone for me. I mean it’s the fourth day of our tour and we have eight to go! And that was acre. I know the whole environment pretty well, but the food is indeed a surprise. And the people involved in the tour is even better. I never met people from the Druze community before like this. I never met Ukrainian families in this way too. And their food and wine! And their women! You know that they are making their famous cake, the Napoleon cake with 7 layers and cream between them! It’s heavy food and they make it by the kilo! I ate a kilo of cake.
Wait. I’m talking about Acre now. What’s so special about Acre or Akko? The food? The barbeques, the sheep meat, the barbequed salads, the junk food (they have the equivalent for a hamburger) and the holy sweetness? Yeah, that too. But what made my day was the coffee! I like coffee, it keeps me awake many times and some coffee is great. Coffee from Seattle (WA) is amazing. Coffee from Holland is great. Arab coffee and cream coffee, black steaming coffee in huge cups are my favorites, until I tried the coffee I drank in Acre! After 8 small cups, I walked straight with wide eyes and in the bus to Haifa I was only talking. What an energy! And of course sweet too! The Arab man who was serving the coffee is for sure still laughing! But when you drink such Arabic coffee, don’t eat beforehand, because the after taste of the coffee dominates everything. And for the smokers under us, don’t smoke while drinking the coffee.
Before I forget, the rest of my group enjoyed the fish very much. They were eating an amazing lunch in a fish restaurant, while I was draining myself in the coffee!
The next day at Zikhron Ya’akov, I became almost sick because of the wine! But thank the chocolate goodies, we had an excellent rich and good tasting breakfast (with loads of sweet things for me).
Talking about breakfasts. I realized then that each day we had a different breakfast! Fruit breakfast, pancakes breakfast, meat breakfast, pudding breakfast, yoghurt breakfast, bread breakfast, sweet breakfast. Yes, sweet breakfast with liquid, warm chocolate (and whipped cream) was my favorites. The fruit breakfast was my second favorite! Oh, I forgot, the yoghurts were my favorites too.
But several people of my group bought several crates of wine, they loved it. Only the smell of wine is enough to make me tipsy! After that Russian feast I’m weary.
Personally I don’t like Caesarea for this tour, because there is nothing to eat or drink. I was wrong. Ah! It’s not food or wine, or beer, of coffee, but juice! Freshly made (and sweetened for me personally). I ended up in a very good mood and I even looked positively at the ruins around me.
In Tel Aviv we had the change to show our fellow travelers in our group what we could do in the kitchen. So we kicked-out the disgruntled cook from his kitchen and planted him on a chair and we were busy to kook a good meal for everyone. My fellow traveler from Seattle burned his steaks, my other follow traveler from London dropped his meat and wet himself, and everyone ate Dutch cuisine with red cabbage (recipe of my mother), potatoes with meat sauce and Gordon Blue!!! And cooking-pudding after that. Everyone had fun, except the cook! He needed to clean his kitchen. He almost cried and threw us out!
My favorite place is the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, the far end where the sweet goodies are waiting for me. I bought 5 kilos of sweets for our expected trip in the desert. You never know! And I know the in- and outs of the market and we slipped between the stalls of food and visited the small restaurants to eat the real Carmel Market food! Meat! Salads! Ah. Again juices and strong tea and cakes (they call it in Hebrew uga, the most important word in this ancient language).
That evening we ate food from the Ukraine. It was the same principle as the Russian feast! Loads of food and thank goodness also sweet goodies. The cakes, especially the only real Napoleon Cake is like heaven came down to me straight in my cake. All home made, no factory work here. I like salads, but the Dutch kind of salads. Here in the Middle East they like only cut vegetables for the salads like tomatoes and cucumbers and the like. In Holland you have cold potatoes, covered in mayonnaise and hard cooked eggs, with pickles, tomatoes and lettuce and small sliced cucumbers and the like. Or the Dutch Wimpie-salad with pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, sliced cucumbers with mayonnaise, ketchup, cooked eggs and vinniger and sugar of course and mix the whole thing. You can’t fail!
The Ukrainian feast was amazing, loads of fish, but the meat was the best. This time I kept myself under control, stayed away from the Vodka, Champagne and wine, but ate the rest in a normal paste and I survived the moment for the deserts. No words can describe what was on the table. Mocha tort with whipped cream. While I’m writing this, the water is walking out of my mouth on my keyboard.
I skip the whole experience in Jerusalem thing, but that was for me and everyone in our group an unforgettable experience. Arab food has the same principle as the Russian feasts! It’s one thing to look at it, but to taste it! In Jerusalem we ate everywhere, on the streets, in bazaars, near the shops, in the middle of the many markets, in a very fancy restaurant, you name it, we did.
We arrived with the Bedouins at the village of Drejat, near Arad. I thought that no coffee could beat the coffee from Acre. I was plain wrong. The women were preparing the coffee and our host was having four women! I mean he was married to them … and managed to stay alive and healthy. We were in his tent and joining the dinner with him, his family, his extended family, and their family and their extended families for a nice, cozy dinner Bedouin style.
The food kept coming. There was no organization except one constantly incoming stream of food and I had no idea where it came from. Members of my group became curious too, but they were forbidden to take a look, except for the women of our group, and they refused to talk after they stayed away from us for more then an hour. When they did come back, they were giggling like school girls! I stayed away from the drinks, but several members of the group loved it. I drank from a bottle of red Golan wine. Great.
Did anyone ever try to milk a goat? And that in the morning?
In the evening with campfire and dancing (real belly dancers there, guys), I fell asleep and woke up at two in the morning cold!!!!
Eilat and the dolphins. You can’t eat them, but they can eat you! Joking! When the man saw me watching with hunger in my eyes, he was not pleased and scared me away from the group, while they were having the time of their lives with swimming with them! He was murmuring that I insulted his babies.
Shortly we went to a very strange restaurant eating fish. Okay! We entered the restaurant and with the lift we went down, deep down. Straight into the Red Sea. We stepped out and we could sit in one of the tables, located in a bubble of glass. Shortly we were eating the same fish as was swimming outside in the sea!
Soon we went to someone, who thought that a ranch near Eilat was funny, until we saw the bulls, the camels and horses and donkeys. The camels wanted to eat me, so I went with the donkey. They are indeed as stubborn as my wife! Late in the evening we went out for the steak. A real t-bone steak of thousand kilos it seemed.
Finally the tour ended. We are still talking with each other within the group, even when we are separated by oceans and landmasses and thousands of kilometers away on a daily basis. This tour gave me huge surprises and it’s truly unforgettable.
The tour was intense. I can’t find another word to express myself better. I learned loads, and the food made me connect with so many people from so many backgrounds and cultures. I made so many additional friends, and our relationship goes now so much better then normal. It was not that I met those people, but I shared something with them and that’s connecting us.
Oh, before I forget, I gained two kilos. I tell everyone that I gained a kilo, but that’s not true. Please don’t tell. Now I’m eying the hiking tour to get rid of the overweight when I’ve the time.