A Vegan in Central Europe: One week in the Holy Land!  »

December 17 marked the end of my four months living in Prague (sad face), but marked the beginning of a cool weeklong journey to Israel. While all of my friends heading back to the states were dealing with this load of bullshit, I was flying almost worry-free to the Middle East. What do I think about this paradise? Yeah, lots of tension, especially in Jerusalem, but some of the BEST FUCKING FOOD YOU WILL EVER TASTE. If you ever make the trek, you need to try some authentic Middle Eastern yum-food. Some key phrases: Ani tivoni (“I’m vegan”); blee beitzim, khalavi, kharvi (“without eggs, milk, meat”).

If you make it to Jerusalem, you will probably hang out on Ben Yehuda, or at the Shuk, which means you’ll be within spitting distance of a Moshiko. BEST FALAFEL EVER. The ironic thing about eating vegan in Israel is that you’re best off going to a place with meat, because then you know that all of the veg accoutrements are parve, i.e., without dairy. You can ask about eggs with yesh beitzim? If you’re vegetarian (boo), you can probably find some good dairy eateries in the mostly kosher city. In the lovely bad boy pictured, you got the delicious fried falafel, hummus, red cabbage, tahini, spicy-ass-muhfuckin-sauce, and salat. SO FUCKING YUMMY, and it costs like ₪14 ($3.88 U.S.).

Haifa, an ancient sea port, also has much by way of delicious dining. I made it to Café Louise (the sign of the place is in Hebrew), an organically minded café in the Mount Carmel area of Haifa, very close to the Baha’i Gardens on the 23 bus. Pictured is their Indian-style sandwich, filled with roasted parsnips, yam, and cauliflower with tamari-tahini sauce, and a side-salad with balsamic dressing. The total: ₪45 ($12.50 U.S.). I also got a yummy shake made with melon, mango, coconut, soy, and originally honey—d’vash in Hebrew, so say blee d’vash for “without honey”—but they were able to substitute maple syrup in for me. It was Uhhh-mayzing with a capital U. Damn, those Israelis know how to make a good shake.

Probably my favorite city was Tel Aviv. My first time stepping into the Mediterranean was so pleasant; in December, the water is still warm enough to walk through, and the weather was about 70 F—beats the 20 F/snowing/icy in Prague! I recommend is the Dizengof and Ben Gurion instersection, accessible by the 5 bus from the new bus station. There, you’ll see a smoothie shack on the corner (YUMMMM). Go a few stores west on Dizengoff and you’ll get to this amazing all-hummus place. ALL HUMMUS. JUST HUMMUS AND PITA. They put paprika, olive oil, whole chickpeas, tahini, and lemon salt in mine, topped off with some cut parsley, for ₪22 ($6) including unlimited pita. While I couldn’t finish the whole plate for fear of exploding, I definitely got my fill. And it felt great. Sort of. Back to the shake-shack thing: YOU NEED TO GO. They have these places all over, and their shakes are entirely fruit-based and yummy as shit. I tried the coconut/pineapple/banana mix and the pineapple/banana/orange mix, and they were both awesomeasfuck. And vegan as fuck, too.

Another food-related note, regarding Israel in general. Pictured to the right is a shuk, or market. They have these in almost every major city, and they’re all great. This one is the shuk in Jerusalem; you will definitely go there if you ever visit the city. They have stalls filled with the freshest vegetables and fruits all grown locally (Israel doesn’t import for the most part), dried fruits and nuts, small coffee places, yummy juice places where you can get yummy aforementioned shakes, and even ceramic artist collectives. This is where you can attempt to haggle, taste everything you see—mostly—and experience mayhem like you’ve never experienced before. I’ve heard it gets especially crazy on Friday mornings when everyone’s trying to get their shopping done before Shabbat.

[Hebrew translations and all photos by Brianna!]


Review: Baladie Gourmet Cafe  »

The lentil soup at Baladie is one of the best deals in the Financial District. A mere $3.25 for 16 ounces of delicious, hearty, spicy-if-you-want-it vegan lentil soup, plus toasted pitas, should you care for them. You know what you get for $3.25 at the wretched San Francisco Soup Company? NOTHING.

I had falafel in a pita once and it was all right; the hummus was good but the actual falafels were giant and dry. The dolmas are tasty. There’s a guy in the kitchen who wears two thin braids at the top of his forehead stuck straight up like antennae. Service is fast, even when they’re crowded. There is a big mural of Petra, the ancient rose city of Jordan, on the righthand wall; it is a little bit garish and absolutely beautiful. What I mean is, do not pass by Baladie on your way to Boxt Foods Co. or some other place to eat an overpriced salad on restaurant row (Kearny Street. You know). You will regret it in an hour when you are starving again.

What you should’ve ordered, especially on cold, bright, windy days, or foggy days, or rainy days, is LENTIL SOUP. It is so, so good. Everything you could want in a yellow lentil soup: carrots and potatoes and crispy little pita chips, and enough spice to break a little sweat along your hairline. I’d compare it to the first lentil soup I ever loved, namely my mother’s, but they are so different you couldn’t really compare them. And you can’t buy my mother’s soup from friendly people in an adorable little nook of a restaurant for $3.25, so Baladie it is.

I mean, I really love that soup.

[lentil soup photo via yelp; Petra photo by Shelby PDX]

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