Food Talk Israel
I would like to introduce Ben Brewer, founder of Israel Food Tours, who has kindly agreed to do the first interview for Food Talk, which I hope will become a regular feature on this blog.
What is the last restaurant you have been to that you recommend?
I was at Nanuchka in Tel Aviv recently. The restaurant does a great job incorporating local ingredients into classical Georgian recipes. There’s always a lively atmosphere and excellent food.
What food related books are you reading?
Not a book, but I’ve been reading David Chang’s new culinary magazine, Lucky Peach. The inaugural issue is some 150+ pages only about Ramen.
What is your favorite food city in Israel, abroad?
My favorite food city in Israel is probably Nazareth at the moment. They have excellent places for hummus, restaurants featuring some of the best kebabs in the country, and there is a focus on fresh, seasonal and native ingredients. Eating freekeh in Nazareth isn’t a trend like in Tel Aviv, rather the norm. You can’t go wrong no matter where you choose to eat in Nazareth.
Bujumbura, Burundi, surprises all who visit with some excellent Belgian influenced cuisine. While the best restaurants are priced entirely out of the reach for the vast majority of the population, travelers are exposed to spiced meats, great frites, authentic Chinese food, and some of the best coffee on the planet.
Finally, while I’m not entirely objective, I think my hometown, Portland, Oregon, has been ahead of the culinary trends for years now. Portlanders have always placed an importance on locally grown food, and the city had food trucks years before it became a national trend.
What is the hardest part of your job?
Trying to juggle a hundred things at once. Time and people management, like in any job, is challenging and I hope that I’m learning and improving at this aspect of the job.
What does Israeli food mean to you?
Israeli cuisine means highlighting the country’s excellent (best in the world, in my opinion) produce as the star of a dish, more than a specific technique. When a tomato tastes as good as it does in Israel, it’s a shame to mask that flavor. Some may think of this as “simple”, but doing more with less shows refinement as well.
What kitchen gadget can you not live without?
A really sharp butcher’s knife. I’m not sure this qualifies as a gadget, but I don’t know people who cook without them.
Is there a food you dislike?
Not really, but I’m not a huge fan of mashed potatoes.
What are you working on now?
I’m trying to focus on developing a few specialty tours. For example, a joint wine and olive harvest weekend next fall and a desert truffle hunt.
What do you think Israel’s next food trend will be?
Food trucks and good Mexican food….I hope.
What do you think of food bloggers?
As an occasional blogger myself, I think food bloggers are great. A friend of mine recently came across a food blog written in Ladino featuring Ladino (mostly Turkish) recipes. Bloggers help keep culinary traditions alive for future generations, as in the case of this Ladino food blog.
Contact Ben Brewer:
Ben Brewer is the founder of Israel Food Tours, offering culinary tours and workshops throughout Israel. You can visit Israel Food Tours at www.israelfoodtours.com, or contact him via: