The truth is there are many friends I can’t invite to dinner. No, nothing gossipy here. They simply observe Jewish dietary law and our family doesn’t. Although the food I buy is kosher, my kitchen is not. A strictly kosher home is not only about buying certified foods but encompasses all aspects of food preparation. Anything that comes into contact with the food is also subject to the same stringent guidelines.
The inability to eat together can create schisms in relationships, dividing along religious lines. It doesn’t have to be. Kosher restaurants are a perfect solution in these circumstances and a way for all sides to share a meal.
Recently I was introduced to several kosher venues in Jerusalem as part of a tour organized by Marom Communications. It was day-long event that included three restaurants and a visit to Mahane Yehuda Market.
Our first stop was the cheerful Lerner Café with window sills decorated with geraniums and summer light spilling into the room. Situated at the Lerner Sports Complex on Mount Scopus it specializes in healthy dairy foods. As soon as we arrived a breakfast spread was placed on the table- cheese and olive dips, finely diced vegetables doused with lemon juice and olive oil, smoky roasted eggplant with tehina and tomato shakshuka. These items have become the core of a typical Israeli breakfast with versions served throughout the country.
The shakshuka was all summer, with the fragrant smell of tomatoes simmered down to softness. The eggplant was roasted until silky smoothness, without the multitude of seeds or bitter edge. The salads were piled high, the vegetables sliced cleanly and not bruised and blemished by a food processor. When food begins with the freshest ingredients it does not need to be masked with heavy sauces or extensive cooking.
The only problem- I had to share the meal with a roomful of gregarious fellow bloggers and journalists- all of them with their annoying habit of photographing every mouthful. It was great!
Next stop-Lara Restaturant
With golden stone walls and crisp white linen, Lara Restaurant exudes an easy formality. It has hosted a slew of dignitaries from around the world, including the Prime Minister and other government notables (this is just hearsay as I didn’t see anyone remotely famous). Although the restaurant in located in the heart of Jerusalem, the food is international; ceviche with sun ripened figs, glazed duck in a luscious sauce, cherry tomato panzella, roasted eggplant scattered with pine nuts, all artfully plated to showcase their color and shape. The desserts were exceptionally decadent and hard to believe they were made without any dairy products, as stipulated by kashrut.
Chef Lior Hafzadi
3 Shimon Ben Shetach, Jerusalem
Disclosure: The truth is, I have become conservative with joining blogging events for the reasons I have written about previously. I also rarely do restaurant reviews because I seldom visit the same establishment twice. The way I look at it, managing a restaurant is a profession and it wouldn’t be fair to judge it by a single meal. However, at blogger events that is exactly what I do. That said, with observant friends and family I was curious to know more about the kosher food scene. Tal Marom, the CEO of the PR firm made sure the trip was not only about the food but the people and stories behind each establishment.
Although this is not food related I would like to share my experience at SusanArt, a nonprofit organization which gives high risk youth hope for the future through art and work. The organization employs young people ages 15-20 who have endured difficult childhoods of neglect and violence, giving them dignity, self-respect and confidence to create a better life. All the items produced at Susanart are made by them. With the rise of expenses, they are struggling to keep the organization open. It is easy to help. Simply visit their studio in Jerusalem or order some of their beautiful handmade merchandise from the online store-www.susanart.org.il. It would be a wonderful holiday gift and a contribution to society.
Yad Haruzim 19 ,Talpiot, Jerusalem.