Oct 212009
 
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On the last day of our vacation, we had a leisurely breakfast at the treehouse and then drove to Kibbutz Yechiam to go to the annual Renaissance Festival at  Yechiam Castle.

Probably built by the Templars in the late 12th century, Yechiam was destroyed by the Mamluke Sultan Baybars of Egypt and Syria in the late 1200s. Its ruins were rebuilt in the 18th century by the local Bedouin warlord, Sheik Dahr El-Omar.  Today, the castle is open for visitors and is used for private events, concerts and festivals.

The kibbutz is famous for Deli – Yehiam, a kosher meat factory specializing in deli meats. Today, Deli – Yehiam has 20 percent of the local Israeli sausage and deli meats market, and exports their products to the US and Europe.

We went to the Renaissance Festival to hear our friend Myrna Herzog’s ensemble, Phoenix, perform songs from the Portuguese Crypto-Jews and from the Sephardic tradition;  Spanish music by Diego Ortiz, Francisco de la Torre, Luiz Narváez, Juan del Encina and Diego Pisador, and music from the Colombina song-book. Phoenix is always a joy to hear and see; the audience was moving and swaying to the early music with a South American beat.

We stayed to listen to a performance of madrigal singers, which normally we would have enjoyed had it not been for the unbelievably rude people sitting all around us. They talked loudly throughout the entire performance and the ones behind us did not shut up until I asked them why they were there. The rest of the Renaissance Festival was rather disappointing, but maybe it is unfair of me to try and compare it to the Georgia Renaissance Festival that I used to attend when I lived in Atlanta.

After the two performances, we decided to stop somewhere for a late lunch and head back home.

We decided to stop in Kfar Rama to try a highly recommended restaurant called Ezba, which is run by Chef Habib Daoud and his wife Minerba. I have to tell you that when we saw the faded sign in the middle of a grotty industrial area next to the highway, and no cars in the narrow and quite steep driveway, I did not have high hopes that the restaurant was still in operation. The building looked abandoned, but Mr BT insisted that we stop and he went to the front door to see if anyone was there. He waved to me to park the car and come inside.

And when we entered, the decorations looked like someone’s house, but this time we were actually eating in a restaurant.

The restaurant specializes in dishes of the Arab cuisine from the Galilee. Chef Daoud uses herbs and spices from the area and offers a unique opportunity to taste the simple and mouth-watering delicacies that are traditionally served in the homes of local Arab families. The dishes vary according to the season and to what nature has to offer in the immediate surroundings.

After our warm greeting, we were served a cabbage salad like I have never had before. It did not have a sour pickled flavour which I really dislike, but tasted more like sauteed cabbage. It was delicious, as were the local olives.

As we studied the menu, I saw a dish that I had always wanted to try, Akoub, which is cardoons. Cardoons are sold at the shuk, but they are very expensive because they are difficult to harvest. You also have to be very careful when trying to prepare them because each stalk is covered with small, nearly invisible, spines that can cause enormous pain if they are lodged in the skin. Mr. BT and I decided to share an order as an appetizer. They were delicious,  tasted like a cross between an artichoke and broccoli, and were served in a flavourful broth over a rice and toasted vermicelli mixture.

After a few minutes of being the only ones in the restaurant, one car after another started arriving until the restaurant was completely full with excited guests anticipating a good meal.

For my main course, I ordered kubbeh siniyeh, which is made from the same mixture of bulgur and minced meat as in the normal torpedo-shaped kubbeh, but baked in a ceramic dish.

Mr BT ordered Beef with Freekeh, toasted young wheat which when cooked looks like green bulgar and has a distinct smokey flavour. According to legend more than 2000 years ago, before leaving in retreat, soldiers who had attacked a village in Lebanon set the fields on fire in order to destroy the wheat, condemning the local people to ruin. Instead, trying to save whatever they could, the locals collected the burnt grain from the fields and after cleaning it, they discovered a toasted grain that was green and very nutritious. Because it is harvested while it’s still young, Freekeh contains more protein, vitamins, and minerals than mature wheat and most other grains. It is also low in starch and high in fibre–up to four times the fibre of brown rice.

The main dishes were accompanied by a nice fresh Arab salad with pomegranate seeds.

We washed the meal down with fresh lemonade with pomegranate seeds.

As we were finishing our meal, three women in their early 60s entered the restaurant a bit unsure if they should stay. They discussed it in a huddle for a minute and proceeded to sit at the table behind Mr BT. One of them sat opposite the other two for a few seconds and then decided to move to the other side of the table. They were now all sitting on the same side of the table. One of the other women asked why she had move, that now it would be more difficult to carry on a conversation. The woman said, “I don’t want to face the wall!” With that, and please do not send me any hate mail for saying this because you have to live in Israel to understand this, I knew one or more of them were of Polish origin. They all three started examining the glasses, silverware, and plates to make sure they were clean. Two of them started to wipe the glasses, silverware and plates. I thought I was going to burst out laughing, but I composed myself. I couldn’t tell Mr BT what I was witnessing because they were directly behind him. I was afraid they would understand what I said if I spoke to him in German. Then, they started looking at the menu, one of them, I will call her Miss Adventurous, was excited about the menu and decided she wanted to order Akoub. The other two asked why they didn’t have schnitzel on the menu and hoped that they at least had some chips. At that point I wanted to walk over and tell them to get out, that they didn’t deserve to try this wonderful food, and they should just go to Burger Ranch for lunch, but we got up, very happy from the lovely meal we had just had and headed home with wonderful memories of an unforgettable three day getaway.

I am so lucky to have Mr BT as my life partner and travel companion. I can’t think of anyone else I would like to go with on a travel adventure.

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Baroness Tapuzina

avatarMichelle Nordell (aka Baroness Tapuzina) was a foodie from the womb growing up in the House of Weird Vegetables, so named by a family friend because all of the unusual and exotic food cooked and eaten there. She loves to change recipes using herbs from her garden and spices from the spice shops she enjoys visiting.

  6 Responses to “Home Away from Home – The Final Day”

  1. That sounds like a great lunch, we’ll have to try it next time we head up that way.

    I’m sorry the Renaissance Festival disappointed, we were also hoping to get up there to see a friend perform but didn’t make it. How I wish they had the American-style Renfests here too, I used to love going and even worked at the one in NY one summer.

  2. I used to buy Akoub at the Tsfat shuk – very expensive but oh how delicious. Interesting how you had it served. The prickles become soft when the vegetable is cooked or it would be impossible to eat!

    Thanks for this peek into your vacation. I hope the batteries stayed recharged from it for a long time.

  3. C’mon, you’re too hard on the grumpy Polish grandmas

  4. avatar

    Loved your pictures and comments in all three Northern Israel posts!
    It does make me concerned that – when we visit your country – we will have no clue as to how to order and what to order at restaurants!
    I do think your writing is very interesting!

    • avatar

      Thanks Mary Eloise.

      You have nothing to worry about because most Israelis speak English and you probably won’t go to the out of the way places that I go to.

  5. What I didn’t add to this story is that Miss Adventurous told the one asking for schnitzel with chips that “Maybe you should also ask for gefilte fish. Would that make you happy?”

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