Israel is a country where food and drink is part and parcel of the lifestyle and culture. If you take a walk around the cities at lunch or dinner time it is easy to see why, the streets are buzzing with the atmosphere of the bars and restaurants. Despite this, pace of life in Israeli cities is a busy one. Locals work long days and when they wish to enjoy the finer things in life; this is done in the evenings, and long into the evenings. This style of life and of the culture of food and drink in Tel Aviv makes it one of those cities in the world where you can enjoy yourself 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
According to Ziv Erlich, owner of Mezcal Tequila Bar, one of the most popular restaurants in the Florentin neighborhood of Tel Aviv, the average Israeli is not interested in changing their eating habits. “It is possible that if on a menu some dishes like shakshuka, arujat boker or schnitzel do not appear; visitors get up and leave the premises. Similarly, as far as wine is concerned, the vast majority prefer to stick with what they know and not go for something different”, says Ziv.
While it is true that in recent years the alcohol culture has begun to change and that this has increased interest in higher quality drinks, beer remains the market leader. Nevertheless, although wine is reserved mainly for special occasions, its consumption is increasing. This is mainly due to the increase in foreign tourism to Israel, the arrival of European immigrants. This increase an also be thanked by the marketing efforts of well-known brands from France, Italy and Spain, as is the case of Bodegas Solar Viejo of Logroño, Rioja.
Over the last few years Solar Viejo has been a strong presence in the market in Israel. It is thanks to this that they have been able to organize – with the help of its distributors in Israel; Enoteca, and More & Wines – one of the most ambitious events the sector has seen. This was the visit of eight of the most widely recognised sommeliers and restaurateurs in Israel, to the Solar Viejo winery in Logroño. Amid these sommeliers were Andrew Hinawi, Itamar Luzer, Ziv Herlich, among others.
Itamar Luzer, the sommelier for Restaurant Yaffo in Tel Aviv – the elite in gourmet food in the city – confirmed that most wine drinkers in Israel still ask for the usual reds. “In our restaurant we focus on breaking stereotypes and encouraging people to drink wine. We like to teach how wine can be paired with dishes and to help refine the tastes of our customers. Visiting Logroño was very rewarding for the group. We tried fantastic and high quality wines and ate first class cuisine.” At the end of the meal another voice was overheard saying, “I have been travelling the world for over seven years on trips like this, and as always Rioja never ceases to amaze”.
Both Ziv and Itamar agree that younger people aged between 30 and 40 as well as immigrants from France and the United States are those with the most knowledge of wine. They tend to be interested in the recommendations, and therefore are most willing to pay for a bottle which, at around 30 euros, or a glass at 10, could be considered a luxury product.
“My parents’ generation has no appreciation of wine culture. They drink wine reserved for Kiddush on Shabbat dinners, it’s very cheap and almost always bad,” laughs Ziv, the owner of Mezcal. Who, after his visit to Bodegas Solar Viejo recently, added a Tempranillo Rioja to the menu of his Florentin restaurant.
In Tel Aviv, going out for drinks is a central part of the culture and the lifestyle. Where days are long, taking advantage of the evenings to go to dinner in the company of friends is one of the fundamentals to life in the country. That is surely the reason that Ziv, like Itamar, commented at the end of their visit to Logroño; “we feel like we’re at home here, but with a difference, and that’s the impressive variety and quality of wine that you can only find in Rioja”.
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Shakshuka. (שקשוקה) Is a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, and onions, often spiced with cumin. Shakshouka means “a mixture” in Tunisian Arabic or other maghrebi dialects. It is likely that it was first known as chakchouka, a Berber word meaning a vegetable ragout, although “shakshek” means “to shake”, in Tunisian Arabic, Berber and Hebrew, giving a possible punic origin to the name of the dish.
Schnitzel. (שניצל) It is a very popular food in Israeli cuisine. The meat is typically chicken or turkey breast, in conformance with dietary kashrut laws, which do not allow pork to be used. Additionally, clarified butter, the preferred cooking fat for Austrian Wiener Schnitzel, is impermissible for kosher use, as it is a dairy product forbidden from use with meat; vegetable oils are therefore preferred. Before frying, the schnitzel is coated with a mixture of beaten eggs and bread crumbs, sometimes spiced with paprika or sesame seeds. The Israeli schnitzel is usually served with mashed potatoes, French fries, rice, or pasta, accompanied by ketchup, hummus, or vegetable salad. [/tab][/tabs]