Birthday in Tel Aviv – Part I




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I just returned from celebrating my birthday in Tel Aviv with the family and we managed to pack a whole lot of shopping, exploring and of course eating into the 27 hours we spent there.  And while I don’t generally recommend eating 3 full meals and snacks in that short a period of time, I was determined to try and experience as much food as possible.

Sunday – November 7
We started out the trip at the Hatachana – The Old Ottoman Train Station on the border of the Neve Tzedek and Jafffa neighborhoods.  The train station has been renovated to house a variety of boutique shops and restaurants and on Fridays an organic farmers market.  And while I didn’t see the market this time around, Hatachana also has a branch of what some are calling the best ice cream in Israel – Vaniglia.  As is the case with much of the ice cream in Israel, Vaniglia makes a version that is softer and more gelato-like than American ice cream and it is indeed delicious. After reviewing the options, I settled on a cup with pistachio (good) and halvah (outstanding), Sammy choose the very classic combo of chocolate and vanilla, of which I was the beneficiary since he decided he didn’t like the dark chocolate and l happily ate the remainder of his cone.  Steve had a very good version of cookies and cream and Jake, who is a sorbet fan, had a combo of passion fruit and mixed berry and went back for a second cone.  And yes, I know this is not particularly good parenting but it was small and dinner was still a ways off.  For those of you who are more adventurous ice cream eaters, there are plenty of flavors from which to choose – choices that day included snickers, cheesecake, rum raisin, and eshkoliot (grapefruit) sorbet, among others.  And since Monday is apparently a big wedding day in Tel Aviv, we had plenty of entertainment watching no less than 10 brides and grooms in full garb having their pictures taken at the station at dusk, while we lounged on the benches outside. For a more official run-down on The Best Ice Cream in Israel, check out an Israeli food blog that I’m liking a lot these days – Baroness Tapuzina .

After several hours of walking around Hatachana and exploring the shops, we made our way to The Port of Tel Aviv in search of dinner.  We had chosen a Kosher fish restaurant called Bariba.  Given that this is already trending towards a long post, I will just say that Bariba is a mixed bag – there were a few good dishes, including a couple of the fishes and a gnocchi but there wasn’t a reason to return anytime soon.  If you’re at the Port, and if you’re looking for kosher, and if you want something on the lighter or healthier side, then I wouldn’t rule it out, but that’s a lot of “ifs” and Bariba is certainly not destination dining with all the other options in Tel Aviv.

Monday – November 8 – Breakfast
We had chosen to stay at The Brown Hotel on Kalisher Street, on the recommendation of a friend who knows the owner.  Brown is a hip hotel in the style of a W in the states and we got a good rate given that they were still putting last minute touches on the hotel and it’s not formally open for business.  This also meant that they did not serve breakfast in the hotel yet and so Brown had worked out a deal with a café nearby.  Well, we couldn’t have done better because that café just happened to be Café Birnbaum a venerable Tel Aviv institution run by sisters Sima and Pnina Birnbaum since 1962.  Breakfast was delicious, classic Israeli breakfast – two eggs any style, Arabic salad, white cheeses (one plain and one with scallion and herbs), butter, jams, fresh bread, as well as a hot and cold drink.  Café Birnbaum also has an vast and mouth-watering array of pastries, blintzes, muffins, and cakes (we tasted their apple crumb cake which was amazing).  


And we were still there having breakfast when they were setting up their version of a “salad bar” for lunch – at least 20 different vegetarian salads and savory pies (think crustless quiche) all for one price that almost had me sitting there till lunch time.  I will be returning in short order to get my fill of the “bar,” as they call it.


We followed up breakfast with a walk through the flea market on Binyamin Nachalot and the Carmel Market, Tel Aviv’s “shuk” with it’s overflowing array of produce and fruit vendors and cheese shops, and butchers and olive and candy stands.  The kids enjoyed it more than Mahane Yehuda in Jerusalem due to the fact that there were toys stores/stalls scattered throughout where they could spend their shekels on items they don’t need but are clearly vital to their very existence on this planet.  As for me, I never tire of being able to soak up the many colors and aromas of the market while percolating my next cooking endeavor and what I can make that will take advantage of the bounty at hand.  But alas were weren’t leaving Tel Aviv until much later that evening and so buying a lot of fresh ingredients was really out of the question.


After the market and a trip to the Haganah Museum, it’s hard to believe but it was nearing 1:30pm and the kids were hungry despite the candy they scored in the market.  We had promised Jake meat for lunch and off we went to find it.  Suffice it to say that the restaurant we found is worthy of its own post, so stay tuned for Birthday in Tel Aviv Part II.

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